Category Archives: Emotions

Honour those who’ve Gone Before – Send 2016 to its Grave – and Fight!

This is a difficult post to write… We are at the rear end of 2016
and many of us are very pleased to see it close.
I’m not blaming the year itself, but it’s as good a time as any to start anew…

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It’s been tough year politically, personally, and for many of us devastating in different ways. We have mourned political change, grieved lost and broken promises, and endured lies and political manoeuvres. We’ve lost celebrities, almost at a rate of several a month, and we have lost many close to us. Members of my own family and my husband’s family have lost loved ones, and we are holding those still in ill health close to us. As human beings we have also mourned the loss of families and individuals unable to escape war and destruction, and have seen refugees both rescued and shunned.

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© Lisa Shambrook

We’ve been hit by celebrity losses, usually those who’ve been part of our formative years, like Harper Lee who inspired me with To Kill a Mockingbird, Alan Rickman who’s acting has been a delight, and as a huge Star Trek and Star Wars fangirl: Anton Yelchin who played Star Trek’s latest incarnation of Chekov, Kenny Baker – R2D2, and yesterday, Carrie Fisher. You’ll be able to add many more to that list, as we’ve all been affected by those we loved.

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I’ve been hit more this year by the personal losses, not only mine, but many around me have lost loved ones. I was deeply affected by the murder of Jo Cox during the Brexit campaign. It added to my despair of humanity that someone who preached “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than the things that divide us.” could lose her life to an extremist. It was a terrible indictment on society.

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© Lisa Shambrook

My personal depression grew and was compounded throughout the year with the political and public reaction to refugees and those escaping regimes and war. I wondered where compassion had gone that society could publicly turn away from those in need?

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© Lisa Shambrook

At the beginning of September I stood in a place I never want to stand again. I won’t go into detail but I was on the cusp of becoming one of 2016’s statistics. After that night, I went for help and am currently taking antidepressants and counselling. My depression has grown over the years as I’ve spread myself thin to help care for my ailing parents and battle for help through Social Services.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Last Thursday, after about twelve years of constant illness including breast cancer, then secondary breast cancer of the bones, severe diabetes, a partially collapsed lung, glaucoma, and progressive Alzheimer’s, my mum peacefully passed away in hospital with pneumonia. Her Alzheimer’s had broken my heart, and almost taken my dad. I am currently coping with grief and relief, and everything this year has thrown at us.

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Yesterday, Carrie Fisher passed away after a massive heart attack. I loved her for more than just Star Wars…she fought for mental health awareness, she battled addictions, and kicked the media’s ass when they attacked her for her looks and weight when she returned to Star Wars. She knew who she was, she was excellent at what she did, and fought for what she wanted. Carrie Fisher made Princess Leia badass and turned her into a fighter, who survived and lead the resistance even when the men in her life let her down. Princess Leia grew into General Organa, and Carrie did the same in her personal life.

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© Lisa Shambrook

It’s hard for me to lose my mother, then another inspirational woman, but when we lose heroes we need to try and live what they taught us. My mother taught me much, and I have aspired to be an even better mother to my own children, and I want them to live in a world where those who’ve gone before have made the world better.

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© Lisa Shambrook

So, in the words of Anne Thériault on Twitter –  ‘May we all be able to get up every day and, in spite of our pain and loss and fear, put on our boots and vest and plan to destroy the empire.’ (Check out Anne’s thread on Princess Leia/General Organa…it rocks!) This is how we live, how we continue to go on, to move forward and to honour those who’ve gone. We honour those who’ve trail-blazed, who’ve worked hard, and who’ve left us more to do – so, let’s do it!

Be bold, be Leia. Be true, be Carrie Fisher…

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Let’s relegate 2016 to the dark and distant past, and kick 2017 into gear and fight!

We have empires to destroy!

 

The Best Bits of Autumn

Autumn shows us the beauty of letting go and cosying up together…

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Warm Blankets and Snug Sweaters…
Don’t you just love cosying up?

