Lauren Rose on living with anxiety and agoraphobia

If you had told me at the age of 22 that I’d spend the next three years incredibly anxious and housebound, I wouldn’t have believed you.

My issues with anxiety seemed to come completely out of left field – one day I was a normal twenty-something; enjoying life, working part-time and travelling abroad multiple times a year, and then a few short months later I was too afraid to leave my house.

What happened?

I started having panic attacks. My first one was not triggered by anything in particular; I didn’t even know what was happening to me when it occurred. I was at work and suddenly I felt faint. My heart started beating faster, and I thought I was going to be sick. I went to the bathroom, looked at my face in the mirror and I actually watched as the colour drained from my face. I figured I must have eaten something bad, so I wrote it off as no big deal. But the next day, it happened again. I felt so unwell all of a sudden, and so nervous because of the attacks. What was happening to me? Why did I keep feeling so faint and weird? Panic attacks are tricky things, and the more you fear them happening, the more they happen – that can start the vicious cycle of a panic disorder.

I would freak myself out so much at the idea of having another ‘attack’ that I’d have them daily, sometimes multiple times a day. I started to associate having panic attacks with leaving the house – as that was when I seemed to have them – so I figured the logical thing to do was to stop leaving the house. I didn’t realise at the time, but this was the beginnings of agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a condition whereby the sufferer avoids being in places or situations where there appears to be no escape. For many, including myself, it leaves us unable to leave our ‘safe place’, which is usually our homes, or in more extreme cases, even one’s bedroom. Maybe you’ve seen agoraphobics depicted on TV or in movies, where the agoraphobic is perfectly OK inside, but then as soon as they open the front door, the world starts spinning. Unfortunately for sufferers, agoraphobia is a lot more than a bit of wonky vision.

I would wake up anxious. Before I’d even opened my eyes, the anxious thoughts in my head would be on loop. ‘What if this happens? What if that happens?’ I would think about going out that day, only to have the thought immediately shut down by both my physical and mental self. My hands would shake. My gut would churn. My mind would start visualising every possible bad outcome. You can’t go out, I’d think. You might panic. You might get sick. You might not be able to get home. You might embarrass yourself. And then I’d spend the rest of the day feeling resigned, failed, and trapped. Because that’s the problem with agoraphobia – you spend all of your time desperately trying to feel safe, and yet the more you isolate yourself, the more fearful you become.

“I would wake up anxious. Before I’d even opened my eyes, the anxious thoughts in my head would be on loop.”


After agoraphobia took hold, my life changed dramatically. I stopped working. I stopped going out. I missed going to birthday parties, I missed weddings, baby showers, holiday parties. I missed going on dates, I missed socialising with friends and family, I missed out on every single thing that happened beyond my front door. I said no to absolutely everything, because I was too scared of what might happen if I said yes. My anxiety became so bad in 2014 that I became too anxious to eat, too anxious to be awake, too anxious about any sensation in my body in case it meant something terrible. I was so afraid of the outside world that opening the door to my house seemed terrifying. The worst part was when people would tell me I just needed to calm down, or relax. Panic disorder and agoraphobia is irrational. Have you ever tried arguing with someone that cannot see logic? That’s what it is like having someone tell you to calm down during a panic attack. The body goes into fight or flight mode, a physiological response which sends adrenaline coursing through your bloodstream. It is survival mode at the most instinctual level. Agoraphobics know that their fear is irrational, but the body has already become trained to respond to the imagined threat.

In 2015, I gave birth to my daughter. The hardest part about it was getting myself to the hospital! After we brought her home, something changed in me. I knew I couldn’t continue living the way I had been. I didn’t want my daughter to grow up saying ‘Mummy is too scared to go outside’. I started to work on exposure sessions, which is where I would go outside and ‘expose’ myself to the fear, until I began to feel less afraid. At first I could only make it outside the front of my house. After a week I could walk a few houses away. After a couple of months, I was able to go to my first mothers group, which was a five minute drive from my house.

