Tag Archives: emotions

This is What Anxiety Feels Like

Many people feel anxious, but what does an Anxiety Disorder feel like?

this-is-what-anxiety-feels-like-the-last-krystallos

I’ve suffered with an anxiety disorder since I was a child, and for many years I just thought I was a worrier, and I always felt there was a derogatory association with being a worrier.

Many people believe you need to have reasons to be anxious.

We all suffer anxiety: going into an exam, taking your driving test, being late for work, when you’re about to give a presentation, travelling, and more. You get that flutter of worry in your belly, nausea, light-headedness, fear of the unknown, fear of failure… but the difference between GAD, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and situational anxiety is that those symptoms and emotions go away. You know that your exam will be over in a few hours, your driving test will be complete, you’ll get to work, that presentation will be finished, you will have reached your destination and the worry will be over, and you will move on. The reason for your anxiety will be resolved.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder does not give you that luxury.

Imagine those symptoms continuing for the rest of the day, the week, the month…

almost-one-in-five-feel-anxious-more-than-half-more-anxious-anxiety-uk-2016-quote-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I’ve learned a lot about my anxiety. I’m on antidepressants and my anxiety has been much lower, but I recently mentioned to my husband that I was feeling anxious again. Now, he’s incredibly supportive and very understanding, but to someone who has never experienced depression or severe anxiety it’s a difficult condition to comprehend. I tried to explain that there were several things on the horizon worrying me, but there’s more to anxiety than that.

There doesn’t have to be a reason.

I tried to explain what anxiety felt like.

It’s like you are treading water with no land in sight. This is what anxiety feels like.

You believe you will drown. This is what anxiety feels like.

Now, common sense tells you that a log might float by and you could grab it, or a boat might sail past and rescue you, or a lifebelt might appear – but as your brain puts those ideas out there, it also brings in a rolling fog. Now you’re treading water in fog and you can’t see anything. This is what anxiety feels like.

That log will float right by, that boat will sail right past, and that lifebelt is out of reach. Pretty quickly, as anxiety heightens, the waves about you grow and you’re treading water in fog and ten foot waves. This is what anxiety feels like.

That log is about to tip off the wave above you and knock you out. The boat is off course and will never find you, and that lifebelt, well, it’s gone. This is what anxiety feels like.

To top it all, beneath you a whirlpool whips up, you can’t breathe, you can’t keep your head above water, you’re getting pulled under, and you will drown. This is what anxiety and a panic attack feels like.

Anxiety removes the common sense option. Anxiety tells you you’re going to drown and your mind cannot get past that.

anxiety-disorder-quote-by-lisa-shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Depression is often referred to as the Black Dog, and you can’t command the black dog to return to its kennel, instead it jumps at you and hangs about your neck, or it pulls you down and holds you in a half-nelson. Anxiety is a Boa Constrictor. It’s a snake that coils about your legs and works its way up your body, squeezing and coiling tighter – and it doesn’t let go.

If you’ve never experienced long term anxiety it’s very difficult to understand.

Sarah Fader started a hashtag a week or so ago on Twitter @AnxietyHashtag and people began sharing #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike Find out more in these articles: Huffpost and Psychcology Today.

Sarah has opened a floodgate of understanding and validation for those with anxiety, and I asked her how she came up with the hashtag:

‘I started the hashtag because I was feeling anxious about not hearing back when I texted a friend. That thought resonated with people on Twitter and I wanted to give them a chance to articulate what anxiety felt like to them.’

-Sarah Fader CEO and Founder Stigma Fighters www.stigmafighters.com

It is liberating. Firstly, we know we’re not alone, and secondly, it offers an insight into what life is like with an anxiety disorder.

understanding-self-harm-the-last-krystallosJust a few examples… Severe anxiety is exhausting to live with, both for the sufferer and their family.

I’m working with my therapist to find ways to deal with my anxiety, and I’m currently using ACT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I’m finding the more I accept and acknowledge my anxiety, the more power I have over it. Learning to recognise and use this will take time and effort, and anxiety is likely to always be part of my life.

