An Introduction to BLOGMAS | Blogmas Day 1


It's the first of December which means it's that time of year again where I decide very last minute to take part in Blogmas. This will be my third year taking part in Blogmas and although last year was quite a fail, with me only reaching to day nineteen and then giving up completely, this year I am determined to make it to the end. I have loads of ideas, and this year I'm hoping to make every post festive! 

I absolutely LOVE Christmas. I love wrapping presents and hanging lights everywhere, cold mornings and Michael BublĂ©. I'm always very nervous starting Blogmas because I hate starting something that I can't finish and it is a very difficult task to take on (bloggers who post every day HOW DO YOU DO IT) but I'm extremely excited for this year. 

So what is Blogmas? Basically it's consists of posting every day during the lead up to Christmas. That's 25 posts. All (hopefully) filled with everything Christmas related from ugly Christmas jumpers to Gift Guides and everything festive in between. I'm very excited...

So hopefully you will be seeing a lot of me over the next month or so. If you're doing Blogmas too please let me know (tweet me @aillyx) and if you have any tips/blog post ideas please let me know because I really want to do Blogmas properly this year and I need all the help I can get. 




Reviewing Autumn Goals & NEW WINTER GOALS


The past few months have been quite tough for me. I'm not in a good place with my mental health and despite trying to hide my struggles, it's becoming increasingly difficult to be the upbeat and positive person I strive to be. I've made it into very few lectures due to my anxiety, I've found it hard to keep up with assignments, I've had no motivation to blog or write or do anything I usually love. However since it's now winter, my favourite season, I thought I would sit down and try to write out my new goals which I always like to do at the start of a new season (read my previous seasonal goals here and here). I really like writing these posts as it helps me see where I'm at with my mental health and general mental health.

Looking back at my autumn goals I am slightly disappointed as I failed to do some of the things I had set out for myself. So, as usual I'm going to discuss what I hoped to do and what I actually did manage to do, despite being in a very bad place, mental health-wise. 

Goal #1: Attend lectures:
I had such good intentions this year to go to college and keep on top of college work. I really wanted to do well this year and I really believed I would but sometimes when I set goals for myself I forget that I do have a mental illness and it is a lot harder for me to do things than your average person. I have tried on a few occasions to get into college but it has been overwhelming and more often than not it ended in vigorous shaking, crying and general panic. Lovely.

Goal #2: Get a job:
I ACTUALLY MANAGED TO DO THIS. I applied for two jobs, both part-time Christmas positions, in The Body Shop and in Boots, in Galway and I heard last Friday that I got the job in Boots. I started on Sunday and worked on Monday. This is so so daunting for me because I've had bad experiences with previous employment and I'm really nervous that it will be the same but in all honesty it seems like a lovely place to work and I'm so excited because it's Boots and I love Boots. I'm so happy to have got the job.

Goal #3: See more of my Nana: 
I actually completely forgot this was one of my goals but seeing her did cross my mind on numerous occasions during the autumn period. Honestly, if I was home more I probably would have visited her more frequently but since college has started I've been home a grand total of two times. I will be home for Christmas (work depending) so I will definitely see her then.

Goal #4: Blog at least once or twice a week:
So, this didn't happen either. Like I already said, due to my mental health struggle over the past few months I've found it hard to sit down and write. However I did finally address my OCD on my blog for pretty much the first time ever and it was so so so nice to get so many kind messages from people who related to it or who found it interesting/informative. This really is the first time that I've thought about my OCD diagnosis for longer than a few minutes so it really helped me come to terms with it, which I guess is an achievement in itself. 

Goal #5: Stop being so hard on myself:
In my last goals post I talked about how I was feeling better within myself and how I was going to continue working towards self love. I can't really report on how I got on with this. I think I'm getting better. Since I started counseling again I've had to talk about a lot of painful memories and because of this it's bringing up a lot of bad feelings within myself and how I feel/felt about myself in the past. However, by talking about them out loud I'm beginning to realise that I'm not so bad. In saying that, however, I've been quite hard on myself when it comes to missing lectures and I've had some really horrible intrusive thoughts about myself and what others think of me over the past few days, but I'm working on it. 


So after all that I actually realise I've achieved a lot less than what I initially thought, which is sad but it feels good to be able to have a fresh start. My mental health generally improves in the winter months because I get excessively happy at Christmas so I'll be able to achieve all my new goals I've set. 

1. Take part in Blogmas: For the past to years I've taken part in Blogmas which is where bloggers post every day during the Christmas period. For me, this is all of December. I really enjoy taking part in Blogmas as it gives me a goal for the day, keeps me busy and allows me to stay motivated to look for inspiration for blog posts at all times. Of course, it also gets me so excited for Christmas and helps me stay in touch with my blog. I've already started thinking and planning posts for this years' Blogmas and I am determined to do it. 

