Anxiety

My anxiety is a horrible thing. It sits there in my head controlling everything. Sometimes I feel like I want to burst I am so full of inspiration and ideas. Other days I cry. I cry a lot. I cry because I wondered what I did to deserve this. I wonder how long it will take to feel like myself again. So I reached out for help.

The NHS is a wonderful thing. But not when it comes to mental health. A huge reason why I left Canada was because I was so beset by setbacks, anxiety and zero self esteem that I knew I was starting to lose it. I came back to seek out help, hoping that the comfort of familiarity would ease my troubles. I attended an appointment with my GP, told him what I had been feeling and he asked me to do a test. I already knew I had Generalised Anxiety Disorder, I’d figured that out with a few simple Google searches. The tests concluded that I do have GAD and, maybe something I wasn’t as willing to admit – physcological trauma.

That was back in January and I am still waiting on my referral. Settling back in has been a challenge in its’ own way. Friends are all married, engaged and buying houses. Single friends breeze through Tinder like their lives depended on it. Not feeling ready to date (see: physcological trauma) and not already coupled up, I fall somewhere in the middle and that is a lonely place to be. I’ve also found it really difficult to settle back into work. I knew I needed to take a break, but then I start to feel better and take on a temporary role. Then I freak out that I’ll be stuck doing that job for the foreseeable future. Even the thought of two months is panic inducing enough. I did end up calling my doctors after waiting the four week I was told to wait, only to find that they had given incorrect details to the counselling service which meant I never received information for my referral. After a few teary phone calls they promised I would have something by next week. I hope that’s the case.

I am not one to freely admit I need help, so this was a huge thing for me to do. So to be sent away to ‘change my diet and do more exercise’ while I waited for someone to help me was not the result I expected. There is only so many podcasts, books and websites I can use to help. I can’t do this alone, that’s why I reached out for help. Not having regular social interaction has also impacted me massively. I am a social person, and my time spent in Canada was always filled with friends and adventures. Now, being back home, I am lucky if I even get a reply to a text. Lives go on. I don’t in there any more.

It may sound like a whine. Whatever. It’s my struggle. And it IS real.

 

 

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Old Passion: Blogging

In the search to find out the things that could help me discover my passion, I turned to something I used to be passionate about: blogging.

I used to run a pretty successful food blog. The thing is that I hated being labelled a ‘food blogger’. The blog felt like so much more than that. It felt like an extension of my creative side. A side I had only just discovered. I worked really hard on that blog. I felt like that was my real job. I did all the design, photography, writing, editing and social media for it. I was out interviewing local businesses and invoicing magazines who requested my photography. I worked on it during the days and went to my bar job at night. By the time I was getting ready to leave for Canada I was working with high profile brands such as John Lewis, Tesco, Marks & Spencer to name a few.

And then I stopped.

I thought that if I put in as much work as I did at home as I did in Canada, the blog would be as popular. But that wasn’t how it worked out. Canada ain’t cheap. Rents are crippling if you want to live anywhere remotely connected. Life there in general is expensive. Even deodorant. So I had to get a 9-5. I had a new life to pay for and new friends to spend time with. Something had to give.

There were times where I wanted to pack it all in and head off with my camera and laptop. I missed that creative connection I had to something. I tried and failed to think of ideas that I could work on. As series of pretty harsh setbacks halted that altogether. But lost in a confusing haze of anxiety and listlessness, I never once asked myself ‘is this who I really am?’ Why did I give up what I enjoyed to do something just to make money and survive. Why didn’t I manage my time better to be able to do both? These are questions I now know the answer to: I can do it. I just have to want it badly enough.

This blog won’t be like the other one. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make it successful. What I did learn is that I enjoyed many aspects of being creative; meeting like-minded people who inspire me, discovering new things and taking pictures. I wish I wrote on their more instead of letting the pictures doing the talking. So this blog is the counterpart to that.

This is just the beginning.

Day 3

Success Starts in Coalhurst, Alberta

When I was living in Canada a good friend of mine announced that his friend, Marko, would be cycling from west coast to east coast with a deadline of three months. That journey would be from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Toronto, Ontario. The land border between Canada and the USA is 8,891 kilometres, which would mean he would have to cycle over 100 kilometres a day. Or something like that.