Take time to understand the debilitating nature of this condition and use patience and compassion when we need it.  

Validation is the first step to helping someone recognise and cope with their anxiety.

How do you manage and what helps you when you feel overwhelmed and lost?

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.

10384605_1107283399287337_1890644189568564194_n

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!

lisa-shambrook-anxiety-the-last-krystallos

© 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?

Chocolate Heaven – What’s your favourite?

Chocolate Heaven – What’s your favourite treat?

Chocolate Heaven - What's your favourite - The Last Krystallos

Velvet luxury, happiness and pure delight – that is chocolate.

This seems to be the right time of year to write about chocolate. A couple of months past that chocolate fest which was Christmas, Valentine last Sunday, and the next chocolate fest of the year, Easter, right around the corner! Yes, rather tongue in cheek – because for me, every day is a chocolate day…or at least every day has chocolate potential!

Chocolate Heaven - What's your favourite? The Last Krystallos

Clockwise: Galaxy, Lindt Strawberry Cheesecake, Nestle Dairy Box, M&S Mint Whips © Lisa Shambrook

I’ve written before about Hot Chocolate, and I’ve literally traipsed around my town seeking out the best Hot Chocolate, but this is pure chocolate…and I want to know which is your favourite?

Hot Chocolate - Chocolate Heaven - The Last Krystallos

Clockwise: Hot Chocolate: Calon – Carmarthen, Calon Takeaway, Chocolate Utopia – Nottingham, and Calon © Lisa Shambrook

Chocolate contains chemicals which lift moods. It contains phenylethylamine and tryptophan, which both work as antidepressants by combining with dopamine which is naturally present in your brain, and produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter that creates feelings of happiness.

And since chocolate creates happiness, here’s a pic of what chocolate produces – endorphins! “What you see is a myosin protein dragging an endorphin along a filament to the inner part of the brain’s parietal cortex which creates happiness. Happiness. You’re looking at happiness.” (Shanna Germain FB)

i1tbl29

 

So, chocolate is a gateway to happiness, can you feel my whimsical adoration of this substance? Why don’t you tell me which chocolate you like best, so if we ever meet, I’ll know what to greet you with!


*Note: I appreciate the chocolates here are probably all British, let me know your favourite bars from wherever you are in the comments! Educate me…

favourite chocolate - the last krystallos

Chocolate © Lisa Shambrook

 

Misophonia – When Sounds Torment and Drive You Crazy

At twelve-years-old I thought I was going mad.
I couldn’t deal with small and quiet aural and visual stimuli.
It took many years to discover Misophonia is real and I wasn’t crazy.  

Misophonia-the-torment-of-sound-the-last-krystallos-title
Misophonia, often known as 4S or SSSS (Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome), is a very real and restrictive disorder for those who suffer and those close to them. 
I’ve written before about being a Highly Sensitive Person HSP and promised to post about Misophonia.

As a child your quirks are just that, quirks, then you recognise differences between you and those about you. I struggled with noises and visual disturbances.

202. Lisa 10 t-shirt 1981 tiny crop

© Lisa Shambrook

I liked quiet. My bedroom was at the far end of our house with a corridor, bathroom and spare bedroom between myself and the rest of my family. My room was my place of solitude. Though my inability to deal with small noises was apparent earlier the first major problem aired when the neighbours, an elderly couple with a penchant for opera, played music loud and I could hear it through my bedroom wall. The emotions that overwhelmed me were irrational, overwrought and internally violent. I was a placid child, so any violence got absorbed and/or released upon myself. My place of safety was violated with that tinny, muffled sound that emanated through my walls and I had no idea how to deal with it.

At twelve, my grandfather came to live with us. He was already in his late eighties and difficult, but he needed care. I had a chair on the edge of the living room by the window and I could shield myself from others in the room. I had a problem with my mother’s twiddling thumbs, or things I could see out of the corner of my eye. I was already moving books on the bookshelf, so that light and dark spines did not alternate or stand out. My grandfather’s chair was put beside mine, and his legs when crossed left his foot dangling in front of the television. When he bobbed his foot I felt like I would go crazy. My adrenalin surged, my anxiety hit the roof and I wanted to scream and cry. Another safe place was gone.

