Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dear 2017

Dear 2017,

I honestly have no idea what the purpose of you was and I doubt I will ever find out. It was a year of
unemployment and just staying in the same place.

The first 3 months of the year I learnt how to live alone while the rest of my family was overseas. I am thankful for how many people supported me and became like family to me during this time. I don't think I could've survived without them! I gained some independence and had to fend for myself, thankfully both the house and animals survived as did myself.

My anxiety continued to try and rule me and I spent many times just letting the tears fall unsure of what the future would hold. I am so thankful for having an amazing psychologist who wasn't afraid to tell me like it was while also supporting me. I shed a lot of tears in her office but they were healing and she showed me that I don't give myself enough credit for what I've gone through and my strength. Despite it all and almost hitting rock bottom a few times I am feeling more in control of my anxiety than I ever have and starting to slowly change my thought patterns.
I also realised that despite not thinking it does that my anxiety affects my social life, I avoided going to things because I didn't know many people or it was something that wasn't my scene. I have slowly
started going to more events and accepting more invitations and I hope to continue that in 2018.

I started to stop seeing myself as broken or damaged and instead started to see myself for the strong young women I am. Having both anxiety and dyspraxia meant that I tended to focus on my weaknesses and not my strengths but I have slowly started to see myself in a new light. It's always going to be something I need to work on but this year something started to change.

I took my writing to the next step this year and had 5 articles published on The Mighty. I never thought I would be able to be published somewhere other than this blog and this was a huge (much needed) confidence boost. I got to tell more of my story and share it with people who may be going through similar things.

I learnt how to stand up for myself this year and not be such a pushover. Bullying throughout the years had taken it's toll on me and I rarely stood up for myself but this year I started to stand up for myself and advocate for my needs. I still have a long way to go in that area but it's great to be making some progress and finding my voice.

I continued to be unemployed and struggled a lot with wondering why this was. It wasn't for my lack of trying and perseverance, I applied for so many jobs and despite that I just couldn't get work. I tried to put on a brave face but there was only so much of it I could take and I found myself not coping at all. I lost it a few times and there were times when it felt like me against the world but I somehow managed to survive it.

Despite not working I managed to be very busy with volunteer work. I continued to be a Youth Ambassador for ReachOut which meant attending a workshop in February and working really hard as I am the only YA for my state. I attended comic con and helped out in the ReachOut ChillOut room which was loads of fun. I spoke at a youth mental health expo on exam stress which was very nerve wracking but I did it. I did an online bake sale to raise funds and inspired them to do it that way next year as it went so well. I became a forum mod which meant a weekend away in a new city, never in a million years did I think this would happen and my mum ended up being more worried about it than I was.
I became more active in my church and ended up catering a quiz night with one weeks notice which despite my stress turned out well in the end (a bonus was that my team won!).

I started doing regular exercise and noticed a huge improvement in both my mental and physical health. I also used to make excuses for not exercising but I forced myself to get up early and go for a 30 minute walk 5 times a week and I have stuck to it the bulk of the time. I have also started to eat less sugar and not skip meals which has helped. I continued to avoid diet coke and I can safely say I don't miss it at all and have yet to have a sip in over a year.
I also added to my collection of scars when I had what I thought was a cyst removed, but it turned out to be a precancerous growth so while I am left with a weird scar I am thankful that it wasn't worse!

It's strange to realise that you are not where you thought you would be at this age and I can honestly say it's taken me a while to accept the fact that I am not married or even have a boyfriend for that matter at the age of 23. I joke that having anxiety makes relationships harder and I am realising that it is true (to a degree) but at the same time if people can't handle the fact I have anxiety then they don't deserve to know me. It is hard not to feel jealous of those around who are in relationships whether that be dating, engaged or married. But something I am working on is reminding myself that things will happen in God's timing and I will meet the right person at the right time.

I got off my P Plates so I am now a fully licensed driver which is great and considering everything I went through just to get on the roads it's a huge achievement and proof that perseverance does pay off.

