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If having your own mental health issue wasn't bad enough, then imagine how it tears you apart to watch a close friend or family member, someone who is extremely close and special to you, go through the same thing and all you feel like you can do is sit and watch.Without going into too much detail but still give you… Continue readingIf having your own mental health issue wasn't bad enough, then imagine how it tears you apart to watch a close friend or family member, someone who is extremely close and special to you, go through the same thing and all you feel like you can do is sit and watch.Without going into too much detail but still give you some background information, I myself suffer from anxiety and mild depression and I have done for roughly 5 years now. I started to get help about 3/4 years ago to help me to cope better and improve my understanding around mental health. I fully accept that it will never be something which is cured but I can better manage it. Lately, and unfortunately, I have had to witness a family member go through a horrendous time and see them go through things which I have experienced myself but would not wish upon anybody. They have gone through terrible illness, both physical and mental, unemployment which has led to money worries, relationship break downs and most heart breaking of all - addiction. All of these issues have had such a negative effect on their mental health and I know the feeling's associated with them as I have been through very similar times. You really start to feel alone and helpless, like no one does or will understand. You can quite easily head into a downwards spiral. As I said it’s hard enough to go through yourself but to see someone else experience it, is just crushing.I have always had the attitude of being so against any form of drugs, alcohol abuse and even smoking, because of how I was brought up. This is what made it even more difficult as this person influenced me to have these views in life and then to see them struggling was really strange, hard to accept and even confusing. I couldn't get my head around how they had gotten so low, and even without me realising the full extent of it. It also made it a struggle to get them to accept and address the issues themselves. Getting help is the first but hardest step, but almost impossible to achieve with denial.I found one of the hardest things to deal with during this time was other people, and "the blame game". You would think that, naturally, everyone would come together and be supportive, try their best and help the person in need, right? Nope. Not always the case. I have experienced so many other family members - who are meant to be "the mature ones" - moan and bitch on about who's at fault, why it's not fair, how it's affecting them. Blah blah blah. Really?! I don't know if it's just because I have been through it myself, but saying these things are the last thing I would say or would want to hear. It just wastes so much time being negative and not helping. I just really cannot get it into my head how people can focus on this and process things so negatively. Personally, I think it’s quite selfish. If you are in this situation or ever are (I really hope not) but my advice to you would be to be brutally honest and confront them about how unhelpful they are being, hopefully they will realise and change their ways. If not, ignore them, you do not need any more negativity in your life. As hard as it may be to do this to loved ones, it'll be for the best.As I mentioned, I suffer with my own mental health, I do go up and down, but I know how to cope and control it most of the time. But it comes with no surprises that when something like this happens, which you have no control over, it starts to take its toll. You can’t spend all your time hanging around and checking if their OK. It gave me chest pains, loss of appetite and made me highly irritable, just to mention a few, when I'd be away from them and not knowing what was going on. So, then I'd think, "ok I'll just take some time off work, because it's obviously making me ill, I'll get a sick note and just spend all my time off work with them trying to help". Probably not the best idea, even though I got to the point where I was literally sat in the doctor’s surgery, I'm glad I never did this. That would have just lead to money worries from sick pay, I wouldn't have spent my time with them helping because then they would feel bad for knowing I couldn't work in that state and I'd have probably been sat at home, doing nothing but over think.So, my best advice for anyone in this situation is to keep things as normal as you possibly can. Go to work, eat meals (even when you have no appetite) and do things that take your mind off how crappy things are because they will get better. Find an activity like reading, drawing/colouring, walk the dogs, gym, sewing, cooking/baking basically anything that occupies you and maybe even helps you forget to check the time. I'd also say to research and find as many avenues of help for the person that you possibly can, so when they are ready to get the help they need you can be fully equipped with different options. When it came to me opening up to this person and trying to talk, it was one of the hardest things I have done, and I felt exhausted afterwards, but I knew I did the right thing. I got a few other people to be there, to talk one on one with them. I also written a note with different numbers, websites, support centres and groups they could access to get help, but I written it saying that I mainly cared, and I loved them, and this was only there if they needed it (not being pushy).I spoke to them. I went up to the  and I can’t really remember what I said exactly, and sometimes you don't even need to say anything at all, but I ended up giving them a cuddle too. I told them it would be OK, I could feel them shaking uncontrollably from emotions, what I can only imagine to be pain, anger, embarrassment, upset, relief and love. They said, "I just get sad sometimes". I'll always remember that moment because it broke my heart. I know what that feels like. It feels a thousand things more than sad, but you can’t put it into words because you don't fully understand it. So, I replied with "so do I and that's OK".It’s so easy to say but, you are loved, it will get better and someone is always there to talk to. I promise.
I was 17 when I developed Anorexia and I was 25 when I finally got diagnosed. Anorexia, as a word, often brings about a stigma and a stereotype – people assume the extremes; nil by mouth, severely bony and emaciated in appearance. But Anorexia isn’t an extreme. Firstly, and foremost, Anorexia is a mental illness.… Continue readingI was 17 when I developed Anorexia and I was 25 when I finally got diagnosed. Anorexia, as a word, often brings about a stigma and a stereotype – people assume the extremes; nil by mouth, severely bony and emaciated in appearance. But Anorexia isn’t an extreme. Firstly, and foremost, Anorexia is a mental illness. It begins with a disordered thinking pattern that develops and projects onto the sufferer’s relationship with food, exercise and self. The physical symptoms come after this and they still don’t have to be as extreme as the stigma and stereotype lead the majority to believe. I’m only 5ft 2 (I’m being generous). I’m small. For years many people just assumed I was skinny because I was petite and that it was my ‘frame’ nothing more untoward. That wasn’t the case. I’ve spent most of my twenties being underweight due to restriction and over exercising and this is very unhealthy for the body and the mind. It’s only been this year that I managed to restore weight and get to a healthy BMI - but to be perfectly honest I feel heavier with the burden of Anorexia more than ever. My recovery taught me that Anorexia is predominately a mental illness - as with every waking moment I feel it burn away part of my self-confidence and I feel the backlash of the constant mental war. I am aware this illness is in my mind and that the physical symptoms come after this. The physical symptoms are what alert us to someone’s ill wellbeing but what we need to remember with Anorexia is that it’s an invisible illness, and the physical symptoms only show when somebody is suffering an extreme amount with it. For me, my physical symptoms were shown in my bloods – ‘clear evidence of starvation’ and a low level of blood sugar; yet another thing the naked eye can’t capture. But I also encountered excruciating stomach pains due to malnutrition. This perhaps showed people I was in pain, but the connection was never made due to the majority of people assuming all Anorexics are at that extreme level of thinness. Assumptions really do make an ass out of you and me. Experts say that the sooner Anorexia is caught the easier it is to overcome. However, especially in my experience, some people don’t feel ‘thin or skinny’ enough for Anorexia – what I assume in hindsight about my experience is that when I was 17 I wouldn’t actually have received any help from a GP because my weight wasn’t drastically low. Regardless of weight, if there’s a constant battle in your mind about food, exercise or body image, there is something up. That’s when it’s time to speak up and reach out. As with every mental illness the more we talk about it, the more we speak up, the more we overcome stigma and barriers. With Anorexia and Eating Disorders there’s such an assumption of how we ‘should’ look, when really, we should be focusing on how we feel. If we attack these feelings first we can prevent the physical symptoms and perhaps even save lives. We have the power, we just need to harness it and use it to our advantage.
Submitted by: Alessandra
I think my mental health problems first started, with post natal depression thirty years ago. I’ve had bouts of depression since then but nothing prepared me for what hit me four years ago.My dad had dementia for many years, but the last two weeks of his life were utterly unbearable. The dementia had taken over… Continue readingI think my mental health problems first started, with post natal depression thirty years ago. I’ve had bouts of depression since then but nothing prepared me for what hit me four years ago.My dad had dementia for many years, but the last two weeks of his life were utterly unbearable. The dementia had taken over completely and he was terrified and nothing could soothe him. I spent almost twenty- four hours a day at the hospital, as no one could even get near him unless I was there. We were unable to get clothing on him and he would let out the most terrible screams, when the nurses tried to help him. I would run from the room and sit in the corridor, fingers in my ears, until they had finished but I could still hear him.I sometimes wished doctors were allowed to put him out of his pain. Once he died, I felt relieved and glad for him. I thought this made me a terrible and evil person.Following his death, I was the main carer for my mother and my husband. Twelve weeks after the day my dad died, I came home from walking the dogs and found my husband dead in bed.I didn’t realise he was dead, I was trying to give him CPR when the paramedics arrived. They just didn’t do anything. I remember screaming at them to help him. They said the couldn’t it was too late. The last picture of him, in my mind, was to become the picture that caused panic attacks, anxiety and PTSD. The day he died, was the day my grandson was due to be born. I had to ring the children to tell them what had happened. They were expecting me to tell them the baby had arrived; instead, I had to tell them their dad had died.Following his death, I lived with my mother. Still trying to care for her, while my mental health spiralled out of control. I considered, and planned, suicide many times. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of my grandchildren. I thought, they’d already lost enough without losing me. Somehow, I had to find a way to stay. But it was like the deepest black hole you could imagine and I couldn’t find a way out. Most days, I didn’t want to find a way out. I just wanted it all to end.At some point in this time, the district nurse came to see my mother, who had an ulcer on her leg. Somehow, I ended up talking with her in the conservatory. I lost it, all the pain came pouring out. She asked if I would engage, if she referred me to Mind. I agreed.I started having counselling. Somehow, with the help of the therapist, I started my journey out of the black hole. It wasn’t easy and I would sometimes slip back down. But eventually, I found my way back up to the top of the hole. Only just though, I could see that maybe there might be a light.I think my big breakthrough, was when I decided that I wanted to help someone like me. If I could change the black hole for just one person, then I’d have done something good. This is when I started voluntary work for Mind and joined the Anti-Stigma campaign. I have been doing it for two years now and I love it! The group is full of amazing, brave and caring people. We have done so much work that will make a difference; Christmas campaigns, world mental health day etc etc. I’ve even been on the radio and travelled to London to spread the word! I was also recently very proud to receive awards of recognition from Mind. Although, I still have problems with my mental health from time to time, it is nowhere near as debilitating as it was. When they do appear, I can look at what I’ve achieved with mind and feel good about myself again.
Submitted by: Janet
The first time I tried to explain to someone what my anxiety felt like this was my best analogy. On a good day my head feels like hook-a-duck; lots of thoughts bobbing around quite calmly until one is plucked out and I deal with it. Every now and then someone will give the thoughts a swoosh around and it all goes a… Continue readingThe first time I tried to explain to someone what my anxiety felt like this was my best analogy. On a good day my head feels like hook-a-duck; lots of thoughts bobbing around quite calmly until one is plucked out and I deal with it. Every now and then someone will give the thoughts a swoosh around and it all goes a bit random, but it quickly calms back down. On a bad day, my head is like a bag of fireworks. Not a nice organised display, but literally like someone threw a match in and all their fuses are burning. All of a sudden it can be “I haven’t sent that… oh my god I forgot to.. remember that time when I didn’t.. whoops I forgot to ring that person.. 2 weeks ago I… it’s Monday and I have to….”It’s hard to concentrate with random thoughts and recollections suddenly exploding in your head, and while you are at work and trying to hold down a job while being the best you can be, it’s quite simply overwhelming. Even a small task is one more thing to think about and add to your to do list, and you never know if you are adding a duck or a Catherine wheel.I work for Karbon Homes and they’re a fairly progressive employer and offer a range of health and wellbeing initiatives to employees. It’s by no means perfect but we have a telephone counselling service available; we can be referred to a CBT specialist and have in-house peer-to-peer staff supporters. Most managers and senior staff have been trained as workplace coaches and we have on occasion had access to a life coach. You would think that with all of these services available that we would be talking more about our mental health. But we’re not, it’s still a hidden illness. We all readily admit when we’re off to the doctors and openly talk about pains, sprains and weird squishy lumps and happily skip off to get a prescription to make it all better. Unfortunately, there’s no sticky plaster for mental health. I’ll admit that I haven’t come into work and announced to the office “I’ve been sitting in my car for 10 minutes, crying, because I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed today”. I’m not sure what would happen if I did but I imagine human resources would be involved somewhere along the line. Maybe I need a friendly face, someone to listen to me and acknowledge how I feel, and maybe a cup of tea.I have some wonderful colleagues who genuinely put their heart and soul into work and care passionately about our customers and each other, and it’s hard when you see someone struggle. So, please this mental health week if you see a colleague that is a little frazzled, maybe more distracted than usual, or maybe the person next to you is acting out of character, then please make them a cuppa, ask them how they are and if they want to have a chat. It could make a world of difference.”
Submitted by: Sue
As we start the UK’s Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, now is the perfect time to share my story.In 2006, in the midst of wedding preparations, I discovered I was pregnant…an exciting time for me I hear you say? You’d certainly think so, but sadly, that wasn’t to be.From the beginning, my pregnancy was… Continue readingAs we start the UK’s Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, now is the perfect time to share my story.In 2006, in the midst of wedding preparations, I discovered I was pregnant…an exciting time for me I hear you say? You’d certainly think so, but sadly, that wasn’t to be.From the beginning, my pregnancy was overshadowed by this big black cloud. You see, for many outsiders looking in on my life at this point, they could have mistaken it for a fairly happy home, but for me on the inside, it was far from happy. At the time of finding out I was pregnant, we were a family of 3, me, my husband to be and our 7 year old son, living in our newly bought home, preparing for our upcoming wedding, but I had also just gone through a severely difficult time, turning my whole world upside down. So discovering our excitement to plan for another baby had now turned into the worst possible timing to confirm a pregnancy, it was no longer an ideal situation.Throughout my pregnancy, I faced pressure, not from outsiders, but from those closest to me, family members, who weren’t offering me advice but more telling me what I should be doing. My midwife appointments became my counselling appointments, I would offload my troubles and concerns to her and she would offer me advice and tissues for my tears. The depression and anxiety during my pregnancy was considered ‘normal’ concerns that all pregnant women face.So fast forward to when my daughter was born and the first 24 hours were horrific. Not only was I sent home from hospital less than 5 hours after giving birth, still not fully recovered from the drugs they had given me for pain relief and completely in charge of this small helpless human, but I had to also deal with my daughter being involved in a minor car accident with her father the next morning, when she was still less than 24 hours old. Luckily, she was fine but this was just the beginning.Now, as any mum will know, one of the most common pieces of advice you are given as a new mum is to sleep when the baby sleeps. If only! That first week I was met with more struggles, which admittedly, I did not handle well at all. Whilst my then husband was on his one week paternity leave, every day he would receive a call from him mum with an invitation for coffee, the invitation only stretching to him and our daughter. I was told to get some rest while my baby was taken out without me, my emotional distress met with accusations of me overreacting. Needless to say, I didn’t get the rest I was told to. Now I know there was no malicious or ulterior motive from my mother-in-law, but at the time that’s certainly not how it felt. From here, my Postnatal Depression spiralled. Once my then husband returned to work, I hid myself away from the world. I refused to answer the door to anyone other than the Health Visitor, who I would always greet with a smile, laughing as we both cooed over my new baby girl. But the reality was, I felt empty and incapable.With each day after her birth, I lost more confidence in my ability as a mother, and to me this was only backed up by the family taking her out and away from me in those first few vital days and by questioning my every decision. So much so, that my paranoia firmly took hold and I was now convinced my mother-in-law wanted to take my daughter away from me and bring her up as her own daughter. Looking back, I can see how absurd this may sound, but at the time, that was my reality, and that was exactly what I was thinking. I would hide when she turned up at the door, pretending I wasn’t home, when she would ring, I would immediately take up my hiding position so she couldn’t see me through the phone, as if that was even possible. Each day, I would be up and ready, hair done and make up on ready to face the world…from the comfort of my own four walls without having to actually face anyone. My thoughts would often range from paranoia and detachment to self loathing and at times, suicidal. And this process went on for 3 weeks, with me not leaving the house for the whole period.After the first 3 weeks, I began venturing out into the big wide world, but still avoiding the mother in law in fear of her taking my daughter. My avoidance did cause problems within the family and quite often would end up in an argument between me and my husband, with him being less understanding and more accusational. Whilst the illusion of my mother in law wanting to takeover my role as my daughters’ mother disappeared after around 3 months, I still did not return to my happy self, instead there was a noticeable absent bond with my daughter and I felt more alone and isolated with nobody to talk to. And even if I did, what would I say…I had just spent 3 months convinced my mother in law was going to take my baby away from me. By now, I had very few friends around me, family relationships were strained and I didn’t particularly like my husband at this point mainly due to his lack of support, I had distanced myself away from everyone.However, there were 3 men that saved me during this time, they went by the names of Roy, Pete and Greg although you may know them better as Scouting for Girls. After hearing their song ‘She’s so lovely’ on the radio and getting this warm happy feeling that took away all my problems, I bought their newly released album and the rest is basically history. I had found my love of music again, it became my safe place, I found my happiness and even found myself singing along to songs again. It was my love of music that got me through my dark days, and slowly out of the other side of my Postnatal Depression. Now this is not something I would recommend to everyone, as I had to really dig deep on some days to aid my own recovery and so would recommend that anyone with Postnatal Depression to speak to their GP for further advice.Years on from my own personal experience, I realised that many mums still struggle with isolation and don’t have the confidence to speak to their friends/family for fear of judgement, so I decided to do something about it, it was then that Raindrops to Rainbows was formed. Raindrops to Rainbows is a voluntary organisation based in Teesside that provides peer led support in Perinatal Mental Health. We work with a number of organisations across the region to raise awareness, whilst ensuring the correct support is available.We have been part of TeesSide-By-Side Network, supported by Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind, since 2015, making connections with numerous other groups providing support for both Physical and Mental health across the region. On a larger scale, we are part of the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership, made up of individuals, organisations and campaigners across the UK. For more information, please visit our website:
Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder in adolescence. Of those surviving, 50% recover, whereas 30% improve and 20% remain chronically ill.Anorexia can affect anyone, any age, any height, any gender or any weight.A sufferers BMI does not need to be severely low for them to be… Continue readingAnorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder in adolescence. Of those surviving, 50% recover, whereas 30% improve and 20% remain chronically ill.Anorexia can affect anyone, any age, any height, any gender or any weight.A sufferers BMI does not need to be severely low for them to be experiencing anorexia – something I’ve only learned In my recovery.Whilst a patient in recovery can be eating, gaining weight and even have a completely average or above BMI, it doesn’t mean they’re healthy. The mind takes a while to catch up. And boy, do I know it.For me, I’m at my worst point now. I’ve began to restore weight, I’m closing in on not being underweight and my mind is at a constant war.But. Anorexia is not a good thing. We should be taught moderation, not restriction. Taught that everyone is beautiful, no matter the size or shape.Society does make it harder to get out of Anorexia as were pushed an image of skinny models. Or curvy models. Never just simply ‘normal’ models; it leaves those at risk vulnerable.Anorexia is a deceptive, cunning and viscous illness. It’s strips sufferers of our lives, time, friends and family. It makes us believe that no one needs us or wants us and that our only true ally is Anorexia.The Eating Disorder Charity Beat is asking the question ‘Why Wait?’ during eating disorder awareness week 2018. And I couldn’t agree more. See it as a rhetorical question. Why would you wait to gain back a life?If I’d never had anorexia I could’ve been great, successful and a completely different person. I can’t live on hindsight though.My ‘professional trade’ is Patisserie. Food is my passion, my eyes light up when I talk about it and my mouth never shuts up about it. It’s essentially my life and love. It’s a part of my life and a love that was ruined and massively hindered by anorexia. Patisserie requires dedication, and whilst I was off jogging in the toilets and restricting my intake, patisserie wasn’t ever able to fully be part of my life.If I hadn’t have waited, it could be entirely different.If you’re reading this and you too are a sufferer or know someone who is suffering and aren’t getting help, then why wait? Get help.Don’t be fooled in thinking life can be lived with anorexia or it can be maintained, it can’t. I’ve done it. I’ve been there. I’ve wasted my time and effort.Don’t be the same. Why wait??
Another month and another much needed, in my opinion, day of awareness on how important mental health is. February 1st is Time To Change's turn, with their Time To Talk campaign.Talking. From the minute you are born it is something your parents are so eager for you to start doing. They wait patiently every day to hear… Continue readingAnother month and another much needed, in my opinion, day of awareness on how important mental health is. February 1st is Time To Change's turn, with their Time To Talk campaign.Talking. From the minute you are born it is something your parents are so eager for you to start doing. They wait patiently every day to hear a word, a phrase, your first full, normally nonsical, sentence. Then comes the toddler/early school years where the chatter becomes constant from the moment the day starts to the moment it ends and parents are going bald from incessant hair pulling at the repetition, wishing sometimes they could shove play doh in their ears and their mouth is constantly dry from the "ssshhhh" ing and the "2 minutes". The thing is, the thing I love is, that despite all this, the child never stops. They are more than happy to get their thoughts, feelings, opinions and general nonsense across. Me? I envy them!Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people out there for which talking is not an issue. I don’t mean general, gossip or whatever but those lucky people who can open up. Who if they have a problem, are worried, sad etc have a place or person where they can go and get it off their chest. For someone who is emotionally and verbally challenged, although working through it, I can honestly say, the power of speech, the power that releasing words can have, is seriously under rated!I can’t remember when I stopped talking about things of substance. I can’t pinpoint the time that I decided it would be easier to keep my emotions within. Where my brain decided I would be a logical thinker instead of a emotional one. The weird part for me is I can sympathise and empathise with people because of certain events that have occurred, yet I won’t always make the conscious link that that is what is happening. If I had a penny for every time someone asked if I was OK and I turned around and said yeah of course when in fact I was crippled with misery/fear/loneliness I would be rather rich and definitely own a pair of Louboutin’s! When did I decide my pain wasn’t worthy of support? When did I start thinking that no one cared? When did I think that if I was to say what was going on in my mind people would laugh or tell me I was being silly?This inability to vocalise my thoughts and feelings created an internal wall and a hard-outer shell. I became a not very nice person in ways so that I could deflect my own misery. The thing is, I think I got so good at being this version of a person, I managed to fool everyone, myself included, that I was that person. People had no reason at all to think there was anything wrong with me, bar the obvious daftness. What I wish and what I have learnt though, is the power of those simple words - "How are you?" and "Are you OK?" Just because someone isn’t necessarily showing obvious signs that there is an issue, doesn’t mean they are not struggling. If they seem to be dealing with a difficult situation remarkably well, maybe that is the action that could trigger the whole, maybe I should pay a bit more attention? From the person who is struggling it is a tough ask but believe that those asking actually care, that they want to know.A wall can only hold back so much, once one crack shows it isn’t long before they start to spread, like a disease. The wall weakens, it even starts to crumble. The problem is, if you don’t have the right support structure in place, when it falls it can cause A LOT of damage, to yourself but also to those in the "splash" area. That is the thing that many people forget with mental health problems, it is not always only the sufferer who could be struggling, it could be those around them. Those that feel they should be strong, that they should be able to make them better, that are so confused as they do not understand what is wrong. People fear the unknown and I believe that mental healthawareness should be taught and talked about from as an early an age as physical biology. They are just as important as each other!This Time to Talk day, it doesn’t matter who or what or where, just ask the questions, "How are you?", "Are you OK?". Reach out to someone who seems to have drifted away, contact a relative that maybe you haven’t spoken to for a while, take a friend for a drink, have a quality conversation with your children - whatever they want to talk about! Kids have feelings and worries just the same as an adult. They should NEVER be made to feel that what they are thinking or worrying about is silly. That monster under their bed could be a whole lot more than just their imagination.For those who feel they don’t have a voice, start off small. You don't need to offload in one conversation, but if someone gives you an in, and you feel you can use it, go for it. If talking to people you know seems scary or impossible, reach out to someone impartial. I will always have so much respect for my counsellor as she really did help me see. I could say things to her I still would never dream of saying to those I care about. She gave me my voice. My blog gives me a loud voice, but nothing compares to hearing yourself out loud, words spoken from your lips.Your feelings are your feelings, your experiences are your experiences. Don't ever feel ashamed or worthless. Everyone has their own battles. Your strength might be the thing that helps someone else’s weakness.It really is ok not to be ok, and it is DEFINITELY #TimeToTalkCC xx
Submitted by: Claire
I really think things are starting to improve with being able to talk about my mental health problems.Less than a year ago, I would refer to it as “when I’m bad” or “you know, when I’m a bit off.” But now, I feel a lot safer in just coming right out and saying, that I’ve had problems with depression, anxiety attacks,… Continue readingI really think things are starting to improve with being able to talk about my mental health problems.Less than a year ago, I would refer to it as “when I’m bad” or “you know, when I’m a bit off.” But now, I feel a lot safer in just coming right out and saying, that I’ve had problems with depression, anxiety attacks, panic attacks and PTSD.I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the reaction from people I’ve opened up to recently. Just the other day, I mentioned it, when talking to my step daughter, about the death of my husband, her dad.Her reply was, “I’m really not surprised! I can’t imagine the trauma you must have suffered. Not only in losing him in that way but then having to tell everyone. I think you are an amazing, strong person to cope the way you have. I really admire you!”I was really taken aback. I think like most people, I believed that if I came out with my mental health problems, people would judge me as weak, mad, or stupid. I’m beginning to understand that isn’t always the case.I believe that the Princes coming out into the open the way they did, has had a massive impact on how people perceive mental health problems and it seems to be talked about much more on television than it was. I’m glad, I hope one day, it will be viewed by everyone for what it is. A medical health issue, not something to be ashamed of.
