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WHAT I WOULD SAY TO MY YOUNGER SELF

It is that time of year again! World Mental Health Day. A day where the world comes together to raise awareness about mental health and how it can be managed, how it effects people, and everything else around about. There is always a theme and this years is a massively important and significant one, at least certainly to… Continue readingIt is that time of year again! World Mental Health Day. A day where the world comes together to raise awareness about mental health and how it can be managed, how it effects people, and everything else around about. There is always a theme and this years is a massively important and significant one, at least certainly to me – Youth Mental Health.

I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to write about how starting university with a series of mental health issues myself has been, as a kind of “there is a happy ending” story for people. Then again there was the angle of how I talk to my own children about mental health, especially as there is a 9 year age gap between them so they are at very different stages of their life, and their own understanding. Maybe I will touch on both, who knows? Anyone who reads my blogs knows that I just go with the flow, I never usually have the foggiest what will come out!

I suppose I could start with, do I think mental health issues have stolen vital parts of my life? Well yes actually I do! Either my own, or the effects of someone else’s around me. There are parts of my life I look back on and I have either tried my absolute hardest to delete them from my conscience or I have a way of looking at them with rose tinted specs on. Neither way is a particularly safe way to deal with these issues but it is my way!

I look at how society has changed since I was a youth (apologies for sounding like your Nan there) and although there is still scope for HUGE changes and improvements, it has certainly come leaps and bounds since I was a teenager. There are changes to the curriculum that states we have to teach children of all ages about mental health, there are courses that anyone can pay to attend that will give them insight into both adult and youth mental health, there are counsellors and other mental health professionals purely for children and young people. Add to that the charities, the school assemblies, the nationwide campaigns and events. Everywhere you turn it is impossible to not see something or other relating to mental health. When I was younger you didn’t even know how to speak to your closest family and friends, never mind be able to reach out and even get a diagnosis, unless of course you were on the top end of the mental health spectrum.

I believe that everything happens for a reason, whether it be good or bad. I look back and I used to feel like I had wasted my life. That while all my friends went off to uni and to travel, I was a young mam, I was battling what I know now to be severe mental health problems. I felt I had to be a certain way, act a certain way and NEVER tell anyone how I was really feeling or what I was thinking as I would have certainly been sent to a padded cell! I had no idea how to cope with what was really going on in my life, so I drank, I dabbled in drugs when I was older, I made questionable sexual choices in an attempt to feel worthy as a woman. I threw myself into work and did anything I could to make sure I was never alone. Which was ironic since I was never actually that open or honest with people and closed myself off, I built a wall Berlin would have been proud of back in the day! (oops another Nana quote).

Do you know what my ill mental health has brought me an abundance of though? Life experience! Yes, it may have taken me until my 30’s to get my act together so to speak, and I am very far away from what anyone might call “normal” but finally, I know who I am. Where I am meant to be. What I want to do with my life.

I don’t want people to suffer. In an ideal world no one would have ill mental health or if we did we would get a miracle cure and it would last barely any time at all. However, what I want to say is it is

ok. It is ok to not know what you want. It is ok to not know who you are. It is ok to admit that you are struggling. It is ok to not be ok!

If you are a sitting there, reading this, feeling like a failure, as we ALL do at some point, please believe me, you are NOT a failure. You are living your best life. You are being YOU. No one can expect anything more than that.

You can achieve anything you put your mind to. I promise. If I can start university at 33, if I can create my own support community, if I can raise my kids and keep them somewhat on an even keel, you CAN too. It doesn’t have to be today, next week, next month or even next year. Recovery can be a slow process, but it is worth the wait.

My ultimate piece of advice to kids, teenagers, adults and the elderly – nothing good comes easy. Use what hand you have been dealt to make a difference. You have something that no one else has. You are unique. That alone is worth a celebration!

Talk. Talk. And then talk some more. There is always someone out there who wants to listen.

CC xx

Website: https://redballoons2017.wordpress.com/

How social media influences my mental health

My experience of using social media is wonderful, I can connect with friends and chat with loved ones that I couldn't otherwise talk to without it. However, I also find social media to be detrimental to my mental health. As I discuss how social media influences my mental health you will begin to understand that I am a… Continue readingMy experience of using social media is wonderful, I can connect with friends and chat with loved ones that I couldn't otherwise talk to without it. However, I also find social media to be detrimental to my mental health. As I discuss how social media influences my mental health you will begin to understand that I am a 'sugar-coater' user of social media. I use my social media outlets to attempt to paint a picture of a life of perfection, free from pain and suffering. I use social media to stray away from my reality. I post on social media when I am experiencing high points in my life. For instance, when I am on holiday or attending an event such as a wedding or concert. Which is understandable, why would people want to hear about my daily routine?