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© Lisa Shambrook

Revitalising Hot Chocolate…
Nothing better than a delicious hot chocolate to warm up an autumn day!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Back to Boots…
I love my boots, Dr Martens and anything I can kick leaves in!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Pumpkins, Halloween, Fire and Fireworks…
Dressing up is definitely our thing, light up the dark nights!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Homecooked Soup and Comfort Food…
Coming home on a frosty day to a beautiful hot meal!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Falling Leaves…
I’m a child at heart, kicking through crunchy leaves and loving the colours!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Woodland Walks and Strolls…
Early sunsets, turning leaves and that freshness keep me on my toes!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Scarves, Hats and Gloves…
Stay warm, snuggle up in your favourite coat and accessories!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Acorns and Conkers…
Yep, I am a squirrel… 

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© Lisa Shambrook

Jack Frost’s Chill…
The thrill of the chill and the delight of breathing dragon smoke is mine! 

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© Lisa Shambrook

How is your Autumn and what’s your favourite bit so far?

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© Lisa Shambrook

We Need to Talk about Depression and Antidepressants

Depression is ever growing in our society, for a number of reasons,
it’s time to lift the stigma and understand treatment.

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I watched This Morning (UK Daytime Magazine show) last week and they had a phone in on Depression. They have phone ins every day on a huge variety of subjects, but that day it was depression and as they came to the item they explained that they had been utterly overwhelmed with phone calls, more than any other subject they had recently dealt with.

This didn’t surprise me as I sat at home feeling sick, dizzy, weak, ultra anxious, and shaky. I was at my one week mark of having started a course of antidepressants.

Depression is rife and the numbers of those suffering is growing.

There are many, many reasons for depression. Some is caused by social and circumstantial events, some by chemical imbalance, and some by medication or illness.

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© Bekah Shambrook

I have many friends who cope with depression, anxiety, panic, self-harm, bi-polar and other mental and emotional health issues on a daily basis. I have suffered depression and self-harm since the age of fourteen, and anxiety and panic from much earlier. At eighteen I was prescribed the antidepressant, Fluvoxamine, for the first time, a short course which saw me through a particularly difficult breakdown. I limped through my twenties, married and raised children, had a bout of post-natal depression, and pushed through with little recognition. In my early thirties, around 2004, I had a breakdown and was prescribed Escitalopram, then, around 2008 and 2011, Cipralex and Citalopram, and in 2014, Amytriptyline, which was to combat anxiety and panic rather than depression. The early Escitalopram series including Cipralex and Citalopram caused difficult side-effects for me, making me sleep much of my depression away. Sounds good, but not effective with a family!

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© Bekah Shambrook

When this current period of depression reared its ugly head I baulked against antidepressants. I didn’t want to become a zombie again. And despite my history of nine to twelve month courses of meds each time, there is still a stigma and, still, we fight what might work for us.

My depression is chemical based. It’s something I will battle my entire life. I go through good periods and bad, often depending on the stress levels in my life, but it’s always lingering in the background, a companion to chronic anxiety. When it’s bad I need a higher dose of serotonin than my body can produce, and I slip into a depression, much like a diabetic’s body not producing enough insulin.

Sometimes I can cope with depression and if I treat myself well, my body can re-adjust on its own, but sometimes it can’t and I need help.  

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© Bekah Shambrook

Not only do we need to rid society of the stigma of mental illness, but we need to understand why medication works and is necessary.

If I have heart problems I will take heart medication. If I break my leg I will have it put in a cast and wait while my body heals. If I am diabetic I might need to take insulin for the rest of my life. No one would question any of these situations, so why do people still stigmatise antidepressants and other mental health medication?

As insulin injections replace the insulin a diabetic’s body cannot produce, so SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) work in a similar way. SSRIs work by blocking a receptor in our brain cells that reabsorb the chemical serotonin, which makes more serotonin available to enhance the messages sent between nerve cells. This availability of extra serotonin helps to remove or lift the depression and help the sufferer find themselves again.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Some people still believe antidepressants might block or change who you are, but it’s the depression that masks who you are, and lifting that can help the real you return.

Two and a half weeks ago, I began taking Sertraline. The first few weeks of taking any antidepressant is tough. The side effects are vast and you are likely to be hit hard by them. It’s often a case of getting worse before it can get better, but life is like that so much!

If you choose antidepressants be kind to yourself in the early weeks, if you work, it could be good for your GP to sign you off as you get used to them, if not, be aware and let your employer know what you are doing. Make sure your family are also educated and supportive. It’s very hard for those who’ve never had depression to understand it, but many will be compassionate and supportive. The sooner the stigma of both depression and antidepressants is gone, the better society will be. People with depression are all around us and are valuable members of society, we must not demonise depression.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I recognise that medication is not for everyone, and there are many other treatments for depression and similar conditions. I am also now on a waiting list for NHS counselling. And I’ve blogged about Nature’s Antidepressants too. But we do need to recognise that for many of us antidepressants or other medication may be exactly what we do need to be able to recover, or cope, or battle the black dog and win.

