• ANXIETY IN LAS PALMAS

    Normally in my travel posts on this blog, I like to share what I got up to and what I enjoyed in the various locations I have visited. But this post is a bit different, I want to talk about how I felt being in Las Palmas, not what I did. It has nothing to do with the city though, and I don’t hold it responsible for this experience, it was about what happened in the run up to my trip. I mentioned in my last post that, in an effort to “cheer myself” out of my depression (bad idea), I went to London (alone) and it did not go well. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t stop crying and couldn’t listen to music. I ended up coming home early and staying with my parents for a few days. However, I’ve travelled a lot by myself in the past and I didn’t want to not be able to do that anymore. In a way, I was glad that I had booked this trip so long ago. It meant I had an opportunity to get back on the horse, as they say. But I was nervous about it; mainly nervous that it would end up going the same way as my trip to London.

    It was a very weird holiday, for many reasons that I won’t go into now. The thing I want to focus on is my anxiety because honestly it was all consuming. It was so intense, it made it really hard to function. It was supposed to be a relaxing holiday; I wanted to sit on the beach and enjoy the sun. Or rather, figure out if I enjoy such a thing. I hadn’t been on a sun holiday since I was a teenager. For the past few years, I’ve gone on a trip at the end of every November because I work for an American company and get a few days off for Thanksgiving, but they’ve always been busy city breaks. This year, back in May, I decided that I wanted to try and have a relaxing holiday to see if I liked it. In hindsight, I’m really not sure if this was a good or bad idea. Maybe having more things to do would have helped me work through my anxiety. But maybe it would have made it a lot worse. Regardless, there I was in Las Palmas, trying to figure out if I enjoyed the sun and struggling to keep myself from going crazy.

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    I took things really easy. I walked a lot. I sat in my apartment a lot. I tried to write but it was a struggle. I wanted to try to explain how it felt, I wanted to get it out. My mum has asked me in the past to explain what anxiety is like and honestly that question boggles my mind. I don’t understand how anyone could not just know how it feels. It’s so much apart of life for me, that it’s hard to grasp the idea that there are people who have never felt it. When I was deep in it in Las Palmas, I wanted so much to put it into words, to explain how it felt, as if maybe that might help alleviate things; as if putting it into something tangible would help transfer it away from me. But I’m not sure any words can truly convey the feeling, it’s so deep, so raw.

    None the less, I did try and this is what I typed into my notes while I was in Gran Canaria in an attempt to express what my body was experiencing:

    “My anxiety is at an all time high, the not knowing, the uncertainty of it all. It’s like I’m searching for something but I have no idea what I’ve lost. I feel like I’m about to burst, or maybe implode, but either way, I’m going to lose my footing in the explosion. I‘m wandering around, doing things just to do them. Breathing with no goal, other than to just keep going. I feel tired. Tired of carrying all these emotions around with me. The anxiety is wearing me down and I just want to feel calm. I just want the anxiety to stop. But it doesn’t, it ebbs and flows; some moments I can almost feel it start to dissipate, but then it’s back full force and I’m right back in it, every single piece of me. I feel it in my stomach, in my core. It’s so real, so tangible. My brain is trying as hard as it can to convince my body that everything is okay, we are safe. But my body isn’t listening. It’s panicking. Anxiety doesn’t understand logic. My breathing gets a little more strained and I feel it in my chest now. There are all these emotions building inside me, but they’re hard to figure out. I feel full, overwhelmed, but everything is so wedged in that I can’t seem to let it all out. I feel sick, I feel scared.” 

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    I think I was just trying so hard to process so many emotions, that I ended up just feeling completely scrabbled. It felt like 10 radios were playing at the highest volume all at once, each trying to give me important information but I couldn’t distinguish anything from the chaos. The noise just engulfed me and I couldn’t turn it off. But the main thing is I survived. It was hard, but I made it through it. On the last day, I went and lay on the beach for a bit, leaving my phone at the apartment. It was a very brief moment, but I did feel at peace lying there with the heat seeping into my bones.

