Almost that time of year again…📚

So, one of my closest friends is about to face into the upcoming hall of the Leaving Cert 2016. My second semester of college is also coming to an end and I’ll be sitting exams in a few weeks. I’m beginning to stress out a little. However, I’m just really aware of the fact and extremely thankful that it’s not the Leaving Cert I’ll be writing.

The stress of the upcoming exams has had me thinking a lot about my time in secondary school. About my experience of the L.C and in general how I managed the huge, unavoidable stress that was being a teenager.

It’s definitely safe to say that I would absolutely never go back to school, not if you paid me! It’s only since leaving, have I realised how much happier I am. Studying what I am interested in, rather than rote learning a ridiculous amount of, in my opinion, largely pointless information that I will realistically never use again and had no interest in what so ever, has made all the difference.

The social side to school was fantastic, I do miss seeing everyone everyday and having no choice but to stay in contact with people, however, of course, I was delighted to get away from the odd person, as I’m positive everyone was. I think that I have stayed in contact with those who I suppose I was closest to in school. For those who I wasn’t particularly close to, Facebook proves to be a great resource in helping to keep me up to date on the important things that happen in everyone’s lives. 👀

Secondary school was ‘an emotional roller-coaster’ to say the least. There were great highs and really low lows, and everything in between. My mental health spiralled a bit out of control from early on in first year and I continued to struggle all the way until after the leaving cert. Of course, looking back, the main exam years, 3rd, 5th and 6th were by far the worst! Although I strongly disagree with the principle behind our education system in Ireland, I have to admit that I really liked my Secondary School (most of the time). While there were a few teachers that I genuinely think woke up in the morning to make our already mediocre lives, a whole lot more miserable, I got on really well with most of them, as I think most of the people in my old year did. I got close to, and heavily relied on 3 teachers in particular during my 6 years and without them, I’m not actually sure if I would have made it to the end of sixth year, never mind get into college.

I think most people have one or two teachers that they were close to. It seems to make a huge difference, just to have one adult as such, to be able to trust and chat to. I think Secondary school is in general, an extremely stressful time and having someone you know you can go to if things get a little too much is a super help and  a great comfort. It genuinely makes such a difference to come into school and know that if you, at any point need a chat or even just a friendly, reassuring smile, that particular teacher/s will almost certainly be there to help.

Mainly because of the struggle I was going through with my mental health, I found 6th year particularly challenging. I struggled to stay focused on the upcoming exams and even mostly lost interest in my academic work. If it wasn’t for a few close friends and the teachers I was close to, keeping an eye on me and encouraging me to stay on track, I’m not sure if I would have completed school.

I was also super close with one of the school guidance counsellors, Jimmy. He proved to be my biggest support all the way through secondary school and was absolutely always there to save the day. He did an unbelievable amount for me and I think I’ll always be grateful to him for everything he’s done. He was truly a superstar! ❤️

I think that my mental health issues absolutely affected my Leaving Cert results. I know that if I had put my mind to it, I could have done a lot better in my exams but, I ended up getting the course I wanted and I have never been happier. I think that I was also mostly just disinterested in the school curriculum and therefore lacked any motivation to try hard in the subjects I disliked. By the end of school, I loved Maths, Art and Home ec. and  I didn’t mind the odd English or Spanish class, except for my spanish teacher, I hated her. She was a wench.

After talking to a lot of people, It seems that one of the keys to getting through school is to find at least one adult you can trust and get along with, and lean on them. I think that there is still a lot of stigma around going to the school guidance counsellors, which there shouldn’t be! I believe it’s necessary for everyone to have a chat and let off some steam every so often. So many people, in my old school anyway, go to the counsellor so why is it such a big deal? I’m nothing less than proud to say I went to the counsellor and he was a fantastic help to me and I wouldn’t have made it through my school years without him. By the end of 6th year, I told him absolutely everything and he always just seemed to put a smile on my face, even when I was already smiling.

