Hello everyone! Today I want to talk about an amazing event that I and thousands of others are taking part in on the 12th of May 2018. Darkness Into Light is a fundraising walk that takes place every year to promote suicide awareness and raise much needed funds for Pieta House, a charity that provides free supports for people who are contemplating suicide, have attempted suicide or have engaged in self harm. If you would like more information about this wonderful organisation or the Darkness Into Light events being held around the world, I will leave the links to their websites below.
Pieta House: http://www.pieta.ie/
Darkness Into Light: https://dil.pieta.ie/
If you are familiar with my blog you will know that I am very passionate about promoting mental health awareness, so it is a privilege to be able to participate in such
an amazing event. To put things in perspective, Ireland is currently ranked 4th in the world for suicide rates among young men aged 18-24 (stopsuicide.ie), and Galway City was the 7th highest ranked area in Ireland for female suicides between 2014-2016 (Central Statistics Office). In 2016 alone, there were 399 confirmed suicides in Ireland. Those were 399 human lives tragically cut short. 399 families who lost someone they loved. 399 people who the world didn’t get to help. 399 futures lost. For most of us, even 1 is too many.
Darkness Into Light is one of the small ways we can help to raise awareness, show our support and try to save lives. If you would like to help too but can’t take part in the walk yourself, I would appreciate it if you could sponsor my walk by donating whatever you can to Pieta House via the link here. Every cent counts and your donation will go towards saving lives and preventing suicide.
Depression, self harm and suicide can affect anyone at anytime. It could be yourself, a friend, a colleague or even a family member, so please do what you can to keep services like Pieta House available to those who need it.
If you suffer from depression or have thought about harming yourself, I have left some links below with information that can help you. You are not alone and help is out there. Please reach out to services like Pieta House, they care about you and will do everything they can to help you.
Thank you in advance to everyone who donates, takes part, or just generally supports services like Pieta House. Slowly, we are all working towards a world without suicide.
I hope you all enjoy your bank holiday weekend! Please don’t forget to donate by following the link below!
No, I’m not talking about intensely scrubbing myself down in the shower!
I’m talking about a few things I have been doing recently to help boost my body internally. I always find that I feel a lot better within myself when I’m eating food that is good for me and treating my body well. I very much believe in the saying ‘Healthy body, healthy mind’ so I wanted to share some of the things I do to try and have a healthy lifestyle. I hope you enjoy!
1. Try to get at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.
I’m not a believer in crash diets or juice cleanses. I think that just eating the right foods is enough to lose weight (if that is your aim) or to help your body to stay healthy. A big part of this is making sure you get your daily intake of fruit and veg. It is easier than you think to sneak in fruit and vegetables to your daily routine. I love taking chopped carrot and cucumber to work as a snack to munch on during my tea break. Recently though I have been making an easy, healthy breakfast smoothie that I have fallen in love with. I’ll leave the recipe below!
Breakfast Smoothie Recipe (1 serving)
1 large ripe banana
1 ripe pear
1 generous handful of spinach (fresh or frozen)
2 teaspoons of hemp protein powder
1-1 1/2 glasses of water
2. Turmeric Shots
If you are like me and get bloated easily, finding something natural to help aid in digestion can make you feel a lot better. I try to start the morning with my anti-bloating immunity shot. This thing packs a punch and is not meant to taste good! If you haven’t tried a turmeric shot before beware that your bowl movements can be affected for the first few days while your body gets used to it. I will leave my recipe for it below but there are loads online. Simply heat the water, add the ingredients and let them blend together. Once cool you can keep it in the fridge for up to a week.
1 tablespoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of ginger
1 table spoon of honey
Juice of 1 orange
1/4 of a cup of apple cider vinegar
4 cups of filtered water
3. Drinking lots of water
This is one you hear all the time but it really does make you feel better. It helps to clear up my troublesome skin and I’m less hungry because I’m properly hydrated. If you think water tastes too plain try to add some lemon, lime, cucumbers, berries, whatever you like to give your water some added flavor.
4. Cutting out the added sugar
My skin is very reactive to sugar. If I eat too much added sugar I will break out almost immediately, not to mention I will feel sluggish after the sugar high. It is not easy to stay away from added sugar. Alcohol, fizzy drinks, sauces, salad dressings, sweets, yogurts, takeaways, they all have a lot of hidden sugars in them! Every so often I try to go a full week (or more) with no added sugars just to give my body a bit of a break. Fruit can be a life saver for sugar cravings!