    If anyone reading this is having a hard time with anxiety, I would suggest taking things as slowly as you need to and holding on to any fleeting moments of relief. I tried to distract myself as much as possible (for example, I researched every single result from my last blood test, what each thing they tested for meant and whether my result was good or not), and that did work a little bit. It didn’t make the anxiety go away, but it did make it more manageable. But there were times were I just sat in my apartment and had to try as hard as I could to simply take some deep breaths, hoping that things would get just a little bit better soon. Hopefully someone can relate to this post and the fact that you are not alone in feeling this way also helps.

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    I feel a bit sad that I didn’t get to properly experience Las Palmas, but I did the best I could given the circumstances. I’d love to go back in the future and truly explore Gran Canaria, as well as the neighbouring islands. Hopefully next time I’ll be able to enjoy my time there and maybe get a chance to see if I actually like relaxing sun holidays or not!

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    If you’re looking for some actual travel recommendations, check out my posts from Copenhagen, Marrakech, Amsterdam, North Wales and Barcelona!

  • DEALING WITH DEPRESSION

    The past few months have been rough. In September and October, I experienced the darkest depression and most intense anxiety I’ve had since I was a teenager. It made me very conscious of the content around mental health on the internet and in the media and I’ve noticed that so much of it, especially tv ads, focus on the importance of talking. And while that is 100% true and we should keep promoting that message, sometimes things are a bit more complicated than that. For starters, some people literally don’t know how to talk about it. That’s something I’ve seen a lot, particularly with guys. I don’t have answers for how to improve that but I think it’s something we need to be aware of. For me the problem is that I can talk about it, but it doesn’t make the sadness go away. Obviously it makes things better in some regards but it’s frustrating when you do the thing that everyone says will help and you still feel like shit. So I thought since I am able to talk about things, I could share some thoughts/things that have helped me handle it, in the off chance someone can take something from it. Everyone experiences these things differently, and I know I have a lot of privilege in terms of the resources I have available to me. But maybe if we share some of the nuances to what we’re experiencing and not just tell people to talk, it could help more people who are suffering from mental health problems, as well as help people trying to understand and support people who are suffering. 

