Tag Archives: Mental Health

A History of Silence

The other week was Mental Health Awareness Week and I had planned to post this then as a celebration of my own mental struggles – but of course I never got the time/had the energy to sit down and polish off the right words. I do think it’s great that this week is marked in the calendar and that it prompts so many valuable discussions. In the wake of the devastating news about Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbits, it feels especially poignant.

Where do you even start though when you’ve been plagued with doubt your whole life? And why does it always feel so narcissistic to talk non-stop about this stuff? I’ve dealt (and sometimes ignored) my own depression and anxiety since teen age. I always thought I was just supremely anti-social and lazy (I am lazy) but I’ve come to understand that it’s not that black and white. Sometimes the feeling of not being able to physically haul yourself out of bed isn’t just because you’re a sloth. As for being around too many people, that’s all symptom of the same condition. Some days I can’t bear the thought of having to deal with another living soul. My family used to describe me as sensitive and you know what, I really am – and there’s nothing wrong with it.

When I first moved to Brighton I was grappling not only with a dramatic move and adult life away from home but with crippling loneliness. I didn’t like myself very much, felt hideous 24/7 (adult acne did not help) and all I wanted to do was hide away. As I adapted to my new life some of that fell away but I’d fall hard for the wrong men and then feel everything ten fold. The first time I sought (not very good) assistance from a medical professional was because of a man (I had an affair with someone completely unavailable). Really it was about all those feelings backing up one on top of the other and having no understanding of how to deal but the boy was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I was immediately medicated with no other discussion and whatever I took then was not the one. My doctor was well-meaning but not exactly open to a conversation about mental health and I guess I didn’t really care to understand the whys then, I just wanted to be ‘fixed’.

A few years later, during my black period (age 24-30), I was in a very bad place. I was trapped in a relationship that was slowly killing me. For the most part I was numb and uncaring about everything but inside I felt trapped, scared and I did not want to be part of anything anymore. I walked on eggshells around a man that scared and controlled me in subtle ways. When he told me I was crazy I believed him. When he told me I was lucky he didn’t hit women, I believed him.

Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s sometimes hard to remember how bad things were then but they were the pits. I thought seriously about ending it and planned my out meticulously, something I’ve never really told anyone and certainly nobody at the time. I had it all mapped out but now I think if I’d gone through with it, it would have been a cry for help. Not to trivialise the choice to end a life, I have every sympathy for anyone in that position but I personally wanted a way out or for someone to reach out and tell me what to do. I’m thankful I didn’t act on that and one day did find the strength to leave him. I still dream about that time and live in dread that one day I might bump into him again.

Life since has been up and down of course because it’s life but it’s been good. That anxiety though just doesn’t want to let go. Everywhere I go I am constantly wrestling with the internal voice that tells me I’m worthless and failing at everything. Every time I walk into a new social situation I’m sure everyone hates me – and I will often lie awake at night because I forgot to say goodbye to someone and have probably upset them in some irreparable way.

It’s a funny old battle – the war between this negative voice and the real me – but they are both me and we have to find a way to co-exist. I’m medicated again, I started up on Sertraline about ten months ago and it seems to be suiting me. My lovely doctor also got me signed up to some CBT training and counselling and has generally been adorable every time I’ve rocked up to her office and sobbed my heart out. I’ve been lucky this time and things feel more manageable. Some environmental changes can trigger a particularly bad period but other than that I’m coping.

My heart goes out to anyone with the same feelings and it breaks my heart when another person loses their battle but I understand. Suicide doesn’t make a person weak and if that’s the only way to find peace then I get it – although I would hope there’s always another way.

Things might be getting better and there is less stigma attached to these mental conditions but we still have a long way to go.

Here are a few deeply relatable illustrations about anxiety that I love:

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So much for Motivated May, eh? I had all these plans to keep the posts flowing throughout Mental Health Awareness Week and then… I couldn’t muster the energy. Instead I had a very chilled week, mainlined Safe on Netflix and spent time with my beloved. Which sometimes is all the self-care you need.

MHAW was a busy one at work though with workshops every day which I made sure I attended. While they won’t change my life forever, they have given me plenty of food for thought. Particularly when it comes to diet, direct sunlight and digital behaviour. I’m not talking going on a diet obviously, I’m talking about the things I ‘should’ be eating for optimum mental health – fermented foods like kimchi, anyone? Sauerkraut with every meal? I’m definitely falling short of my 5 a day (bare minimum) and probably should swap out my daily Wispa for an apple but we’ll see.

Apparently you’re also supposed to get at least 30 minutes of sunlight into YOUR EYEBALLS every lunchtime too – which I definitely do not do, what with being ginger and mutant and all.

