Tag Archives: Mental Health

A leap of faith

Warning – may be triggering.

It’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve found myself very busy managing full time work, part time study, exercise, gardening and socialising!!  Never thought I would start a post with that statement.

Last week I did something exciting and very unlike me.  I got a tattoo on my inner left wrist.  It’s a sunflower and I think it looks beautiful.  Some friends and family are horrified and think I have lost my mind (again!) and keep reminding me I have it for the rest of my life.  Really?  I had never thought of that!!  Unfortunately, I can’t tell them the full reasons for getting it done and what it represents to me.  They only know a small part of a big story so their confusion is somewhat justified.

Many of you reading this, know a little more of my story so I hope you don’t mind if I share the significance with you. Of note, I am not recommending this as a solution for everyone.  It is very much something I have done for myself.

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Yellow is my favourite colour which I’ve blogged about before: Yellow It brings to mind happiness, summer, warmth and life.  I love Daffodils.  When they break through the earth you know that winter is fading and longer days, warmth and light are on the way (although not always in the UK!!).  For me though, it has always been the Sunflower that steals the show.  Such a huge, strong flower coming from such a tiny seed.  They grow so tall and stretch up daily towards the sun.  A long sturdy stem sprouting leaves much in the same way that I imagine Jack’s beanstalk.  Eventually, the flower appears, face towards the sun and full of its own brilliance. The depth of the yellow fills you with warmth and you can’t look at it without smiling.

It seems that last year Sunflowers were everywhere…including the hospital I was staying in.  At the time I thought it ironic to have such a happy flower in a place full of people struggling to find any light in their lives.  Some days it felt they were mocking me.  Other days, they reminded me of where I was trying to get to.  Looking back with my ‘new’ mind I understand completely why they were there and am eternally grateful for their presence.

As an aside, the humble Sunflower Seed is also classed as a Superfood, contributing to numerous health benefits.  Beautiful to look at and healthy too!!

In the past one of my coping mechanisms for dealing with uncomfortable emotions has been to self-harm.  Traditionally, this had always been done with no visible signs but last year it changed and as a result I have a number of scars on my left arm.  I’m not ashamed of them and I don’t hide them.  They are part of me and remind me of where I have been and how far I have come.  For some reason it was always important to me that when I harmed, I could see the wounds and the.  Somehow, the best place became my left arm.

Following lots of therapy, I have a number of safer, and, let’s face it, more effective ways to manage emotions.  However, I also needed to think of what to do at times that I wasn’t feeling strong and felt the urge to resort to my old ways.   The tattoo is in itself a scar but is created as a work of art in a controlled environment.  It is on my left inner wrist so is somewhat hidden but also accessible to me at all times.

Each time I look at my Sunflower ‘scar’ I am reminded of my journey and how much I have learnt.  It reminds me that I am stronger than I think.  Each time I glance at it through the day I am reminded to pause, breathe and be mindful.  IF I feel the need to self-harm moving forward, I am hoping that I can use ii as a point of focus so that I can pause and remember.

I know that it will always be with me.  That’s kind of the point.  If I was able to remove it easily, I would get rid of it as soon as my mood became low.  It needs to be permanent because it tells my story.  It is part of me.  It wasn’t a rash decision…as I hope you have seen.  It’s a scar that I chose to have when I was feeling at my best.  It is beautiful and provides a focus for me on my path for me.  It’s not a reminder that I have been ill. It’s a reminder that I am here.

 

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Get well soon

Today has been a very strange day.  It shouldn’t have been, but it was.

Last night, I fell down my stairs.  My stairs are wooden and hard.  My body is soft.  I have a mild concussion (albeit self-diagnosed), grazes to my knees and elbow.  I have a huge black/red bruise across my lower back and further bruising coming out on my back under my ribs.  Everywhere hurts.  But nothing is broken and in a few days the pain will go and the bruises will fade. I can deal with this sort of thing. Physical pain?  Pah!  I laugh in the face of this.

