Oh, Hello Hurdle! (Also, a Look at the Authentic Self)

I am currently trying to clamber over a hurdle.  It isn’t pretty, it isn’t graceful, and more often than not I am landing in mud. I am learning so much about Mindfulness yet am struggling to put it into practice, letting everyday occurrences and my own ego get in the way. I feel like I have no power over myself, and this is affecting my mood. Sometimes it feels like there’s a barrier between how I am behaving and how I want to behave and ultimately be.

My attitude to past, present and future events mostly relate to my diet.  i have good intentions to eat better and exercise more but I focus too much on enjoying unhealthy food NOW, telling myself I will eat better in the future to make up for it.  Unfortunately for me, this future does not and never will exist as long as I am not present in my current healthy eating goals.  So right now, I am being present in it by ignoring the salted caramel fudge in the fridge and bag of popcorn by the toaster.  If I can get through this evening without eating any of them I will be proud, as pitiful as that may sound.

Referring to my last post, it’s the being I’m struggling with! This leads me to share my latest insight through study; the authentic self.  So, apparently there are 5 simple ways to move to a more authentic self.  This is according to one author so I shall give my views for each one.

  1. Appreciate Kindness. (This is something I try to do anyway, whether it’s directed at me or an opportunity to show it to others.  I think we should all be kind in general, so I like this and can live with it.
  2. Listen to people’s stories with full attention, not just politely, because they matter. (Absolutely agree, and I am guilty of not doing this, usually when I am wrapped up in reading something, watching something, playing a game or otherwise occupied.  I mean on a day-to-day level, sometimes it might not be appropriate.)
  3. Ask a colleague for their opinion on something not work-related (currently, I am self-employed although I do work with my mum.  it is something I have practiced anyway in previous roles and would also give opportunity to exercise point 2.)
  4.  (ITalk to anyone who approaches you in the street whether begging, trying to sell something or doing a survey. (I don’t feel comfortable doing this; usually I have my boys with me and at aged 1 and 2 I would rather get to where I am going with no delay, distraction, meltdown or fire.)
  5. Don’t take mobile phone calls when with someone. Concentrate fully on being with them. (Guilty of not doing this one this afternoon with having a drink with my best friend; husband was messaging me updates with what he and the boys were doing at home! I totally get not texting or using social media, however I wouldn’t want to not be accessible by phone due to a small with possible ASD and a small with allergies.)

It would be interesting to see how these suggestions lead to the authentic self but at the very least would lead to being more present, focusing attention and making others and yourself feel more valued and respected which can never be a bad thing.

I find, as I mentioned above, that my barriers to my own authentic self are anxiety, phobia and my tendency to catastrophise things.  I am also guilty of pretending to have knowledge of things I don’t in order to gain favour from another person; it’s best just to be honest and learn from and listen to them than pretend and potentially look foolish further down the line.  It’s also to be honest with your opinions and, well, don’t be a dick.

As part of my own study, I also answered questionnaires on whether I tended to fixate on the past, future or present; authenticity regarding whether i have issues and what effect those have on my life and concentration, how much attention I give to certain aspects of my life including listening and reading.  I have chosen to keep my answers to these private so it’s something I can reflect on again in the future.


Thank you for reading this post.  Although I have primarily written it for me, I welcome any outside guidance or comments.  A lovely gentleman called Luke in my previous post linked me to his podcasts – well, one in particular but I enjoyed it so much I found his website, downloaded all the material I could sign up for and plan to enjoy further podcasts (even installed iTunes on laptop so I could!) – so already writing in this medium is paying off!  Here is the website http://herohealthroom.com/

There, I got to the end of the post and still haven’t eaten the fudge or popcorn.  I am going to take part in some more study, reflection and have a peaceful, mindful sunday evening!





Little bit Lost

Here is my confession; I’m struggling. With diet, exercise, CBT and generally looking after myself both physically and mentally. 

My mindfulness studies have become stalled, my diet is atrocious despite sticking to my lentern promise (aside from a pizza Hut last week) and I feel bloated, tired and a bit down.
I am struggling to recapture the motivation I had mere weeks ago. All I want to do is eat popcorn and watch sons of anarchy so it’s probably a good job I am on the final series. I never was able to ration things or have self control when it came to little pleasures. This is why ice.cream doesn’t last long in my freezer.
Hopefully I will come out of this soon and be back to maintaining myself physically and mentally. 

Behaviour Experiment: Popping Balloons

This was originally going to be a behaviour experiment where I let toddler play with some balloons for one minute, but the anticipatory anxiety of them bursting was too great, so I decided to continue my work on popping balloons myself.