2. Talk more openly about my problems: I am the worst at talking. I am so open about my life and everything that comes with it on my blog but when it comes to real life I am a closed book which makes things difficult when people talk about their problems with me. I feel as though I'm taking on their problems as well as having to deal with my own. I genuinely love helping people with their problems so I, in no way, want that to stop but hopefully I can start seeking help from the people around me too. 

3. PASS my Christmas exams: Realistically it is far too late for me to hope for good grades in my Christmas exams as I'll be very lucky to pass but that's all I need so that's all I'm going to aim for. The New Year can be a fresh start and I can try to go to more lectures then so for now I just need to get through these exams with a passing grade. 

4. Focus on myself: My new counselor has told me that an issue that I have is that I've been concentrating too much on what my father has done (read here) and I haven't been able to properly look after myself as a result. Previously one of my goals was to forgive my father, but that didn't work so now I'm going to try what my counselor has suggested and just focus on me and stop worrying about him or anything that he is doing until I'm ready.

5. Work towards a mentally healthier me: My new counselor is the best counselor I've been to ever, and I've been to A LOT which is sad when I think that I'm in my final three weeks with her. For the first time ever I've actually gone to counselling and not pretended to be getting better, I haven't lied about my progress and I haven't played down my illness. I've told her things I've never told anybody. It's hard, intense and I often drink afterwards but she is helping me a lot and I'm hoping to ask to go privately with her, if possible. We are working together to find the root of my problems which is difficult as I have to talk about a lot of things that I find painful to talk about but it's working and unlike other counselors I've had before, I usually leave her office feeling lighter, happier and more hopeful.


Here's to another three months. I hope you enjoyed!

My OCD & Me

When I first started having problems with my mental health I never thought I would actually be diagnosed with a mental illness. There is a difference between having a hard time resulting in your mental health suffering and actually having a mental illness. This took me a very long time to understand. I just thought I was going through a difficult time but, fast forward a few years and I'm actually in a very good place but my mental illness is still there, and always will be. It's a difficult concept to come to terms with and it really upset me for a long time. However, now that I've finally accepted that this is something I live with it's become a lot easier. When I was told I have severe anxiety I couldn't understand how - I'm an outgoing, friendly person. I like the company of others. I love going out and I don't particularly enjoy being alone. I like to talk. A lot. So how could I have anxiety? I took me quite a while to understand that my panic attacks were a result of anxiety and not of stress. I wasn't 'faking' it as my anxiety sometimes told me and I certainly needed help. Two years on I've been diagnosed with anxiety, with agoraphobia and OCD.


I don't normally speak about OCD on my blog, or in general, as I am only coming to terms with my diagnosis and to talk about it causes me extreme anxiety but I felt like I wanted to overcome that. It's scary for me to write about this as I don't feel as comfortable telling people about my OCD than I do about my anxiety, however I feel like the two go hand in hand so I think it's time to talk.

When I was told I have OCD I genuinely laughed. How could I have OCD? I was so confused. I realise now that it was because I was so misinformed about OCD. I was one of *those* people who thought OCD equated to being neat, tidy and organised. Yes, I like to clean. I like everything I own to have its own place. I try (and fail) to be organised. However, to me, none of this added up to OCD because I'm not the tidiest or the most organised. My brother is a perfectionist and his things are always in order, with nothing out of place. My family, (and me, until recently) would always say 'ha ha Emmet is SO OCD'. I cringe when I think back on this because he doesn't have OCD. I do. It is something I struggle with every single day and the fact that I was joined in in the stereotyping of OCD makes me feel sick. 


I think people often forget, or don't even know, what OCD actually is. People forget that it stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, not Obsessive-Cleaning Disorder (thanks for that Channel 4). You can have OCD and be the messiest person ever. It's also important to note that it is a disorder and the term OCD shouldn't be thrown around lightly. It isn't washing your hands a few extra times a day. It isn't lining up your pens in a straight line. It isn't being uncomfortable using public toilets. 

It's so much more than that.

It's being obsessed with urges, thoughts and images which cause crippling anxiety and being forced to act on these obsessions. It's not being able to control your thoughts. It's fearing that you could cause your friends and family harm by a simple thought. It's being terrified that someone will attack you as you walk down the street. It's feeling completely filthy if an insect lands on you, upsetting you so much that you feel you have to shower, and shower again, just to be sure. It's a constant fear that something bad will happen to you, your family, your friends or strangers around you. It's bleaching a hot cooker. It's being too paralyzed with anxiety to make yourself dinner for fear that you will poison yourself with bleach. It's crying because you can't get your bed perfectly neat. It's being terrified to meet new people in case they reach out their hand for the dreaded handshake. It's forcing yourself to eat in other people's houses despite the fear that their house is contaminated, so that they don't think you're rude and never speak to you again. It's literally pulling your hair out from your scalp.

