Don’t Take It Personally

Please don’t take it personally when sometimes I don’t want to talk.

Please don’t think it is anything you’ve said or anything you’ve done that has left me not wanting to go out.

Please don’t be upset or angry when I cancel our plans. It is hard for me, too.

When I am a better version of myself, I love to socialise. My friends all know how much I laugh and how much I love to talk. They will also tell you that when I have the Black Dog in toe, I’m not me.

I’m fortunate enough to be in a pretty good place at the moment. I feel like I can take on the world. I feel like I just want to be out living it up with all my friends at the weekends and joking around, it feels great!

I really do love spending time with you, I love that we make these plans… sometimes I just can’t face it.

I know you are there for me and I know that it’s without judgement, but I do still feel bad if I can’t do something. I feel defeated and I feel guilty.

Just know that it might take one day, it might take one month, but I will be back. I’ll be back with a smile and I’ll make it up to you, I promise.

It is curious to see things from this high up when just a matter of days ago I was at the bottom. Friends play a big part in my recovery. Having a cup of tea and a natter always goes some way to help me. Having someone to pass me a tissue and tell me my mascara is running will always be the best kind of therapy for me. A hug from a friend in that moment can work miracles.

I was afraid to reach out and come clean with my friends for a long time and unfortunately resulted in a lot of friendships ending. I guess they took it personally.

It is so important to speak out and to be truthful about what you are going through. That doesn’t necessarily mean details, but having someone understand your situation will help them and you.

Knowing you can be yourself whether you are on your own or with the Black Dog is a real comfort.

There will always be a listening ear and a box of tissues for you.

There will always be a hug waiting for you.

Stay with me here.

On My Own

This is exactly how I’m feeling right now.

I’m so lucky to be surrounded by friends, family and strangers who genuinely care… Yet all I want is to be by myself. I don’t want anyone to tell me that ‘it’s going to be okay’. I don’t see how it can be.

“You’re strong. You can do this”

I’m still ill. Fact of the matter is I will always have this at the back of my mind. I’m still down here and I really don’t see a way out. I can’t help but question, do I even want to anymore?

It’s been a while since I’ve been here. I feel numb. I feel hopeless. I feel like a fraud. I try so hard to keep smiling and I try to be content in what I have and who I am. Here I am again, drowning in it. I feel like no matter what anyone says to me, I’m down here and I’m not coming back up until my brain decides I’m ready. When will that be? Who knows.

My mind is FULL and I feel like it’s going to explode. I’m gutted that I feel like this again. The fall feels just as hard as it did the first time. I feel like I’m never going to be completely free of depression and that makes it very hard to get back up again. It’s tough, to not know how your mood will be from one day to the next. I have so much to be thankful for, I have so much to celebrate, so why can’t I?

I’m on an emotional yoyo and I can’t keep it balanced.

I feel like the world is moving 10x faster than me right now. Everything I do, every step I take is taking all of my energy and will power. I don’t feel like eating, I don’t feel like talking, I don’t feel like anything. I just want to stay here and be. I don’t want to feel like this anymore.

I’m well aware how ridiculous this all sounds.

Without any sign of my psychotherapy referral, going back to my GP is my only option. The best response I get, whilst my GP is lovely, is ‘try this medication’ or ‘let’s up your dosage’.

This is not a long term solution. There are only so many prescriptions you can give me.

I need a solution, not temporary relief! Why am I and so many others in this position?

“Pull yourself together, snap out of it”
Gee, I hadn’t thought of that! Thanks, I feel great now!!!

This is not how it works. People really think these are magic words that will spring me back into action. Would you say that to someone who had a broken leg and expect them to be miraculously healed?

I appreciate that people care, I appreciate the good intentions and that that is ‘just what you say’, but I would much rather someone say something that might actually help. ‘What’s on your mind?’ ‘What can I do to help?’ Or just acknowledge that I need my space and my time. Acknowledge that yes I feel this way and that’s okay. Just be there.
I’m tired of this. I’m tired of this repeating itself. I’m tired of this inviting itself in and outstaying its welcome.

On a scale of 1-10, how much do I feel the pain? 0, and that is the problem. I feel nothing. I look at myself, and it isn’t me. I love to laugh, I love to smile, I love to wear funky socks… but right now, none of that interests me. Not one bit.

I’ll be back eventually.

Stay with me here.

My Story Isn’t Over;

This is a post I have wanted to write for a while. It has taken me a while to be able to write about my experience with self-harm.

Firstly, what is self-harm?