    1. One of the most important realisations that I had was that I wasn’t going to be able to distract myself/snap myself out of it/cheer myself up. This may seem obvious but when you’re feeling bad, you’re just desperate to find something that will make the feeling go away. But being depressed is different from just being a bit down and needing to cheer yourself up. The things that normally make me happy are not going to work in the same way. That’s not to say you should give up everything that normally makes you happy but I think I tried to push myself a bit too far. I was so tired of feeling sad that I booked a pretty spontaneous weekend trip to London because I love London and I normally do really well traveling by myself. However, when I got there I very quickly realised I was not okay being alone. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t listen to music and I couldn’t go a couple of hours without crying. I don’t know why, I was just so sad. So I ended up booking an earlier flight home, asking my mum to come get me from the airport and staying at my parents for a few days (mainly so I could cuddle with my dog). I know not everyone can do that but the point of my story is that the goal shouldn’t be to make yourself feel happy or “normal”, the goal is just to find things that soothe you. Comfort and security are the most important things. For me, I had to accept that trying to make myself feel happy was just setting myself up for failure.
    2. Going to therapy has been one of the most important things for me. I know, I know, it’s what everyone suggests and I know it’s not accessible for everyone, it’s fucking expensive and so hard to find someone you connect with. But if you can go, than I would really encourage it. I’ve been going for a couple of years now and it’s helped me through so much. In this particular instance, my therapist helped me realise that I was, in fact, depressed. I had been so focused on how intense my anxiety was, but when I explained to her how I felt, she was able to put the pieces together. Everyone is different, but for me, having the label helped. Primarily it helped me to feel less guilt; in particular less guilt about feeling the way I did when other people have it a lot worse and less guilt about sometimes not being physically capable of doing anything except lie in bed. It also helps to have someone to talk to who knows how to handle what you’re saying. As I said, I’m able to talk about it with my friends and family but if I’m being honest in my experience most people that I’ve told don’t know how to handle it and haven’t really been there for me. That can make you feel very alone but having a therapist to talk to really helps you work through it all. 
    3. It’s also important to go to a doctor and discuss the medications you’re on, as well as make sure you’re not deficient in anything. (I kinda hate suggesting this because most doctors are so shite when it comes to mental health but if you do have a good doctor or someone can recommend one to you, it’s worth going). Now, I wouldn’t go as far as to say the pill caused my depression, there have been multiple things that have happened in the last couple of months (as well as the last couple of years) that would understandably make me feel sad and anxious. However, I personally feel that my emotional reaction to things recently has been more intense than normal for me. I’ve been on the pill twice now and both times I’ve felt this way; it’s not that it made me feel bad if I had nothing to feel bad about, but when bad things were happening, I felt they were harder to deal with. Again everyone is different but I think going to your doctor and discussing these things is important. I’m going to see how coming off the pill affects me before considering anti-depressants but that would be the next step if things don’t improve so it’s important to start that dialogue with a doctor. 
    4. You need to find a way to be kind to yourself but also hold yourself accountable. This is a fine line to walk. You need to be understanding with yourself and realise that you’re just not going to be capable of doing the same things you do when you’re not experiencing depression. If you need to cancel plans or you’re not eating enough/eating too much for a bit, that’s okay. It’s hard and you need to cut yourself some slack and forgive yourself. However, you need to also be aware when your behaviours become self-destructive. So if you need to spend a couple of days in bed, that’s okay, but if you continue to shut yourself off from the world for an extended period of time, then you need to do something about it. When you’re depressed, you’re probably going to do some stupid things and it’s probably going to effect your relationships, but this is where it is actually important to talk. You don’t have to tell everyone you’ve ever met every detail of your life, but you need to have some sort of open dialogue with the people that your actions impact. It’s better for everyone involved; I read a post recently that said “avoidance is just prolonged suffering disguised as safety”. It’s hard but I guess you just need to try and figure out what behaviours are helping you get through a hard time and what behaviours are making things worse for you. If you majorly screw up, forgive yourself, but learn from it and work on things you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

    As I said, everyone experiences these things differently and I realise none of these things are new or groundbreaking, but maybe sharing my experiences might help one or two people who need to hear these things right now. While there is less stigma around certain mental health issues nowadays, I think we still have a long way to go in terms of understanding and being able to help our friends through these things. Honestly, I felt pretty alone in it all. If you know someone who is dealing with depression or poor mental health, please don’t just tell them you’re there for them if they need you. I had SO many people tell me that, but the thing is, when you’re depressed, it’s hard to reach out. What people who are depressed need is for people to actively be there for them. Sit with them, watch a movie with them, check in on them daily, take them for a walk, ask them what you can do for them. 

    Hopefully this all makes some sense, I wrote most of this post when I was in the thick of it, I just didn’t have the strength to post it anywhere. I don’t feel quite so down these days, but I’m still quite shaken by it all. I hope to write more posts around mental health and my experiences, to hopefully help others but to also help myself work through it all. It’s a complicated subject and so much of it is hard to understand and talk about, but sharing is the only way we can start to change how we handle and view mental health.

    P.S. if you are going through a hard time and need help, feel free to dm me on Instagram (handle: janebmrice).