OCD is ranked THIRD in the Top 10 Worst Mental Illnesses. So before you exclaim how 'OCD' you are after you neatly stack your books on your shelf think about how the actual disorder affects actual sufferers. It isn't a cute little quirk or an interesting personality trait. It is a nightmare that people, and their families, have to live with every single day. 

Read my Mental Health Story here or browse my other mental health posts here.


Selfishness & Mental Illness

When it comes to big occasions, like my brother Emmet's graduation, I always tend to feel anxious. I think this stems from my Dad who, perhaps unknowingly, makes everyone feel slightly uncomfortable and on edge on days like this. I talk about my Dad quite a bit on my blog and this is down to the simple fact that he could be the cause and reason for my anxiety. I'm not sure but I was recently told by a new therapist that my anxiety had a male energy, so it makes sense I suppose. Anyway, it was Emmet's graduation on Thursday and I was feeling anxious all week. My Dad was supposed to be coming down to see us and I was terrified, mainly because I haven't seen him since April and before that I've seen him maybe twice since this time last year. It's strange. My Dad was a very big part of my life for eighteen years and now he's not. So, it was scary to think that I would have to see him again after all this time. I didn't know what we were going to talk about. 'How are you?' seemed a little silly. Should I give him a hug? I had such a hard time last week thinking all these thoughts and my anxiety was as bad as it's been in a very long time.


After all that stress and worry however, he didn't bother letting me know that he had come down. He met Emmet for ten minutes and he left. I was SO relieved but also kind of angry, but that's beside the point. I didn't have to see him, so I could enjoy Emmet's day.


The weird thing, however was that although I didn't have to worry about seeing my Dad and all I really had to do was enjoy my meal with Dearbhla, Emmet and my Mam, I couldn't help but feel guilty because I didn't even think about Emmet graduating all week. I was only thinking about me and I didn't think that was okay. It was his day and once again, my anxiety and mental illness took over what was supposed to be a really exciting and proud day for Emmet. It made me feel really selfish. 

Then I remembered that I was told to be selfish. My Mam tells me to be selfish all the time, counselors have told me to be selfish and I know myself that I do have to be selfish even though that is not the person I am. I need to look after myself in these tough situations even if it means enjoying someone else's achievements a little less. Because I looked after myself during Emmet's graduation I allowed everyone else to enjoy their day and that's all I really wanted. It was nice for my family to actually enjoy a family day out and for it to go smoothly because usually that is not the case. 

It makes me feel uncomfortable to be selfish and think solely about myself because I hate doing it. I like making sure other people are okay, I like knowing other people are having a good time and not worrying but maybe this is part of my problem and in order to help others I need to first help myself. 





LIFE UPDATE.

I've been a little bit absent on my blog lately mainly because I am just back at college and I find it so hard to sit down and write a post, reply to emails and do blogging stuff in general when I'm in college. I really don't want to completely abandon my blog like I did last year but I have absolutely no idea what to write about anymore. I thought I would try to get back into things by doing an update because I actually really enjoy reading what other people are doing.

'I should have done this yesterday' deskpad ThatLameCompany
Marble notebook -
Tiger (similar here)

I've been back in Galway for 7 weeks which I absolutely love. It's so nice to be back. It makes dealing with things a lot easier and allows me to forget about my Dad. This year I'm living in a house with all girls which I was so nervous about but it's lovely, and such a nice change. I'm also sharing a room and I think I love it more than having a room on my own.

I haven't been excessively cleaning this year either. I can sit and actually relax in a messy kitchen. My other compulsions and obsessions are still just as bad but I think I'm getting the contamination obsession under control even just a little bit. My anxiety is not good but I was expecting that because I'm off my antidepressants now and I'm just getting used to not having that stability in my life. I am back attending the student counseling so I am excited to get back on track again.

Other than that, however, I'm doing good and I'm really enjoying this year. It's been a year since the 'Dad thing' happened and I think I'm finally over it. I don't really care about it anymore. Shane is coming home at Christmas and I'm so excited to see him.

As for my blog I feel like I've done next to nothing on it since the Awards. I feel like I worked so hard on aillyx all summer and now I've completely lost all motivation and inspiration which I hate. I am going to try really, really, really hard to get back into it as I hate seeing my stats dropping. It makes it all feel like a waste of time. Although I don't really care about stats because I genuinely do just like to write, it is such an amazing feeling to see my work being recognised. So, hopefully this will push me to keep writing and working on my blog.