In between the challenges good things happened; one of my cousin's got married, I took a few
weekend trips away, I turned 23, I laughed way to much, I saw some amazing movies (Dance Academy, Power Rangers, Pitch Perfect 3, Wonder...), met some amazing people, caught up with new and old friends, baked a lot of yummy goodies, lost myself in books and tv shows, shopped until I dropped on a few too many occasions, played some new board games, went to the cat café, embraced change (and realised that it can be good) and did so many more things that helped make this year bearable.

So what does 2018 have in store for me? Well I am going back to study to get experience in the IT field, I have no idea what that will hold and I terrified that I won't cope with it. Of course I am putting things in place so that won't happen but it's in the back of my mind. Everyone I have spoken to thinks I am doing the right thing and have chosen the right course and I am praying that everything goes smoothly.
I hope to get a job and break my unemployment streak and that one day soon I will be writing here that I have a job.
I have no desire to stop volunteering for ReachOut and can't wait to see what 2018 holds in term of being a Youth Ambassador and Forum Mod. I feel a sense of accomplishment whenever I put on my ReachOut shirt and represent them and I still can't believe I have found such an amazing organisation to be apart of.
I want to hold onto the friendships I have made over the years and not loose touch with people no matter how far away they live whether that be by regular texts and facebook messages or scheduling regular coffee catch ups. A lot of my friends are moving away and while it's sad to see them go I know they are doing the right thing for them, but I want to do what I can so I won't loose touch with them.
But lets be honest only God knows what 2018 holds and while I am terrified to live it I am so ready to move forward.

2017 you've been a hard year and one that I am happy to see end but I have survived you and I am stronger than ever, 2018 bring it on let's see what I can survive next.

Love Erin

Dear 2016 and Dear 2015

Friday, December 22, 2017

Five Festive Friday Favourites

With Christmas on Monday (seriously?!) I thought it was fitting to end the week on a festive high with Five Festive Friday Favourites.
I will not be braving the shops doing any last minute shopping this weekend and if anything I will be avoiding them at all cost because I don't like crowds. We have the family Christmas happening tomorrow night which will be fun and Christmas day will be spent with friends. I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen baking and making sweet treats for the event and on Wednesday I felt as though I lived in the kitchen!
Tonight Jocelyn and I are heading to see Pitch Perfect 3 at Hoyts Girls Night Out, it's a real treat for us as we rarely go to the movies and it's even rarer for us to both want to see the same movie. We are also getting dinner before hand (thanks to a generous friend) which will be nice.
Next week I am planning on having a nice quiet week and hopefully hitting up some sales, as the rest of the family is away and after the craziness of the past couple of weeks a staycation is exactly what I need.

Moving on to Five Friday Favourites:

All That Glitters Eyeshadow Palette in Dazzle Me - I am all about the glitter and metallics during the festive season and I was thrilled to find this palette. I really love the colours and how the glitter actually stays where it's meant to be, it's such a fun palette to break out when I need some extra sparkle. I will say that if you wear it over cream eyeshadow it may cause it to go into the creases and smudge a bit so be careful but all in all it's a great fun palette.

2017 MASHUP - this video is amazing and I still can't get my head around that they filmed it all in reverse (including the lyrics!). Also checkout 2016's which is also really cleverly done.

Watermelon and Lemonade Soy Candle - this scent screams Summer to me and while it is a sweet scent it isn't too sweet and the perfect candle to leave out year round. A bonus is that it's in a green jar which means it can double as Christmas décor but you can leave it long after the festive season is over.

Havaianas Freedom sandal - these are my go to Summer shoe and I giving them quite a workout. I took these when I went to the RO Mod workshop and wore these everyday and my feet didn't ache or hurt once (despite doing quite a bit of walking). I also have a pair of the Flash Urban sandals which are still going strong, I do prefer these to the Flash Urban as they have an adjustable back strap and it's not a one size fit all approach like a lot of their sandals (I have a pair of the Luna sandals that are a bit loose at the back for me, not unwearable and still comfy but I am paranoid my feet will slip out of them). For the price you can't go wrong and if you are still looking for the perfect Summer sandals these are it.

