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Social Media

When it comes to campaigning about fair treatment for people with a mental illness, it’s essential that you remain non-judgemental. Allowing your emotions to takeover is only going to be to your detriment, and therefore as silly as it may sound it is best to write when you are in an appropriate state of mind. What is considered appropriate is up to you, but for me it is not allowing my emotions to get the better of me. In my moments of anger and upset it is quite possible that I would want to moan about someone or something that has happened, but what is that going to achieve? Sure, I feel satisfied that my blog has a record of my feelings, but why is that necessary?

For me on a personal level, this blog is not about social media, like Facebook. Clearly it is a form of social media, but the aim of this is not to ‘get revenge’ but to educate and help family, friends, acquaintances and strangers alike to understand things from my point of view. There is no right and wrong when it comes to a blog, but this is the choice I have decided upon, and there are boundaries I will not cross. I’ll say if I feel like rubbish, I’ll tell you that it is wrong to single someone out because they sink to the floor in a meeting during the midst of a panic attack, but I will not use a real-life example of mine unless it is to constructively show or demonstrate something.

Social media is a wonderful tool when it comes to heightening awareness of a subject, and it can lead to wonderful results when used correctly. Of course it can also backfire dramatically, and that is why I am so conscientious of this, because I want it to be a space where someone can feel like they can relate to my thoughts. This is why I have not spent much time promoting myself or trying to gain followers, because I am happy enough knowing that the odd person or two have benefited from my writing. At present I don’t know how to market myself, and so linking here and there is enough for me.

It’s obvious from my statistics (I monitor purely out of curiosity) that there are far more readers than commenters, and I am totally ok with that! I don’t require praise to write; I write about mental health because I want to have a positive influence on people and help raise understanding and awareness of it. Too many out there want likes and followers and that isn’t a just reason to fight a cause. Don’t get me wrong, the more people that you reach out to the better because you are having more of an impact, but that should not be why you are doing it in the first place. Playing the fame game puts you in a precarious position, and you could easily lose sight of why you are doing what you do in the first place.

With that in mind, I still want to encourage people to talk. It’s ok to admit that you feel anxious to a co-worker, or to tell your best friend that you are struggling to eat breakfast because of your eating disorder. It’s not ok to feel like you should hide such things because you are afraid of what others may think, and that is important when it comes to social media. You don’t have to share your battles on Facebook, but if you want to then go ahead and do it because the more support you have around you, the better.

Be strong. Be brave.  Always.

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Devil

With a lot happening  for me at the moment it has been a while since I have had a chance to write a blog post, but I have had the chance to write this poem relating mainly to my recovery from anorexia. However, it is also relevant to other challenges I’ve faced hence the diversity of the wording. Also, I tried to end it on a positive note because let’s be honest, we all need hope in our lives!

 

Devil

 

You took away my freedom

You took away my pride

You made me feel great fear

Changed who I was inside

 

You took away my strength

You took away the pounds

You made me scream inside

Though I didn’t make a sound

 

You took away my happiness

You took my face that wore a smile

You made me into someone else

Changed me for a long long while

 

You tried to take my life

You tried to take my home

You did me so much damage

Yet now I know I’m not alone

 

I have my family and friends

I have them standing right here for me

You might have won a battle

Though I’m winning the war, you see

 

You are filled with nasty lies and hurt

A mere Devil in disguise

So I’ll tear you down forevermore

And once again I’ll rise!

 

Feedback is welcome.

 

Em x

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Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

From 8th May until 14th May it is Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 aka #MHAW17. Campaigning for better awareness of mental health illnesses and for there to be less (preferably none- but we have to remain realistic) stigma attached to the subject is a huge deal to me, so I thought I’d use it as the topic for this latest post.

It’s understandable that people don’t know what to say sometimes, or they are afraid of offending you. It may even be the case that they say something inappropriate without malice behind their words because mental health is such a complex issue. I’ve learnt to cope with a lot of standard phrases that are said to me and not to react angrily (although I will admit to crying on more than one occasion!) but to try and see that people usually have good intentions.

From the perspective of someone who is in recovery from anorexia and is a healthy weight, hearing the phrase ‘You look well’ is something I have grown accustomed to. That nasty little creep on my shoulder tells me that this means ‘I AM FAT’ when in reality this is not the case and needs to be ignored. I don’t know my current weight because I no longer trust myself to own scales without obsessively weighing ten times a day. However, my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) tells me that I don’t have to be aware of the number and also that I am within the healthy range. Healthy is good. Healthy means happiness for my family and also for myself, which is what keeps me eating meal after meal and not giving a damn if I eat chocolate or ice cream or cake or cookies! Before I digress, however, the point I am trying to make is that we should try and educate people on what is appropriate to say and what is not.

