Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Is it spring yet?!

Sorry this is late. I've been trying to decide what to share. The other thing will get shared, just not this month.

This weird weather we've been having has left many of us feeling really frazzled. All the last minute cancellations, risky journeys, and dark cold days are getting lots of us down!

Every winter, I notice my mental health and energy levels take a bit of a dip. The last couple of years have been better as I've been able to recognise it, and say to myself 'it's okay, this doesn't last forever'. I just need to wait it out, and look forward to spring. I've realised that winter is natures time to sleep, and I don't need to bloom all year long. I can rest and restore.

Spring seems to be taking such a long time to arrive this year, though!

My energy feels like spring flowers, coming out of the winter sleep. When I start to see the daffodils, the crocuses, the blossom, I start to feel more energised again. I feel myself shrugging off the winter, emerging out of the soil.

This year, the snow keeps squishing me/them back down!

Ugh too many metaphors in this post. Who the hell do I think I am? 

Basically, winter is tough and I usually feel better in the spring. 

During a spring equinox yoga practice I was doing the other day, I was prompted to think about what element of spring I'd like to manifest in myself. The thing that came to mind was the ability to embrace change. I'm trying really hard to be flexible and embrace change, but I am finding it tough at the moment. There seems to be a lot of change going on around me right now. I can only do what I can. I can focus on the positive changes and try to accept the changes that stress me out. Change is constant and I know I can't avoid it. I need to learn to go with the flow. At least I recognise this now and other people know what's going on too.

Even though the weather is still pants and gloomy, the lighter evenings mean that I can go for a walk after work, which is a really important part of my routine. I will start to pick up again. I know I will. It's just taking a little longer than usual to wake up from winter this year.

They're trying! 

Sunday, 25 February 2018

It's Eating Disorders Awareness Week (TW - take care please)

Content/Trigger warning: In the second part of the post (underneath the starred line) there is mention of some harmful eating disorder related behaviours. 

This year, Eating Disorders Awareness Week will take place from 26 February to 4 March. The theme is 'Why Wait'. Some of you may remember my blog for last year's EDAW. The theme was around early intervention and I spoke about my experiences with waiting too long for treatment. There isn't much more I can say on the topic that I haven't already said, so please check out last year's post, read the following bit from the Beat website, and then you can read the thing I've chosen to write about instead. 

"This year, during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we’ll be asking the question ‘Why Wait?’

On average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That’s almost three years, 37 months or 1,043 days.

We know the sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full and fast recovery. As well as campaigning to improve the services available, we recognise that we must raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder and encourage and empower people to take action now – no matter how long their symptoms have been present.

So, join us this EDAW to ask: ‘Why Wait?’ "

Me again: I really hope professionals take notice of this campaign and the many people crying out for change. It's important that we don't just tell people to seek help early. As I spoke about last year, I tried to get help when I noticed the early warning signs of my eating disorder reemerging after a brief okay spell and I wasn't taken seriously. I wasn't given the help early on, despite asking several times. I hope times have changed/ are changing.


The Actual Blog Post

Recently, I've been thinking about stuff that I have reclaimed since recovering from anorexia nervosa. 

I'm going to write about two things that, when I was poorly, were damaging to my health and wellbeing. They are now both really important for my self-care and they do not harm or deplete me. 

They nourish me.  

When I started thinking about it, I felt really powerful. It reminded me of how different my life is now. 

1) Baths. I remember using baths as a way to distract myself from eating and from feeling hungry.

Now baths are a crucial part of my self-care routine. If I've had a tough day, or had too much sensory input, nothing resets my system better than turning the lights off and lying in the water. I've come to realise recently how important my 'sensory diet' is. Lights that are too bright, noises that are too loud, smells that are too strong, all drain my energy. This type of environment is, unfortunately, unavoidable but I'm learning what comforts me and what strengthens me. Having a bath feels like I'm properly looking after myself. Doing exactly what serves me, filling my cup back up.

2) Walking. When I was unwell, I would walk a lot and feel very guilty if I didn't.

Now walking is something I do for absolutely all the right reasons. It calms me down when I'm feeling anxious, it boosts my mood when I'm feeling down, and it helps me to be more mindful and reminds me to breathe when I'm stuck in my head. I'm very lucky that I live by a few different parks and green spaces, so I only need to venture a couple of minutes out of my house before I've got that breathing space. I also now have a dog, so on those days where my anxiety makes it difficult to leave the house, he reminds me to go out and take a breather. I made a promise to myself that I would only do exercise that I actually enjoy. No more 'shoulds'. This includes walking, yoga, spinning/dancing in the house and the occasional bike ride.

There are also many things that I have rediscovered (rather than reclaimed) since recovering. Reading is one. Oh the joy of having the concentration to read a book! I might revisit that topic another time.

