Hello lovely friends. I am writing a more personal post today for World Mental Health Day and celebrating the fact that such a day actually exists. Talking about mental health problems and sharing our own stories is thankfully becoming less and less taboo so here I am telling you mine, even though it still feels a bit hard to do.
I have always been a perfectionist. You know the kind: stressing out over performing at school, high school, uni… Being the best friend, girlfriend, daughter, sister, cousin… Being the best at whatever was in front of me. And then job-life started (I worked as a writer and journalist for more than ten years, just left once and for all the full time for Coco Wawa Crafts last month!) and my levels of anxiety and stress rocketed. Working as a journalist is for itself a very stressful job: deadlines, trips, late nights, pressure to perform, to write well… and I started to feel this “panicky” sensation inside me, right there, in the middle of the chest. It came out of nowhere, or maybe it was there the whole time? I am not sure, but it didn’t left me for years.
At the beginning it came to say hi right when I was about to go to bed but later it wanted to stay with me at work, during the weekends, when travelling and even when I was having fun and thought I was relaxed. Sometimes the feeling disappeared for days and weeks and even months! just to come back when I least expected it. This sensation was really hard to handle depending on the day. Sometimes it made me cry, others it made me angry and at some point, it made me not wanting to get out of bed. Some days were rather cloudy even though it was bright outside and some others were quieter.
Then I made a decision. I didn’t want to spend my life that I cherished so much letting this feeling overwhelm me. I needed to learn how to live with it, how to handle it and maybe even become friends with it. So I started seeing a therapist and this was right before moving to London more than 5 years ago. And it’s funny how this therapist who helped me discover mindfulness, the power of relaxation, learning to breath, to appreciate the moment, to accept that some days are worse than others and than perfectionism only existed in my mind, said one day: ‘Ana, you need to find a hobby.’ And even though all my life I had been or thought I was really bad at all craft things (I used glue to make clothes for my Barbie 😃 ) I started making things with my hands and it just felt so natural! At first it was these horrible necklaces I made using feathers and beads (honestly, awful!) and then right when I moved to the UK it was knitting and then baking (thanks Great British Bake Off!) and then, one day, I went to a sewing class and my life changed.
To this day I still feel anxious and stress some times which now I accept (not always, but mostly) and use as a warning that there’s something I am not doing right. Working too much? Not taking time for myself? Miss Perfectionist waking up again? Then I go for a swim, grab a book, sit down to knit, to sew for myself, to watch a movie, to go for a walk, or just meditate a bit…. and then I feel like I can come back to the world with a smile 😃
In my case, having a hobby that I was passionate about (now a business!) and writing about how I felt (I’ve got tons of notebooks at home full of notes and stories and feelings written down, which I still do), doing exercise, eating well and overall, accepting the fact that in life sometimes it’s OK to feel sad and that being a perfectionist wasn’t me, that I could choose not to be my worst enemy, which I think in lots of cases we are, and that I could love myself and that I had to actually take care of myself and be kind to myself, have helped me come to terms with that sensation/feeling/friend of mine called anxiety.
I will be over the moon if by sharing my story I can help any one of you.
Also, and to celebrate the fact that today is World Mental Health Day, I have teamed up with lovely textile designer and lifestyle blogger Nancy Straughan to make a limited edition of wash-bags, the Happy Bags, that you can purchase from Nancy’s online shop and my Etsy Shop. A percentage of all sales will go to a UK Mental Health charity. Hope you can join us! 😃