For me it’s the digital side of things that is the real problem, I’m the worst for falling down a blue light rabbit hole before bed and not being able to sleep – so I’m looking at what I can do to rein that in. So much of the time I spend on social media could not be considered ‘quality’ and I can do without it. That’s what books were invented for, right?

All in all I think I’m in an okay place. I was going to do a whole spiel for the week about my history with depression and hey, I still will but in a few days when I get my act together. In the meantime, I’m just here thinking about life and kicking myself that May wasn’t the hive of activity I planned it to be. Joyous June, anyone?

Consider this a check in, filler post while I sort out my life.

How are you?

Update on Anxiety

My anxiety has been more in check these last couple of weeks since the panic attack but I am definitely feeling more sensitive to certain things. Like, if there are too many people at an event, I’m out thanks. I’ve always been this way to a point (50% introvert, 50% extrovert donchaknow?) but as the nicer weather starts to show its face and large pockets of people congregate all over the place, it fills me with dread. Even if they are all smiley and happy.

I’m not against joy or anything and I love people really, even though I pretend I don’t – but large collectives stress me out. Even at my own events (like I throw those regularly!), I feel like I can’t sufficiently spread my attentions around and get flappy. So I’m feeling a bit angsty lately and fighting the urge to hide away – I say fighting because so far I’m winning, go me.

These kind of introspective periods make me think a lot about what I’m doing with my life and although I’m pretty happy, I’m starting to lose patience with some things and some people. I think I just have to keep reminding myself that I have the power to make changes, however small.

Thankfully it’s the Bank Holiday weekend and I’ve got lots of plan to podcast, watch movies, see good friends and just chill the fuck out, without having to make any big plan yet.

Bring it on.

Working Overtime

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I’m going to free flow this bad boy today because sometimes little truth nuggets pop out when you’re not thinking about them and that can be a freeing feeling. I’m very tired at the moment, doing lots of overtime at work to pay for things coming up later in the year. Birthdays, trips, visits. Life.

I’m also knackered because I’m feeling super anxious all the time, about everything. Last night it was because I’m reading Pet Semetary and before anything has even kicked off horror wise I’m fretting about death like I’m the little girl Ellie Creed in the story. She’s just learning about loss and death after visiting the Cemetary (PROPER SPELLING) and now she can’t get her head around the fact her cat might die one day and I feel you, girl. I feel you.

Death is something I think of often but it’s never really to do with my own mortality (lie, I’m terrified of ageing) but more about other people. Like, please don’t leave me alone in this cold, unforgiving world.

I know it’s irrational and it’s part of the reason I sought help last Summer, why I’m medicated and trying to learn to let go of the worries I can’t control. Losing my partner, family members or friends is my worst fear and I have to accept that I can’t do anything about it. Phew, this got deep quick, didn’t it?

Perhaps I should stay away from Stephen King for a little while.

In other news, I’m slowly saving money for our trip to Amsterdam in March. We’re going to do a graffiti tour and I can’t wait for that. March is Glynn’s birthday month so I feel as though this trip is a double celebration. I can’t wait to get on a barge and drift past the houseboat we’re going to live on when we’re old.

And before March, Lightle‘s coming to stay and that is the greatest! When your girl sends you a message saying all she needs it tea and movies, you know you picked a good one. So this is going to be an exciting year, I have Copenhagen in October, plus more coming and this girl better pull her socks up and stop shopping because money is a thing one needs to live, yo.

In creative news, I’ve started putting a plan for a novel together. There’s a theory that we all have at least one book in us and I’ve been doubting that for a while. Then I got a fit of inspiration and now I’m really planning it. It’s embryonic days obviously and I have the right to sit on my hands for a while while I work up the confidence to hammer it out but it’s there, at the surface. The splinter I’ve just started to work out from beneath the skin.It’s almost there. The story, which is likely to evolve into something altogether different, is going to be about friendship and that’s all I can reveal for now.

Things are good and bad, rough and smooth, heavenly and hellish – all at once. Life, in essence and who’d change anything about it?

How’re things with you?

Blue Monday

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Here it is, the single most depressing day of the entire year.

I mean there are reasons to kick against it, to say “Fuck this, not today, Satan” but when it’s violently windy outside and your umbrella gets blown inside out 0.2 seconds after stepping out of the door, it’s hard to be strong. Plus, I got my period and have the worst cramps ever in the whole history of menstruation, so I’m not feeling today AT ALL. (Of course I’m jesting, these are not problems in the grand scheme of things. But aren’t Mondays hard enough?).

This isn’t a big post really, just an acknowledgement I guess to anyone feeling extra shitty today. I feel you and I’m here for you.

I’ll spare you a Reasons to be Cheerful list because it’s likely you already know there are blessings to be had in this life, even if they’re just Oscar Issac’s face. Depression doesn’t see all that or work that way, I know. But sometimes it’s useful to receive the message that you’re not alone, that other people feel the way you do and they understand.

