Monthly Archives: February 2015

Anxiously Yours, Carrie

The Clever Sisters

It isn’t easy to open the self up and come out of the closet. However, I have recently been compelled to do that. For a reason I can’t quite identify, I have come to terms with the fact that I can no longer be ashamed of something I have dealt with and hidden for many years.

I have an anxiety disorder.

Just typing that out and knowing I intend to post this in a public format makes me want to break out in to a sweat and start freaking out. But, I can’t do that any longer. I cannot continue to hide something that I have, at times, been made to feel like is a dirty little secret. What? Being a human is dirty? Well, not tonight. No, tonight it is a moment of reckoning. A moment of freedom and accountability. Because something I say here may not only help…

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Mental Health and Work

I have been in this position (Helen talking) and it os very hard. a wonderful piece

Shush Don't Talk...

Working whilst learning to cope with your Mental Health is hard. 

I don’t think enough credit is given to those who have found that balance between their work life and Mental Health. It’s inspiring. I also think those companies that are supportive of their employees should be an example to those that struggle to do just that.

My Dr signed me off yesterday but unfortunately work will not give me sick pay for the time I have off. Do I concentrate on my health or do I pay my bills and eat? 

I think work has contributed to my slip in Mental Health, before, work made me happy, gave me routine and made me feel valued. Now, I’m struggling. My colleague has resigned, I’ve sought help from a Bullying Advisor after a change in Management and my Mental Health is at an all time low.

After much thought, I think…

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My Story of Panic: Angst

I’ve described my panic attacks, anxiety and subsequent depression in many different ways over the 20 years I’ve battled my inner demons. Sometimes it is as an adversary, sometimes as a curse or monster, sometimes as my burden, my craziness, even my mental defect. My monster resorts to name calling, low self-esteem, secrets and shame. It’s always amazing to me every time my heart throbs wildly and my mind races with obsessive thoughts that a mental defect or burden can be so gut-wrenchingly physical in manifestation. The mind is powerful.

“I’ve lost myself behind the panic. I cannot see my reflection any longer. And as it takes over my brain, I know I am helpless to argue. I thought I was stronger than the monster. But it lives within me; it is a parasite and I am the host. I feed it unknowingly and in return it consumes my brain. I am doomed…to an unending game of cat and mouse, but who will be the victor has yet to be determined. Will it kill me, or will I kill myself first? Either way, the outcome is the same.”

I first suffered from a panic attack at the age of 10. It was a terrifying, trapped, embattled event that left me utterly changed from that day forward. I will never forget how it happened and I sometimes believe it will never fully leave me. My life throughout my teen years was highly restricted as I tried to hide my problem and maintain some sort of normalcy. Finally, I suffered a breakdown at 18 during my first year of college. Stress, poor choices, drinking, sex, relationships, a part time job and school all led to my inability to leave my house for any other reason than my part time job. And while there, every moment was a fight to maintain my sanity and calm. It was hours on the edge of absolute disaster. Eventually I wanted to end my own life because I couldn’t stand to live inside my body and mind any longer. Luckily, that wasn’t a choice I actually decided to make physical.

“My heartbeat is everywhere at once, slamming through my veins, hot and jittery. I blink, trying to bring reality back into focus, trying to banish the other-worldly feeling that is darkening my vision. My self-defeating mantra zips through my mind on overdrive. I. Am. Crazy. I wrap one arm around my middle to steady myself and stop the churning razorblades in my gut. My hands shake and I’m unable to breathe, wrapped in smothering hot cotton, despair rolling up my body in waves until hot tears prick my eyes. Thoughts thunder: You are crazy. You are trapped. You will be sick all over the floor. You will embarrass yourself. You will scream, cry, throw a tantrum, pass out, pee your pants, vomit or shit. You will reveal the fact that you are totally insane and you’ll never be able to show your face again.”

I’ve been through ups and downs in my 20’s. Days where panic hovers over me, days where I can manage to forget, days where every move I make has to be analyzed through the lens of my anxiety, days where I was very near breakdown. Will I panic, again? Will it ever end?

I’ve been on meds, I’ve been off meds, I’ve tried exercise, meditation and therapy. I’ve been happy on meds, I’ve been miserable on meds. When I turned 30, after 20 years of coping methods, days of quivering fear, lost social experiences, lost relationships, missed career opportunities and more, I decided that if I could do one positive thing with my anxiety, it would be worth the years of suffering. That’s the year I went off meds and started writing a novel about my experience of breakdown at 18.

