autism · eating disorder · grief · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · savannah lloyd · Uncategorized

100 Reasons to Stay Alive

Suicidal thoughts make every minute of the day a struggle. We are often left questioning why we are still here and what the future holds for us. We wonder how we can keep living a life that has been so hard. We wonder if we’ll ever get better and get the help we need. Mental health problems can be frustrating, isolating, and deathly.

However, there are people out there who understand and want to help. Here are 100 reasons as to why you should stay alive if you’re currently struggling!

  1. to have hugs that last more than a minute
  2. a smile from someone special
  3. melted chocolate
  4. ice cream on a hot day
  5. adventures with friends
  6. recovery
  7. stargazing
  8. watching a sunset
  9. laughing uncontrollably
  10. you’ve made it this far
  11. building forts
  12. eating fresh baked cookies
  13. bonfires and hoodies
  14. graduation
  15. pregnancy and new life
  16. finding a person you love
  17. late night adventures
  18. overcoming fears
  19. dancing in the rain
  20. walking through the countryside
  21. making friends with nature
  22. life is beautiful
  23. movie nights
  24. foot massages
  25. saturday mornings
  26. you have forever to be dead
  27. to be happy one day
  28. you’re beautiful
  29. you can make a huge difference on the world
  30. moving to a new place
  31. getting a pet
  32. new clothes at summer
  33. dancing without care
  34. picnics with friends
  35. long drives
  36. waking up late
  37. to prove them all wrong
  38. to love and be loved
  39. the ocean
  40. very loud music
  41. days out
  42. watching a concert/play
  43. reading your favourite book
  44. conversations that last all night
  45. to plan for the future
  46. to learn new things
  47. you are important
  48. christmas morning
  49. someday the pain will end
  50. warm baths
  51. the first snow of winter
  52. first kisses
  53. sand between your toes
  54. flowers in spring
  55. pyjamas after a hard, long day
  56. new bed sheets
  57. water balloon fights
  58. thrill of roller coasters
  59. meeting your favourite celebrities
  60. fireflies
  61. icecream
  62. days spent outside
  63. the sound of water
  64. visiting a place from childhood
  65. all the places you’ve never been
  66. music whilst driving
  67. to look back at all the shit you got through
  68. buying new clothes
  69. meeting internet friends in real life
  70. to succeed
  71. to work in the career you’ve always wanted
  72. baby laughter
  73. sleep
  74. a hot cup of tea
  75. rules to break
  76. to help someone
  77. smiling at strangers
  78. dreams
  79. the last day of school/work
  80. taking pictures
  81. brownies
  82. bubbles
  83. water slides
  84. going on holiday
  85. to fall asleep on someone
  86. to be protected
  87. to grow
  88. to make new memories
  89. to look back on old memories
  90. to laugh at childhood pictures
  91. sit with animals and nature
  92. to be loved by a pet
  93. swimming on a hot day
  94. the first signs of autumn
  95. to binge-watch a series
  96. to live independently
  97. to get somewhere in life
  98. to breathe
  99. to grow
  100. so that you can say that you’re alive

 

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autism · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · savannah lloyd · Uncategorized

Living with Autism: World Autism Day

April the 2nd 2017 is World Autism Awareness Day 2017!

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.

Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.

Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop. With the right sort of support, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.

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 All my life, I knew I was “different.” As a child, I was described as shy. I had “temper tantrums” frequently. I found it difficult to make friends, couldn’t make eye contact, found it hard to speak to others, and struggled with both social skills and communication skills — even confidence. I remember going through primary school with severe anxiety. As I went through each year, it became harder and harder to make friends. I remember feeling so different from my peers that I tried to change myself in order to be accepted. Eventually, as an 11-year-old, I was diagnosed with mental health difficulties. I let myself accept the reason I was so different was because of the difficulties associated with my mental illnesses.

That was until my mental health disability adviser turned to me one day during one of our meetings and mentioned the word “autism.” Of course, I had heard of autism. As a student who is training to be a special needs teacher, I have come across many children who have been diagnosed with autism. I have done academic research and even essays on the disorder. So when my disability adviser turned to me and mentioned the word in relation to myself, I paused for a second. In this stigmatised world, autism may be seen as something most often associated with children. Many of the children I had come across with autism faced challenges and most were nonverbal. Though I struggle with everyday tasks, I have always put this down to my mental health challenges.