With his work visa rapidly running out, there could be a chance he would be cycling across the country illegally if he didn’t make his flight from Toronto in time. But despite everyone’s concerns, he set out to cycle across the second largest country in the world. He checked in everyday to let everyone know he was still alive. His safety was the biggest concern. But he called undeterred, even after spending the night alone in an abandoned warehouse in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. But by the time he reached Coalhurst, he was exhausted. He sold his bike and got a bus to Lethbridge, where he worked bussing tables until he had to be in Toronto.

At the time we all thought he was crazy. He had a bunch of luggage that needed to find its way back to his homeland of Croatia, but that didn’t bother him so much. He was so focussed on his trip that he let his friends deal with it. The only thing he had to do was cycle, eat, use the bathroom and sleep everyday. The harsh, isolating expanse of the Canadian highway hadn’t even factored into his plans. He would be free.

I think about that story often.

We still joke about it now. How he had these grand plans to cycle from coast to coast. Three months isn’t even enough time for the Terminator to cycle across Canada, and he can time travel. See, there was no way he would ever finish the trip. I think deep down he knew that, but he wanted to try. He wasn’t afraid of failing. He still cycled across one province and halfway through the next. I won’t cycle anywhere near that distance in my entire life. But he did. And he did it alone.

What I admire the most about Marko’s journey was that he knew when to stop. He didn’t give up. He simply couldn’t cycle the insane distance in the time frame he’d established. He realised it was going to be impossible for him to do. He knew he had reached his limit, so he stopped. He didn’t care that people might label it a failure, because he didn’t fail at anything.

A lot of my downfalls in life have been because of my refusal to admit failure. I just won’t do it. I will keep going even when I’m unhappy. This stubbornness has seen me stay in relationships that far exceeded their sell-by-date. It saw me working for one company for five years and quitting two months before they went bankrupt. Heck, I lived in Canada for longer than I could mentally cope. I never used to be like that. I would walk away if my work load was too much or if I was unhappy with who I was dating. I could tell myself enough was enough. I would follow my gut. That’s how I used to be.

I used to be like Marko.

Day 2

Project What Next?

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My hotel room the night before I left for Canada. Everything was awaiting me, or so I thought.

Hands up who knows what they want to do with their lives? Anyone? Because I sure don’t. And I need some help figuring it out.

I remember a few years ago ITV2 had a programme about celebrities following their passions. Girls Aloud was the feature of that series. The band had been interviewed in a magazine about participating in the show and it mentioned Nadine wouldn’t be on it, as she was already following her passion: singing. ‘Wow’ I thought ‘I wish I was so passionate about something that I could stick two fingers up to the ITV bosses!’

My problem is I like a lot of things. Things interest me. I’m good at lots of things, but I don’t think I’m particularly great at anything, and I certainly don’t know what I am passionate about. But I often like to give things a try, or let my imagination do the hard work for me.

Some examples:

I lived in Canada because I thought it would change my life. But it was an experience I would describe as ‘70% fun and 30% crying the shower’. Some days it was 100% crying in the shower. I love to cook and be creative in the kitchen, so why don’t I move to Paris and study at Le Cordon Bleu like Rachel Khoo? Or like that American journalist whose book I read? Sweat it out in the kitchens of Paris. Oui! I love to watch good quality television, so I tried to be a TV reviewer for a friend’s blog. I did one review post and I hated it. MAYBE I hated it because I really love to watch comedy. Maybe I should be a stand-up comedian and be team-mates with John Richardson on 8 out of 10 cats does Countdown. We’d be such a good team! You see what I’m getting at here?

But what did I take away from that ‘life changing’ Canadian experience? Simple – I literally have no idea what to do with my life, and that no amount of Tim Bits and pountine was going to help me figure that out.  But I did come back rather broke and with an anxiety disorder. So at least I’m good at  some things: being anxious and not looking after my finances.

I always admired those people who knew what they wanted to do from a young age. They had a focus and a determination that dictated all the choices they made in life, the people they met and the places they went, ultimately leading them down their chosen path. Sometimes those people strayed from the path and sought out other avenues and stuck to those. Maybe those people stayed on that path for their entire lives. Whatever it was that drove them to their paths, it was something.

They all had passion. Just like Nadine.