Nothing has ever been more important to me than sharing my story. For many years, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I was alone and I was crazy. That’s what I believed. I believed my mother and I (who also suffers as I do) were sharing a dark shameful family secret. No one knew, not friends, not extended family. So to finally share my story with the world was an immensely freeing goal and I thought, if I can help just one person get the help they need, or feel less alone, then my suffering has worth.

I published my novel Angst in January of 2013. It’s fiction, however roughly follows my story through college as I struggled to hide my anxiety and yet compensated in the worst possible way with drinking and partying. In fact drinking has always been a challenge for me. It’s always been one of my coping methods, used to feel normal in situations that I wouldn’t be able to handle otherwise. It was a way to be out with friends and boyfriends but as you can imagine it’s the kind of coping method that eventually backfires. And for me, the drinking and poor choices meant breakdown and complete isolation.

I also started blogging with the release of my novel and it’s been one of the best things for me. I’ve met close friends, I’ve learned that I am not alone nor crazy. Today, my belief is that mental Illness is not a weakness, it is not a character flaw. In fact, I believe it has given me insights into my own mind. I am highly sensitive, verbal, creative, thoughtful and yes, if you read my blog or book, sarcastic and able to laugh, no matter what. I refuse to accept stigma, I refuse to be labeled or ashamed, I refuse to hide and I have learned it’s okay to ask for help. I am proud to be me, anxiety and all! My message to you, it gets better! Find help! Do what you love and don’t let anything hold you back!


Victoria Sawyer is a blogger, author, aspiring graphic designer, social media enthusiast and mental health advocate. Shocking, honest, sarcastic and humorous, Victoria aims to make readers feel tangible emotions and physical sensations through writing that brings you into the mind and body of someone suffering from panic attacks, anxiety and this strange thing we call life. She published her novel Angst in 2013, which realistically and often graphically depicts life with mental illness. Along with crazy blogging, Victoria enjoys reading historical novels, playing with her naughty cats, engaging in rants and metaphysical existential meltdowns and using punctuation to excess in everything she writes.

Victoria Sawyer

Find Victoria:

Blog: http://www.angstanarchy.com

Angst is available for sale on Amazon.com
Twitter: @angst_victoria

Email: Victoria@angstanarchy.com

The Enemy Within

Joe Williams has very kindly given us permission to share this inspiring video with you. It is a raw and honest account about his experience with depression and suicide.

In a bid to raise awareness about mental health issues in the Riverina, local business woman Simone Dowding from The Blessed Bean has teamed up with Alexis and Steve from Mayfly Media to create a short film about a local sportsman and his battles with depression and suicide.
“The Enemy Within” is inspired by Wagga’s world champion boxer and ex rugby league player Joe Williams, who has, despite his achievements and success, fought his greatest battles with depression and suicide.
The film takes a documentary style approach to exploring Joe’s experiences and it is peppered with inspiring and hopeful messages designed to reach out to young sports fans.
Ms Dowding said she wanted to do something to try to stem the tragedy and suffering caused by depression and other mental health problems in the Riverina.
“More than six people commit suicide every day in Australia and a further 30 attempt to take their own life,” she said.
Mayfly Media has volunteered time, equipment and other resources to manage the production of the film, which was written and conceived by Ms Dowding. Joe Williams is also a volunteer as the major subject of the documentary style production.
We hope to inspire and challenge our community with a story of choice and hope.
Written and directed by Simone Dowding – jason@theblessedbean.com.au 0416 263 554
theblessedbean.com.au/make-a-difference/
Produced by Mayfly Media – info@mayflymedia.com.au 0417 484 976
mayflymedia.com.au
Joe Williams – williamsj7@ww.catholic.edu.au 0406 308 093
joewilliamsboxing.com.au

Joe Williams
Apart from being involved with professional sport for over 15 years, Joe spends his time working to inspire youth through motivational speaking workshops. He has worked with disengaged youth in primary and secondary schools, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres and gaols. Joe has also mentored both youth and adults.

My Stigma Fighters Journey

Writing for stigma fighters came just as I was reaching a real turning point in my life. I had just re-entered the workforce after spending the better part of a year in my bedroom. I had finally gotten up the courage to see a psychologist. I had cut the ties of a horribly toxic friendship. I had been reconnecting with my oldest and closest friends, who welcomed me back with open arms. I was remember what it was like to live. To be worth something. To feel like I was worth something, because I always had been.

