World Suicide Prevention Day- 10th September 2017

I apologise that this post is a little late but with so much going on in my life at the moment it has been impossible to post before now. As it is such an important day in the year, however, I didn’t want the subject to be left totally behind, especially as suicide is such a taboo subject. Talking about death in general is not the easiest, and so the subject of suicide is even harder. You know what though? #itsoktotalk

Even as somebody who openly discusses mental health issues, I find suicide difficult to talk about. I’m not going to refer to myself much in this post so if that’s why you’re here then I’d stop reading now, because it just isn’t something that I’m willing to post about yet. However, this year’s theme is that it is ok to talk about suicide, so I’m going to do my best to talk about it as much as I can!

To quote the Samaritans website,

“More than 800,000 people take their lives each year across the world. In the UK and ROI, more than 6,000 people die by suicide a year – an average of 18 a day.”

Perhaps that doesn’t seem like a high number to you, but that is eighteen people who die, and many more who are affected as a result of their deaths. You see as wrong as it is to say suicide is selfish, it is right to say that the families and friends of those who commit suicide, those who successfully commit suicide and even those who attempt it, suffer to the greatest of magnitudes.

Also stated on the Samaritans website is that you don’t need to be an expert, you just need to be willing to listen. I’ve been fortunate enough to have many people in my life in addition to professionals who will just sit and let me talk with them, and I only wish that everyone could have the same. Picking up the phone and talking to a stranger can be so difficult and so that is why it is important for friends, family and acquaintances to be willing to check up on someone. That’s why it is important for mental health awareness in the workplace. That’s why it’s important for people to tell the truth when they are having a bad day and not just say, “I’m fine.” Easier said than done, I know.

It can be really difficult to tell people how awful you feel, and that’s the intrinsic root of the problem. Somehow it isn’t socially acceptable to talk about how rubbish we might feel, and so many find it easier or better to just lie and say they are ok, or maybe only give a half-truth. Even if someone is willing to say they feel depressed, perhaps they aren’t telling you the true extent to how terrible and atrocious they feel inside. They might not be planning to immediately harm themselves in your presence, but later on out of your company, who knows?

The point I am trying to make is that by taking away some of the stigma of conversing about mental health, maybe some lives could be saved. Maybe before it gets to the point where someone is standing on the edge of a building or ready to throw themselves off a bridge then something can be done to change that. Early intervention and prevention are better than facing the aftermath. There are people who can help, truly amazing Doctors, Social Workers, Nurses and all manners of people who will do their utmost best to try and get you back on track.

Compassion and warmth go a long long way to somebody in a fragile state, and they are far more welcome to someone in need than judgement and just general coldness. There is nothing wrong with putting others first once in a while in addition to thinking of our own mental well-being. Help out if you suspect something is wrong before it is too late.

Please, please PLEASE check out this link-

https://www.samaritans.org/media-centre/our-campaigns/world-suicide-prevention-day

It explains so well exactly what I am trying to but might be failing abysmally at!

As always, I’m always here.

 

Em x

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Anxiety

It’s been a while since my last post, and in all honesty I’d say that is likely down to my ever increasing anxiety. I’m anxious of how my writing is perceived, what people think when they look at me, the way that people interpret what I say and pretty much anything and everything. Anxiety is something that everyone will likely have experienced at some point in their life, but for somebody who suffers with it on a chronic basis, it can be so debilitating.

When you google the definition of anxiety, this is what is given:

‘A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.’

Somehow, it feels like so much more than that though. It sounds too cold and clinical to truly describe how bad the feeling and thoughts can be. Anxiety is like being drowned in a fishbowl, or trapped in a lion’s cage, or stuck in a lift that just will not budge no matter how many times you frantically press the button. It’s frightening and every second feels like ten times longer than it should.

For me, my legs shake (and body in general), I bite my fingernails, I scratch my skin and I pull my hair out. My heart races. Many a time I have been in public and a friend or family member has tried to calm me down from such behaviours because they are so concerned. Even just writing this now makes me feel like I’m abnormal, when really this is such a common issue that should be discussed more widely because maybe then people wouldn’t feel so embarrassed. I both consciously and unconsciously act out these ways, and it’s one of the most frustrating feelings in the world. On a daily basis it can be so exhausting to have to try to control yourself.

Oh and what else? Panic attacks. They are so very common for so many individuals, and my heart goes out to you if you are one of them. I haven’t experienced one in nearly four months (I have the biggest cheesy smile on my face as I type this!) and quite frankly I am so grateful to the skills I have been taught in hospital that have helped prevent this. I no longer need to carry a paper bag with me everywhere that I go, and that is a relief in so many ways. By the way, a tip from my ex-psychologist, Catherine, is that the paper sweet bags you find in Tesco (if you live in the UK) can be great to use, and right now I can still see one on my bookshelf just in case I ever need one again!

My medication for my Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) has been lowered very slightly recently, and at the moment I’m seeing how that goes. It can be tough to get medication right for each individual, and for me my overwhelming tiredness means I have to face the prospect of greater anxiety that I manage with skills rather than pills if I want to lead a normal, relatively stable life. I used to think that I had GAD as a result of anorexia, but now I think it is likely the two go hand-in-hand with one another, especially considering the fact that I still have such tremendous GAD symptoms at a healthy weight.

There is nothing I can say to take away that horrible feeling in your chest, throat, stomach or anywhere else in your body that your anxiety takes hold, but I can tell you this. Mindfulness is a fantastic tool in helping to overcome anxiety, as is just talking to somebody and seeking help in the first place, which can be a scary step to take. Even just having a look online and finding one of the tons of forums out there to speak to others, or reading articles. Not to mention that I’m always here too. It can be draining and unbearable, but there is always somewhere to turn if you need to seek help.

As usual, keep going forward with strength and perseverance towards recovery, because you all deserve happiness, you really honestly do!

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.

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

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

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.