Wholegrain chocolate brownies

Chocolate is a major weakness of mine and these brownies are disappearing at an alarming rate! I love the way they are crusty on top and gooey in the middle. They are also mega chocolatey and rich, which is good because it means you can’t eat more than one at once!

Wholegrain chocolate brownies 

Makes approx 16 brownies

  • 175g Dark chocolate
  • 40g Cocoa powder
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 75g plain wholegrain flour
  • Preheat oven to 180⁰C, gas mark 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment.
  1. Preheat oven to 180⁰C. Grease and line a square cake tin (mine was a 20cm tin) with baking paper. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, then leave to cool slightly.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and creamy. Pour in the chocolate mixture and mix together.
  3. Sift in the flour and cocoa and mix together. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin.

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Its easier to cut the brownies into squares if you put them in the fridge for a couple of hours after they have cooled. If you try these, let me know what you think!

Take care,

Hayley x

Dear anxiety

This is an open letter to the anxiety that lives inside of me.

Dear anxiety,

You lurk deep inside me, always there but not usually visible to others. I can hide you well, I have had a lot of practise. I was only 14 when you first reared your ugly head but maybe you had always been part of me, lying dormant. At first I didn’t know what you were, I just felt that I had to hide you, that I had to be “normal”. Now, nearly 10 years on, I know exactly what you are but it doesn’t make you much easier. Sometimes I find it hard to separate myself from you and that frustrates me. I’m a person, not a mental health condition!

I hate what you have done to me. I sometimes wonder how different my life would be if you had never entered it. But that is fruitless because I can’t change the past. But still I hate you, for several reasons:

  • I hate how you make me feel so weak. The fact that I fight you on a daily basis should prove that I am strong but it doesn’t. Over the last year I have taken steps to reduce you. I’ve been mostly successful but this journey has shown me how deeply rooted you are and how much further I have to go.
  • I hate that you alienate me from my friends and family. They try to be supportive but they don’t understand, how can they when they haven’t experienced you for themselves? Despite this I pray they never find out for themselves. I wouldn’t wish you on my worst enemy.
  • I hate how you make things that should be enjoyable so draining. Holidays, trips to theatres, cinemas and concerts. I should enjoy these things, I did used to enjoy these things. I still do to a certain extent but it is in these public situations that I fear you the most. Fear can be exhausting.
  • I hate how isolated you make me feel. Stupid really, when so many people experience anxiety or another mental health problem at some point in their life. Why do you make me feel like such an outsider?!

But I have some bad news for you. I am stronger than you think! I will keep fighting you, keep reducing you and keep reminding myself that I can do it! You get inside my head and make me think I’m pathetic but I am going to prove to you, myself and anyone else who doubts me that I can beat you! I have low days but I always bounce back.

Now its your turn to be afraid because I am coming for you!

Yours sincerely,

Hayley

Wholegrain Blueberry Muffins

Its no secret that I have a sweet tooth. I also love blueberries so frankly I’m surprised its taken me this long to try to make a wholegrain version of these muffins! All I did was take a recipe from an old cookbook and swap the flour but I loved the taste and texture. I’ve found that wholegrain flour works really well with recipes containing fruit or nuts and these muffins are no exception =)

Wholegrain Blueberry Muffins

Makes approx 12

Ingredients

  • 250g Plain wholegrain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g Soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 225ml milk
  • 55g unsalted butter, melted
  • 125g blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper cases. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.
  2. Add the beaten egg, milk and melted butter to the bowl and stir in lightly, do not over mix. Fold in the blueberries and divide the mix between the paper cases.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes then cool on a wire rack. (If you can wait that long… I normally can’t!)

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I love the way the blueberries pop in the oven as they bake! Delicious =)

Take care,

Hayley x

Little steps for October

This post is going to be a little different to other months. Normally I would recap last months steps before I set my goals for October. That’s a bit difficult seeing as I scrapped my steps for September when I took my blogging break. Everything was getting on top of me so I decided to forget about them and try again in October. So I’ve modified last months goals and added an extra one.

  1. Try meditation. I’ve always been intrigued by meditation, time I tried it out for myself!
  2. Get back into baking. I did start this in September and I plan to keep going. Watch out for some new recipes soon =)
  3. Revamp my Anxiety Bucket List. I explained in yesterdays post that I talked to my therapist about my Bucket List. He suggested that I add some things that I know I will enjoy, to make it less daunting. My therapist made made a good point, the things on the list are to help my well-being as well as reduce my anxiety, they don’t all have to be big scary challenges. I’m going to try to make it more fun!