And so, with this new lease on life I decided I wanted to find somewhere I could talk about what I was going through and what I had been through, without the judgement or the constant fear that I was going to suffer a mass Facebook unfriending. So, I took to twitter and created the account @ladyofanxiety; place where I could share my thoughts and feelings anonymously. I was shocked to find so many like minded in the Twittersphere, one of who was Sarah Fader, founder of Stigma Fighters.

Sarah reached out to me about writing for this website she had put together, it was a collection of stories from people around the world struggling with mental illness. I said sure why not, I love writing and no one I know would ever have to see it. So I wrote my piece and sent it off. Once it was published I logged on to Stigma Fighters and I saw it there, my story and feelings in black and white – and I was proud of it. So I shared it Facebook.

I expected the condescending ‘you hang in there chief’ and the obligatory like or two, but what I got was an influx of encouragement and likes. People were sharing it, my story, and using words like “brave” and “inspiring” [who? me?!]. My inbox was flooded with messages from people who were also struggling saying “thank you”, now they didn’t feel so alone.

I literally cannot describe in words what an amazing and liberating experience it was.

I was free.

Months later Sarah Fader and Allie Burke set out to start Stigma Fighters franchises in different places around the world, there was a call out for expressions of interest from people living in those countries who wanted to be a part of this project. I thought about doing it, but that little voice inside my head that tells me I am not good enough, told me not to bother.

Then, out of the blue, Sarah sent me a message on FB to introduce me to Helen White, the content manager for Stigma Fighters Down Under. I remember thinking “well that was random”  . Helen and I got to talking about the Stigma Fighters Down Under franchise and I was really overenthusiastic I couldn’t contain my excitement! After few days of chatting, Helen suggested I come on board as a co-content manager, I was shocked, but so excited! And, even more surprising, Allie and Sarah seemed to think it was a good  idea!

So here I am, working with one of the best ladies I have had the pleasure of knowing, doing what I love. Gen Y and Gen X and YOU!

Join us in the fight! Follow us on twitter @sfightersdu or ‘like’ us Facebook

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A lady with Anxiety. I come from a land down under. I love talking, writing, laughing and listening. I love show tunes and dancing. I am a crazy cat lady, and the youngest old person you will ever meet.
Sara lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Developing strategies for good mental health

Everyone has their own favourite strategies to help with mental wellness.  Maybe it’s going for a walk, caring for a pet, having a coffee with a friend, doing some exercise or reading a book.

According to Sydney Youngerman-Cole, RN, BSN, RNC and Katy E. Magee, MA, “many mental health problems begin when physical stress or emotional stress triggers chemical changes in your brain. The goal of treatment and prevention is to reduce stress and restore normal chemical processes in your brain.”

Coping skills are methods a person uses to deal with stressful situations. Obtaining and maintaining good coping skills does take practice. However utilizing these skills becomes easier over time. Most importantly, good coping skills make for good mental health wellness.

Some good coping skills include:

  • Meditation and Relaxation Techniques: Practicing deep breathing techniques, the relaxation response, or progressive muscle relaxation are ways to help reduce stress and induce relaxation.
  • Time to Yourself: It is important to set aside time everyday to allow yourself to relax and escape the stress of life. Give yourself a private, mini vacation from everything going on around you.
  • Physical Activity: Moving around and getting the heart rate up causes the body to release endorphins (the body’s feel-good hormones). Exercising provides some stress relief.
  • Reading: Escape from reality completely by reading. Reading can help you to de-stress by taking your mind off everyday life.
  • Friendship: Having friends who are willing to listen and support one through good and bad times is essential.
  • Humor: Adding humor to a stressful situation can help to lighten the mood.
  • Hobbies: Having creative outlets such as listening to music, drawing or gardening are great ways to relax and relieve everyday stress.
  • Spirituality Actively believing in a higher power or divine being can have many health benefits. In recent studies, it has been found that people who pray have better mental health than those who do not.
  • Pets: Taking care of a pet helps distract the mind from stressful thoughts. Studies Show that pets are a calming influence in people’s lives.
  • Sleeping The human body needs a chance to rest and repair itself after a long and stressful day. Sleeping gives the body this chance so that it is ready to perform another day.
  • Nutrition Eating foods that are good for you not only improve your physical health, but they play a major role in your mental health. When your body gets the proper nutrients, it is better able to function in every capacity.