The Hell Butterfly

Posts tagged “Anxiety

Hard to chew, harder to swallow

I really hate being hungry.

For those who know me through this blog, you may have seen me write about my issues with food before, and for those who know me in person … well, you’ve seen it firsthand.

Since I was young I’ve had an unstable relationship with food. I find it difficult to even cook in front of people. Eating in front of friends and family is a piece of cake (pardon the pun). But strangers, work colleagues and even my housemates? That’s where it gets harder.

If I had to pick one moment in my childhood that ruined me in the healthy eating side of things, I know what I would choose. That one defining moment that, like a bad dream, has never faded from my memory. Though the specifics may be gone I can still feel the shame of it. It clings like a bad smell.

I was eight years old, getting ready for school and it was time for breakfast. My older sister had recently become obsessed with Weetabix, so my mum had bought a load and decided to try me out on it. I didn’t like the texture, the little oaty bits floating in the milk in my mouth seemed like the worst combination you could invent for a morning meal. So, obviously, I said I didn’t like it and was about to go on my way. I was happy enough to last until break time when I could spend 20p on a warm bread roll from the Tuck Shop. I didn’t see the harm in turning it down.

That is, until my mum poured it over my head. I don’t know if she was in a bad mood prior to this, or if it was me who had sent her over the edge. All I remember of that moment was her anger, and my head covered in Weetabix. Thick, gloopy wheat slid through my hair. Honestly it resembled something more akin to baby sick than edible food, part of the problem when I tried to eat it. But I hadn’t eaten it, and so there I sat at the breakfast table, pink nightie and slippers still on, coated in my own food.

And then she made me go to school.

I really don’t like to think about this. It makes me feel like a horrible person, making my mum out to be some cruel bitch who treated me like shit. She didn’t, she just wanted to prove a point. She just wanted me to eat my breakfast and be quiet about it, but she never intended to cause me any harm. It did, but that’s beside the point. I forgive her … forgave her a long time ago. That doesn’t stop it hurting when I look back though, especially when I see the correlation between the way I felt then, and the way I feel every time I try and eat now.

So off I went to school; eight years old, pink nightie on, Weetabix now congealing in my hair. I was sent off to class like nothing had happened, but obviously it didn’t take long for people to notice. I was late as it was. I entered my classroom and all of my peers, one by one, turned and looked at me.

Picture it.

I was mortified.

I don’t remember much of the aftermath of that day, just the voice of my headteacher as she washed my hair as best as she could, and dressed me into my uniform behind a sheet she’d found in the fort in the corner of the room. I have never forgotten it: the feeling of being utterly humiliated.

I think that’s why I struggle so much now.

Almost every time I think about eating food, I feel like I don’t deserve it. I tell myself I don’t need it, that I can manage without. When I’m eating I’m not enjoying it; I’m wondering who is watching me, what they’re thinking, are they judging me? I’m covering my mouth so no-one can see me chew. Sometimes I’m screaming at myself for being a fat cunt who only ever seems to shove food down her throat and then is too much of a pussy to puke it back up again after. Because yes, I tried that. But I’ve puked too much in my lifetime through travel sickness to pull the proverbial trigger.

The bigger problem shows itself however when you look at the direct correlation between my eating, or lack thereof, and my mood. If I don’t eat enough in the day, my mood takes a severe dive. It’s why I get myself into so much trouble when I don’t eat at work. Sometimes it can be a simple thing of there being too many people in the room at once, sometimes it can be a case of being in a bad mood before lunch begins which transfers into an absolute lack of desire to force food into my system. It means some days I wake up at 05:30 and don’t eat until late afternoon or evening, where some days I eat at 12, maybe 13:00 at the latest and won’t eat again that day. And if I let it happen more than once, it spirals to more than once a week, then creeps up to more than half of the time. It’s unbearable. Sometimes lunch break is pure torture.

I am also infamous in my team at work for not accepting food from people. Bear in mind there are around 12-13 of us, including my manager who adores baking of all kinds, and on top of this a senior team who want to make us feel better about losing our jobs by throwing us all pasty days and the occasional lunch buffet. Any time food is offered around the desks, it gets to me and people will either skip me entirely, or offer out of mere politeness. In the case of the latter, I have lost count of the amount of comments – not hurtful I should add, that’s important – saying “don’t bother, she won’t accept it”. Whilst this is true, I almost always will turn down an offer of food, of chewing gum even, it is also true that it hurts that I can’t accept it. Maybe it’s habit, maybe it’s fear. Personally I think it’s both. That’s why I’m trying to break that habit and hoping with it so too will the fear dissapate until I can just … eat.

