Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What can change in a month after a panic attack

Growing up there were so many things I wanted to be (hairdresser, florist, vet nurse, child care worker...) and up until recently I wanted to work in administration environment. I then had to reassess my career plans when after almost 2 years I could not find work in that area. I figured I would study IT and work with computers but after a panic attack on the second day I knew it wasn't meant to be. It's funny looking back on when I had the panic attack it was like my mind was telling me IT work wasn't something I could do and making an excuse to get out of the course. I actually remember feeling SO relieved when I was told I could meet with careers counsellor to find another course if I didn't feel like the course was a good fit for me.
I never in a million years thought I would be studying community services or enjoying it as much as I am. What's also funny is that both my psych and employment agency felt that IT was never going to be a good fit for me and feel that community services is my niche.
Community services is such a broad area so I have no idea where this course will land me. I want to help people, I LOVE the work I do for ReachOut, I've worked in local government before, I have life experience with a mental illness and are able to relate those going through similar experience and I have experience with people with disabilities.
I had a psych appointment yesterday and she was saying how good I look and how she's never seen me this mentally healthy. Sure my anxiety likes to flare up at random times(sometimes for no reason at all) but my down days aren't as frequent and I feel a lot more in control of my anxiety and mental health. I also think not having the unemployment label is helping instead I am a full time student not just someone struggling to find a job in a tough job market. I'm not waiting for the phone to ring regarding job interviews or putting all my hopes and prayers in to job applications or dealing with employment agency meetings that leave me walking away from them in tears. Instead I am studying 3 days a week, doing assignments and getting excited about the future. I'm doing ReachOut forum work on my non class days and at night after study. I'm dreaming of new ways I can get involved as a Youth Ambassador and how I can help ReachOut grow in the future. I'm putting what I am learning into practice with ReachOut and putting my experience with ReachOut into my study.
It's hard to believe that this path all started with a major panic attack and from something so scary something so good could come of it.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Five Friday Favourites

Another week is over! I'm 4 weeks down in my TAFE course I am really enjoying it so far, of course I have assignments due in the next few weeks which I'm not really enjoying but I am loving what I am learning :)
Next weekend is church camp down south which I can't wait for, I am so ready for a little getaway and spending time with church family is always fun. I've gotten permission to leave class early on Friday so I am hoping to beat the traffic heading down south for the long weekend (my aim is to race home have a shower and be on the road by 4.00pm). It's always a fun filled weekend with lots of board games, ice cream and fellowship which is just what I need.

Onto Friday Favourites:

Pink and gold leather clutch - do I need another clutch? Probably not, but I've been wanting one from Kikki K for so long I finally went for it :) the size is perfect and the colours make me happy. I have a feeling this will be my go to clutch for events and for outfits where I need a pop of colour.

Greenhouse Academy Season 2 - I watched this last week and I am still speechless, I honestly had no idea where it was going at times but it was really good. I will say some of the characters got on my nerves (looking at Aspen here) but the cast chemistry was great and it was a great season overall. Of course it had to end on a cliff hanger so I am hoping for a season 3.

Dusk Rewards - I finally took the plunge and joined Dusk Rewards, its valid for two years and if you love candles its worth it. You pay $10 which you get back as a voucher emailed to you within 24 hours of joining up. Plus you get 10% off all full priced items and 5% off sale items, you also get a $20 voucher on your birthday. So over 2 years it's $50 worth of value plus all you save from the discounts you get.

Breeze Bud Vase in teal - fresh flowers always make me happy and I think vases are one of those things you never buy. I always think a collection of small vases on a table works for a variety of occasions and you can mix and match colours and materials, I couldn't resist purchasing this vase. Of course it's not for me but for a gift but I really like it and I hope the recipient likes it as well.

Disney Zombies soundtrack - by now it's no secret I love DCOMs and I had to download the latest movie soundtrack. The songs are catchy and fun, though my favourite is Stand (the video clip is a bit weird but the song is good) and I've been playing it on repeat since last Friday.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Five Friday Favourites

This past week has been very full on! Its been my first full week of Tafe and I'm really loving my course. I feeling overwhelmed (which is understandable) as I have been given all my assignments and what's expected of me at my course, but bring it on!
I haven't been trying to do much else other than making sure I survive Tafe and keeping my anxiety in check. I saw my psych on Tuesday which was good and something I needed, I've also been trying to get in lots of down time where possible and not plan too much.  I did however see The Greatest Showman with Jocelyn on Tuesday night and I can see what all the hype is about, Hugh Jackman is amazing and it's a great family movie.