It’s important to preface this piece of writing by saying that change is afoot. In the depths of my struggles with chronic illness in the early 2000s, the words ‘mental health’ be it positive or negative in tone, weren’t really a part of the British public’s register. Whether this would have changed the experience of my… Continue readingIt’s important to preface this piece of writing by saying that change is afoot. In the depths of my struggles with chronic illness in the early 2000s, the words ‘mental health’ be it positive or negative in tone, weren’t really a part of the British public’s register. Whether this would have changed the experience of my own journey I don’t know. What I do know is that the conversation has never been so open and ready to be had, arguably, for good reason.Physical health - CauseUntil I broke my Tibia and Fibula in a skiing accident when I was fourteen, I played football. I played football for my school and I played football for my county. When my leg was misset, I was never really very good at football again so I started to skateboard and did so at every available opportunity for the next three years. What I didn’t do for those early-mid teen years was do anything that I didn’t want to do. I didn’t take my maintenance antibiotics regularly and I didn’t ever seem to be able to remember to take my medication. We’ll put this down to typical juvenile vanity and denial about the situation I was in. Long story short, my neglect for those years caught up with me around the age of eighteen. Spookily enough, it happened to coincide with becoming legally allowed to drink. I would go out with my friends, get home at five o’clock in the morning and be sat in an A-Level chemistry seminar less than four hours later regularly. This didn’t last long. For the next six years, I was in and out of long in patient stays at hospital in Leeds traversing non-invasive ventilators, lithotripsy (ouch), a nephrostomy (ouch), Central Venus Access implantation without general anaesthetic or sedation (ouch), gastrostomy insertion (ouch) and three lung transplant assessments (all failed).Mental health - EffectVitally, a mandatory component of organ transplantation assessment is psychological evaluation. Enter Dr. Gary Latchford, Clinical Psychologist. Gary’s job was to see if my state of mind was robust enough to cope with lovely, happy little ideas like organ rejection and the so-called survivor's guilt. Whilst Gary’s assessment was over and done with pretty quickly, it was abundantly clear to me that I needed more of his time to come to terms with everything I had missed and everything that I was going to miss. I became conscious that I was obsessed with my mortality because it was so insipid. Everything about my life during those years reinforced how precariously balanced on the abyss I was.The problem with my situation in particular, is that I am an expert by experience. That is to say that after living with CF for thirty years now, I know everything there is to know about my situation - be they metrics, statistics or prognosis. I knew at the time that there was a very slim chance that I would ever be in a position to have what was conventionally regarded as successful. From a family of academics, I wanted to achieve. I wanted to love. I wanted to be content. I was so angry that I was to be denied those things because of something I didn’t choose. My mental health was suffering greatly.My solutionHard work. Commitment and consistency transformed my life. I broke up with my girlfriend of five years and decided I was going to become the person that I wanted to be. Since that day five and a half years ago I haven’t had a single hospital admission. I take all my medication all the time and I’ve done a minimum of two hours physio seven days per week since. On top of three times a week cardio and one (I aim for two) weight sessions a week, the progression of my illness and the worsening of my health have plateaued. A lot of the hand wringing anxiety that comes with the relentless slide into disability and death has abated since I now know that I work hard to be as fit and healthy as possible; even if the benefits can only be observed retrospectively and at great distance, they are there. I’ve turned looking after my physical and emotional health my job, my 9 to 5. I still see Gary and have done for nearly 13 years now. Self development and searching for a greater understanding of my mind and emotions for me will never end since my illness and its impact will never leave me. I will never escape my illness and the dark days will return. Once more I shall petition the darkness for answers with tears rolling down my cheeks but this time, I shall know that I’ve done my level best to take control of my life and make my situation better. There is satisfaction and comfort in that alone.
Submitted by: Tom
Getting depression in sometimes feels like the right thing to do. Like, maybe it’s a case of ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’.I was in Newcastle city centre yesterday afternoon, taking my time over my morning coffee in Starbucks and then deciding to pick up a few bits before I set off; new insoles, a… Continue readingGetting depression in sometimes feels like the right thing to do. Like, maybe it’s a case of ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’.I was in Newcastle city centre yesterday afternoon, taking my time over my morning coffee in Starbucks and then deciding to pick up a few bits before I set off; new insoles, a hairbrush, a small pot of pick n mix from Wilko. Pretty safe to say I wasn’t exactly buzzing to get going. I started to feel a bit aimless, and not really sure why I’d decided to go shopping; and tired. I felt really tired, like I could have just lay down on a bench a fallen asleep right there. A pang of loneliness hit me (which was unexpected, I like being alone), and the ensuing despondency made me start thinking there was no point to anything. Depression knocking; like a friend you’ve fallen out with who turns up at your house in the middle of the night, wet and cold and needing your help. I thought for a minute about running to Sunderland, then got my phone out and booked myself into a private room in the cheapest hostel I could find. I was so close to making the right decision too.It was only last week that I said to someone how good I’m feeling at the moment; how motivated I am and how lucky I feel to be on this adventure. I said I felt so good that it was actually making me doubt how real my depression is; have I just been chalking up the days I’m just in a bit of a bad mood as mental illness? Obviously not, but depression lies, even on the good days. You know when’s it’s February in this country and it feels like it’s been winter for about 5 years? You forget how warm it gets here in summer. It feels a bit like that. I remember saying to whoever I was talking to about it that being happy sometimes makes me want to reconnect with my depression, if it’s away too long. That’s going to sound ridiculous to some people, but when depressions always kind of there, there’s a part of you that misses it when it’s not around.“I miss the comfort in feeling sad” – Nirvana, “Frances farmer will have her revenge on Seattle”.It’s hard to turn your back on something that makes up a big part of who you are. I’ve learnt to appreciate the aspects of my character that are there because I have depression.Anyway, I’ve let it in now which means I’ll be low for a while. How long is never up to me. But I’ll be fine. Christmas can be a particularly hard time of the year for a lot of people. Life can feel twice as hopeless if you feel like the rest of the world is full of joy around you. If you notice it in someone you know, see if they want to talk, or tag them in this post. A smile doesn’t always tell the whole story. If you’re the one feeling low and you don’t want to get into it with someone you know, here are a few anonymous, confidential alternatives:Samaritans : 116 124 (UK) 116 123 (ROI)CALM helpline : 0800 585858No Panic : 0844 967 4848Papyrus : 0800 068 4141SANEline : 0300 304 7000
Submitted by: Jake
It’s the season to be jolly, for most people anyway, but what about us that suffers in the dark side, that cloud of thoughts and bad feelings hanging over you. The cloud hangs over me most of the year but at Christmas it always seems to be worse, it’s meant to be a time of happiness and celebrations with family and… Continue readingIt’s the season to be jolly, for most people anyway, but what about us that suffers in the dark side, that cloud of thoughts and bad feelings hanging over you. The cloud hangs over me most of the year but at Christmas it always seems to be worse, it’s meant to be a time of happiness and celebrations with family and friends but somehow you always feel that staying out of the way will be best for everyone. For me I have dark cloud and a little me in my head telling me things I don’t want to hear, but imagine trying to deal with these thoughts and sadness when you have children, young children that want Christmas day to be as magical as possible, but you just cant get into the spirit. On the surface you have a brave face, lying to everyone around you but inside your struggling, by doing this to yourself it can have a greater impact on your health and wellbeing, locking your problems away is not good for anyone, you and your loved ones. Remember your not alone during these times, there are lot of people out there that are suffering just as much and more in some cases. So remember if you want to cry, if you want piece or if you just want to scream then it its ok, its all ok, we all need alone time, but I would highly advise you to talk to someone, it hard - I’m not going to sugar coat it - its not all candy canes and fairy lights, but having that first conversation with someone, whether it be a family member, a friend or a colleague, anyone you feel comfortable with. Remember its ok not to be ok, but the stereotypes that we suffer that we have to face can put us off ever making that conversation and just suffer in silence. Its not just about talking to someone, you may have already taken that step, its about doing something you enjoy, taking up a hobby, taking 5 minutes just to breathe, for me I love photography and writing its my release, getting away from the stress and being in the outdoors. So if you feel something isn’t right take 5, take 30 take as much time you need to gather your thoughts and bring yourself back. By having a go to hobby helps to take your mind away from what’s going on upstairs. Christmas is a magical time of year and I want you to enjoy it, so blow away that cloud and, talk to someone and have the best Christmas ever and start the New Year as a new you, but remember there is always someone there for you, even if you think there’s not. You may be reading this thinking what do you know and to you these are words. But If I explain that I’ve had thoughts of suicide and I’ve been on the sick more times that I can count, I’ve had counselling from MIND, and other counselling services, not all have worked but I have I’ve tried, I have just lost my job that I loved because of it which I must say was my decision to move to another part of my organisation and not me being removed because of my mental heath. I am real and I am a sufferer, the only difference between you and me is I have now come to a point where Ill talk to anyone about me, I’m beyond the stereotypes, and even more so because I am a male. I want to help people so they don’t go through what I have.
Submitted by: Lewis
We all know how taxing December and the festive period can be on those who struggle with their mental health. The pressure to show up, the anxieties of making small talk with family members and the post-high lull that can push the best of us into a chocolate-eating, 2018-fearing, Netflix bingeing state.Before we get… Continue readingWe all know how taxing December and the festive period can be on those who struggle with their mental health. The pressure to show up, the anxieties of making small talk with family members and the post-high lull that can push the best of us into a chocolate-eating, 2018-fearing, Netflix bingeing state.Before we get into the next crazy few weeks, I think it’s always a good idea to set some ground rules for ourselves. Like with anything, failing to prepare means that you’re preparing to fail (sorry to sound like your Mum) – and prepping for any and every occasion is one way to keep balanced.Read on to discover a few ways to look after your mental health during this busy period..Withdraw when you need toAs necessary it is to immerse yourself in social events, family gatherings or Christmas traditions, it’s important that we all know our own limitations.Personally, I really struggle with back-to-back events, to-dos or social situations. I know that I always enjoy things more with a breather in between. Whether that means blocking out a few hours in the afternoon to slob out on the sofa, or rearranging commitments so I have a couple of days to myself before putting my small-talk face back on, I’ve learnt to make those provisions.Don’t fall into the trap of not doing enough, either. This trap is an easy one to get caught up in (similar to the trap of going all out on Christmas present shopping or buying a week’s worth of festive jumpers), but ultimately, it’s your holiday season and if that means meeting up with friends and family every night, or once or twice – it’s up to you.Having a few magazines (Breathe always makes me feel balanced and calm), favourite films or even a festive mug with a speciality hot chocolate to make up, can all help us feel as if the little time we have to ourselves this season is made the most out of.Remember what it’s really all aboutBelieve it or not, this time of year isn’t about getting drunk or indebting ourselves – I know, shock horror. For the religious, Christmas has more faith-related meanings, but for the many of us who celebrate Christmas without having a traditional Christian belief, the season is about kindness, family, love and belonging.If you suffer from extreme shyness or anxiety, those who truly love and care for you will appreciate when you do have the strength and courage to get involved. If you don’t feel like you have people around you who understand then stand sure in yourself – reach out to the online community for belonging or make the effort to spend time with those who do appreciate how big a step turning up to a meet-up can be.Christmas is about having a nice time, and if the pressure of turning up, drinking or sacrificing your alone time gets too much, then you’re not having a nice time anymore. Like always, self-care comes first – and balance second.Find comfort in the prepSay something crops up that you really would rather skip out on. You’re having a bad mental health day, the world feels like too much to face but this event is important and you simply cannot get out of it.Try to find comfort and support in your preparation time. I know – maybe it sounds like a throwaway thing, and I understand that on some days the best anyone can do is open their eyes and exist – BUT, having a little comforting routine that we perform before we head out to a scary thing can help us feel a little more prepared, or at least help us get our game face on.I love giving myself time to have a bath, eat (if I’m not eating out), watch a few YouTube videos andStick to your habitsI can’t drink coffee. Well, I can, but if I’m struggling with anxiety and drink a coffee my heart will be beating funny the rest of the day, I’ll feel sick and my anxiety tends to double or triple.Even though I know coffee isn’t a great idea for me, I am still persuaded by it. The festive period can persuade us to step out of our normal habits but if you’re having a bad mental health day (or the festive period often brings up things that you struggle with) then stick to your habits.If you’re not a coffee drinker, don’t cave and try that festive latte (unless it’s decaf), don’t have three drinks at a party when you haven’t drunk for months. Of course, you can do what you like, but be aware that alcohol, caffeine (and even things like festive crowds) can trigger panic attacks, anxiety and even start depressive episodes (which is why I seldom drink alcohol anymore).There’s no shame in sticking to what’s comfortable. For many, this time of year is stressful enough, so staying sober, coffee-free or sticking to online shopping to avoid busy, bustling streets (and often grumpy middle-aged women) is fine.This too shall passNow I’m well aware that for some who struggle with mental health, this time of year is just hell. No number of tips, hacks or suggestions will make the social season any easier for you and all I can say is that this too shall pass. This famous phrase has gotten me through countless experiences that I’d rather not be in. A bad shift at work, a party that’s not very fun, those irritating comments family members are making – everything will come to an end and this social, festive period will too.Stand sure and think about the quiet January that’s to come. Despite what social media tells us, this time of year is never perfect and can be the worst time of year for many different reasons. At the end of the day, this is just another month and like all the others, it will happen and we’ll still be standing tall at the end of it.Make the most of the festive period if you can – but don’t feel like you’re the only one gritting your teeth through it. It’ll end soon enough.We all come face-to-face with struggles this season – I’d love to hear any of your secret weapons for managing low mood and high levels of anxiety over the festive period.
Submitted by: Becky
This year will be my first Christmas not living with my parents, and although I am extremely lucky and proud to own my own home (especially at the age of 24) and want to be spending in the comfort of my new house, I will still find it hard to deal with a change from tradition and not be spending time with my family as I… Continue readingThis year will be my first Christmas not living with my parents, and although I am extremely lucky and proud to own my own home (especially at the age of 24) and want to be spending in the comfort of my new house, I will still find it hard to deal with a change from tradition and not be spending time with my family as I have done for the last 24 years of my life.Christmas is by far THE best time of year in my personal opinion and I very much look forward to everything around it. However, when I look back over the years it certainly has been a time when I have struggled most with my mental health (anxiety and depression), even to the extent of me losing a job; which is why I am a little worried that with such big changes happening, it could trigger these issues again.I've made the decision myself, to spend Christmas at home and not see any of my family on actual Christmas day. I believe it will be a good tradition to start. I won’t always see my family in the years to come and to start myself getting used to this will surely be healthy? Ease myself in and make a conscious decision. I have my own small family now, with my partner, Adam, and our 2 dogs.Let me give you a bit more insight into what a typical Christmas would be like for me whilst living at home. I'd get up pretty early (usually woke up by my Dad as he's usually the most excited), go down stairs as a family to open presents and have breakfast. After an hour or so we would start putting our things away and tidy up, to get ready and start getting dressed. We then may visit neighbours or make phone calls to friends and family wishing them well. We would then go out to my Nana's house for dinner, help with dinner, open presents, watch TV, have drinks and play games. After a few hours here, we would then go out again to my Grandparents house for the same again (drinks, tea, open presents). I'd then have to get back home in the evening to see Adam and we would exchange gifts before finally settling down. A lot for one day, right? Especially Christmas day. It was almost like running off of a time table.I'd rather not do that this year thanks!I'd like to spend Christmas chilled out probably in my Christmas PJ's or cosy clothes all day, not rushing around or checking the time and thinking "oh I need to do this or go here now". I want to enjoy myself, and don't get me wrong I'm not saying I didn’t enjoy my previous Christmas years, but I need to be a bit selfish and enjoy it in the comfort of my own home for a change. I guess what I am trying to get at is that rushing around and trying to please everyone and not enjoying myself as much as I could have can cause me stress which obviously then has a knock-on effect to my mental health.My advice to anyone reading this would be to be a little selfish and do as you please. You can plan but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to hit time frames and be as strict as sticking to a schedule. Relax and enjoy the time and day you have. Having the time as ability to enjoy Christmas is surely a gift in itself? Give yourself a present by doing what you want and what is healthy and best for you.I'd also say it’s important to not feel guilty for not seeing everyone or for doing what you want to do. Of course, I will still be seeing everyone over the week, but it won’t all be in one day and on a tight time table. Now that I live with my partner, if we were to go visit all my family as well as his it would mean visiting up to 7 different houses, not to mention the time it would take to travel and get there. When I told my family members what my plans were instead this year, some were a little taken back and I did feel a bit bad at first. They were asking: why aren’t we seeing you on the day? How come? Who are you seeing instead of us? What will you be doing? Shall we come to see you instead? Just stop.I don’t want to explain myself! It’s just what I want so I'm doing it. Simple.Plus, as awful as it may sound, I don’t want people visiting our house either, that would mean us getting ready and entertaining everyone. That doesn’t sound relaxing...So, my point is, don't feel guilty. Don't feel the need to make up for it either by spending more than what you usually would on gifts. At the end of the day, spending more money on gifts could possibly lead to money worries which is again another stress you just do not need. If you do want to buy gifts, I’d suggest buying memories or keepsakes. For example, a photo frame or a day out. You can’t really go wrong with those type of gifts. Your health is priceless so don't go silly with money.So yeah, be a little selfish, don't feel the need to please, enjoy yourself and be sensible with your time and money!A very happy and healthy Christmas to you all.
Submitted by: Leah
Tis the season to be jolly and all that jazz but what happens when at the time of year you are meant to be supposedly at your happiest, or so the media portrays, you feel so miserable? You can be in a room full of people yet feel the loneliest. The fairy lights can be twinkling, the candles flicking and the TV flashing… Continue readingTis the season to be jolly and all that jazz but what happens when at the time of year you are meant to be supposedly at your happiest, or so the media portrays, you feel so miserable? You can be in a room full of people yet feel the loneliest. The fairy lights can be twinkling, the candles flicking and the TV flashing with the latest festive offering, yet everything feels so dark. I want you to know, from someone who has experienced this first hand, you are not alone.It’s ok not to be ok, even at Christmas. Even at a time a of year when you might feel like a fraud. If, like me, you have children, or are obligated to spend time with family, I want you to know that it is equally ok to slip that smiley mask on, laugh as if you don’t have a care in the world, join in the festivities and have, on the surface, the same cheery day you might have every year. They do say fake it until you make it, you might find that slapping that smile on and getting on with it leads to eventually genuine enjoyment of being with the ones you love, feeding off their positive energy. However, I want you to know that if you want to spend the day in bed, if you don’t want to smile, if you want to cry, that is all ok too. What I would say is, reach out to someone you feel close to, someone you trust. It can be hard to believe that it is the right thing to do, especially when you have felt shame for this illness for so long. I felt shame, I hid it for a long time, too long. They say that 1 in 4 people have, will or do suffer a mental health issue at some point in their life; if you are in a room with 8 people, that means logically there is another person in that room who could be feeling like you, who could understand how your mind is working. Personally, I think that number is a lot higher. Take that first step into the scary unknown, shake off the stigma, start that conversation, be honest. Sharing will be your greatest gift of all. I have had very dark Christmases, but this year, I am hoping that finally the tide has changed. 2017 has been a very tough year, my toughest fight with my ‘friend’ Depression. Yep, that is right, I now refer to this Black Dog as my ‘friend’ (through gritted teeth) as if it wasn’t for Depression, if it wasn’t for holding up my hands in defeat and seeking help, I may not be on the path I am now, doing the great things I am doing, volunteering for my fabulous Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind, studying towards a university course in Psychology and in the process of setting up my own fitness based peer support group – the main tag line, exercise is therapy! This time last year I was hanging on by a thread, then I found Run Every Day January (RED January). This little community, this little challenge created by one phenomenal lady to honour her mothers battle with ill mental health, changed my life. It gave me back my pride, my self-confidence is growing, and my self-worth is returning, very slowly, but it is there. All from the simple task of – running. I have had a counsellor (she was an angel) I have taken anti-depressants but for me, physical activity, more pertinently, running, has helped me grow. I got to start giving a bit back in the way of raising money for Mind too! This led onto learning opportunities, more fundraising opportunities and helped me see through the dark clouds to where I want to be, how I can do my bit to help try and change the world!I have realised that every year all I have done is what I thought everyone else needed and wanted. I never gave myself and what I needed a thought, and this exhausted me. This did not help my self-worth, in fact it buried it. This year, through various activities, I am learning self-love and self-care. It is tough, very tough! It is the most important thing I could have started to learn though. You can never truly be there for anyone, your children included, if you can’t be there for yourself. So, this year, I will be celebrating me. Reflecting on my bad days but equally celebrating my good days and my achievements. And yes, that means leaving my husband and children for 30 minutes to go run. Yes, on Christmas Day morning at 9am I will be running 5km. For me. For everyone out there that is suffering from these horrible mental demons. I will continue to be the voice for those people who aren’t quite ready to speak out but for that day I will speak with my feet. I will pound the pavements, each step for you amazing fighters. At a time of year when so much focus is put on material things, I am going to give the gift of time and honesty. I will be giving a listening ear, I will smile a genuine smile and have a comforting hug for anyone that might need it. Time is a gift that can never be re used, it can never be taken back so it is important to give it as genuinely as possible. I will be giving this gift to those around me but also to myselfMy last tip for you, during this festive season, is do one thing just for you. Take time away to breathe, to do something that makes you smile, whether that is a 5-minute cup of coffee and a chocolate bar or 30 mins colouring in, 2 hours watching a film of YOUR choice or even just a nap when you normally wouldn’t, but you feel you need to. You might feel selfish, but this is necessary. Give the gift of time to yourself, because you are worth it.