5. Cutting out the caffeine
I’ve never been a crazy caffeine addict but I do enjoy my two cups of coffee a day and I am a big fan of green tea. When I do my week or two of cutting out added sugar I also cut all caffeine out of my diet. A lot of people don’t realize the amount of caffeine they drink can be harming them, and that is before you take into account extras like whipped cream, sugar and syrups. The equivalent of three cups of coffee is the recommended maximum amount of caffeine you should have per day. If you can’t cut it out, at least try to reduce the amount you consume. Remember, caffeine isn’t just in coffee! It is in regular tea, green tea, energy drinks and a lot of fizzy drinks.
This is by far the hardest thing for me. I can be quite lazy and unmotivated to do intense exercise so I at least try to get in a long walk or two during the day. Try not to sit or lie down for longer than an hour. Even if you get up and stretch every hour it will help. Maybe throw in some jumping jacks!
This is a new thing I have just started. The type I am doing is more meditative and stretching based which is why I didn’t put it under exercise. It is an hour and a half of pure me time that is also great for my body and mind. I always feel great after it and my body gets a good stretching out which feels amazing afterwards. I also find that I have a good nights sleep after it too!
8. Less stress more sleep!
Stress can harm you in so many ways, mind and body. Personally my anxiety isn’t great in times of stress and my neck, shoulders and lower back become tense and painful. I try my best to stay away from stressful situations or at least try to tackle them as best as I can when they can’t be avoided. Stress often affects our sleep which can put a lot of pressure on our bodies to perform without proper rest. So try to stay away from stress and get your 7-8 hours of sleep per day. Being well rested can make a huge difference!
So those are some of the things I have been doing to try and keep myself healthy. Most of them are ones you hear all the time so I would be interested in any ideas you have for me to try!
‘Think before you speak’ is something we hear from a young age but it is advice we often ignore.
It is Children’s Mental Health Week in Britain this week and I really wanted to write a blog post about it as it is an area I am very passionate about. Research in the UK has suggested that ‘Three in four mental illnesses start in childhood, with 75% of mental illnesses starting before a child reaches their 18th Birthday’. Furthermore, ‘75% of young people with a mental health problem are not receiving treatment’. (The Guardian 2017) To me this is unacceptable and something needs to be done. There are many topics surrounding this issue that need to be spoken about but I thought I would share one of the biggest things I have come to realise affect our emotional stability as we grow.
I am not an expert in this subject by any means, but I have been fortunate to learn about it through briefly studying Child Psychology and Psychotherapy and I think the more people that are aware of it the better. The area I want to discuss is the language that we use around children.
More and more we are learning that ignoring/repressing our feelings are harming us in very real ways. We often ask ourselves why we do it, why we don’t feel comfortable expressing and talking about our feelings, why we struggle to control our emotions in a healthy way. I think one of the answers to this is that we are told to do so from the moment we are born.
When a newborn child cries, it’s parent’s first reaction is to try and soothe it. One of the most common ways people do this is holding the child and saying something along the lines of ‘shhhh it’s ok, don’t cry‘.
When a toddler throws a tantrum over not getting the toy it wants and hits the other child playing with it, again a parent want’s to calm the child and will often tell them to ‘calm down‘ or they will become angry with the child and say something along the lines of ‘don’t you dare‘, ‘don’t hit your friend‘ or ‘don’t throw a tantrum‘.
When an older child comes home crying from school because someone calls them a name, again, a parent will try to soothe them by saying something like ‘don’t cry‘, ‘you don’t need to be upset‘ or ‘it doesn’t matter‘.
When a teenager is screaming at their parent because they wont let them go to a party, the frustrated parent will often scream back and/or say things like ‘don’t raise your voice at me’, ‘what are you upset for, it’s just a party’ or just ignore them and tell them to ‘go to your room’.
It may not be immediately obvious but there is a pattern here. Though we don’t mean to, we are dismissing our children’s feelings and emotions, or worse, telling them not to feel that emotion. This blog isn’t meant to make anyone feel like a bad parent, or to tell you to never discipline your kids, it is meant to make you re-think the language you use around your children when they are expressing a feeling.
I took part in group therapy for a while last year and one of the most common themes that came up was that some felt it was unacceptable to show certain feelings around their parents growing up. One participant suffered with anger issues and felt that during his childhood he was always told that expressions of anger such as shouting were “unacceptable”. Another participant felt that crying was a sign of weakness to his parents or even a “woman’s thing to do”. Another person felt they always had to be perfect because they didn’t want to be like their sibling who had tantrums and got into trouble for it a lot.