Last week, I acquired two black bags of inflated balloons from my mum’s church.  I brought them home with the intention of using them for therapy, so one week later I carried out the experiment.  I selected a bunch of balloons from one of the bags and brought them downstairs.

My hypothesis was that I would be comfortable popping the balloons with a pin.  My anti-hypothesis was that I would be so overcome with fear and anxiety I would not be able to carry out the task.


Husband provided me with a pin, and although initially hesitant I popped all of the balloons myself.  I felt happy afterwards but also relief that the task was over.  I need to keep doing this until popping balloons is no longer something to prepare for.  I wouldn’t have been able to do this a few months ago, so progress is definitely being made!

Bit of a Wobble

I know that by keeping this blog, it’s only for myself.  Anyone who reads it, let alone likes or follows it is a bonus.  And the purpose of it is to document my CBT journey, specifically my phobia of balloons. Therefore I will only let myself down if I don’t see it to completion.  I feel recently that I haven’t made any progress, I may have said before because I am getting further up the hierarchy I am more reluctant to do anything about it which is the worst thing I can do.

In my head I am reminding myself to do things willingly, and I feel like I want to but there’s a mental barrier in the way which I have built yet can’t/won’t break down.  Tonight I’m feeling it pretty hard because I was meat to go for a run but my running partner cancelled and because my plans were changed it made me feel off for the rest of the evening, where the slightest excuses are used e.g. I’m not going to the gym instead because it’s raining.


Also, my car.


It was towed away on Friday evening to a garage because it stalled and the gearbox got stuck.  The garage took it for a drive on Saturday, found nothing wrong with it and apparently drove 10 miles so I went to collect it.  As soon as I had driven less than a mile it happened again so I took it to a different garage who have advised husband and I it’s going to cost over £400 to replace the clutch.


So this afternoon we went to the Vauxhall dealership to have a look at a potential new car, and are interested in a 4 year old Corsa.  The monthly payments are quite high but we could afford it, and also you have the security of it being from a garage who personally know all of the car’s service history (it’s only had one other owner).  But husband wants to have a look at a general used car sales garage who have an offer on if you part exchange your old car-  meaning if it was accepted we would still have to pay to get the clutch fixed on our current one.


Current car is going to hopefully be recovered to our home tomorrow.  So currently, we don’t have a driveable car . Ugh.


CBT Update: A New (Almost) Comfort Zone

I was writing in my journal this morning (I love my paper and pens. Stationary whore right here.) and one of the things I was reflecting upon was my progress with my CBT.  Or how I felt (as I seem to before every appointment with my therapist) more like my lack of progress.


In our last session, we devised a plan where I would expose myself to more environments where there would be balloons e.g. shopping centre, restaurants, events etc and try to manage my distress levels.  Bonus if it involved a toddler with a balloon!  But this has not happened.  I could possibly use the reason that I have returned to work so am still getting my head round my time management, but this would probably just be an excuse.  Trying to avoid avoidance is hard, especially as I feel like I want my therapist to know I am trying and doing my best to make this work for me.  I feel like such a people pleaser at times – like at work I feel like I want to work really hard so I’m doing at least my fair share so that I am seen as an asset and valued for being there.


Anyway, I digress.

Progress hadn’t been made in the way I’d hoped, so I had a little word with myself.  I’m at the stage of CBT now where the exposure is getting more and more scary in terms of being unable to tolerate my distress.  I remembered there was a balloon in the crisp box on the top shelf (don’t ask) so I got it down and gave it to toddler to play with.  I still put my hands up to my ears a couple of times, despite trying to remind myself it was just a feeling and I was to observe it from afar.  I managed to let him have it for a few minutes before I burst it myself with a pin.


Admittedly, I burst it so it wouldn’t be there and wouldn’t be a threat anymore.  I then blew up and burst 3 more balloons in succession (making a game of it for toddler) and realised that this is the current limit of my comfort zone.


When I am doing it myself, I am in control and although the noise still starts me a little bit this is where I’m at and where I feel I need to keep working on it.  Even if it means me standing alone in the kitchen blowing up and bursting balloons, and it’s a sideways diversion from what I was “supposed” to be doing, it’s still progress.


I think I’m still in awe that a lifelong phobia is slowly being chipped away at the grand old age of 31.

This willingness malarkey is really helping too; I willingly ran 6k last night and will willingly go and pick up husband from the station later.

Still a Work in Progress

So I was walking back from the gym this evening and noted my thoughts on my physical appearance both in the mirror at the gym and reflected in the shop windows on the way home.  I noticed firstly that I didn’t look like a tomato whilst I was working out.  This isn’t due to some miraculous sudden increase in fitness (boo!) but due to the fact that now I am back working again I feel the need to wear make-up, including foundation which was the main reason for a more nomal-coloured face.  I noticed the changes in my body so far as well.  All over I am looking and feeling more toned.  Particularly in my face, neck, arms and legs.