I have survived the last 3 christmas'. One of them, just. I struggle with the pressure to be happy, to be fun, to be social, to be festive, to be around family and friends. I get even more annoyed with myself because I don’t want to be like this. Christmas used to be my time of year. I remember talking to my friend… Continue readingI have survived the last 3 christmas'. One of them, just. I struggle with the pressure to be happy, to be fun, to be social, to be festive, to be around family and friends. I get even more annoyed with myself because I don’t want to be like this. Christmas used to be my time of year. I remember talking to my friend from pre-school about our love of music, lights, and general festiveness only 5 or 6 years ago. We had a mutual love of winter and specifically everything Christmas. Yet now the music, the lights, the smiles all bring a pain to my heart. They bring a reminder of my failings. I am alone, I failed as a husband, I have failed as a friend, I have failed in looking after myself. I have failed at life.You know when you hear a song that brings back cool, amazing memories. That time you kissed someone, you were travelling somewhere, you felt something special. Well, imagine instead of a positive happy memory or emotion, you become negative, sad, self-destructive and dejected. Social situations become even harder because you have even less control over your emotions than usual. The alternative of hiding at home and being depressive at alone seems more acceptable. It seems like the better of two crap options.Sometimes one small thing can help, it could be something you do or something someone else does. So I would like to share with you some things that may help you, or that you maybe able to do to help someone you know. • Walking - Walking outside often gives me time to reflect and work through the issues going on in my head. This physical activity of walking also helps to release some of the tension in my body. The air too, improves my body (thats sciency stuff I don’t know about though). If your trying to connect with a friend ask them if they want to join you on a short walk. Its a great way to have a serious chat without putting pressure on someone. You will not be sitting face to face in a bar or someones kitchen, though some may prefer that..• Writing - I can’t tell you how many times writing has helped me work through difficult emotions. It allows me to physically get the thoughts out of my body (again probably some stuff I can’t explain, this time psychology). If you are worried about a friend, guess what it Christmas, you have an excuse to write to them! In your card or letter ask them how they are, let them know you are there for them.• Talk - Sometimes I’m able to do this, but it can be hard. I struggle with trust and relationships, so that makes it more difficult. But even if its only a little bit, talking will help. It doesn’t have to be with everyone, work out who you are comfortable talking to. It may not be who you expect.• Photography - Ok this one may not be for everyone. But in general having something activity wise that you like doing. I like photography because I can do this at home or (usually) by driving somewhere and just seeing what photos I can take. Probably half of them are rubbish and get deleted when I get home. But theres a fun side of looking for a photo and then looking at how things appear very different with small changes. Its a cool metaphor! Again a great thing to ask a friend to do with you if you want to connect. No camera? It doesn’t matter, most people have pretty good cameras on their phones these days.• Accept it - We are not perfect, everyone has stuff going on. Some of us do struggle more than others, and thats ok. I am still trying to learn this. Just accepting my illness and the struggles I have has, mostly, been good. It allows me to move past some the struggles I have. Even if thats only for a short period of time. o Slight indent here because its a slightly different point. If you friend is struggling accept that you likely will not get it. But the up side is, they don’t expect you too. Just listen that is all they want. If you want / are able to do more check out some of the support you could signpost them too (like Mind Samaritans and more). But do not force this, or be disappointed if your friend doesn’t want to access the support you mention. • See your GP - Yes there are long waiting lists for support. So if you are struggling visit your GP as soon as possible. Maybe you just need to talk, maybe therapy, counselling or medication would be helpful. But you don’t have to accept these if you do not want to. However if you do, getting the support as soon as possible will help. It may mean you have to wait 3 or 4 months, but(!!) you will at least be signposted to online or local support you can access now. Plus you will actually be on the waiting list. So many people put off getting help for 6-18 months. That is a lot longer that the waiting time. Please see you GP.Hopefully in the future I can again enjoy Christmas, even if its not the same way as I used too.I am pleased to have had the opportunity to talk about some of the support or things that can help. Thank you to Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind for allowing me the opportunity to be part of their Christmas support campaign.
Submitted by: Mike
Work and mental illness are very hard to balance. Trust me, I know.Unemployed, I was so miserable, and my mental health took a huge hit. The constant effort I had to put in to get some money was hard to keep up when I felt like a failure after every rejection. Seeing friends and having to keep telling them I still… Continue readingWork and mental illness are very hard to balance. Trust me, I know.Unemployed, I was so miserable, and my mental health took a huge hit. The constant effort I had to put in to get some money was hard to keep up when I felt like a failure after every rejection. Seeing friends and having to keep telling them I still didn't have a job was embarrassing, and then doing a degree I couldn't really afford that was about work, whilst not in a job, was so uncomfortable; everyone kept talking about what they were doing and where they wanted their career to go...and I just stood there feeling like an idiot.But, unemployment gave me a new perspective. I learnt to keep looking after myself in any way I could; I learnt to appreciate the smaller things, such as a new book, or buying a £3 bouquet of flowers from Tesco, while my friends were going out all over London, and going on trips abroad.I tried to work hard on my mental health, and CBT did help too. But by the time I went back to work, my perception on my mental health had changed. I'd been selling myself to employers to get work but I'd forgotten how beneficial my mental illness could be, and what I'd learnt from it.Truth is, mental illnesses can teach us things. And employers should take note.People with mental illnesses are more than their illnesses.Not seeing past an illness can prevent you from seeing their skills and talents. They might have a diagnosis, but they also might be hard workers, be good communicators, or good at using their initiative. They might view problems in a different way that you haven't thought of. And, if you actively discriminate against them because of their illness, you're breaking the law.We're good at empathising.Mental illness can often make us feel a whole range of emotions, or even feel nothing at all. We know what it's like to feel overwhelmed, and we also know what it's like to carry on whilst feeling like that. We understand, and can often put ourselves in other peoples' shoes.We're good listeners.We know the value of talking; and so, we know the value of listening. We know that sometimes, it's good to get it off your chest, and how comforting it can be to have someone sit there and just...not tell us what to do or give opinions. A lot of us will have experience of having to calm ourselves down in anxiety-producing situations, so we can help rationalise or distract or work things out with people if they need it.We're creative.Sometimes, what might seem to be the most obvious way of going about things isn't possible for us. So, we get thinking and choose to tackle the issue in a different way. We have to think differently about how to approach problems, because we do the same thing in our everyday lives, just to get by. Don't underestimate our abilities just because we might do things differently.We're resilient.We know what it's like to have to find ways to keep going, no matter what. So, in the workplace, we can apply some of these same strategies to tackle tasks, goals, and targets. When you're dealing with your own mind everyday, you learn to find ways to make yourself keep on keeping on.We're all human; we all have mental health. We're all valuable.
Submitted by: Maeve
I no longer feel totally alone...I know the Close 2 Home team are available to offer advice and support if I need them and that has been, and will continue to be a huge comfort to me in what has been a long and difficult time. Thank you very very much. Superstars
Submitted by: Patricia
The staff member helped me to find the positives and find ways to think differently so I can manage better with my condition.
Volunteering with Mind opened my eyes to what’s possible with voluntary work. It is possible to provide yourself with a rich and interesting live whilst imparting something fundamentally positive on those you come into contact with. My work with Mind has shown me that there is so much more to voluntary work than spending… Continue readingVolunteering with Mind opened my eyes to what’s possible with voluntary work. It is possible to provide yourself with a rich and interesting live whilst imparting something fundamentally positive on those you come into contact with. My work with Mind has shown me that there is so much more to voluntary work than spending time in a charity shop or picking litter up off beaches and there is real scope for progressing your influence in so many positive ways. My work with Mind has won me awards, lead me to other work opportunities across Europe and now I’m an appointed member of the European health parliament. If you had told me in the depths of my struggles that I would be in this position ever, let alone so quickly, I wouldn’t have believed you and I owe it all to the support of the staff at Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind and what I learned by volunteering. Try it, follow your nose and you never know where you’ll end up. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Many years ago I was going through a serious phase of anxiety & stress that fell into depression. I started to document moments 'Of life' on my mobile phone camera as I passed through the days. Over time I noticed how I felt inspired and focused when I captured moments on the camera, it was like a walking meditation. I… Continue readingMany years ago I was going through a serious phase of anxiety & stress that fell into depression. I started to document moments 'Of life' on my mobile phone camera as I passed through the days. Over time I noticed how I felt inspired and focused when I captured moments on the camera, it was like a walking meditation. I could focus and wait for when I thought I had the right shot, and over time it alleviated the 'Thinking' and 'Worrying' that went along with my daily life.Later I decided to purchase a camera from ebay, and this enabled me to focus in and get sharper images.I regularly walk in Albert Park and so over time I have captured images throughout the seasons. When I get the camera out it is as if all my worries go away, and I have become much more relaxed and aware of the progress of changes that go on. I continue to take photos virtually every day, and it continues to be a source of inspiration for me, and I have shared several to photography sites and been given commendations.
Submitted by: Steve
In this post, I’m going to share a concise version of my mental health story to illustrate how it is possible to achieve things which you can’t even imagine when you’re going through the excruciating lows of your mental health conditions.Let’s first rewind 10 years to 29th May 2007. I’m 15 years old and, although I… Continue readingIn this post, I’m going to share a concise version of my mental health story to illustrate how it is possible to achieve things which you can’t even imagine when you’re going through the excruciating lows of your mental health conditions.Let’s first rewind 10 years to 29th May 2007. I’m 15 years old and, although I don’t know it yet, mental health conditions including panic attacks, agoraphobia, anxiety and depression are going to have a massive impact on my life.At that time, I had no real concept of mental health other than the stigmatised version which is prevalent in society. So when I began having panic attacks I didn’t understand what was happening to me.Panic attacks made me feel detached from myself and reality. They made me feel like I was going completely mad; like I was inevitably going to be put in to a mental health facility and locked away forever.So, at that time, with my lack of understanding and these scary thoughts in mind, it is no wonder that I developed agoraphobia because of my panic attacks.The thought of having a panic attack terrified me. The thought of having a panic attack in a public place absolutely terrified me. Therefore, my strategy for coping was to try and stay at home for as much time as I could. That way, if I had another panic, lost control and went mad at least I’d be on my own and nobody would judge me.I avoided family events, making plans with friends and even situations as simple to others as going for a short walk with my family.It wasn’t just that I avoided these things though, I have cried uncontrollably and begged my family not to make me go out with them before because of how scared I was.Even though I was able to overcome my panic attacks and agoraphobia over 5 years ago now, I have experienced several recurring bouts of severe anxiety and depression since then.The most recent of these bouts was between Autumn 2015 and Spring 2016. My anxiety completely overtook me and caused me to endlessly obsess over thoughts and questions which have no answer. It was exhausting and debilitating.During this period, like each of the several times I’ve experienced severe anxiety, I became depressed due to my conditions I withdrew myself from the world. If not always physically, then certainly mentally.In my mind, the way in which I withdraw myself during times in which I’m going through anxiety and depression is different from the agoraphobia which I used to experience.I find that it is not a fear in the same way as my agoraphobia was but ultimately it has the same consequence. I become isolated and just going out to do daily tasks like go to work or go shopping are suddenly mountains to climb.Even if I’m able to achieve something in this state. It will have been a constant struggle and I will not have been able to enjoy it.It is difficult to explain such complex conditions and emotions in a blog post and ultimately I don’t think I can ever get across the amount of fear, hurt and helplessness that I’ve experienced because of my mental health.Hopefully though I’ve got across just how isolated I’ve been at several points during the last decade and how consigned I was to the fact that I’d always be like that.This should put into sharp focus for you how unbelievably massive and farfetched it would’ve seemed for me, even 18 months ago, to go to central London, take part in an event with around 15,000 people and actually enjoy the entire experience!On top of that, in order to even start my fundraising I had to actually tell people about my conditions and be open about my mental health!I would never ever have felt able to do any of that a few years ago. I would have been far too scared of what people would think of me to speak out.Regardless of that, I wouldn’t have been able to go to an event like the Vitality London 10k without having to constantly reassure myself in my head that I would be okay; if I was even able to go at all.Yet, here I am in a position where over the last year or so I finally can do what I want to do.I now want to tell everyone about my mental health conditions to eliminate stigma and help others.I now enjoy and revel in doing things and living life fully because after years and years of trying I have learnt to manage my conditions positively and I very rarely experience anxious thoughts anymore.I feel motivated and passionate, I want to achieve things in my life and I want to make a difference to others because I know how tough mental health can be.Fundraising, blogging, YouTube, volunteering and campaigning all give me a platform to try and make that difference.Bizarrely, and unbelievably to the 15 year old me, I’m happy that mental health is still a big part of my life because it is in such a positive way now!As I’ve said before, I’m not naïve enough to think that I’m invincible to mental health conditions now. I still take anti-depressants and I know there is a chance that my mental health could become worse again in the future.However, I know that I am so well equipped to manage my mental health now that I would overcome the tough times again. Besides, I know now that it is nothing to be ashamed of to not be okay and that acceptance that I, like everyone else, am human and vulnerable to it means I feel at peace with it all.Whatever happens to me over the rest of my lifetime will happen. However, I know now from personal experience that it is possible to go from extreme lows to massive highs and achieve things which I never thought I could.That inspires me and I hope it inspires you too.Rob
Submitted by: Rob
When I first came to Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind, I had lost all my confidence and found it hard to talk to people. I was suffering with severe depression and had been under the care of my local crisis intervention team at Roseberry park. I was introduced to the connect recovery college and took part in a few of the… Continue readingWhen I first came to Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind, I had lost all my confidence and found it hard to talk to people. I was suffering with severe depression and had been under the care of my local crisis intervention team at Roseberry park. I was introduced to the connect recovery college and took part in a few of the courses. This really helped and soon I found my confidence starting to return. Meeting other people on the courses who also had their own personnel experiences with mental health issues and realising I wasn’t alone was a massive help to me. After around two years my confidence had returned and I enrolled with the open university and started to study for my degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, and I also decided that I wanted to give something back to Mind, and the only thing I could give was my time, so I became a volunteer. Helping other people and listening to others talk about their own experiences, also helped me in my own recovery. Getting out of the house more often and going to different places to co-facilitate on connect recovery courses has been great for my own wellbeing. Now, after 4 years as both a service user and a volunteer, the time has come for me to move on. My confidence is back and I now feel like I have the tools to be able to manage when things start to go bad. I am now about to start a new job for the first time in 4 years and I am also waiting to start my third year at university, two things I could not have imagined when I first walked through the doors of Mind. I cannot thank the staff, volunteers and others I have met along the way enough. The service at Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind is second to none and I would not hesitate to point someone in the direction of Mind if they need that help. Keep up the excellent work and my many, many thanks,
Submitted by: Paul
For those of you who may not be aware, June 1st-7th is National Volunteers' Week in the UK. This is an event set up specifically with the aim of celebrating the achievements of those who volunteer, raising the profiles of the organisations who need volunteers, and encouraging those who have never volunteered before to… Continue readingFor those of you who may not be aware, June 1st-7th is National Volunteers' Week in the UK. This is an event set up specifically with the aim of celebrating the achievements of those who volunteer, raising the profiles of the organisations who need volunteers, and encouraging those who have never volunteered before to give it a try. Volunteering is something I had always wanted to do, but with school, college, and then university taking up so much time- not to mention my anxiety disorder making new experiences incredibly frightening for me- I always avoided the chance to get involved. However, after finishing my Master's degree I found I had a lot of free time. After admitting that my anxiety made it difficult for me to try new things, Mind was suggested. Being somebody who suffers from mental illness, I'd obviously heard of it, and I knew of its reputation as a great place for support. So, I bit the bullet, researched opportunities, and soon enquired about joining their anti-stigma group. As the title suggests, this is a group with my local Mind branch that meets regularly to discuss and implement ways of reducing the stigma around mental health. This includes encouraging more people to open up, reaching out to employers, and getting involved with local and nationwide events relating to mental illness. I was terrified before attending my first meeting. Would I have to speak? What if I embarrassed myself by saying something stupid? How would I manage in a room full of people I'd never met before? Thankfully there was nothing to worry about. Not only was everybody welcoming, but there was no pressure to talk if you were too nervous to do so. It was a great experience, and one of the few things I do that I actually look forward to, instead of dread for days beforehand.So, now I'm a volunteer, here is why I love volunteering, and some tips so you can get involved too!1. Look into organisations that relate to things you care about. Obviously every charity works towards a worthwhile cause, but I find that I'm much more invested when what I'm working on relates to my own experiences. This means I can generate ideas based on things I've actually gone through myself, and I can connect with the other volunteers much easier because we all understand what it's like to suffer from mental illness. I've already met some great people, all inspiring in their own ways, who suffer from similar things, and so are easier to talk to about certain topics.2. Volunteering is a great way to build up your own confidence and self-esteem. There are so many chances to get involved, and you can do as much or as little as you want. When I first got involved I promised myself that I would force myself out of my comfort zone, and say yes to things I would normally shy away from. Just a couple of weeks ago I sat with the group while being filmed by Tyne Tees News, and a few days ago I sat (on my own!) in front of a camera and talked about why I enjoy volunteering so much.3. Opportunities like those in the above point are great to put on your CV and applications! It shows that you care about causes and issues, and that you can get involved with things of your own volition, and not just because of the paycheck at the end of the month. It can boost your career, and give you some fantastic skills depending on the opportunities available. There are often chances to gain extra qualifications and certifications, which can also enhance your CV and really make you stand out from the crowd. 4. You meet fantastic people. If you volunteer for something that relates to your own experience, you'll soon have validation of your feelings, because you'll be surrounded by those who have gone through the same thing. 5. There is no pressure. Obviously it's wonderful if you can be available for everything, but this isn't always possible. There is complete understanding that sometimes things come up, and that's okay! 6. You can make a difference. Stigma is still a really significant issue in the conversations around mental health, and to know that we're helping to break down those walls, and correct any misconceptions that people have about speaking out, is a fantastic feeling. No matter which charity or organisation you choose, you will always be making a difference to somebody!So if you have some spare time now that summer is finally getting underway, take some time to research the groups and organisations in your local area. They're always looking for more volunteers, and you'll have a fantastic time while gaining invaluable experience. Give it a try!
Submitted by: Iona
Mental Health has been part of my life since I was a little girl. To be honest, probably since the day I was born. My father was an addict. Alcohol being his drug of choice, forcing my family to break up when I was only 3 years old. His love for alcohol was just too strong. It overtook the love for his wife and children.… Continue readingMental Health has been part of my life since I was a little girl. To be honest, probably since the day I was born. My father was an addict. Alcohol being his drug of choice, forcing my family to break up when I was only 3 years old. His love for alcohol was just too strong. It overtook the love for his wife and children. Alongside this, my Mam has suffered from a very severe level of depression for much of my life. She has only really started to come out the other side over the last 10 years, although as anyone who knows about mental ill health or who suffers themselves, it is always a burden you will carry.My own experiences started officially after the birth of my daughter when I was 19 years old. To be fair, they probably started a lot earlier but there was no space in my head to entertain the thought and mental health was simply not discussed when I was young. My best friend didn't even know how bad my home life was. It was like you became a leper if you came from a broken home as it was, you just didn't add to these issues by admitting your parents were clearly ill. Being a victim of bullying for being poor was enough, I could not have added my family life situation to the mix.After an initial bout of severe depression which saw me signed off and put on medication about 10 year ago, after the death of my Nana, I have been able to pretty much self manage since. Or so I thought. Back in March 2017 I realised I had hit complete rock bottom. It was a rainy day and I was coming back from taking my daughter to her Dads. The roads were slippy and I skidded on some surface water. I took my hands off the wheel, hoping I would crash. If it wasn't for me spotting a photo of my son in the corner of my windscreen and snapping to my senses, well you know what the result would have been. And I just simply did not care. That photo saved my life! First thing Monday morning I called my Doctor and I have been off work, put on medication again which I fully intend to stick to and I am seeing a counsellor.I truly believe that if it wasn't for me losing over 2 stone in weight and discovering a true love for running and fitness in general my story could be currently very different. Running keeps me even. If I am upset, angry, frustrated or so low I cant think straight, I lace up my bright pink Nikes, stick in my ear phones, put my music on loud, and I run. I never plan a route. I never plan a particular distance. I just go, wherever my feet take me. My mind becomes deliciously blank, The white noise in my head disappears. I am free. I am not a Mam, a wife, a sufferer of depression, I am Claire. That feeling that comes when you finish is just so hard to describe. You feel alive. The sweat, your heart beating out your chest, your lungs on fire, it is just amazing. Add to this, smashing a Personal Best, well for that moment, any moments of suffering feel a million memories away!After a year of exercising and becoming the fittest I have ever been in my life, I decided I wanted to make it count. I wanted to give back. I started by completing Run Every Day January (clue is in the name) and raised over £300 for national Mind. It gave me such a sense of achievement and purpose, that I was donating for a cause so close to my heart and raising awareness, both of the charity itself and of mental health. It is such a taboo subject, still to this day, although situations are improving. I want to be part of the driving force that makes talking about your mental issues as common as talking about the flu! From this I decided I wanted to do more, but for my local Mind - Mind Middlesbrough & Stockton. Charity really does begin at home. Teesside is my adopted home, it is where I have had some of my toughest times in adult life but where I have learnt a lot and where I have met some of the most important people. With this in mind (no pun intended) I decided to sign up for my first professional race - Bamburgh 10km, in June 2017. I am so excited but nervous. I have also decided to train for the London Marathon in the hope I get a place in 2018. Fundraising again for the lovely team at Mind Middlesbrough & Stockton. As part of this training I will be completing the Bamburgh Half Marathon in October. A massive feat for someone that this time last year could only run for 20 minutes!My next steps - to complete these running challenges and raise as much money as possible in support and awareness of mental health. To add many more to my belt over the years. To continue with my mental health and fitness blog (redballoons2017.wordpress.com) and to continue to grow, learn and become part of the amazing volunteering team at Mind. I will also be a qualified Personal Trainer come July.With all the above in place I know my recovery is imminent. I will never be completely cured, but knowing I can give back to those suffering and in their won dark place will mean I have turned my demons into angels. It will make my own dark days have more of a rose coloured tint to them.
Back in April I sent an email to Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind, not fully knowing what to expect or what I was wanting to do, just that I wanted to volunteer in any shape or form. I got an email back form the lovely Beth and before I knew it I was meeting her in person and chatting about what I could offer. I couldn't have… Continue readingBack in April I sent an email to Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind, not fully knowing what to expect or what I was wanting to do, just that I wanted to volunteer in any shape or form. I got an email back form the lovely Beth and before I knew it I was meeting her in person and chatting about what I could offer. I couldn't have asked for a friendlier face. I chose them because they are the Mind for my local area. I believe that in order to be able to start anywhere you need to start at home. This is my adopted hometown and I want to help those around me, who may be in similar situations, had similar upbringings and may not be aware of what is on their very doorstep. Mental health itself is an extremely daunting prospect, trying to find ways to support yourself can be even scarier, especially when you may not even have admitted fully to yourself never mind those nearest and dearest to you. Although I am a sufferer, severe depression is my card to play, I knew that I had the motivation and determination to put myself out there in order to raise awareness, and to get involved. If I can use my past or current experiences to help even one person, then all this sadness and suffering wont have been in vain. It could make a tiny difference in a world that currently still holds a lot of ignorance to this very subject. I feel proud to be part of such an amazing cause, a charity that goes out of its way to help anyone and everyone, that wants to erase the stigma of mental ill health and to support those who suffer or care for others that suffer. The impact it has had on my life, even in just the small time I have been part of it, has been phenomenal. Instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed or avoiding my issues, I feel like I can wear them as badge of experience and be part of something worthwhile. Something that could ultimately change the world, one town at a time. It doesn't have to take up a lot of your time, as a volunteer just being part of the team and giving up your time whenever you are able is much appreciated. You feel grateful that they want your time in any form. I would genuinely recommend volunteering to anyone. Any one who may have even just a spare hour a week. In that hour you could make so much more of a difference than you could ever imagine. You could help someone realise that they are not alone, something that you do could be something that someone else has never thought of and it could become something that they can adapt to work for them. You can hone in on skills that you may never have known you had, or fine tune the ones you do have. What I love most about it is meeting such a diverse range of people, and hearing their experiences, how they have become where they are, how they manage to cope and why they have chosen to be part of Mind, in whatever capacity that could be. The members I have met in my Anti Stigma group are truly an amazing bunch of people. I feel privileged to be part of them, to be involved in helping change the future with them but also of gaining new friends. I would love to be able to incorporate my passion for running and fitness into my volunteering at some point. It is a coping mechanism for me that has helped save my life pretty much. I want to give this back. I want to help people find their passion, whether it be fitness, running or something completely different. In regards to how volunteering helps my own mental health, well it is only in a positive way. I am starting to believe I have a true purpose. I am not completely sure what that is just yet but I know it involves working within mental health in some capacity and incorporating my fitness passion and qualifications. It is such an under utilised form of therapy. There is always something for someone, of any age, race and fitness level within their own personal interests. I am beginning to believe I am worth something, I do matter. Volunteering is now as much a necessary part of my life as my running, my medication and my counsellor. It will help me on my recovery journey as I hopefully help someone on theirs.If I could offer any advice it would be, go for it! Send that email. make that appointment, sell yourself and don't look back. Go on to make a difference in other peoples lives. I swear you wont regret it. Become a volunteer and become a person who gives back. Do it for the simple satisfaction. Money may make the world turn but it certainly cant buy the important things!Thank you Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind for helping me onto the correct path and opening up my eyes to an array of possibilities. We really will make a difference, one day at a time!
