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

Dealing with the Ignorance of Autism

I am not ashamed of my autism. Autism is a part of me and I don’t want it cured. Yes, most days it makes life much more difficult than it should be. It intensifies sounds and sights, it makes me socially awkward, it sometimes makes me feel like an outcast. It makes things confusing; I misread things or process things poorly.  It causes extreme meltdowns where I become non-verbal, child-like and engage in self-injurious behaviours. However, it also gives me a unique perception of the world. It gives me motivation to pursue interests. It develops my love of music and learning the piano. It makes me empathetic, aware of others and surroundings and an outlook on life that no neurotypical person would have.

Unfortunately, Autism awareness in this world is poor. When I first got diagnosed with Autism in October 2017, mostly people were accepting. There were a few who said ‘well, you don’t look autistic’ but they were simply uneducated. Most people treated me no different but began to see why I had seemed so different my whole life. I thought Autism acceptance and awareness was good…until things began to go wrong.

When you need support for Autism there is very little knowledge. My friends know more about Autism and autistic meltdowns and behaviours more than professionals do…and that is truly frightening. When a paramedic misreads stimming behaviour as trying ‘to be violent to others’ and as a ‘mental health case’…or a ER nurse puts your ‘mannerisms’ down to ‘unusual behaviour’ and spends the next 15 minutes trying to understand from your friend what autism and stimming is, it is honestly disheartening. These are people that will come across many autistic people in their day to day lives. Paramedics, nurses, doctors, first aid staff and university staff….all who should know at least what Autism is but absolutely have no idea…from my experiences.

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.

The term “stimming” is short for self-stimulatory behaviour and is sometimes also called “stereotypic” behaviour. In a person with autism, stimming usually refers to specific behaviours that include hand- flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases.  People with autism stim to help themselves to manage anxiety, fear, anger, excitement, anticipation, and other strong emotions. They also stim to help themselves handle overwhelming sensory input (too much noise, light, heat, etc.). There are also times when people stim out of habit, just as neurotypical people bite their nails, twirl their hair, or tap their feet out of habit. At times, stimming can be a useful accommodation, making it possible for the autistic person to manage challenging situations. When it becomes a distraction, creates social problems, or causes physical harm to self or others, though, it can get in the way of daily life.

PLEASE be Autism aware and educate yourself on ‘normal’ autism behaviours. People in authority should not have to put autistic people in danger because they lack understanding or knowledge…it only takes a small amount of time to listen and learn. 

stop_ignorance

 

 

 

 

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

The stigma of Mental Health Problems and Antidepressants

Antidepressants.

The one thing in the world that nobody wants to talk about, or admit that they are on. The one thing that everyone thinks does more harm than good. The one thing that people say shouldn’t be used.

The majority of the population believe that antidepressants cause more harm than good in treating mental health problems. Many people think taking them is a sign of weakness or inability to just get better yourself. Many people misunderstand that antidepressants can take up to 2 months to work as they start to adjust chemical imbalances in the brain. Many people misunderstood that antidepressants make it worse before it gets better.

I’m so tired of people judging situations they have no understanding of. I’m so tired of people passing negative views on antidepressants because of things they have read or heard. Something that works for one won’t work for another. Every person is an individual.

Since I was 11 years old, I have battled an array of mental health problems. For 6 years I dealt with these problems with no medication whatsoever. These were the hardest 6 years of my life. Self harm and self hatred was constant. The desire to die was all I ever thought about. Then, at 17 I went on citalopram (an SSRI) and for 18 months increased and decreased this dosage until I decided to come off the drug. When I came off, I realised how much they had actually been helping me. Then, for a year I struggled again with no medication and the simple use of herbal remedies, the outdoors and exercise. Kalms did not work. St John’s Wort made me suicidal. Rescue Remedy worked for 10 minutes and then the illness would be searing back. Nytol had no effect whatsoever. Herbal remedies are designed to treat mild forms of depression and anxiety alone. Not a mixture of mental illnesses or eating disorders or personality disorders or major depressive disorder.

Do NOT tell me to try herbal remedies. 

Before I decided to take antidepressants I tried every coping strategy under the sun until I could no longer cope.

I have recently been put on prozac and although its currently making me worse I believe I need to give it time to kick in. I can’t give up and give in on myself. It’s been nearly 9 years of fighting mental illness and I still have not found a solution. I will try all options. You would too.

Nobody would bat an eyelid at taking medication for back pain or giving insulin to a diabetic, something you cannot see or quantify, so why is there so much stigma around medication for mental health? Nobody would question giving an asthma pump to an asthmatic or give medication to a patient with a heart condition. All antidepressants do is balance out the hormones in your brain, which when they are low can cause people to become depressed, much like the contraceptive pill to stop you from becoming pregnant.