“Agoraphobia is an extremely difficult and uncomfortable disorder, but it isn’t a life sentence”


In the last year I have made huge progress with my agoraphobia – I was even able to spend Christmas away from home, with my family. In a lot of ways it has gotten much easier over time to face my fears, although I still have bad days. The most important thing that I’ve learned is to be consistent, because if I let myself believe that ‘I can’t’ enough, then I begin to struggle. The trick is to surround yourself with people who believe in you and support you, and to realise that it’s okay to be human. It’s perfectly okay to be afraid, but you cannot let that stop you from moving forward. Shutting yourself off from the world doesn’t keep you safe, it only keeps you locked inside your own fear.

If you are struggling with agoraphobia, be gentle with yourself. The idea of recovery may completely overwhelm you at first, but there is still progress in baby steps, just like there is in leaps and bounds – you just need to believe at some level that you are capable of much more than you give yourself credit for. Agoraphobia is an extremely difficult and uncomfortable disorder, but it isn’t a life sentence. You can and will recover.

Written by Lauren Rose

Una Foye, Research Officer for the Mental Health Foundation on the link between bullying and eating disorders

I’ll never forget the day in secondary school when someone told me my legs were ‘too skinny’ and looked like ‘something that would hang out of a birds nest’. It’s not uncommon to hear things like this as a teenager (and sometimes as an adult too). How we look, our weight, or clothes and image can be a target for comments – in fact, recent Ditch the Label research found that appearance was cited as the number one aggressor of bullying. Whether it’s just ‘banter’, teasing or a more aggressive form of bullying, who we are physically is frequently something that is used against us.

With that in mind, it’s not surprising to learn that bullying is highly linked to eating disorders. In 2012 B-eat (the leading eating disorder charity in the UK) found that 86% of people felt bullying had contributed to their eating disorder and 75% felt that the bullying they experienced still affects them. It’s important to point out that not everyone who has been bullied gets an eating disorder, and visa-versa, but this strong link between the two suggests that there’s something there.

We’ve all heard the phrase “stick and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” but that that simply isn’t true. The comments about how we look and who we are hurt us – not because they say you look too fat/ skinny/ tall/ short/ whatever it is; they hurt us because they imply we are are less important, are a bad person or are worthless. And that affects our self-esteem. Self-esteem isn’t about loving yourself, or thinking you are amazing, it’s about how you see your own worth. For eating disorders, low self-esteem is believed to be one of the major underlying factors.

While anyone would (naturally) get upset or feel hurt by such negative comments, someone with low self-esteem might take them more seriously. Because self-esteem is about how you see and value yourself, being told you are ‘wrong’ in any way by another person can reflect and confirm your own self-doubts. This is how it’s been described by many people to me; whether they have anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. It is often when someone else starts to point out your flaws that these self-loathing thoughts begin to grow, and this can impact your mental wellbeing and lead to things such as an eating disorder.

Think of it like a garden (bear with me on this one). Hurtful comments, bullying, negativity from others and all of those things that people say to you are the seeds to an eating disorder. Some people are like concrete and are resilient to the comments – you throw the seeds there but they don’t grow. Some people are like freshly watered soil and absorb – you throw the seeds and they are quickly sown. The same seeds create different outcomes. The bullying might not “cause” an eating disorder, but it provides the seeds for it, if there is fertile ground for those seeds to sow those negative thoughts.

When I was told how skinny my legs were, I didn’t get angry at the girl for saying it, I didn’t think about why she was saying it, I simply agreed that my legs were horrible and ensured for the next ten years of my life I covered them up. And that’s something I’ve heard over and over again from people with all types of eating disorders; ‘the people that bullied me aren’t wrong, they’ve just reminded me what a worthless person I am’. An eating disorder isn’t about extreme dieting as a result of someone saying you are fat, it’s about hearing those words and letting negative thoughts spiral towards self-hatred.

“What makes eating disorders difficult to overcome without professional help is the insidious way they progressively damage an already impaired self. They ultimately become a person’s identity rather than merely an illness the person experiences.” (Andersen, Cohn & Holbrook, 2000, p.185).