For a good few months now I've been feeling really low about myself, which is not like me. I was such a confident person and was so happy within myself, and I guess as I've grown up and matured a bit more and life has changed so much that I'm having to almost find myself again. When I say feeling down about myself I don't… Continue readingFor a good few months now I've been feeling really low about myself, which is not like me. I was such a confident person and was so happy within myself, and I guess as I've grown up and matured a bit more and life has changed so much that I'm having to almost find myself again. When I say feeling down about myself I don't just mean the odd huff here and there because I've put on a bit of weight or I don't like my hair, I've been overthinking things I didn't used to. It all sparked because I gained a few pounds but then it kind of tumble weeded and I started to think about what other people thought of me.What if people think I'm mean for saying that? What if people think I'm stupid because I've forgotten something? What if they're looking at me thinking 'she's put on weight'? What if they don't like me?I guess I let one insecurity spark some more, which I shouldn't have done. Something that only my closest friends and boyfriend know is that I suffer with Anxiety. I haven't been properly diagnosed but I know I have it, I've suffered with panic attacks since I was in secondary school and my mind is pretty much always in over drive overthinking the smallest of things. However, I've realised that I just need to get back to my roots. Life got so hectic with work, Uni and family life that I forgot to take time out for me (and my little blog) so I've decided it's time to work on myself. By that I mean get healthier, lose the weight I put on, work on something that I love doing, create things and start to really enjoy life again.My weight does not define me. I can be forgetful. Sometimes I get annoyed a little too easily. I can let stressful situations get me down. You work to live, you don't live to work. I achieve something every day as my blog views go up. I'm funny. I have amazing people around me. I'm kind. I'd prefer to wear a baggy jumper and joggers over a dress any day. I'm pretty, even without make up. I need to work on my time keeping skills. I got a 1st in a Uni assignment with the rest pretty much all 2:1s, when an A was never in sight at school or college. I'm creative. I'm motivated. I'm talented. I'm me.These are some of the things that make up who I am, some good, some bad. It's hard to beat insecurities and learn to love yourself but every now and then it's good to sit down and remind yourself that you're actually doing ok.
Submitted by: Lucy
One of the most prevalent topics in the mental health community seems to be stigma around mental health in the workplace. I’ve heard stories of people being told to deal with it; that they need to grow up; that their panic attacks wouldn’t happen to normal people; that they need to get a grip, and many, many other stories… Continue readingOne of the most prevalent topics in the mental health community seems to be stigma around mental health in the workplace. I’ve heard stories of people being told to deal with it; that they need to grow up; that their panic attacks wouldn’t happen to normal people; that they need to get a grip, and many, many other stories that show just how little people know or care about mental illnesses.A few weeks ago I attended an interview for a waitressing position. Despite my bad anxiety and depression, I was determined to make it work because, let’s face it, the economy is shit, and I need a job. The interview, a 1-1 with a lovely woman, went brilliantly, and I was invited back for a work trial during their evening dinner rush with two others trying out for similar roles. Each of us was shadowed by a supervisor, and the restaurant manager watched us throughout the trial. At the end he took each of us aside one by one to give us feedback before sending us home. I was called in last, and these were his exact words: “I was really concerned about you. You were terrified, it was making the customers tense”.I was shocked. Yes, I had been absolutely terrified of the work trial, but I managed to speak; I took orders; I did everything I was asked with a smile on my face. I knew my anxiety was visible, but I hadn’t realised just how much. To say that the customers were on edge because of how I was feeling was a kick to the stomach. One of the few reassurances throughout my struggles with anxiety, was that it wasn’t easily noticeable by the average person. People are so distracted by their own lives, they wouldn’t notice that you’re feeling particularly anxious about something. But they did notice. I, obviously, didn’t get the job.Many other people I’ve spoken to have had similar experiences: Bosses, managers, supervisors, and co-workers who don’t understand mental illness, don’t understand how it manifests, and treat the sufferer, quite frankly, like they’re overreacting and not capable of doing the job. This is why I suggested, in a twitter chat several weeks ago, that workplaces should be much more accepting of mental illness. Just as they include a disclaimer in an application- stating that they don’t discriminate based on age, gender, and so forth- they should include some form of reassurance about their treatment of those with mental illnesses.Now, don’t get me wrong, there are jobs out there that some of us can’t do, due to our illnesses. But for many of us, it is the treatment from co-workers, rather than the work itself, that stops us. I recently began volunteering with my local branch of Mind, and one of the things that keeps cropping up is the idea of a mental health supporter within workplaces. Just as every workplace needs a first-aid qualified staff member on duty at all times, they should also have somebody who has been trained in how to deal with mental illness. This would be a lifeline for those who are prone to, for example, panic attacks halfway through a shift.Workplaces and business, in general, should follow strict guidelines that, when followed and/or completed, give them accreditation as being somewhere safe for mental health sufferers to work. This doesn’t seem, to me, to be a big ask, but considering the stories I’ve heard from those who have discovered how little their managers care about their well-being, I’m not holding my breath that any big changes will be take place soon.
This week is Maternal Mental Health Week. So it seemed as good a time as any to write this blog, because it has been rattling around in my head for a while. I’m pretty nervous about it, because some people in my life don’t know about my past mental health issues, and others know a bit but probably not any kind of… Continue readingThis week is Maternal Mental Health Week. So it seemed as good a time as any to write this blog, because it has been rattling around in my head for a while. I’m pretty nervous about it, because some people in my life don’t know about my past mental health issues, and others know a bit but probably not any kind of detail. But I wanted to write this because of anybody out there who might feel ashamed or worried about how they feel about having a baby. When I first became a mother ten years ago the ‘Unmumsy Mum’ and ‘Hurrah for Gin’ social media frenzy wasn’t around. There wasn’t a lot of people openly talking about their struggles to cope with motherhood, so now I kind of think, the more of us talking about it, the better for everyone.This might go on a bit, so apologies if you get bored half way through. It has a happy ending though! If you’re pregnant for the first time, take this as a warning, it contains details of how things can go wrong during child birth!I was desperate to become a Mum. As a teenager I used to tell my teachers my ambition is life was to be a Mum. Looking back, this seemed a bit silly. I was always very driven and ambitious. But I wanted to be a good Mum. I wanted to do well at it. Anyone who knows me will know that being good at stuff is important to me. I wanted to do good at being a Mum.So when I fell pregnant with Hannah I was happy. I was in love with Hannah’s dad. We were due to get married. Actually we planned the wedding then found out I was pregnant. I was due to get married about seven weeks after my due date. I thought this would be fine. I was going to have give birth and then bounce back into shape, have a wedding and life with my new baby and my new husband would be perfect.I read everything there was to read about preparing for a baby. I watched documentaries about giving birth. I was determined to breastfeed my baby and in my head my life would pretty much be the same, except it would have a baby in it! I was also determined not be one of those neurotic Mums who worried about everything. I was going to be a cool, chilled out Mum. I had it all planned out.Pregnancy was good to me. I wasn’t sick or unwell, I ate well. I didn’t put on loads of weight. I loved being pregnant. I felt special and happy. When I went into labour everything went well. Eventually Hannah was born via ventouse delivery after I had been in labour for about 16 hours. She was perfect, and even though labour is horrible (it really flipping hurts!) everything was good. I spent twenty minutes bonding with her and breastfeeding her. Then everything went a bit wrong. They couldn’t get my placenta to come out and I was bleeding. After a while they started to panic and took me down to theatre.In theatre things took another turn for the worse. I was losing blood and the big African doctor spent a fair while trying to manoeuvre my placenta out of my body manually. Everyone panicked some more. There was lots of calls for more blood, and I was starting to lose consciousness. The nurses told me I was going to be put to sleep. I’d seen this on a documentary, I knew that if they couldn’t stop me bleeding they would take my womb out completely. They put me to sleep as I was begging them not to take out my womb, I already knew I wanted more than one baby.When I woke up I was in intensive care and a machine was breathing for me. When you see people immediately panic and try and pull the tube out of their throat on the telly programmes, it’s real. I tried to rip out the tube down my throat but they wouldn’t let me. I could only use my left hand as there were all sorts of tubes and wires coming out of me. My family came in to see me. I couldn’t talk but I could write, so I asked where Hannah was. She was being looked after by nurses. I asked how she was being fed. I was supposed to be breast feeding her. It was the next day, I didn’t want them to feed her with a bottle. I was reassured that she was being fed with a cup, so she didn’t get confused when I tried to feed her. After an hour or two the nurses took me off the ventilator and I could breathe on my own. I’d had nine units of blood transfused, which I think is pretty much all of it. I’d been in theatre for over four hours. Apparently my family had been told to phone every hour to see if I was still alive. They managed to stop me bleeding without taking my womb out, which was a massive relief for me.So the next day, or later that day (I’ve never been sure how long anything took) I was moved to my own room, and a nurse wheeled a baby in next to me. The first thing I thought was “I don’t know whose baby that is, that could be anybody’s baby” I didn’t recognise her. We’d been apart for over 24 hours. I was too unwell to look after her. I remember having the worst headache ever and not wanting to keep my eyes open. Everybody else in the room was cuddling Hannah, and cooing. I could barely hold my head up. when she cried the nurses came and took her away so I could rest. They were feeding her with a bottle, but I didn’t realise this at the time.I was in hospital for a week I think, with Hannah, recovering and trying to breast feed her. I couldn’t move my legs for a few days, which was challenging when trying to look after a new born. Then the maternity ward moved and they forgot to take me with them, that day they didn’t bring me any food! Hannah lost lots of weight and would scream every time she wasn’t latched on. I had no milk, and it never turned up. I think my body had been through so much, it wasn’t really in the mood to start producing milk as well as trying to mend me! I was also on loads of painkillers, blood thinners and other drugs. Its no wonder I had no milk to feed her with. But at the time I didn’t know. When we took her home she kept losing weight. So we fed her milk with a little cup, which meant we could sleep. Then I sent Dad out to buy some bottles. I was devastated that I couldn’t feed her. The health visitor told me the only way to get my milk production up was to basically spend 24 hours with her latched onto me and hope that my body got the message and kicked in its milk production. I couldn’t face the idea of this, at the time I just wanted her to sleep.I dreaded her waking up, because I didn’t want to have to feed her with a bottle. I felt like a failure and that everyone was judging me. I didn’t really understand what had happened to me or my life. I wanted to give her back. I already felt like I’d failed her somehow, and I just wasn’t good enough. And everybody seemed so attached to her. I remember asking my Mum why everyone seemed to love her more than I did. She told me to stop being silly because of course I loved her. And I did, but at the time I didn’t feel like I did.So I got married, and on the surface everything was fine. But on the inside things were not fine. I struggled with looking after Hannah. I constantly felt like she was someone else’s baby and at some point someone would come and end my shift and return her to her real Mum. Mostly I felt like I was babysitting her for someone else. In public I felt self conscious and like everyone was judging me. I hated taking her to get weighed because I was sure everyone was watching me and thinking I was getting it wrong. I used to feel panic when she woke up, because I knew she would need something from me ad I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to get it right. I didn’t ever feel good enough for her.At the time I just battled through. I had good days and bad days, and tried to stay positive and busy. I went back to work and life kept moving. But I hadn’t really dealt with the trauma of giving birth. I was expecting to give birth and fall in love with my baby, and look at her and know she was the most precious thing in the world to me, but I didn’t get to experience that. And actually have since realised that this is not uncommon. Quite a lot of Mums don’t immediately feel that attachment to their babies. But I am the kind of person who likes to get things right, I wanted things to be the way I thought they were supposed to be. And it went so horribly wrong that I didn’t really come to terms with it.So I felt the best thing to do was to . . . . .do it all again. So I got pregnant with Emily. There was going to be an eighteen month gap between them. I desperately wanted to have a normal birth and get to take home my baby. Instead Emily was born eight weeks early and wasn’t breathing for herself. And my placenta got stuck inside me again. Thankfully this time they had blood ready to pump into me and they got it out in theatre without all the drama, so it wasn’t so bad. Emily was in the neonatal unit for three and half weeks. I tried my hardest to bond with her as much as possible, which is tricky when she was in an incubator and poorly. I was so determined to breast feed this baby that I pumped milk manually around the clock so that they could feed it to her down her tube when she was tiny. And I did manage to breast feed her for a few weeks when she came home. Thankfully she was discharged as a healthy happy (but tiny!) baby.I was more prepared to not enjoy baby Emily, I had lower expectations, and so found it all a bit less traumatic than Hannah. She was more attached to me as a baby, she seemed to need me more, and I was better at it the second time round. But by this point I had lost all sense of who I was. I had become anxious and depressed, and I wasn’t even aware of it. By the time Emily was eighteen months old I was a bit disconnected from the world. On bad days it felt like I was watching myself from a metre back, like I was watching a film. I couldn’t get to the front of my own life anymore, I was on autopilot. I couldn’t stay in the moment long enough to enjoy anything, and there seemed to be no end. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t enjoy anything anymore. Nothing seemed to bring me any joy. From the outside most people didn’t know how I was feeling. The people closest to me tell me now that they were worried about me, but I’m not sure by this point there was anything anyone could have done. I hadn’t realised how much I’d changed. I was so focused on getting through the day and ticking everything off my list of things I needed to get through, that I hadn’t noticed how depressed I was.Ultimately the pressure of trying to cope and not really understanding what the problem was, contributed to the end of my marriage. It’s not the only factor, there were many factors, but it’s hard to know how things might have turned out if I had got help sooner. Hannah and Emily’s Dad was always so good at the parenting thing. He was the most chilled out, capable Dad, he still is, and he seemed to enjoyed it so much. In fact everyone around me seemed to be doing a much better job at parenting my babies than I was. When I left them (and I walked out on all three of them) I was convinced that they would be better off without me. At that point I was in such a bad place I didn’t think the girls would notice, and I thought I could happily live without them.It makes me really really sad to write that, because of course it isn’t true. I didn’t go a day without seeing them and they really needed me. Bit by bit I rebuilt my life and my relationship with them both. They were still babies, Hannah was three, Emily was just coming up two, we sorted out shared-care, so that they spent equal amounts of time with me and their Dad.Actually, left to my own devices without fear of judgement, comparison or anyone watching me, I realised I was dong a decent job. I started to enjoy being their Mum. I started to care less what people thought. I stopped feeling like their babysitting big sister and stopped worrying so much. This was helped by a course of anti-depressants, which I took for nine months and they really made a difference. Then the girls got older and this helped too. It turns out I’m not a baby person. I’m awesome once they turn about four.I now work for a mental health charity and looking back, it seems obvious that I needed some more support to deal with the trauma and shock of being so poorly after Hannah was born, and the postnatal depression that followed. I was probably also suffering with post traumatic stress disorder. By the time I realised I was broken, it was too late. I hadn’t realised how lost I was.There is so much pressure on new Mums, and so much stigma and judgement about how to do it right. If you’re like me and you like to do things right, this can be really difficult to cope with. Most of what I wanted to ‘get right’ was completely out of my control.Now, ten years later, I’m in really good therapy which is helping with my anxiety. It turns out I was probably always struggling with anxiety, and this was definitely exacerbated when I became a Mum. There is so much to be anxious about with a new baby!I suppose I’m writing this because it feels important to me, and because I want to add something to the conversation about motherhood and postnatal depression and stigma. I’m not looking for sympathy or understanding (or judgement!) I just want anyone out there who might relate to anything I have written to know they are not alone. I don’t know if it will upset some people close to me, because some of it is hard to write, let alone read. But it is the truth about the way I felt at the time. And if you’re Hannah or Emily reading this, please know I love you, and I have always done my best, even if sometimes I didn’t think my best was good enough.I feel lucky now that I have such an amazing relationship with Hannah and Emily, and I feel grateful everyday that I get to be their Mum. Some days I still feel like I’m just not good enough for them, but I have new coping strategies to deal with these days.There is help out there, professional help and support groups and help lines. There are some links at the bottom of this page. If you have thought for even a second ‘maybe I should talk to someone about how I feel’ then the chances are you would benefit from help, and the sooner you can get to sit in front of someone and talk about how you feel, the easier it gets.We spend so much time comparing ourselves to other people and feeling like we fall short. Any Mum that tells you they have it sussed is lying, we are all just winging it, and we need to be there to support each other.
Submitted by: Michelle
Running has an amazingly positive impact on my mental health, particularly in winter when the weather and darkness means people tend to spend much more time indoors. Getting outside in the fresh air for a run helps me to clear my head, release the stress of the day, gives me a sense of purpose and achievement, reduces my… Continue readingRunning has an amazingly positive impact on my mental health, particularly in winter when the weather and darkness means people tend to spend much more time indoors. Getting outside in the fresh air for a run helps me to clear my head, release the stress of the day, gives me a sense of purpose and achievement, reduces my anxiety levels and boosts my mood. When I run I feel free. Anyone can run, it doesn't matter what age, size or shape you are. All you need is a pair of trainers. I would recommend it to anyone for its benefits on mental health.
Submitted by: Lizzie
Peer support training helped me to take the next stage into recovery and gave me the confidence I needed to volunteer. It was well delivered and gave me a way to fill my day with something meaningful.
Submitted by: Nik
The peer mentor training has given me a greater insight into the whole concept of mentoring. Also, it became a stepping stone to encourage me to want to set up my own group where the knowledge from the training became invaluable.
I have been suffering with depression since my late teens/early twenties. I did not know it was depression until my mid twenties, and then in my early thirties I was told it is actually bipolar disorder that I have been suffering with.For me, two of the most worrying things that happen during the difficult times, aside… Continue readingI have been suffering with depression since my late teens/early twenties. I did not know it was depression until my mid twenties, and then in my early thirties I was told it is actually bipolar disorder that I have been suffering with.For me, two of the most worrying things that happen during the difficult times, aside from the suicidal thoughts and feelings of being worthless and useless, is, 1. my memory goes out of the window and 2. my behaviour becomes slightly erratic. I tend to start doing things completely in the spur of the moment or I cannot remember locking the front door thirty seconds ago.The two things combined can make social situations really difficult, trying to remember if I locked all the windows or did I turn the iron off after I ironed my clothes. If you combined these two things with being anxious about social situations in the first place, then it can make even just leaving the house a living nightmare.Sometimes I don't see things coming until the strange behaviour starts, clicking the button on the car key to open the front door of the house and thinking “why wont this door open” or looking in the fridge for a carrier bag and saying to myself “where are all the carrier bags, I thought we had loads”, are just two examples of the things I have done during the start of a recent downward turn.I really fear that one day I might forget something really important that would cause untold trouble.As a result of this I have developed OCD, everything is checked and then checked again and just to be safe checked one last time and certain objects around the house have to be in certain places before I am satisfied that I'm not going to burn the house down or that the house is safe and secure before I leave.I have, however, found three coping mechanisms that help me no end when things are starting to go bad. I have started to go to the gym, healthy body, healthy mind and all that. The second one is my love of astronomy. Standing in the middle of nowhere with no light pollution, no noises or people about like in a town or city centre, just me, my telescope and the universe. Realising how far away our nearest neighbours are in the solar system or just how big the universe actually is, really helps to put everything into perspective. And the third thing is reading. Keeping my mind active helps to sharpen things up, and getting buried in a good book is a great way for me to keep my memory from going astray, imagining the descriptions in a book being played out in my mind is a great thing to keep sharp.Sometimes, these things do not always work. Some days, I just want to keep the curtains closed and stay locked in my bedroom where the world can’t get at me and I don't have to worry about social situations or if I have forgotten to do something. Then there are the times when everything is fine. Nothing to worry about, the OCD dies down a little bit and social situations are easier to deal with.But in the back of my mind I'm always expecting something to come out of the blue, something that will cause my memory to fade again.
One year ago I couldn't see past one day now I am looking ahead into the future with confidence and self-belief
I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder a couple of years ago but, like most people will tell you, you can suffer from something for a long time before it’s actually recognised as a diagnosable illness.I remember begging to stay home from school because I didn’t know how I was going to make it through my maths… Continue readingI was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder a couple of years ago but, like most people will tell you, you can suffer from something for a long time before it’s actually recognised as a diagnosable illness.I remember begging to stay home from school because I didn’t know how I was going to make it through my maths class without feeling my chest tighten and my heart pound into my throat. I remember having to sit close to an exit in exams in case I needed to speed out of the room and hyperventilate. I remember almost having to leave college because my anxiety became so bad that, for a long period of time, I couldn’t bring myself to enter classrooms.Thankfully, through the help of medication, I managed to make it through four years of university with very little trouble. Sure, sometimes I felt sick, sometimes I had to take a minute away from everybody and calm myself down. But I did it. I graduated with a first class undergraduate degree, and a distinction graded postgraduate degree, despite feeling, just a few years before, that I wouldn’t be able to get my A levels.But just because that part of my life is over, doesn’t mean the anxiety is gone. Medication isn’t always a cure. Sometimes it’s just a way to prevent the illness going any further, like a wall of sandbags on the edge of the dam in your mind.The dream of being a successful writer is difficult to achieve when you live in a part of the country with very few opportunities, and no money to tide you over while you move down south and complete unpaid internships. So, inevitably, I’m looking for other work while I try to break into the industry that I love the most. This means enhancing my CV, taking on local work experience, and volunteering opportunities. Not easy when you have a hard time leaving the house at all, and an even harder time making yourself speak to people.Next Friday I have agreed to go along to a local mental health charity’s volunteering morning. They meet once a month and generate ideas for how to raise awareness of the charity and mental illness as a whole. Despite this being a wonderful opportunity, I’m already terrified, and the damn thing is almost a week away!Anxiety can make you worry and panic about every aspect of something. What if I can’t find a way to get there? What if I get there late? What if I get there early and have to sit around the reception for an hour like a creep? What if I make a fool of myself? What if nobody there likes me? What if I’m too nervous to talk and they all think I’m stupid? What if I can’t think of any ideas? What if? What if? What if?Anxiety will do that. It takes everything that could possibly go wrong, and throws them at you like there’s no tomorrow. It overwhelms you, it makes you feel sick, it makes your stomach turn and your head cloudy. It makes you want to cancel and give up.The biggest problem is, despite having anxiety for over a decade, I still don’t know how to beat it. It just… seems to happen every now and then. Somehow, sometimes, I manage to find the strength to beat it back long enough for me to get through something and realise that, actually, there wasn’t anything to worry about.Anxiety, like my depression, is a daily struggle. Some days are inexplicably harder than others. Some days I’ll want to curl up in a ball, lock my door, and refuse to move for anybody or anything.It wins more than I do, but I think just knowing that it’s anxiety, and not a real fear based on real evidence, makes it that little bit easier to push away as you fight through. Maybe it’s because I’ve had it for so long, or maybe it’s because I know that if I don’t go to this meeting, I’ll be sabotaging my own career goals by not volunteering and getting good experience for my CV. Either way, I’m determined to win this time.