Though parent’s mean well when soothing or disciplining their child, I think a lot of them don’t realise how much of an effect what they say has on their children’s mental health. Again, I am not here to tell you how to raise your child or to criticize your parenting skills. I simply want to show you how small changes in what you say could have a big difference in your child’s mental development.
The key thing I feel is to never say ‘Don’t feel (emotion)’. By doing this you are unconsciously sending the message to your child not to feel, or that feeling certain emotions is wrong. Instead it is very important that you let them know that the feeling they are having is valid and normal. Take the earlier example of the toddler throwing a tantrum. Instead of saying ‘don’t hit your friend‘ or ‘don’t throw a tantrum‘, try saying something along the lines of ‘I understand that you are angry because you want the toy and that is ok but it is not ok to hurt another person. Why don’t you apologise to your friend and we can talk about why you are angry together.’
I’m not saying that this exact conversation will stop the tantrum or make the toddler forget about the toy. The important thing is that you are acknowledging the feeling, letting them know that having that feeling is ok, and trying to get them to express that feeling verbally with you. You are still making the toddler acknowledge the bad behaviour (the hitting) but not dismissing the feeling that caused the bad behaviour (the anger).
The same thing can be done with the upset child who was called a name. Instead of saying ‘don’t cry‘, ‘you don’t need to be upset‘ or ‘it doesn’t matter‘, you could say something like ‘It is ok to cry when you feel upset, I’m sure what happened hurt your feelings. Why don’t we talk about it and see if we can come up with a solution together‘.
In this example, you are again acknowledging the child’s emotion and letting them know that crying is a valid response to feeling upset. You are also not dismissing the importance of the event to the child by saying that the event doesn’t matter. Instead, you are teaching the child to accept what has happened, talk about it and see if there is something that can be done.
Little adjustments like this in any situation where a child is trying to express an emotion can make a huge difference on how they handle their emotions later in life. Remember, it is important that you as the parent practice what you preach. By seeing a parent deal with emotions in a healthy way, the child can learn by example. If I child sees their Mother or Father trying to hide emotions, it is quite possible that they will copy this behaviour. Children, especially very young children, idolize their parents and will try to copy what they do. It is important to recognize your own reactions to emotions and ask yourself if you are dealing with them in a healthy and constructive way, only then can we successfully teach our children how to handle their feelings properly.
I hope this blog post gave you some ideas to try and help the emotional education of the children in your life. Everyone’s mental health is important so it is imperative that we all try and support each other when we are struggling. Being a parent is the toughest job in the world so remember to check in with yourself and your own mental and physical health. The best way to look after the child in your life is to make sure you are at your best so take of yourself and remember, there is no such thing as the perfect parent.
I have left some links for you to check out if you want more information on children’s mental health. I hope you find them useful.
CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) is a popular form of intervention for people who struggle with certain mental health issues. It is generally a short-term form of therapy that deals with a very specific problem you are having. It tries to help you to understand your own thoughts and feelings and how they influence your behaviors. It is often exercise or “homework” based so you can write down and identify some behavioral patterns.
Though the main therapy I receive is not CBT, I have done a few CBT exercises throughout the years, and there is one that has always stuck out to me. I thought I would share it with you since it doesn’t take up a lot of time and you might find it interesting! It is mainly used for people with depression and/or anxiety but anyone can do it. It is quite simple; all you need is a pen and paper.
Get your piece of paper and draw a line from one side to the other.
Mark the end of the line on the left hand side with the number ‘1’ and the other end of the line on the right hand side with the number ‘10’.
Think about your mood right now and look at the line. With 1 being the most depressed/ anxious you could ever imagine feeling and 10 being the happiest and most fulfilled you could ever imagine being, think about where you would place yourself on the line right now and give it a number.
Once you are happy with the number you have chosen, think of the number above it i.e if you selected the number 4, think of the number 5. Think about what it would take for you to go from your current number to the number above it. What would need to happen for you to get there? Are there people who could help you get there? Can you take any steps today to get yourself there? You can jot down some thoughts in between the numbers.
Once you have done Step 4 look at the number 10 on the far right hand side of the line. What would your life look like if you were there? What would you be doing? Would you have a career? Where would you live? Would you be travelling? What would your relationships with other people be like? Make sure your number 10 is realistic and achievable (time travelling, married to celebrities, ruler of the world type things should be avoided!) Write down some thoughts about what your life would be like at number 10.
Once you have done Step 5, write down what you could do in the next few days to start moving towards the number above the one you are currently at. Then look at what you can do in the next few weeks etc. Write down what you need to do.