  • WEEK IN REVIEW 19/8/19-25/8/19

    HARD TIME

    The last week has been a rough ride. The word “triggered” gets tossed around a lot these days but that is what happened at the end of last week; someone let me down and it sent me back to past feelings, back to a past life. My anxiety was the worst it has been in a while. Most of the time, it just hovers; it’s there but it doesn’t stop me doing things. Well this was different, this was debilitating. I am grateful for my ability to soothe myself, for my ability to work through those emotions and come out the other end quite quickly. It took me a few days but I was able to move forward and get back to myself, maybe a slightly more battered version, but myself none the less. I’m grateful I was able to have a productive week and I’m grateful I could find comfort in the small things again. But I’m also exhausted, physically and mentally. It’s so tiring having to take hits because other people can’t handle their own emotional baggage. Sometimes you don’t want to be grateful that you made it through, you just want to have not had to go through it at all.

    DOGS ARE GREAT

    I love dogs. That’s all.

    PLANNING AS SELF CARE

    I’ve been doing a lot of planning this week, mainly planning future trips. I have a work trip next week and then I’ve off to Wales do the fastest zip line in the world. The timing is actually quite nice, as I need a bit of a distraction after the last week. I’ve also been planning a big trip for next year that I think I’m going to book next month.

    I enjoy planning. I don’t do it deliberately but I think it is a form of self care for me. It’s important when you take an emotional knock to be kind to yourself; I can be kinda hard on myself when I feel I’ve been unproductive, but I need to remember that sometimes being productive means just making it out of bed. I like to focus on things I enjoy doing as they’re easier to get done and I can start to feel like I’m accomplishing something. I think planning is also good because it forces me to focus on the future, not the past.

    GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE

    I am trying to be conscious of my consumerism so I hate to advocate retail therapy but last week I just needed reasons to get myself out of the house so I decided to head into town and peruse the shops. I’m not really a physical shopper anymore, I mostly shop online. But it was nice to see things in person, get some inspiration and mostly importantly, just move my body and be out in world with other people. I tried on a bunch of stuff in & Other Stories (on a side note, while retail therapy may be nice when you’re feeling down, being in a changing room with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t fit or look good, doesn’t do much to help your mood. 0/10 would not recommend). I ended up just getting these earrings (well, I also bought an umbrella but that was a practical purchase) and I’m very happy with them. After, I went to a coffee shop with the intention of working on this blog, but I ended up watching YouTube videos. I know I could have done that at home but again, there was something nice about being out in the world. I wasn’t quite in the mood for socialising but just being around people made me feel a bit less anxious, less isolated. I also took myself on a couple of walks and while they were sometimes a bit of a struggle with my anxiety, I was glad I did them.

  • SUMMER IS COMING

     

    Okay, I know everyone loves summer. The longer days, the sunshine, the heat. But I’m not convinced… For starters, I’m Irish. Do you see how pale I am? I was not made for the hot weather. I can only last about 10 minutes in the sun before it really starts to affect me. I actually don’t burn burn as quickly as you would think, unless I’m around water, but I get headaches and sunstroke symptoms pretty quickly. My eyes are also super light sensitive which doesn’t help anything. And my hands swell up pretty bad in the heat and that can get painful. I told ya, clearly not made for the hot weather.

    All of this gives me a lot of anxiety around summer. I want to love the nice weather, experience it the way other people do, but my body just doesn’t process the heat well so it’s harder for me to enjoy it. I get nervous about doing things outdoors because I know I’m going to over-heat and feel sick. But there’s another reason that summer gives me anxiety. I’m just not happy with my body. I want to be. I’m working on it. But I struggle with how to dress for the heat and feel comfortable. I spent all of last summer trying to figure it out but honestly I just feel so gross all the time. I get sweaty so easily and my thighs rub together which is one of the most painful things to experience.  There’s so many cute summer clothes our there but I know I would just feel horrible in them.

    But I’m trying to be optimistic about it, focus on what I know I like. For example, I love wearing my Birkenstocks. I like wearing flowy dresses with compression shorts underneath to prevent “chub rub”, so that’s what I’m going to look for. Hopefully by focusing on the positives, I can find ways to make myself more comfortable and relieve  some of my anxiety, while also working on how I feel about my body. Sounds easy, right? Urrrggghhhh…. Wish me luck!

