Sunday, 23 October 2016

What I Wish People Understood About My Mental Illness

Nowadays, what I really wish people understood about my mental health problem, is that it could affect anybody.

We all have mental health.

Just as we all have physical health.

Having a mental health difficulty does not define who we are. It does not separate us from the rest of 'normal' society. We certainly shouldn't be made to feel that way.

Just as we can have good physical health and poor physical health at different stages in our lives, we can also have good mental health and poor mental health. Some people simply need more support than others at different times in their lives. People who experience mental health difficulties are not different or strange. We are all human, with human experiences. Mental illness and wellness are simply part of that experience. It is essential for everyone to have their individual needs met in regards to their mental health, whether they have a diagnosis or not.

Having a diagnosis of a mental health condition does not make me different. It simply means that at one point in my life I needed extra support to get by. Thankfully, I got that help and I am now supporting others to get by. I see folks making a distinction between mentally unwell people and 'normal people' all the time and this needs to change.

Mental health needs to be taken seriously, of course it does, but to act like the person is somehow separate from everyone else just makes it that much harder for that individual to ask for help.

We are all different in our own wonderful ways, but we need to remember that we all have mental health. We all go through those times when we feel sad or scared. If we have good mental resilience we can bounce back quickly, but sometimes we can't. We all need to take care of our mental health, whatever that means to us.

I wish people understood that myself and the countless others with a mental health diagnosis are not abnormal. Mental illness can and does impact everybody and this needs to be recognised.

Friday, 16 September 2016

My day of delayed trains, sweaty anxiety, soggy feet and inspiring humans

Today I travelled to London to join in with a Time to Change event.
It has also been one of the worst days anxiety-wise that I've had all year.

I love events with Time to Change & Rethink Mental Illness.
I love hearing other people's stories and feeling encouraged by their responses to mine.
I was so looking forward to this.

I woke up with that familiar, yet somehow always unfamiliar, sense of dread and impending doom that feels like it has access to every cell in my body.

I am grateful for my beloved, who encouraged me to get out of bed, fed the cat, helped me choose what to wear, made breakfast and drove me to the train station.
Some days I am 100% capable of being an independent adult. Today was not one of those days.

I got to my reserved seat to find that someone was sat in it.
There were so many available seats and he was sat in the one that had a reserved notice on that little screen above the seats.
Most days I would be able to easily shrug this off. Accept and let go.
I sat in an available seat, seething that he was so self-entitled.

I managed to settle to some degree but then the train stopped. We were going nowhere. The announcement man didn't know when we'd be moving again.
I was trapped. Every announcement gave no more answers. More people got on the train. More noise, more movement, more anxious energy buzzing around me. The heat started to get to me. I'm sure my seat got smaller, or the space around my seat got smaller. I was trapped. An announcement that another train was going to London Euston from the station we were stuck on, should I get off and try that? Turns out I was stuck in my seat and my brain couldn't possibly comprehend the decision to get on a different train. Jeez, it got so hot. My body was so uncomfortable, dizzy, shakey, sweaty.

When I finally did get to Euston, I had to then walk to the event in the rain.
Silly choice of shoes for a wet day. Soggy feet.
So. Many. People.
So. Much. Noise.

I had a lovely welcome when I did arrive and I felt better...ish.
I'm usually in my element at events like this. Conversations about mental health are my favourite (Well one of the very few topics I can actually hold conversations about)
Today it was a bigger challenge than usual, but I stuck it out. I made it until the end (even if I did leave as quickly as I could)
For that I am proud.
I have some great ideas and things to take forward; things to ponder on.
I met some wonderful people who I hope to work with again.
I got that reminder that talking and hearing other people talk about mental health, ignites something in me that not much else does.

I was foolish to think that the issues with the trains would be sorted nearer the end of the day.
When I got back to the station, I was met with absolute chaos.
So. Many. People.
So. Much. Noise.
Crowds of people looking up at those boards, waiting for the platform of their train to be announced so they could rush forward.
Panic well and truly set in. Heart racing. Struggling to breathe. Feeling sick. Shaking all over.

I couldn't help wonder how everyone else was feeling.
Did their emotions differ to mine?
How much was the stress affecting their physiology?
Was this simply mild annoyance to them?
Was anyone else feeling like the station was caving in on them?

I am glad I went. I'm glad I stayed. I'm glad I had this experience today.
It was a messy, exhausting day but it was a challenge that I made it through.
Life is messy and it's exhausting, but I'm glad to be living it.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Commitment issues

So it has been a while since I've written anything here, I've had a lot of new stuff happening in my life. A lot of very new things.

Today I'm going to talk about commitment. 

In a sort of round about way, of course. 

I've not been as committed as I originally planned to writing this blog. It had to take a back seat from all the other things that were bigger and/or more important. 