I am incredibly glad that warriors fighting depression are everywhere, social media helps to destigmatise and current TV shows are also helping to show it in normal lives. I applaud Cold Feet’s depiction of Pete going through deep depression and the effects it has not only on him but his family and his friends too. And just last week another new drama Paranoid, showed a major character also dealing with depression and anxiety. Mental health conditions are a part of real life, and we need to not only be aware, but to be compassionate and show empathy, love and understanding.

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Blue Harvest Creative

I’m still at the vulnerable, nauseous, wibbly, and exhausted stage of treating my depression, but I am glad I have made this step and that light at the end of the tunnel draws closer every day. I’ve been there before, and I know I can make it.   

How has depression affected you?
Has medication helped you?
How can we fight the stigma?

Being Broken and the Kintsukuroi Art of Healing

There are times in my life when I know I’m broken
and I’m okay with that.

Being Broken and the Kintsukuroi Art of Healing - The Last Krystallos
I have scars, scars that run across my skin and scars that run deep through my very being.
Most of us do, from superficial scratches on our surface to deep canyons that reside in dark places. We all have history, and emotional pain stays with you, no matter how much you try to let go.

I’m not talking of forgiveness here; maybe I’ll post on that another day, but even when you can or have let go, the experience, the memory, will always be with you. You can’t erase the things you’ve been through, and it’s good that we can’t.  

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Dawn’s gold rippling through the sky © Lisa Shambrook

I’m a firm believer in the fact that we are not perfect and nor should we worry about trying to be perfect. I want to be good, kind, loving, and harness many other beautiful characteristics, but I don’t need to be perfect. Along with my good qualities, I embrace rebellion, curiosity, cynicism, and other traits, as I believe you can’t know the good without the bad, and after all we are human.

This also means that though I would love to live on a fairly even keel, I am grateful that I don’t.

I’ve known pain. You’ve known pain. And whilst the levels of pain we’ve known may differ, they are powerful and good. The fact that we’ve known pain means we can enhance the joy that we feel too.

There is an exquisite extreme to emotions, sorrow and joy, and to know one you have to truly know the other.

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Broken things still live – Greencastle old oak tree © Lisa Shambrook

I have felt broken, and I have been broken, but I am also mended.

Many things can fix you. Family, love, religion, nature, chocolate, even money – but know that despite being mended your scars still endure.

I used to worry about my scars; they still decorate my skin and remind me constantly of the times that have hurt. Right now they are white, and pink, and narrow and pale. They’ve filled in, healed, mended, but they’re still there. I live with them and I love them, because they are me.

We need to love our brokenness. We need to embrace the scars that have healed us, for they have made us who we are.

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To bathe in sunset gold © Lisa Shambrook

The Japanese have a wonderful procedure called Kintsukuroi (golden repair) or Kintsugi (golden joinery) and they have beautified brokenness.

It is the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.   

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My attempt at Kintsukuroi – though I don’t have gold so it was nail lacquer! © Lisa Shambrook (Check out the real thing on my Pinterest Page)

Is there anything more beautiful than someone who can embrace their flaws and know that they are worth more for what they have been through?

We are all broken, in a way, we all have scars, some more visible than others. And even when you are healed, those scars, those things you’ve been through have made you stronger. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, to be flawed, and to be broken.

My heart is made of stronger stuff than glass - Patrick Rothfuss - lisa shambrook

My heart is made of stronger stuff than glass – Patrick Rothfuss © Lisa Shambrook

We don’t have glass hearts that can shatter beyond repair, we don’t have crystal spirits that can splinter beyond hope, we are made of stronger stuff, and even if we need repairing at times, we are all the more beautiful for it.  

Where is Your Happy Place?

When life is throwing shards of ice at you, your head is ready to explode,
or you are just in a dark, bottomless pit (figuratively – otherwise you’re not going anywhere…), where do you go? Where’s your happy place?

Where is your Happy Place - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos
Last week I blogged about water – it’s my happy place. Where’s yours?