When you are happy with your plan to get to the next number, think about your number 10. Write down what you could do in the next week, month, and then the next year etc to get you to your number 10. Make a promise to yourself that you will take at least one step, no matter how small, this week to start moving towards your number 10. Remember you can include talking to someone who you think can help you get there!
It may not sound like much, but this exercise really helped me to focus and figure out what I wanted out of life. It made me realise the career I wanted and within a week, as I had promised myself, I had taken a small step to work towards that goal.
If you are feeling lost, unmotivated, or hopeless, like I was at the time, I highly suggest giving this a try. It really helps you to find a small bit of direction in your life. Even if you don’t know where you are right now, it should at least help you to find where you want to go and help you to forge a path to get there. Remember not to put too much pressure on yourself when thinking about what you need to do to get to your number 10. Slow and steady wins the race, so try to figure out small daily/weekly steps you can take to make you head in the right direction.
I hope you found this useful or at least a little bit interesting! If you did it, let me know what you thought of it, and if it helped!
A copy of the above poem was given to me by a friend and colleague as she departed to another job. It is currently pinned to my notice board at work, always in sight, to remind me the value of patience.
The proverbial phrase ‘patience is a virtue’ is, in my opinion, one of the truest statements ever said. In our current modern world, everything is instant. You can search for information and have the answer back in seconds with a quick internet search. Almost everything we could ever want is just the click of a button away. Why wait in a queue when you can order what you want online and have it delivered to your door? Food, clothes, furniture, conversation, it is all available at lightning speed online. So why wait for anything? Why do we need patience in this fast-paced world we have become accustomed to?
Patience is a virtue. It comes in many forms whether it is waiting for the cheese to melt on chips, waiting for your child to learn that screaming won’t get them what they want, or waiting for yourself to work through the stages of grief. Patience is needed but often hard to put into practice. I find that it isn’t patience with other people or things that we have the most trouble with, but patience with ourselves. We grow up wanting to become an adult so badly, waiting and waiting, impatient for the freedom that comes with being independent. We dream of getting the college course we want, the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect partner, the perfect children. When adulthood finally comes around, we expect what we want to happen instantly, like our internet searches. Eventually the reality hits in; we have to be patient, we have to wait.
When what we want doesn’t come as quickly as we had hoped we have a terrible habit of losing patience with ourselves. We start to blame, berate and bully ourselves for the imagined shortcomings we have that are holding us back. Why didn’t I save more money? Why am I not learning fast enough? Why did I make this decision? Why didn’t I see this coming? Why can’t I get a high paying job? Why can’t I afford to buy a house? Why can’t I do it? Why is it working out for everyone else? There must be something wrong with me. I must be stupid. I must not be trying hard enough. I must not be good enough. I’ll never achieve anything.
We are so quick to convince ourselves that there is something wrong with us. In a world of social media where we only show our successes, it is easy to think everyone else has the perfect life and that we are getting left behind. It is easy to think ‘what is the point?’ and give up. Just because something isn’t easy and takes time, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. We need to slow down and remember that good things come to those who wait. Focus on the little steps you can take every day to work towards you goals. Don’t knock yourself down because others are achieving their goals faster than you. Why should we expect the journey to achieving our own goals in life to be the same as someone else’s? Every life is different with its own unique experiences, how could our journeys possibly be the same?
The beginning of the year is a time for fresh starts and new goals. As you continue into this year, remember to be patient with yourself. Whatever promises you have made to yourself for this year make sure they are realistic, and what you really want to do. Don’t beat yourself up when you make a slip or aren’t doing as well as you thought. Don’t berate yourself for not doing as well as someone else. Try to focus on the steps YOU have taken to achieve your goals, no matter how small they may seem. Life is not a race, so be kind and patient with yourself this year, as well as remembering to savor every moment instead of letting your mind race off ahead of you.
I wasn’t going to write about this topic because it is getting a lot of attention at the moment, and rightly so. I think some of my thoughts surrounding the matter are quite controversial, so I was originally going to keep quiet. However, keeping quiet is what led to issues like this going on for so long, and staying silent just because I’m afraid of backlash seems silly considering the circumstances. No one will ever 100% agree with what you say, but it doesn’t mean it is not worth saying. This topic hits home for me a lot so I ask that you be respectful, as I have tried to be, if giving a response.
In this blog post I will be sharing some of the thoughts I have been having about the #TimesUp movement, and the sexual abuse and harassment allegations currently taking over the entertainment industry.