Having told people about my accident I have never received so much attention.  I’ve been given sympathy, concern, offers of help, hugs.  I even got chocolate!!  I was advised to go to the doctors and get checked out.  Someone bought me pain killers. Take it easy, rest, don’t be a hero.  To top it all off, my mum turned up with some flowers.

All seems normal so far. And yet for me (and many others) this is a strange experience.

Last year I spent time in hospital following an exacerbation of my depression.  When not in hospital I hid away in my house, unable to face the world.  I couldn’t sleep at night, I couldn’t stay awake during the day.  I lost over 3 stone in about 6 weeks.  I was self harming and putting my life at genuine risk.  I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t shower, I couldn’t concentrate.  I felt worthless.  I felt I had nothing to offer the world.  There was just no point to anything.

Yet, the sympathy wasn’t forthcoming.  I got no cards, no flowers, no chocolate.  I was told to pull myself together and I had nothing to be depressed about.  Don’t take anti-depressants, you need exercise and a healthy diet. When I had the crisis team visiting every day, my mum was concerned they were making it worse as all my focus was on being depressed.  I should be distracting myself from it.  And this was from the people who stayed in touch.  Many didn’t stay in touch.  They just didn’t know what to do or say.

So there you have it. Today was a really strange experience for me.  And if you don’t mind, I shall take myself back to bed (slowly), take some pain killers, eat my chocolate and read a magazine….how much I love this physical pain.

Websites to inspire, encourage and make you think

Have you ever logged on to WordPress only to check the time 5minutes later to see that actually 3 hours have passed?  How on earth did that happen?  I frequently find this happening, not just on WordPress, but on a variety of other sites as well. 

I like to think my browsing history is at least a little educational, maybe inspirational.  Here are my top 10 (in no particular order).  Let me know what you think.  You will probably find some sites that you are more than familiar with, but hopefully you will find something new 🙂

  1.       www.moodscope.com

This is a site for mental health and one I use every day to track my mood.  It encourages users to ‘measure’ their mood on a daily basis.  You are presented with 20 adjectives and have to assess each one for how you are experiencing it at that time: Very slightly or not at all; A little; Quite a bit; Extremely .  There are 10 positive adjectives (E.g., Inspired, Active etc.) and 10 negative adjectives (E.g., Anxious, Irritable etc.).  Just tracking your mood on a daily basis has been shown to have a positive impact on mood.  The site tracks your scores in graph form and allows you to make notes on what you were doing that day etc.  I find it a brilliant resource and have used the graphs to demonstrate to my doctors how I have been getting on.  Highly recommended.

  1.       www.ted.com

TED is a global phenomen of inspirational talks and lectures all filmed for our viewing pleasure.  The longest films are around 20mins with most falling under this.  I am frequently awestruck by some of the speakers on here and the whole range of topics these talks cover.  Politics, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Technology, Children, Winning the lottery, Happiness, Psychology, Ecology, The Future, Motivational, Inspirational… It’s overwhelming and you could easily get lost for hours.  For a better feel have a look at this one.  Note the audiences reaction and the date it was recorded:

http://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_han_demos_his_breakthrough_touchscreen

  1.       www.upworthy.com

This is a site with a similar theme as TED but the videos are based more on real life scenarios rather than speakers.  The videos are also much shorter.  Some of them are beautiful and make you smile and remember that there are some very special people out there. Others make very uncomfortable viewing and make you question your own actions and attitudes.  The one I have linked here is something you may want to show your teenage daughters.  It’s quite frightening and clearly demonstrates that very little is real in the beauty industry.

http://www.upworthy.com/see-why-we-have-an-absolutely-ridiculous-standard-of-beauty-in-just-37-seconds?c=reccon1

  1.       www.tinybuddha.com

This is my number one feel good site. The tag line is ‘Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives’, and that is absolutely what it delivers.  Each day delivers a new selection of inspiring blogs, each provided by users of the sites.  The blogs cover ‘love & relationships’, ‘change and challenges’, ‘healthy habits’, ‘mindfulness and peace’….you get the picture.  There is a discussion blog and then my favourite part, the fun and inspiring section.  Beautiful pictures, cartoons and images with inspiring words.  The site is a real haven of loveliness.