Onto Friday Favourites:

Greenhouse Academy season 2 - next Wednesday season 2 is finally released (so if you're single like me throw in a tub of ice cream, maybe a cat or two and your Valentines Day plans are sorted haha) and I am so excited! I'm currently re-watching it for the 4th (?) time to get ready to binge all of season 2. I really like this show and I have no idea why but it's drawn me in despite it not being something I would normally watch. Also this song from it is currently stuck in my head, please send help!

This what anxiety looks like (for me) blog post - this took me a long time to write down but I am so glad I did! It gives a closer look into what goes on in my head an update on how my Tafe studies are going. I am so proud with how I've coped and I'm really enjoying my course, of course today I am dead after 2 full on days but I am happy and feel like I am finally getting somewhere. At this stage I'm just praying I find/get a good prac placement, as I want to start getting up my hours sooner rather than later (I need 120 prac hours and don't want to do it full time for four straight weeks).

Dusk 8 pack soy candle sampler - this was my reward to myself for surviving last week, I really like Dusk candles and find their soy range really nice and the scents not too overpowering. I like how I get to try a range of different scents (including 2 of my favourites - raspberry rosewater and watermelon lemonade) and the candles are so cute while also being a decent size. You could even buy the pack and give the individual candles away as gifts if you wanted.

Everyday movie - I always find at the start of the year there's always a stack of movies I go see at the movies but as the year goes on less get released that I get excited about. This is one those films I intend to see at the movies, I saw the trailer at the movies on Tuesday night and despite seeing it multiple times before (YouTube black holes are real!) I really loved it. It's such an interesting concept and seems like such a great film, the book is currently on my to read list to but whether I read it before or after I see the film is another matter! 

Smash Lunch Bowl - I'm not a huge sandwich fan and would much rather take a salad, soup, leftovers  (we have access to microwaves on campus) or something not a sandwich to Tafe if given the option. The problem is that it can be hard to find containers that are big enough for a decent size portion, won't leak and are microwavable. I was thrilled when I found this among the back to school stuff at Coles and it's been a great container. It fits a decent amount in it, while not being too big or bulky and its microwavable if I take things that need to be reheated up. So far I've had no complaints and it even comes in cute colours (I have the pale blue) which is a fun bonus.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

This is what anxiety looks like (for me)

The following two photos in this post were taken just under 24 hours apart (a week ago), these are to help show you the realities of what it's like living with anxiety.
This photo was taken after my first day at Tafe, it had gone well and I was feeling on top of the world. I posted the selfie on Facebook with a positive caption and it got multiple likes within minutes. Yes the anxiety was present but it was at a low level compared to what it had been in the morning.

This photo was taken the next day after the biggest panic attack I have had in years. I look broken. all the make up that I had put on in the morning had been washed away with my tears, my face is puffy and my heart is still racing. I'm in my car in my driveway after driving home from campus after the attack.

In both photos anxiety is present, while it is more obvious in the second it doesn't mean that it's not there in the first. Every day I do things and make decisions surrounding my anxiety, what I can cope with and how it will affect me long term; I can't work full time, I have less stamina than most people as I spend a lot of energy keeping my anxiety under control in new situations, I need routine, I bite my nails (severely I might add) and fidget a lot, I take medication daily and see my doctor regularly to make sure its at the correct dose, I see my psych every 3 weeks, I need more support in new situations to start off with, the list could go on and on...