You also need to remember that there is no need to be ashamed of your experiences. I’ve lost count of the number of individuals who have told me either in person or in a message that they have experience of life with a mental illness or know somebody who has. All have and always will remain anonymous because it is their choice to tell their own story, not mine, but you can approach me whenever you wish to and I will always reply. None of us are immune to difficulties and to think otherwise, to think you are strong enough to tackle anything thrown at you and never develop a problem is extremely naïve. We are as vulnerable to developing a mental illness as we are to developing a physical illness.

Very often there is a reason for what feels like a break in our sanity; violence, sexual abuse, grief, debt or any kind of trauma that will weigh down upon you. Overcoming something that has had such a profound effect upon you is difficult and to therefore struggle to cope is completely fathomable. Just remember that it is ok to ask for help and to feel like you deserve support. Every life is sacred, no matter who you are. You deserve to be free of pain and to enjoy life just as much as anybody else!

Demi Lovato. Catherine Zeta Jones. Ruby Rose. Zosia Mamet. Amanda Seyfried. Ryan Reynolds. Wentworth Miller. Colin Farrell.

All they have in common is that they are all famous, right? Successful? Living the dream and always happy? Just simply put- perfect.

No.

In fact, every single one of those celebrities above have battled some form of mental health illness. I had a hard job picking out what names to write because there were so many (there is a link at the end of the post naming more) who had opened up about their battles and the list of names I stumbled upon was astounding. There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ person, no matter what they look like, how much money they have, or how ‘loved’ they appear to be. At the end of the day we are all human and although we do not all exist and live in the same way we must remember that important fact.

Whether your illness is anxiety, depression, anorexia, bulimia, OCD, schizophrenia or any other affliction you need to know that you are not alone. Maybe you are surrounded by friends and family who appear to be achieving so much more than you are, but try your best not to compare. Maybe your achievements may seem small- getting out of bed and showered and dressed whereas your best friend holds down a full-time job and is getting married or having a baby, but so what? You may have faced demons that they haven’t and overcoming that is so much to be proud of!

I don’t want to end this post on a negative note because that isn’t useful for anyone, so my message is going to be one of hope. I’ve addressed quite a few subjects and I don’t want to leave anyone feeling like there is nowhere to turn, so here are some links for you. Some provide general information, some I have found helpful myself, and some I have looked into and researched for the sake of this blog and well-being of other individuals that I don’t necessarily know, but still care about. I’ll add to the list if requested.

Links

For someone who is struggling without help, please watch this video. Everyone deserves to get support- http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/mental-health-awareness-week-help-13006860

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

http://www.newpathways.org.uk/sexual-assault-referral-centre/

http://thesurvivorstrust.org/

https://www.womensaid.org.uk/

http://www.cruse.org.uk/

http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/gallery/celebrities-talking-about-depression-anxiety-and-mental-health

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Grief

All week I have pondered how to address the subject of grief without referring to my own experience, but it has proved to be an extremely difficult task. Grief was what led to the dramatic decline in my own mental health and towards the brink of death on more than one occasion. I will therefore refer to my own personal experience more than in my previous posts because it played such a huge part in what was the rapid deterioration of ‘a little bit poorly’ to ‘she’s going to die’.

So. Grief. Typically it occurs after the death of someone we love, but can also refer to the loss of friendships or relationships. It is such a strange type of pain that is very different for each individual, even if you are grieving for the same person. However, in the main I’m going to use bereavement as the example simply because it is what I have experienced the most in my life. Lost loved ones are both reasons that have contributed to my mental health problems and also my recovery from them, which I realise sounds odd and is probably incomprehensible in many ways due to the juxtaposition between them.

In addition, it can be a challenge for those unaffected by your own mental health problems to understand and deal with in an understanding manner. It is hard not to take it personally but you have to remember that they are likely confused and bewildered by your behaviour, and unable to see the bigger picture. Some of us are naturally born with empathy and compassion as personality traits whereas others are not so much. For some individuals they can only see what is visibly right in front of them.