“Self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body. It’s usually a way of coping with or expressing overwhelming emotional distress.” – NHS Choices

Self-harm for me, was a comfort. I first self-harmed when I was about 14. I remember feeling so far from the rest of the world. I sat on my bedroom floor with a dismantled pencil sharpener and I took to my arm with the blade. I was terrified of death, as I have said before, I didn’t want to be dead, I just didn’t want to be alive. I wanted to feel. I needed something physical to reassure myself that I was there, that I was still a person and that part of me was ‘normal’.

At the time, it didn’t hurt. I kept going and going. I felt the blood run down my arm, I could see the damage I was doing, but it didn’t faze me at all. I wanted to feel something. I needed to be real.

I realise just how monstrous this must all sound. Depression can cause feelings of depersonalisation. I was staring into the mirror and had no awareness that the person staring back at me was me. I was like an outsider looking in and I couldn’t get back in. I still get this and it really gets to me. Having no self-control is terrifying. I tend to wrap myself in a duvet and not move when I feel like this, that way no harm can come to me. I’m safe.

I remember wearing long sleeves to keep the cuts hidden as I was embarrassed about what I was doing. I remember the cuts being so sore and stinging in the following days. I remember not being able to string together a logical explanation as to why I was feeling the need to do that to myself. I made up reasons to tell friends and teachers if they asked, I didn’t want to talk to them, I didn’t know how. I knew that to an outsider it looked mental. I knew that they would think I was attention seeking and I knew they wouldn’t understand.

I’ll never forget how I felt. I will never forget how those cuts made me feel so reassured. I can never forget these scars.

It has taken a lot for me to be able to write about this. It is something that is so personal, I wouldn’t ever expect anyone to fully understand why or how I could do that. Do I regret it? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes.

It wasn’t all that long ago I fell back into it. Last year, I was in a particularly dark black hole. I remember sitting in bed and staring at the scissors on the sideboard. I resisted for a while, but I needed something. I’d made my decision and nothing or no one was going to convince me otherwise. I cut, and I felt such a release of tension. I felt like I’d let it all pour out, only this time, it was physically.

I felt so guilty a few hours after I had done it. I hated that I was going to have to justify myself to Nick when he came home from work. I felt like I had really let myself and him down. I was so embarrassed.

All the time I have self-harmed I have been in particularly bad situation and places. It is not something that I take lightly.

I would never condone or ‘promote’ self-harm. We are in a world now where attitudes can be changed and are changing. Mental health is being talked about, education is getting out there and more and more help is available.

1 in 6 teenagers self-harm in the UK.

This is an important subject that needs to be bought to light! WHY are we still so taboo about it?!

Being understood and supported is half of the recovery.

I can only talk about my experiences with any of the topics I talk about. There are so many other reasons that people self-harm.

I would like to reinforce what I have said, I in no way condone or promote self-harm.

There are so many other things you can do. I found this really useful http://www.thesite.org/mental-health/self-harm/self-harm-coping-tips-and-distractions-5696.html

Just know, that you are never alone. There is ALWAYS someone to talk to. I for one, will always be available.

Your story is not over;

Be kind to yourself.

Stay with me here.

Dear Depression

Dear Depression,

We have known each other for some time now.

I’m not going to say how nice it has been knowing you, because it has not been at all. In fact, I despise you.

I know this is no surprise to you, after all, I tell you often enough.

You’ve made the hard times harder and prolonged my pain. You take hold of every part of me and you shred it. Who do you think you are?

It breaks my heart to see how you swallow people whole and pick apart every part of them. How do you do that? How can you be that dark? It’s only ever been you who has convinced me that I couldn’t carry on and you had me pinned. Well I’ve showed you, huh?

You make me look a fool. I can’t explain why I don’t sleep, why I can’t face the world or why I am so withdrawn… but you leave me there with no words and you watch me fall.

You arrive uninvited and stay for as long as is convenient for you, despite how much you’re ruining my life and my plans. There is no warning, no time to prepare, you’re just there. You need to appreciate that I need my space. I can’t cope when you’re here, it is like I’m piggy backing you around with me, and you’re so heavy. There is no escaping you and every way I turn, you’re there.

There is not enough room in me for the both of us. You need to leave.

You’ve made me cry. You’ve made me bleed. You’ve made me want to die. There is a little part of me, deep down, which will always fight back. I will never give in to you.

I can see you picking on others too. I see you sucking the life out of my family, my friends. These people don’t deserve to be treated the way you treat them.

I’ll let you in on a secret… we will win.