If there is one thing that I’ve learnt from my experiences, it is that we are often our own worst bullies. And you don’t have to have an eating disorder for that to be true. Just think about how you talk to yourself when getting ready in the morning. Have you ever looked at yourself and said “look at the state of you” or changed ten times because no matter what you wear it is never good enough? We talk to ourselves in negative voices every day. Would you ever talk to a friend or stranger in the voice you talk to yourself in? When is the last time you gave yourself a compliment, or allowed someone else to compliment you (rather than arguing they are wrong)?

How we talk to ourselves and how we values ourselves is one the major predictors of our mental wellbeing. I’m not saying we all have to love ourselves, just try and value yourself as a worthwhile human. And remember, that it’s okay to feel a bit rubbish about yourself sometimes – behind every superhero is an alter ego who doesn’t feel good enough. It’s about not letting that take over and become the norm.

Written by Una Foye (@unafoyeResearch Officer at the Mental Health Foundation
Mental Health

What is Self-Harm?

Although sometimes misunderstood as attention seeking, those who self-harm usually do so as a way to cope with deep emotions, distress or traumatic experiences. It can sometimes be a way to try and show how they are feeling; a ‘cry for help’ if they are unable to voice this. It can be a way to relieve unbearable tension, take control of their life and to handle scary emotions, moods, and feelings.

People who self-harm may feel self-hatred and have very low self-esteem. They may also feel sad, anxious, lonely, guilty, numb, disconnected, empty, hopeless, unworthy or trapped. Sometimes the act of self-harming temporarily provides relief from these feelings.

Bullying can be a major cause of self-harming, with others including worrying about school and college work, difficulty with friends or family, money worries, issues around coming to terms with sexuality, alcohol or drug misuse, living up to cultural expectations, traumatic experiences, and bereavement or miscarriage.

We have support available here. If you are feeling suicidal or are in a potentially dangerous situation, we strongly advise you to speak to an adult or call 999.

Reach out to a dedicated self-harm organisation like selfharmUK (

To speak to someone at times of crisis:

In the UK – call The Samaritans on 116 123, they are there 24 hours a day, every day.

In the USA – call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


Comedian Joleen Lunzer lists 10 Myths About People With Bipolar Disorder

1. We’re scary

When I tell someone I have Bipolar II Disorder, they always look at me with fear in their eyes and ask, “Are you going to be okay?” However, what they’re really asking, is if they are going to be okay. The answer: No. Since bipolar is a brain disorder, the only treatment is to eat your brains! Okay, that’s not true. But if I ever become a zombie, all bets are off.

2. We’re hyper-sexual

Sorry to get your hopes up, but this is a myth. Not everyone who is bipolar is Netflix and chillin’ every night. And even if we were, it’s none of your business.

3. We can’t be trusted

Don’t worry, we’re not going to steal your sneakers or share your secrets. I’m actually a very loyal friend. I’m great at keeping secrets. For example, I’ve never told anyone that my friend Victoria steals the toilet paper from her work and that I once caught her flossing her teeth with her hair. Wait…pretend I didn’t write that.

4. We’re not really bipolar because bipolar disorder is a made up mental health condition

Whenever I hear people questioning the legitimacy of bipolar disorder, I always ask, “Where did you go to medical school again?” That usually shuts them up. Then I remind myself that those who think bipolar disorder isn’t real are the same people who believe that the earth is flat and that Jay Z is a time-traveling vampire.

5. There’s no hope. We’re doomed

False. There ARE ways to manage bipolar. Medication, therapy, exercise, getting enough sleep and a healthy diet are just some of the great ways we manage our disorder. However, sometimes, lying in bed and eating a pound of chocolate while crying works just as well.

6. Bipolar is a weakness of mind and we should just get over it

Mental illness is difficult for some people to understand because unlike other illnesses, you can’t always see it. The wounds are internal and the pain is often hidden behind closed doors, but it is a legitimate medical condition that requires treatment. You wouldn’t tell a person with pneumonia to just get over it. And you wouldn’t look at someone with a broken arm and say, “You’re just being weak.”

If you would say those things, you need to enrol in a human anatomy class ASAP.

7. We’re manic all the time


Never mind…everything is awful. I hate you. I’m going to bed.
Some people think this is what it’s like for us every day, but it’s not. Mania comes in episodes; it’s not constant.