Overthinking is a big part of my anxiety and mental health overall. Overthinking things like “ugh I sounded like a right idiot when I asked that” makes my anxiety worse, overthinking is extremely common when you have anxiety. Overthinking rules my brain, everything I want to do, I overthink. Let’s say, for example, I want… Continue readingOverthinking is a big part of my anxiety and mental health overall. Overthinking things like “ugh I sounded like a right idiot when I asked that” makes my anxiety worse, overthinking is extremely common when you have anxiety. Overthinking rules my brain, everything I want to do, I overthink. Let’s say, for example, I want to go out with a few friends. I overthink things like “what happens if I fall over” “what happens if I do something stupid and everyone laughs” “what happens if I stutter and just sound idiotic to people”It’s annoying, just due to the fact that I plan on doing things, like going out with a few friends. I overthink about the social situation and think that people will find me weird, and think I’m silly for being so anxious and panicky, and just end up cancelling. I try so hard to look for a solution or something else to stop overthinking, but my mind just cant stop thinking about that situation, I don’t know why I do it if I did I would try to stop, but nope, don’t know why I do it.There’s so much involved with overthinking, past situations for me make my overthinking worse, and I’ve heard from people that it is the same for them. I overthink so many social situations solely down to stuff that has happened, such as panicking in public. I also overthink things that have happened. Like “oh I shouldn’t have said that” “why did I say that” Overthinking for me is also solely down to my anxiety/social anxiety. I continuously overthink about what I come across like, what people think I am, what people think of me when I panic, panicking in public.Overthinking is a cycle, and I’m currently caught up in that cycle of overthinking mostly everything. For me, avoiding situations which I overthink about, will obviously not help and I am trying to slowly do those situations i.e go out with friends and socialise etc.I hope I can get out of this vicious cycle of overthinking, as it is truly tiring and constant battle.
Submitted by: Liam
My name is Dan, I'm 44 and I've suffered with depression for about 20 years. During this time I've done pretty much everything I can to help myself and a great many things I could, to destroy myself. I am currently in a period of great stability and I am starting a foundation degree in September, continuing my own journey… Continue readingMy name is Dan, I'm 44 and I've suffered with depression for about 20 years. During this time I've done pretty much everything I can to help myself and a great many things I could, to destroy myself. I am currently in a period of great stability and I am starting a foundation degree in September, continuing my own journey to becoming a counsellor.This is my story.My first breakdown was in 2001/2002, I didn't realise it was a breakdown, at the time I attributed it to some kind of early mid-life crisis (I was turning 30) but it was also around this time I found out my dad had lung cancer and the financial impact of been made redundant 18 months earlier had started to become evident. It manifested itself in very strange ways and my behaviour became erratic and I questioned my whole life. All the things I'd worked for came into question.During my late teens and early twenties I'd always felt moody, short fused, angry at things even had times were I couldn't go to work, but I just put it down to my personality, and being unhappy in my job. It never really crossed my mind that I could be depressed. I thought people like me don’t get depressed, I'm happy go lucky, the life and soul of the party, the clown. Looking back I used crutches, alcohol and drugs. I knew I was using them to block out things, try and make me feel better and escape but again I just put this down to "well that's just life"Over a period of probably 10/15 years from the late 90's, when I realised things weren't quite right, I saw a range of mental health nurses, counsellors and even a psychiatrist and took different medications, but I still didn't really accept that I was ill, but looking back no one actually told me I was. And the stigma of mental health has been bred into society for so many years that to admit you have a mental illness is very difficult.I got made redundant in 2000 and changed careers, which was a big deal. Financially it was huge I went from earning about £12 ph to about £5 ph. But I didn't think about it too much I just cracked on, because that's what I thought you did.....just cracked on.After my most recent breakdown, which in all honesty was the worse one I've suffered. I found myself in tears in a carpark deciding which way I was going to end this current life, would I kill myself? Run away? After the initial pain my wife and son would surely be better off without me? I couldn't believe this was it, after all these years I had reached the point of no return, after all the hurt and pain I had caused to those who loved me, this is where it was going to end, in a carpark on a wet winters morning, the day before I had arranged to return to work, alone. My head was swimming and I couldn't breathe. I was battling with my own mind, rationale was telling me to go home, that I could get through this, but my irrational side was saying, you've been through too much, you've hurt too many people and the worst thought of all this will show them I wasn't making anything up. My phone was ringing for what seemed like an age, before I answered it and my wife pleaded with me to go home. I drove home in a daze thinking what if I just crash the car or turn into the traffic? Once home things are very blurred and it's difficult to remember what actually happened. I did return to work and even in the fragile state I was in I felt some relief. Over the coming weeks I began to feel stronger and my confidence slowly started to return. It now feels as if I had to go to the edge of the abyss, that that day in the carpark was a definitive moment.In early 2014 after a spell off work I started seeing a person centred counsellor. I'd had counselling before in the form of CBT, which in all honesty hadn't really worked for me, whether that was a reluctance on my part to fully accept I was ill I'm not sure, but there had been short term results but nothing life changing. The big difference this time was I had sought out counselling rather than it been advised to me. Once I started my sessions it became quite clear this wasn't like any form of counselling or talking therapy I had previously had, there was no, on a scale of 1-10 how likely are you to harm yourself? Think about a happy place etc. etc. Now I believe CBT has its place, however it had been proved in the past it wasn't what I needed, but I fully believe in the process of counselling and would never discourage someone from seeking any form of counselling or talking therapy.These sessions were about me, about my feelings and where they came from. Over time I learnt about why I felt like I did and most of all that I wasn't going crazy, that these feelings were natural. And if they were dealt with correctly, could actually be used to my advantage. I became more confident about talking about my feelings, about my depression and I wanted to help change people's view, help lift that stigma. I decided either I became a part of the solution or I was a part of the problem and I came to the decision that I wanted to help people and I wanted to be a counsellor, I wanted to become a part of the solution.I now feel emotionally stronger than I can ever remember, I have control over my emotions, not all the time. But you know what? That's fine I'm human I'm not a machine. I am on a road that I actually want to be on, both emotionally and with my career. And I can finally accept me for who I am, and that's Dan. Yes I suffer from mental illness but I can accept it's a part of me and I now know I can be stronger than it can.Peace, love & laughter Dan. x
Submitted by: Dan Briggs
I worked in education it was the first full time job not a lot of money but I felt I belonged. I lost it when I tried to look after my dieing father I had terrible stress and depression. I was turned away not listened to, the church were hostile I then took an overdose. I will allways feel loss of who I was. Thanks for… Continue readingI worked in education it was the first full time job not a lot of money but I felt I belonged. I lost it when I tried to look after my dieing father I had terrible stress and depression. I was turned away not listened to, the church were hostile I then took an overdose. I will allways feel loss of who I was. Thanks for reading my story..
When joining the anti-stigma project, with the charity MIND, a question presented itself to me. Namely what exactly is stigma?The dictionary defines stigma as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person,” with synonyms like disgrace or dishonour.Stigma then, is defined as a mark… Continue readingWhen joining the anti-stigma project, with the charity MIND, a question presented itself to me. Namely what exactly is stigma?The dictionary defines stigma as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person,” with synonyms like disgrace or dishonour.Stigma then, is defined as a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart. When a person is labelled by their illness, they are seen as a stereotyped group. Thus, negative attitudes create prejudice, which leads to negative actions and discrimination.The figurative meaning “a mark of disgrace” is from the 1610’s, but its origins come from the 1500’s Latin/Greek “a tattoo mark denoting result of action.”It seems from this that a mental health condition, is seen as disgraceful and that person has brought it upon themselves, as a result of an action they have taken.It seems nonsensical to me, that a definition of something with roots so far back in history, can still have an impact in today's modern society. There can be no doubt though, that it does happen. However, the dictionary definition does not describe the impact it has on the individual on the receiving end. Nor does it consider that it may come from many sources, such as from work colleagues, friends and even relatives. It is also likely that it will take more than one form. For example, they may have been passed over for promotion, at work, because they are considered as unreliable, while at home they may be treated as a child, with no valid opinion of their own. For an individual then, stigma is experienced in a very personal way. Consequently there can be no one single intervention that would prevent it, so a more holistic and personal approach, alongside a wider awareness and understanding strategy may be needed.As an individual who has experienced stigma, myself, identifying the sources, types and my personal experience of it, may establish interventions that may have supported me through my mental health condition.Looking back, I realise now, that problems with my mental health began long before they reached the crescendo they did. It began, I believe, when I moved to the other end of the country due to my husband’s work. In doing so, I began to lose my identity because I did not fit in. My northern accent signalled me out immediately as different and there was a yawning gap in cultural differences.I started working in a school doing a graduate training programme and problems surfaced almost immediately. Because of the accent, I was labelled common and as ignorant and was given no support, or guidance at all. I had no friends or family close, so became very isolated and that is when the panic attacks first began. They were terrifying! I thought I was dying but I had no one to turn to, no one to tell.I soldiered on for a while but sought help, from the family doctor, after I collapsed at work due to a panic attack. I believe, this is when a better intervention might have prevented the spiralling deterioration of my mental health. I was simply prescribed anti-depressants.I feel that if the doctor had also explained, I was suffering from a mental health condition and referred me to a support group, and perhaps for Counselling, the condition may not have escalated. Extra training, for the doctor, on identifying early potential metal health conditions, may also have been beneficial.It was after my collapse, that I experienced my first taste of being stigmatised by my work colleagues. When I returned to work, the atmosphere was cold. Some members of staff avoided me while others refused to speak to me. I overheard a conversation, about me, along the lines that I was “just putting it on to gain attention because I was lazy.”Needless to say, I did not complete the teacher training course.Life carried on regardless and I was forced, by financial need, to find another job. Initially, I was signalled out as different as my self-confidence was very low. I arrived back at work, one afternoon, to find all my files and paperwork piled on another desk. I was told that, a new starter needed my desk as she was more likely not to have a meltdown. I had never had any kind of melt down but I was considered to have “problems” which would lead to one.I believe that, specific awareness of, and anti-stigma training should form an integral part of any organisations, ongoing, professional development requirements. It may be that organisations might consider this as unnecessary or too expensive. However, I feel certain that, if statistics on absences from work due to “stress,” “anxiety” etc. etc. were analysed, they would reveal the requirements would be of great benefit.For the purposes of this project then, gathering such statistics, could offer an excellent opportunity to open dialogue with employers and encourage participation. One way of gathering them, might be to devise an anonymous questionnaire for staff. Devising and offering “workshops” would also, not only benefit employers and staff, but possibly encourage someone experiencing mental health to realise its ok to seek help.Experiencing stigma in the workplace, could potentially be reduced in a practical way, with the introduction of specific training for all members of staff. Tackling stigma from within a family, or friend, environment may prove more difficult.My first experience of this, was when, a well-meaning, friend asked my daughter, why she was trusting an unstable woman (me) to babysit. She asked why my daughter wasn't worried that social services would be informed.The other experience is still ongoing and comes from “family” who do not invite me to birthday parties and other family get togethers. Some, have ostracised me completely and will go out of their way to avoid making eye contact, and therefore having to speak to me.Some also post thinly veiled references to my condition on social media. Almost always painting me as unhinged, deranged and “other.”These final experiences are the most hurtful and painful for me, as I have no answers to why they do this... Instead, they just amplify my feelings of isolation, self-loathing and my own internal, I'm not good enough, dialogue. My coping strategy for this, is simply to try and avoid them. However, that prevents me from undertaking an activity I used to enjoy, as some of them attend it. It has also affected my ability to join in any social group activities.I have no real answers, or even suggestions, on how to tackle this type of stigma. I believe that, if mental health was more widely accepted as a medical condition, society might gradually become more accepting.
1. I can't eat in college at all. Meaning that I go 12 hours without food every single day. Due to this I have meal replacement drinks instead 2. I can't eat anything without using knives and forks. Which means in public I have to eat with plastic cutlery3. I wash my hands continuously. Sometimes it's 20 or 30 times.… Continue reading1. I can't eat in college at all. Meaning that I go 12 hours without food every single day. Due to this I have meal replacement drinks instead 2. I can't eat anything without using knives and forks. Which means in public I have to eat with plastic cutlery3. I wash my hands continuously. Sometimes it's 20 or 30 times. Sometimes it takes half and hour. Sometimes I have to do it till it feels just right 4. I have to check the door 50 or so times before I leave the house until it feels just right 5. I can't work at a table in college until I've wiped it down with an anti-bac wipe 6. I have to wear gloves when I leave the house, whatever the weather, hot or cold 7. My feet and elbows are excellent at opening doors and flushing toilet handles. 8. Public toilets terrify me, so I avoid them at all costs. 9. My hands are sore, bleeding and cracked because of the over washing 10. I struggle to touch people. I'm not too bad with hugging but kissing and holding hands is a massive no 11. Which currently puts any form of relationship off limits 12. As a result, I spend a significant amount of my time alone13. I have poured neat bleach over my hands. Sometimes up to five times a day.14. I've struggled to sleep because I would wake up in the night in a panic that I wasn't clean enough.15. I hoard empty hand sanitizer bottles in the fear that if I throw one away something bad will happen 16. What and where I eat is decided on the ease of eating that food with cutlery.17. For example, I eat crisps with a spoon. I try to avoid crisps when I'm out and about because I get a lot of stares 18. As a child, I was paranoid of the house catching fire or people breaking in. 19. I was always asking my mum for reassurance that the door was locked be the smoke detector was in20. I have anxiety and panic attacks 21. Sometimes I burst into tears, start rocking back and worth and start hyperventilating 22. Other times I go really quiet. I don't move and stare into the distant 23. And sometimes I have a fit of anger and rage. Afterwards, I break down 24. Panic attacks mean that I miss a lot of lessons at college and sometimes can't even get to the lesson at all. 25. Going to public places and using public transport scares me a lot26. I get panicky in places that I can't escape easily. I worry that people are going to be sick and I won't be able to get away 27. I sweat and overheat in the summer as I have to wear long sleeves to cover my hands to avoid me getting contaminated 28. I can't even hug or kiss my own parents29. I've sprayed my hands continuously with antibacterial surface spray.30. I have come incredibly close to burning myself because I've refused to touch the kettle handle with my hand and instead use my jumper. Using the phrase "I'm so OCD" which is often used in such a loose and misunderstood way, I wanted to accurately highlight the reality of what it's like to live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This week (20-26th Feb) is OCD actions, week of action in which they focus on taking action to get help for your OCD, to help others with OCD and to have meaningful conversations about OCD. In light of OCD Action week, I thought I would share 30 reasons why "I'm so OCD" and actually hopefully help you understand that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder isn't all about being neat, tidy and organised it's actually a severe mental illness that completely tears life's apart. Hopefully, by continuing to talk about my own experiences with OCD, I will encourage others to do the same and maybe, just maybe, over time help reduce the stigma.
Submitted by: Nicole
If you've suffered from depression or anxiety before, learn to recognise the warning signs and talk to someone, seek help as soon as you can. Don't wait until you reach crisis point. Signs for me are feeling overwhelmed, isolating myself from friends, family, shutting down communication, disturbed sleep. Everyone has… Continue readingIf you've suffered from depression or anxiety before, learn to recognise the warning signs and talk to someone, seek help as soon as you can. Don't wait until you reach crisis point. Signs for me are feeling overwhelmed, isolating myself from friends, family, shutting down communication, disturbed sleep. Everyone has different warning signs.
Submitted by: Natalie
Hello everyone, my name is Luca and this is an article I wrote in August on my personal blog. If I can help someone here, I will feel that writing this will have been justified as I was completely overwhelmed when I did write my original post. Hope I am of some help to you.I'm a 19-year old from North East England with… Continue readingHello everyone, my name is Luca and this is an article I wrote in August on my personal blog. If I can help someone here, I will feel that writing this will have been justified as I was completely overwhelmed when I did write my original post. Hope I am of some help to you.I'm a 19-year old from North East England with autism. When writing this at first, I purposefully don't say I have autism because unfortunately for me, autism has become somewhat of an excuse, at least that was through my experience in secondary school. I have regrets with how I handled myself in the past regarding my autism, and I hate to ever bring it up.Apparently I have high functioning autism, so I am able to think for myself but like everyone else (This is not just an autism exclusive thing), I have difficulties. Primarily, change.So I have a fairly structured life, and after I left college, I have been wondering how my life is going to change. Since I left, I have been working with a few people in recent weeks to get a job, so that is obviously a good thing, but what I am worried about is how my life is going to go afterwards.Right now, I have a fairly relaxed routine in my life. I have a chilled orange Lucozade on a morning, I play a lot on my PS4 with my friends, I hang out with my childhood best mate Matthew occasionally and I see many movies. I've said this before, I am grateful for what I have and never want to take too much, I seek to give back to the world.But with giving back, will mean change, and I rarely react well to change. Not that I don't want to, I really do but when I consider a lot of things before they happen, the possibilities do overwhelm me.The reason that prompted me to write this, there's this absolutely lovely lady I know. We aren't close, infact we only really speak when we had the chance briefly back in college but every time I would see her out and about, she would smile the bonniest smile at me and wave, and I'd reciprocate however I knew I could.I have been encouraged by a dear friend to talk to her, but I am discouraged not only by the fact that we barely know each other, but by what would lie ahead as far as relationships go should I pursue one with her. It's a scary thought, and perhaps an unnecessary one since nobody should fear for that the second they start thinking about talking to a girl they like, but the issue stems to more than that.Back in December, I actually got into a relationship (Briefly) with a girl who said she liked me, and I liked her. We kissed, and we walked to our class together before she disappeared - I assume back to her friends - and broke up with me, and so that was the time that I was played, however that isn't important to my point.In that brief quarter of an hour that I was in what I thought would end up being, my first proper in-real-life relationship, I did think a lot about how to be a good boyfriend. Up until that point, all my past partners had been over the phone, and I had the cushion of only really going to my phone to speak to them.But this, a relationship with someone who I could interact with in the flesh on a seemingly daily basis was and as we know, still is such an alien thing for me. Very rarely do I really leave my house, and on the rare occasion that I do, I'm with my friend Matthew or other friends like Ash or Lauren etc.So just to solidify my point, I rarely do new stuff, heck I don't even drink alcohol and I never really go to parties or big social events at all. The idea of being with someone who I'd care about, would open me up to so many possibilities that I know would be out of my comfort zone, it intrigues me but I do worry about change, about seeming like a hindrance to everyone around me because of my complete lack of adaptability.What would someone see in me? A boring and introverted individual? What new possibilities are there in a relationship? How would I be a decent partner? So many questions.It does not just stem into relationships. I recently left college and now I want to work, I do not feel in good conscience just sitting in my house all day playing GTA and Rocket League. But I do have reservations about first of all, how I do earn my job, I want to earn it and not get gifted it and knowing I won't be perceived as having earned it because I did not go to university.Secondly, what will come of it? Interacting with co-workers, the public, my superiors, heck they're probably reading this and mocking me, but for all I care, they can do one the insensitive (Insert word here after my mum reads this).But if I can help someone with the same problem, I feel I will have been justified in writing this. The necessity of knowing how to articulate what concerns you, the removal of a routine and the many possibilities of the road your life heads down can prompt you to ask these questions. This is beginning to sound more and more like a self help book, I have just noticed.If there is one thing I hope I can tell you, it's that the people around you will surely care enough for you to acknowledge when you have difficulties. The biggest mistake I ever made was continued persisting and ignoring problems, letting my emotions build, and I have huge regrets from not taking action against things that bothered me.After my final performance showcase with my Performing Arts group, it was an emotional time as we had been all together for two years. We had all grown so close, and as a final gesture, we were all asked to gather for a photo so I tried to slot myself in, but was pushed aside as if I was insignificant and in a rage, I walked off and I don't think anyone noticed. So if I see that photo on all my friend's social media, I regret that I never spoke up.I really managed to begin feeling that way once I spoke to a dear friend, who was a part of our Performing Arts group for the first year.For a few months, I was working with someone who was helping me out with my emotional issues. I'd say she was a psychologist but apparently it was some less fancy word that I can't remember, nevertheless after that time I noticed how I was very heavily dependent on myself to keep my issues from others, out of fear of making it seem like I was adding to their list of concerns.This stemming from when I was in secondary school, I'd get personally involved with someone I considered a friend with their issues. It led to me becoming way too unhappy, worrying about their issues when really in most cases, I shouldn't have got myself too invested in their issues.So this stemmed through to now, where I never like putting forward my emotions in any sense. But now, I need that more than ever, change is happening for me and I have the cushion of very helpful and loving people around me. So if you're ever going through change, have someone by your side, and if you don't, reach out to someone you know - not think - will support you.Because if the incredible movie 'X+Y' ('A Brilliant Young Mind' in America) taught me anything, it is that if someone loves you, they see something in you, that they think is worth something. That - in my words - 'tolerating' you is not actually tolerating, if only you're willing to try then they will hold your hand.If this has helped at least one person, I'll be happy.
Submitted by: Luca
It can feel like a real kick in the teeth when somebody makes a hurtful comment about your mental health condition, especially when that person is close to you and should know better. Take a friend for example, who makes a typical 'I'm so OCD' statement right in front of you when they know full well just how much OCD… Continue readingIt can feel like a real kick in the teeth when somebody makes a hurtful comment about your mental health condition, especially when that person is close to you and should know better. Take a friend for example, who makes a typical 'I'm so OCD' statement right in front of you when they know full well just how much OCD impacts upon your life. Or take your parent who tells you to 'pull yourself together' or 'just get over yourself'. They more than anyone should know that such comments are completely inappropriate, yet sometimes it seems to go over their head.Most of the time I can ignore these comments entirely. I’ve suffered from OCD quite severely in the past and stereotypical comments about this disorder seem to be a regular occurrence, a part of many people’s everyday vocabulary. Those close to me have not always understood my mental health conditions and it has led them to say things which I’ve found rather upsetting - whether intended or not. Sometimes though, it's not so easy to deal with. When you are so caught up in criticising yourself all of the time, it can really hurt to hear somebody else (somebody who should be supporting you the most) aim such negatives comments directly at you.So how are you supposed to deal with such comments when they can be so damaging? How can you brush them off and not let them affect you so much? Here are a few things which I try to keep in mind myself:I think firstly, you must see these types of comments for exactly what they are: ignorant. Ignorance stems from a lack of understanding and education. It leads people to say things which they might not say if they were to know the full extent of the situation. At the end of the day, they do not have the first clue what it is like to be in your head, so of course they aren't going to understand just how detrimental their comments could be. Try to recognise that they are misinformed. Nothing they say about your condition is of any value because it is coming from a place of non-understanding.Secondly, you could perhaps try and educate them. Print out a leaflet from the web about your condition: the causes, the symptoms etc. Hand it to them and ask them to read it. Alternatively, consider taking them to a therapy session with you, ask a mental health professional to explain on your behalf. If they hear it coming from a professional, they may be more likely to take it seriously. If this is not possible, maybe sit down with them and show them a video explaining your condition - anything which you think might keep them listening.I understand that some people (no matter how much you try to convince them otherwise) will out-right refuse to educate themselves. Their beliefs are set in stone and they are not open to changing them. In this case, maybe it is best to accept that whilst you cannot change what they think or say, you can choose how you respond. You can choose to brush their comments off as ignorance and lack of understanding. You will be the much better person by simply not acknowledging their comments and choosing not to retaliate.Lastly, bear in mind that there ARE people out there who understand. If it feels like those around you only ever say things that hinder rather than help your recovery, it can become isolating. However, there are so many people in a similar situation to yours right now who understand how you’re feeling and how unhelpful insensitive comments can be. I know how lonely it can get sometimes but you must believe me when I say that you aren’t alone, many people do understand.
Submitted by: Lisa
I naturally see the potential in others and hope to instil confidence and self belief in them so that they can achieve too. Becoming a volunteer has shown that people have trust, faith and belief in me and this has made a massive difference to me, a huge difference, an incredible boost.
