journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Life is Like a Roller-coaster

It’s easy to pretend you’re okay when inside you’re dying. It’s easy to put a smile on your face, to laugh at people’s jokes and to join in with conservation. People notice the laughs, the smiles, the participation. What they don’t notice is how your smile stops when everyone isn’t looking, how the laughter slowly dies out, how even though you’re present your mind is elsewhere. Mental illness is silent on the outside, but inside its screaming. Doing the opposite of what you feel is extreme strength. It can be easy to fake a smile, or to laugh at a joke. It’s easy. But it’s not easy to hide the pain, the frustration, the fear or the loneliness. It takes so much strength to function each day, to even breathe, but we do it – because we have to. We hide everything we feel because we have no choice. We have no choice because people judge. They judge before they know the story. “Oh, she’s sad again.” “She’s just attention seeking.” “We’ll just ignore it.” You don’t want to appear vulnerable, attention seeking, a liar, insane or annoying.

You don’t want to destroy anyone else so you hold it all inside where it destroys you.

I’m talking about mental illness. I’m talking about the performance that we put on in order to hide the truth. Sometimes we admit that we’re feeling down, suicidal or scared. But this confession is only a sample of what we are actually feeling. We won’t tell you everything because we’re scared of your reaction.

However, there are warning signs – small enough that if you don’t look close enough you’ll never see them.

The glazed over eyes, the staring at nothingness – an indication that we’re present but not aware. We’re here physically but mentally we’re elsewhere. The rocking, the twisting of hands, clenching, fast chest movements, constant body movements – an indication of being uncomfortable, upset, unsettled, scared, worried…the list goes on. The scars, the ‘dots’ that look very similar to spots, scratches, bruises, broken bones – an indication of emotional outburst, a breakdown, a meltdown, a release of emotion or anger. The smiles and laughs that end suddenly, that don’t quite reach the eyes, drooping of the eye lids and relaxed body movements – an indication of trying for too long, tiredness and exhaustion. Avoiding social interaction, not getting out of bed, constantly sleeping, disappearing for hours, days or weeks for unexplained reasons – an indication of being so exhausted mentally that physically your body won’t function, staying in bed or your room where you feel safe but cry constantly for being alone.

Mental Illness is no walk in the park. It’s a roller-coaster that continues to claim lives.

Mental Illness isn’t loud. The reason you didn’t hear it is because you weren’t listening. Look around you, open your ears, and you just might see it.

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

All about Depression

What is Depression?

Let’s start by defining depression. When things aren’t going how you planned them or something bad happens, its normal to feel down and upset about it. Usually, you’ll feel down for a few days. However, Depression is different. Feelings of sadness and upset last longer than just a few days and make it difficult to cope with everyday life. Depression is common – 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point in their lives! Depression varies from mild to severe. Mild depression can cause a person to feel low, sad or fed up for a while. The person may not enjoy life and may find things harder. Eventually, these feelings lift. Severe depression makes a person feel very down and unable to cope with normal activities. It lasts longer than mild depression. The person may feel hopeless and think of suicide.

Are you depressed?

Depression affects mood,  thoughts and physical feelings. You may experience some of the following symptoms:

Mood

  • feeling low and fed up or numb and empty most of the time
  • lacking confidence and feeling anxious
  • being irritable, over-sensitive and tearful
  • feeling worthless
  • finding it hard to enjoy anything – nothing seems fun
  • withdrawing from friends and feeling you can’t face going out

Thinking

  • finding it hard to concentrate, to remember things and to make decisions
  • feeling guilty and thinking you are to blame for things that go wrong
  • seeing everything negatively and expecting the worst
  • finding it hard to be motivated and thinking ‘there’s no point in doing things’
  • thinking you would be better off dead, making suicide plans

Physical

  • either being very restless or unusually slowed-down
  • feeling tired all the time and lacking energy
  • changes in sleeping: difficulty in getting to sleep; waking up early; sleeping much more than usual
  • changes in eating: loss of appetite or eating more than usual (‘comfort eating’)
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • loss of interest in sex