I know of a local place, or more I know of a local website, that offer courses, classes and in-person councelling sessions for eating disorders. I don’t know if what I have is a “disorder”, but I think they can help me. I am thinking of contacting them. I’ve had this for years. For 14 of my 22 years I have lived with this. It is crippling. Do you know how many panic attacks I’ve suppressed in restaraunts trying to have a nice meal with my family? How many hours I’ve spent crying because I’m so hungry but thinking of food is too excrutiating to remember how to breathe? At it’s worst I can go into total shut down just trying to pick up my fork. And all the while the voice in my head is verbally battering me with cries of “pick it up, you twat” and “just fucking do it” and “it’s only food; what’s wrong with you?”

I’m trying to make sure I eat lunch every day. So what if there are four people in there? There are more than four chairs, and I need to eat too. I have also discovered there is one person at work who can get me to accept food. Mostly I feel guilty for not accepting because he asks so nicely, but I think it has a lot to do with trust as well. Trust in him that he won’t pressure me into taking it, just encourage. But perhaps trust in myself that nothing bad will happen if I take it. Public eating is still hard, but it’s a start. I still can’t comfortably sit in a restaraunt and eat a meal, only time and practice will help that.

I want to get better. I’m sick of it. Food has held this power of me since before I hit double-digits and it’s time to stop. Time to kick the unwanted house-guest from the bedroom of my brain.

I want to be free.

Advertisements

That Time Again

As you may know, Christmas is a hard time for me. The last three or four of them I had to bail upstairs to escape my family even if just for a little while. It gets intense around them and I never quite feel welcome. Two years ago was the worst, I won’t drag you through the details again but that December through February were pretty fucking hard. I got over it eventually, just, but it sucked.

This year wasn’t so bad. I opened my presents without too much self-consciousness, ate my entire meal and then tried to enjoy the food-coma TV session. The latter became too much as expected, but this year instead of slipping upstairs to cut myself, I decided go get drunk on shots with my sister. We invented drinks, I learnt that I can layer Baileys on Creme de Menthe, and we actually had fun. Then I got emotional. Now, I’m not much of a drinker, so I don’t really know what kind of drunk I am. I usually get a little cuddly, then get self-depricating. This time however I let my December stress erupt in tears while my family watched Apollo 13 in the other room. I still don’t know if they heard me crying, but I was a mess.

Me and my sister talked for a good 30 to 40 minutes. It’s the most open I’ve been with her (voluntarily) in pretty much ever. I don’t want to say what we spoke about, but it was nice and helped put certain things into perspective. One thing I told her was that I still have anxiety and depression. She knew, of course, that I’d struggled. She accidentally saw one or two of my darker posts on here so she knew I cut and she knew I’ve struggled. But this time I chose to tell her myself. And now I’m telling you, just because it helps me to get it out in written text.

I’m struggling. Again for my own reasons I don’t want to talk about some of it, some things are too personal even for The Hell Butterfly. But I trust you and I like to write about it, regardless of whether you want to read it. I’m not happy in my job. I work in web support for 3 well known train companies here in England. I help people make bookings, process refunds, sometimes file complaints. It’s not a bad job and it pays enough, but I’m not learning and it’s stressful. People in the public are stupid, and rude, and sometimes even insulting. And when an angry Indian man who you’ve just denied a £100 refund to starts yelling and swearing at you down the phone, it’s hard to keep the anxiety from fucking up your job (yes that happened). I want to quit so bad, start a career in writing or editing or publishing, but I need the money and I’m trying to make a living in a dying industry. The conflict of what I want to do versus what is out there for someone like me is intense and it makes me uneasy.

I’m also finding it very hard to eat at the moment. I don’t think I’ve ever really talked about my food issues on here. I find it very hard to cook in front of people, and nearly impossible to eat in front of people I don’t really know or trust. It gets harder still when the depression and anxiety kicks in. I start over thinking, worrying about my weight and body shape,  what people will think of me, and it spirals to where I tell myself I don’t deserve to eat. I care so much what other people think that I start to hate myself and feel disgusted with myself for even being hungry. I’ve had a long-standing chaotic relationship with food. I think it stemmed from a childhood incident involving Weetabix, my mum pouring it on my head, and being forced to go to school like that in my nightie. I don’t like to remember that. About 4 or 5 years ago I would make sure I didn’t eat more than around 500-600 calories a day. I kept a spreadsheet. If I ate over 1000 I punished myself in ways I imagine you can guess, knowing my personality. My point is, the last few weeks have been tough and with it has come more issues surrounding my ability to eat. Some days at work, if there are 4 or more people in the break room I can’t eat. There’s too many people and I panic.  It means some days I wake up at 05.30 and don’t eat until 15.00, or eat at noon then don’t eat again that day.

