So recently I have been talking a lot more about my mental health and how it has affected my life. I have shared my first ever free verse poem, in which i have attempted to provide a little insight in to what goes on in my mind on a daily basis and what demons I have to fight. There is still quite a lot of stigma attached to Mental Health Illnesses and even though in recent years I have seen posts about an increasing number of people from my local area taking their own lives there are still people that feel they cannot talk about what is going on inside.
Luke Ambler set up Andys Man Club #ItsOkToTalk after losing his brother- in law earlier this year. He has definitely made huge strides in providing support to men out there who feel they cannot talk to anybody. Hopefully over the next few years he can grow this club and keep the talking going because it will only benefit people.
I reached out on Twitter for any bloggers out there who may want to share their stories and maybe a few tips on how they have dealt with or are trying to cope with their illness and I am so pleased that I have been able to collaborate with these lovely, brave people who were willing to share.
As I have asked people to share their stories I feel it is only fair to share mine so…
My story starts when I was around 15 years old. I have always been loud and outspoken, ever since I can remember. I was never one to back down from an argument or just take crap that was thrown at me, which is why it was so easy to hide what I was really feeling.
Ever since I was in primary school I was bullied for one reason or another and I didn’t think it ever got to me that much. I cried now and again when it got really bad, or physical but I tried to play it off like I didn’t care. People around where I used to live used to shout horrible things at me and call me names just walking down the street sometimes just because they knew someone who didn’t like me for whatever reason. ( Yes I know it is petty). I didn’t want people to think I couldn’t handle myself so I used to make out to my family that I gave as good as I got but as the years passed when I went to secondary school I went from loving school to dreading walking through the school gates in a morning. There was one boy at school who had made it his mission since the first day (practically) to make my life a living hell and as always his friends had to join in the fun too calling me names, pushing me around.
I did have a few friends who I hung around with but none of the ever really stuck up for me. One girl tried once but got stick for it so she didn’t try again. The funny thing was his so- called friends would talk about him behind his back. Say how nasty he was and how they didn’t like him but would never have the guts to say anything to his face. Nobody did.
It got to a point where I felt I was stuck. I couldn’t tell teachers because they just passed it off as a bit of light hearted fun. I didn’t want to tell my parents because I knew they would worry, I couldn’t trust anybody else to stick up for me and because I was not one for fighting I did the only thing that I felt I could do, which was hurt myself. When my parents found out I stopped for a while even though the urge was there every day.
When I broke up with my first love and was bullied out of sixth form I had a relapse but I found something else to focus on. I got a job in a call centre and worked as many hours as possible, which wasn’t healthy at all. My first boyfriend was violent and the rest cheated on me which didn’t make things easier to cope with.
I started working out a lot but I had to put up with seeing this school bully everyday at my gym and even though I was an adult now I still felt scared and nervous everytime I saw him. I still felt that rage , like I wanted to scream at him for everything he did and ask him why he never apologised but on the other hand I wanted to know why he hated me so much that he felt that it was okay to make my life a misery for five years!!! I don’t know where he got his attitude from because his parents were lively ( they also went to my gym ) .. to this day I really can’t say what I would do or say to him if he approached me in public (which I doubt he would do)
I had another relapse in 2014.. this one was bad and ended with me leaving University after my 2nd year.
It has taken me a while to get back on my feet but I can honestly say that I could not have got through any of this without my family. I was so scared to tell them I had started harming again or that I was suffering again but once I did a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and they have been my main support system. My best friend has also been a great source of support.
My first tip would be to talk.. talk to someone you trust. If you don’t feel you can say it to their face write a letter or an email. Just let somebody know how you feel.
Second tip would be to find a hobby that you enjoy. Focus on you and what makes you happy because we all need that time for ourselves.
Now i have rambled on at you here are some of the stories and tips from the people I have met.
Please note: I have not amended anything that has been written by the other people who have contributed. Everything is in their own words.
First off we have Emily. I met Emily through a blogger chat on Twitter and sent me this..
Sometimes I wake up to drought.
I wake up to green.
But just hours later, drought arrives.