I know I’ve said it before, but I believe that talking is the one thing that can get anyone through anything! I believe that talking is essential to getting through this crazy life. And put it this way, if you feel bad about leaning on someone too much, the school guidance counsellors are paid to listen. Although, I know that’s not really an enticing way to look at it. If you need a chat, don’t be scared or embarrassed to talk. Everyone needs a helping hand at some stage and school is a pretty stressful time for everyone, one way or another!

Also, try to keep in mind that you’re never alone, everyone’s in the same boat as you in regards exam time. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one having a breakdown once a week always provided some comfort!

But for now, remember to take some time out for yourself and to have a breather every now and again.

Smile always,

Kim. X  🌼

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Keeping my cool! ❄️💅🏽

My anxiety since this weekend just gone has been particularly bad. I’m not too sure why though. I’ve just handed in a lot of college essays, so maybe its the stress and adrenalin from the last two weeks wearing off? Maybe it’s because the weather has taken a turn for the worst, that always seems to impact on my general state of mind. Maybe it’s because I’m just generally exhausted since the past few weeks have been constant go, go, go. I however, have no one but myself to blame for this. I have a really bad habit of leaving everything until the last-minute and totally panicking the night before. But I absolutely never learn. No matter how many times I swear to myself that I will never get into this position again. 😴 I ALWAYS do.

Anyway, rambling aside, I thought maybe I could do a small blog post on managing stress and anxiety since we are all facing into exam time again.

It would be totally hypocritical of me to write about tips and tricks to control anxiety because, clearly, I’m still in the process of learning how this is done. I still have panic attacks pretty regularly and I still freak out over the smallest situations that should absolutely not make me nervous what so ever. However, in recent months my anxiety has gotten increasingly better, so I thought maybe I could talk about some of the coping mechanisms that I use to try to keep a lid on my stress levels.

The first thing that I have learned and possibly one of the most important things to remember, is that talking is key.Telling people you’re stressed, talking about the source of your stress and being able to relate to others that are stressed for the same reasons. Talking to a friend, parent, relation, neighbour anyone really who you feel comfortable talking to! Sometimes talking about what ever has you a bit all over the place can put the problem into perspective. You begin to realise that whatever you’re dealing with is manageable. That it’s not always as huge as it seemed when bottled up in your head. Always talk!

Another thing that’s not always easy to remember at the time, but that always helps me is breathing. Whenever I begin to feel a panic attack coming on or just even a little anxious, it always helps to regulate my breathing and focus on each breath. When I get nervous, I start breathing really quickly without noticing. Gradually the lack of oxygen leaves me feeling dizzy and nauseous and by that point usually there’s no stopping a panic attack. If someone points my breathing out to me or I notice before too long has passed, generally I can take the steps and avoid an attack.

I love art, painting especially. I have begun to notice, that if I’m having a bad day, if my heads a bit all over the place or if my anxiety is just very prominent at the time, sitting down with some music and painting totally calms me down and almost immediately improves my mood. So I suppose, on a bad day, taking an hour out just to focus on yourself and to do something you really love doing is important.  Even just to give your mind a bit of time out from all the worries and stresses. As cliché as that is!

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Another thing that I find really helps my anxiety is exercise. I used to run a lot before I dislocated my knee and after that I never really got back into it. I used to find running put me at ease and was one of the few things that always helped with stress. While, I don’t run much anymore, I walk my dog everyday. Sometimes company can be a real comfort and a great chance to unwind. Ash, one of my best friends and I go on walks with the dogs once or twice a week. I also like having my own time. Putting my earphones in and just forgetting about everything for a while.