I could actually see my reflection clearly as well because for the first time in about 3 weeks I am wearing my contact lenses again – hello peripheral vision I have missed you!


It’s cool as well to notice how many calories I am burning.  Not that I count calories when eating, it’s a measure of how hard my body is working using the same machinery for the same amount of time but being able to increase the intensity.  It was on the way back I noticed that my stomach still isn’t as flat as I would like it to be that I realised I am a work in progress, mentally and physically.  I realise I will probably always be a work in progress, and I’m cool with that as  I enjoy personal development and learning.  I think I had been so focused on my stomach, or my “mum tum” I had lost sight of the positive changes elsewhere.


Mentally, I’m back thinking “Oh shit I have a CBT appointment on Thursday and yet again don’t feel like I have made any progress!”.


After letting toddler play with a balloon before I burst it (then felt guilty, blew him up another one but it got a bit much so husband hid it)  I have done nothing – apart from install an app on my phone called “DBT distress tools” as part of addressing my distress intolerance.  The main thing I have taken away from it initially is to do things willingly.

Rather than take for granted doing ay task, whether it’s self-care, cleaning, looking after the children, tidying or exercising to exercise it with a feeling of willingness and being in the moment, not just trudging along because I have to.  Very much mindfulness principle which is probably why it really spoke to me.


So for now, I am doing things willingly.  It makes life seem a lot more positive, without meaning to sound cheesy.  I’ve even been driving a lot more – only to work and back – but I’ve still been doing it!


Last Day of Last Maternity Leave

So tonight I am going to briefly talk about maternity leave with the littlest small and how my mental health and wellbeing has changed since his arrival in January.

It’s funny, with my oldest despite the fact the childirth was quite traumatic, I felt fine in myself afterwards; aside from the usual new-parent anxieties (and getting the hang of breast feeding which I swear nearly broke me!) I managed and that was that.  This time, despite the lovely planned section and easy recovery, I developed such ridiculous anxiety made worse by the sometimes erratic behaviour of our next door neighbour that I’m glad to be returning to work and having some semblence of normality!  I say returning to work; I’ll still be with the children every day but actually working and earning money rather than waiting for the weekend when husband will be off with us.


Also, despite the fact that I have felt at my most mentally vulnerable in a long time, I have also been making strong, positive changes both by undertaking CBT (yep.. need to keep working on this) and transforming by health and body through diet and exercise.  I have lost over 1,5 stone to date, another stone to go until I reach my short-term target.  In some ways my mind feels stronger, in others it feels like it’s still healing.


I don’t feel sad that my maternity leave is over and the littlest is 7 months.  I know that I am incredibly lucky, however, to be able to have a job where I can still be with the smalls all day and I have my mother to thank for that so much; the sacrifice she is making not only by helping me qualify for this type of employment but giving p one of her places so that in effect one of my boys can have free childcare.


And I also can’t believe the privilidge that other parents are going to trust me to care for their most precious things, their children.  Quite overwhelming when i think about it, but it’s a new challenge and I’m ready to throw myself into it.  I realise how lucky I am and the boys are.  Here we go!

Little Update

I am sat here on a Saturday night, full from 2 mini chocolate mazipan bars which probably excee my daily syn allowance by miles, feeling sorry for myself.  I have an infection in my left eye which I have to take antibiotic drops for every hour whilst I am awake!  It was most likely caused by my contact lenses so I have to wear glasses for 2 weeks, which in itself isn’t a problem apart from it’s late summer, I don’t have any prescription sunglasses so I have to make do with mum’s clip on sun shades for when I’m driving.

Speaking of driving, I was at the garage again Thursday morning!

I had to have a black recording box fitted on Wednesday as per the requirements of my insurance company.  When I tried to start my car on Thursday, the battery was run completely flat resultingin a call to my breakdown cover company to jump start me!  This precede a trip to the garge who confirmed there was nothing wrong with my battery or it’s charging capacity so I can only imagine something happened during the installation of the box.  It was  a hot day so maybe the engineer had the air con on or something.  It has started every time since so I’m not too worried, plus husband has ordered a charger from Amazon.

I had a really good CBT session on Thursday afternoon, despite the morning’s automobile drama.  I showed my therapist the video I made on my phone of me bursting all the balloons on Monday and she was really impressed and please with my progress!  My next challenges are to continue blowing up and bursting balloons myself, and also to stop avoiding places where there are balloons such as public places like restaraunts and shopping centres.  We have devised some preliminary behaviour experiments in order to approach this which I will go into more as and when the situations arise.