Just because somebody expresses their pain through moodiness or anger or pretend-happiness doesn’t mean they are suffering any less; it is just the way that they are made. Although I initially cried for my Nonna until the funeral, for months on end afterwards I was in such turmoil that not eating and being in ‘self-destruct mode’ gave me something else to focus on. I was so determined to be strong for my family that I wanted to block out all emotion, and starvation allowed me to do that. On the outside I was losing weight but on the inside that little voice inside my head kept telling me that everything was ok.

Everything was far from ok.

Inside I felt like a scared little girl that just wanted a hug from her Nonna and to sit down holding her hand whilst she told me stories from the past. I remember in my darkest moments pleading aloud for God to end my life too because I couldn’t stand to live with the agony any longer. There were times when I gladly would have welcomed death with open arms, just to escape the madness that was going on inside my head; the deafening roar that was seemingly endless. You know what though?

I GOT THROUGH IT!

It took years of therapy, medication, tears and tantrums that still continue to this day but I got through the worst of it. There are more good days than bad and I know that the more effort I put into using the skills I have been taught in therapy, the easier it will become.

Next week I am filming a short DVD for the NHS in which I will talk about how therapy has changed my life. It is a small way in which I can try to help others who are in need because were it not for the intensive care I received, these words would not have been written. It probably sounds rather dramatic but there is no point in skirting around what is obvious to myself and those closest to me. I do not speak for attention or shock factor but merely because I want to highlight just how desperate an event, like the loss of a close family member, can destroy so many lives for such a very long time.

Anyhow, I want people to know and please remember that it is ok to cry. It’s ok to be angry because you’ve lost your unborn child or your much loved Nonna or your dad or your puppy or your girlfriend. It doesn’t matter what the kind of loss it is, pain is pain and very individual for each of us. There isn’t a time limit on how long you should feel intense distress, and anyone who tries to tell you differently is not worth taking up space in your brain. Focus on you and your recovery; not the unkindness or rumours that you hear along the grapevine.

You are strong, worth it and wonderful. Really, you are.

 

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Mental Health and Addiction

Originally this was a subject matter that I planned to tackle later on in my blog posts, but an email received from Marissa at www.drugrehab.com has led me to the decision to tackle it much earlier on. To quote the website based in America,

 

“Of the 23 million Americans struggling with addiction, nearly 14 million also suffer from some form of mental illness, either stemming from or leading to substance abuse.”

 

Whilst I am based in the UK, as an individual that works with statistics I can tell you that in other words that is essentially 61%. I’m sure you will agree this is a phenomenally large percentage considering that it is well over half. Whilst I am not stating this is an exact, accurate number, the fact is that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that there is a link, at the very least, within a Westernized society.

Now, I am not telling everyone to go and throw out their prescribed medication. Mine helps me to function on a daily basis, and as someone who once had to take seventeen tablets a day, I totally advocate the use when advised by a medical professional. It should be noted that medication prescribed by a clinician can be fantastic and help to rapidly speed up recovery, but when abused, that is when the real problems begin.

With regards to prescribed medication, the need to take it can be hard to fathom if one holds the belief that recovery can be achieved through a simple change of mind-set. In fact, it can be almost impossible to explain. Moreover, if that person is too stubborn to even want to attempt to understand then it is a case of ‘radical acceptance’ (a DBT skill that teaches you to accept there are events and people which cannot be controlled or changed) and you should instead move on and do what is best for yourself with the right medical advice.

DBT, aka Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is something that I will address fully in other posts, because it cannot possibly be described with the recognition it deserves in a few words. Dr. Marsha Linehan, the founder of this relatively new branch of therapy is an idol of mine, for the obvious reason that her concept helps me on a day-to-day basis. However, for now I shall move on and continue with the subject matter in question.

We can be addicted to anything whether it is drugs, alcohol, food, sex or gambling to name just a few of the more widely known. I don’t want to bore you with facts but addiction is a craving, an obsession, a dependency upon something that very often can lead to destruction of our health, wealth, relationships or careers. They may seem like the answer to our prayers in the beginning, but are actually the devil in disguise, so to speak. There is no let up or break, and it is an all-consuming parasite that threatens one to their very core.

Denial usually plays a major part, often during the very early stages. Before you know it you can be relying on a behaviour to get you through the day, hiding your reliance from others, or if in the open them brushing it off as though it is a non-issue. Moreover, the point I am trying to make with my words today are that addiction is associated with the aforementioned subjects, but can also be an addiction to a coping mechanism. This is therefore when mental health can begin to play an important part either because of the addiction or a reason for it.