Overcoming depression

1: Start by accepting that you are depressed and it’s not your fault. Being angry or critical with yourself will only make things worse. Telling yourself to ‘Pull yourself together’ or ‘Snap out of it’ won’t help. The key to overcoming depression is to break the ‘negative cycle’ of thinking where you become depressed or anxious about being depressed. If you find this happening, try to stop the negative thoughts. Some people shout ‘Stop!’ in their heads, or imagine traffic lights on red. Try to give yourself more encouraging messages: ‘It’s not my fault I feel like this. I will get better – it takes time.’
2: Challenge your negative expectations. Depression makes you interpret events in the worst possible light: ‘My housemate didn’t speak to me when he came home – he’s annoyed with me’. Try to think of alternative explanations: ‘Perhaps he’s had a bad day… after all, he was quite friendly this morning.’ ‘Maybe he’s still hungover from last night.’ Then think which of the explanations is most likely.
3: Set yourself small and realistic challenges. Reward yourself for your effort. If you don’t feel you’ve achieved much, remember that you are one stage further on than when you started. When you feel ready, work for a little longer each day.
4: Try to establish a routine for meals, bedtime etc and stick to it, even if you don’t feel hungry or sleepy. It’s important to eat healthily so that your body can fight infections and doesn’t become run down. Include something you like doing as part of your routine, even if you don’t have much enthusiasm at first.
5: Exercise, including gentle walking, can help to lift your mood. Again, set realistic goals: walking may feel more manageable than going to the gym.
6: Learn and practise relaxation techniques which can help reduce tension.
7: Talk to people. Some of your friends may be worried about you and want to help. If going out feels too difficult, try to arrange to meet for a coffee or talk to someone on the phone. Some people find it helpful to talk to other people who have experienced depression, eg on an internet chatline.
8: Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs such as cannabis – they are likely to make you feel worse. Alcohol lowers your mood and recreational drugs will intensify your depression. Some people find herbal remedies helpful, but they can have side-effects. Seek advice before you take any non-prescribed medication.

And remember – Breathe, take life one day at a time!

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Depression is an illness, not an emotion

I don’t get angry very easy, but I do get irritated. As someone whose been struggling with a diagnosis of Depression for over 2 years, it irritates me when people replace the feeling of ‘sadness’ with ‘depression’. Sadness is no where near the same as Depression.

Sadness is a normal human emotion. We’ve all experienced it and we all will again. Sadness is usually triggered by a difficult, hurtful, challenging, or disappointing event, experience, or situation. In other words, we tend to feel sad about something. This also means that when that something changes, when our emotional hurt fades, when we’ve adjusted or gotten over the loss or disappointment, our sadness remits.

Depression is an abnormal emotional state, a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviours in pervasive and chronic ways. When we’re depressed we feel sad about everything. Depression does not necessarily require a difficult event or situation, a loss, or a change of circumstance as a trigger. In fact, it often occurs in the absence of any such triggers. People’s lives on paper might be totally fine—they would even admit this is true—and yet they still feel horrible.

Sadness usually goes away when the thing we’re worried or upset about is resolved or goes away too. Depression can not only last days but weeks and months, even years. Depression colours all aspects of our lives, making everything less enjoyable, less interesting, less important, less lovable, and less worthwhile. Depression saps our energy, motivation and ability to experience joy, pleasure, excitement, anticipation, satisfaction, connection, and meaning. All your thresholds tend to be lower. You’re more impatient, quicker to anger and get frustrated, quicker to break down, and it takes you longer to bounce back from everything.

To be diagnosed with depression, people need to have at least 5 of the following symptoms, for a continual duration of at least two weeks. This means you experience these symptoms constantly for 14 days. Be advised: The severity of these symptoms must also be considered, so please use these only as a guideline and see a mental health professional for a conclusive diagnosis.