I used to get annoyed at myself when anxiety would get the better of me and caused me to cancel plans or stutter in a conversation. I would say something stupid because I got nervous and I would focus for weeks after on what I said wrong, instead of focusing on the fact that I’d managed to have the conversation in the first place. I think when I started being less hard on myself and stopped putting myself under too much pressure to achieve things that I knew inevitability I wouldn’t be able to do, things started looking up. When I started setting myself small challenges like; instead of walking into a big group of strangers and feeling comfortable straight away, I now walk in, find someone I know and then begin to introduce myself to one person at a time until I feel less anxious. I also just set myself a goal of staying for a minimum of say 20 minutes, rather than 3 hours. That way, instead of spending my time stressing about the fact that I still have 2:55 hours left, I focus on just making the best of the 20 minutes that I have. Usually, 20 minutes is plenty of time to make a few friends and begin to settle down. Before I know it 3 hours has passed and I’m having the time of my life.

I still have a lot to learn about my anxiety and how to conquer it, but by setting myself small challenges, like this blog, I’m hoping that my confidence will grow and that slowly but surely, things that are nerve-wracking to me now, will soon become tasks that do not even require a second thought. I have set myself a few small enough goals that I’m going to attempt to complete and hopefully, with a positive attitude, I will be a much stronger person in a few weeks time and things like the looming exams will seem much less daunting!

Smile always,

Kim. X

First year nerves..☕️

I just realised that although this is only my second post, both are nervously titled. That’s funny because it totally sums up my life. Always nervous. 🙋🏽

Speaking of being nervous, I thought that I could start off with how I got through the crazy, stressful, amazing experience that was starting college. I have never been so nervous for anything in my entire life as I was for my first day in Maynooth! I was so anxious I genuinely contemplated making up some excuse and refusing to start. It was only for dad would never have let me! On the 19th of September dad walked me onto campus because I didn’t have a notion about where I was going. For anyone who knows me, I have absolutely no sense of direction what so ever. I can barely find my way around my house, never mind the Maynooth campus, which is HUGE! (I still carry a map in my bag…)

Looking back I can only imagine how strange I looked. A really short girl with a full face of badly applied makeup, walking around in Hollister trakkie bottoms, a knitted, totally over patterned jumper and an unnecessarily over-packed Donald Duck school bag, while everyone else looked somewhat normal. I suppose, much like the title of this blog,  it could be looked at as a fairly accurate metaphor for my life.

Someone had previously told me that I should just go in and make awkward, friendly small talk with every person I possibly could. To put myself out there, so that’s what I did! I made a couple of friends pretty quickly and followed them around like a puppy dog all day. The first few days were really overwhelming and a bit of a blur. I talked to everyone I possibly could, even though half the time it was totally forced conversation and really, I just wanted to buy a bagel and go hide in the bathrooms until I could go home.

I didn’t know anyone in my course so I knew that I had no option but to make friends. At the time, I would have given anything to have someone from school to stick with, but looking back if I had known people, I wouldn’t have come to meet the most amazing bunch of new friends I could have wished for!

It was during my first week that somehow I bumped into the strangest, yet most fantastic group of girls I have ever met. These girls quickly became my best friends and I never looked back. I’m so grateful for having met them because, if I hadn’t I reckon I’d most likely hate college.

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On Fairs day I joined lots of clubs and societies, I probably spent about €20 and stuck with one. Welfare Crew. My anxiety was just too bad and the thought of going to a trampolining meeting with a group of people I’d never met before just terrified me far too much. Mental health, like I said in my last blog post is something really important to me and I think that’s what gave me the willpower to put myself forward and get involved with the Welfare Crew. Still to this day I have yet to get really involved but I’ve made a few friends and have come to know a couple of people in the group, and that for now is enough for me! Big groups of strangers scare me a lot so I have learnt to take things at my own pace and conquer things baby step by baby step.