Flourless Chocolate Cake - we are hosting family Christmas at our house tomorrow night so there has been ALOT of baking happening! I spent most of yesterday and Wednesday in the kitchen baking and this cake was one of the things I made. If I need a dessert to take somewhere I bake this cake and its yet to let me down. It's so chocolatey and moist and it's perfect for every occasion. It also freezes well so you can make it waaaay in advance and just make sure its fully defrosted before you serve it and no one will ever know (of you make the almond brittle the day of). If you haven't made it yet then it needs to be on your to bake list :)

I hope everyone has a great Christmas and its filled with fun, family and glitter :)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Self Care at Christmas

Self care or looking after yourself is important in helping you stay at your best emotionally, physically and mentally. It's important to say on top of your self care so you can handle whatever life throws at you.
Self care can be anything that leaves you feeling recharged from breathing exercises and meditation or going for a walk to watching a tv show or movie or catching up with friends for coffee. It doesn't have to take up a lot of time as long as it leaves you feeling recharged and ready to take on the world.

If you have a mental illness you will know all about self care and how important it is but even if you don't suffer with one, self care is still important and it's especially important around the holiday season.
It can be hard to keep of track things around the holiday season and next thing you know your calendar filled up and you're running around with a few hundred things on your mind. At this point you are probably feeling overwhelmed, stressed and really wanting a break, not that you will get one as life is so busy. This is when you need to schedule in self care so you can handle everything that is thrown at you plus the usual stuff (like sleeping, eating well and remembering to exercise).

Here are some easy ways to practice self care so you won't feel snowed under during the holiday season:
  • Schedule it in - set alarm reminders to take a break or block out a couple of hours during the day just to recharge. Self  care doesn't have to take up huge parts of your life just enough to recharge your batteries.
  • Stick to your normal routine as much as possible (in terms of healthy eating, exercise and sleep) - it can be so easy for healthy eating to go out the window this time of year (so many parties and gatherings!), sticking to your exercise habits, and making sure you are getting enough sleep, but make an effort to. Give yourself some breaks as after all it is the holiday season but try not to make it something you do often. 
  • Don't be afraid to say no - I find it really hard to say no but it's totally ok to! Don't feel like you have to go to every event you get invited too or participate in every family tradition. The same goes if someone asks you for a favour you can totally say no! Give yourself some get out of jail free cards and don't be afraid to use them. Also don't make up elaborate excuses the chances are they won't be needed, if they need an explanation just say you need a chance to recharge or you have other plans (they don't need to know it's with Netflix or a good book!). 
  • Prioritise - just like Santa is making lists and checking them twice, so should you! Write a list of everything you have to do eg buy Christmas presents, wrap gifts, spend some time with the family, go to the gym, text that friend about that thing, clean the house... and prioritise them in order of importance. Once you tick them off go back through the list and reprioritise adding in self care when needed depending on how you feel. Don't be afraid to start with small tasks first so you won't feel overwhelmed. 
  • Learn to switch off - it's easy at this time of year for our mind to be on a million and one things all hours of the day but self care is time to focus on you! Figure out ways to switch off your mind whether that be by breathing exercises or mediation or by doing something that diverts your mind like doing a puzzle or watching an intense tv show. 

The above are all easier said than done but by making self care a priority at this festive season things should hopefully not be as hectic.

For more information on self care ReachOut has published the following articles:

Friday, December 8, 2017

Five Friday Favourites

So I managed to skip a few weeks of Friday Favourites, life got in the way and but I am making up for it with a full on Friday Favourites :)
Two weeks ago I was flying across the country for a Mod Workshop for ReachOut, which you can read all about here. It was a full on weekend but I had a blast and am loving being a moderator, it's volunteering I can do from my couch what's not to like haha!