Submitted by: Steven
“Hi, how are you?”“Yeah, I’m alright thanks, are you? Well, no actually I’m not, I’m not OK.”I’m not OK.Three small words, yet three of the biggest words you can ever say out loud. Yet, to so many people – and especially men – these words are almost impossible to say. Some people retreat ever further into… Continue reading“Hi, how are you?”“Yeah, I’m alright thanks, are you? Well, no actually I’m not, I’m not OK.”I’m not OK.Three small words, yet three of the biggest words you can ever say out loud. Yet, to so many people – and especially men – these words are almost impossible to say. Some people retreat ever further into themselves, others overcompensate by being overly cheerful as they try to maintain the illusion that they are fine.No matter who surrounds us – friends, colleagues, loved ones – sometimes we feel all alone and all we want is for one person, just one, to take us aside and ask, ‘Are you OK?’ The conversation that opens this post was the first conversation I had with my doctor as I slid into my first crippling depression. It had been coming for around 3 months and getting worse to the point that it was seriously affecting my ability to function in daily life. My grip was loosening day by day as my mental health deteriorated and it was becoming more and more apparent to me that this wasn’t just going to go away.It was only at this point that I began to realise that what was happening to me was an illness; it was something that was happening to me, not something that I was doing to myself by ‘being miserable’ or failing to ‘cheer up’. I was suffering with clinical depression.Since that first horrific episode 10 years ago I have suffered a major relapse in 2013 that lasted four months and a smaller one in December 2015. Through these experiences I have learned to recognise the signs that things are not quite right with me; on their own these signs can seem pretty innocuous but if I have a number of them together and they last more than a few days then I know that I need to be more vigilant with and take better care of myself.These signs include:• Lack of motivation• Feeling tired all the time• Waking early / disturbed sleep• Withdrawing and wanting to be on my own• Lack of spontaneous thought• Loss of interest in things that I usually enjoy, especially listening to music• Lack of patience and becoming snappyThis increased self awareness is an important part of recovery and being able to recognise potential triggers helps me to guard against complacency and tells me, ‘Hey, be careful; you’re not OK, but you will be.’Why is it so hard to admit that we are not OK, that we hurt, that we’re struggling? Logically we know that everybody struggles at sometime in their life, and yet when it’s us we worry about what people will think, we don’t want to be thought of as ‘weak’ or to ‘let people down’. Maybe we don’t want to admit our ‘weakness’ to ourselves.Here’s what I’ve learned: admitting that we’re not OK takes strength. If doing so were weak then it wouldn’t be so damned difficult. Confronting our fears, admitting that we need help – that takes strength and that is why it is often such a big step on the road to recovery, to taking some control over the situation and to dealing with it.Will other people think we’re weak? Maybe some will, but that speaks about them and not about us. We could all use help sometimes and during such times our priority should be in seeking it, in caring about what’s best for us and not the opinions and prejudices of others. And wouldn’t most of us want to be there for a friend or family member that needs us?At such times we really do see the best in people and we can really learn to appreciate the value with which others hold us. Sometimes what we see as weakness is actually just a characteristic of who we are, free from judgements such as ‘strong’ or ‘weak’. The very characteristics that hurt us may actually serve us well at other times, in other circumstances.We are all a mixture of weakness and strength, of resolve and vulnerability, and we will all face illness, heartbreak, grief, loss and confusion in our lives. The more willing we are to accept that then the more likely we are to be able to ask for help when we need it. This is important. As male suicide rates show, lives depend on it.As the now former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury admits that he needs help to deal with mental health problems maybe it’s time to truly recognise that even the biggest and strongest amongst us can feel broken and damaged sometimes.Admitting you’re not OK may be one of the hardest things you ever do; it is also one of the strongest.‘I’m not OK.’And that’s OK.
Submitted by: Matthew
When I started university, I was completely oblivious to the fact I was suffering from clinical depression and anxiety. I’d always had a tendency to feel a bit more stressed out and upset than the average person, a trait which came to a head when I was 17; for the first two months of Year 13, I found myself feeling too low… Continue readingWhen I started university, I was completely oblivious to the fact I was suffering from clinical depression and anxiety. I’d always had a tendency to feel a bit more stressed out and upset than the average person, a trait which came to a head when I was 17; for the first two months of Year 13, I found myself feeling too low to eat, sleep, or function at all. However, I’d never had any formal education about mental health issues, and it wasn’t something that my family really talked about. I was resigned to the fact that I was probably just a silly, over-emotional person, and that I really just needed to pull myself together. I’d never been told otherwise; I had no idea that my low moods and anxious thoughts could be part of a medical condition. In my mind, it was all my fault, and I needed to just stop feeling the way I did.Then first year came along, and it became more and more apparent that something wasn’t quite right. People often underestimate just how emotionally draining it can be when you’re thrown into this totally new territory of lectures, seminars, formals, socials, and having to fend for yourself. Yes, it’s exciting, but it’s also an anxious person’s worst nightmare. You suddenly have to navigate making a whole new set of friends, looking after yourself both physically and emotionally, and getting used to the new academic system of lectures and seminars: what could possibly go wrong?! In the mind of an anxious or depressed person, the answer to that question is everything. You find yourself obsessing over everything that could possibly turn out badly for you, and, especially when you don’t have a formal diagnosis, you have no idea how to make all of those thoughts stop.In hindsight, depression and anxiety controlled almost every aspect of my life as a fresher. I struggled with work because the constant stream of negative thoughts and anxiety attacks made concentration a near impossibility. I struggled with making friends, because my depression was constantly telling me that it was a pointless endeavour- it wasn’t like anyone would want to be friends with someone as worthless as me. Going on a night out was out of the question: the mere thought of being in a crowd was enough to trigger a panic attack. But worse than any of this was the fact that nobody knew the extent to which I was struggling. I managed to project an image of someone who was calm, collected and basically fine, but then in second year, the façade began to crack.When depression and anxiety is left untreated, it’s like an avalanche hurtling down a mountain. It gains speed and it gains power until one day it comes crashing down, leaving destruction in its wake. My avalanche hit at the start of second year. The added stresses of living out only made my anxiety worse- you try staying calm when an estate agent tells you it’s your job to fix the boiler and restore hot water to your house EIGHT TIMES- and in the end, I simply ground to a halt, consumed by constant panic, inescapable low moods, and suicidal thoughts. The delicate balance I’d crafted between academia, social life, life in general and my emotional wellbeing just wasn’t working any more, and something had to change.While being at university undoubtedly made life more difficult depression-wise, it also provided the easiest access to help I’ve ever come across. After talking with college office, my department, a GP and the counselling service, I finally found a course of action that firstly helped me understand what I was actually going through, and then began to resolve it. Talking to someone- specifically, my senior tutor- was the best decision I’ve ever made regarding my illness. When I realised there were people out there that understood what I was going through and were willing to help, it took away some of the shame, the guilt, and, most importantly, the sense of isolation that depression can bring.A year on, I’m undoubtedly more emotionally well than I’ve ever been while at university. The road to recovery was a long and rocky road, but my story is the perfect testimony that things can get better. Things aren’t perfect- depression and anxiety will be with me for the rest of my life, and they still rear their unwanted heads at the most inopportune of times. But I’ve finally learned how to manage the combination of university life and living with a mental illness. We’re lucky at Durham that we have such a strong welfare support network, and I’m personally lucky to have such an amazing group of understanding friends and family. But there’s still a long way to go. There are still people out there who are too scared to ask for help, and still stigma that needs to be overcome. But the more we talk about mental illness, the more people will feel comfortable and supported enough to seek help. That’s why I decided to tell my story: if it makes even one person suffering from depression and anxiety that things can and do get better, it’s worth it.
Submitted by: Ellie
Of course this year I will be organised and together. I had visions of me sat in my cosy Christmassy living room, presents all bought and wrapped, feeling happy and excited about Christmas, typing away about how in the past my anxiety and stress levels have really ruined Christmas for me, but this year I have found the… Continue readingOf course this year I will be organised and together. I had visions of me sat in my cosy Christmassy living room, presents all bought and wrapped, feeling happy and excited about Christmas, typing away about how in the past my anxiety and stress levels have really ruined Christmas for me, but this year I have found the magic solutions and coping strategies that have made a real difference.And here I am on the 23rd December, just getting round to writing this, with nothing wrapped, presents still to buy and trying to remember how to breathe and not panic.The thing about me is that I struggle with anxiety, and it is worse when there is pressure on me to live up to other people's expectations or when my idea of 'how something is supposed to feel' doesn't live up to how it actually feels. It's quite common, I know, to feel like everyone else is enjoying a big Christmas party that you somehow missed the invite to, and I know social media can sometimes make this feeling worse.My general worries look a bit like this;a) every other parent has some sort of book titled 'how to make Christmas memories with your children' that I clearly missed out on in parenting school (imagine cover to cover advice on how to put Christmas Eve boxes together, where to find the Reindeer that suddenly appear in everyone's Facebook pictures, the best ways to bake Christmas cookies, afternoons of Christmas craft, special letters from Santa etc.). I really want Hannah and Emily (aged 10 and 8) to have great Christmas memories. I don't know where all the other parents find the time (or energy) to plan all that stuff! I know that the pressure I put on myself to make sure everything is perfect for them doesn't help me. I have such great memories of Christmas as a child and I really want that for them too. What if they are disappointed?b) see point a, and then add on a load of Mummy Guilt about working full time while the kids are off school, being separated from their Dad, which means for them Christmas Day is split in half and then trying to make up for it by promising myself I will plan in all the amazing Christmas activities so helpfully displayed by other parents on my Facebook feed (and then just not quite finding the time, or money, or energy) and feeling a bit worse.c) Everyone is having lots of Christmassy fun and there might be something wrong with me because I am usually too overwhelmed by all the things I have to do/buy/wrap to relax and enjoy it.On bad days I find the pressure of Christmas overwhelming, and this means that some days I feel so useless and inadequate that every negative thought I have ever had about myself runs through my head in a loop of worry and fear that I struggle to function properly. Other days I am pretty fine and crack on with the doing/shopping/wrapping and just about feel like I've got it all under control.If you're like me and have a tendency to worry, overthink things, strive for perfection and always feel like you fall a bit short, or generally find Christmas a stressful time, I don't have any magic answers. You are definitely not alone. Even the people who appear to be the most together and care free can be struggling on the inside. But when I can, I try and use mindfulness techniques to bring my mind back into that moment. I do breathing exercises. I talk to the people I trust about how I'm feeling. I exercise and lift heavy weights in the gym.It is just one week in the year and every year it passes and nothing bad happens, and I remind myself that soon it will be January and things will go back to normal.Of course I always know that next year I will be totally together. .and organised. . . .and less stressed. . . .and will definitely be posting pictures of my children sat on Reindeer whilst eating home-made Christmas cookies
Self-care has been a huge buzzword in 2016 and for good reason. Too many of us work long hours, put others first and neglect our best interests every single day to the point where it can become a hindrance. The act of practising self-care isn’t an instant cure; instead it’s a commitment to showing yourself some love when… Continue readingSelf-care has been a huge buzzword in 2016 and for good reason. Too many of us work long hours, put others first and neglect our best interests every single day to the point where it can become a hindrance. The act of practising self-care isn’t an instant cure; instead it’s a commitment to showing yourself some love when you need it most. It’s a small part of recovery and can look different for each individual. Here’s my take on self-care over the party season…Make time for hobbiesWhen my days are jam-packed with visiting friends and family, I often don’t realise that I spend less time doing the things I love. Going to the gym, doing yoga and blogging are the things that really give me a sense of satisfaction so it’s essential that I make time over Christmas to fit those things in. When I stay with family I take my gym kit to make sure I can squeeze in a workout, and make sure my laptop is fully charged to make blogging on the quick and easy whenever I get some time to myself.Don’t be afraid to say noOver the festive period there are so many social engagements that we find ourselves fully booked and burning the candle at both ends. If like me, you already know you’re limits then you’re well-equipped to adjust your schedule accordingly. If you’re new to ‘saying no’ to stuff -we’ve all been there - then take a look at your calendar over the next few weeks. Are you busy several days in a row? Is it likely that might become stressful and affect your mood? If so, think about rearranging some social events to suit you; it’s OK to change plans especially if you give plenty of notice. Dinner and drinks can be coffee instead, and a night out can always become a cosy night in or even just a Skype call. Even consider rescheduling for January when you have more time.Get some fresh airI think we’re all guilty of staying inside more during winter, with the chill in the air and the dark nights providing the perfect excuse. If you can find the time on your days off I highly recommend going for a walk in the few hours of daylight that we do have in the British winter time, as this extra dose of vitamin D might just help boost your mood. Even a walk to the nearest coffee shop is a good way to sit down outside and watch the world go by. I like to use this time to try and disconnect from social media and simply observe how I’m feeling that day.Move moreExercise may not be your first love but I encourage you to try and incorporate some movement into your festive break. It can be a great excuse to escape the family home and have some alone time, as well as dust off the cobwebs from a few days snoozing on the sofa. Regular exercise can have a real impact on depression and anxiety. It can also lower stress levels and help your get a better night’s sleep. If the weather doesn’t allow you to go outside why not go for a swim or do some home yoga workouts on You Tube?Take yourself on a dateI know this may sound like a weird piece of advice, but during stressful times I think it’s really important that we treat ourselves well. If you knew someone who was feeling low, how would you take care of them? Do for yourself what you’d do for a close friend; go see that movie you’ve been meaning to see for weeks, draw a bubble bath or eat in your favourite restaurant. These little acts of self-care are key is remembering what makes you happy, and finding pleasure in the small things can keep you going.
Submitted by: Fiona
While for a lot of people, Christmas is the best time of year to celebrate many things with their loved ones. But here’s how I spend my Christmas.Don’t get me wrong I have always loved this time of year, nothing will stop me changing my mind however there’s some aspects I struggle with personally.I love the build… Continue readingWhile for a lot of people, Christmas is the best time of year to celebrate many things with their loved ones. But here’s how I spend my Christmas.Don’t get me wrong I have always loved this time of year, nothing will stop me changing my mind however there’s some aspects I struggle with personally.I love the build up towards Christmas day. Sitting down and waiting for the Christmas ads to be released, all the new beauty being launched and the overall hype of it.While a lot of people are going out buying for their friends and family, there’s one person I cannot buy for. On Christmas Eve I used to love wearing a new set of Pj’s after a hot bath with a hot chocolate we all have our own Christmas Eve traditions but this was when I was little, it’s different now.On Christmas Eve, for me it’s like any other day. I’m usually working like a lot of people, I go home get sorted and visit my brothers resting place with family. Then, if I feel like it I go for a couple of drinks with my friends wearing Christmas jumpers.Christmas day will never be the same for me. The excitement has gone, not just because I’m older but because I have to open my presents, without the presence of my brother.The guilt of him not being here on this festive day feels strange and it’s hard to process yourself as being an only child this time of year. I know a lot of people feel the same this day, we have all lost loved ones and while we try to have a good time, we always miss them on this special day. After unwrapping my presents we always visit his place a couple of times that day then go home and relax. It kind of is like a normal day for me once I’ve opened my presents.As I say I love the whole concept of Christmas but when it comes to do the day, I don’t celebrate it like other families but that’s what makes us all different. It’s interesting how everyone spends this special day but for us it’s particularly hard, it always will be but we have our coping mechanisms to get us through it.While we all enjoy our Christmas, let’s all remember the angels who are no longer with us.
Submitted by: Beth
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!Rosy-cheeked children frolicking in the snow, men in Santa hats accompanied by their significant others wearing ridiculous (but fun) Xmas jumpers. Buying gifts for those you love (and those you don’t) and the most important one of all, Church! Happy Birthday… Continue readingChristmas is the most wonderful time of the year!Rosy-cheeked children frolicking in the snow, men in Santa hats accompanied by their significant others wearing ridiculous (but fun) Xmas jumpers. Buying gifts for those you love (and those you don’t) and the most important one of all, Church! Happy Birthday Jesus!No, seriously, it’s the receiving of gifts (for most).If, like me, you have recurring bouts of depression all year round, why is it that Xmas brings the worst one? Is it the social pressure? Is it financial worries? Is it the S.A.D.? Is it the expectation of happiness that you just can’t bring yourself to feel at this time of year, no matter how positive you force yourself to be?This year is probably going to be the toughest one yet for me and my family. We lost my Dad on the 10th November after a relatively short battle with MND. It was quick and unexpected and I won’t dwell on that story because although we’re all pretty heartbroken and saddened by the experience, it’s not a leading cause of depression for me. In case you don’t know, sadness and depression are only distant cousins!Every year we go through the motions of buying things we can’t afford, preparing a wonderful meal, spending our hard-earned cash on things, if we’re honest, we don’t really need.This year I’m going to spend something more important than money. I’m going to spend time. Time with my siblings and nephews, nieces, cousins and all the rest.I’m at the place where I can look outside myself and see in others what they’ve been seeing in me for most of my adult life. I see their half-hidden outward depression, I see their anxiety attacks covered up by laughing along numbly to the silly, harmless jokes in Christmas crackers. I see their non-existent appetite almost broken by a massive dinner they wouldn’t even attempt to eat at any other time of the year. I see them accepting a glass of wine or a beer, just to fit in, even though the medication they’re on prohibits it. Who says peer pressure is just for teens? Then falling hard into another post-festivities slump because their own expectations weren’t met, all the while asking themselves “What’s wrong with me?”I’m determined to make this Xmas about those who suffer in silence all year round, hoping against hope that Christmas will bring the joy they can’t feel out of them and into their community, their families and social groups.In my experience, the best Christmas gift for a fellow sufferer (or Warrior depending on the stage you’re at in your recovery) is the gift of an ear and the time needed to use it.I wonder who’s ear I’ll get for Xmas? I have enough socks.
Submitted by: Declan
Communication is key. We know this. This is something that is repeatedly said to us through our lives. In school we are taught to talk to others, to work as a team, to tell our teacher if we have a problem. In relationships we know that communication is one of the most important aspects. All jobs require… Continue readingCommunication is key. We know this. This is something that is repeatedly said to us through our lives. In school we are taught to talk to others, to work as a team, to tell our teacher if we have a problem. In relationships we know that communication is one of the most important aspects. All jobs require communication.We have to talk!So, why is it so difficult to talk about our mental health? This post will explore why talking about our problems, sharing our mental health issues, and listening to others can be amazing to help deal with mental illness.1) A problem shared is a problem halved.I’m not sure if this is actually proved, but I know for me, talking about my problems to someone else is like a huge weight off my shoulders. Sometimes that’s all I need to start feeling better.2) Different outlook. Sometimes talking to someone else can give you a different outlook. They may suggest something that you haven’t thought of, perhaps a new way of dealing with a problem, or just some kind words that help you look at a situation differently.3) Talking is a known and USED therapy for mental illness. There are so many talking therapies used for mental illness, from counselling, to cognitive behavioural therapy, to group counselling and mindfulness classes. I myself have had counselling and it certainly helped me. Often, when you see your GP about your mental health, they can recommend mindfulness classes or refer you for an assessment to see what talking therapy would suit you.4) Talking can help build confidence. Often with mental illness, some sufferers lack confidence. Talking can help this. The more you share your feelings with trusted friends, a partner, family, anyone, the more confident you will become. You may even feel confident to seek advice from a doctor if you need it and want it.Talking is often the first step to recovery when you suffer from mental illness, and it is so important that you don’t suffer alone. Please please share your problems. Even if your first step is writing it in a text, phoning a helpline, or bringing it up with a trusted friend. I promise that the support is out there for you.Never feel that you have to suffer alone.
Submitted by: Rachel
Hannah runs her very own mental health blog and she is also the founder of the mental health chat: #TalkMH. We take part in this chat most Thursdays and it’s great to see how it's made a difference. Today she talks about how the change in seasons can affect our mental health and some tips to help with those winter… Continue readingHannah runs her very own mental health blog and she is also the founder of the mental health chat: #TalkMH. We take part in this chat most Thursdays and it’s great to see how it's made a difference. Today she talks about how the change in seasons can affect our mental health and some tips to help with those winter blues.I usually find Winter to be quite difficult. Not only can the lack of sunlight be troublesome, but the Winter months seem to be full of events that trigger anxiety for me and when it gets to about September, I start to worry about the months to follow. First there’s Halloween, then there’s bonfire night, then there’s Christmas, then there’s new year. All this really means for me is more chance of getting ill and an added pressure to ‘go out and do things’ and be happy.Here are my tips for looking after your mental health in the Winter months.Try to keep at least some routine. I always find that the Festive season can be a bit troublesome because I have just over a week off work. I’m sure anybody else would absolutely love the idea of 10 days off but for me, the lack of routine makes things really difficult. I find that the days all blur together and I lose track of where I am and what I’m doing. This year I’ve tried to plan out some days so that I know exactly what I’m dealing with. I’m even going into work for two days!Do more of what you enjoy. As it gets darker and colder, a lot of us fall victim to the ‘Winter blues.’ When you suffer from a mental illness this becomes doubly difficult so at this time it’s really important to try to increase the amount of time spent on things that we actually enjoy doing. Going for walks, reading and writing are all things that I try to spend more time doing in Winter. I also find meditation really helpful, particularly when it comes to dealing with anxiety.Get enough sleep and water! I feel like we underestimate the value of getting enough sleep. I always find that after a bad night’s sleep I’m ten times more anxious the next day so I try to get at least eight hours every night anyway, but even more so in Winter. Don’t forget to stay hydrated and drink as much water as you can because all these things, although simple, do make a difference.Lamps and candles. Going to work when it’s dark and getting home when it’s dark can sometimes make you feel like you’re living in constant darkness so I find a bit of calm lighting really helpful. Lighting a few candles or using a lamp instead of a big light can help to create a less harsh, calmer atmosphere which can help me to relax.Take each day at a time and remember that every single day is a new chance and a new start. This is actually something that I remind myself of all year round. I have managed to teach myself that one bad day does not dictate a whole week. I know that when I go to sleep after an awful day, the morning will be brighter. Always try to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ because it’s always there. Every single day, it’s there. Sometimes you just have to look a bit harder.Does anyone else find Winter particularly difficult? What are your tips?
Submitted by: Hannah
I personally have been badly affected by stress at work. I had to leave careers in the Law and teaching as a result of excessive workloads and a lack of support. I have had three episodes of severe depression, all linked to workplace stress (one bout occurred after a redundancy). My most recent episode (in 2013) resulted… Continue readingI personally have been badly affected by stress at work. I had to leave careers in the Law and teaching as a result of excessive workloads and a lack of support. I have had three episodes of severe depression, all linked to workplace stress (one bout occurred after a redundancy). My most recent episode (in 2013) resulted in hospitalisation and Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT), which luckily worked for me. Over the years I’ve attempted suicide, had constant suicidal thoughts and felt guilty and ashamed about having depression. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just do these jobs like my friends.As well as the problems at work, I also recognised some issues that I've had to work on and will continue to work on during my life. I was a perfectionist growing up and suffered from low self-esteem. I had to get A grades to feel good about myself, and when I didn’t make the grade I felt bad about myself. I pushed myself extremely hard during school, college and university to be the best, and when I left the education system it all came crashing down. I hadn’t really experienced failure, so I was-n't prepared for it when it happened in the real world. I linked my self-esteem to my job, and saw my job as my identity, which wasn’t healthy. I judged myself harshly and compared myself to others, and didn’t know how to love and take care of myself.I’ve been to hell and back, but I’ve learned a huge amount as a result of my experiences - I discovered a love of writing and blogging which has helped me through the difficult times. I now have a mental strength and determination that I didn’t have before. And I’m determined to help others who are suffering from work-related stress and depression. I’m launching a web-site (staysaneatwork.co.uk) where people affected can find resources to help them to recover, information about workplace laws and employee rights and an inspirational blog which will feature stories of those who have been through workplace depression and come out of the other side.I also want to provide information about self-employment, as often things get so bad that sufferers cannot envisage going back to work. Last year I became self-employed as a Copywriter and more recently a Coach, and I love helping others to leave employment behind and become self-employed. I realised after the third bout of depression that, for me, working for others was like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. It was never going to work! I am much happier now that I’m working for myself, and if I can help others to make that leap and use my experiences to help them that would be fantastic.I’m also passionate about raising awareness about the workplace depression, as well as work/life balance and self-care. If the younger generation learn how to look after themselves and make sure they have balance in their lives, many cases of work-place depression can be prevented. Prevention is better than cure, and my aim is do talks in Secondary Schools, Colleges and Universities about my experiences and how to avoid letting work take over your life, and making you ill.There is a lot of work to be done but life is so much easier when you’re passionate about your work - and now I know what I’m here to do I am ready for the challenge! Half of the battle is working out your “why” - what you’re passionate about and what you’re here to do. Many of us get stuck in what I call our ‘default life’ - a job we end up in that pays the bills and is ok, but it doesn’t set your soul on fire. My work relies heavily on spirituality and personal development, which I discovered as a result of my illnesses. I’ve learned (the hard way) that life’s too short to settle for anything!