Those are my goals for the month. What are yours?

Hayley x

Medication update

I saw my doctor yesterday, it was a follow up appointment to talk about how I’m getting on with reducing my meds. When I reduced the first time it went really well but when I reduced them again…It’s no secret that the last few weeks have been difficult for me. I was hoping to keep reducing them but it’s not going to happen. I’ve been struggling, especially late at night when I can’t sleep. I explained this to the doctor and he prescribed me trazodone to help me sleep. So I’m going to stay on my current dose of propanalol and hope that once I’m sleeping better I’ll feel better in myself.

I also saw my therapist yesterday. I told him about my doctors appointment. I also explained that coming off my meds was on my bucketlist but that I’m not going to pursue it anymore. Sure I could force myself to keep going so I can say “I’ve done it!!! Tick it off the list!” But at what cost? I would have gotten myself into a state just so I could tick something off my list! That would be plain stupid so I’m drawing a line, I’m sticking to my current dose. I’ll leave “Come off medication” on my bucket list, I might try again in the future but for now it’s off the cards. My therapist said he thought that was sensible thing to do and its good that I’m putting my health first. He also asked about other things on my list and suggested that I add smaller things that I know I will enjoy so that it doesn’t get too overwhelming. He pointed out that not everything On my list has to be a big challenge, the important thing is that it will effect my wellbeing. He is right, I’d overlooked that. So I’ll be adapting my bucketlist very soon! Time to make it more fun! :)

Take care,
Hayley x

The gift/curse of imagination

I’m a dreamer. I have been for as long as I can remember. I like imagining situations, making them the best possible version of themselves. In other words imagining the perfect outcome or what I wish would happen. This isn’t a problem when the thing that I am imagining is pure fiction (My favourite at the moment is appearing on QI (British TV show) alongside Stephen Fry and Alan Davis… I LOVE that show!) The problem comes when I imagine/daydream the best possible outcome for something that is really happening.

A year ago I was in a really bad place mentally. My anxiety was thrashing me, I had a bit of a breakdown and ended up leaving my job. I had no choice but to come out about my anxiety, up until then nobody apart from one close friend had known about it. Suddenly everyone knew and I felt like an outcast, an invalid. I dreamt about overcoming my anxiety but I didn’t believe I could. The only thing I did know back then was that I had hit rock bottom and that meant the only way was up. I started looking at ways of reducing my anxiety and eventually that led to me starting this blog.

I have come a really long way since starting the blog in January. I know that and I am proud of myself but it has left me with another problem. I used to daydream about being able to do things that scared me, things like going on holiday again or going to a concert or the theatre. I have done all three of those things now and that takes me closer to the big goal, beating my anxiety (or at least reducing it to a point that it doesn’t take over my life). Its fantastic that I am doing these things that before I only dreamt of doing but this is where my daydreaming turns around and bites me. Because as I said earlier, when I dream up these scenarios I come up with the best possible outcome. That’s only natural right? But it means that when something goes wrong it hits extra hard because the scenario I had imagined was so much better and it felt like I was so close!

I think that is why September has been so hard for me. I was doing so well and then something went wrong and it really shook me up! My perfect scenario was snatched away and old doubts and insecurities crept in. Add that to the fact that I was already trying to adjust to my lowered medication and its not surprising that I practically fell to pieces. My time out from Twitter and blogging has helped me see this more clearly. Once I stopped focussing on it and forcing myself to try to make sense of all this stuff, it suddenly became clear. Typical huh?

I like my creative/imaginative side and I always will but I can see that sometimes its unhelpful. From now on I’m going to try to keep my daydreaming purely fictional, like my appearance on QI or the time I helped Batman foil the Joker…

My point is in real life things rarely go the way you dreamt they would but that is what makes life so interesting! I am still going to look at things optimistically, that’s just me, but from now on no more daydreamed outcomes. Imagination can be a curse as well as a gift!