8. Arguments and disagreements are always our fault

When you are honest about yourself, you run the risk of having it unfairly thrown back in your face. During a disagreement, the blame tends to fall on us. Why? Because it’s easy, and then the other parties involved don’t have to take any responsibility. But the truth is, it’s not always our fault. Sometimes I’m a jackass and sometimes you are too. It’s that simple.

9. We’re crazy.

Unfortunately, crazy has become synonymous with bipolar. Whenever someone thinks a person is acting “crazy,” they label him or her bipolar. Here’s the deal – we are somewhat crazy, but so is everyone else. We live in a crazy world and it rubs off on all of us. Own it. Embrace your crazy because there is no such thing as a normal person. The people who are willing to admit they’re crazy, are actually the sanest ones of all. Self-awareness is cool!

10. We’re all really attractive

This isn’t actually a myth. It’s true! Everyone with bipolar disorder is insanely attractive (see what I did there). We’re also very humble. We’re hot and we’re humble, but mostly hot.

Written by Joleen Lunzer

We talked body positivity, self-love and naked selfies with three life models who subvert dominant ideologies, and unapologetically bare all to a room full of strangers on a regular basis. Amy, Caitlin and Olivia all make a living posing nude for artists; they tell us what it is really like to be the muse behind a masterpiece.

DTL: What motivated you to become a life model?

Amy: I’ve suffered from disordered eating, most acutely between the ages of about 19 and 22. I started life modelling when I was 20 as a conscious attempt to change my perception of my body, to try to see it as something to be used rather than as just something that was there to look a certain way, to conform to arbitrary beauty standards.

Olivia: I’m pretty disproportionate. I have quite an odd body shape and a life drawing class, I feel, is one of the few places where that’s a good thing. I spoke to other artists and they told me I would be good to draw, so I thought I’d try it out.

[full-width-figure image=”” alt=”2016_Draw_photos-7757″]

DTL: How did it feel the very first time you stood nude in front of a class? How did you build up enough confidence in order to do that?

Amy: I think when people ask me this they want me to say it was really scary and difficult, but it honestly didn’t bother me because I was so positive that doing it was going to help me love myself. In that moment, it didn’t matter whether or not I was happy with my body, because that wasn’t the point. The point was to do good poses with the body I had. Despite having had a bad relationship with body image, in the context of the life class, getting naked just felt so right.

Olivia: I’ll be honest, it didn’t really bother me. It’s an entirely different context from say, sex or burlesque or some kind of steamy fashion shoot. You’re there to help people and they’re really appreciative of that. People are so kind and grateful that you’re willing to sit for them. I went away from my first session feeling better than I’d ever felt about myself.

“Nudity seems to be okay as long as you’re skinny and tall but if you’re nude and your body does not comply with those standards, it is seen as controversial” – Olivia

DTL: Has your perception of your body changed since becoming a life model?

Caitlin: Yes! As a cis-woman bombarded with terrible, unattainable standards, the relationship with your body can be bitter, confused and isolating. To do something, any remarkable thing with your body; whether that is modelling, dancing, swimming or pogo jumping – provides you with a sense of wonder that we should all feel for our incredible, glorious, capable bodies. The body becomes an important part of the self when you model; it’s your instrument of expression and you come to realise the instrument may have some wonky keys and dusty bridges but it’s beautiful and valuable just the way it is.

Amy: My perception of my body has definitely changed since becoming a life model. I can’t say that it was life modelling alone that helped me overcome my fraught relationship with food and my body, but it has played a huge part. Now when I think about the parts of my body that I used to try to shrink and change, I see them as unique shapes and lines and textures that I can use to inspire people.

[full-width-figure image=””]

DTL: How do you think nudity is perceived in today’s society? And do you think those perceptions vary depending on gender, age, race, disability?

Olivia: I think nudity is pretty normal. It’s everywhere. Unfortunately, it’s a very specific kind of nudity; whitewashed, overtly sexual and unrealistic. Nudity seems to be okay as long as you’re skinny and tall but if you’re nude and your body does not comply with those standards, it is seen as controversial. It’s so ridiculous. It needs to change. My friend’s 8-year-old daughter came up to her and asked if she could go on a diet because she thought she was fat. That is not ok!