With no permission it lingers in my shadow, but not like Peter Pan it is not friendly, it pretends to be, it deceives me. Happiness deceives me, it encourages me to do things but then…
Sometimes, things are shit.
things are good.
When there is green there is momentary satisfaction, a sense of okay, I am alright, I make good decisions,
I have often tried to articulate the experience of living with anxiety and depression, every time I have tried though I have failed.
However, putting these feelings into a poem helped me, as sometimes it can be too hard to put things into full sentences, as things do not always make sense, and it can be hard to truly define how I am even feeling. But one thing I have learnt it that, that’s okay. Not knowing how you feel is okay, it can be scary not being able to define something or be in control of it, but it is okay.
I think the main reason I find writing about my experience difficult is because I would have to define how I feel every moment of the day.
Sometimes I can wake up at 7am and be fine, but by 7:05 everything has changed:the clothes I planned to wear that day are not dry,the milk in the fridge has run out so I cannot have breakfast,my friend hasn’t text me back which obviously mean she hates me and just pretends to like me…
so on so on.
There is a whole universe of possibilities that can happen in those 5 minutes, which can change my day around.
Of course it does also work the other way, I can wake up and feel dreadful, but then a quick call with my mum or my boyfriend, or an episode of Friends or the Big Bang Theory, and everything feels a bit less stressful, and more manageable.
I also find it hard to give advice because everyone is different and experiences things differently, but one piece of advice I can give which works for me, is to just embrace my feelings.
If I am feeling sad, don’t fight it, as that often makes me feel worse, accept it,
and cry all day if that is how you feel.
Then, if you wake up feeling good, and want to go out, want to explore, DO IT, even if there is work or other commitments you are suppose to be doing, forget about it for that day, embrace the good feelings because who knows how long it will stay for.
But always remember, the bad feelings and thoughts will pass, it will not last forever. Stay strong.
For such a young woman Emily definitely knows how to express herself and I would 100% agree with embracing your feelings.
If you would like to learn more about Emily I have linked her social media below:
Next up we have Esther. After I sent out a request for people to contact me regarding sharing their stories on this post Esther sent me her details and after reading about her story I am so glad I did..
Here is the abridged version of my life story!
I am 43, a single mum from the South Wales valleys in the UK.
From the age of 20(ish) I learned that alcohol was a very powerful way to block out my negative emotions, and find the oblivion I often needed to get me through my life. I also used recreational drugs and casual sex for the same purpose. I got through a 4 year degree as a single mum with this as my coping mechanism. This was my way of getting through life for a long time (less sex as years went on though! J ). I have had to fight against life quite a lot, often situations of my own making, due to my low self esteem, and often due to other people trying to make my life difficult.
In 2013, I was a single mum again after recently having broken up from the father of my youngest son, who was 3 at the time, and the mother of a 16 year old (and a 22 year old, but he was off having his own adventures. From the start of the year my life started to fall apart, with terrible insecurity in work followed by a difficult new job, my mother developed cancer, another family member revealed long hidden addiction and mental health problems none of us knew about, and the break up from my sons father was reaching new levels of unpleasantness. In August, 7 weeks into the new job, I had a total meltdown and realised I needed to change. I quit my job, succumbed to the breakdown I was clearly having, and after a few months of madness and chaos, started to re-evaluate my life.
I recognised I needed to live a different life, and have a different way to earn money, so seized on the opportunity to finally train to be a yoga teacher, something I had wanted to do for years. I began my training in April 2014, and within a matter of weeks started to see that my life was going to change far more than I had envisaged. Yoga is so much more than the postures and meditation that everyone thinks it is, it gave me a way to live, a way to think, to manage my emotions, to let go of pain and unhappiness, to relax body and mind, to connect to myself, to my spirituality, to others, to the world and so much more
By October 2014, I was ready to finally quit drinking, something I had tried and failed to do on numerous occasions. I have been sober now for over 2 years (Oct 12 is my ‘soberversary’), and am using my experiences, and the concepts and practices I learned in my yoga training to help others. I achieved a lifelong dream in May when I published a book about my experiences, and have given talks in the UK and India about my journey. I hope to be able to show people that there is a way to free oneself of addiction forever, that it is possible to get to a place of peace, joy and happiness in a way that strengthens and empowers you. I am a stronger, better person for my battles, I wouldn’t be without my history of addiction for all the world, because it has given me great strength and wisdom that I can now share with others.