Submitted by: Debbie
Talking about mental health is really hard. Really really hard. Additionally sometimes, you know what, we don't even know what's going on. How can you talk about what's going on with you when you have no idea?Given the stigma that surrounds mental health maybe you have never talked about mental health before, because… Continue readingTalking about mental health is really hard. Really really hard. Additionally sometimes, you know what, we don't even know what's going on. How can you talk about what's going on with you when you have no idea?Given the stigma that surrounds mental health maybe you have never talked about mental health before, because well, most people still don't until it affects them. Then your in a situation were you're being affected by mental health, you don't know who to talk to. You don't know how to talk about it. You have a lack of knowledge, understanding, confidence and your dealing with this strange illness of the mind.Did I mention that by this stage, you have likely been dealing with your mental health illness for some time. So yer, your not in a great place.You have gradually started to isolate yourself from friends and family. Finding a combination of doubts and worries prevent you from talking out about your experiences and concerns.No one you know has ever talked about about mental health, depression or self harm in any great detail (at all actually).This is pretty much the situation I found myself in. Fortunately I live in a time when we have the internet. It's not just a place where you can search for medical 'help' on Web MD or NHS (or the other stuff, you know what I mean haha). Thanks to social media platforms I was and am able to find / talk to people with similar experiences to myself. People I would never have met without the internet, and twitter in particular.These people have become friends, some, very close friends.I wanted to write this post because of the support I have found online. The difference it has made to me and the importance of groups like the ones I'll talk about, in breaking down stigma, raising awareness and being a support system to so many people.The groups I would like to mention specifically are: The Depression Army, #MentalHealthHR and #TalkMH.These are obviously not the only groups out there. There are many more each day and that's great.The groups I am mentioning are specifically ones that I have benefited from being part of.The Depression Army, I found the group on twitter and then on facebook. The DA encourages people to talk and take part in awareness raising activities. As a member of this group I have shared messages of support online and in my workplace.The DA is based in America, with members all over the world. There are links on most social media platforms. For me I've found this to be a great way to provide people with little gifts of positivity and help put a smile on their faces.#MentalHealthHR, this group I really like because I found it the first or second week it was started running. So I feel like I've got to see it grow, which has been awesome. Starting off with 2 or 3 people in the conversation as you talk through points is so interesting and different to the larger groups I've seen. I'm sure this group will be a big one soon so I've enjoyed there from the start. The twitter chat happens Mondays 8pm to 9pm and was created by Doris. The chat focuses on different aspects of mental health each week, it's a great way to talk about what's going on in a positive, open, non judgmental space.#TalkMH, as you can tell I love the twitter social interaction. This twitter chat is Thursdays 8.30pm to 9.30pm and was created by Hannah and is guest hosted about 5 out of 6 weeks. This group is awesome! There are set topics each week, with guest hosts that have requested to host on that topic. The diversity in hosts helps to bring in different people to the chat each week. It also means it's not just about support. There's also a great opportunity to learn about mental health illnesses, challenges, coping strategies and achievements. I have certainly learnt from others experiences and feel more informed and supported each week.I have also been know to drop in on #BPDchat and #TKSP both chats again provide support to those affected by mental health illnesses, while #BPDchat is more specifically for Borderline Personality Disorder.As I said, it's so hard to talk when you don't know what's going on. But these groups / chats don't require you to 'know'. They allow you the opportunity to talk openly with others that have been affected by or have an interest in mental health. Though saying that everyone I've spoken to in the chats has been affected.I encourage you to look at these chats, look for others, find something that works for you. That's the beauty in the ever growing online social world. You don't even have to talk if you don't want to. You could just read other people's tweets or posts.I have found this to be a great way to be more informed, give and receive support and to just talk about what's going on. Not to mention the friends I've made.I hope your able to find something that works for you. We are all different and so are our mental illnesses. But understanding and caring for each other is the thing we can all have in common.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses; it affects 1 in 3 people. How would I know this? It’s because I suffer from anxiety. I would class my anxiety as “high functioning”. I have days where I’m completely fine and I feel myself, I also have days where I feel over whelmed and my anxiety can feel out of… Continue readingAnxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses; it affects 1 in 3 people. How would I know this? It’s because I suffer from anxiety. I would class my anxiety as “high functioning”. I have days where I’m completely fine and I feel myself, I also have days where I feel over whelmed and my anxiety can feel out of control.My anxiety first came about during Year 11, where the stresses of going my GCSES triggered my anxiety. I would wake up every day feeling incredibly tense, nauseous and shaky. It felt like hundreds of butterflies had settled in my tummy. This wasn’t just a one off thing. This feeling lasted nearly every day and I began to feel overwhelmed.I then moved onto college and my anxiety slowly became worse. I had lots of days where I would feel overwhelmed and I struggled to have normal conversations with people, as I couldn’t keep the conversations going and I became paranoid. It got the point where I started to suffer from anxiety attacks.Whilst my attacks aren’t anywhere as serious as a panic attack, they were incredibly distressing and would often leave me feeling trapped and as if they would go on forever.However anxiety is far more complex than what I’ve described above. It’s having a million thoughts racing around in your head constantly and never been able to quieten your mind.It’s constantly worrying about the physical symptoms of anxiety “I feel like I’m going to be sick” “I’m shaking, everybody will notice”. It’s having this overwhelming fear that something bad will happen and not being able to let go of this fear.I’ve found suffering from anxiety challenging as I don’t want to have a constant battle with myself, I don’t want a million thoughts racing around my head or worrying when I’m next going to have an anxiety attack.Over the past couple of years, I come up with a range of coping mechanisms to help me cope with my anxiety and to help me get my anxiety under control.1. Acceptance: I’ve come to accept that my anxiety is a long term thing that won’t magically go away overnight. I’ll have good days and I’ll have bad days. By putting things into perspective it’s given my confidence that I can get through the bad days and it won’t last forever.2. CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy): Just over a year ago I had CBT to help me cope with my anxiety and it really helped me. My counsellor went over my anxiety symptoms, helped me to understand why I felt the way I did and gave me strategies to help me cope and keep my anxiety under control.3. Talk to someone: When my anxiety is really bad I always talk to someone I trust about how I'm feeling. It really helps talking to someone as it gets it off your chest and they often give you their advice on how to cope. Having someone that will listen to you and tries to understand how you’re feeling, always makes me feel better.4. Mindfulness: Whilst helping me through a bad patch with my anxiety, one of my teachers taught me mindfulness as a way to help me cope with my anxiety. Mindfulness is all about focusing on being in the present moment and being non-judgemental of your thoughts. I’ve been practising mindfulness and it’s a great way for helping you cope with anxiety.5. Exercise: I’ve found that doing exercise has helped me to take my mind off things and I feel so good afterwards, like I've lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. Exercise gives me something to focus on and it helps me to relax. As well as helping me cope with anxiety, I’ve also had the added bonus of becoming much fitter.
Submitted by: Severina
The main problem with mental health is that so many people around you, won’t know you’re suffering. In a word of social media and selfies, no one wants to project an image of themself that is anything less than perfect. And that’s just part of the problem…Society puts so much pressure on young girls to look, dress and… Continue readingThe main problem with mental health is that so many people around you, won’t know you’re suffering. In a word of social media and selfies, no one wants to project an image of themself that is anything less than perfect. And that’s just part of the problem…Society puts so much pressure on young girls to look, dress and act a certain way. I’m lucky that I grew up on the cusp of social media, and wasn’t really affected by the pressures that teenagers face today. And for the that, I’m so grateful! However I was still exposed to all the celebrities and models in the media, and the pressure to look like the prettier, skinnier girls in my year.With the weight and significance of other people’s opinions that young girls face, there is no wonder how easily mental illnesses can develop.When I was 15/16, I developed Anorexia. After being quite a big child, I decided it wasn’t a way I wanted to be for the rest of my life. At first, it was just simply making healthy choices. However, my portions eventually become smaller and smaller, to ultimately I was barely eating and a tiny size 4. I had constant arguments with my family, and my friends were beginning to make comments. After my periods stopped for 4 months, I knew I just couldn’t carry on punishing my body like this. Luckily I managed to change my relationship with food on my own.However, I don’t think anorexia is something that ever fully goes away. And to this day, I still can’t weight myself.Since then, I have become quite insecure as a person. My friends tell me it’s in my head, and how can I be a blogger and be as insecure as I am? But toxic friendships, relationships and situations, then combined with a teenage eating disorder, really has had knock on effect on me as person. I’ll moan to my friends when I’ve had a drink, being like don’t you think blah blahs prettier than me, and don’t you think she’s got a nice figure? But that is just what I’m like to my friends, because to me, confidence is attractive and insecurity is weakness. So I’d rather present myself to the world in a way that I’m not…Or I don’t think I’d get anywhere in life.But I do feel like blogging puts so much pressure on me as a person. I really really want the perfect body, like the one so many of the Instagram bloggers have. Which to be honest, probably isn’t healthy outlook considering everything what I’ve just spoke about. But I do feel sorry for my friends who’ve helped me work on my blog. My friend Beth pretty much proof reads every blog post, just so I feel like the content is good enough. And my friends Katy and Cathryn have had to take literally about a hundred photos of me. Just so I can find one with where I think the angle doesn’t make my head look too round, or my thighs look really fat. But when you’re putting yourself out there as a blogger, you do want the best photos and you do want the best content, and it’s hard.But I have had a lot of friends who’ve suffered a distorted relationship with food and their body image too. With anorexia, bulimia or over eating, each one being as detrimental as the other. Through ignorance you can tell someone to eat a salad, or a few burgers, but it’s really just not helpful.If you don’t understand something, don’t let ignorance get the better of you. You’ll only do more damage then good.I’ve also got friends who’ve developed really bad distorted insecurities, just because someone has made them feel that way. Off the cuff comments can do more damage than you think, and if you care about someones opinion or approval, you will take what they say on board. So it’s not fair to make someone feel like they’re not good enough.The last thing I want to talk about is panic and anxiety attacks. I started having them when I was 17, in a period where I was really upset and stressed. A few of my friends suffer with the attacks too, some even find them very distressing. However, after the first one where I got rushed to A&E ’cause I thought I was dying…they really don’t bother me anymore. I’ll be laid in bed watching telly, and I’ll just have one for no reason whatsoever. But as long as I can control my breathing, which 99% of the time I can, I’ll stay calm and wait for it to end. To me, it’s just part of life and there’s nothing I can do about it.I think the best thing to do if you feel like me, is just to talk to your friends. My friends around me are so amazing, and they’ve got me through everything. And we’ve even come out laughing…eventually! I don’t think ‘mental health’ is anything abnormal. There’s no such thing as normal. Everyone’s coping methods and outlook on life is different.There shouldn’t be any stigmas.
We all get anxious from time to time, whether it's an exam, argument or just meeting new people but what about the individuals who have chronic anxiety on a daily basis? The people who struggle to get out of the bed in the morning and can't leave the house for no reason at all? Research shows that 1 in 6 young people will… Continue readingWe all get anxious from time to time, whether it's an exam, argument or just meeting new people but what about the individuals who have chronic anxiety on a daily basis? The people who struggle to get out of the bed in the morning and can't leave the house for no reason at all? Research shows that 1 in 6 young people will suffer from anxiety at some point in their lifetime, and it usually starts in childhood or adolescence. That is a lot of people so why is the concept of anxiety so misused? I'm an anxiety sufferer, and this is my story.From that picture, I look like a normal teenage girl, don't I? Looking back, I was an anxious child, but I never thought anything of it, I'm a worrier, and I worry if I'm not worrying (Bet it took you a moment to work that out). It's stupid, I know but something that I cannot control. If a friend had a birthday party or I had a big day ahead of me at school, my mind would be filled with negative thoughts, at the time that's okay to you so you just deal with it.Mental health is something that isn't picked up on enough; it's dismissed because it isn't visible. In February 2015 I went to the doctors after becoming severely anxious over every tiny thing in my life. I had a lot of stressful situations going on, from exams to family problems and I thought I was coping, but my body couldn't take it anymore. I wrote a list of symptoms down because I had so many and felt so anxious that I couldn't speak, just trying to do my relaxation exercises that I'd found online. My doctor experience wasn't pleasant; I was looked down upon and felt like no one believed me because I'm young and of course "young people don't have anything to worry about". However, I managed to get a referral to counselling (CAMHS) and got a doctors note to prove I was too unwell to attend school which was another barrier I had to face.It was exam period, and there was a lot of work to catch up on, school was banging on my front door every day, demanding me to do more and more work and asking me when I would next be in school, arranging meetings and constant phone calls. This was way too much for me, I didn't need this, and it proved that the education system only cares about themselves so they look good. I tried to revise and complete the work given to me, but sometimes it made me too ill, my heart pounding, my breathing getting faster. I did miss my exams due to anxiety, but I tried my hardest not to get upset because your health is so much more important than a piece of paper.My first panic attack is something I'd never want to relive, I've learnt how my body reacts to anxiety now, however, they can still be incredibly terrifying. I remember it like it was yesterday, I was sitting in a restaurant with Lewis in Meadowhall, and I felt fine until I realised the more I ate, the more anxious I became. I felt so distant from everyone, so on edge, I couldn't stand up or speak. I was so scared; I needed to escape. Fast. My brain was going into overdrive, I was uncontrollably shaking, an intense amount of pain making me numb. My chest tightened and I started to breathe faster to the point of hyperventilation; I ran out of the restaurant and into the nearest toilet where I threw up. Why was this happening? Was I dying? I was a wreck, and I just needed to get out of there.Luckily for me, Lewis managed to take me to a quieter place to calm me down but even afterwards I felt shaken up, I had no idea what just happened but I knew that I never wanted to experience it again. Unfortunately, that attack was one of many, in fact, I had them every time I needed to leave the house to the point where I became agoraphobic.For a while, I had to deal with everything on my own, yeah my family was there, but they knew as much as me about what was going on. The referral for counselling took forever, but I finally started my sessions in October 2015. My counsellor was a lady called Janet, who at first I wasn't sure about, I didn't want to be there, I just wanted to be better. However, she was very nice and looked after me, and we just talked about what my anxiety is like, and she set me little tasks to try and complete that would be a step forward in my recovery. Anxiety is all about pushing past those barriers; you have to take control of it.In May 2016 I got referred to CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). I now see a man called John, this therapy is more detailed, trying to find out what my brain does when I'm anxious and to look into how to stop it. The sessions are draining, I admit that, but I'm determined to beat this. I have Panic Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Borderline Agoraphobia so it's going to be a real challenge.I still get panic attacks every time before I leave the house to go out but I've learnt how my body deals with my symptoms, and now it feels a lot easier to control. Of course, I get good and bad days, but I wouldn't wish mental health upon anybody. I'm now able to go out a lot more, and I'm slowly starting to become my old self, however, I'm still not in any education, but it's all about baby steps. Social media portrays an appalling image in any form of anxiety/depression, posting images that make it seem that everyone has got it. It's not cute; it's hell.I'm always here for support, my email address is email@example.com if you would like to talk. We will beat this together.
Submitted by: Hope
6 months ago I was discharged from hospital for the 3rd time, this time after an overdose. These 6 months has almost been the most challenging part of my journey. It scared me. Made me realise how out of control things were and something seriously needed to be done. I had been in and out of hospital for 2 years with… Continue reading6 months ago I was discharged from hospital for the 3rd time, this time after an overdose. These 6 months has almost been the most challenging part of my journey. It scared me. Made me realise how out of control things were and something seriously needed to be done. I had been in and out of hospital for 2 years with anxiety and depression, but this was the point it hit home.Putting life back together after 2 years is scary and anxiety provoking. You learn so much about yourself during this experience you come out the other end a different person, with different values; which make it even harder to adjust back into life as it was.Everything is a challenge. Things most would not blink an eye at doing; such as re-connecting with friends, getting on public transport, sometimes just leaving the house. To deal with anxiety-provoking events I was taught coping mechanisms to use rather than reaching straight to medication or self-harm.If I am anxious I use mindfulness to help ground me and try to switch off negative thoughts I may be having. I use many breathing techniques, my favorite (which is quite common) is putting one hand on my chest, the other on my belly and taking a deep breath in for 5 seconds, out for 7 seconds and repeating this over and over, imagining there is a balloon in your tummy. Another favorite is body scanning, working down from your head to toes paying attention to how each part is feeling.There is one thing I cannot go out without which is my anxiety tool kit. This features something to stimulate each of the senses to distract from the thoughts and feelings being experienced. In my tool kit I have a stress ball, super sour sweets and olbas oil. Even the where these are kept is tactile. On my phone I have photos that remind me of happy times and music, which is an amazing distraction I use all the time, without music going out would be a struggle.The background image on my phone I have my coping card. This reminds me of my tools if everything goes blank during a panic attack – it is always there, on hand ready to use. It reminds me of all the things contained in my tool box.When I am at home I doodle. This is something I started doing in my first stay in hospital. It was something I could do for myself, not judgmentally and something to concentrate on. In a way it has become my own form of mindfulness.Everyone has their own ways of dealing with their anxiety, I wanted to share mine for people who do not know what simple tools can be used. I hope it can be of help, if only it is to one person.
Submitted by: Emma
For a decade now, I have had to deal with some things that I didn't handle well at all.Amongst other things, I was getting bullied at secondary school and at home and for someone who was in their early teens, growing up, meeting new people, finding out and trying new things etc, all I was doing was hurting.I was… Continue readingFor a decade now, I have had to deal with some things that I didn't handle well at all.Amongst other things, I was getting bullied at secondary school and at home and for someone who was in their early teens, growing up, meeting new people, finding out and trying new things etc, all I was doing was hurting.I was hurting inside whilst I was happy on the outside. I was turning to food to give me comfort and this in turn gave me a certain low level of happiness but some ease none the less.But I had no real sense of happiness anymore. I was absolutely, completely and utterly lost.To make it even worse, I didn't tell anyone about the bullying and about how I was feeling and even now that is my biggest mistake and regret I have made. It caused me to have really bad anxiety that meant I couldn't leave the house because I was so self conscious of what people would say, get paranoid and all of my emotions got out of hand and I couldn't deal with it.I was a really negative girl in what I thought was a really negative world.But oh, how I was wrong.Over the past couple of years, I am at the point where I am slowly but surely accepting myself, flaws and all, and becoming hopefully a much happier person.This is mainly due to finding a passion in blogging.It has given me a sense of guidance in a way, where I am finding out things about myself that I would have hidden five years ago and a platform where I can be myself whilst letting go of all the anger and negativity. Most importantly, blogging has taught me how to talk about things and how to get pass that fear of being judged. It has taught me that it is ok not to be ok.If you start blogging or just opening up more to people, do it. Have a talk with them. Scream, cry (god knows how many times I have cried when writing a blog post). Or put your feelings into words onto an online space. I have finally realised that there are people who will support you and look after you no matter what you are feeling and thinking.Mental health affects more people than you probably think. You aren't alone in this, you never have and you never will be. This is why it is so important to do something I didn't do, start talking about it.nobody should face a mental health problem alone, and we want to be there *every* day, for anyone who needs us. This day recognises what support there is out there for people, but most importantly for people to be mindful every day!
Submitted by: Caroline
Mental illness is really bloody hard. Unless you’ve been through it, you won’t really have any understanding as to what it’s like. Heck, even when suffering, you have no idea what another person is going through. All you can really do is empathise. But, I’ll try and do a different post on how to help someone with mental… Continue readingMental illness is really bloody hard. Unless you’ve been through it, you won’t really have any understanding as to what it’s like. Heck, even when suffering, you have no idea what another person is going through. All you can really do is empathise. But, I’ll try and do a different post on how to help someone with mental illnesses in the future. For now, I’ll stick to self-care. Obviously, this won’t work for everyone, but in the past eight years, you could say I’ve tried a lot of different things, read a lot of different books and websites, talked to lots of different people and these are what work for me.1. RestRest is the greatest tool for any type of illness. If you have a common cold, the first thing you’re told is to get as much rest as possible to allow your body to repair itself, that’s what it’s there for. Why should the brain not get the same attention? I recently read a book called ‘Depressive Illness‘ by Dr. Tim Cantopher who recommends rest very strongly, and I wholeheartedly agree.No one quite knows exactly how the brain works yet, which is why there are so many different treatments for the vast array of mental illnesses, but recuperating in a safe place can’t be the worst thing to do at all. Making sure that I’m safe and well, however long that takes, is the easiest and safest option I have. In basic terms, sleep is a bloody life-saver and will help you so much.2. Binging NetflixI’m renowned for watching TV series in a matter of days, often repeatedly. It may seem to an outsider that this is because I bloody love Orange is the New Black (for the record – I do). That’s not the main reason though. It blocks out all the bad stuff that tries to control my life. It helps me to try and focus – albeit not very well, hence the rewatching – on something other than what my brain is telling me, all the insecurities and anxieties and thoughts that may try and enter. I’ll admit, it doesn’t always work at blocking things out, but it serves it’s purpose most of the time. If finding out what happens to Walt White in Season 5 of Breaking Bad blocks out the darkness, even just for 47 minutes, I’m 100% down with that.3. ReadingSimilar to the last point, reading blocks everything out. I’ve always been one of those readers who gets lost in a book and has to finish it the same day (probably why I’ve read more this year than any other year since I was about 10). It’s a method of escapism from your own mind. I literally can’t think of anything else but the book I’m reading and that is excellent, I honestly couldn’t wish for anymore – except obviously when the book finishes and I get that empty void (until the next one). If you want to see what I’m reading at the moment, you can add me on Goodreads. Basically, reading shuts out EVERYTHING and doesn’t allow for anything else – which is great if that’s what you’re aiming for.4. MusicNow, this is a tricky one. I have a lot of songs that really trigger me, and I’ve learnt that it’s fine to listen them to get out all those emotions that I need to get out at the time. But not all the time. Music can be really helpful though, and I’m trying to focus on the good songs that pull you out of that awful place. Arctic Monkeys (fave band ever!) always seem to get me into a great mood however I’m feeling, they’ve saved my life countless times. *Also recommend 60s Soul for pulling you out of any dark place and feeling like you’re on top of the world.* It doesn’t matter what time of day, where I am, who I’m with – all you need to do is pop in your earphones and everything can change. I guess that’s the whole point of music, to make you feel something, whether it be sadness, happiness or pumped for life.5. ProjectsI don’t care what your project is. When I came out of hospital, I started the #100DaysOfMakeup on Instagram because it meant that for 100 days, I had to do something every single day. It wasn’t to showcase my makeup abilities or anything like that, it was a reason to stay alive. I set myself a challenge and had to accomplish it, because I’m just that stubborn. My new project is going to be painting my bedroom. Your project could be anything, from collecting all the Pokémon on Pokémon Go (gotta catch ’em all and all that) to making sure you brush your teeth twice a day for the next 10 days, it can be literally anything. It gives you a reason to be here, it gives you a reason to persevere against those bad thoughts. Whatever you want to do, go for it, there’s no reason not to and you CAN do it.6. A BathThis is probably the heading that sounds the most boring, I agree. Though, when you’re at your worst, bathing doesn’t seem like the most essential thing. Do it. Have a bath, throw in that Lush bath bomb you were saving for a special occasion, borrow your mother’s bath salts if you have to. You deserve it, your body that’s keeping you going – despite your brain’s attempts to salvage it – deserves it. Whilst soaking your body, you’ll find it does wonders to your mind as a pleasant side-effect.7. AvoidanceAvoidance isn’t the best tactic in the world, and shouldn’t be the one you turn to for the long term. But it helps me. Avoiding things, places, people, anything that I know will trigger me and keep me safe is one of the most important pieces of self-care I’ve learnt. Would I (my friends, my family, anyone) prefer to be in somewhere they find comfort or somewhere where they know they could relapse/breakdown/not be very comfortable at all? Obviously the former – if you chose the latter, you’re a little daredevil and I very strongly admire you. Taking care of yourself, first and foremost, is the most important thing, because when you get down to it, if you’re not there then there really isn’t any point. Saying this, I regularly push myself out of my comfort zone – even if it’s just to go into town alone and reward myself with a Starbucks sugar-free vanilla soya latte. But, if you know it will cause you harm, just don’t do it. If you need to avoid it because it will make you worse, then avoid it, no point in harming your own recovery.8. Support NetworkFor a long time, I didn’t feel like I had any support network at all. I’d barricaded myself in my safe place, my room, for so long that I felt like I’d lost everything, everyone. Slowly, I’m trying to reconnect with the people I’d shut out for so long and that’s making me feel a lot better. You’ll realise that people want to help and care for you. I know that blackness in your mind says that you’re not worth it but if you try, people will understand (except from those who are so ignorant – but you don’t need those in your life anyway). Even if you feel there is no one you can speak to, or that you don’t want anyone to know what you’re feeling, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me, no judgement and I’ll try and reply as soon as possible. People do care for you and want to support you as much as possible.