  1.       www.open.ac.uk

This is site for the UK based Open University.  It’s had to become one of my favourites purely because I am studying with them at the moment.  However, if you are interested into furthering your education, I would definitely have a look at the site and see the huge range of courses that are available, regardless of location.  All courses are managed as distance learning with materials provided to you as hardcover or online resources.  I am halfway through my first module and loving it.  The course materials are great and all the additional resources available on line mean that you may never be bored again!!

  1.       www.redonline.co.uk

We all need a bit of fun and escapism, and this is it for me.  It used to be a magazine delivered to my home once a month, but in honour of the environment, I now enjoy it online.  I’ll be honest, it’s a magazine for women, containing articles and information about things (some) women like: Fashion, Beauty, Food, Travel and Home & Interiors.  One important difference from other similar magazines, is that it proactively promotes strong, successful, inspirational women.  And it doesn’t do this by knocking men or comparing women to men.  It celebrates women as people in their own right.  A real pic’n’mix to whilst away some time.

  1.       www.getsomeheadspace.org

I’m a strong supporter of mindfulness and this is the organisation that first brought it to my attention.  You won’t find peaceful images of beaches, stones and clear blue skies.  Headspace clearly promotes itself as Meditation for Modern Living.  There is a lot of information on the site about mindfulness and a variety of resources to help you understand and explore mindfulness.  The main component is certainly the ‘app’ they have developed to help make mindfulness more appealing and accessible.  There is a free 10 day taster, and the meditations are the best I have experienced.  They are ‘presented’ by a guy called Andy Puddicombe and it is obvious this is where his expertise lays.  If you want a quick explanation of mindfulness, you can find his TED Talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/andy_puddicombe_all_it_takes_is_10_mindful_minutes

  1.       www.frictionlessliving.net

This is another lovely little find.  The concept is that less is more.  I see it as applying the principles of mindfulness to all areas of your life…reducing the noise all around you.  In his own words: “Frictionless Living is dedicated to recognising how we can all embrace a little simplicity and creative thinking to make life richer, less complex, more rewarding and definitely more friction-free”  A common theme across the site is our reliance on ‘things’.  We think having things will make us happy but the reality is that they often end up burdening us.  The car that gets stolen, needs a service, insurance, flat tyre etc.  It aims to help you identify those things that are really adding to your life so that you can move away from those things that take from your life.

  1.       www.huffingtonpost.com

I am a late starter to Huffington and haven’t yet appreciated the scope of it.  What I do know, is that when browsing other sites, particularly twitter, a majority of the articles that are being shared are from ‘HuffPo’.   I have never yet been taken to an article that I have not enjoyed and I never leave the article without looking at other content on the site.  It’s completely addictive and very well written.  In terms of the type of content it deals with, it seems the skies the limit.

  1.   www.wordpress.com

This list obviously wouldn’t be complete without a mention of our host.  I was pointed to WordPress by my therapist.  He realised how well I was able to communicate through writing and suggested it as a potential outlet.  I had a look, created a basic site, and wrote a short post.  I didn’t understand blogging at all, and was amazed when I suddenly got likes, and then followers.  It has made such a huge difference to my life.  I have ‘met’ some amazing people and learnt even more.  My only request would be that if anyone has any tips for personalising a site then please let me know.

 Enjoy your browsing and feel free to add some recommendations of your own.

Balancing Act

I have been inspired to write this post by the lovely DysthmiaBree.  We were having a chat about how difficult it can be to get everything done, whilst still ensuring we make time for rest and to look after ourselves.  Quite often, the minute we start to feel some energy, we can be so excited that we take off doing all the jobs we have been putting off for weeks (or months!) and completely exhaust our precious resources.  The problem seems to be how to achieve everything and make time for rest.