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Feet in the water © Lisa Shambrook

I am happiest when I have my feet in water, down at the beach, letting waves ebb and flow as I splash through the ocean. This is where I am in my element. It revitalises me, lifts me, and energises me. It calms me, relaxes me, and soothes my spirit. Sometimes, if I can’t get to the sea, I can sit by or dabble my feet in a river, and the rush of water will still my senses. The sound, the movement, the texture of water all affect me, and without doubt it’s where I am happiest.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Woodlands and forests have a similar effect. The magic of trees, bluebells, wild anemones, winding tracks and pathways offer me another place of happiness and retreat. Listening to the wind whisper, fae glancing through flowers, and even trickling streams take me away from the troubles outside and stresses decrease.

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High on a Mountain Top © Lisa Shambrook

My oldest daughter loves mountain tops, the rugged landscape and the freedom of the wind and the air. I, too, feel alive when I stand upon mountains and hillsides!

Where are my other happy places? How do I cope when I can’t get out and throw myself headlong into nature?

My dog and my cats are another safe zone. They have the added bonus of interacting with you too. I’d never known complete unconditional love, until I owned a dog. Her dependence on me is total and she gives me everything. Deep chocolate brown eyes and loyalty that’s unheard of in most creatures, including humans. If things are bad, she knows and she’ll sit beside me with her head on my knees.  She also gets me out, dog walking, and into nature every day! She is my happy place.

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Misty, Raven and Roxy © Lisa Shambrook

My cats, though more conditional with their love, are also there for me. Run your fingers through soft fur and listen to a cat’s purr, and you can’t fail to feel better. One reason why it’s proven that the older generation live longer and happier when they own a pet, is that they give you love and a reason to go on.

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Writing and Art © Lisa Shambrook

My other releases are writingnothing takes me away from stress and trouble than losing myself in another world, in words and places that don’t exist outside my head – and creativity. Making things, stories, or art, or craft, take me to happy places.

All these things, all these happy places can be solitary, or with my family. My family are always welcome in all my happy places – they make my happy places even better!

Where are you happy places?

Where do you go when it’s all too much?

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Chocolate © Lisa Shambrook

PS. We probably shouldn’t forget chocolate…that’s always a happy place!

Tell me about your Happy Place…

How an Introvert Discovered the True Value of Friendship

‘They might not need me; but they might. I’ll let my head be just in sight;
a smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity.’

Emily Dickinson’s words ring true – someone might need you.

How an Introvert Discovered the True Value of Friendship - The Last Krystallos
Life has been hard lately.
I’m not just talking about my own life – which has been shatteringly exhausting and left me on a precipice – but those around me have been struggling too. And when you look further afield, easy to do with social media and television in our laps, the world seems to be besieged and careworn, to say the least.

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© Lisa Shambrook

The world has been full of discord, death, politics, and division which reap uncertainty and insecurity, and I can see each of these things in my own personal life and amongst those close to me too. Add physical and mental illness to that and you have a cauldron of despair.

As an empath I absorb, I can walk into a room and absorb the emotions of those around me, but as the world about us shatters, soaking up its emotions is downright dangerous. I can’t dwell on what’s happening worldwide, or even in my own life, instead I want to concentrate on how we deal with the fallout. How we can cope.

Ian Hislop editor of Private Eye magazine recently said about those who voted Remain in the Brexit referendum after we’d been told many times to ‘shut up and live with the decision’“Even if you lose the vote you are entitled to go on making the argument,” This also works with all the mess inside our lives, or in the world at large, we can and should talk about it. But who do we talk with?

Kindness is more than... C. Neil Strait

© Lisa Shambrook

As I stand on the edge of this abyss luring me into a major depressive episode, I fight. Some days I don’t think I’ll win the battle, other days – like my last blog post – I know I can triumph. But what helps me fight? Who helps me fight?

The easy answer is my family. Without them I would be lost and I would not be here. But the bigger answer swathes a multitude of people in my life, most of whom I either do not physically know or who live many miles away from me.

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My Writing Community – DFQ UK

Social Media has been a life saver. That might sound extreme, but it’s very true. I don’t find socialising easy or even possible at times, due to crippling social anxiety. I can overcome it, but usually only in my author guise, you’d be surprised how many authors have significant social anxiety, but that’s another story, so I find making friends very difficult. A year tutor’s school report that upset me greatly, back in year ten, told me I was ‘aloof’. She totally mistook being shy and anxious as being aloof and superior. If she’d taken time to get to know me she’d have found a generous, warm and giving spirit.

The advent of Facebook and Twitter, though, offered me friendships within my own living room. I had the chance to catch up with old friends, find new ones, and I discovered my community. I found people who not only understand me, but those who openly embrace me and love me.