  1. A depressed or irritable mood most of the time.
  2. A loss or decrease of pleasure or interest in most activities, including ones that had been interesting or pleasurable previously.
  3. Significant changes in weight or appetite.
  4. Disturbances in falling asleep or sleeping too much.
  5. Feeling slowed down in your movements or restless most days.
  6. Feeling tired, sluggish, and having low energy most days.
  7. Having feelings of worthless or excessive guilt most days.
  8. Experiencing problems with thinking, focus, concentration, creativity and the ability to make decisions most days.
  9. Having thoughts of dying or suicide.

All I want to do with this post is to simply remind you that there is a fine difference between sadness and depression. Please be aware that when you say, “oh, im so depressed today.” or “she looks depressed.”, that you are referring to a mental illness that has such a large impact on daily functioning for people who suffer with it.

Mental Illnesses are far more than ’emotions’. They are disorders, illnesses, conditions that affect the mind and steal daily functioning of the individual affected. Be mindful, be open, be aware and simply understand the difference between an emotion and an illness.

Thank you.

[Credit: Guy Wynch]

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Suicide Awareness

I agree that suicide is complex. It usually occurs gradually, progressing from suicidal thoughts, to planning, to attempting suicide and finally dying by suicide. The attitude towards suicide however always amazes me. One person dies every 40 seconds by suicide worldwide – that is an estimate of 1440 deaths by suicide a day! By 2020, the rate of death will increase to every 20 seconds. 2880 people will be dying of suicide a day… How can there be such a negative stigma surrounding suicide when it claims so many lives in simply a day? Suicide has now become one of the three leading causes of death among those aged between 15-44.

 More than 4,000 children under the age of 14 tried to take their own lives in the UK in the year 2007.

During my first suicide attempt at the age of 11, I didn’t have any suicide ideation. I had been bullied for months, probably over a year, and although I felt quite down and isolated, I didn’t feel as though I wanted to die. It was only when I was on a ski holiday with my bullies that things started to turn bad. I was sat on a ski lift with two of the people who had bullied me, and of course there was no escape. The taunting, the physical abuse, the laughter…it was all too much. My suicide ideation happened in a blink of an eye. One minute I was feeling angry at these people for being so mean and the next minute I was lifting up the bar of the ski lift ready to jump. At 11 years old, that’s a pretty scary thing to experience. I can’t remember if I knew about suicide before this attempt…or whether my mind somehow knew what to do. All I knew is that I was trapped and that was the only way of escape.

After that first attempt, suicide ideation has never gone away. Thinking about suicide became a daily task some months, but other months I wouldn’t think about it at all. As I’ve gotten older, the suicidal thoughts have become more frequent. It’s difficult, because suicide should not be ignored. Suicide should not receive negative reaction. A child – or even an adult – should be able to approach someone confidently and tell them they are thinking about suicide. Why are suicidal thoughts downplayed? The time I told my doctor I was feeling suicidal was unreal…her response? “We haven’t got any appointments for another 3 weeks.” I know that you cannot see suicidal thoughts, but they are just as serious as a broken leg.

It can be very difficult and daunting to reach out and ask for help when it comes to suicide ideation…it can be even more difficult when a loved one or someone you know unexpectedly takes their own life. That is why I’d like to educate you on the signs and symptoms of suicide, so that help can be spread to all those suffering.


Warning signs:

A person may be at risk of attempting suicide if they:

  • complain of feelings of hopelessness
  • have episodes of sudden rage and anger
  • act recklessly and engage in risky activities with an apparent lack of concern about the consequences
  • talk about feeling trapped, such as saying they can’t see any way out of their current situation
  • Self harm – including misusing drugs or alcohol, or using more than they usually do
  • noticeably gain or lose weight due to a change in their appetite
  • become increasingly withdrawn from friends, family and society in general
  • appear anxious and agitated
  • are unable to sleep or they sleep all the time
  • have sudden mood swings – a sudden lift in mood after a period of depression could indicate they have made the decision to attempt suicide
  • talk and act in a way that suggests their life has no sense of purpose
  • lose interest in most things, including their appearance
  • put their affairs in order, such as sorting out possessions or making a will

If you notice any of these warning signs in a friend, relative or loved one, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.