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    Jane x

  • ALL ABOUT ACUPRESSURE MATS

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    I know the spikes look scary. They look like they hurt. And they do, a little bit. But you do get used to it very quickly, I promise. You can always put a layer of fabric between you and the spikes to ease yourself into it if you want. But honestly, I don’t think it’s necessary. I wouldn’t say I have the biggest pain threshold and I can handle it. Now that that’s out of the way….

    What are acupressure mats and how do they work?

    The mat is based on the theory that the body is lined with pressure points which, when stimulated, release the body’s natural pain-relieving hormones, similar to acupuncture but this doesn’t involve breaking the skin. The idea for the mat comes from the bed of nails concept which originated in Asia over 1,000 years ago and was used by gurus in the practice of meditation and healing. These gurus would lie on sharp metal nails with heavy blocks stacked on top of them and while this idea can be a bit shocking, it’s not as painful as it may seem as the weight of the body and the blocks is distributed evenly across the nails. The same is true of this modern day equivalent, which is made up of a thin foam mattress with more than 8,000 non-toxic plastic spikes, harmless to the skin, but boosts the same numerous healing benefits, inducing deep relaxation.

    In fact, the Bed of Nails website states that if used regularly for a long enough period of time their products can:

    • Improve circulation
    • Increase energy level
    • Reduce blood pressure
    • Reduce stress and anxiety
    • Alleviate headache
    • Relieve tension and muscle aches
    • Improve sleep and relieve insomnia
    • Relieve chronic neck and back pain
    • Activate the parasympathetic nervous system
    • Benefit weight loss by reducing cortisol levels
    • Improve heart rate variability
    • Revitalize and rejuvenate
    • Improve skin complexion
    • Relieve constipation
    • Alleviate malaise

    That’s a hell of a lot of benefits. I haven’t used my consistently enough to see all of them, but I’ve found even occasional use can help. I got my mat over a year ago because I was having trouble sleeping. I’ve had sleeping problems on and off for years, so I’m always looking for things that can help. And this definitely helped. It’s a weird sensation at first, not quite painful but you can feel the spikes. After a few minutes though, I always start to relax. I would love to be someone who meditated but I struggle with being able to shut off, however this mat helps me feel more at peace and allows me to just lie still for a while.

    After about 10 minutes, I can feel my circulation start to increase as my back starts to heat up. Honestly, the experience is hard to describe but I really enjoy it. Although the sensation when you sit up after lying on it for a while is so bizarre. I’m still not sure if I love it or hate it; it’s pain and pleasure all in one! Speaking of pain, I’ve also found the mat really helps when I have a sore back. My boyfriend’s job involves manual labor and he’s also used it to help reduce tension and pain in his muscles.

    I only recently purchased the neck pillow because I’ve been experiencing pain and stiffness in my neck but I hate massages (weird, I know…). After using it 3 tries, I’ve already noticed a difference. I really do want to start using both the pillow and the mat as frequently as possible because I don’t doubt that their products can produce all of those benefits they state on their website.

    Note: Both my pillow and mat are from the company Bed of Nails. I haven’t done a ton of research but I think you can find cheaper options out there, I just like the quality of their products.

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    Jane x

  • PRE-TRAVEL TIPS

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    Heading aboard sometime soon? Traveling can be thrilling and exciting and educational and inspiring, and all these wonderful things. But it can also be stressful. Very stressful. There’s a lot to think about and a lot of pressure to make the most of things.  Here’s a few very important things to think about in the weeks leading up to your holiday/vacation to make things run smoother on your trip!