We are standing together and we are fighting. I might struggle on my own, but I have an army behind me and you are going down.

I hope you’re ready for us.

Your empowered victim,

Alice

 

Stay with me here.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s All In My Head

Well, I suppose, logically, you’re kind of right.

It is after all my brain that causes these thoughts and feelings, which is located in my head. I should be able to control that, right?

Wrong.

Mental health symptoms are not just in my head. Depression and anxiety have caused me lots of other physical health issues.

Let’s start with anxiety and panic. When I feel anxious, my muscles tense up, my mouth becomes dry, I can’t eat and I can’t breathe properly. All of these symptoms have knock on effects.

I often feel light headed and dizzy from not being able to breathe properly.

I feel physically exhausted from my body being on high alert and feeling tense for prolonged periods of time.

I have had stomach and huge painful throat ulcers from not being able to eat properly, when I need to alongside the medication I take.

My muscles in my jaw are constantly tense, without me even realizing. Having my teeth grinding is causing some real long term problems and pain.

I have been physically run down from not being able to maintain a regular sleep cycle. Lying wide awake pondering what you should have and could have done 2 years ago is the worst.

You could argue that anyone can experience these problems, anxiety or not, and you’d be right.

What I would argue is that for me, personally, I wouldn’t have experienced these health issues without my anxiety triggering them.

Let’s move onto depression. When I feel depressed, my past, present and future all seem bleak. I have no motivation and my body is just a dead weight I have to lug around.

I do what I have to do to survive because it is my only option.

I comfort eat when I am depressed, I don’t think about what I’m eating, I just eat. I gain weight because of this and don’t have the strength to get up and exercise to counteract it.

I struggle to concentrate, I can’t think straight. This caused me problems though my studying years and I believe it had a negative impact on my grades. I actually did surprisingly well in these considering (#littlevictories).

Embarrassingly, depression causes digestive issues, causing pain and discomfort.

I suffer from chronic headaches when I’m depressed, ones that even medication won’t help.

Again, you could argue that everyone experiences these symptoms at one time or another in their life, but imagine them all at once.

I know better than anyone what I could have done at the time when I was feeling that way and what could have made me feel better, but you try telling depressed me what I should be doing.

I had no energy, no motivation and no self belief to do any of these things.

I knew what I needed to do, I just couldn’t do it.

So looking back at all of these symptoms, I think it is safe to say that mental illness is not all in my head.

If I could just snap out of the way I was feeling and stop all of these problems that easily, I would have done that a long long time ago.

There are other physical health problems that mental health can cause, I just hope to never experience them.

It is tough enough to feel the emotional pain, let alone anything else.

I know I am not alone in this. I know there are others who would love to get the message across to loved ones and outsiders’ looking in that it’s not just in our heads; it is so much more complicated than that.

Stay with me here.

What I’m Made Of

I am generally comfortable in who I am. I have come to realise that it is me or it’s me. I’m stuck with me for the rest of my life. The sooner I stop battling with myself the better.

I have weaknesses and I have strengths. I have life lessons and I have regrets. I have ambitions and I have achievements. I can change what I do, I can change what I look like, I can change my surroundings but ultimately I will always be me.

I’m happy with that.

Of course there are things I would like to change if I could… but fact of the matter is I can’t.

I can’t change the past, I can’t change what has happened but I can live here and now and I can plan for the future.

One thing that is out of my own or anyone else’s control, are my feelings.

For a long time, I was beating myself up because I couldn’t feel happy. I can’t make myself feel a certain way. Feelings and emotions are triggered by thoughts, surroundings and circumstance. I will never be in FULL control of any of these, so why am I giving myself such a hard time?

It has taken me a long time to realise this; it’s a mindset I never thought I would be in, but here I am.

I can do certain things that will make me feel better… I can do things that will make me feel worse. Being aware of these triggers is really important.

There are some days where nothing and no one will make me feel better, but we all have those days, right? Even the worst days only have 24 hours.

We feel what we feel for a reason. We are who we are for a reason. We do what we do for a reason.

The best thing we can do is build on our weaknesses and play on our strengths.

You can’t expect yourself to feel happy all of the time, it just isn’t realistic.

Being content in who you are and what you have will be much more sustainable than being happy all of the time.

You can’t guarantee that the things that make you happy will always be there.

Being content in yourself, however, you can always guarantee you will be there.

Recognise your strengths, use them. Be proud of who you are and what you have achieved. There is still so much you can and will do.

Get out there and show them what you’re made of.

Mental illness is not for the weak.