I am planning a second book, and am preparing a podcast to launch next month in which I hope to inspire others to see that sobriety is not boring and that it is achievable and desirable, and to help fight the stigma around addiction.
There is lots more I could tell you, please let me know if you want to know more.
And @esthernagle on Twitter, but you already know that J
I take my hat off to Esther I really do.. It takes some strong will power and courage to come through something like that. Not only has she learned from that experience she is sharing this knowledge and channeling positivity through Yoga teachings!
If you would like to read more about Esther Her book is available to purchase in Amazon
Wanderlust is stop number three on this journey. I was asked not to use their real name as they do not use it on their social media, which I respect and it does not take away from the fact that they chose to share their story with me and allowed me to share it with you.
Sitting on the red couch in the corner of the living room, surrounded by books, with the TV on in the background, I suddenly burst into tears. I couldn’t tell you why I was crying. I didn’t know myself.
My housemate came home from work and found me that way, tears streaming down my face, hiccupping from crying, and with my chest so tight I was finding it hard to breathe. Dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep, and no motivation to get up or even move to my bed – even at 2a.m. I slept on the red couch.
I finally went to see a doctor. Diagnosis? Depression. I was 20. I cried in the doctor’s office. His eyes crinkled warmly with his gentle smile, he gripped my shoulder, and explained that it would be ok, that I was far from the only one with a mental illness. Mildly comforted, but still with tears in my eyes, he explained that within a few days of taking the anti-depressants I should feel some relief. That I was not ‘abnormal.’
And I did. Gradually, the feelings of inadequacy, of constant exhaustion, lessened. This is not to say they ever entirely disappeared, but over the years when these feelings re-appear I have learnt better ways of coping, an accepting.
So here are a few tips that use:
- It’s ok to have a bad day. You know that day – when you’ve had a great 3 weeks, but you wake up and you think I cant do this today, or I don’t want to? If you find yourself really struggling to motivate yourself (‘it’s the too hard basket’), take the day to yourself. A mental health day. Make the call early, and instead of spending hours trying to find energy, go for a walk or read a book. Do something you know you enjoy. Respect yourself. The earlier in the day you make the decision, the less guilt you’ll feel tomorrow.
- Get some Vitamin D. No, not the tablet form. Get outside and into the sunshine. Take a few deep breaths of fresh air. Breathe.
- Write a list. I know that there are times when there is so much going on in my life that I feel overwhelmed – that I’ll never be able to get done all the things I need to do.
Write a list (and this is coming from a non-list writer!).
Writing lists is a great way of managing these stresses because:
- You can clearly see the things you need to do and can prioritise.
- You can cross items off as they’re completed which (at least for me) gives me a physical reaction of weight being lifted off my chest.
- Exercise. I’m not the greatest at having a routine generally speaking (which many experts in mental health recommend), and especially not in having a routine for exercise. But the proof is in the pudding, and exercise is a fantastic way of helping to manage anxiety & depression as it releases endorphins and increases serotonin. If you’re feeling lonely, group classes are a great way to motivate yourself, and meet new people whilst exercising.
- “Change is as good as a holiday.” It’s an age-old adage, and one you may wonder why I’ve included. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, your life is yours. Whether one aspect, or a multitude of aspects are pulling you down, it’s time for a change. Ideally I would suggest taking a holiday, but if that’s out of your budget, then I would really look at what does make you happy, and make a conscious and strategic effort to include it in your life. This could be cooking, or travelling, or painting. If you don’t know what makes you happy focus on smaller goals. Go to a concert, take the train to a beach for the day. But make a change or two.
- See a psychologist. This may seem very obvious. But I’ve found so many people attach a stigma to psychologists – and I really wish they wouldn’t. The best money I’ve ever spent was on two things: travelling, and seeing a psychologist. I still go once a month, and every time I finish a session I feel as though I’m able to see a little clearer and keep moving forward. Please. Do it.