I started to feel unwell Thursday afternoon, I don’t know if it was the beginnings of this eye infection but I didn’t feel well enough to attend boxing training.  I went to the gym this afternoon instead for an hour.  It’s great that husband doesn’t mind me going at weekends now whilst the children sleep, less pressure to get my sessions in on week nights!


A week or so ago I mentioned I had downloaded some apps.  One of them was Superbetter; I don’t actually rate this and will be removing it from my phone.  I find that the pre-tailored stuff just isn’t applicable to me as I am already following a specific diet/mental health plan but can see hoe it would perhaps be beneficial to someone starting out with no set plan in mind.  The mindfulness one I have found useful, I was rtying to listen to one of the meditations last night but, of course, I fell asleep.


Another thing I have stumbled upon is that the Open University do free online courses!  I have started with the forensic psychology one to get me into it.  I haven’t looked at the tops since finishing my degree but realised how much I miss learning andcommiting to things, and if I am hoping to train to be a teacher in a few years this will definitely keep me in the educational loop.


I think that’s everything for now; the only other thing I will say is that it’s weigh-in tomorrow and after comfort eating the last couple of days I don’t hold out much hope.  My eating habits have been terrible – really need to be stricter with my planning and contents of the food cupboard!


Of Wheels and Legs – A Good Day

I think it’s really important to acknowledge and celebrate a good day. You don’t know when they’re going to happen; some people are lucky enough to experience every day as good, and for others they are a rarity if they ever occur at all.  Personally, my anxiety has been pretty high recently to the extent where “good” days seem to be on the lesser scale but today was one of them.

This morning, at about 6.45am (thanks smallest baby for being up at 5,30!) I drove to work for my exit interview and to hand in my smart card, I.D. badge and locker key.  I am now a former call handler/coach for the NHS 111 service and no doubt I will reflect on this time in a separate post.  But I did it, first time driving since the holiday and I hit the dual carriageway on my own and then confidently loaded the smalls and husband into the car to do our weekly shop!

There are some bits we have to get elsewhere, e.g. I am not a fan of the chicken or bananas from Aldi so we went into town to go to Sainsbury’s and had  a lovely walk by the river in the sunshine to get these items.  Then we had lunch and both boys had a good afternoon nap, and I may have closed my eyes for half an hour too.

This afternoon, I took toddler to the park for the first time without a pushchair.  Initially, he was only interested in opening he gates and making them clang as loudly as possible as they closed and he was most upset when I intervened so as not to spoil the peace of the other park users.  But soon he was on the swings, had several goes on the slide and even sat on the roundabout and didn’t make a fuss when it was time to go home.


For dinner, I made a delicious concoction of mashed potato mixed with chives and cream cheese, then pan-fried some leeks, spring onions, peppers, onions, peas, tuna and sweetcorn.  I mixed everything together, sprinkled some cheese on top and bunged it in the oven until the cheese melted and it was delicious.


The kids’ bathtime was a bit stressful, something had upset the littlest small so I had to call husband to come and help.  He didn’t want milk and took a long time to settle; eventually husband came and took over so I could go for a run.  I ran about 3k then as I was heading back I saw some friends in the beer garden of my local pub and they bought me a diet coke and I had a lovely catch up.


Physical exercise is so good for mental health, I have said it before and will no doubt say it again!  So there you go, that was my good day and I am happy to have shared it. Tomorrow: some more CBT work!

Better at Boxing

Firstly ignore the fact I am eating a slice of supermarket pizza as I write this.

I had my second boxing training session tonight and I felt like I have improved already!  We ran the 1.95k there, followed by half an hour bag work (with sit-ups and burpees happening throughout) and circuit session.  I feel like I really pushed myself and although still have a lot of improvement to make I noticed a difference.   I also thought my sweat would make me go blind.

Mentally, I am feeling really good.  I had a bit of an anxiety wobble earlier over the baby’s milk whilst I was out (he was fine and didn’t need any more than I had expressed and left for him) and the dress code at my cousin’s wedding (I felt husband was taking it too literally and that he was saying he didn’t want to go) but now things are a lot calmer.

I also had a mindfulness experience on the way back from boxing; walking through the recreation ground  on a warm night with a cool breeze blowing. My body felt good from working out and I could smell fresh cut grass, as well as being in the company of one of my best friends.  I had an overall sense of happiness and wellbeing.

I am aware that because I have been focusing on mindfulness, I haven’t progressed much further with my CBT however this weekend I will be blowing up several balloons for the toddler to play with.  I am due to complete a mindfulness session tonight however I feel after boxing I would rather do it tomorrow night and enjoy the happy buzz tonight has brought to me.