I started Tafe last week, I had been unemployed for almost 2 years and figured it was time to study something to upskill and hopefully get employed. Monday went well but on Tuesday I had a panic attack.  I felt like I was drowning while trapped in a box and I was thankful to make it to student services in time before it got worse. I had been feeling fragile all morning and even apologised to the lecturer that he would be getting the anxiety version of me (do we need to apologise for having a mental illness?) but at 11.00am something changed, none of my strategies were working and by 11.30am (which was when break started) the attack was coming whether I wanted it or not (I didn't!). I'm so thankful to the staff in student services who were amazing and helped me calm down and assured me it was ok and they always saw panic attacks during the first week. Once I was calm enough they helped discuss my options and helped book an appointment with a careers counsellor the next day (I thankfully didn't have class on Wednesdays).
As soon as I got home  I took the medication I reserve for extreme anxiety situations which helped my heart stop racing and shut down my anxiety ridden brain, I finally got hold of my psych and texted a few people just because I needed to process what had happened and get their view on it. I was feeling like a failure and just wanted to run away from the situation. I posted the above photo to Facebook because I felt that I needed to show people just how bad anxiety can be.
Normally the day after I have a panic attack I spend the day hiding and recharging, but this time I couldn't. One of my friends is heading over east to live and we had a final catch up before she left, I also met with my bible study leader who was concerned about me before I had the careers counsellor appointment in the afternoon. It was really full on and the complete opposite of what I would normally do.
The careers counsellor meeting went well, the student services officer I had seen on Tuesday also came with me. We discussed what I was interested in, why I chose the course I did (desperate for employment? I enjoyed IT in high school?), what I thought set off my panic attack (the course too full on? Lecturers overwhelming me?) and my employment and volunteer history. I wasn't particularly keen to do another IT course and I admitted I found the class load really overwhelming plus all the additional work I would need to put in which I wasn't expecting.
We ended up discussing my volunteering history including how much work I do for ReachOut and what attracted me to that. Because of that we settled on a Cert. 4 in Community Services, there were no places at the campus I was currently enrolled in but there were places at a campus 20 minutes away, so I decided to transfer into that course instead.
I will say that the current campus I was on had no parking and starting at the end of the month we would have to pay for parking. Even getting there at 8.00am didn't mean you got a parking space and you would have to park quite a distance away (off a main road) and walk, which didn't help my anxiety at all.
The load for this course is also a lot less (despite it still being a Cert. 4) and only 2.5 days, so I'm on campus 12.00-4.30pm Wednesdays, 9.00am-4.00pm Thursdays and 9.00am-3.30pm Fridays. Which is totally doable and leaves Mondays and Tuesdays free to do catch up work, psych appointments, ReachOut work and self care (or retail therapy haha). I will also have 4 weeks of prac instead of class in May but that's only 3 days a week which is manageable for me and how many days I want to work.

This all happened a week ago and a week later I am in a completely different place than what was I was this time last week.
I've survived my first day of Cert. 4 Community Services and LOVED IT, I honestly didn't think I would be so excited about studying something. While I am feeling overwhelmed by the assignments I'm also so excited to get into them (remind me when I have them all due!). I really like the lecturer I had on Friday (I only started Friday) and I'm told the lecturers I have on Wednesdays and Thursdays are also good ones.
I've set up an appointment with student support services tomorrow on my new campus which will be good. I would much rather have things put in place now to prevent panic attacks and my anxiety getting in the way than wait and it effect my studies. I'm not too sure what will be put in place, but I would like my lecturers to know that I have anxiety and to be understanding when I have bad days. I also want extra support during my prac as that's going to be a source of anxiety to some stage.
I saw my psychologist today and walked through the attack with her (starting from when I woke up, to the attack happening and what was going on in my brain when it was happening) and she told me there was NOTHING I could do to prevent it from happening. I did everything right and followed the strategies exactly, sometimes these things just happen and its ok. She also thinks this course is perfect for me and did admit she had some concerns regarding the Cert 4 in Computer Systems Technology. She did point out that I was in a stressful workplace for 6 months and didn't have a panic attack at all which is saying something about m old course and it not being right for me.

The reality is that I will always have anxiety and I work SO HARD to keep it under control and manageable. So while I might not look anxious or show the physical symptoms of anxiety it is there, I might just be having a good or ok day or I'm doing such a good job at hiding a bad day so you won't notice.
I'm what anxiety looks like but I am one of many who have anxiety and live with it on a daily basis. There is no picture fits all when it comes to mental illness and that's ok. Remember just because you can't see mental illness doesn't mean its not there.