I’ve recently come down with the illness everyone seems to be getting too. It feels like my voice box is trying to claw its way out of me through my ears. I feel nauseous a lot and that in turn affects my eating. Add the stress of my job and a recent (mildly terrifying) personal scare and we have a recipe for disaster. Yesterday I had a few cups of tea, some pasta at about 1pm, then only managed to stomach a half bowl of ice cream and a few sips of tea before bed. I was ill and in a very bad state of mind. It had been a hard day and a tough month in general. Finding the desire to put food in my mouth is a task in itself. I feel sick thinking about moving the fork to my mouth and chewing. It seems the only times I eat right these days is when my boyfriend’s dad invites me round for tea and cooks for me. I’m trying to fix that.

So basically this post is just me saying I’m struggling with food, my job, and my personal life. I’m hoping I can get back on track with writing as I’m finding it hard to know how to do even that but it does make me feel better to post on here, no matter the subject. Thank you all for sticking with me and Happy New Year everyone.


Conflict is the Bane of My Existence

I hate conflict.

I don’t use the word lightly. Hate is a strong word. There are many things I dislike, some with a passion, but hate is reserved for a select few things. One of these is conflict. I can’t stand it. Some people get twitchy at nails on a blackboard, I get it when an argument ensues. It’s just not in my nature to fight.

Conflict ranges from minor incidents to a full-on brawl. Weirdly I enjoy watching anime, which often involves blood and injury, but that I have a different opinion on. I hate the constant need to fight, that people can’t get along, and that characters are always seemingly angry at someone. But the actual fights themselves are often beautifully drawn and so, if they must fight, I can at least enjoy the art of it.

Physical altercations are, however, only one end of the spectrum. To some extent I find myself actually less affected by them than I do the arguments, the debate, the shouting in peoples’ faces. I can’t even watch Jeremy Kyle if there is more than one minute of consecutive shouting. I’m a turtle. When something happens I don’t like, I retreat. It’s almost physical, I actually feel my neck recede into my chest and my chin become one with my collarbone. Shouting just grates at me.

What’s worse is I can’t even listen to a passionate debate without thinking they’re angry. I stress over the smallest of tension in a voice, so even if what I hear is merely a discussion, if voices are stern I get tense. I have an anxiety over conflict. Any form of yelling or anger in normal conversation sets me on edge. It makes it hard when I’m with people who have naturally loud voices – I always feel they’re shouting.

My intense hatred of conflict has been fired up with the recent General Election. My boyfriend voted Green, my dad voted Conservative and I almost voted Labour. No matter what happened, one of us was going to be in the wrong. As it happens, Conservative won. In the few hours that followed this announcement more hatred and animosity than I’ve seen in a long time came flooding out in news and media: “The Conservatives only love themselves”, “The Tories don’t care about people”, “All they want is more money”, “Fuck the Tory scum”. I hate it. I really fucking hate it. The people who voted Conservative had a reason to do so, just like the people who voted Green, or god forbid even UKIP, had a reason to do so. It’s just the way it went. You all had a chance to vote, you cast your vote, the results came in. It’s that simple. The procedure is fair, couldn’t in fact be much fairer. You ticked a box, they counted them. This time around the Blues won.

Now get over it.

We have to live with certain things. Why get angry about something you can’t change? I hear it all the time, people give me advice and tell me not to let the things that I can’t do anything about affect me. And yet here are half the country complaining about a fair judgement that is no longer in their hands. Stop the conflict. Just stop it. It’s done.

I really fucking hate conflict.


In Which the Blind Leads the Blind

As the months go by, and Summer makes her dreary way towards Autumn, I find myself spending more of my time trying not to cry, and more still actually crying. Like the clouds that appear to be growing in multitude above the city, so too have my anxieties one by one accumulated to elevate my stress levels. It hurts. Physically hurts. My head feels almost thick, like there’s not enough space in there for all the negativity, and it’s trying to burrow it’s way out of my via my temples. and what doesn’t make it to the brain to start cranial hammering, makes its way behind the eyes, pushing at the back of them, and to the tear ducts, straining them against their boundaries trying to make them burst.