They might not need me but they might - Emily Dickinson - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Take another look at Emily Dickinson’s poem – someone might need you. It might only be a smile, or a hug, and they might be virtual, but still a necessity. Kindness, friends, love and compassion are essential for the human spirit. Every comment on my blog, or Twitter, or my Facebook wall matters to me. Some have even saved me.

Friends are those who notice when you slip and are there to stop your fall... The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Friends help me fight. Friends help me battle the injustice of life and help me see the good and the beautiful. Friends support me and lift me. Friends have given me reason and love.  

Bekah at Calon Sept 2014

© Lisa Shambrook

Having a multitude of online friends from across the world has taught me much. I am learning now that I can foster friendships locally too. I used to feel insecure and unable to invest in friendships where I would actually have to put in time and effort. The natural introvert in me backed away from occasions where I could make friends and interact. I have some lovely friends in my life, who I have often neglected, not purposefully, but out of anxiety and insecurity. Learning that I can ask for support, or even accept it when it’s offered, is a huge and wonderful step for me. I am finally accepting invitations and discovering how powerful and necessary friends are, both online and in my physical life.

Meeting up for a hot chocolate, FB messages, and even texts (I don’t do phone calls!) from those who live close by are becoming more important to me as a support network, and I am extremely grateful for those care and take the time to be my friend.

We all need friends – I won’t quote song lyrics but there are hundreds of them alluding to the importance of friendships – and despite being a lone wolf introvert I’m finally realising why.

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© Lisa Shambrook

This week, be a friend, let your smile be just in sight.

Friends are those who notice when you slip and are there to stop your fall; and even better are those who hold your hand and your heart and prevent you slipping in the first place.

What’s your definition of a friend?

How important are friends in your life?

(This post is dedicated to those who matter  – the friends who have seen me through the tough times, whether you live close by or hundreds, or thousands of miles away –
You Know Who You Are
– because you are those who have commented, messaged and spoken to me and kept me here – Thank you ❤ ) 

Never Changing Who I Am – Believe in Yourself

I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I’m vocal about it.
I know who I am and I believe in myself…

Never Changing who I am - Believe in Yourself - the last krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

I spent years not speaking, not literally – I’ve always enjoyed talking, but I kept myself to myself and avoided confrontation and controversy – no more. I posted last year about How to be yourself and love who you are… and once you’ve achieved that, I want you to embrace the YOU that you love!

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© Lisa Shambrook

I’ve learned that no matter what, even a people-pleaser won’t please everyone. So stop trying. Just like I know that not everyone will love or even like my books, not everyone will like me, and I’m okay with that. I am confident enough in myself to know that those who do love me matter more than those who don’t. In the same way that when my writing touches another person and they tell me how much my book helped them, that is the person the book was written for, other opinions don’t matter.

Importantly, I keep writing for those who do love my novels, those who melt within my words and discover beauty and new worlds. I won’t change my writing to fit with the latest fad or style, my words are mine and hopefully when you uncover them you’ll drift away to a place of hope and dreams. But if it’s not your thing, that’s cool, keep looking until you find what matters to you.

This is the way I live my life. Other people matter a great deal to me, but I’m not changing who I am to fit. Once you know who you are, embrace yourself, and love yourself. It’s very true that if you can’t love yourself you’ll struggle to love others.
Robert Holden said: Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.

A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms – Sensei Ogui - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

So, accept who you are
Never apologise for who you are
Love your flaws, they’re not flaws they’re YOU, uniquely you
Accept that society’s love for perfection is not only unattainable, but not truth
Stop comparing yourself to anyone
Live your own life
Be authentic, honest and true to yourself
Be good to yourself

Never changing who I am, It's Time - Imagine Dragons, the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Love who you are. Don’t change for anybody else. That’s not to be confused with not growing and we should always, always change for the better when we can. That’s when we accept who we are and love ourselves, when we reach for that distant star, dig deep, and spread our wings. Change is good – but never change because society tells you to, or someone doesn’t like you as you are. Only change because it is better than who you are now, and only change if you want to.

I know who I am – and I like, no, I love who I am.

