Tomorrow is the 1st Birthday of My Wellness Toolbox (publication date). It was the response to the post that I have copied below that I shared on Facebook 3 years ago that led me to start sharing my “tools” in the first place, it amazed and saddened me how many people I knew who were suffering in silence. It all started with a few PMs with old and new FB friends, it took a while (thanks to the wonderful arrival of my baby girl), but this led to my lovely sister Claire & I creating the private SisterGoodness group in October 2017 to share all things positive and where over 26 weeks I shared my 26 tools... following some very positive feedback and knowing the tools were not only helping but encouraging others to seek professional help, I decided to self publish, to share the tools on a wider scale.
The day 100 books rocked up on my doorstep I was initially excited, T (aged 4 then) and I opened them, a magical moment , I couldn’t believe I had 1. Written a book & 2. Published a book. Then it hit me. 5h!t who will actually want this book?! Will people actually like this book? Will this book actually help?! Who will buy this book?!I 🤷🏼♀️
Then when I found out the average UK self published, self help author, only sells on average, less than 40 copies in the first year and only a few hundred in a lifetime 😮 I knew I had to make some extra effort to ensure my tools were shared. If it wasn’t via the book, I would need to attend events and get social media savvy. I’ve done my best!
I didn’t write My Wellness Toolbox to become a famous author or make a profit (to put in perspective I am self published so would still need to sell another 3k copies on Amazon to break even), I wrote it because of the response to this post, because I know My Wellness Toolbox helped me come back from a very dark place and I know it may, can, and has helped others do the same.
So to the 744 (I’m the 745th) people that have a copy of My Wellness Toolbox (by paperback, ebook or audio), I hope it has helped you, I hope you have discovered your tools, and I hope life is feeling a little easier.
Thank You to everyone who has supported me and all things tools, I can’t wait for what the next year has in store 😉
Facebook Post - 1st August 2016
10 years ago this week I hit my rock bottom, I physically nor mentally could open the front door to leave my house to go to work. Over a 7 year period prior to that day anxiety and panic attacks had gradually taken over. It may sound ridiculous/dramatic/stupid/unbelievable to some but it was real to me and bloody terrifying. At this point fear had taken over and even simple things were so mentally challenging and tiring...
Every day started with butterflies and nausea, I could no longer shop in supermarkets, I couldn't stand in queues, when eating out I had to sit with my back to other diners, I'd only choose food that I could easily swallow, I'd be physically sick before travelling on motorways or trains, I took different routes to work to see if it made a difference to my day ahead, I didn't go to social events without at least half a bottle of wine down me (ok that may have not changed 😜) and I stopped doing my makeup in the mirror as I hated what looked back. I worried about everything.
Ironically it was in that 7 years of panic I excelled at work, had several promotions and pay rises, passed lots of professional exams. Work kept my mind busy and all that extra daily allowance of adrenalin needed somewhere to go! I even managed to live and work abroad, but the truth was I was "running away", trying to find a fix - it didn't work for long (but I did make a life long friend in Suzanne)
My social life was pretty hectic, by my own doing. I was known among friends as a bit of a party animal and social organiser, it was really about keeping my mind busy and the diary full (I hated my own company) and any excuse to drink alcohol as that was always a short term fix!! I'd always be close to calling off, was often nauseous or sick before I left the house, but then would consume ridiculous amounts of wine to forget. It worked until the next day, then the hangover would provide an extra helping of panic! I had so much going for me professionally and had lots of great people around me but I was desperately unhappy and lonely.
I will never forget what Mary did for me the day I hit rock bottom, a big hug and a pair of judge free ears goes a very long way. I now know how much it upset her to see me at my lowest. Like other family, friends and colleagues, she knew I was having bad days and experienced anxiety but she had no idea to what extent my mental health had deteriorated and how much my big (fake) smile and the crater dimples were hiding.