I’ve been trying very hard recently to do things out of the ordinary. Three examples I could pull up here are 1. starting up The Hell Butterfly’s sister website, Stop The Silent Killer, a blog for mental health awareness, 2. joining an online magazine as a writer, for which I have not only had my first article published but have been asked to write a monthly piece about depression and mental health, and 3. talking to, and meeting up with, Bambi who you may remember me having mentioned in my PoF posts (Hi, Bambi). None of these things are part of my normal routine: sitting on my arse watching television, playing video games, wasting my life away in a puddle of self-loathing while I wonder how I’m going to make it out of bed the next day. Sometimes I won’t even know if I’ll be able to make it to the next day to figure out how to get out of said bed. But thinking in the last month or so that my head has been clearer, and my mood on a general high, I decided to break that destructive routine and get out into the world.

I won’t lie to you, it’s been fucking hard. It’s been so hard. Not knowing how to do things, simple things, that the rest of the world seems to be able to do. Getting out of bed in the morning. Getting dressed instead of slumming it in my pajamas all day. Applying for a job. Eating proper meals. Stepping outside the house. Getting that job. Getting my life on track. Telling myself I deserve it. None of it has been easy for me, and yet I somehow managed it. Okay, maybe not the last one, but the fact I’ve managed to function like a proper human being the last few weeks is cause enough for celebration.

But before I get carried away, I should follow this up by saying that, in my desperation to maintain this positivity, I have failed to notice the signs of the downfall. At least, the ones I may usually have picked up on sooner. Where normally my eating habits, or my sensitivity to certain films, may be an indicator of a mood drop, I failed to pick up on the downslide until the headaches, tiredness and stress crying came upon me. Maybe I just took on too much and didn’t know how to handle it. Maybe it was just time, time for that downswing of the pendulum. because no matter how high it goes, it always must come down again.

And boy have I come down.

I have suffered with travel sickness for as long as I can remember. Over the years I’ve developed methods to help combat it: don’t consume dairy products; don’t have fizzy drinks; watch the road; don’t read, or use your phone; listen to music and sing along. All of this has helped me get to a point where I barely notice the travel sickness, or if I do, I’m able to get past it fairly easily. Yesterday was the first time in at least three years that travel sickness made me vomit. Twice. Now, maybe it was just a case of, “it had to happen sometime”. But I don’t think so. That’s too much of an easy solution. I’m a firm believer that stress can manifest in physical ways. For me it’s often headaches, and more often still stress crying. This is the first time I’ve been so stressed it’s triggered physical nausea.

I’ve also, I think, been having several minor panic attacks lately. I’ve felt a panic attack, I know the feeling. The hyperventilating, terror, hopelessness. There’s a frantic feel about them. They’re gut wrenching, and at their worst they can make you feel like you’re dying. I didn’t believe this last until I had my first attack. Then I believed it. But lately I’ve been having these brief spells, just a moment or two, where suddenly I’m blind, I can’t think, all I want to do is cry because, in that moment, I let my life get on top of me. I let it take control, and I let it scare me. And then, as soon as they come, they go, for no apparent reason.

Looking at it now, how my condition is right this second, I can tell how bad it’s gotten. I don’t want to eat, in fact I detest the idea. My head is killing me. I’m trying hard to give a satisfying response in conversation and apologising for everything I say. I don’t seem to be able to understand even the simplest of things. It makes me angry. Every now and then I want to burst into tears but when I try my head protests and I’m stuck without that relief, and with a bigger headache than before. I’m also, despite sleeping a solid 10-11 hours, exhausted. My body doesn’t want to move.

Take into account my current condition, and we get to the main point of this post. If you’ve stuck with me this far, I commend you, and assure you I’m about to get to the point. A good friend of mine is struggling, really struggling, with depression. I know the symptoms, I can see he’s in pain, and I want to help. I know some of the ways to get out of this godforsaken shit-hole, even if I can’t take my own advice. But that is where the problem comes in.

