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!
Hello everyone, I hope you enjoyed your Easter! Sorry I have been absent but I was off work for two weeks and wanted to try and spend the time relaxing.
So we can all agree that depression is the worst but I am always really interested to hear the things that people find helps them cope with it. As much as I find reading studies about the topic and what statistically has been found to help useful, I love hearing the different things the actual people suffering from depression do to help them feel better. Not only does it give me ideas for things to try but it also reminds me that there are things that help and that I will feel better.
So today I thought I would share 10 things that help me with my depression. Hopefully it will give you some things to try, though some of them I’m sure you have heard before and are sick of hearing about!
Ok, so I know you have probably heard this one a lot. I know when my doctors and therapists have said this in the past I was like ‘Yeah sure it does, you just want me to be healthy and blah blah blah‘ but it honestly does work. It helps you to feel a sense of achievement and releases those happy hormones we so desperately need. When your mood is very low it can be really hard to motivate yourself to get out of bed, never mind getting yourself to the gym or out for a walk. I have gone weeks, even months finding excuses not to exercise when my depression was bad. It helps to start small. Try going for a short walk in the fresh air and work your way up. The more you do the more you will find your motivation return and your mood improve.
2. Clean and Organized Surroundings
It can be hard to quiet your mind when your surroundings are messy and unorganized. I am a bit of a clean freak and I find that I feel better when my apartment (especially my bedroom) is clean and clutter free. I’m not saying you have to get a toothbrush and scrub every inch of your house, but simply making your bed can make your space feel more organized. The actual task of tidying up can also be a good distraction from negative thoughts and like the exercise, gives you a sense of achievement.
3. A Good Shower/Bath
If I picture myself when my depression is bad, the image I see is of me in bed, in my pajamas, surrounded by takeaway not moving until work forces me to. I feel sweaty and disgusting and hate myself for ordering pizza when I have good food in the fridge. I find a good shower not only re-energizes me, but helps me to “wash away” the depression. I clean myself up, brush my very tangled bed head hair, put on clean clothes and feel ready to try tackle the world again.
4. My Evening Routine
When I feel anxious or not very happy with myself I do two very simple things in the evening that help to calm me down. I light my lemon and lavender candle and drink chamomile (or any non-caffeinated) tea. I owe this to my Mum who gave me the idea and still tells me to ‘go light your candle and make yourself some sleepy tea (as she calls it)’ when she calls.
5. Calling My Mum
When I’m feeling down, sometimes just calling my Mum and hearing her voice makes me feel better. I don’t always tell her I’m feeling down as I don’t want to worry her, but just listening to her talk about her day and the news from where she lives in enough to take my mind off of things.
I’m not always in the mood for it but I do find taking 10 minutes out to breathe and relax can help refocus my mind. I do a weekly mindfulness session at work and have the head space app on my phone for when I need it. Any sort of guided meditation can be helpful when trying to quiet out all the negativity in my head.
So it is no secret that I am a big advocate for psychotherapy. I see my therapist every couple of weeks to talk through whatever I want to talk about in that session. I will say that sometimes, depending on the topic, my depression may worsen afterwards as issues rise to the surface. I believe that sometimes you have to get worse to get better.
This is one thing I wish I didn’t have to do but know that I need to do. I was very reluctant to go on medication as I always thought it would make me numb or turn me into a zombie. I was glad to learn it isn’t like that in the slightest. All it does is help me to level my mood so I can focus on working though my issues as best as I can. It isn’t for everyone but if you are struggling, I suggest talking about your options with your doctor.
9. Being Near Water
Whether it be the beach, a pond or a river, being next to water seems to help me for some reason. I like to listen to the waves, the water hitting the rocks or the movement of water flowing in a river. The sound really soothes me and I always find myself drawn to water when my mood is low. Try reconnecting with nature in some way like going to the beach, walking in the woods or just watching the neighborhood birds.
10. Asking Myself Why I’m Depressed and Accepting My Feelings.
When I say this I don’t mean saying something like ‘What have you got to be depressed about?‘ or ‘You are being stupid, you have nothing to be sad about‘. I’m talking about trying to find out what triggered your low mood. I gently ask myself ‘What is wrong?’ or ‘Do you know why you feel low right now?’. Sometimes I don’t have an answer and that is ok too. A lot of the time you can’t figure out what made you depressed that day so don’t beat yourself up if you cant work it out. Just accept what you are feeling and let yourself feel it. Even though you don’t want to feel this way, sometimes just accepting yourself and your feelings is enough. Cry if you feel like crying, scream if you feel like screaming. It takes a lot more energy to keep the feeling in than to let it out.
Those are some of the things I do to try and help me cope with my depression. I would be really interested in some of the things you do or someone you know does. It is always good to share ideas!
‘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.
(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!
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.
Just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who has commented or messaged me their kind words of support. I got some messages from people I never would have expected so it just goes to show how much people can care. Well let’s continue…
When you hit rock bottom the only way to go is up…
That was the mentality I had when I walked into my first Jigsaw appointment.