Never Changing who I am - Lisa Shambrook - the last krystallos

Never Changing who I am – © Lisa Shambrook

I am a fighter and a rebel. I’m a peacemaker and a dreamer. I yell and I shout and I make a lot of noise. I whisper and ponder and learn. I battle for justice and integrity, and I yearn for equality and truth. I will stand and fight for what I believe and I won’t be quiet when voices need to be heard. I’m an observer and a star-gazer. I am a romantic and a crusader. I’m a cynic and I’m tired. I’m negative and positive. I’m an idealist and a perfectionist. I’m lost and I’m found. I’m both broken and whole. I am small, but I am, oh, so big and my ideas and my desires fill the world. I am strong and I love.

I will not apologise for being me. I don’t need to make anyone proud. I don’t need your validity, only my own, because I believe in myself.

Believe in YOU – BE YOU – Be yourself.

    Don’t let anyone change who you are.    

Anxiety Disorder – the Illness that Inhibits You and How to Beat It

Anxiety is hard to describe to someone who doesn’t suffer with it. The dictionary definition of anxious: feeling or showing worry, nervousness, or unease about uncertainty. While this definition is true, anxiety as a mental health disorder is much more than that.

Anxiety Disorder - the Illness that Inhibits You and How to Beat It - The Last Krystallos

Imagine being held up against a wall with a knife at your throat, your anxiety would be understood, in fact most people would say the emotions running through your head would far surpass anxiety. Anxiety disorder is the same, but without the intruder and the knife at your throat.

anxiety disorder quote by Lisa Shambrook, the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

16th – 22nd May was Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and May is the awareness month in the US. Anxiety and Panic disorders are often glossed over when mental health is discussed, yet these enemies have been the bane of my life since a very early age. I spoke about it with Stigma Fighters and have included it in posts about depression and self-harm, but anxiety has been my constant companion.

Anxiety is common place amongst several different mental health disorders: OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Agoraphobia, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Panic Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety, Separation Anxiety, and other phobias. It often accompanies depression and other mental health conditions.

“Almost one in five people feel anxious a lot or all the time, while nearly half feel more anxious than they used to.” AnxietyUK

In 2013 there were 8.5million cases of anxiety in the UK. Women are twice as likely to suffer as men, and more than 1 in 10 of us are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage of our life. Many of those suffering from anxiety, up to 70%, will have further anxiety based disorders like the ones mentioned above. I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder complemented by Clinical Depression, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety and these often result in self-harm, and this is not uncommon.

The most common physical symptoms of anxiety are:  a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest tightness, butterflies (or worse – I have spitting dragons) in the stomach, and nausea. Often these are joined by a dry mouth, the urge to pass urine/empty bowels, trembling or the shakes, and sweating.
These are accompanied by psychological symptoms like: feeling very tense and agitated, a fear of losing control (anxiety sufferers are often control freaks – I am), huge irritation, a feeling of detachment, and/or a feeling of dread – or as I call it ‘that impending sense of doom’.

People suffering big anxiety or panic attacks can often feel like they’re about to or are having a heart attack. The impending sense of doom can fool you into despair and can lead to self-harm and depression, and even psychotic episodes.

almost one in five feel anxious a lot or all of the time, while nearly half feel more anxious than they used to - Anxiety UK, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

I wish I’d known I was suffering from an anxiety disorder as a child, it would have made those moments preceded by panic attacks much easier to cope with. I had several occasions at school when I sat in a classroom unable to concentrate, unable to sit, my head filling with fog, my heart beating like it would explode, numbness coursing through me, and fear spreading through my veins for no particular reason. Several times I ran from PE, or after assembly, and locked myself in the bathroom, or ran from the school building and all the way home – my heart thumping like a road drill and feeling like I was being chased by the entire zombie cast from The Walking Dead.
Even as an adult I’ve sprung from my seat or dropped everything in a shop to run like a deer escaping a hunter. These panic attacks have been the companion to my anxiety.
My anxiety has been crippling. It’s prevented me from many social activities. It’s stopped me experiencing things that have made me apprehensive, and halted my progression where I might have soared.

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Source: ugly-bread

I have lots of online friends, but I’ve found it terribly difficult to form friendships amongst those I know in my locality. I’ve been a loner and alone. My family have been so supportive and they have encouraged me to do more and rise beyond my anxiety, very often accompanying me until I have scoped out new ground and lost the anxiety. Believe me, it can be conquered, but it’s very much one-step-at-a-time!

I have also attended an NHS course for Stress Management, which gave me facts and help for Generalised Anxiety and Depression. I have taken Cipralex (SSRI Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor class antidepressant) a commonly prescribed antidepressant which also helps anxiety. I wish I could have had more counselling covering anxiety; I have had private counselling on issues in my life which have helped, but not specifically for anxiety. I would advise anyone suffering Anxiety or Panic Disorders to seek help from your GP. Put yourself on waiting lists if you have to, and get help. It is out there.