We put up the Christmas tree on Monday and everything is so Christmassy now, we actually have four Christmas trees up. One big and three mini ones, as last year we didn't put up a tree as everyone (minus me) was leaving to go to Peru on the 27th and they didn't want the hassle of a big tree (and I wouldn't put it down according to them). So we had small trees scattered around the place and we (well I did) brought them out again because they are so cute so the house is looking very festive! It also gets to this time of year when I am all about the Christmas movies, I watch anything cheesy that's on Netflix and I LOVE Elf and The Holiday.
In another week I start avoiding the shops as they get so busy and finding a parking spot is a nightmare so I either go super early or not at all or I get my retail therapy fix online. I'm helping a friend do her Christmas shopping on Wednesday which will be fun and the shops will hopefully be only semi busy not full on busy.

Unless a major miracle happens (I am still praying I get a job but it will take a miracle at this point in time) I will be studying next year which is exciting and a bit daunting but I am starting to prepare myself now so it won't be a huge culture shock for me.

Onto Friday Favourites:

Mini Metal Stars Stocking Filler: Joy - I love these stars and whenever I have a spare $10 I buy a pack. They are the perfect size to put on a medium tree and I love how they sparkle and shine when the light catches on them. They are definitely something I can see being displayed for years to come.

Echosmith Christmas EP - this has been on replay lately and its the perfect music to get you in a Christmassy mood. The songs are catchy and really well written, it's the perfect music to listen to if you are sick of all the usual Christmas songs that are played this time of year.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+ - I find that most sunscreens cause me to breakout on my face but not this one. It absorbs into the skin really well and does not feel oily or greasy at all, once you apply it no one can tell you are wearing it (no white film) and it goes great under make up. A little goes along so a tube will last you a long while, its defiantly a must have for Summer.

The Office (US version) - I am currently rewatching The Office when I get a chance and it's even better the second time round. I just put on a DVD (I bought the box set in January) when I need a quiet moment and let the laughs roll, I'm over half way through it and I don't want it to end.

2017 Christmas Gift Guide - less than 3 weeks until Christmas people! If you haven't started shopping yet and/or are stuck trying to find that perfect (and lets be honest budget friendly gift) then it's well worth checking out this years gift guide that I put together. It has something for everyone including some DIY gift ideas and my favourite online shopping places.

15 Gifts to Give Your Anxious Friend - The Mighty is coming out with a lot of awesome gift guides for those who struggle with mental and chronic illnesses. This is great guide if you are buying for someone with anxiety and will help them with their self care over the holiday season. I would love to buy a weighted blanket at some point as I could see it be it really helpful for when I can't sleep at night due to my anxiety or just going through a tough time.

Mighty Car Mods and Ryobi Facebook post - nothing like waking up and seeing this post on my Facebook, for those who don't know Mighty Car Mods are one of the recent celeb ambassadors for ReachOut. They have been a doing great job and are even letting ReachOut host stalls at their events which is awesome. It's a great donation and I am sure the Bluetooth radio kits will be put to good use too.

Disney ZOMBIES - Disney Channel original movies are a weakness of mine (yes I love made for tv movies) and this is their latest. It looks like a super fun film and I can't wait to spend a Friday night watching it.

Shawn Mendes vs One Direction Mashup - I really loved the Taylor Swift vs Ed Sheeran mash up and this one is done by the same person - Kurt Schneider so it's well worth a listen too.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

ReachOut Mod Workshop Recap

A couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to travel to ReachOut HQ for a workshop to become a
forum moderator.
Since being a Youth Ambassador (almost 3 years ago!) I have pushed myself to do things I never thought I would do and I like to keep pushing myself. So when given the opportunity to get more involved with ReachOut I always jump at the chance. This lead to a fun glitter filled (so much glitter I am still finding it in random places!) weekend workshop at ReachOut HQ, so on Friday I headed on a plane and travelled quite a distance. I arrived late Friday night and didn't leave until Monday night. Trying to navigate a new city, getting to know new people and absorb new information is a challenge for anyone and I felt this pressure to keep my anxiety under control and not let it get in the way.
Here is how my weekend played out, along with my anxiety levels and what I would do differently:

Friday - I left home at midday to catch my flight at 1.50pm, I was lucky that lunch was included in my flight and I was able to get away with hand luggage on the way there. I hadn't flown in over 10 years and flying solo was a different experience. I forgot to take my laptop out of my bag before it went in the scanner so I had to rescan it and when I walked through security the alarm went off  due to my Pandora bangle so I had to unlatch it. My anxiety was starting to pick up but I focused on getting on the plane and practiced my breathing exercises (this app is amazing). I grabbed a (very overpriced) sprite and sat down for a while before I boarded my flight. I boarded my flight and enjoyed the inflight entertainment (I ended up watching Everything, Everything which wasn't a bad movie and I had actually just bought it on DVD but had yet to watch).
Due to the time difference I lost 3 hours, so it was late when I arrived. I grabbed a cab and went to the hostel where I would be staying. Only 2 other people for the workshop (L and S) would be arriving that night and they were already settled in, I said hi to them (they were both in bed). I set up my bed and decided despite not feeling tired I would go to bed and read (perks of having an e-reader with a backlight!). I struggled to fall asleep as it was still early at home but I eventually drifted off.

Saturday - I woke up at 7.00am which was super early to me due to the time difference, got dressed and chatted to my roommates and we headed down to breakfast. Everyone else for the workshop was going to be flying in to get there at mid-morning. L and I caught a cab to ReachOut office while S went to meet the others at the airport. I was feeling a bit anxious but no more than normal before a workshop. I will say throughout the weekend I struggled due to the time difference so my body clock was out of whack so I wasn't sleeping well at all which didn't help my anxiety. I met the others and we started the workshop. We were told that there was a room set up that we could take time out in if we needed, but for some reason I decided that I wouldn't use it as I was there to learn. I always talk more at new situations and my eye contact is off and while I knew it was happening I found it hard to get it under control.
The morning was about getting to know everyone and breaking the ice, there were a few returning moderators who helped run sessions which was good. The afternoon after lunch we got into more full on things and had talks from a few different staff members and returning mods about the role of a moderator, self care, research and a few other topics. I liked how it wasn't just the staff doing the talking but returning mods who had experience and knew the role, so we could relate to them.
Everyone was given money for dinner so we all broke off into groups to grab dinner, I went with 5 others and we ended up at Grilled and then proceeded to get lost trying to get back to the hostel. GPSs didn't really work in the city as the signal kept bouncing off the buildings but we eventually made it back. I was feeling exhausted so I went to bed and tried to sleep but I struggled so I ended up reading for a few hours.

Sunday - my anxiety was flaring up for no reason but I managed to get it under control with some breathing exercises and I pushed through it. It was a full on day and there was a lot of information to take in. We learnt the bulk of the information and there were a lot of back to back sessions. We learnt how to run a GR, got broken into groups which would then focus on a particular area of the forums for the month (and then rotate the following month), how people find ReachOut and the forums and the problems they may run into accessing it, looked at the official mod handbook, how to handle tough posts and what to do if we feel that something is beyond us and a whole lot more. It was very intense to say the least and a lot to absorb.
At night we watched Big Hero 6 and ate pizza before heading back to the hostel. We decided that we would meet on the 1st floor to hang out (it was a shared kitchen/living space) so I grabbed my Kobo and found a chair to relax in to wait for the others. Then people decided to head to a bar, bars aren't my scene and I felt like I was close to breaking point so I decided to finish my book before calling it a night. Back up at my room I chatted for a while with my roommates which was really nice and just what I needed it. I tried to get some sleep but couldn't as the bar next door to the hostel was playing music non stop, I must've drifted off at around 1.00am but it wasn't long before we had to be up and out.