First of all I would like to say that any person who has come forward after being sexually harassed or abused is a very brave person. To have something like that happen to you and then re-live it as you tell someone about it must be a very difficult and upsetting thing to do. I commend anyone who has done it. You are an inspiration to others and it is thanks to the strength of people like you that others feel strong enough to come forward. No one, male or female, young or old, should have to feel objectified, scared or threatened anywhere in the world including their work place, home or on the street. The recent allegations have brought to light just how bad an issue this still is, but at least it gives us hope that we are now trying to make a world free of harassment, abuse and silence.
Though the #TimesUp movement is something I support, there is another side to all of this, a side I think a lot of people are afraid to talk about because of fear of upsetting or disrespecting true victims of these awful crimes. From the moment the Harvey Weinstein allegations came to light, dozens of other allegations against people in the entertainment industry have also surfaced. Though it is sad to think we still live in a society where men and women can be manipulated, abused, threatened and silenced because of the abuse of power by others, there is another harsh reality that we must also face. This reality is that there are some twisted, sick people out there who put forward false allegations.
These people not only ruin the lives of the people they accuse, but they also undermine the truth of those people who have genuinely come forward with their stories of sexual abuse and harassment. In my opinion, these people are just as bad as the true predators that commit these horrible crimes. When sexual harassment and abuse is truly reported and the person is convicted, there are still no true “winners”. The attacker’s life is rightly ruined because of their actions and the victim has to live with what has happened to them for the rest of their lives. However, when someone is falsely accused and even proven innocent, that allegation follows them for the rest of their lives. Despite not doing anything wrong, people still wonder if it was true, still look at them differently, still think of them differently. Though innocent, they can still get a life sentence.
My goal when talking about this issue is not to try and silence victims of sexual harassment or abuse, or convince you that they are liars. My goal here is to talk about how false allegations, especially of this nature, can be life-ruining for those accused. Due in part to the momentum behind the #TimesUp movement, a lot of brave people will come forward with their true stories about their terrible experiences. For their bravery I hope they are rewarded with justice. However, there will be a select few who will make false allegations to get their 15 minutes of fame, to get pity and attention from others, to get revenge on someone they dislike, whatever their reasons. By doing this they could ruin the life of a good person and call into question the true allegations brought forward by true victims.
All I ask is that when you next see an allegation in the media, stop and think about what you are hearing/reading. I ask you to remember the lives of the people involved in the allegations, both the accuser and the accused. I ask you to remember that in our mostly democratic world, people are innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.
We live in dark times, but slowly we are trying to better ourselves. For every rapist, terrorist, murderer, abuser, and silencer, there are ten of us that choose love, hope, kindness, gentleness, inclusion, understanding and laughter. There is hope for us, even though it doesn’t always seem that way. To achieve a world that is safe for future generations, we must stand together and fight for something better. We just need to make sure we are not sacrificing innocent people along the way.
I have left some links below for anyone who feels they have been the victim of sexual harassment or abuse. I implore you to use them. They will listen and they will do their best to help you, you just have to take the first step.
(get it? re-VAMP…vampires….it is Halloween tomorrow…no? just me? damn…)
So it has been a long, long time since I used my blog page.
Since I last posted, my mental health has been my main focus, and by that I mean my motivation to do anything but go to work has been pretty low. I have spent waaaaaaay too much time in bed scrolling through YouTube and not achieving very much.
I recently got back from visiting my parents in sunny Spain where I also celebrated my 26th birthday. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to spend the majority of the 26th year of my life in bed (well 27th year if you want to get technical), so to try and stop this from happening I have been spending a lot of my time pumping myself up to get my life back on track.
There are a few bits and pieces I want to change but motivation can be hard when a bout of anxiety and depression hits, and the black hole of hiding in my room with my computer and a takeaway happens. Though I have already taken steps to try and stop this from happening (therapy and medication), anxiety and depression are just part of my life, and I know I need to not be so hard on myself when they get in the way. Having a bit more love and compassion for myself is something I am trying to input into my daily life, and it is surprisingly quite hard. I have lost count of how many times I say something negative to myself, about myself, in just one single day. I am often told that the more we tell ourselves something, the more likely we are to believe it. So less calling myself lazy or stupid or crazy and more calling myself intelligent, hardworking and friendly is definitely on the agenda.