Antidepressants have been proven to not be addictive; they are just a tool to help people when they are suffering and need a bit of help with their low mood.

Stop being shocked when people tell you they are taking antidepressants, and don’t assume that they are weak and vulnerable. Some of the strongest people I have met are taking medication for their mental health, and that is what helps them to keep going. Antidepressants don’t change people, and they don’t stop them from being themselves.

PROZAC

journey to recovery · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

What Life Is Really Like With Anorexia [EDAW 2017]

Eating disorders are so commonly glorified these days. Eating very little, exercising in the blazing hot sun; your hair falling in your face. A perfect body for summer – cropped tops, denim shorts and flowers in your hair. No wonder I didn’t notice I was suffering with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not glamorous. Pale skin, exhaustion, fainting spells, feeling so guilty for eating you can’t even look at yourself, hair loss, constantly feeling cold. How glorious is that?

When I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa at the age of sixteen, I thought it was a joke. I wasn’t the ‘image’ of a girl with an eating disorder. I wasn’t happy, I was tired and sick. I could barely stand; refusing food and water. I didn’t feel pretty, or thin, or worthy. I didn’t want to sit on the beach in a crop top and denim shorts. There were no flowers in my hair. The reality of having Anorexia came fast. Spending hours in GP surgeries and hospitals, being taken out of college, having endless amounts of tests, having to face every single meal time, not being able to exercise, the lack of freedom, the tension in my family. That wasn’t glamorous.

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Looking back in hindsight, Anorexia at its worse was draining me. It was slowly taking my life. The days flew in a blur, each looked the same. Take a Tuesday: It was 7:15am, I’d barely slept. I was running on 3 hours sleep. I was absolutely exhausted. As soon as I got out of bed, I headed to the bathroom. I weighed myself once, then stepped off and weighed myself again. The numbers on the scale not only determined my mood for the day but also determined whether or not I’d be allowed to eat. That Tuesday, just like every other day, the number on the scale wasn’t good enough. Despite a rumbling in my tummy, I proceeded to get changed. My nails were turning blue, my skin white and I felt so cold. Throughout the day, I was sluggish. I exercised for as long as I could. I walked laps around the room until I could no longer stand. When it was time for college, I couldn’t concentrate. The lecture wasn’t my first priority. My tummy rumbled underneath the desk and I hoped no one would hear it. I couldn’t even hear the tutor’s words as I was too busy trying to work out calories for the day and exercises I could do in order to burn them off. My mind raced on how alone I was, on how utterly worthless I was, how all my friends must have hated me being so down and weak. I was tired; emotional. Even sitting brought bouts of dizziness. After lecture, I could no longer stand it. I needed a nap. I hadn’t eaten since the day before, maybe even the day before that. I came home shaky, cold and exhausted; crawling into bed in an attempt to calm my breathing and heart. My skin was pale and a headache raged between my eyes. My hands were as cold as the ice outside my window. The rumbling in my tummy was enough to make me feel nauseous. After a quick power nap, exercise began again. When I fainted and no longer had energy, I allowed myself to sleep, but insomnia came creeping through the door. I was depressed, tired, tearful and irritable. Hot tears rolled down my face. Eventually, I fell asleep, but that wouldn’t last for long.

 

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How glamorous was that Tuesday? How glamorous was it really? A tummy rumbling for food, a fainting episode, a flood of tears, extreme exhaustion. None of these are glamorous, but I’ll tell you what they are. They are symptoms of a deadly eating disorder. They are signals that something is very, very wrong. Anorexia Nervosa has the highest death rate among all psychiatric disorders.

 

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Please tell me, how glamorous is it now?

 

Life with an eating disorder is not glamorous. It is not easy. It brings so many difficult emotions – guilt, shame, worthlessness, sadness. It steals your personality, your friends, your passion for life. It makes you bruise so easy that even sitting down hurts. Life with Anorexia is life-threatening.

 

I hope if you’re reading this you find the ability to take a stand for eating disorders. I hope you come to understand the raw reality of suffering with an eating disorder. I hope that if you’re suffering yourself, you find the courage to reach out for help – to end the glamour that may be taking over your mind. I simply hope.

 

Eating Disorders are no type of glamour. They are a serious psychiatric disorder.

 

Raise awareness during this week and all weeks.

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

St David Awards Finalist Reception

Today I woke up at 6am to travel all the way to Wales for the St David Awards. I was so anxious that I actually felt physically sick but it was such a good event and everyone was so friendly.

We arrived and had some breakfast before I had some professional photos taken and spoke to some journalists. We chilled for a little while before the First Minister came and announced all the finalists to the stage. I am in the young person category for my mental health campaigning and special needs volunteering.

It was really lovely to see everyone there today and hear about all their achievements. It’s really overwhelming to think that people feel you deserve a national welsh award for ‘exceptional people in Wales’. I feel so incredibly blessed and feel so motivated to continue reaching out to others in similar situations to my own.