I had no idea what was wrong with me.

misophonia, severe hypersensitivity to sound, noise, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

It wasn’t until many, many years later that a name was put to my condition. Misophonia.  It covered everything that drove me crazy. The sound of people eating (I cannot listen to or be with people eating unless I’m eating myself), snoring, breathing heavily, music from other peoples’ headphones, tapping fingers, cracking knuckles, whistling and chewing gum (both make me want to strangle people), humming, fingers tapping on a keyboard or screen, and the clatter of cutlery all trigger my fight or flight anxiety response. Add to that visual stimuli like the avoidance of lights reflecting on picture frames, fluff and lint on the floor, anything bright that catches and distracts me and you have a real problem.         

My flight response is my default, as confrontation is something that triggers other major anxiety responses such as self-harm. I respond to misophonia with trigger levels of 6 to 10, which you can read about in this Misophonia activation scale *, but my main coping strategy is to eradicate the trigger or remove myself from the area.

 

Misophonia, also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome, is a newly-diagnosed neuro-otological disorder that affects children and adults. Sufferers can feel immediate and intense rage at others’ eating and breathing sounds, about which they become hyper-aware and obsessed, sometimes with an ability to recall trigger incidents years after the event. The condition often sets off a “fight or flight” panic reaction in the sufferer and has been responsible for ruining relationships, breaking up families and leaving those most acutely affected suicidal. *

When a person with misophonia is exposed to a sound in their trigger set, it results in an immediate negative emotional response. This response can range from moderate discomfort to acute annoyance or go all the way up to full-fledged rage and panic. **

To help a non-affected person understand the impact misophonia has on someone with the disorder, they might be asked to imagine how they feel and react when they hear the sound of fingernails being scraped down a chalk board. Most people dislike this sound and will probably ask the person to stop! However, this example falls short of reaching the intensity a misophonia sufferer experiences. **

Caitlin eye

© Lisa Shambrook

I was particularly relieved to know I wasn’t the only one, and have since found many friends with the same disorder. You know who you are! I was also relieved to find my visual disturbances were also part of this: Some are also affected by visual stimuli, such as repetitive foot or body movements, fidgeting, or movement they observe out of the corners of their eyes. ***

It’s good for my family to know I’m not mad, and that the actions/noises that trigger me so much are not their fault. It doesn’t make it any easier to live with, and I know it frustrates my poor husband hugely, but it does validate my condition.

There are treatments, which I’ve never asked for, as I can’t imagine having to explain it to my Dr – it seems so trivial compared to many other illnesses and diseases. The main treatment is CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and I’ve never been able to get that for my anxiety or depression, so I can’t imagine it being available for misophonia!

girl with boots, leather and frills, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

So for now, I cope and avoid triggers. Many people suffer mildly from misophonia-like symptoms, but for those of you who know the true reality of this disorder – how do you deal with it? And how serious is its presence in your life?

This post has been particularly difficult to write, but this page for Sufferers at MisophoniaUK has been particularly helpful to me, even as far as bringing me to tears as I realise some of my unwanted symptoms are quite normal. I hope it helps you too.

Please check out these amazing pictures of Mental illnesses as Monsters by Toby Allen and scroll down to Misophonia…

* MisophoniaUK
** misophonia.com
*** Wiki Misophonia

The Highly Sensitive Person and Living a Rewarding Life

Do you notice the detail, the small things?
Do you feel the breath of life upon your face?
Are you exquisitely aware of everything and everybody about you?
If so, you might be a Highly Sensitive Person.

the-highly-sensitive-person-rewarding-life-the-last-krystallosLife is exaggerated, and both painful and sad, and beautiful and fulfilling for the HSP.