Hitting my rock bottom was what I needed, as although I was convinced he would section me I finally (with Mum at my side) went to the doctor and admitted I needed help (turns out years of trawling the Internet for the answer was a wild goose chase). He was amazing, he suggested I had post traumatic stress and exhaustion....he prescribed me 5 things
1. No Media
2. No Caffeine
3. Avoid alcohol (hmmmm....there has to be a compromise somewhere in this list)
4. 4 weeks Time Out from work to start with (but I later convinced him to reduce it to 2 convinced I would lose my job)
5. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
We talked about medication, but his advice was to try the CBT first, and also at this point I wouldn't even take paracetamol incase it caused a panic attack! The only tablets I have ever agreed to take for my mental health since is multi-vitamins.
The CBT was tough but I knew if I wanted to get better I had to be honest and let someone in to help me untangle the spaghetti head and get to the root causes. It was a very emotional and painful journey but also very enlightening, I had to face and accept a lot of truths about myself and my relationships with those around me. My biggest fear was loss yet this path led me to make difficult decisions that in the short term made me lose even more. I was given lots of tools to help me along the way (the water bottle is probably the one my friends will recognise most) and my self confidence started to come back, within a year I started to feel positive and look forward to the future and the (no longer "my") panic attacks were nearly a thing of the past.
I still get anxious in very stressful situations, I'm human, but I now handle it a whole lot better and I can't actually remember the last time I had a panic attack, maybe 8/9 years ago. Like someone who recovers from drugs/alcohol "miss temptation" still lingers, especially when I'm not on top form. I have lots of proactive tools I've picked up along the way if I feel myself starting to slip. Reiki is definitely one of them. I was also concerned about what fears may be reignited during pregnancy and child birth as I used to be terrified of hospitals, one of the reasons I chose to do Hypno-birthing (it was not to prove I was some kind of birth hero as someone actually suggested 🙄). It was super effective, by the end of the 1st session I had zero anxiety about the next hospital visit and when the birth plan didn't quite go to plan (i.e. completely thrown out the window) the techniques still came in use and definitely kept any panic away.
4 months after Thomas was born I felt I was slipping down hill very quickly, within just a few weeks I had become very anxious, negative and paranoid I wasn't doing a good job, convinced I had PND I went straight to the doctors (again with Mum at my side - she gets all the good jobs 😘). His first response after listening to me was that I didn't have PND but that I was simply an over-tired new Mummy and how I was feeling was very common, to give me peace of mind he also sent me for blood tests. Within 24 hours it was confirmed I had a B12 deficiency, often a result of sleep deprivation and a popular root cause of anxiety and depression (and rarely tested for). A high dose of B vitamins and within 2 weeks I was feeling back to "normal" 😊
So why share this now?
At least 50% of you reading this have/are/will experience anxiety, stress, panic attacks and/or depression, most will be experiencing this in silence.
10 years ago I hit my rock bottom and on that day if you had told me I would get better, that the fears would be faced, that I would travel the world and see incredible things, jump out of a plane, run my own business that would lead to so many fantastic opportunities (and motorway and tube journeys), get married, have children, that some of my wildest dreams would come true. That I would feel happy again. I would just think you were saying that to make me feel better. All of that I deemed impossible. Yet all of it has happened.
I am very lucky and very grateful for everything, but I've also worked bloody hard and it started with the first step by me, by talking, telling someone, asking for help and support. The journey wasn't easy but living with panic and anxiety was a lot harder.
If me being open that "I'm a little mental health" (as I phrase it) helps just one of my FB friends to open up and leads them to seek help and make them happier then posting this has been worth it. To those of you who just rolled your eyes (I'm quite used to it) please don't do that if a good friend opens up to you (trust me it really doesn't help), listen, support them and guide them towards seeking professional help.
I don't want to take anything away from the support and patience I have had from my lovely family and friends, especially the extra special one who in a way this journey led me to meet (and marry), but ultimately I have turned my life around. It had to start with Me, in the same way if you too are "a little mental health" and need/want to change something it has to start with You. Please ask for help. Good luck xxx