Take care,

Hayley x

Seeing things more clearly

So I’m back from my week “off”. First I want to say thank you to everyone who left me a comment or sent me a tweet or DM on Twitter. I really appreciate your support and I did manage to clear my head a bit. I wrote a post earlier about imagination which will be posted tomorrow. It kind of appeared in my head and it was great to be able to write it without a deadline in mind. I don’t know why I put pressure on myself but I do know that it was a relief to step away from that for a while. I did some gardening, a bit of baking (I will be posting the recipe in the next couple of weeks) and most importantly, once I stopped trying to make sense of my feelings, I could suddenly see them clearly. How typical is that?!

As most of you will know, I have been reducing my meds for the last couple of months. When I initially reduced to 30g it went well. I add a few difficult days but I soon adjusted to the new dose and I felt great. Then I lowered again to 20g at the beginning of the month… It hasn’t gone well.

I admit it, September has been a hard month for me. A couple of days after I lowered my meds something happened that scared me half to death. That post is here. It shook me up badly and as much as I don’t want to say it, I haven’t felt right since. I think that it was probably caused by a combination of the scare and my lowered medication but my mood and heightened sense of anxiety isn’t improving. I have my follow up appointment with my doctor on Monday and I am going to ask if I can go back up to 30g of propanalol. I didn’t want to do that, I had hoped to come off my meds altogether but I have to be realistic here. Its not happening. If I lowered my meds again I could be seriously risking my mental health. The dose I am on at the moment isn’t doing anything for me, this is the most anxious I have felt for a long time. I have to go back up, if I don’t it would only be because I want to be able to say that I’ve come off my meds altogether. That would be idiotic and could have serious consequences. I have to get my priorities straight and right now my mental health is number one. I will go back up to 30g and maybe at some point in the future I will try again.

On Monday I was given the date that my therapy will end, 27th October. I have four more sessions. Hopefully I will be feeling a bit more stable by then. I’m determined to make October a better month!

Take care,

Hayley x

Taking a break

I’m going to start this post by retyping a series of tweets I posted earlier:

I’ve been a bit AWOL lately, sorry. Time for total honesty, I’ve been finding life difficult lately and I don’t even know why. I’ve blogged about my experiences lately to try to sort things out in my head. I’ve had limited success with that. I don’t know what to say except I’m going to keep working through whatever “it” is. Sometimes positivity is all that keeps me going but I KNOW that I can work through this, no matter how hard it is now. My point is, we are all stronger than we think we are. Remember that x

I have been struggling for the last 3/4 weeks, it started with my Mam’s health scare a few posts back. I’m not going to drone on about that any more. I bet everyone is sick of it by now! My Mam is fine, she’s back at work and I have accepted that I did the best that I could when I was in that scary situation. I thought that once I had “forgiven” myself for panicking that day I would be able to move on. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened, I’ve found myself stuck in a really strange mood and I haven’t managed to break free yet. I say yet because I know that I will, one way or another. Some people may be against positivity but it’s what keeps me going. I don’t know how I would get by without it!

I lowered my medication again a couple of days before the scare happened. Obviously I did this with prior agreement with my doctor and I will be seeing him at the end of the month to discuss how I’m getting on.  Maybe reducing my meds is what started my problem and maybe it isn’t. All I know is I have been feeling unmotivated. I have struggled to blog or tweet about anything worthwhile and I am feeling increasing pressure to produce something. I am racking my brain trying to find the words to explain what is going on with me right now. I can’t find the right words and that frustrates me. I have tried blogging about other things, I have a list of subjects I would like to blog about at some point. But I can’t focus on them, I can’t get into the subjects. Anything I write sounds robotic, forced and fake. In my Little Steps post for September I aimed to start baking again and post the recipes. I made blueberry muffins a week ago, I have the photos and the recipe but I haven’t managed to post it yet. I haven’t made any real progress on September’s Little Steps and the month is drawing to a close. I’m feeling pressure because of that. It is pressure that I am creating, no one else and I know that. I know that although some of you were looking forward to new recipes, you won’t mind if they are posted later than planned. I know you would tell me to look after myself first. I am taking the decision to bin the Little Steps for this month. Maybe I’ll start them again next month, I’ll see how it goes. For now I just need some breathing space, I am releasing the pressure that I seem to have put on myself. The pressure bothers me because I was feeling a similar kind of self inflicted pressure when my anxiety reached breaking point last year. It led to me being put on sick leave and later leaving my job.