This was such a nice reflection. It feels important to stop and take stock of how far we've come. Even if it's only small steps. We're all growing constantly and can get to where we want to be if we keep making those steps.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Working as a mental

I wasn't sure how to start this, or quite where I'm going with it, but I really want to talk about how I manage at work.

Before 2016, I'd never had a full time/proper job. This was when I started working in a mental health recovery service, where my lived experience of mental ill health helped me to be really good at my job. I enjoyed what I did, grew in confidence, got recognition for my hard work and made some brilliant friends.

I learnt really quickly that the job after that was not for me. I couldn't cope in the environment and my mental health took a turn for the worse. 

It's okay though. Even though I felt shit for a while, I don't regret taking that job. I've got great support around me, wicked coping strategies and a bouncebackability that I didn't have years ago. It gave me some really interesting experiences and, importantly, more awareness of what's good for me and what's not. 

I'm really lucky now that I'm in a job that I love, in a wonderful little team of people who get it

Bastards who push the 'work is good for mental health' stuff always leave out the fact that it needs to be the right work. I love my job, it makes me happy and I'm good at it. However, I know that if I'd have been forced into work, into a job I hate and that doesn't match my particular needs, of course my mental health will suffer. 

I've always been honest about my mental health at work. It's the only way I'd have survived. It's way too exhausting to navigate it on my own, at the same time as pretending everything is brilliant everyday. I've been lucky that my employers have, so far, been understanding and supportive. I know that not everyone feels able to be open at work, or experiences acceptance if they do.

One of the most helpful things has been my Wellness Action Plan for work. I always feel a little silly sharing it with work, but it's so helpful to have it written down. Even if I had never shared it, simply writing it out was really helpful because it gave me a chance to figure it out for myself. What helps me and what drains me.

I've worked dead hard and developed really good self awareness over the past few years. Knowing myself and accepting who that is, is vital for me to stay well. 

Accepting that I find a thing difficult. Not apologising for it. Asking for what I need to survive. Being angry if someone thinks I shouldn't have it or doesn't respect my needs. 

I feel like we all need to get a little better at asking for what we need. Demanding that our needs are met. I thought I'd share my 'Work WAP' with you. Maybe me sharing some of what I need, might prompt someone else to ask for what they need.

Remember, it is illegal for an employer to not make reasonable adjustments to support you at work, if you have mental health needs.

(FYI I've cut out some stuff, that I feel aren't really necessary for me to share here)

What helps you to stay mentally healthy at work?

Making sure I take a lunch break, leaving the building (at least leaving desk/work space)
Getting fresh air and/or having a walk or stretch
Working in a quiet space and/or using headphones when doing admin
Having some time to myself/quiet time to breathe
To do lists and plans
Eating regularly and drinking lots of water
Yoga before work, walking the dog after work
Doing hobbies after work
Having a good routine (including getting ready for, and after, work)

Are there any situations at work that can trigger poor mental health for you?
Generally too much sensory input (e.g. lots of people moving around, smells, lights)
Lack of structure or clarity
Not having enough time between appointments/meetings
Not having a break

How might stress or poor mental health impact on your work?
Difficulties concentrating
Less productive
Feeling anxious or unhappy about being in work

What support could be put in place at work?
Give plenty of notice for events e.g. meetings, training etc. and if there are any changes
Give as much information as possible about them, e.g. location, time, agenda, who else will be there, what I need to bring, what’s expected of me
Schedule meetings to allow time between them to process
Help to plan tasks and structure workload
Regular supervisions 

Are there any early warning signs that we might notice when you’re starting to feel stressed or mentally unwell?
Being more tired than usual
Struggling with verbal communication more than normal
Saying ‘I don’t feel well’, unless I mention other symptoms, like cold/flu
Appearing more stressed or tearful

If we notice early warning signs that you are feeling stressed or unwell, what could managers do?
Check if I need extra support or need a chat (I often just need some space or some peace and quiet for a bit then I can feel more able to talk about it/explain later)
Point me in the direction of a quiet room/space

What steps can you take if you start to feel stressed or anxious at work?
Find a quiet space for 5 minutes or take a walk/go somewhere peaceful if on my lunch break
Talk to colleagues or line manager – tell someone I’m feeling overwhelmed
Being open and honest with everyone about what helps and what hinders at work
Listen to something nice or white noise using headphones

Friday, 26 January 2018

My plan for this blog in 2018!!!

Hello friends!

Just a quick check in to let you know my plan to pick up my blog again and try my best to post more regularly.

I've decided that a monthly post, going out on the last Sunday of the month is doable.

Sorry if I fuck it up. I'm gonna try my best.

So please expect my first proper post of the year this Sunday 26th January.

I haven't thought of a title yet, but the theme will be around how I manage/cope/thrive at work and that.

See you then!