I have only recently come to realise that I have to maintain my energy levels.  When my energy levels start to get depleted, my mood starts to head in the same direction.  I don’t know about you, but my problem is that my energy is depleted by such small things, especially social interactions.  Even an afternoon spent with a friend for coffee and a chat will require me to recharge later on.  All you other introverts will completely get this.

So, here are the things I have learnt in a bid to manage my energy levels.

Disclaimer: If you are a fan of spontaneity, I would recommend you leave this post now.

I plan my life quite vigorously and spontaneity terrifies me.  I wouldn’t recommend anyone to go to my extremes, but I would recommend making a weekly/daily planner.    Before you start, have a think about the activities that help you build your energy levels, and the activities that you find deplete your energy levels.  In the following activity, you will want to make sure you balance these out.

On a Sunday evening, I sit down and think of all the things I need to do that week, from big household chores, visiting friends or family, paying bills and so on.  I then spread these activities throughout the week, ensuring that no day is overloaded with activity. 

By writing things down, they are no longer flying through my head…so I can stop worrying that I will forget them or panicking that I have too much to do.  It frees up much needed headspace and helps me relax. 

I also try to put in a food plan for the week and work it around my schedule.  If I know that I won’t be home until later one day, I will plan in a stir fry or pizza, leaving meals requiring more time for days when I will be home earlier.  I can then put together my shopping list and ensure I have every thing in the fridge that I need for the week.  A great big tick for good mental health.

Each evening I spend 5 minutes planning out my next day, including anything that has slipped away.   This again, helps me feel a little more in control and I can organise things in a way that works for me.   It might be as easy as ensuring that I have taken food out of the freezer for tomorrow’s dinner, or remembering  to put my yoga kit by the front door.

The most important thing is to ensure that you plan in time for ‘you’.   Activities to recharge your energy supplies.   E.g., 10minute mindfulness meditation when I get in from work.  30minutes for a long bath before bed.  Going to bed at 9.30, lights out by 10. 30mins listening to music/reading a book/watching TV programme.  30mins blogging…

If you see that a few days are going to be a bit hectic and potentially deplete you, try to balance the days before and after to include more recharging activities.

This weekend, is going to be really ‘depleting’ for me.  I am going out for dinner with a friend on Friday night.  I am then having lunch with two friends on Saturday, and then heading out for another meal on Saturday night.  Saturday night will be highly depleting as it is meeting lots of people I don’t know.  In preparation, I have kept things quiet this week to ensure a good starting point, and I have nothing scheduled for Sunday.

Is this something that you already do, or something you might find useful?  What ways do you have to manage your energy levels?

It’s time to talk

Recently I have had a few conversations on here around the challenges we face ‘educating’ people about mental health illnesses.   How do you tell your family and friends, what do you say at work, how should you deal with stigma?  Now I’m not saying I’ve got all the answers…but read on to find out about some great work being carried out in the UK to help break down the barriers.

Today is the first ever ‘Time to Talk’ day (in UK at least).  It has been organised by the mental health group Time-to-change.org.uk  This group is working to end mental health discrimination.

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The aim of the day is to encourage everyone to stop and have a chat about mental health in a bid to break down barriers, stigmas and myths around mental health.   Events have been organised around the country to promote this cause and it has been trending on Twitter throughout #timetotalk

It’s been really exciting seeing it pan out on Twitter and Facebook and the response has been great. They have also run a series of TV adverts promoting this, and encouraging people to chat with someone they know with a mental health problem.  Their website even has guide cards on what sort of things to talk about, or responses you might get (We’re british, we need these things!!).

I would love it if you could have a look at the website for more information.  There are really simple ways you can show your support (whichever country you are in).  It really is time to talk about mental health.

Do you know of a similar organisation in your home country?