Compare: a blind man who cannot see his way, will not know how to direct another blind man around. In this same way, I am not fit to tell another human being how to deal with depression. I want to help him, and I can’t stand the thought of him getting to a point as low as I’ve been. I’ve tasted the darkness. It tastes like metal. I don’t want him to have to experience that. But how can I, of all people, possibly give advice? Given my recent ventures into the world of mental health, you’d think I’d have more confidence in my ability to talk about the subject, to give a good pep talk, to find the right advice and help for a person.

But underneath it all, I’m just a girl with depression, scars, and the worst headache of the century, trying not to reach for that piece of metal, or find that tie and a high place.

I’ll probably survive this. I always seem to. But it hurts, and it’s hard, and I can only hope for the energy to get out of bed every morning. To write an article for the magazine. To write a post for The Hell Butterfly, and search for inspiration for her sister website. To talk to my friends, and make it convincing. To put food in my mouth, chew, swallow.

But like I always say: the pendulum always has to swing the other way.

Better days are coming.


Out of My Element

It’s been a few months short of five years since a guy has complimented me.

Today, M24 did.

I have often thought that my anxieties would get me in trouble. So far they have fucked up a lot of things, from big to small. But one anxiety in particular has stuck out in the last few days. I don’t know how to date. 20 years and 8ish months and I have had one admirer. I blew that one. Now it has reached the point where I have a potential second admirer and I don’t know what I’m doing. I have no experience and it has never been more obvious.

M24 told me today that he likes me.

My reaction was nauseating. Shock. Stunned silence. Elation. Realisation. Anxiety. Fear. Within ten seconds of reading the words I was fighting off a panic attack. I hadn’t expected it. I had thought about it, liked the idea and began to want it .. but I had never expected it to happen. And just like with T all those years ago, I have no idea what I’m going to do.

My best friend told me if I was having so many worries about it I shouldn’t rush into anything. My sister told me if I liked him I should just go for it. I don’t know which is right. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to fix myself – I have so many issues it could take years to resemble a normal human being. If I delay and turn M24 away until I’ve sorted myself out I could, and probably will, lose him. Can I take that risk? But if I face my fears and just go for it, what’ll happen if, or I suppose when, he finds out I have these problems. I’m trying to change, really I am but it’s not going to just go away overnight. I don’t want to put him in a position where if he wants to be with me, he’s got to be with my issues.

In the end I told him I like him too. That I was flattered he thought I was the kind of girl he was looking for (in his words, ‘smart, funny, down to earth and someone [he] could understand and connect with’). But I also told him I was out of my element. That I had never done this before and didn’t want to do something stupid. I told him I have a tendency to say the wrong thing without realising until it’s too late – an unfortunate truth. His reply? I could say what I want because he knows I’m not dumb and he understands what I mean.

He seems interested in extending our new-found friendship. I think I’d like to, but of course I’m worried. I’ll be so anxious about doing something wrong that I will. I’ll make a fool of myself, or insult him, or make him uncomfortable. I don’t want to do that. It’s terrifying and I know that everyone will say this is part of the world of relationships but this is one of the scariest things I have ever had to face. I don’t even have the words to express it. I want this, I think. He is a nice guy, good looking and he likes me. Even when I was being a little awkward in my responses and worried about how he would react, he never once seemed to falter. If he picked up on it, he never said a thing.

This could work. If I don’t fuck it up, this could be a thing. I could have a thing. I’ve never had a thing. Hopefully all my years of doing the wrong thing will help me do the right thing this time. If I can act like a normal human being, I might finally have someone.


On fear and why I’m her slave

Fear.

It is crippling. It can be the cause of panic attacks, of anxiety attacks and can be the root cause of the human race turning around and saying, “No thank you, I’m good, really.” Fear can stop us from doing the things we want to do because of that one thing that we are terrified of. Fear is often irrational, though is sometimes based in sound reasoning. For example, a fear of spiders is common though a large number of them are completely harmless. Whereas if someone was locked in a box for hours, this traumatic experience may trigger claustrophobia. They are all types of fear, and are equally terrifying to the individual.

I am Fear’s bitch.

I could list here everything I’m scared of, but I don’t think I’d remember everything. Maybe I’ll have a crack at it in a minute. I have been hindered in so many ways because of my fears and anxieties. Sometimes I can get so nervous about something that my legs will go completely numb. This happened an awful lot during college and less at university for one reason: I don’t contribute anymore. Whenever I had to speak up in front of the whole class, I would get so nervous I would get the shakes, feel sick, sweat like a beast and eventually lose all feeling in my legs. It was embarrassing all the times this happened when it was unavoidable. If I wanted to contribute of my own free will, I could back out if the nerves got too bad, but when I didn’t have a choice, I would have all eyes on me, a sweating, nervous mess, flushed as a beetroot and I would always develop a stutter. My mouth would take over most of the time, and almost always I would forget what I’d said as soon as I’d said it because my brain was so scared it had blocked it out. There was really nothing to be scared of, but that didn’t stop my body shutting down.