Stay with me here

I’ll Never Understand

I’ll never understand how I can be surrounded by people, yet still feel so alone.

I’ll never understand how one part of my ‘inside voice’ will be telling me I can do this and that it will be okay… yet another part will be telling me that I can’t do this and bad things will happen if I do.

I’ll never understand how an illness that demands such strength can make me so weak.

I’ll never understand how this illness can override every perk of my personality.

I’ll never understand how I can have SO much ambition, yet have no self belief.

I’ll never understand anxiety.

I’ll never understand depression.

It is terrifying to be submerged in something you don’t understand.

To feel this way and not able to truly explain to someone what is going on in your head and why it is happening leaves you feeling so alone.

I know I’m not alone in this, I know that there are millions of people out there who have experienced these feelings, but that doesn’t make it any better.

I’m fighting a war against my own mind and it is exhausting. I’ve won some major battles, but the war continues.

I can look back and see how far I have come, but I still know there is a long old road ahead of me.

This time last year I was having panic after panic every day and became petrified to leave my own home. I was scared to be alone, but I couldn’t stand company. I didn’t want to be here but I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to have the TV or any music on, but I couldn’t stand the silence. I was starving, but I couldn’t stand eating. I felt dirty, but I couldn’t face showering.

How can my brain do this to me?

I’ll never understand.

I still have times like this. It can’t happen. In life, there are choices we make. We are required to make hundreds of choices a day, no matter how big or small, they are still choices.

Modern society will not settle for ‘I don’t know’. We have to get up on a morning, we have to go to school or work, we have to do whatever we are paid to do, we have to see people, we have to meet these expectations.

There are so many pressures nowadays in a world that has become so fast paced.

I’ll never understand that my brain who knows this and is used to it, will deny me the ability and strength to carry out these simple tasks in life.

What I do know, is that I have made it this far.

I do know that no matter what life throws at me, I will get through one way or another.

I do know that I am surrounded by love and support.

I do know that I have so much to look forward to.

I do know that I have exceptional taste in socks.

If I can do this, so can you.

Stay with me.

Penny For Your Thoughts

It started in a meeting at work a few weeks ago… ‘How can we raise money for West Kent Mind?’

*LIGHTBULB*

Penny for your thoughts was born! I plucked up the courage to share this little brainwave with the room (a massive thing for me to do #littlevictories). The idea was for  a bucket to be left in the office for a week, to collect loose change from passersby whilst sparking a thought or conversation about mental health; Winning!

The campaign took off well and we raised a hearty £26.20 in just 3 days. Considering a lot of this was in coppers, not a bad response!

Due to the success and positive feedback, I took the idea to West Kent Mind directly.

I am really pleased I did as the campaign has now been launched with its very own text code!

To donate £1.00 to West Kent Mind and the great work they do, please text WKMP01 £1 to 70070.

It takes barely any time to send a text nowadays, why not send a text that will actually make a difference?

I can’t express to you enough how much these donations matter and how much of a difference they can make.

I myself have used West Kent Mind in the past and to this day don’t think I would have gotten through one of the toughest periods of my depression without them.

These donations help to fund the classes the wonderful team run in Sevenoaks. Without these services, a lot of people would be left to feel alone and isolated. For me, these services gave me somewhere to go where I felt safe and free from judgement.

The WKM team recently visited my work and gave a fantastic presentation. Part of this was a very brave member of their team telling her very personal story of her journey with bi-polar.

I felt so overcome with emotion with this story, what a brave thing to do. This wonderful woman stood up at the end to give a speech and it was her! It was the lady who made me feel so welcome and helped me through those darkest days. I am convinced that without her, I would not be here.

I cannot urge you enough to donate what you can. Please help someone else in that position. Keeping these funds up will enable others to find comfort and support when they need it most.

£10 pays for one person to have the art materials they need for one month in their therapeutic art group.

£100 pays for 5 weeks of childcare, and this means that women suffering from post-natal depression can attend their mums’ support group.

£500 pays for 8 people with mental health problems to learn to play music in their wellbeing for music group for 2 months.

£1,000 pays for 5 isolated people with mental health problems to be supported by a volunteer befriender for a year .

If every person who has visited my blog to date had sent a text, we would be up to £6035.00 in 1 month.

This is outstanding.

If you have the chance to make a positive impact, why wouldn’t you?

Stay with me.

Mental Health on the Move

Keeping active is not always easy or possible when you aren’t well. If it will make you feel even a smidgen better, it has to be worth a go, right?