Submitted by: Megan
I wanted to share with you what discovering gardening has done for me since I've began my education in this fabulous hobby. I shall try keep it short as to not to bore you but I hope it may be of some use.So as a typical busy on the go mum & wife getting wrapped up in everyday chores and responsibilities I started to… Continue readingI wanted to share with you what discovering gardening has done for me since I've began my education in this fabulous hobby. I shall try keep it short as to not to bore you but I hope it may be of some use.So as a typical busy on the go mum & wife getting wrapped up in everyday chores and responsibilities I started to become a bit lost with myself. I can do mum quite well (most of the time when they aren't making me yell or despair) and I can do being Mrs W good too but being Nichola, well I didn't really know how to! I didn't really have anything to escape to or have a hobby that kept me engaged enough (like my 2 year old boy I get bored easy!). Things came to a crunch when I hit my lowest point I had ever been. Things at home weren't great with Mr.W losing a job and wondering how on earth we would cope and trying to keep the family happy just became all a bit too much. I cried lots, I over thought a LOT, and I just couldn't see any light at all. Thankfully a little hope was thrown our way when Mr.W managed to get a new job, great so the 'normal' functions of family life could start to get back on track but I knew that I had to find something for me to do where I could switch off from being mum & wife.Hello gardening! I can't really remember exactly how it started but I had a pack of seeds (Cosmos Versailles Tetra) I'd gotten free from a magazine and thought "Oh I'll give it a go and hope for the best!" Wow I couldn't believe I had managed to not kill them. They actually became the start of my obsession. Every day I got up I would check on them, soon as I returned home they would be checked again. Then when the first flower bud appeared I was elated. What a proud moment I had (sounds a bit pathetic haha) but it was like nurturing a baby-minus the sleepless nights and smelly nappies! So a few more different seeds were sown with success which helped me create my fabulous hanging baskets, and well the rest as they say was history. I had something that I could be good at for ME that gave ME satisfaction and made ME happy.A Very happy NicholaThe lovely thing about gardening is there's always something to learn regardless of experience or age and I love to learn. I got a fab bunch of books off Mum-who is a very good gardener, which I read lots to get to grips with and find rather fascinating. I've got some lovely friendly people on Twitter who offer fantastic advice when you need it too all from different backgrounds. The other nice things are it gives you escapism from everyday woes and offers you down time to reevaluate life's little trivia’s. It gets you outdoors and out with nature, yes even if it rains a little. It's a good bit of exercise but it's the best for giving you mindfulness & hope! For me it's helped me be Nichola again with extra happiness & a new lease of life.
Submitted by: Nichola
This is the story of why, while recovering from depression and anxiety, I carried around with me a plastic zebra figure, which takes some explaining, so let me make a start …Depression can be a lonely place; one where, as well as battling with ourselves, we might also struggle to explain to others how we’re feeling.… Continue readingThis is the story of why, while recovering from depression and anxiety, I carried around with me a plastic zebra figure, which takes some explaining, so let me make a start …Depression can be a lonely place; one where, as well as battling with ourselves, we might also struggle to explain to others how we’re feeling. Our worlds can get smaller as we feel less like getting out and about and we can end up seeing fewer people except that handful of people, who make us feel understood, who take our concerns seriously, and who we often come to rely on.Then there come those good days, when even though we’re still feeling vulnerable the idea of tackling a long postponed activity, visiting a friend, or simply sitting on a bench and feeling the fresh air on our skin, starts to have an appeal. And at those times it’s not always practical, appropriate, or necessary for us to take a friend or family member along with us which can be both freeing and frightening.But what if we had a secret back-up to help us approach those moments with a little added confidence? What if we could find a calm, constant, non-judgemental companion who wouldn’t leave our sides, who could help us concentrate when things got a bit wobbly, who could reassure us that no, we aren’t going to die, we’re going to breathe slowly, get through this, and then get home for tea and biscuits unharmed.What if that someone, that calming friend, could fit in our bag or pocket so no one around would know they were there? And what if that someone wasn’t a someone at all … but rather a plastic zoo animal?It can happen. In fact it did happen, to me, around 20 years ago when me and ‘Zebra’ (as I so creatively named him) came to be firm friends.I was a teenager whose body and mind, for various reasons, just decided “No thanks. We’re not doing this” after two days of college, leading to my dropping out of education and down into the long bumpy and dimly lit helter-skelter ride of depression for around four years.He was a 5cm striped plastic toy, a surprise gift bought for me by my boyfriend to act as a companion, a protector, a pocket talisman. (And, *Spoiler Alert* it’s now over 20 years later and I’ve kept them both.) It was a wonderful, caring, gesture, but why a plastic zebra?That part came from a story a teacher friend told my sister about how she’d noticed one little girl in her class carried a toy zebra with her everywhere she went. The teacher recognised the girl was using it as a comforter, something to help her through the daunting task of starting school, but when she raised the issue with the girl a different story emerged."Is he looking after you?" asked the teacher."No ... I'm not scared." replied the little girl, "He is. I'm looking after him".And that was it; as simple as that. By acting as if she was protecting her little striped friend, the girl could face the scary prospect of life in the big wide world. My partner took the chance that, in buying me my own plastic pal, a similar focus would be passed on to me. If my own stripy guy was scared of facing the world alone, so how could I leave him behind? He needed me. I was the brave one in the relationship.As I gradually worked my way up into the light of day, (with the help of anti-depressants and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), I made each tiny step along the way with a zebra for company.I kept him safe, in my pocket, while I went for walks to the end of the road and back to see how it felt to be outside alone.He became my travelling companion when I managed to start taking trips by bus, after which I let him come to college with me, and then university, and later he lived in my work bag when I got my first real job. For a few years after that he continued to accompany me to every scary new place and social occasion in between and he’s even been loaned out to relatives who’ve kept him company while in hospital.And now? Well now he’s a bit scuffed and battle scarred, but which of us isn’t? And, as I’ve not called upon his services for a while, I’ve allowed him to retire, alongside the collection of other striped friends I’ve acquired over the years.He now lives above the desk in my office where he’s a daily reminder that I can do scary things.If you are struggling, or you know someone who is, then I can highly recommend seeking out a stalwart stripy companion.Traditional therapies and caring friends and family play a vital role in helping support people with depression and anxiety, but I firmly believe plastic zebras have their place too: in your pocket, your hand and, ultimately, after all you’ll go through together, they’ll also have a place in your heart.
Submitted by: Julie
Depression and anxiety can be one horrible thing to go through. Questioning yourself, putting yourself down, self-sabotaging. You want to help yourself, but the other half of you doesn't and will fight you if you try. Because I've been through it all a lot over the years, I understand it can be a constant battle but have… Continue readingDepression and anxiety can be one horrible thing to go through. Questioning yourself, putting yourself down, self-sabotaging. You want to help yourself, but the other half of you doesn't and will fight you if you try. Because I've been through it all a lot over the years, I understand it can be a constant battle but have picked up techniques to help.Feelings Of Helplessness/HopelessnessYou feel absolutely useless, worse than anybody else. Nobody could possibly mess up as much as you, right? WRONG. There are many people, just like you struggling through their own problems. Don’t measure yourself against others. Some people are good at putting on an air of success, happiness and confidence, it doesn't mean they are. Most show the world what they want them to see. You're awesome! And you need to tell yourself that a hell of a lot more.You have 2 sides of your mind. You’re conscious and you’re subconscious. The conscious is the voice in your head telling yourself that you're useless, it feeds your subconscious with whatever you allow it to. The subconscious can be more powerful. Your subconscious is where your actions tend to manifest themselves. So the best way of fighting this is to remember the "voice in your head". We all talk to ourselves whether we realise it or not. Keep telling yourself you're useless, and your subconscious will believe it and manifest it in your life. But if you become more aware of these "voices" or thoughts then you're already on the way to helping yourself. Every time any negativity pops up, you need to pounce on that bad lad before your subconscious gets to it. Tell yourself “NO!” and Combat it with some pre-planned positive thoughts.If you don't believe it, don’t worry, originally it’s about thinking it anyway. Say it out loud. Write it down. Look at it and think it CONSTANTLY.Loss of Interest In Daily ActivitiesYou wake up in the morning and just can’t be bothered to interact or do anything. But we both know it’s not good for you. And you aren’t going to let it beat you.If you went to climb a mountain, you’re aware you're not superman and can't just jump to the top. Don't expect too much from yourself from day one. A doctor once told my dad when he was suffering with depression, "even if you just clean a cup that day, do it, do it well and be happy you've done it". So even if you just get up and do something small, if it’s more than you would have done, its progress. Set your own "tiny targets" to begin with, and each thing you achieve, be proud, its progress! Well done you! I hope you've got long arms because you need to pat yourself on the back. YOU'RE AWESOME! Eventually your subconscious believes whatever you tell it, the same way liars can convince themselves that they're telling the truth, only you will be!Appetite And Weight ChangesOne that I personally am struggling with the most at the moment. No appetite most of the time, so don't eat as much as I should. For some it will be the opposite. It is very common when you're low for your appetite to change. You're not alone but don't allow this to go on long term because your health will suffer.If you're losing weight and have no appetite, try to have something small, not long after waking up. This should help your appetite later on in the day. If it doesn't, go for more manageable meals and commit to getting through what you're eating. Exercise could help build your appetite so by all means do some sports, but not too much if you’re calorie intake is low. If you're eating too much, don't beat yourself up about it, it just leads to a circle of destruction. Look at what you're eating and see if there are healthier versions of that product or replace it with something else that you like and is better for you. Keep good food in the house. The harder it is to get to, the less likely you are to have it. Same as before exercise can also help with weight, physical and mental health.Sleep ChangesYou’ve barely slept, and it’s affecting your mood, energy, appetite etc. Exercise again can help, but make sure it's a while before bed and quite strenuous if you can. Try not to eat for the last few hours before bed, definitely nothing sugary or with too many carbohydrates. Try not to think you NEED to sleep, it will just anger you and turn the whole process into something you associate with negative connotations. Worrying does nothing.For at least an hour before bed, make sure your alarms are set and you've said your good-nights to people. Now PUT THAT PHONE AWAY! Turn the TV off. Maybe play a motivational podcast, audio book or some chilled music and make sure the bedroom is a nice temperature. White noise apps can be great.Anger Or IrritabilityIt can jeopardize a lot and you don't tend to always realise how you're acting or the damage is done. Most people will understand if you explain to them when you're calm and apologise. Once anger is there, it's usually too late and emotions can take over. Try and recognise when you're starting to feel flustered. If you feel it building, try to get out the situation, even temporarily or put something into place that you know calms you down. Whether it's breathing exercises, stress ball, an image in your head, you need to start counteracting it before it reaches terminal velocity. It will also dissipate quicker because you've caught it early. While it’s an issue, cut down caffeine and high levels of sugar as they can give you big highs and lows mentally and physically.Loss Of EnergyFor some people chucking on their favourite energetic song can help. Or motivational video. But exercise again can be your friend. Now, I get it "no energy and you're telling me to do exercise, get lost!” But if you force yourself to do 10/15 minutes it can make a major difference. I was in a bad place a few years ago and the gym was my absolute saviour then. Because you start hitting targets, you finally start to believe you can achieve more in other parts of your life too. Make sure you’re eating good food and enough, you're sleeping enough and if not then focus on this first.Self LoathingYou hate yourself! Everything you touch turns to dirt. Does it really though? You're just in a negative spiral and need to regain control. How? You need to feed your mind the positive thoughts. The moment you notice that you're thinking negatively about yourself, you need to replace it with something positive. Anything at all that makes you proud and confident. Write the positives down in advance to come back to when you need them. Next time one of the negative thoughts comes along, get the ammo out and shoot it down. YOU’RE the boss here! And....YOU’RE AWESOME!Reckless BehaviourYou’ve been feeding your subconscious for a long time with destructive and negative thoughts. Now, it’s manifesting itself like discussed earlier. The only way around this is to fight back, replace the thoughts and keep at it. Ask family and friends to help you notice this behaviour so you can work on it. Learn your triggers and when you feel it coming keep saying positive things to yourself, then they’ll plant in your mind. If you want them to stay there you have to keep at it.
Submitted by: Richy
When I met my community bridge builder I was shut off from the world and I felt dead inside. I was struggling with anxiety and depression and everything in my life seemed to be affected. Living Life was there at a time when I needed it most, and my community bridge builder has helped me tackle things step by step, at my… Continue readingWhen I met my community bridge builder I was shut off from the world and I felt dead inside. I was struggling with anxiety and depression and everything in my life seemed to be affected. Living Life was there at a time when I needed it most, and my community bridge builder has helped me tackle things step by step, at my own pace. We are now making plans for me to start university and I'm hoping to find a part time job.
Submitted by: Lucy, Living Life service user
Learning all sorts of new things can help your self-confidence and self-esteem. It helped me build a sense of purpose and let me connect with others! You don't need to go out and do a course in 18th Century Literature (unless you want to!), there are opportunities to learn everywhere. I tried learning to cook my favourite… Continue readingLearning all sorts of new things can help your self-confidence and self-esteem. It helped me build a sense of purpose and let me connect with others! You don't need to go out and do a course in 18th Century Literature (unless you want to!), there are opportunities to learn everywhere. I tried learning to cook my favourite meal and learnt about my family history, but the key thing is to learn things that interest you, whether that's making model aeroplanes, writing stories, sewing or knitting.
Submitted by: Janice W
The ongoing contact between myself and the service is helping immensely. I feel I can ask or speak freely. The calls of support I receive also increase my ability to cope and deal with issues.
Submitted by: Carers Support service user
What's right for someone else might not be right for you. Try different things until you find out what is right for you. That might be counselling or therapy or a group session. Listen to yourself about what feels right for you.
Submitted by: Katie
I feel secure and now I love meeting people - I made a lot of friends through Mind! I think it's important people feel involved in how the service is ran. For me, the most important part is being able to socialise and learn new social skills in a secure, friendly environment.
There's evidence showing that keeping good relationships with family, friends and those around you is important for your mental wellbeing. But if you try to make these relationships as strong as you can, and broaden them, then they can really help you with your feelings of happiness and self-worth!
Submitted by: Edward
You can help yourself through depression and anxiety by helping other people and volunteering yourself. I've really found that the 'helpers high' I get makes me feel so much better about myself.
Lots of people today and throughout history have achieved great things in spite of experiencing mental health problems. Learning how to manage your mental health could be the first step on an amazing life journey.
The project has definitely helped improve my confidence and self esteem. I have met lots of different people and feel very much part of a friendly, positive and helpful group.
Submitted by: Participant of Independent Minds
Everything is sent to test us but it's up to you how you deal and handle with those tests, keep strong.
Submitted by: Laura (Stockton)
Being a part of such a variety of individuals and experience has helped me to gain a wider appreciation of myself. In a way I have learnt that tending what I grow in the soil, helps me as a person to grow as well.
Submitted by: Out and About service user
I've been trying to do at least 1 mindful activity a day, and it has really helped me to understand my thoughts better than when I’m on autopilot.
Submitted by: Carl
However bad it seems, things will get better. It might take some time but keep fighting, don't give up or feel embarrassed. Find the help you need and take action now.
Submitted by: Mr Hampshire
A really great way I've found to get myself out of a slump is to just get some fresh air, even going for a walk when its raining (with my umbrella of course) can help break you out of those moods. And best of all? Its free!!
Submitted by: Sheila
You've done me the world of good, I wake up looking forward to the day. You have put me on the right track. Thank you.
Submitted by: Mrs T Woods
You should test your creative side and try your hand at art, just creating art for the fun of it can really lift your spirits, and you don't have to be picasso.
I found that something as simple as focusing on what's happening right now really impacted my sense of wellbeing. I used to focus so much on how everything was in the past or find myself worrying about the future that I'd lose myself in it. By living in the now, I can focus more on being happy and not get lost in negative… Continue readingI found that something as simple as focusing on what's happening right now really impacted my sense of wellbeing. I used to focus so much on how everything was in the past or find myself worrying about the future that I'd lose myself in it. By living in the now, I can focus more on being happy and not get lost in negative thoughts.
Lately I've been trying to eat a little healthier (cutting back on the junk food!) and getting out more to exercise. Even after the first couple days I could feel my mood lifting and didn't feel quite as anxious.
My referral to Mind's Stepping Forward services came at a time of need. The service that I have received has been absolutely essential to both my survival and wellbeing.
Submitted by: Tom, Stepping Forward service user
Don't know where I'd be without your service. Thank you!
I used to really struggle being open with people, but I tried to reach out more and it's really helped me to stop feeling so down all the time! Now we all have little get togethers and I'm never off the phone!!
Submitted by: Lizzibeth
I am so very grateful for the support I have received, I am much better equipped to cope. I did not expect to have reached this stage in such a short time and can't thank you enough. I still have ups and downs but feel there are ways to cope. Thank you for showing me patience, kindness and lots of practical help.
Submitted by: Judy, Mind Psychological Therapies service user
Never stop aiming for something. Every day, whether it's at work or a hobby, look at what you have achieved and focus on where you are going. Don't say "I can't do it" always say to yourself "I can".
If you struggle with volunteering, you can do what I did, try to give back in your everyday life. I'm always holding doors open, letting other cars merge over and picking up things people have dropped and I feel better for it.
Submitted by: Chloe (20)
I always struggled at school, I failed maths and have avoided it ever since. It always made me felt unaccomplished that I gave up, but finishing it off has really helped my confidence. I studied online in the evenings and when the exam came through I got an A!
We are all living our lives for the first time and everyone makes mistakes. You just have to brush yourself off and get out there again!
During the course of this training I have made new friends, gained self-confidence and self-esteem and grown as a person. Thank you very much.
Submitted by: Mr A
Jenny cares for her husband Martin who has a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. Martin has been in secondary care services for 14 years. I have supported Jenny for approximately 2 years.Jenny initially went to the GP suffering from depression which she attributed to her caring role. The GP started her on some medication.… Continue readingJenny cares for her husband Martin who has a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. Martin has been in secondary care services for 14 years. I have supported Jenny for approximately 2 years.Jenny initially went to the GP suffering from depression which she attributed to her caring role. The GP started her on some medication. Jenny went back to the GP as she found that the medication had not helped. She was then referred to a counsellor. Jenny’s counsellor asked if she had completed a carers’ assessment. Jenny stated that she hadn’t and to her knowledge had never been offered one. Jenny was referred for an assessment and subsequently referred to the Carers’ Support Service.In the past 2 years I have helped Jenny appeal against a decision that refused Martin an adaptation, as it was seen that it would not make him more independent. Jenny won the appeal and the adaptation that they have now she says has ‘changed their lives’. As a result of this she reports that she now feels more confident in dealing with professionals.Jenny has gone on to train in Mental Health First Aid. She reports that this has enabled her to feel more confident in how she handles things when Martin is unwell.Although Jenny’s caring role hasn’t changed she states that she feels that she is now able to cope better. She wishes that someone had informed her sooner that she could receive support for herself and is quite upset by this.Jenny is able to access the Carers’ Support Service as and when she needs to, so that when things are going well she is able to get on with life which she finds re-assuring.
Mind has helped us over and above.
At the very start it was as if a load was lifted. Just having someone who wanted to know how I was coping with things meant the world to me. I can't thank them enough.
Submitted by: A carer
Mohammed was referred to the Living Life Service in September 2011 by his Care Co-ordinator from Parkside. Mohammed presented as extremely distressed and he was suffering from depression and severe anxiety. Mohammed had spent a number of years isolating himself from his community and at the point of his referral he was… Continue readingMohammed was referred to the Living Life Service in September 2011 by his Care Co-ordinator from Parkside. Mohammed presented as extremely distressed and he was suffering from depression and severe anxiety. Mohammed had spent a number of years isolating himself from his community and at the point of his referral he was struggling to leave his house. At his first appointment Mohammed cried throughout his assessment and struggled to speak to his key worker. When Mohammed did communicate his speech was barely audible and he would not lift his head or make eye contact.Mohammed and his key worker began weekly appointments to build their relationship. Mohammed explained that he struggled to do everyday things like visit the shops or attend doctors’ appointments and he could not see a way out of how he was feeling. Mohammed frequently talked about wishing he was dead.Mohammed and his key worker put a plan together which identified what Mohammed’s goals were and how the Living Life Service would help him achieve these. Mohammed began to attend social sessions in the building, supported by his key worker initially, and then on his own. Gradually Mohammed felt able to respond to other people in a social setting and he began to look up from the floor when talking to other members of staff. By the end of October Mohammed felt comfortable enough to join a six week anxiety management group.Gradually, by achieving small goals set with his key worker on a weekly basis, like joining in a conversation in a social support session, practicing relaxation techniques at home and being supported to speak to his GP, Mohammed’s confidence has increased. The support from his key worker has reduced to an appointment every two to three weeks.Mohammed is now completing a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) with support from Living Life, in a group setting in a community centre in the town. Mohammed travels to the group every week on his own and talks openly about his feelings and his hopes for the future.Mohammed and his key worker are now planning more for the future, Mohammed hopes to start attending the gym and he would like to be in a new relationship. Mohammed has stated that the support he has received from the Living Life Service has saved his life.
I found the whole service really helpful and attentive. Without this service I would be lost and feel ignored and not listened to.
By sharing your experiences of mental health problems with others, you can give people in the same situation as you, valuable support.
Submitted by: Sally
Glad you are helping. Support from the beginning has been fantastic.
It's never too late to reestablish a relationship, you can use social media or even pick up a phonebook to get hold of old friends, family you lost contact with and more! Distance means nothing these days!
Lots of other people are going through the same thing as you right now. I've read that one in four people will experience a mental health problem in the UK. That's a lot of people feeling the same way you do and certainly not something to be ashamed about. I got help, so can you.
Support was invaluable to me. What a fantastic help!
I finally forced myself to leave the house. I didn't even know there was a local running club based just down the street! I'm so glad I gave myself the opportunity to actually have a look around the area and meet new people.
Submitted by: John B
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