I have recently been on holiday and actively using my social media account. I normally seek advice on what to post before I post it. I shared the picture and uploaded it to Instagram. Whilst struggling with my body image, I use my social media outlets to gain validation. When I gain likes and positive comments about my body image my brain buzzes with positivity. I feel elated. I feel relieved.

When I return from holiday, I delete Instagram. The posts on Facebook begin to lessen. I become a quiet social media user. When I return home from holiday I think, "Well what do I post now?". If I'm not on holiday or experiencing great thing’s then I trick myself into believing that I am living a life that is not worth living. Social media encourages my feelings of inadequacy.

As I reflect on my thoughts and feelings I begin to realise that this is not true. Just because I am not on holiday or experiencing great life-changing things, my life is still worth living. I live and lead a great life.

But I am a sugar coater, you see. Next year I will go on holiday, I will re-download Instagram, I will become loud on Facebook and I will experience everything I have just discussed all over again.

Perhaps the issue does not lie with social media, but the issue may lie in the way I use it. But how can I blame myself, when I receive likes on social media it gives me a humungous burst of self-love. The digital validation takes over the thoughts of self-hatred. "Yes, people approve of you. Well done. Today is a good day".

Is this a positive relationship to have with social media? No. Is this a healthy way to feel about yourself and your own body image? Certainly not. The way I use social media is harmful and can contribute to my mental health issues.

Perhaps I should start posting realistically. Perhaps I should post my reality. I should post about going to work, attending a University lecture and working on an assignment. Perhaps I should post my reality and OWN it. My life is not always full of extreme adventure and that is okay.

But those aspects of my life are not shared. Those aspects of my life are not shared because social media has led me to idealise a life that I cannot live every day. Because it is unrealistic. And my bank account couldn't quite manage it. Through my use of social media, I have begun to idealise a non-reality.

I encourage others to post about their day to day life. Yes, share your great experiences, they are fabulous. But also tell me about your favourite book that you read on your commute to work, tell me about your favourite show that you've sat and watched on Netflix for the past 2 and a half hours. Just because social media has led us to 'sugar-coat' and believe that everyday aspects of our lives are not worth posting, that does not mean this is true.

I hope one day I can stop using social media. I would find it empowering to say "Sorry, I'm not on Facebook". "Snapchat, what is that?". "Instagram, not for me". Which will be extremely difficult when you live in a generation that is so digitally active.

Maybe one day...

Running for Mind

What made you decide to fundraise for Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind?

I have my own experiences of mental ill-health and know that Mind is a brilliant charity. I've also worked with some of the Mind team who work on the Firm Foundations project as part of my volunteering with Middlesbrough Foodbank. Recently, a member… Continue readingWhat made you decide to fundraise for Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind?

I have my own experiences of mental ill-health and know that Mind is a brilliant charity. I've also worked with some of the Mind team who work on the Firm Foundations project as part of my volunteering with Middlesbrough Foodbank. Recently, a member of the congregation at the church where I worship ended their own life, which was a huge shock to everyone - we'd been aware that they'd been struggling, but no-one had realised that we were seeing the brave face. It was during the funeral that I decided that I would fundraise for Mind, and in particular for the Middlesbrough & Stockton branch because of the work being done in those places and in Redcar too. It's absolutely vital that people have the support available, and given the under-funding that the NHS is experiencing, and the levels of stress as a result of the steel works closing, I felt I couldn't really choose any other organisation!

Why do you want to do the Tees Pride?

I re-discovered running reasonably recently, and discovered that it's oddly enjoyable. I have to force myself out on a run, and I wonder why on earth I'm torturing myself like this all the while I'm running, but when the run has ended, there's an amazing sense of achievement. I'd been taking part in the parkrun at Locke Park, Redcar, for some time when I heard about the Tees Pride 10k and decided to challenge myself to do it last year, so when the entries opened again this year, I knew I had to sign up. Last year my time was about an hour and six minutes and I'd really like to be a little bit faster than that this year - but if I'm not, that is OK. The important thing is to be taking part and completing the run - the atmosphere and cameraderie among the runners and spectators is amazing.

What are your thoughts on mental health and physical health?

They're more connected than we realise! A mental health illness can and does have an effect on physical health and vice versa. Motivation is a key part of looking after yourself, whether physically or mentally, and when that becomes difficult for whatever reason, it means that everything suffers - physical, mental and emotional health of the individual.

Do you think the attitudes to mental health are changing?

Yes, they are. Things are a lot more understood than they were, particularly by medical professionals, and by members of the general public. But I think that there is still a long way to go. Too many people still seem to think that it's possible to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, or that Prozac is a cure-all, when in fact a more holistic approach is often needed. There's a lot of stuff on the internet about self-care, but it mainly seems to be about having a long soak in the bath or something of that nature, when in fact self-care quite often has to include the (very difficult) word "no". It's great that people are more aware, but we need more resources to help those of us living with mental ill-health because every person and every form of mental illness is unique and therefore needs a unique approach to treatment and support.