I would not consider myself to be a sporty person AT ALL. I’m all for long weekends wrapped in duvets with funky socks on. This (however comforting it may be) is not going to motivate me to get anything done.

I’m not suggesting that you should go and sign up for a marathon straight away, come on now, let’s be realistic! The closest I’m getting to that is a Netflix marathon!

Start off small; give yourself a little victory, even if this is a simple walk around the block for 15 minutes… it’s a start! That’s how I started.

Research has shown that exercise is an underused form of treatment for depression. Why is that, when it’s so effective?

I can hear you now… ‘I’m too unfit to run’ or ‘I can’t do it’

That is not true. Depression has this way of convincing you point blank that you can’t do it. It strips away any glimpse of motivation for even simple tasks, never mind these more active ones! I know that. The first step is always the hardest, but trust me, you won’t look back and regret it.

There are tons of different things you could do, something for everyone. You could cycle, dance, get some gardening done, do some housework, tennis, swimming, yoga… loads!!!

I recently signed up to a site called ‘borrowmydoggy.com’. It is exactly as it says, borrowing dogs! (I know, weird). This has been an absolute life saver for me. I signed up and messaged local owners and asked to borrow their dog for a walk around the local park. It has been a great success! (apart from this one dog who bolted and stole a kids banana… we’ll talk about that another time)

I have been able to get out every day and have at least a 45 minute walk with these loving pooches!

I take one dog at a time and simply arrange a time and day with the owner through the site to go and collect the dog.

It has got me out walking in the fresh air and I’ve made some lovely furry friends at the same time. I would definitely recommend it!

 

Remember, first step is hardest, but you can do it.

Stay with me here.

In This Moment

This is an opportune moment to write a blog post, I just had a panic attack. Why? I wish I knew.

I think sometimes it’s worse when I don’t know why I’ve panicked. If I knew what had caused it, then I could have removed myself from that situation and be able to now reflect on what happened; but when I don’t have an obvious reason, I just blame myself and get all worked up again.

It is so frustrating that I keep on ending up here. Just when I start to think I’ve turned a corner, it pounces again just to remind me it’s still there.

Earlier on today I could feel it coming on. My heart was in my stomach and I felt like my brain was 10x ahead of my body and the rest of the world. I was stood in town and could feel it taking over me. I felt like I needed to get up and run, but at the same time was petrified to leave where I was.

I was paranoid that people would notice and think I was crazy. I just wanted to get home and retreat to the safety of my bed. I felt like I needed to get away from everyone but at the same time couldn’t stand the thought of being on my own.

Panic is so contradictory. You’re in a sweat, but you’re shivering. You need to get away, but can’t move. You’re gasping for air, but can’t breathe.

I got home and got into bed. I snuggled up to watch a film to distract myself but fell asleep almost immediately.

Sleeping is always a good option for me. When I’m asleep, I can’t panic or cause any harm. It gives me a temporary relief from feeling at all.

I woke up after 6 hours and fell back into my blind panic. I didn’t know where to put myself. Everyone else was asleep and everywhere was shut. I feel so trapped and alone. I need everyone, but can’t stand to be with anyone.

Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to feel this way; I know how irrational it all is, I know that it doesn’t make sense.

I always feel so deflated after I’ve had a panic attack; it takes a lot to build myself back up. After years of experiencing panic, you’d think I would be used to it. I don’t think I will ever be used to this feeling… It is so intense and brings back the memories of all the previous panics each time.

I know that now that I’ve had this attack I will be feeling shaken and delicate for the next few days, in fear of it striking again, almost like an earth quake and its aftershocks.

Living in fear of a fear is exhausting. To be genuinely terrified of that overwhelming panic and trying anything to prevent feeling it is a full time job. I have ended up in some awful positions because of my Anxiety. In the past I have actually left a job because of it and remained unemployed for 3 months. I am still scared that it will result in something catastrophic like that again.

To be able to talk about my panic attacks so openly really helps to ease these worries and rationalize them. It is so sad that up until recently I wasn’t able to talk about them in fear of being misunderstood,  judged or labelled.

How do you explain to someone what you don’t understand yourself?

It is so important that we educate. The more awareness of anxiety & depression and their implications the better. This stands for all mental health problems.

To feel like people understand and to not have to explain yourself goes a very long way to comfort.

It is time we educate and end this stigma.

Panic is very real, why aren’t we talking about it?

Wear some funky socks and start a conversation today.

If you don’t understand, ask. Learn.

It is better to say something rather than nothing.

Stay with me here.