Despite my doubts, my disability adviser handed me an AQ-10, an autism-spectrum quotient questionnaire, to fill in. I scored 10 out of 10. An autism referral is strongly suggested when a person scores six or above. Once she had my consent, she registered me for a referral with an autism assessment charity, and the journey began. I realised most of the behaviours I had put down to my mental illnesses were pretty consistent with those associated with autism spectrum disorder. Although I communicate, I have difficulty reading expressions or body language. Although I know you’re there, I cannot make eye contact. I am hyper-aware of my senses; I am either too stimulated or under-stimulated, which leads to repetitive movements known as stimming (rocking, hand-flapping, knee-bouncing) and meltdowns that last for hours. I like tactile objects and explore with my hands. I cannot deal with social gatherings or being outside of the house. I cannot ride public transport or leave the house effectively. People sometimes feel I am selfish or short-fused; I have meltdowns when I cannot deal with my emotions and struggle to understand when you are not OK. Time is a big thing for me. Routines and timetables are the centre of my life. I cannot hold down a job, despite being able to do it. Though it may not appear to be so, I struggle every single day.

Autism is a broad spectrum. On March the 22nd 2017 I was diagnosed with informal Autism and Attention Deficit Disorder. A final paper diagnosis assessment will be in the next few months.  However, I feel already I have learned so much about myself through this that I had never learned before. I feel as though autism explains my life, and I am not ashamed of that.

Having a diagnosis of autism does not limit the possibility of being something amazing.

I may be different, but I am not less.

#autismawareness

autism · eating disorder · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · savannah lloyd · Uncategorized · weight loss

Body Image and Eating Disorders

Body Image is our idea of how our body looks and how it is perceived by others. Having a negative or poor body image is strongly associated to Anxiety and Depression as well as eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia. Obsessive and exhausting over-exercising behaviour, yo-yo dieting, reluctance to socialise, difficulties with relationships and financial problems are all associated with body image.

BEAT, the UK’S leading eating disorder charity, estimates that 1.6 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. 1.4 million of these people are female. People most at risk of developing an eating disorder are young women aged between 14-25. 1 in 10 secondary school students are affected by eating disorders.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and many young people who develop anorexia or bulimia (as well as other eating disorders) will suffer serious long-term health consequences.

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Body Image and Young Children

A lot of research on body image focuses on adolescents. However, there is now evidence that suggests children develop negative body image much younger than we think. Children as young as 9 and 10 show disturbing levels of anxiety about their weight and physical appearance. By the ages of 10 and 11, 1 in 8 girls want to be thinner.

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10 Steps to Positive Body Image

  1. Appreciate all that your body can do.  Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams.  Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you—running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
  2. Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like.  Read your list often.  Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
  3. Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin deep.  When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you physically look like a supermodel.  Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
  4. Look at yourself as a whole person.  When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts.  See yourself as you want others to see you–as a whole person.
  5. Surround yourself with positive people.  It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
  6. Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person.  You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones.  The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
  7. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body.  Work with your body, not against it.
  8. Become a critical viewer of social and media messages.  Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body.  Protest these messages:  write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message
  9. Do something nice for yourself–something that lets your body know you appreciate it.  Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax.
  10. Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others.  Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.

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

World Autism Awareness Week [2017]

The 27th March to the 2nd April 2017 is World Autism Awareness Week.

The term ‘autism’ is used here to describe all diagnostic profiles, including Asperger syndrome and Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).Without understanding, autistic people and their families are at risk of being isolated and developing mental health problems.

Autism is much more common than many people think. There are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK – that’s more than 1 in 100. If you include their families, autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people.

Autism doesn’t just affect children. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. Autism is a hidden disability – you can’t always tell if someone is autistic. While autism is incurable, the right support at the right time can make an enormous difference to people’s lives.

70% of autistic adults say that they are not getting the help they need from social services. 70% of autistic adults also told us that with more support they would feel less isolated. At least one in three autistic adults are experiencing severe mental health difficulties due to a lack of support. Only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment, and only 32% are in some kind of paid work.

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What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.

Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.

Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop. With the right sort of support, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.

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How can you help?

You can help autistic people and their families by:

  • spreading understanding about autism – sign up to support the National Autistic Society’s Too Much Information campaign
  • donating to the National Autistic Society so they can continue to give millions of people information and advice about support
  • Talking about autism on social media and to friends and family
  • Sharing this blog post

 

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

Today I got some diagnoses..