It can be really hard to do simple tasks if you’re scared of something. It can seriously impact a person’s life. Agorophobia can stop people from going outside completely, fear of the dark can be the cunning, evil ally of paranoia. It can drive a person crazy.

I would be lying if I said my fears and anxieties didn’t affect my life. They do. They affect every single part of it. Let’s have a go at that list, shall we? and then you can see for yourselves why I struggle with everyday tasks and interactions:

The dark – particularly powercuts
Wasps/bees
Moths
Spiders
Cats (though weirdly not kittens)
Public speaking – a major one this is
Taxis
Buses
The Underground/The Tube
Clowns
Large open spaces – not a fear so much as an anxiety that makes everything else worse
Crowds
Anuptaphobia – Fear of being single (Yeah, that one kind of explains itself)
Related to the above, being alone forever. That would just be sad.
Failure
Falling
Children/babies/childbirth – just, no.
Ridicule/public humiliation

I find it incredibly difficult to cook in front of people and it is almost physically impossible for me to eat in front of anyone who isn’t my immediate family. Equally, public eating, and particularly the cafeteria, self-service style places, are basically an impossibility.
Going into a shop just to ask for something makes me feel sick.
I can’t make eye contact with people when I walk because I end up feeling that they’re staring and judging me.
I’m so scared of being wrong that I’ll doubt myself even if I know what I’m talking about. I even doubt my own birthday sometimes.

All these things add up to basically make functioning like a normal human being a task in itself.

This isn’t me trying to get sympathy. I’m just trying to highlight the problems people face everyday because of fear. I won’t go ahead and say that if you’re scared of something you should face it head on. That would be nauseatingly hypocritical. Until I can take my own advice, its not for me to tell people how to live their lives. No, all I’m saying here is that people should be aware of how difficult it can be to live with a fear and anxiety of something that other people may be completely fine with.

Take this situation: I recently got invited to a house party by a girl on my course. It’s for her housemate’s birthday. I’ve never met this housemate. I want to go. I want to change things up and be sociable. Actually get a life. I never get invited out, so it would be a waste to throw it away now, especially as I’m always complaining about not getting invited to things. But I don’t want to go. I don’t want to walk around outside at night by myself. I won’t know anyone there except for the girl who invited me. I don’t drink so I’ll likely be the only one sober. They might want to go to a club – I’ve never been to one and don’t have any desire to. I’m scared of getting a taxi alone so even if I could skip the walking outside at night, I’d be stumped for another way to get home. All of these anxieties are stopping me from having a good time. I should just say “Fuck it” and go. So what if I’m the only sober one that leaves early if they want to go clubbing. But I’m so socially awkward that I know I can’t do it. I’ll be in a small area with people I don’t know and I can almost guarantee you right now that it will trigger a panic attack.

I’m probably not going to go.

Fear, as I said at the start, can be crippling. It has stopped me from doing so much in my life. I couldn’t even buy a single bus ticket from my house to the town centre until I was 17. And the other thing that stops us where fear is concerned is this: our comfort zones. We don’t want to leave them. It’s perfectly understandable – why would you leave somewhere you feel safe for a situation you would feel threatened in? Our comfort zones are what make us feel secure. We stay in them rather than do the things we’re scare of because in our bubbles, were untouchable. My bubble is my bedroom. I have my laptop, my teddy bear – who has actually helped me ride out three major panic attacks in the past – and I have food, so I don’t have to leave very often to cook when I get hungry. And most importantly of all – it has a lock. This is my safe haven. Nothing can hurt me here except myself.

We should never underestimate the power of fear. It can shape a person’s life in a completely different way to someone elses and can often ruin them. For those of you out there struggling with fears and anxieties, this is for you. Know this: you are not alone. And don’t let anyone tell you to get out of your comfort zone. If it’s the place you feel safe, unthreatened, happy, you should not be made to leave it. Stay strong.

Have any of you been affected by your fears and anxieties in any way? I’d be interested to hear some of the ways you have dealt with them.