Caitlin: There are socially acceptable and non-acceptable bodies. There are bodies we should be ashamed to walk around in, and some that we should flaunt. There are things we should do with our bodies and there are things we shouldn’t. And of course those perceptions are rooted in patriarchal, racist, ageist, ableist ideas that have been perpetuated by the whitewashed skinny media. Perpetuated because sex and shame sell. Dash that, and be nude in a safe place. We come as we are! And I think that’s worth celebrating. It’s also worth disregarding the guilt trip that makes you feel like you should be buying another god-damn yogurt product. You don’t need it.

“If a company can profit from your self-hatred, you can bet they’ll do anything to incite it!” -Amy

Amy: Where do I start?! The way we see nudity is absolutely contextual – women’s bare ankles were once perceived as obscene but now we don’t care about flashing a bit of skin below shin-level. Instagram has recently come under fire for deleting pictures of fat women in underwear under their anti-nudity policy, but not thin ones. And of course, our perception of nudity is gendered, you only have to look at the Free the Nipple campaign or the public breastfeeding debate to see that. What we see as the female body is sexualised in ways that our idea of the male body is not. Because our idea of nudity is so rooted in the sexual, it’s hard for anyone who isn’t young, thin, white and able-bodied – ie. conventionally attractive – to be naked without being shamed, ridiculed or attacked in some way.

There’s a perceived obscenity in naked old bodies, or naked disabled bodies, or naked fat bodies, because of the sex aspect that’s so tied in with nudity, but then when someone conventionally attractive like Kim Kardashian bares all, she’s slut-shamed. No one can win really.

I think life modelling really takes the sex out of nudity. You have to take the sex out before you can put it back in (if necessary)! When you life model, you’re not posing to be sexual, you have a body with breasts, genitalia, a bum – why is showing these things any different from showing your nose or your elbow?

[full-width-figure image=””]

DTL: What is your opinion on naked selfies?

Olivia: I take a lot of them because they make me feel good about myself. I don’t tend to share them, I just keep them to look at when I feel a bit rubbish about myself. It might sound a bit sad but it works for me! I see no reason why people shouldn’t do something that makes them feel good about themselves. The only worrying thing, is if they fall into the wrong hands. That’s why I don’t share mine, I don’t want them used for anything without my consent. I think that’s what people have to watch out for. If you are going to share them or send them to people, good on you! Just make absolutely sure that they are in the hands of people you trust. Your privacy is important and if someone is privileged enough to see a naked selfie of you they should know to treat you with respect and you should be sure that they’ll do just that.

Amy: This may sound pretentious but I do think selfies are a form of artistic expression, especially when women and girls and non-binary people do it, because in a patriarchal world that strives to tell you you’re not thin or pretty or otherwise conforming enough in order to profit from you, to love yourself is a revolutionary act. People can say it’s vain if they like, so what, I’m vain! Vanity is radical when you don’t fit the aesthetic status quo. I think taking naked selfies can be a great way to have fun with your body and your identity, whether or not the pictures are sexual.

There is a lot to be said for the desexualisation of nudity, but I don’t think it’s productive to demonise naked selfies that have a sexual connotation. As long as the picture is taken for the right reasons – for fun, for self-exploration – and the sharing of that selfie is consensual, I fully support the rise of the naked selfie!

“To love yourself is a revolutionary act” -Amy

DTL:  What tips would you give to our readers who may be struggling to embrace their body?

Amy: I’m privileged to be able-bodied, and to earn enough money to feed myself, and it’s important to be aware of those privileges if you have them. I also think it’s important to realise that a lot of the time, the voices that tell us to hate ourselves aren’t our voices, they’re put in our heads by the diet industry or the fashion industry, the film and magazine industry – capitalism basically. If a company can profit from your self-hatred, you can bet they’ll do anything to incite it! Remembering and resisting that is radical.

Caitlin: Embrace your body as an instrument of fun and adapt your relationship with it. It is not easy to accept the parts of yourself that you do not like, but the effort to do so is worth it.