My overall fitness is another thing I want to improve on. I started off the year trying to change this and it was going pretty well until I had a three month period of low mood, leading to a total lack of motivation (hence the staying in bed too much). This time to try and preemptively stop myself from changing my mind about going the gym in evenings, I’m going to get up earlier and go in the mornings instead. I find that I have more motivation on weekday mornings so I’m hoping changing my gym routine to match my motivation levels will help me stick to going. Exercise is one of the best things you can do to keep depression at bay so I’m hoping it will also help with my mood levels in general. We will have to wait and see!
Overall I am trying to create a more positive environment for myself. Though there are other aspects of my life that may also need some attention, I feel it is better
to pick one or two things to focus on at a time so I don’t become overwhelmed and more likely to give up. To hold myself a bit more accountable I will do updates via my instagram
(if you would like to follow me
you can @valkyrie27) and the odd blog post
about it. I don’t want my blog to focus completely on fitness as I use it to express what is on my mind at the time. I am hoping to add a new blog post every week to get the creative juices flowing again. If you have anything you would like me to write about let me know in the comments.
So that is my little update for now. I hope you like the changes I made to the page and I will chat to you again soon!
So I wanted to write something a bit more cheerful after my last few posts, but there hasn’t been a lot to be happy about in the world recently. We have had some horrible, cruel and unforgivable things happen in the last few weeks and it just didn’t feel right to write something happy. However, today is Father’s Day, a day I used to hate, but have grown to appreciate. So to celebrate the day I thought I would take the time to say a few words about my Dad.
I have had three father figures in my life. The first was of course my biological father who physically abused his wife and young daughter (I was five/six at the time). Thankfully my very brave Mother got us out of that situation. The second person was my Godfather. He never raised a hand to me, he was more of an emotional abuser. He felt because he had money he could buy our love and control us. When he realised that was not the case he flipped out and one restraining order later he was gone.
After all that I was done with Fathers. I didn’t need one, I didn’t want one and I would never trust one. Years went by and my Mother started to date a guy she had met through a friend. Looking back, I feel bad for this person having to meet me for the first time. After everything my family had been though I became overprotective and untrusting. I wasn’t just going to let some guy swoop in and hurt my Mother and Brother like the others. I was defensive from the get go and I think he was a little afraid of me at first. I wasn’t rude but I gave off this air of ‘you are not my Dad and if you hurt my family I will destroy you’. I got to know him after a while, bonded with him even, but my defenses were never truly down. He moved in with us after a while. I wasn’t against it, he made my Mum happy so life continued as normal. I became a stroppy teenager which created friction in the house but nothing unusual. The one thing I couldn’t stand was him trying to discipline me. I wasn’t a bad kid, I didn’t do anything particularly bad, but I never felt it was his place to punish me. I saw him as a friend and not a parent so I would argue with him if he tried to “parent” me in any way.
One day our world got a little crazy. I wont go into details but let’s just say it would have been the perfect time for him to bail. Having two teenage kids was one thing but when this happened I would expect most guys to run a mile. He didn’t though. He stuck by the family and I honestly don’t think we would have made it though it without him. I feel like it wasn’t until that moment that I realised that this man wasn’t going to leave, or hurt us, or control us. He loved us like we were his own, and was there for us as part of our family. The sad thing is though, I couldn’t say it to him. I had built up a wall and saying that to him would mean taking it all the way down and I just wasn’t ready for that.
I went to college, my brother followed two years later and so my Mum and Stepdad moved to Spain. I would call my Mum every few days, I’d ask how he was but I never really asked to speak to him. The one thing I always did though was send him a Father’s Day card. At first I would make sure it specifically said ‘Stepdad’, I felt like calling him ‘Dad’ was too weird. I would also make sure to not sign off with ‘Love Valerie’, just ‘Valerie’. I didn’t think it was right as I had never said it to his face. Part of me wants to yell at my past self for being such and idiot.
When my depression was at its worst and I was in Jigsaw, Beethoven got me talking about him. He said it was no surprise that I was defensive after what had happened. I nodded but the more I spoke about him, the more I realised that I had nothing but nice things to say about this person. I hated how hard it was to say out loud, even to Beethoven that I loved my Stepdad. I was ashamed that for the entire time he had been in my life that I just couldn’t say it. To this day I still find it hard to say, especially to his face. I don’t know if I am afraid, or embarrassed, or I just feel too guilty for not saying it sooner. Maybe it is because he isn’t the most emotional person, so it just feels too awkward to say it out of nowhere. Whatever the reason, I just couldn’t get it out.
This year I went to visit them in Spain after finding out that they were getting married. I was so happy for them even though they were practically married already. After a few glasses of wine we got to talking about the wedding and the future and I was finally able to tell him to his face that I loved and cared about him. It was very hard to say and the bit of liquid courage definitely helped, but I was glad that I finally found the courage to say those words to him. I could tell from the look on his face how much they meant to him.