    Visa/documents

    Do you need a visa to get into the country you’re going to? Do you have layover? Will you need a visa there? I’m going to Canada in a couple of weeks and I found out that, as an Irish citizen, if I’m travelling into the country by land or sea, I don’t need a visa, but if I’m travelling by air, I do need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). This was easy enough to get, I just had to fill out a form online and pay $7 CAD, but it’s important to have these types of things done in advance. A quick google search will tell you what you need for entering whatever country you’re heading to, normally it will also depend on what the country of which you are a citizen!

    Currency/cards

    How are you going to pay for things while you’re there? Will your cards work? What are the fees for using them? You may want to just bring cash as it’s easier to keep yourself on a budget but it’s good to know what your emergency back-up options are. It’s also a good idea to have your cash in advance so you don’t have to stress about it at the airport or when you get where you’re going. Again Google is your best friend, search around and see what you’re options are. Also, talk to your bank about whether your ATM and/or credit cards will work where you’re going and what the conversion and/or transaction fees will be. While I don’t normally think having a credit card is important, when travelling they can be handy. I’ve been in situations where I needed to have a credit card, not a debit card, in my name to hire a car. I didn’t have to pay with it, but they needed it on file just in case. So it’s a good thing to think about getting.

    Adapters

    Do you need an adapter for your plugs? If so, you can save yourself a bit of money buying them in advance as they can be pricey in the airport and hard to find in the country you’re visiting.

    Minitures

    Look at the products you want to bring and figure out if there are mini versions available or if you can decant them into smaller travel bottles. This saves space and weight, especially if you’re only bringing hand-luggage. Remember, in your hand luggage, all your liquids must fit in ONE quart-sized clear plastic bag and all bottles must be 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less! There are no liquid restriction for your checked-luggage but there are weight restrictions (this varies by airline, check their website for more information). I would also recommend buying a travel weighing scales so you know how much your bag weighs before you get to the airport.

    Clean Yo Clothes

    This is fairly obviously, but it’s worth thinking about what clothes you may want to bring a week or so prior to the trip. You don’t have to have everything packed and organised, but make sure anything you might possibly want to bring is clean to avoid any last minutes hassles.

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    I will be doing more travel posts as my trip to Canada approaches so stay tuned. And safe travels!

    Jane x

  • FOCUS ON THE LIGHT

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    I’ve been struggling with anxiety the past few weeks. It ebbs and flows but it’s seems to be always there these days, lurking in the background or banging against my rib cage. I’ve had anxiety issues for years, that’s nothing new. But it seems like every time it gets a bit better, my brain magically forgets what it’s like when it’s bad. And then it gets bad again and I feel just as helpless as I did when it first started. I have to learn all over again how to manage it. There isn’t one cause to my anxiety, but I guess that’s normal. I just feel over-whelmed with everything and it all just keeps coming. But I’m going to try to focus on the positive, focus on the light. Because really what else is there to do. With anxiety, it’s often sink or swim, and even though it feels like swimming against the current nearly of the time, that’s the only choice.

    In an effort to shake myself out of this feeling, I’ve been trying to experiment with my style. I love clothes, I love style, so it’s a good thing to use to distract myself. Focus on things you like, focus on the light. I was really attached to my skinny jeans for a long time but last year, I found the Kimmi boyfriend jeans on ASOS and they changed everything. They’re comfy and super flattering. I do find that the different denims they come in changes the fit and style a bit; the black ones are a little stiffer (I sent them back) and the 2 pairs of blue ones I owe have a slightly different fit. However, they are so much more comfortable than skinny jeans and I really like the way they fit.

    This top is also from ASOS, the ASOS WHITE collection to be exact. I wear it a lot with black skinny jeans to work but thought I would try give it a different feel. My Doc Martens are new but I’ve been loving them (they’re the vegan ones). I like the juxtaposition between the top and the bottom of the outfit. It’s a bit unexpected. It’s hard for me to wear a baggy top and baggy jeans, I love the oversized look on other people but on myself I find it difficult to make it work. I also just end up feeling a million times bigger than I normally do. But it’s fun to experiment and figure out what could work for me.

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    Jane x