Be kind to yourself today and every day, but particularly today, while everybody’s chattering about how depressing it all is. Do what you can but if you can’t do anything, that’s fine. Stay home if you can, avoid people if you need to.

Rinse Netflix, read a book – whatever you need, try and make time for it.

I’m thinking of you.

Breathe

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Here we are, back to work, back to reality.

The diet chat is rife, people are returning to the gyms with their tails between their legs and boy don’t we know it. The mince pies have been cleared away and we’re having hearty porridge for our breakfasts instead of a handful of Quality Street.

I hate all the self-flagellation that comes after all the joy so I’m not partaking in it. I won’t be going to the gym tonight or any time soon because I can’t afford it and also I don’t want to. I can’t think of anything worse than sweating my nuts off in between a hundred other people who’d rather be on the sofa finishing the new series of Black Mirror. So I’ll be on the sofa finishing the new series of Black Mirror thanks, in a blanket with my tea.

January is generally the most miserable month of all and I’m going to inject as many little moments of happiness into it as I can, even if I am as poor as a church mouse. Even if all that is is an hour reading a book I’m into or having a pickle. Life’s too short and my only resolution is to be MORE so bring it 2018. I want more!

On another note, I’ve been spending more time than is healthy watching 2017 highlight videos on social media. All those wonderful perfectly composed images from the past year fill me with an instant gratification but when I think back on my own year, which was filled with some really dark moments (and obviously it was worse for my husband), I’m just thankful I made it at all.

Not to bring the mood down because we’re all about positivity here but I’m amazed I didn’t run away or bury myself in the garden at times. We suffered a great loss as a family, which was awful but has brought us closer together and I’m grateful for that. I feel as though I held on to a lot of the trauma of what happened though and then I moved from my comfy (but deeply unfulfilling) job into the worst one I’ve ever had (yes worse than the turkey plucking) – and I nearly lost it.

Some good did come of this though as the anxiety I’ve been trying to freeze out for years refused to be ignored any longer and I had to do something about it. I also learned that some people are just horrible and nothing you can do or say can change that. A hard lesson has been to understand that that’s on them and not me.

And even though I’m not sure my current role is a forever, it is fun and I’ve made some great friends – so for now I’m just going to enjoy it and see where it takes me. Despite myself I’m excited for what the year has in store, slightly wary but overall hopeful – and everyday, I’m just going to try to remember to breathe.

How are you guys settling into the New Year?

World Mental Health Day

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Yesterday was World Mental Health Day so obviously that’s my topic for today. And today is International Day of the Girl Child so that’s tomorrow covered. I just love being one day out of sync at all times.

So Mental Health. It’s fitting for me at the moment, as you know I’m always banging on about it, especially lately. I’ve recently been diagnosed with depression and anxiety – something I have always ignored but has gone into overdrive over the last couple of years. As a result of finally getting some help I’ve been doing counselling and I’m now medicated too. Which freaked me out to begin with but now seems like such a logical step. Mental Health after all is no different to physical health, the two in fact can go hand in hand.

It’s been through following people on social media and talking to other friends who are fearless about MH discussions that I’ve felt like I can be true to myself. Which sounds all kinds of cliche but it’s a relief to know there are people out there exactly like me and that I don’t have to be the strong one all the time. I fully realise it’s okay to not be okay and to reach out for help. And, where possible, set aside time and energy to administer all-important self-care.

Through this new honesty I’ve also been able to converse with loved ones who understand what anxiety feels like so a lot of good has come out of this period in my life.

To define anxiety is a hard one. I mean, it’s different for every person (and the same) and what works for one in ‘dealing’ with it, may not work for another. My personal anxiety seems mostly of a hypothetical nature. I stress constantly about terrible things happening and it makes me ill. I’m also constantly paranoid that everyone hates me, that I’ve fucked up, that I’m a failure and a fraudster – and all that bleeds into my every day life.

I’m currently learning how to compartmentalise and ‘file’ worries into two categories: ones I can deal with and ones that I have no control over, therefore I have to let go. It’s the letting go that I’m still learning to do – and that is way easier said than done.

There’s no fix for this and I think that’s the bottom line. So many of us live with these feelings so it’s important that we’re talking about it. Things may get better but it will always be an ongoing process – and that’s okay. Through conversation we can shrug off the stigma and maybe even help each other out. We all have the right to good MH, whoever we are and wherever we are.

So here’s to the worriers and the anxious and the depressed – you’re not in this alone.

Ps. Tonight was my last group counselling session and when I said goodbye to the one woman I’ve bonded with there, I choked up. I will probably never see her again and I just hope she finds a way to live with her worry ❤