I started my first ever grown up full time job in February this year. It has understandably been one of the biggest challenges of my life. I didn't know if I could do it. Turns out that it was a very good decision. I definitely didn't imagine that I'd be saying that 6 months from starting. Maybe, 'it's okay, I'm getting through it, but it's really hard and I'm struggling'. Instead, it's been brilliant. I've learnt so much about myself and other people. I've learnt how absolutely capable I am and my self esteem has grown in a way that I didn't expect. Don't get me wrong, it is hard. I do get really tired and sometimes it is difficult to manage my own mental health but I am learning how to. I am learning to set boundaries and take the time to look after myself, to slow down. I am now approaching my end of probation review, after 6 months in my job and I am so proud of where I am now.

Last night (Saturday 23rd July) was the summer concert of Rainbow Voices, the LGBT choir I'm part of. This is another commitment I have really struggled with, but one I love and is so so important to me and who I am. The fact that I made it to the end of the summer term and performed is a really big deal. I came down with some horrible cold thing when I was in London the other day, and I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to perform. I'd worked so hard to hang in there and stay committed to this thing that I love, so the thought of missing the performance was devastating. I was so close to giving up on Saturday morning, but I decided to try. I drove to the venue and took part in the rehearsal. I tried my best, and I managed to sing as part of this amazing group of people and I performed my wee solo, which I am so proud of. I could have thrown in the towel before I tried, but I didn't. I stuck it out and it paid off and I'm so happy I did it. (I do feel like utter shit and my throat is killing me today but I think it was worth it)

I have been part of a group therapy programme for nearly 18 months now. This has been a really really long process. I was referred to the service early September 2013 and had three assessment interviews, in October, November and December 2013. I then began the 12 week preparation group late May 2014. This happened, but the therapy team and I were unsure about the next step. I ended up doing this preparation group for a second time, then eventually started the main one day group therapy programme 25th February 2015. Now here I am, due to finish group in September this year, over three years after the ball started rolling. This has been one of the biggest commitments of my life and I really do believe that it has saved my life. It has helped me to find parts of myself that I never knew existed. I have achieved a lot in the last couple of years and I know I couldn't have done any of it without the fierce love and gentle compassion that I found in that group therapy room.

I have real trouble committing to stuff, but I am so glad for the things that I have tried and persisted with this year.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Some things that I gained during my recovery from my eating disorder, besides weight

(Potential TW due to talk of ED stuff. It's all pretty positive but be mindful and be safe)

Not too long ago, a few of my friends shared a post on Facebook where someone described the things that she lost because of her eating disorder, besides weight.
It really was very moving and showed how much can be lost when someone is in the grips of an eating disorder. It's not just weight that is lost, there is so much more.

This got me thinking about the things that I gained during recovery, besides weight.

Yes, I did gain weight but I also gained:

  •  A sense of freedom that came with allowing myself to eat when I want to and what I want in that moment.
  • The colour in my cheeks and the sparkle in my eyes.
  • Warmth.
  • CAKE.
  • The energy to get up in the morning to do my job with the best of my ability and see the difference I can make.
  • The comfort of lying down on a normal mattress without my legs going numb and everything aching.
  • Love and excitement.
  • New relationships (including the love of my life)*
  • Silliness, Playtime.
  • Cuddles that don't hurt.
  • Time to be still and breathe. Time for me.
  • Time to figure out who I am and to find out that I am worth caring about.
  • Smiles. Laughs. That uncontrolled laughter when something so funny I can barely breathe. 
  • The rest of my life that could have so easily been lost. 
  • The ability to appreciate the things around me. That ability to simply feel and experience instead of being stuck in constant thoughts of food, exercise, plans, decisions, fear...
  • The knowledge that my body and what I put in it does not define who I am. I am a fierce and compassionate person. I am a thousand things and more and I know this now. 

*want some crackers with that cheeeeeese? ;)

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Musings on the 9th of January 2016 (okay so I can't think of a title)

I made that thing above on New Year's Eve. 
I don't like the idea of new year's resolutions, so this is definitely not that.

These are not instructions, rules or demands on myself. 
These are compassionate suggestions and reminders about what could nurture my body, mind and soul throughout this year and beyond.
If I don't manage them all straight away, or ever, then that is okay. 

So many of these resolutions we put on ourselves involve such massive changes and are pretty unattainable. So we end up burning out and then beat ourselves up because we failed.

If there is a change you want or need to make in your life, then making a scary goal with strict rules is probably not the way to go about it. It has to come from a place of knowing that it is exactly what you need to flourish and that you deserve it. You don't need to wait until a certain date to make this loving, compassionate change but I also believe that you need to be ready. 
That being said, I don't think anyone is ever 100% ready, but you do need to be willing to take a risk, to know that slip ups are not failures and that things take time.

Try not to be hard on yourself if you don't go to the gym every day, if you give in to that cigarette, if you just really want that cheeseburger, or you have 'broken' whatever rules and restrictions you've put on yourself because the month became January again. 
If you are able to, then please be kind to yourself instead. 
You haven't failed. You are not bad. 
You are trying, you are human and you are still wonderful. (obvs)