Invisible and visible illnesses - lisa shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Check out my blog post on The Battle to Beat Depression, Nature’s Antidepressants, and Coping with Self-harm – How to Fight the Urges and Win you might find something to help you, as I’ve used many of these ideas to fight my anxiety as well at other disorders. Also take a look at Shelley Wilson’s Resolution Challenge blog, her post Using a Dropbox to Release Worry, Fear and Anxiety, offers a great idea about writing down your anxieties, fears and worries, screw them up and drop them in a jar – then when you’re ready, take a look at them, if you wish, and see how you’ve grown in the meantime, or just let them go and take great pleasure in ridding yourself of the notes in the trash, or maybe burn them, watch your anxieties go up in flames!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Sometimes your anxiety might be a short-term thing, caused by troubles within your life, like exams, divorce, and illness, things that you can overcome in time or on your own. Sometimes you may be suffering from a more malignant form of anxiety, it might be a mental health disorder or a physical disorder and you need medical help. Whatever kind of anxiety you suffer, know that there are many of us who understand and help is available.

It’s also important to know that anxiety is normal, it’s an emotion that we need and it helps protect us from harm.  

Don’t suffer alone.

What helps you most with your anxiety?

Visual Dare – Crumbling

She couldn’t bear the shaving brush and foam on the bathroom windowsill, and his cologne still clung to the sweater gripped between her fingers. Martha buried her anguish within his scent and memories as she clutched his jumper to her face.

Six days was too long, far too long.

She shrugged his sweater over her head and ignored the cawing birds as they flocked beyond the cliffs. Their mournful cries served only to intensify her grief and choking sobs.

Two uniformed figures walked towards her; they’d known she’d still be there, down on the beach. Their gait slowed as the salty gale assailed them and their shoulders sagged. Black boots kicked the sand as they walked and as she watched behind her trembling fingers, the oldest removed his hat. Tears trickled and she knew what they’d say.

Six days was too long, far too long, and now – too late.

(149 Words)

00. VisDare Badge
Written for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare – One week, 150 words, one black-and-white photo that could spawn a hundred different stories.

Go take a look at the stories in her comments, each a different take on the picture above!

Coping with Self-Harm: How to Fight the Urges and Win

I want to talk about self-harm today,
because I’ve been self-harm clean for six month now,
almost to the day, but I still recall the last time I cut.

Coping with self harm, how to fight the self-harm urges and win, the last krystallos,

My brain was mush, my stomach swirled and churned, and I could barely breathe with the weight on my chest. My body shook, shivered, and sweat. A mixture of sadness and anger and nausea overcame me and, as rage developed, I took to the knife. It wasn’t an actual knife – my weapon of choice was a pin, a sharp, but innocuous pin, meant to hold material together, but used for destruction instead of creation. It scratched and scratched at my skin until beads of crimson sprang through and it continued as scarlet dripped from my arm. Tears slipped down my face and choked in my throat and I couldn’t even see or feel what I was doing.

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© Lisa Shambrook excerpt from The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

That scar sits on my arm, an unwanted, but necessary, reminder, just like the others that adorn my skin. I’m not trying to romanticise cutting, but those who do it need to know that they’re not alone, that there are people out there who understand the swathe of emotions and compulsions that attack them – and that they are conquerable.

Yes, I mean that, self-harm is conquerable and you can win. I’ve written before about ways to comprehend, fight and overcome self-harm. If you need to understand or find help please read: Understanding Self-Harm: the Truths and Myths and How to Help.

Self Harm is conquerable, beating self harm, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Self-harm, though, is like any other addiction, or learned behaviour, meaning that to defeat it you will need to continuously fight it. Again, I outlined many ways to help in my previous post, but I want to touch on what helps me most.

Talisman, totem and stim – A talisman is generally a jewel, or a stone, a charm or an item that means something to you. A totem is regarded as the same, a charm or a ritual object (think DiCaprio’s totem in Inception). A stim is a little different; it’s a behaviour – flapping hands, head-banging, repeating noises, words, movements, or smoothing, rubbing or spinning an item. The BBC have a great article on this: Stimming – What autistic people do to feel calmer. (Neurotypicals, or NT’s like me, also use them)

talisman, totem and stim - the last krystallos, self harm,

© Lisa Shambrook

I’ve seen many self-harmers use the talisman/stim approach and it can work. Touching a pendant, stroking a ring, clutching a pebble – all stim behaviours with a totem of choice.