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The whole reason I started this personal journey to recovery was because of the amazing people who kept pushing and pushing for my life. Without my family and my close friends, Anorexia would’ve claimed my life 2 years ago. With them, I began to fight for a new life and with it found the amazing joy of helping others. So many people reached out to me during my darkest days and I realised I was never alone no matter how isolated I felt.

I still get emails, facebook messages, and letters from those who wish to thank me for my work. For 2 years, I’ve exposed my inner and most darkest secrets, all my thoughts, and all my struggles in the hopes that it can help others in the same situation get the help they need. Exposing yourself to the world is one of the hardest things you can do – because it feels like everyone can criticise your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. However, I don’t regret ever starting this blog and sharing my story because if one person is helped then thats enough to change the world!

Mental Health problems are such a taboo subject and people struggling are more often than not stigmatised.

Every single day I will fight to change this view.

Mental Health problems are not a liability. They are not shameful. They are not cowardly. They are not only experienced by the weak.

Mental illness has no victim. It affects people of all ages, all backgrounds, all cultures and all social class.

Different but NEVER less

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

Going Back on Medication & OCD

After 13 months of no medication and managing a range of conditions by myself, I realised I could no longer manage without some sort of intervention. I went to my doctor yesterday to discuss my anxiety and any new relevant information. She decided (based on my medical history and on new symptoms) that Prozac would be the best option for me.

Prozac is a SSRI antidepressant that positively affects communication between nerve cells in the central nervous system and restores chemical balances within the brain. It is used to treat major depressive disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and some anxiety conditions. Prozac is a strong medication and can cause more severe side effects compared to other medication. Common Prozac side effects may include sleep problems, dreams, headaches, dizziness, shaking, feeling anxious, weakness, tiredness, loss of appetite and weight loss, sweating or hot flashes, flu symptoms, nausea and tremors.

I know a lot of people have negative views on the use of medication for the treatment of mental health problems; especially when a comes to a drug as strong as Prozac. For 13 months I have pondered these views myself and believe that using medication is in my best interest. You would not rob an asthmatic of their inhaler or a diabetic of their insulin; why rob a sufferer of mental health their medication if it is needed?

Whilst at the doctors, some symptoms of OCD were picked up and then diagnosed, which I think is one of the core reasons I was put on this drug compared to other psychiatric medication.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition in which a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. Most people with OCD will have obsessions or compulsions. An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease. A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that you feel you need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.

PROZAC

I’ll now be under review continuously for medication and checks on my mental health and there’s no guarantee that this will improve my mental health. However, medication is not a magic pill or an instant cure; it just makes things more manageable and helps sort out brain imbalances.

I will keep you guys updated on everything and hope that the next few months will be positive.

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

What ‘I’m Tired’ Means to Someone with Mental Illness

Many people use the expression “I’m tired” when they’ve had a lack of sleep or when they feel like they need a nap. When you’ve got mental health problems, sometimes “I’m tired” can also simply mean you’re lacking sleep, but often it means so much more.

When I say I’m tired, I’m usually not just physically tired. I’m emotionally tired. I’m holistically tired. I’m tired even when I’ve spent the entire night sleeping in bed. I’m tired even when I don’t move all day. It’s not just tired eyes and achy muscles. It’s not just a yawn and just one more hour in bed. It’s getting up and getting dressed in a blur. Brushing your teeth and brushing your hair, and then leaving the house. All whilst tired. Emotionally tired. Numb. Drained. Completely out of it. Lost. But you move on with the day anyway, because there seems to be little acceptance of what mental illness can do to your body.

Not many people ask me if I’m OK, but when they do my answer is always the same. “I’m fine, just tired” — and people seem to accept that reply. Tiredness is an accepted feeling — everyone gets it. A long day at work or sitting through a boring lecture. That’s tiredness for many can relate to. But that tiredness isn’t lying in bed all day and still feeling like you could sleep for a thousand years. For me, though, that’s what tiredness is. Tiredness accompanies my depression and my anxiety. It means lying in bed completely exhausted from life without even falling asleep. It means being spaced out and lost in thought most of the day, because it’s tiring trying to keep up with people. It means achy eyes and yawns even after 12 hours of sleep. It means not just feeling physically tired, but feeling oh-so much more.

When someone tells you they’re tired, sometimes you need to look beyond their answer. Are they tired? Are they physically tired and need some sleep? Or do they in fact need you. Do they need somebody to look them in the eyes and tell them they’re not fine but that you’re there for them? Do they need someone to realise they’re not OK and to offer them a hug? Because I know when I say I’m tired, that’s what I need.

I don’t need sleep or a nap. I need people. I need love. I need understanding.

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