Monday - We packed up and left our bags at the hostel and headed off to the office for the final part of the workshop. We were doing staff 'speed dating' and I was thrilled to see some familiar faces and meet face to face people I had been in contact with over the years. I was really struggling at this point but forced myself to push through. I saw J (who works in fundraising and I keep in regular contact with), who gave me a big hug and was thrilled to see me. I'm not a huge hugger but it was just what I needed and I had been hoping I would see her. I also saw H who is in charge of the Youth Ambassadors which was great. I'm the only YA for my state at the moment which is hard and can feel isolating so it was great to see them both and catch up with them. I met most of the staff members which was great.
We then all headed back to the hostel as most had to catch a shuttle to the airport, my flight wasn't until 8.00pm and I just couldn't face exploring the city. All I could see myself doing was getting lost and then having an anxiety attack. Thankfully I was more than welcome to hang out in the ReachOut office until I had to head to the airport. I was so tired at this point but as I really wanted to sleep on the plane I read my book for a bit, and surfed the net on my laptop, before ending up helping out doing some merch sorting (rolling up posters mostly). I loved being behind the scenes and seeing how much goes into making ReachOut what it is. I said a final goodbye to J, H and the rest of the staff before I caught a cab to the airport.
Despite not needing to check in my bag on the way there, I needed to on the way back as it was a different airline and they had stricter rules. I was early to check in so I waited around for a bit and grabbed some caramel slice at a café as I had skipped lunch (I just wasn't hungry) it wasn't nowhere as good as mine (which I ended up making on the Wednesday after I had gotten back) but it helped keep my blood sugar steady. After I had checked in I wandered around the airport (which was a lot bigger than I thought it would be) and explored a few shops. I ended up grabbing a couple of things (a picture book for the kids I babysit and a toy cat that looked like Maddy as I was missing my cats) and then had dinner at a burger place, which was really good and not typical airport food.
My flight boarded at 8.00pm and food nor entertainment were provided (you could purchase them) so I tried to sleep but I really needed a pillow. I had downloaded (using Netflix) A Christmas Prince so I put in my headphones and watched that and half of another movie (Bruno and Boots: This Can't be Happening) for the first half of the flight before managing to doze off for a while (though waking up frequently). It wasn't the best sleep but it was something and tied me over before I could be in my own bed. My parents picked me up at the airport which was great and as soon as I walked in the door Rikki was there to greet me and wanted cuddles. I ended up sleeping in until 9.30 the next morning which was great and spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching The Office. It took me the rest of the week until I began to feel 'normal' again.

Looking back there's not much I would've done differently, while I did push myself a lot I also made the most of my time and absorbed as much as possible. While I didn't get to explore the city much I am hoping to return at some point in the near future possibly with my youngest sister (probably for her 21st Birthday in a couple of years) as when I was there I felt we would both have a good time and it's much more fun exploring with someone. I loved the parts of the city I did see but it was so big compared to where I live and felt like I needed a good few days to explore it fully. Of course I was there to work and learn so exploring was never really on my books for this trip.
The things that I would've done differently given the chance include:
  • Getting myself into the time zone before I left - I should've gotten up early and lived in that time zone the day of the flight just so I could sleep at night and not been so exhausted. This is easier said than done but I will keep it in mind for next time. I would also try and get a flight that landed in the morning rather than at night so I could exhaust myself before bed rather than go straight from sitting on a plane to bed.
  • Taken more photos - I really regret not taking more photos, I never took the opportunities to grab them and I would've loved to have had some of the office and of what I got up too.
  • Taken small breaks - I think I felt I could only take long breaks to get the most out of them and I really didn't want too so I didn't. But maybe if I took a few 10 minute breaks then it would've made some difference yet I wouldn't have missed out on much. 
  • Drank more water - I didn't feel like I was drinking enough and despite having a water bottle I rarely touched it so I found myself feeling really thirsty at night. I just forgot to drink water which was annoying. 
  • Packed less - easier said than done and I honestly don't know how I could've decreased my luggage except for leaving my laptop at home which I needed (though maybe I could've left the charger at home?). I kept it to the basics but maybe I could've left some things at home and only taken the bare minimum.
As I said before there wasn't much I could've done differently and most of the things I could do are quite doable for next time.

I am so proud of myself for surviving a very full on workshop and not letting my anxiety get in the way. I never in a million years thought this would be possible but I did it! It just goes to show how the amount of work I have put in to push my anxiety so I can do these things and how it's paid off. I can't wait to see what else I can push myself to do.

A huge thankyou to ReachOut for giving me this opportunity and the wonderful staff (and other moderators who put together presentations too) who put the time and effort into running this workshop. It was a great weekend and I am thrilled to be a moderator and get more involved with such a wonderful organisation.