I read that about 20% of the population are Highly Sensitive. Everyone has the ability to feel deeply, to feel touched and moved, and often do, but people who fit the bill of being a Highly Sensitive Person feel like this all the time. Like I said, it can be both a curse and a blessing.

sleeping cat, the highly senisitive person, the last krystallos,

We have to be careful not to become overwhelmed…sometimes we retreat to recharge… © Lisa Shambrook

We can become quickly overwhelmed. People, work, chaos and clutter can cause stress and we can become immobile by these things. We often need to retreat and regroup, please don’t think we’re being antisocial, once we’re comfortable we can socialise with the best of them, but our energy reserves drain fast and we need time alone.

Sometimes this is because many of us are empaths and as we feel the emotions of those around us we can become overwhelmed. Our emotions cut to the soul which is why many of us are natural empaths. I remember standing behind a woman in a supermarket queue and her emotions brought me to tears. I could literally feel her sadness engulf me and the impotence of being unable to help was paralysing. Sometimes I’ve spoken to people and helped, but sometimes the empath can also feel the barriers and the inability to help can be painful.

spider on lavender, flowers in the sun, meadow in sunlight, flower meadow, the last krystallos,

Notice the small detail, the spider on the lavender, the sun among flowers, the colours of autumn… © Lisa Shambrook

Those who are HSP can feel moods and emotions easily and can read people well. We’re conscious to the needs of others and perform very well in those tests that ask you to identify emotions on anonymous faces. We can see that slight hint of a smile, or that frown, and those emotions that barely surface.

We often become people-pleasers and we have to learn to be able to say ‘No.’ I spent years depleting my energy by saying ‘Yes,’ to everything. Our bodies are susceptible to fatigue and we can be more responsive to pain, both our own and others. Self-care is important to the HSP, and essential to prevent exhaustion as we give.

Discover moss on stone, daffodils, sunlight on water, the intricate wasp nest, and the subtle scent of magnolia, the last krystallos,

Discover moss on stone, daffodils, sunlight on water, the intricate wasp nest, and the subtle scent of magnolia… © Lisa Shambrook

Many people dislike change, but Highly Sensitives like to be in control and change needs be tackled slowly, so we can assess it, reflect and choose the best course of action. We’re often seen as indecisive, but we just want to be sure we make the right choice! We dislike contention and conflict and are mortified when we offend. We do everything we can to resolve conflict as fast as we can because we cannot believe our considered choices and decisions may have caused hurt or offense.

Though we may avoid conflict, when we give our hearts or believe something deeply, we will not be moved and will fight our corner with the ferocity of a lion or a lioness!

inhumanly sensitive, the truly creatiive mind, pearl s buck, the last krystallos,

Inhumanly sensitive…Pearl S Buck © Lisa Shambrook

We have hugely heightened emotions and senses. This can be tough for the HSP. We notice everything and are exquisitely aware of our environment, be it sight, sound, taste, touch or smell. Some of us suffer from misophonia which is the sensitivity to sound (eg. people eating) which causes great distress to the sufferer. Others can have other hypersensitivities to their environment. I am unable to wear certain materials, natural wool against my skin for instance, and my ability to notice every little thing around me has caused problems all my life. I have rearranged bookshelves because I cannot have a white spine book placed among dark spines. I notice every piece of lint or fluff on the floor and cannot rest until it has been moved. I cannot concentrate with someone’s foot on the end of their crossed leg bobbing up and down! I also have problems with strong smells, particularly strong perfumes. Hypersensitivity (or Sensory Processing Disorder) can be difficult for both the sufferer and their family!

claude monet every day I discover more and more beautiful things, the last krystallos,

Every day I discover more and more beautiful things… Claude Monet © Lisa Shambrook

On the other hand being an observer can be wonderful and life affirming. We notice every detail and the subtleties that most people miss. We’re intuitive and creative, and nature and detail inspire us.