A couple of months ago the welfare crew arranged a campaign on campus called ‘Soul Fest’. It was a week dedicated to promoting positive mental health and encouraging students to make themselves more aware about services available and that it is okay not to feel okay. By this point I don’t think I had done much, if anything for the welfare crew but I knew that if I let this week pass without getting involved, I would majorly regret it. They asked for help tie-dying some T-shirts one of the days during the week and I had an hour free so I decided to go over to the common room. It took me about 30 minutes to walk through the door and by the time I actually went in, I had about 15 minutes before I had to leave again, but I came out feeling like a champ! I had done it on my own, gone in, introduced myself and stuck it out for 15 minutes by myself! I reckon I was probably more in the way than anything and I was probably more of a nuisance than a help, but I went in. That was an absolutely massive step for me. That’s the point when I realised that I could conquer my anxiety, if I only put my mind to it.

A friend a year ahead of me in college told me that it would take until about after Christmas to totally find my feet and settle in. I definitely think that was 100% true. I’ve pretty much loved college since the start but I am enjoying second semester so much more than first, even though I wasn’t sure that was possible. I am studying Social Science and I absolutely love my course. I love all the people in it and all the friends I’ve made. I love Maynooth and I love how happy I am since starting. I know that not all of my friends have had as positive experience as I have and I’m so grateful for how well things have gone!

Starting college was so unbelievably scary and stressful but I think choosing Social Science in Maynooth Uni was one of the best decisions I have ever made! For anyone starting college in September, I definitely advise to just make a huge effort, although I know how hard it is, to talk to every single new person you meet. Not to hang around with old friends too much and to take this amazing opportunity to make loads of new friends and have an entirely fresh start! Also, as cliché as it sounds, be yourself. College is so unbelievably different to secondary school. Nobody knows you and nobody cares what you in particular look like or what interests you. Take this chance to be exactly the person you want to be! Trust me, it makes such a difference. My last piece of advice would be to read this article : http://spunout.ie/opinion/article/dear-freshers-of-2015 . 🌻 The welfare officer 2015, Síona, who turned out to be a great support to me in Maynooth, wrote it for all the freshers starting in 2015. I read it one night during my first week when I was feeling totally overwhelmed and beginning to wonder if college was for me. It totally reassured me and made me feel like I wasn’t on my own.

Try not to stress, enjoy the experience and make it count!

Smile always,

Kim. X

 

Nervously Twitching…

I can’t think of a witty or even a remotely intelligent, catchy first ever line for my first ever blog post so, I’ll just introduce myself I guess. Hi! My name is Kim.

I’m not entirely confident that starting a blog is a good idea, or even my reasoning behind wanting to start a blog. In fact, I should be writing an essay right now so it could just be a really ironic form of procrastination? I guess I have a lot of thoughts that go through my head everyday. Good ideas and bad ideas. Silly suggestions and ridiculous questions that I’m too scared to ask. I feel passionately about and would like to think myself an advocate of positivity and mental health, yet I suppose I shy away from saying some of the things I’d like to say. I guess having a blog gives me a space to share all my crazy, possibly irrational, most likely uninteresting thoughts, experiences and embarrassing stories about college life.

I suffer from generalised and social anxiety and in a bid to overcome my fears and build myself into a stronger and more confident person, this blog could prove to be a stepping stone in the right direction. I am trying to encourage myself to conquer small fears and face insecurities head on in an attempt to become overall, happier and more positive.

I don’t have a set vision for what I want my blog to be about. I feel like there’s not many topics that I know enough about to be able to constantly write interesting posts on, except myself! My college experience so far has been nothing less than amazing but of course, i’ve had a few bumps along the way. This year i’ve come out of myself so much and am, I feel, an almost entirely different person to who I was this time last year. Since my blog is, I guess just all about my experiences and me, what better topic to start off with, than my first year of college and all that it has entailed! Since it has been the making of me.

So anyway, I hope this whole new adventurous idea isn’t a bad one. I hope that what I have to say is of some interest to someone. I hope that this isn’t going to be one of those many, many projects that I start with great intentions and give up on after a week.

Smile always,

Kim. X

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