I sent him his Father’s Day card as usual this year. It said ‘Dad’ on it and I signed off with ‘Love Valerie’. I still can’t say it very often but I hope he knows that he is my Dad and that even though we don’t talk much, I don’t know what I would do without him. I am so thankful that he came into my family’s life and made us stronger. They always say you can chose your friends but you can’t chose your family. My Mother did have a choice and she couldn’t have chosen better.
Happy Father’s Day Ger and to all of the amazing Dad’s out there. I hope all of you took the time today to show them how much you love and appreciate them, because not everyone is so lucky.
Hi everyone! Welcome to the Mental Illness Tag! I was asked to do this by the tag’s creator Becca (here is the link to her blog https://beccadoeslifethings.wordpress.com/ ) and thought it would be a good way to spread awareness. I tag anyone that feels comfortable enough to do it. If you do decide to do it, make sure you send me a link in the comments so I can see it!
Here we go!
What mental illness do you have? I have anxiety. I was also diagnosed with depression but thankfully that has gone away for now.
When were you diagnosed? I was officially diagnosed in July 2015 though I was told that I have suffered from it for approx eight years.
Who knows about it? Originally, just my family and one or two friends. Now anyone who has read my blog knows!
Do you receive treatment for it? Thankfully at the moment; no. I was on Sertraline Bluefish when I was at my worst.
Has your mental illness stopped you from doing anything? It did in the beginning but now it doesn’t really stop me from doing anything. I am very aware of my reactions to certain things and try to keep myself out of situations where I know I might get anxious and be at risk of an attack. On the other hand though, I have accepted that there will always be a possibility of an attack and try to push on and try new things anyway.
Is there anything in particular that has helped you? Definitely my family and going to Jigsaw. I think my anxiety has actually brought my Mum and I closer together. I feel now more than ever that she is just a phone call away x
Can you describe what it feels like to have your mental illness? I think this is a great question! It is hard to explain and I think it is important to point out that no two people will experience a mental illness the same way. This is the closest I can get to explaining it: Imagine your worst school day ever. You were late and got screamed at by the teacher that hates you. You forgot your homework in another class and got detention. You failed that test you had last week and have a twenty page write out. You got homework in every class. You go to detention and low and behold it is the teacher that screamed at you this morning supervising, and they wont let you do your homework. You run home but are too nauseous to eat anything. You go up to your room and sit at your desk with your four hour pile of homework plus your write out in front of you. You feel stressed about getting it all done in time, you worry about your mother having to sign your failed test. You start your maths homework but you were so distracted by your bad day that you didn’t pay attention in class and forget how to do the problem. It is the last straw and you start to panic. Your chest tightens, you get a lump in your throat, your hands start to shake and the room feels so warm that you can hardly breathe. You play out how bad tomorrow is going to be in your head and just want to cry because you can’t take it anymore. Imagine how you would feel at that moment. It is basically that feeling constantly, every day. It is not fun.
What is a common misconception about your mental illness? That you are only looking for attention. I feel like a lot of people who come out and tell people about their issues are met with this response. Anxiety and depression are talked about a lot these days which is great, but it also means that a lot of people think it is just the ‘in thing’ at the moment. It is sad for those who are brave enough to talk about a very personal thing to be almost shamed by it.
What do you find the most difficult to deal with? I would have to agree with Becca and say the feeling of isolation. Sometimes your mood goes so low that you think you are completely alone in the world. It is hard to remember you have people that love and care about you when your mood and self esteem hits a low point. Thankfully the people around me are good at reminding me!
Do you have anything else you would like to say? I know it sounds a little silly and naive but just be kind to each other. You never know what type of day someone has had or what they might be going through, so be patient with others. That rude server might have had a really bad nights sleep because they had something troubling them, that person that pushed past you on the street might be running late for an exam they spent all night studying for, the loud person on the phone on the bus might be on the phone to their daughter who they haven’t spoken to in three weeks. You never know so take a deep breath and think for a minute.
Well I hope you enjoyed this little tag! I have to admit, it got my brain thinking a lot about my own anxiety and how it affects me.
I’m going to make sure my next blog post is a little more cheerful!
So this is the last part of this little blog series. I have enjoyed writing about it and have been pleasantly surprised by the responses I have gotten. Thanks again for all of the support!