Notice the clouds, rays of sun, sunsets and misty mountans, the last krystallos,

Notice the clouds, rays of sun, sunsets and misty mountans… © Lisa Shambrook

Intuition is second nature. We often just ‘know’ because we sometimes learn without realising we are. The small details become intrinsic. I would be very sad if I moved through life without noticing the rainbows, the heron by the stream, and the expression of need on a homeless face. We should notice the daisy in the crack of concrete, the smell of honeysuckle, and many more tiny things that aren’t necessary but are life affirming.

carmarthen sunset, the last krystallos,

Sunset… © Lisa Shambrook

Though being such a deep thinker and a contemplative, my life as a Highly Sensitive Person is fulfilling and beautiful. I wouldn’t be without the touch of sunlight on my face, the taste of raspberries, and the depth of my soul to help me offer charity. Sometimes I need to step out of life, to retreat to the woods, or running water, or to spend quiet time on the mountainside…but once recharged I can offer myself once more and allow the intuitive grace of life to lift me.

Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?
Is it a curse or a blessing to you?

Understanding Self-Harm: the Truths and Myths and How to Help

Self-harm is a behaviour that is becoming much more common in our society.
When a specific behaviour becomes more common it’s essential
to
understand it and be able to offer non-judgemental compassion to those who suffer.

understanding self harm, truths about self harm, myths about self harm, the last krystallos,

I’ve written about depression and about running away because they are subjects I live and know. I have self-harmed since I was fourteen-years-old and I expect to be fighting the urge for the rest of my life. It’s not a mental illness, but a behaviour. Sometimes we can deal with our mental illness issues, but support for our learned behaviour is much harder to come by and more difficult to stop.

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

What is self-harm or self-injury?

Self-harm is when a person intentionally physically damages or hurts their body.

Why do people self-harm?

It’s easier to deal with physical pain than emotional pain – many of those who self-harm find a manifestation of physical pain can both ease and replace emotional pain that’s just too unbearable or too overwhelming. Sometimes depression or other mental illnesses can leave you emotionless or in a virtual black-hole, physical pain can bring you back from that void.

It’s a physical manifestation of your emotional pain – sometimes you need to show your pain, it needs to be visible.

Control issues – you have control over the pain you’re feeling, especially if that emotional pain or situation is overwhelming.

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

The reasons behind self-harming can be diverse from suffering abuse, to bullying, to PTSD, and is also related to many other conditions. A high percentage of sufferers already suffer from depression and/or anxiety.

There are many myths* surrounding self-harm which are damaging to sufferers and to the level of compassion or criticism they receive.

People who self-harm don’t do it to seek attention, or to be cool, or manipulative. In fact many people hide the fact that they hurt themselves. Many will wear long sleeves or clothes to cover their scars or injuries. They often blame ‘the cat’ or other circumstances for their injuries.

In general those who self-harm are not suicidal. It’s often a cry for help, but often a very private one, as seen by the ability to hide the behaviour.

Please don’t believe that the only self-harmers out there are teenage girls, Goths and Emos. It’s an offensive stereotype. People who self-harm come from every part of society and every age range and gender. I, myself, am forty-three and my background is one of being a shy child, a people-pleaser and anxious. It’s also not a phase that sufferers will grow out of. Help can be found and behaviours can be changed, but it’s not a phase.

It’s not true that cutting, many lines or tracks up and down arms, is the only or most common form of self-harm. It’s the most publicised form therefore a form that many new self-harmers take on. My own cutting is kept to one or two places, and consists of reopening old scars. Therefore my arms are not a mess of scars, just one or two that consistently reappear. Many cutters cut shoulders, thighs, stomachs and other locations, not only arms.

Some people believe self-harm only consists of cutting. It is a large variety of behaviours including: hair pulling, scratching, biting, burning, drug-taking, eating disorders, alcoholism, and risk taking behaviour, to name but a few!

understanding self harm, ask without judgement and with compassion, the last krystallos, lisa shambrook,

© Lisa Shambrook

So, how do you stop self-harming?

I have had periods when I’ve stopped for years, but the urge returned and though currently manageable, it’s always there. Some of the following have helped:

Some people wear rubber bands and snap them when the urge to hurt hits. Sometimes the sudden pain from a band can suppress the urge.