I attended a Stress Management course on the NHS, several years ago, when counselling and the such were not available to me, and still aren’t. It gave me many ways to deal with stress and anxiety, but it also tried to encourage those with totems and stims to give them up. They talked about keeping a pebble in your pocket and holding onto it when you felt anxious, something physical and ‘there’. It can help you find strength and courage, I can testify to that, but they tried to inspire those of us that did to train ourselves out of it. Maybe in the long run, it would be better not to have to rely on anything but the strength of your mind, but in the meantime if something works, stick to it!

talisman, totem and stim - acorn cups and hazelnuts - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I have a couple of totems and stims. I keep acorn cups or hazelnut shells in my pocketseverywhere – you won’t find a coat or a bag without one in it. These I use for anxiety and prevention of panic and self-harm. My family find it affectionately weird, but love me for it. I’m a squirrel, claiming acorn caps and random nut shells and if I stop on a walk, it’s because I found a new one.

I have other stims, almost unnoticeably nodding my head (since age 12), picking at my lips, and pulling off scabs and habitually making un-self-harm injuries bleed again, and I used to bite my nails – many will relate to that one! These all precede or accompany anxiety and if I recognise them early, I can use my totem to calm me and prevent self-injury or panic.

The best way I ward off those urges to harm is to polish an acorn cup or hazelnut shell between my fingers. I do it subtly, quietly and imperceptibly hopefully not to bring attention to myself. People have sometimes seen the acorn cup sitting atop my finger but are often too polite to say anything!

In Beneath the Old Oak, my second book, Meg deals with her anxiety using an acorn cup:

‘Meg shifted and reached into her jacket pocket. She retrieved an acorn cup, dipping her thumb into it. Unconsciously, she rubbed it, her thumb smoothing the inside of the cup. A habit she’d had for so long the little wooden talisman was as smooth as silk inside, and even its knobbly exterior was somewhat polished. She ran the cup across her lips, to and fro, and allowed her thoughts to wander.’

Meg’s use is one of habit, an unconscious routine to deal with the anxiety she feels. Sometimes routine, habit and coping strategies bring success, peace and calm. When I am overwhelmed in either the urges I described at the top of this post or with anxiety that feels like it’s crushing me, or panic that’s threatening to push me over the edge, sometimes my acorn cup or my broken-in-half hazelnut shell can calm me enough to prevent more serious behaviour. Some people with these stims feel foolish – don’t. If it saves you it’s worth it.

talisman, totem and stim - acorn cups and hazelnuts - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I’m an empath – I’ll post about that another day – but suffice to say I feel everything. I feel pain sensitively and exquisitely, and sometimes that’s enough to tip me over the edge. This world is full of personal pain, and sometimes I wish I could dull my sense of discernment. Many of us will need to fine tune our senses and learn to cope with the pain the world throws at us. Coping methods are vital to our survival. In my previous article I point out coping strategies including: rubber bands, taking time out, breathing through, ride it out, distraction, know your triggers, remove yourself, be with people, and finding creative ways to release your emotion and stress. Talismans, totems, and stims can be part of this process and help you to overcome the urges when they hit.

But most importantly, know that you’re not alone, that there are people out there who understand and people who have taken time to learn and have compassion. These people will support and help you.  Find what you can to help you deal with self-injury, but maybe the most valuable thing will be talking to someone who understands, or who’s been there, someone who can help you understand and love yourself.

If you can, be that person.

How do you prevent self-destructive urges, or how do you cope with being overwhelmed?

Everyone’s experience is valuable and you may help someone
who needs to hear what you’ve been through.

If you need help, please see your GP, or at least check out some of the
great sites online that can help: NHS ChoicesThe SiteNSPCCHelp Guide

Beneath the Old Oak AD with SynopsisSelf-harm is part of my book ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ and an unedited NaNoWriMo snippet can be read here. To read more of Meg and her mother’s struggles ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ is available on Amazon and Etsy.

“Turn those dreams of escape into hope…”
Meg thinks her mother is broken. Is she broken too? Meg’s life spirals out of control and she’s terrified she’ll inherit her mother’s sins. Seeking refuge and escape she finds solace beneath a huge, old oak, but a devastating storm will change her life forever.