So, my specific learning difficulties assessment report came back today. The report is long and confusing but after analysing, I feel somewhat more reassured.

The report states that I scored well below average in many areas apart from literacy and reading and particularly struggled with memory and concentration.

I got 3 diagnoses.

Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (Dyspraxia), Dyscalculia and Attention Deficit Disorder.

I have also been referred to an adult Autism assessment as this is informally diagnosed and is highly likely. Autism covers all symptoms listed in the above disorders as well as anxiety and low mood.

I feel relieved to finally know what difficulties i’ve got and how to tackle them, as well as getting some extra help at uni. I’m just a little unsure on how I feel overall about this at the moment, even though deep down I kind of knew.

Information on these disorders will be provided below so you guys can understand and educate others 🙂

I’m the same person I was before these diagnoses and always will be.

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Autism/ASD

High-functioning autism (now called Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a term applied to people with autism who are deemed to be cognitively “higher functioning” (with an IQ of 70 or greater) than other people with more severe forms of autism. People with Autism have difficulties in social communication and interaction, may engage in repetitive behaviours and routines, have highly focused interests, and have sensory sensitivity. People with autism also see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. Autism is a lifelong condition and cannot be cured.

Some symptoms include:

  • trouble detecting social cues and body language
  • difficulty with maintaining conversations and knowing when it is their turn to speak
  • Appearing to lack empathy for other people and their feelings. Some people can appear to be introverted and almost aloof
  • Dislikes changes in routines
  • Employs a formal style of speaking using complex words or phrases despite not fully understanding their meaning
  •  unable to recognise subtle differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of others’ speech
  • difficulty when playing games which require the use of imagination
  •  limited range of interests which he or she may be very knowledgeable about
  •  poor handwriting and late development in motor skills such as catching a ball or using a knife and fork
  • heightened sensitivity and become overstimulated by loud noises, lights, or strong tastes or textures

Dyspraxia 

Developmental coordination disorder, also known as developmental dyspraxia or simply dyspraxia,is a chronic neurological disorder beginning in childhood that can affect planning of movements and co-ordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately transmitted to the body. It affects 5 to 6 percent of school-aged children. This disorder progresses to adulthood, therefore making it a lifelong condition. Developmental coordination disorder is associated with problems with memory, especially working memory. This typically results in difficulty remembering instructions, difficulty organising one’s time and remembering deadlines, increased propensity to lose things or problems carrying out tasks which require remembering several steps in sequence (such as cooking).

ADD/ADHD

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a mental disorder of the neurodevelopmental type. It is characterised by problems paying attention, excessive activity, or difficulty controlling behaviour which is not appropriate for a person’s age. These symptoms begin by age six to twelve, are present for more than six months, and cause problems in at least two settings (such as school, home, or recreational activities).

Symptoms include:

  • Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
  • Have difficulty maintaining focus on one task
  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless doing something enjoyable
  • Have difficulty focusing attention on organising and completing a task or learning something new
  • Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Seem to not be listening when spoken to
  • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
  • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  • Struggle to follow instructions
  • Have trouble understanding minute details

Dyscalculia 

Developmental Dyscalculia (DD) is a specific learning disorder that is characterised by impairments in learning basic arithmetic facts, processing numerical magnitude and performing accurate and fluent calculations. These difficulties must be significantly below what is expected for an individual’s chronological age, and must not be caused by poor educational or daily activities or by intellectual impairments.

autism · autism sensory bag · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · sensory bag · Uncategorized

Savannah’s Sensory Bag

After a few close together meltdowns these past few weeks, I’ve realised that perhaps the majority of people around me do not know how to handle this situation. If you’ve read this and still feel confused, I’ll explain a meltdown.

It’s basically getting overloaded with too much information and the only way I can cope with this or to regulate my emotions is to completely shut down and stim (repetitive behaviours such as rocking, verbal sounds, hand flapping etc). In these meltdowns I pretty much turn into a toddler – mostly non-verbal, no eye contact, no compliance with direction and self-destructive behaviours.