Take time out…breathe. There are plenty of breathing exercises for coping with anxiety out there and some can work for this too. Ride it out. The urge to cut usually lasts for a specific time, if you know your pattern, then try to ride it out. Resist for as long as you can. Breathe, let your emotions settle and see if you can resist the urge. Be with someone, you’re less likely to cut if you’re with someone who cares.

Distract yourself. I have a stim (something to distract me, usually associated as a behaviour which helps you cope with a given situation) I carry an acorn cup with me, I have several, and when the urge to panic, or cut, or run appears my first action is to hold and stroke the acorn cup. It’s a soothing action which offers my mind a distraction and the space to allow myself to calm down. Along with distraction you should remove yourself from the situation causing the urge.

Another thing is to identify your triggers. Know what causes your urge and see if you can find ways to deal with them.

Lastly, find another way to express your emotions/pain: write, shout, sing, run, or scribble violently on paper. Find something which can replace the urge to self-harm.

Finally, I want to say to those who self-harm, do not feel guilty. This is a behaviour and with help it can be overcome. There is no shame, no guilt and you are a worthwhile person. And to those who know someone who harms, talk to them – let them know that you’re someone they can talk to, someone they can share with. Often we are so scared people will judge, criticise or scorn that we hide things we need to talk about. The best way to stop harming is to be with someone who cares.

I carry no shame or guilt with my scars, they are part of me and I love them. Sometimes they are red and angry, other times they fade away to white, gossamer threads, but they will always be there and I will love them – as they are me.  

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

* There are always going to be some exceptions to these rules. I know someone who got professional help for a condition and was asked why they weren’t self-harming along with their other symptoms. They went away and began cutting in the traditional form, because they felt they were expected to.

2. Beneath_the_Old_Oak_front_cover_finalSelf-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.

Visual Dare: Tempest

Photo Source Lisa Falzon

Photo Source Lisa Falzon

He shivered and she slowly turned her soft gaze to meet his. “Sorry,” he whispered, the words barely leaving his mouth as he leaned down to meet her lips. Her lips were pale and cold, and her eyes tired and dark with shadows. He shivered again.

Her lips moved and he strained to hear the words that hid behind them. “Tell me…”

Goosebumps spread across his arms and he felt the hair on the back of his neck rise. He swallowed the lump in his throat. “I love you.” He nuzzled her wispy hair, the stray blond curl that escaped the scarf around her head. “I will love you now, today, tomorrow and forever.”

He wished fervently that he could extract the tempest that threatened to explode through his chest. He wished his vitality, his life, could feed through the tubes and perform the job that chemotherapy couldn’t.

He wished.

(150 Words)

00. VisDare Badge

I adored this picture, who wouldn’t? We all have tempests within, and this spoke to me of love. Written for Anonymous Legacy and Visual Dare 86, pop over and read the other tales inspired by this beautiful picture.

Fascination and the world’s random sentences…

Found a weird and wonderful website, well my daughter was introduced to it at art college…

http://www.wefeelfine.org/

This website takes a sentence from random blogs anywhere around the world and links it to feelings…It brings up a page of floating coloured spots and you can ‘catch’ a spot and click on it to open one of these random sentences…

There are six different ways  to view the site explained under the title ‘Movements’. As someone fascinated by sentences myself I got the most out of ‘Murmurs’…


This is how the site itself explains its own concept:
‘Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for the occurrences of the words ‘I feel’ and ‘I am feeling’. When it finds such a phrase it records the full sentence, and identifies the feeling expressed in that sentence (eg. sad, happy, depressed etc). …the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved…as can the local weather at the time the sentence was written. The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 – 20,000 new feelings per day.’ 

The site’s creators Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar see this as ‘an artwork authored by everyone.’

My daughter blogged about this today and her post has a link to a video explaining the concept: http://bekahcat.blogspot.com/2011/12/we-feel-fine.html

So just to join in… I feel fascinated and moved by eclectic, random thoughts and emotions leaping about my screen from across the world.
Maybe I’ll find myself bouncing across the monitor in a few minutes!