Also share your concerns with your doctor or a member of their care team, if they are being treated for a mental health condition.


Offering support to someone who’s feeling suicidal

One of the best things you can do if you think someone may be feeling suicidal is to encourage them to talk about their feelings and to listen to what they say.

Talking about someone’s problems is not always easy and it may be tempting to try to provide a solution. But often the most important thing you can do to help is listen to what they have to say.

If there is an immediate danger, make sure they are not left on their own.

Do not judge

It’s also important not to make judgements about how a person is thinking and behaving. You may feel that certain aspects of their thinking and behaviour are making their problems worse. For example, they may be drinking too much alcohol.

However, pointing this out will not be particularly helpful to them. Reassurance, respect and support can help someone during these difficult periods.

Asking questions

Asking questions can be a useful way of letting a person remain in control while allowing them to talk about how they’re feeling. Try not to influence what the person says, but give them the opportunity to talk honestly and openly.

Open ended questions such as “Where did that happen?” and “How did that feel?” will encourage them to talk. It’s best to avoid statements that could possibly end the conversation, such as “I know how you feel” and “Try not to worry about it”.

Getting professional help

Although talking to someone about their feelings can help them feel safe and secure, these feelings may not last. It will probably require long-term support to help someone overcome their suicidal thoughts.

This will most likely be easier with professional help. Not only can a professional help deal with the underlying issues behind someone’s suicidal thoughts, they can also offer advice and support for yourself.


Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Versatile Blogger Award

I have recieved the Versatile Blogger Award by Getting Through Anxiety.

My nominees for the Versatile Blogger Award include:

My Quiet Roar

Unbroken

Becoming Alex

drowninginmytwenties

deadlydarkleyme

Overcoming Eda

recovery is pending

A Little Bit of Magic

Minimally Crazy

The Sound of Ed’s Voice

7 facts about me:

I am 18 years old

I’ve had mental health problems for 7 years

I have a puppy named Willow

I’m originally from Wales

I’m a mental health advocate

I’ve wrote a book

I love youtube

versatilebloggeraward

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

I am socially anxious…

Anxiety has no discrimination. It can affect anyone from any background, any ethnic group, any age, any gender, any religion – anyone. Anxiety affects all aspects of a person’s life every single day of the year. It cannot be cured – it is a long term condition – but it can be managed.

Having anxiety means…

You worry that something you say or do will make someone else unhappy,

You can’t meet new people or talk to strangers,

It’s hard to make friends, or keep old ones,

Leaving the house makes you feel anxious,

Sometimes talking at home makes you feel uneasy,

It’s impossible to answer the phone or work up the courage to ring someone,

You count money over and over when waiting at a till because you’re scared you haven’t got enough money.

You hate using public transport,

You have panic attacks for no reason at all,

Any time a group of people laugh in a room, you think they’re laughing at you,

You hate walking into a room full of people because you feel they are judging you,

You replay conversations in your head for hours,

Your life is structured around what other people think,

You want everything to be perfect,

You feel like people are always watching you,

It’s hard to ask people for help,

You feel like everything you do looks silly,

You know what you have to do to be social but you just can’t do it,

You know the fear is irrational but nothing you do gets rid of it….

Anxiety is damaging. Anxiety is misunderstood. Anxiety is not rude, anti-social, shy, a lack of confidence…it is a mental health condition…

Let’s end the stigma.

anxiety

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Now blogging for the Huffington Post

This morning, my first article was published on the Huffington Post – a politically liberal American online news aggregator and blog that has both localised and international editions founded by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, Andrew Breitbart, and Jonah Peretti, featuring columnists.

This is such a big achievement for me and I have strived so hard to get to as many people as possible over the year that I have tried to advocate for mental health. I feel so blessed that I am now able to reach to larger audiences and help educate on what mental illness really is like.

Here is my article on the Huffington Post website:

What Life Is Really Like With Anorexia

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