I’m seeing this as a warning sign. I need a break and I need to sort myself out. I’m taking a week off the blog and twitter. It might be longer, if it is I’ll check in and let everyone know. Hell it might be shorter, I might be bored stiff in a couple of days! Either way I’ll keep you all updated. You don’t how much all of your support means to me <3

My plan for now is to talk everything through with my therapist on Monday and take a week out with no “pressure”. No pressure to instantly pull myself together. No pressure to post and tweet. I desperately need this time and i will try to make the most of it.

Take care,

Hayley x

Ticking off: Go to the theatre

Today I can tick something big off my bucket list. The funny thing is I didn’t know I would be doing this until two days ago. The Lion King is coming to my local theatre. The shows are all practically sold out! I thought I had missed out, as all the decent seats were gone and I like to sit near the end of the row. Its a safety behaviour, I feel calmer if I know I can get out easily, without disrupting other people. The company my dad works for have been helping to advertise The Lion King and out of the blue his company were given some free tickets for the dressed rehearsal! Only a couple of hundred tickets were made available, it was a kind of “warm up” performance before the real shows started. So me and my Mam went =D

I was nervous but I’m at the point now that I know it is just anticipatory anxiety and that 90% of the time I am fine. I was tested pretty early on but I think I handled it well. We had to queue in the lobby (I think that’s the right word?) and it was really crowded. One of my triggers is claustrophobia and I did start to feel uneasy. Luckily I was next to the stairwell that goes to a different part of the building so I knew there was an open space that I could easily reach. If I had been on the other side of the room, up against the wall, I would have been really panicking. There was a man behind me who kept tutting and looking at his watch, we were waiting in this room for about 20 minutes. He helpfully said to his partner “Get ready, when they open the door it’ll be like the charge the light brigade! Everyone will rush forward and squish through.” That didn’t help my anxiety and I silently willed him to SHUT UP! I’m glad to say there was no charging, no rushing and no squishing. When we were being shown to our row, my mam asked the steward if there was any way we could sit on the end because I’m claustrophobic. He kindly found us two seats right on the end, it really helped me relax. Its funny how little things can make a big difference.

The show was incredible! I loved it and I’m really pleased to be able to tick “Go to the theatre” off my list. I feel more confident now about tackling similar things on my list, I think a trip to the cinema will be next! I bought myself a Lion King mug so that every time use it I can remember today =) I’ve been really down the last couple of weeks and I needed this boost. Right now I feel great and I hope it will last!

Hakuna Matata!

Hayley x

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Yep I don’t have a title for this post because I haven’t got a clue what I am going to write about! Is there such thing as bloggers block? Like writers block but typing rather than writing? Actually scrap that, I’ve got brain block! I’ve been feeling very muddled up lately and I want to blog about it but I can’t quite find the words. I’m hoping that if I just start typing the words will come. I’m also hoping it will help me sort my head out. Here goes…

As most of you will know my Mam had a health scare recently and I took her to A&E. The original post is here if you want to read it. Its fair to say that I wasn’t very proud of how I handled the situation. I barely held it together and I should have been concentrating on my Mam, not my anxiety. I saw my therapist on Monday and we talked it through. He made me see that I did the best I could. The fact that nobody else knew how panicky I was means that I did cope in my own way, even if I felt I should have done better. I felt happier after talking to my therapist about it and I hoped that meant that I would get back to “normal”. I’ve been in a strange mood ever since the health scare and I can’t seem to get free. I’ve felt shakier, more on edge and less in control of my anxiety. I feel wary, almost on guard, I constantly fear that a panic attack is imminent.

What’s changed? A couple of days before the health scare I lowered my meds again. I’m now on 20g Propanalol twice a day. When I originally lowered my meds from 40g to 30g I had a couple of bad days but then I adapted to the new dose and I was ok. I expected that that would happen again this time but the “couple of bad days” has turned into a bad couple of weeks! Is it down to my lower meds, the big shock I had when my Mam took ill or a combination of the two? I’ve felt panicky, tearful and generally unmotivated and I hate it!

So now I have all these conflicting feelings in my head. Have I lowered my meds again too soon? Should I soldier on and hope that now things at home have calmed down, I will too? Should I go to the doctors and raise my meds back up before things get worse? I just don’t know any more. There’s only one thing I know for certain. I’m afraid.

Any advice is welcome.

Take care,

Hayley x