Website: louisaann-mccabe

Boxing for mental health

I'm taking part in g2events “punching for pounds” charity boxing match for Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind.

I decided to sign up for the event because it was an opportunity for me to do something for this amazing local charity. It is a chance for me to to have a goal and to dedicate myself to and see if I could get fit.… Continue readingI'm taking part in g2events “punching for pounds” charity boxing match for Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind.

I decided to sign up for the event because it was an opportunity for me to do something for this amazing local charity. It is a chance for me to to have a goal and to dedicate myself to and see if I could get fit. I had lost interest in football and other activities and I was noticing that I was worrying about the little things all the time. I started finding it hard to concentrate at work. So, this was a chance for me to get some focus and I wanted to get to get a sense of achievement from something.

My best mate wanted to sign up too. We have had a daft rivalry back going to when we were at school. We were always on rival football teams and I always tried to run faster than him in races. We always joked about having a boxing match and who would be fitter! So we are going to put this rivalry to bed: all for charity!!

We are now top of the bill and want to make lots of money for Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind.

I chose Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind because I have an insight to the work they do with my close family members that have used the service. I just think it’s great that if someone is feeling low, as we all do at times, and have no one to turn to, Mind are always going to be there to support people in all different situations.

WHY HAVING A MENTAL HEALTH BREAK IS IMPORTANT

The thought of taking a day off work or missing a lovely day out can leave us feeling guilty and worthless. It's a fact that when we cancel plans or take a day off we will feel bad for it and in many cases we won't and we carry on as normal, even when we know we shouldn't. When we look at mental health we sometimes see it… Continue readingThe thought of taking a day off work or missing a lovely day out can leave us feeling guilty and worthless. It's a fact that when we cancel plans or take a day off we will feel bad for it and in many cases we won't and we carry on as normal, even when we know we shouldn't. When we look at mental health we sometimes see it as something we shouldn't use to not do something and it's easier to say we have a bug or a bad cold. The thought of telling your boss your mental health is bad or telling your friend your struggling with depression is hard and we don't due to feeling guilty and being judged. The truth is there is nothing to feel guilty about when you need to take a mental health day and you sure as hell shouldn't feel judged, if you do then it says more about them than you, fact.

When your sick with a bad bug you take time off. This could be work, duties around the house or even going out for drinks with friends. You do it for many reasons but the main one is so you can get better quicker and this is the same for your mental health! Looking after yourself is number one priority when you are struggling with your mental health and getting yourself back into a good place is so important. You can't live a life with mental health and not take time for yourself, it's impossible. When your feeling burnt out or at a loss with your mental health just take a break. This could be for a day or longer and it will help. You can use the time to catch up on sleep, eating better or just sitting and doing nothing. Taking time away from work and home duties will give you the space to look after yourself and rest and get mentally recharged. Of course I'm not saying that a day off is going to cure your mental health issues, sometimes professional help is needed.

1. DON'T FEEL GUILTY
You wouldn't feel guilty for taking time off if you broke your leg so why is your mental health different? Don't feel guilty! You are taking time off to look after yourself. If it's from work they will manage and if it's from home duties someone else can pick up your load. Your not a machine and sometimes you need a break. Let people know what is bothering you and what they can do to help. It could be simple things like your partner cooks dinner more and does some cleaning or it might be something bigger like your college takes on a little more work for a few days. Either way your looking after your health and you shouldn't feel guilty. I think you will be surprised at how much people will want to help you.

2. REST, REST AND REST!
When you are on your on your break for your mental health rest! Don't use this time to do random jobs that you have been meaning to get around to or spending your time stressing because your having time off! Get yourself into bed and catch up on some sleep. When we don't get enough sleep we become more anxious and depressed. If your struggling to sleep go visit your GP and they might be able to give you something for the short term. Try and find things that help you relax and do them. Reading, walking, TV or even just having a peaceful cup of tea can help you feel more refreshed and ready to get back into the swing of things.

3. IT WILL BENEFIT YOU & OTHERS
Not only will you feel better after having some much needed time off but it will help others as well. You will go back into work with a refreshed brain and soul your work flow will be better and your boss will love you for it. If you have had time off from home duties you will come back ready to take over again but less stressed, so no more arguments over tiny things that mean nothing. Looking after yourself looks after others around you - because they can get on without worrying so much about you!

4. IT'S GOOD FOR THE SOUL
Taking time off for your mental health is so so good for you. It just gives you that space and time to sort out what is going on and just giving yourself some time to heal. Self care is so important and it really does make you feel good. Even if all you plan to do is eat, sleep and have a bubble bath it will make you feel better. Just giving yourself some much needed care does wonders on the body and mind. Time out is proven to make time in better.

Website: https://www.fixmeinfortyfive.com/

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