Olivia: Fake it till you make it. You may not feel wholly confident but if you act like it after a while you’ll start to feel that way too. It takes the same amount of work to hate your body as it does to love it. Body confidence is so important, not just for yourself but if other people see someone who loves themselves unconditionally then it will spur them on to do the same. I’ve found people who are the most confident in themselves to also be the most kind, the most giving and the most supportive. And, the most beautiful. Regardless of their size or age or the colour of their skin – they glow, they radiate goodness. You can’t buy that, no matter what the adverts say. Don’t get me wrong, it takes a hell of a lot of work but it’s so worth it.

[full-width-figure image=””]

DTL: Final thoughts?

Amy: I think life modelling and life drawing is a good chance to celebrate body diversity. I think any way that more people of colour, disabled people, trans people, fat people and older people – anyone who isn’t the same white, young, thin, able-bodied cisgender person that we already see represented everywhere – can be encouraged to model is a step towards universal body positivity.

Thanks to Olivia Hancock, Caitlin Mckeon, Amy Squirrel, Mary Martin and Draw Brighton.

We interviewed DJ Matt Howes

Matt Howes is an unofficial world record holder, charity ambassador and, amputee. In 2011, he was in Greece when his moped was hit by a car; he survived the accident but lost his right arm in surgery. Just two weeks after the accident, Matt was back behind the decks, despite having no practise. He puts his speedy recovery down to his love for music and performing.

DtL: What motivates you?

Matt: I am very lucky to be alive; if my accident taught me anything – it’s to appreciate life. Something I read recently, rung true, and it stayed with me: ‘If you are anxious you are living in the future and if you are depressed you are living in the past’. My advice to anyone who is feeling down, would be to always try the best you can to live in the moment – the here and now. Don’t worry about what tomorrow might bring, you have no control over that.

DtL: What has been your recipe for success?

Matt: I’m a big believer in positive thinking and the Law of Attraction – if you focus and harness your energy into thinking positively, things begin to change for the better. I noticed my own life start to completely transform when I began to think optimistically about things.

If you are struggling to rid yourself of negative thoughts, a good way to start is to write down everything you have to be thankful for, such as a roof over your head, health, food, water, good friends, family etc. It’s a simple and easy reminder that there are numerous things to appreciate, and things aren’t as bad as they might seem.


DtL: Ditch the Label research found that 63% of those with a physical disability are likely to experience extreme bullying and social exclusion. What advice would you give to those experiencing bullying or feel like they don’t fit in/doubt themselves because of attitudes towards a disability?

Matt: Remember that you are not alone. We are all in this together, and no matter how dark some days may seem, things do get better.

I was bullied throughout high school, and in reflection, I think it is important not to suffer in silence; speak to someone, tell them what you are going through – you need a support network during difficult times. People that bully are obviously projecting their own stress and trauma onto others. Everyone deals with their issues in different ways, and it is natural to want to vent your emotions, but inflicting the same pain and misery onto someone else doesn’t do anything to solve your own problems.

DtL: What is it like to have a disability in 2016? Have you faced any challenges/ prejudice?

Matt:I think we are heading into one of the most exciting times for disabled people, with opportunities opening up across the board. Important events like the Paralympics, are helping to raise awareness about all types of disability, and this has opened up a lot of avenues to people who would have perhaps otherwise, been ignored. In particular Rebekah Marine in the US & Alex Brooker in the UK are both friends of mine who inspire me on a daily basis.

Of course there are challenges – I can’t recall a time before my accident, when I was told I ‘shouldn’t’ or, ‘couldn’t’ do something, but since losing my arm I tend to hear this quite a lot. I have also received negative feedback, but I try my best to take this in my stride – criticism is an inevitable part of life as a performer, it’s what you do with the criticism that will make or break you. I choose to learn from it; every day I learn something new about music, performing or production. I believe with hard work, dedication and practise you can achieve anything you want to.

DtL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?

Matt: Don’t worry, the best is yet to come.

You can listen to Matt Howes’s mix for the Ditch the Label Mixtape here!