Signs of a sensory overload or meltdown include:

  • Irritability
  • “Shuts down”, or refuses to participate in activities and/or interact with others
  • Avoids being touched or reaches out for touch
  • Gets agitated or upset
  • Covers eyes around bright lights
  • Makes poor eye contact
  • Covers ears to close out sounds or voices
  • Complains about noises that do not affect others
  • Has difficulty focusing
  • Over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, and/or sounds
  • Has trouble with social interactions
  • Extremely high or extremely low activity levels
  • Muscle tension
  • Stimming – repetitive behaviours such as rocking, hand flapping and skin picking
  • Fidgeting and restlessness
  • Panic attacks
  • Angry outbursts
  • Sleeplessness/fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

So now you know what my meltdowns are, you’re probably still a little uncertain on what you have to do. This is why I’ve created a sensory bag that contains everything that will keep me calm and help shorten the meltdown. See below for some useful tips.

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  1. Do not stop any stimming behaviours – they help me regulate my emotions. Only intervene when I could possibly cause danger to myself. If I am rocking too close to a wall, move me instead of stopping me rock, for example.
  2. Understand that there may not be a reason for my meltdown. If I cannot give an explanation, be at peace with that.
  3. Sit close to me or even hold me unless I resist this (depends on my mood). Deep pressure against the skin combined with individual input often calms the nervous system in places such as the legs or the hands. Constantly reassuring and pressure to these parts of the body allows me to know you’re there whilst keeping me with reality.
  4. Whenever possible – go for my sensory bag! If its not on me, it will be in my room. These items will calm me. There will be communication cards in here that will help me communicate with you when I become non-verbal.
  5. Talk everything Gruffalo. I am utterly obsessed and in a meltdown the Gruffalo becomes an anchor. Find the story on youtube and play it for me –  Find it here. My sensory bag contains the books – let me read them. If you don’t have the books, encourage me to say them (I know them off by heart).
  6. Let me walk, run or spin. Follow me as I tend to wander. This lets me release my energy.
  7. I may have panic attacks during meltdowns. Watch out for fast breathing.
  8. Know the meltdown will pass and I’ll return to normal 🙂
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Gruffalo books, thinking putty, ear defenders, sensory bottle, chewys, tangles, fidget toy, communication cards (unpictured), blanket (unpictured) and gruffalo teddy  (unpictured).
autism · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Silence to Suicide

Today I’m struggling. I know its partly down to the fact that I’ve only been on an SSRI medication for over a week. I know that the drug causes increased anxiety and a higher risk of suicide during the first few weeks as your body adjusts. I’m just very tired.

Medication isn’t a miracle drug and it definitely doesn’t cure mental illness but I really hoped by now I would be starting to feel even a little bit better and not worse. All I’ve done today is sleep and walk with my headphones blasting because I feel so low that I can’t even function.

I haven’t had suicidal thoughts in such a long time and even though I know I won’t act on them, its sad to think that if you told somebody they’d deem you crazy and unsafe and probably think you were going to take your life. Suicidal thoughts don’t necessary mean the person is going to go out and kill themselves…it just means they’re finding it hard to exist.

There is too much silence towards suicide. If someone brings up suicide, the entire room goes quiet. People turn away, pretend they didn’t hear the word. No wonder 2 out of 3 people with mental health problems struggle alone…

We shouldn’t have silence towards suicide. We should turn towards the word, listen, offer support. Appreciate every single person. Look for subtle signs of problems. Warning signs of low mood and suicidal thoughts are there, they just need to be picked up!

Here are some tips that can help you support someone whose feeling suicidal:

1. Ask questions.

If the person is comfortable, ask questions. Do so because you want to understand and provide empathy, not out of curiosity. This actually may be a nice change for the loved one. Because the topic of mental illness can make people feel uncomfortable, some might respond with silence, change the subject or offer a hurried statement. If you don’t understand something, ask. It’s better to fully understand than to make assumptions.

2. Don’t assume the person can tell you what he or she needs.

Don’t assume the person knows what they need. In times of stress, it’s common not to know. If they’re sharing with you, most likely they just need you to listen.

3. Offer practical help.

Offer/do practical things for the person. If they’re stressed, help take off their workload and do some things. Sit with them if they’re spending too much time alone.

4. Encourage self-care.

Remind the person to engage in self-care. Offer to go to the movies, meet for coffee or go on a walk with them. Friends and family of those with mental illness need to manage their own stress as well.

5. Check in.

Check in with the person. One reason that mental illness is so isolating is because people don’t talk about it. While it can be uncomfortable for both the person struggling and you, it’s uncomfortable for them not to talk about it, too. They’ll appreciate knowing that you care enough to check in.

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