A year and a half ago, I was diagnosed with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder or Endogenous Depression) so I feel like I’ve had a long time now to learn to deal with it. I thought I would give you guys some tips on how I’ve learned to deal with the disorder so that you are able to use them or explore your own.
Major Depressive Disorder is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is often accompanied by low self-esteem and a loss of interest in normal activities. Major Depressive Disorder is a disabling condition that adversely affects the person’s family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits as well as general health. 80% of suicide deaths are of sufferers with MDD.
A person who has a major depressive episode usually exhibits a very low mood which invades all aspects of life. Major depressive disorder usually causes preoccupation with thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness and self-hatred. In severe cases, there may be symptoms of psychosis. Other symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, poor concentration and memory, withdrawal from social situations, and thoughts of death and suicide, along with insomnia.
Things that can help with MDD include:
- Talking to friends, family and strangers. Talking offers a distraction from our own thoughts and feelings and allows us to feel the emotion of others.
- Drawing. Drawing or colouring offer a state of relaxation and creativity. A lot of people with mental health problems are highly creative and so this type of activity will not only bring distraction but also comfort.
- Social Activities. When you’re suffering with MDD, joining in with the world and going to social activities or events is the last thing on your mind. However, social activities can help. Being around others can help to feel better.
- Moving. Moving seems like an odd one but improving your activity levels and taking part in exercise not only gives you energy but improves mental well-being. A 10 minute walk can help boost mood for around 2 hours.
- Relax. We’re usually told to not relax and to keep busy but relaxing does help. Sleep is usually affected when you have MDD as MDD can cause insomnia. A lack of sleep increases low mood so getting at least 8 hours a day will help. Other ways to relax include: sitting outside in the sunshine, taking care of a pet, or relaxation.
I haven’t blogged much this month and there’s a reason for that, but I am always so grateful to have the opportunity to encourage and inspire others who are struggling and to take up so many opportunities to change society. That is why I want to talk about the reason I first became ‘open’ about my mental health problems.
In 2015, I began working with the charity Fixers. Previous to this, I was completely closed up and private about my mental health problems. Around 2005 I started experiences more anxiety that affected my daily life. I became more withdrawn from friends, took comfort in being by myself and avoided anything that made me anxious. For years I kept my feelings and my thoughts hidden in fear that there was something wrong with me or that people would think I was ‘crazy’. It wasn’t until 2009 that my family found out there was something wrong when my self harm became apparent. However, that was only the icing on the cake and the majority of my thoughts and feelings continued to be kept guarded. A few weeks of therapy and everything was done and dusted.
So why did I decide to open up about my mental health?
I was forced. Now the word ‘forced’ doesn’t necessary need to be seen as bad. Yes, I was forced to open up about my problems because I had no other choice but opening up did bring some good things. As most people know, in 2013 I developed Anorexia Nervosa that was discovered in late August/early September of 2014 when I was unable to function or even exercise, and refused to eat or drink. As each year went on, my mental health problems got worse and more and more problems developed. It became increasingly difficult to keep everything hidden. Self harm intensified, my body image worsened, my Depression began to turn suicidal, and my Anxiety increased so much I was having panic attacks everyday that were hours in length. It was impossible to hide the fact that I wasn’t okay. In 2014, I began treatment for Anxiety and Depression and was referred to CAMHS after a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa. Like a lot of young people in Wales, I was failed by the NHS’s mental health service.
In 2015, I found fixers and met with my YPC Jenny who was amazing from day 1. I had a mission to prevent other young people going through what I had gone through. I wanted society to change. I wanted educational settings like colleges (who failed to help me or spot the signs) to become more aware of mental health and mental illness and I wanted the government to listen. I wanted the stigma to end. I began a journey of self-discovery and eventually made my film ‘Anxiety & Me’ which has been shown in schools and educational settings as well as being featured in the South Wales Argus and on ITV Wales. From there, I began talking about mental health disorders in order to help others struggling and to spread awareness and understanding to those who were oblivious.
Opening up about your mental illness is said to be the first step in acceptable and recovery. Talking about mental health problems not only makes you feel a lot less stressed and relaxed but also encourages others to talk about mental health which in turn reduces the stigma.
Life is not easy, and God forbid it never will be, but being open in relation to my mental health problems did bring a lot of good, despite the bad.
Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the SacconeJolys. I have been watching them for nearly two years now and began watching their videos during the grip of my eating disorder. Watching the SacconeJolys each day has brought me such happiness and positivity and when I watch them I feel so much better. When you’re struggling with mental health problems, the simple things like laughing mean so much.
One of the reasons why I was so incredibly excited to meet Anna and Jonathan yesterday is because their videos have helped me through the darkest of moments. Anna helps inspire me and is a positive role model. Her character is amazing and she is such a hard working, fun loving mum and wife. Jonathan is the funniest person I’ve ever come across with a wonderful passion as a father and always puts others first.
Not many people know but in 2006 Anna Saccone (Joly) went through a battle with the eating disorder Bulimia. Desperate to control something in her life, she turned to the “perfection” of numbers on a scale, calorie intake, measurements…the list of things which she could control were endless. Like most eating disorders, hers started with a diet. A need for order and perfection in a world which she seemed to be losing control of.
I started watching the vlogs at my lowest weight, when my eating disorder was likely at its worst and my body was shutting down. I was at the point where I wouldn’t eat at all until I was about to faint and I refused to drink water. Watching their vlogs whilst curled up on the sofa made me feel in another world where I was happy and could actually laugh. Slowly I discovered Anna’s personal youtube and began watching her videos on her eating disorder, health and fitness.
I am nowhere near content with the weight that I am now (gaining back in recovery was such a treacherous emotion) and I felt slightly embarrassed meeting my role models when I am ‘no longer thin’. It left some emotions that I needed to deal with but I felt so entirely blessed to have met such a strong woman (and Jonathan too) in person!
I am so thankful that the SacconeJoly vlogs brought some life into my weak body and taught me how to live again.
Thank you Anna for being so amazingly strong, and being raw and honest in your struggles.
Willow and I were lucky enough to be in tonight’s vlog also which is truly amazing!
I’ve been staring at this blank blog post for a while now, wondering how I can express myself in order to raise awareness and understanding for Mental Health issues, considering it is May. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is also the month of my birthday.
Mental Illness is difficult. Some days are better than others. Some days take you right down to your core and you feel like you can’t fight anymore, but you get back up anyway. Mental Illness is misunderstood. We’re not crazy, we’re just ill. And we need support, we need help. Mental Illness has too much stigma. It’s nothing to be ashamed of – we didn’t decide to become mentally ill, just like people don’t decide to break their leg or get cancer. We’re just ill.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so let me tell you to be aware… (taken from May 2015)
- Be aware that sometimes I want you to notice me but I can’t ask for your help
- Be aware that my medication sometimes makes me tired. Sometimes it makes my Mental Illness worse – it worsens my panic attacks, my self harm and my suicidal feelings.
- Be aware that I have feelings too. I’m not crazy, I’m just not very well at the moment. I don’t want you to isolate me and treat me like I’m a freak.
- Be aware that I didn’t choice this Mental Illness. It chose me. My brain is not doing so good at the moment, this is not my fault.
- Be aware that I put up a front and pretend to be happy because I don’t want to hurt everyone around me. Because I feel ashamed that I’m ill.
- Be aware that the things you take for granted, such as catching the bus, talking to others, walking into a room of people, are very challenging and difficult for me.
- Be aware that I attach myself to people that make me feel less alone and not invisible, which always leaves me hurt. I’m sorry if my obsession scares you.
- Be aware that when I say “I’m okay” when you ask me if i’m alright, I’m probably not. It’s just an automatic response and saying you’re fine is much less complicated than trying to explain why I feel this way.
- Be aware that when I have suicidal thoughts, its not because I don’t want to live. It’s the illness trying to tell me I’m better off dead. I don’t want to die – I want the pain to stop.
- Be aware that I do have self-harm scars, and yes I see you staring. I accept them, so I’d like you to as well. They are my battle wounds, from when I fought with myself.
- Be aware that when you get to know me, I am a good friend. I like to talk to people, I like going places, I can have fun and I can have friends. It’s just my mental illness means it’s difficult to do that.
- Be aware that being mentally ill is not easy, especially when the people around you don’t understand. And it’s even worse, when the people around you don’t want to understand it. Please understand it is not my fault I am ill. Please me aware that Mental Health Stigma hurts. I’m human too. I’m just not well.
Please be more aware this month than others, and just notice how the people are doing around you. Never be afraid to reach out to those who seem to be struggling – they may appreciate your kindness and interest.
Have a blessed May – be mindful, be observant, be caring, ask questions, and love.