Unfortunately, tackling addiction alone is complex and often (although not always) impossible. As I stated in my last post, my first piece of advice would again be to talk to somebody. You don’t have to jump straight into approaching a professional, but a trusted family member or loved one if they are available. There are so many blogs and websites out there too where trained individuals will be able to point you in the right direction. If you don’t want to google it yourself because you are using a shared computer then send me an email with what you are looking for and I will do it for you with no problem at all. I can only lend an ear with regards to this, but looking up support meetings or phone numbers is something I can easily help with.

Some useful links once again are:

Talk to Frank- http://www.talktofrank.com/

Drug Rehab (as provided at the beginning of this post) www.drugrehab.com

and a list of withdrawl symptoms at https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/withdrawal-symptoms/ for more information

 

Addiction and mental health section of Mind which provides many further useful links that you can access (I strongly recommend this list)-

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/addiction-and-dependency/

Finally, I would like to leave you with a quote. Quotes are something that have given me strength to carry on after much trauma, and so I offer you this simple one that a very strong, inspirational and beautiful psychologist named Karen once said to me:

‘Be kind to yourself. You deserve it.’

“Look After Yourself”

It’s hard to know how to start your very first blog post, and especially the first sentence. Do I state the obvious or do I build-up the way a novel does, ending on a cliff-hanger? Then I realised that there is no right or wrong, correct or incorrect. It’s just about telling the truth and if this stops one other person from feeling like they are the only person with a mental health condition from feeling absolutely alone and misunderstood… well then I have served my duty as somebody who has travelled far on a journey towards health, bouncing back and forth between the darkness and light.

So I suppose you are likely here to read my story because either you know me, are intrigued by what little you have so far read or have stumbled upon this. If you are reading this because you feel alone, scared, abandoned, confused or unable to even label the feeling then I will do my best to help you feel better, even if just for a moment or two. It might not feel like it but life is worth hanging onto in even the worst of times if only because no particular emotion will be there forever, and eventually will change. Perhaps that means anger will turn to sadness, but it is also a possibility that sadness will turn to something pleasant like happiness.

Not for one moment would I deem myself to be educated enough in the subject of mental health to truly make a difference but if I can persuade you through my words to seek out support (if needed) then this will be worth it. I’ll include some useful links at the end, but for now I’ll tell you a little about myself and what I have been through.

My name is Emma and in the main, I am in recovery from anorexia. I have also experienced bulimia, anxiety, depression, OCD and paranoia to name just a few of the battles I have had to confront. Essentially this blog is not going to be a deep, intrinsic account of my life or my family, but my experiences in general. I’m writing a book that will go into the (I’m pausing here to search for the appropriate word) harsher aspects of what my journey has been, but for now that is not what this is about.

To feel so horrible about yourself that you think it would be better if you didn’t exist is an awful sensation from within the depths of your heart. I know that were it not for the support I received from my loved ones and professionals that I would be dead by now, which is no exaggeration. Like I said though, this isn’t all about me but it is about what I have learned along the way.

My number one piece of advice would be to talk to someone. It doesn’t make a difference if that someone is a stranger or somebody you know. If you are based the United Kingdom you can call The Samaritans for free on 116123 before you make that drastic decision to hurt yourself. Before I was ready to tell anybody the extent to which I was suffering, I called them and they persuaded me to give life another chance and to seek help, which I did. I couldn’t even tell you whether the individual I spoke to was male or female because things were so difficult that they are nothing except hazy, but I do know that they calmed me enough to be able to sleep for a few hours.

What you need to try and get your head around is the fact that there is always somebody who cares about you. Thinking about the fact there are so many suffering that I am powerless to help or aid at all is something heart-breaking, and from a conversation I had with a friend, I know that she feels the same. There we go, that’s two more people than you realised were there, right? Oh and please don’t use the excuse that we don’t count as we don’t know you- it doesn’t matter one iota!

Please don’t give up. Even if your only reason for surviving the next twenty-four hours is the fact that you have read this then use that. Anything that stops you from turning away from a destructive method is what you need. Maybe it is a childhood toy, teddy bear, Disney film, rock tunes or uplifting words from a favourite book. Whatever works for you!

As promised the useful links are-

The Samaritans- http://www.samaritans.org/

Mind- http://www.mind.org.uk

Beat- https://www.b-eat.co.uk/

I’ll do my best to get back to you if you would like to get in touch as well to provide a sounding board. Stay strong.