My brother had convinced me to give it a try and had arranged an appointment for me. I stood at the bus station across the road and looked at the green decorations on the glass building in front of me. I had seen this building a million times, told everyone how great a service it was for young people, but the idea of walking through those doors myself terrified me. I had planned everything I was going to say carefully, gone through every question I thought they would ask. In my head it was a test that was going to label me as “crazy” or “sick” or worse, stupid for feeling the way I did.
I worked up the courage to knock on the door and go inside (mainly because I’m obsessed with being on time). The room was bright, modern and colourful, pretty much everything you would expect a young adult to like. Everyone was friendly and spoke in that gentle voice you hear when people think even a loud noise could make you fall apart. I was introduced to the counsellor who brought me into a small room with warm lighting. I was nervous, I discovered a few sessions in that I fidget with my hands when I’m nervous and I remember doing this a lot the first day. She explained what Jigsaw did and how it worked, let me fill out some forms and did a few short tests to see where my mood was. I thought I was doing well, the paperwork was a good distraction and my nerves went down slightly. However, as I went through one of the tests I realised just how low my mood was. I never expected that my depression had gotten this bad. Up until now I had been focused on my anxiety since the panic attacks were now so frequent. The counsellor and I talked, she was very good at teasing out information I didn’t even know had been weighing me down. The session felt like it was over in a matter of minutes though I had been in there for an hour. She said Jigsaw could definitely offer me help if I wanted it and put me on the waiting list for regular sessions. She apologised saying they had about a four week waiting list but that I could call any time.
I was scared that another waiting list was involved. I didn’t know how long I could last without doing something to address everything that was going on. Jigsaw didn’t forget me though. Every Wednesday around 11am I would get a call from the counsellor to check in and make sure I was ok. She would ask about my mood and my attacks and make sure I was managing them ok while I waited. She had also sent my test results to my GP (she had asked my permission first) and low and behold my GP didn’t forget me either. I had an appointment with her a few days later. She had even personally called my GP to discuss my results and to see what she thought was the best course of action. I truly felt like they had genuine concern for my well being which made me finally start listening to, and valuing what they had to say. When I met with my GP again I made the very hard decision of going on medication. She saw how nervous I was about it. I told her how much I was afraid it would change who I was or numb me completely. She told me the science of how the medication she had chosen worked, how it would help me keep the hormone dopamine (the one that causes you to feel happy) around for longer. She explained the side affects that might happen as my body got used to it, and that it was a low dose for now that would be upped when my body became accustomed to it. Most importantly though she assured me that it didn’t have to be forever.
When I got home I read the pamphlet that came with the medication over and over again. I cried that it had come to this. If I was taking medicine I must be sick right? There must be something wrong with me. I told myself that this was my depression talking, not me. I took the tablet and the world didn’t end, the sky didn’t fall and I didn’t instantly turn into a robot. I kept taking them though in the beginning I did get bad headaches. I persevered, I continued to have my phone calls once a week, the headaches went away and after about three weeks I noticed the difference. I wasn’t numb, I hadn’t changed, it is hard to explain but it felt like I was seeing clearly for the first time. It was like I could properly process all of the emotions that had been making me feel overwhelmed. I still felt sad and alone a lot but those feelings weren’t ruling my life as much, I didn’t spend most of my days feeling like I was drowning anymore. My panic attacks were still there but they wouldn’t last as long and were coming maybe once every two or three days. I started to feel a bit of hope for myself.
Around the time my medication started to kick in I got a call from Jigsaw. The voice I heard wasn’t my regular counselor’s voice though, it was a cheery man’s voice that was on the other end of the phone. He told me he had a spot for regular sessions if I was happy to have him instead of the first counsellor I had met. If I’m honest I was a little reluctant to go with a male counsellor. I found it hard to open up to men since all of the men in my life had let me down at one stage or another. I thought I should at least give it a try though and agreed to see him in two weeks time. Since I don’t want to reveal his identity I will refer to him from now on as Beethoven (inside joke).
I didn’t really know what to expect from the man with the cheery voice. I nervously walked up to the Jigsaw doors yet again and rang the bell. He was in with another person so a nice, once again soft spoken lady sat me down in the waiting area until he was ready for me. Beethoven came out with a young guy and his family laughing and joking. There was no quiet, walking on eggshell voice with him. He was a ball of friendliness and cheer that you couldn’t help but smile with. He was a lot less cautious around me then everyone else was, (including my family) and I never felt like he was pitying me. He brought me into the same room that I had been in my first day. Talking to Beethoven felt more like talking to a friend or an Uncle you really get along with. I did the tests again knowing my scores hadn’t gotten better. I was nervous handing them back, afraid of a concerned or uncomfortable look coming back from him. I got the complete opposite. He nodded once he had added up the score and smiled at me. I don’t remember his exact words but it was something along the lines of ‘well I wont lie, it isn’t a great score but I’ve seen worse‘. He laughed and the tension was gone. I couldn’t help but laugh with him. Looking back, I can’t imagine what would have happened if I had said no to Beethoven’s call.
This is getting a bit long so I’m going to stop here. Looks like I will have to make a Part 3. Again, I hope this helps anyone reading whether they are suffering from a mental illness themselves or they have someone close to them who is going through it.