Depression and anxiety affects people very differently – starting with whether its in your DNA or its situational – but it will affect most people during the course of our lives. If a woman is being moody, please don’t assume its PMS. If a man cries, please don’t assume he’s ‘weak.’ Please take the time to ask if they’re OK? Listen. Give them a hug.
Finally, I’d like to make a note on Social Media.
In a world of ‘social’ media, we know very little about what is going on in each other’s lives (I would dare to say we know less about each other now than we ever have). What we really see is only the surface – the ‘highlights’ of how others would like to be seen. Please don’t compare yourselves to others based on what they put on their ‘social feed.’ Your life is not ‘boring,’ having less people ‘like’ something does not mean you’re not popular, and you are important. Because you’re individual. As Oscar Wilde said “You might as well be you, because everyone else is taken.”
Next up is Hannah.This young girl is wise beyond her years..
It all started back in 2014, I began feeling really sick, then the stomach cramps kicked in, the heavy breathing, the jelly legs and before I knew it I was with 3 paramedics on oxygen because I was having a thing called a ‘panic attack’.
For months later my life consisted of crippling panic attack upon panic attack being told by people who are meant to be professional that I was ‘fine’, ‘just like any other teenager’ and ‘not getting enough sleep’ I thought I was going crazy, I thought it was all in my head and I was the ‘weird one’ who can’t even leave her home without ‘crying like a baby’. My friends stopped inviting me out because I’d ruin the day and one time I found out that I was the topic of a group chat on Facebook ripping me to shreds for these panic attacks, even my race got brought into this ‘how do tears even fall out her tiny little Chinese eyes?’ It turns out I wasn’t ‘fine’ and I wasn’t ‘being silly’, I shouldn’t just ‘get over it’ because I have anxiety.
This attitude towards mental health has GOT to change, it’s considered taboo to talk about mental health, why? 1/4 people will suffer with a mental health or neurological disorder at some point in their life so why isn’t it talked about more? Would you tell someone with a broken leg to just walk? No, so why tell someone with mental health problems such as anxiety to just stop worrying. This is why I’m writing about my mental health right now, to bring light to such an untalked about subject.
I was diagnosed with anxiety eventually by my doctor after I insisted I wasn’t okay, finally he actually took what I was saying seriously and since that diagnosis I was determined to turn my life around and not let anxiety rule me anymore. Then about 3 months later I was diagnosed with depression. My anxiety is known as ‘Generalised anxiety disorder’ or known simply as GAD.
“Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry, that is, apprehensive expectation about events or activities.”
Finally I had an actual name, since 2014 I’ve been slowly battling it and dealing with the constant struggle, some days worst than others. Some days, I don’t think I can fight to survive another day and others I’m up ready for war with my mental health. Don’t get me wrong, fighting with all your willpower against what your mind is telling you is tiring and hard but I’ve been doing it for 2 years now, almost 3 and I haven’t had a panic attack in a few months. In 2014, I was having at least 1 a day, normally 2 or 3. I must be doing something good, right?
When it comes to my family, my dad isn’t very understanding and still takes the view that I’m ‘being silly’ and I just need to ‘calm down’. If you’re reading this, the WORST thing you can do to someone who has anxiety is tell them to calm down, do you think we haven’t thought of that ourselves? Whenever I get an anxious thought or my depression gets worse, this may sound bad but I honestly just distance myself from that person who isn’t understanding whether it be my dad or a friend, a teacher, a colleague… anyone. Yes, of course they still love me but I will do anything to get myself into the least anxious situation. I’ve tried for the last 2 years to get my dad to just understand and he still doesn’t, if he won’t understand after seeing me curled in the corner of my room hyperventilating over going to Sainsbury’s to buy some milk alone, will he ever? What I’m trying to get to with this point is that if you have someone like this in your family, however much it may anger you my number 1 tip would be to not worry about how they view you, but worry about your own health and don’t listen to them. Although they’re trying to help, a lot of the time people like this (well for me anyway) make it worse.