I think one of the greatest things about counselling or talking to a mental health professional are the things you learn about yourself. Whoever you talk to is on the outside of your life, peering into a little window and seeing glimpses of the past and present that define you, that worry you, that make you feel vulnerable and weak. On the one hand that is a scary thing to imagine, but you will be surprised by how much they see by just seeing into that window. Beethoven saw things about me that I had been too distracted to see. He reminded me of how hard my life has been from the very beginning, how I have fought every day of my life for everything I have. He listed out some of the major things that I have gone through in my twenty four years on earth and asked; if he had told me that someone else had gone through all of those things, what would I think of them? The answer came surprisingly quickly.
‘I would think that they are a really strong person’
I was reminded that I am a fighter. I am stubborn and strong, resilient and reliable and even though I hit a low point in my life, I was still fighting. By asking for help, by going on medication, by going to Jigsaw, I was not giving up, I was still fighting. It is something I find myself still trying to say to people today.
You are not giving up or admitting defeat, you are simply changing tactics.
Sometimes we can’t fight alone, and for someone who has always been independent, it can take a lot to trust someone enough to help you. I put my trust in my family, in my GP and in Jigsaw and they all came through for me. I wouldn’t be where I am now without their help.
I went to sessions with Beethoven for five months. Session by session I trusted him more, let a little more out and piece by piece we built my confidence up again. One of the most important lessons I learnt though was on my first day.
Beethoven explained that I am a brunette, so if someone turned around to me and said ‘your hair is blonde’ my mind would instantly tell me that this information is false. In a lot of cases of depression, sometimes you constantly think over the negative thoughts you have about yourself.
‘I’m a bad person’, ‘Nobody cares about me’, ‘I don’t deserve to be happy’.
These thoughts, and thoughts like these are just that; thoughts. When you repeat something to yourself over and over again, your brain will start to think that these thoughts are actually facts. To this day, if I catch myself thinking something overly negative about myself, I will say in my head (or out loud) ‘this is just a thought’, because that is all it is, a thought. I am a good person, I’m not perfect, I make mistakes just like everybody else does, but I deserve to be happy and loved. You have to train your brain to dismiss a negative thought as false, just like it can with the colour of your hair. I have brown hair is a fact. You looking in the mirror and thinking: my hair makes me look ugly, is a thought. Recognising the difference helped me so much. It might seem like a simple thing to know, but when you are in place where you are surrounded by negativity, you quickly forget the difference.
Just before Christmas last year I felt well enough to come off my medication. I have no doubt in my mind that going on the medication was the right decision, but my doctor had been right, it wasn’t something I needed forever. I had my last Jigsaw session at the end of January this year. Beethoven listened to everything, made sure everything I wanted to talk about was talked about, and that I felt happy to try and live life without Jigsaw. He told me I could come back if I needed too and he wasn’t lying. I had what I like to call a ‘top up session’ recently just to make sure I was ok during a difficult time. The sad thing is that my depression and panic attacks could come back at any time, but Jigsaw have given me the tools I need to handle them if they do. Most importantly though, they are there if I ever need that extra bit of help.
Life can be hard at times and there is nothing wrong with asking for help. If I want anyone reading this to take anything away from these blogs it is this: It will get better. There is hope for everyone out there. Sometimes you are so surrounded by darkness it is hard to see the light but I promise you, it is there. Not all of us can find it on our own but there are people out there to help. Never give up, you are worth the fight, and you will come out the other end a much stronger person. Mental health effects all of us whether we suffer from a mental health issue ourselves, or know someone who has one. It is everyone’s responsibility to make sure everyone knows that there is no shame in it and there is help there if and when you need it.
I am lucky that I am in a much better place now as recently I have become very aware that not everyone makes it. There are so many people out there who, like me, kept everything bottled up inside. Unfortunately, not everyone gets help on time and find they can’t go on fighting anymore. If you suspect anyone you know is going through a rough time let them know you are there for them, try and encourage them to talk to someone or maybe bring it to the attention of someone the trust and feel close to. Sometimes the smallest gesture can save a life. Try to be kind to everyone you meet, you never know what a person might be going through.
Thank you once again for listening to my story. Just knowing I have helped someone by writing these blogs has made it so worth it for me. I am not ashamed to talk about this anymore so please don’t be afraid to ask me questions. I have had a few people come up to me over the last couple of weeks to ask questions, or say that this helped them and it really does put a smile on my face. I am proud of myself for doing this and no one can take that from me. My mental health journey hasn’t ended, I don’t know if it ever really will, but I know that I will get though anything else life wants to throw at me because I have people who will be there to support me.