Dealing with mental health on a daily basis can be so tiring so how do I deal with it everyday? I’m going to be completely honest, some days I don’t deal with it and some days, yes, you will find me curled up in bed saying I never want to face the world again but more often than not, I deal with it. Personally, for me I take a tough love approach to my mental health (which I know doesn’t work for everyone) I tell myself if I don’t try and change it now, when will I? It’ll always be tomorrow or maybe later. When it comes to depression, it always feels like there’s a dark cloud above my head so I have to fight this every single morning and every morning I have to take the decision of whether I’ll take control and I’ll fight or I’ll let a chemical unbalance in my brain control my day, and then this one day will turn into one week, and one week turns into two weeks and before I know it it’s been a month since I last went out with my friends.
When it comes to coping and prevention, I limit my alcohol and my caffeine intake because I always find it worsens my anxiety and depression. I speak to people, I used to keep it tucked away and eventually all my anxiety and depression would explode like word vomit to whatever unfortunate person is there to receive it. I’m still working on my coping mechanisms and I still haven’t found a perfect one yet but there are a few tips I can give which may help. From a severe anxiety and depression sufferer, I can only give you my advice and it’s up to you what you do with this.
- please speak to someone about it, and if they don’t believe you KEEP on fighting, you know yourself better than anyone else knows you.
- You’re not alone, even if you feel alone you’re not. I’ve emailed Samaritans on multiple occasions when I feel alone so please do to (http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us)
- Don’t try to be perfect, your mental health won’t change overnight. Be patient with yourself
- If you have anxiety, remember 478. When it comes to panic attacks to control your breathing, breathe in for four, hold for 7, breathe out for 8.
- Remember ‘this thought will pass’
- You’re always doing your best, I promise.
- Learn what triggers anxiety, you can slowly begin to tackle this
- Listen to music, read a book, do your makeup, do anything to take your mind of things
- Imagine the worst, how bad can this situation actually be or am I over thinking? And if it’s bad, what can I do if this actually happens?
- Finally, keep on fighting.
Let’s end this stigma together one step at a time.
And Finally we have Mike.
The crazy #BathBunBattle creator from the south. Met this guy through another blogger chat and after i threatened to cut off his long locks he agreed to help me out 🙂 . This guy makes me chuckle and he is so random but I am grateful that he took the time out to write something for this post.. so here goes
“Day to day dealing with mental health is hard, there’s no two ways about it. It can and often does affect your work life, your personal relationships and your ability to carry out today to day tasks.
Personally I have found it extremely difficult to talk to anyone about my mental health until recently. I have found some amazing groups of people online that I feel more at ease talking too. I would thoroughly recommend looking for support / discussion groups online, they can be amazing. It is also worth visiting sites like Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and Samaritans. Again there is some great support and information.”
“I have found more recently that I am always surrounding myself with sound. Be that the tv, radio, podcasts, music, whatever. I think I do this to distract myself from…myself. It is to avoid being left with my thoughts. So those thoughts in my mind are pushed back by the rampage of sound and noise I surround myself in.
There are many different challenges that come with mental health illness, as there are with physical illnesses. So if you’d like to know more, if you’re affected, if you may know someone who’s affected. Hey 1/4 are so likelihood is we all know at least one person. That have a conversation about mental health. It maybe awkward at first but you get over that. Find people that are happy to talk to you, and that you happy to talk with. It will make a real difference!”
“I have been delighted to have the opportunity to guest blog and to provide thoughts for a few fellow bloggers now. Each time I am amazed at the work others are putting in to not just their writing but the fight to break the stigma around mental health. So a big thank you to Lisa for inviting me to add some of my thoughts to her blog. BUT also and more importantly for her being part of a growing number of us that fight the good fight. So thank you.”
Blog: Mikes Open Journal
I just wanted to say thank you to all you brave people who shared your stories with me. I loved reading your stories and tips and I hope we can collaborate on more things going forward.
To my lovely readers please show your love.. comment below with any questions you have.. let me know what you think.
As always Be Kind, Be Happy and Stay True to you.
Peace and love