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

Dear Younger Me…

Dear younger me, where do I start? If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
then you could be one step ahead of all the painful memories that are still running through my head. I wonder how much different things would be now if you knew. I wouldn’t want to give you a speech about how to get the most out of this life. I’d want to talk to you about the choices you’ll make; the choices that made me – well me. Most of the time, this life is awesome, but I wish it were easier. Would a different choice have helped this situation? Dear younger me, if I knew then what I know now; everything would be different. The unknown would have no power over you. You’d be able to sleep without worry. The pain would eventually cease. If I knew then what I know now, it would’ve not been hard to figure out what I would’ve changed if I had known.

Dear younger me; remember it’s not your fault. You were never meant to carry this. Please stop living in the past – your past actions and other peoples past actions are not your fault. Stop thinking about them. Please stop looking into the future. What will be will be. You’ll be alive, you’ll be breathing, you’ll be stronger. You always have been. Live in the present. Appreciate the feel of wind on your face, or the blanket keeping you cosy and warm at night. Appreciate your senses – the smell of a hot chocolate. The sights of the outdoors. Be patient. Be loving. Be kind. Love others. Care for others.

When life throws pain at you, you’ll be angry. You’ll be scared. You’ll be lonely. But eventually you’ll see that every moment brings you closer to who you were meant to be. Please don’t look too close into appearances and weight. Please don’t use the internet as a source of information and trust…or let society change your views on yourself and the world. Please don’t exercise so much – relax and sleep all you need. Please eat – your body loves you for it. When depression and anxiety strikes, don’t curl up in a ball in a dark room. Reach out. Surround yourself with people; you’ll thank me for it later.

But most of all, younger me; believe in yourself. You are strong. You are powerful. You are beautiful. You are living. You are you and you’ll do a great job making me me…

[inspired by Mercy Me.]

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

10 Weeks Away – UPDATE

I feel like I haven’t wrote to you guys here in forever! Life has changed so much since I last posted in May.

In June, I flew across the other side of the world to work at a summer camp for children with special needs in the United States. I have been working with children since I was 15 and special needs children since I was 16 and have enjoyed every minute. These children make me feel complete – they give me purpose; they bring hope and positivity every single day.

Now, travelling across the world has its own challenges. Homesickness. Unfamiliarity. Loneliness…but the positives made everything so bearable. New friendships. Self-discovery. Passion. Feeling like you’re doing something good… Summer camp made me feel like I belonged. I discovered so much about myself and put all my love into those around me. I felt whole – like I was home. I have found my place.

Summer camp has been the best experience of my life. I have grown in so many ways, met so many different types of people as well as cultures…and discovered that even the people you expect to have it all together find it difficult too…

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In the terms of updating you guys on my journey – its been nearly 8 months since I came off medication for mental health. To me, that number is incredible! After being on medication for 18 months…not relying on any is a big deal (even though its a struggle).

My anxiety has its ups and down. I don’t think there’ll ever be a day where I will be completely anxiety free (well at least not in the near future) and I am completely okay with that. Anxiety has become a part of me. Anxiety has been with every single memory I have – I know no different. Although anxiety can be a negative thing in so many aspects…I pondered on it for a while recently and realised that my anxiety shapes my personality and brings some positives.

My anxiety makes me overthink – which allows me to be prepared for everything that could happen (but usually never does)

My anxiety sends me into panic and stops me feeling safe – which allows me to avoid danger (a lot of the time) due to being over-safe and checking everything (such as making sure doors are locked and being ultra-aware of my surroundings)

My anxiety makes me hypersensitive to everything around me – which allows me to be sensitive towards others and notice when things just aren’t quite right.

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I have missed each and every single one of you. You think I don’t notice you but I do – every like, every favourite, every comment, every blog share, every follow.

I love you guys so much and pray everyday that you choose recovery.

You deserve it.

I’ll post soon – I promise.

  • – Sav x
journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Why I Became ‘Open’…

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

The REAL reality of Anxiety

I think a lot of people underestimate the true effects of anxiety on a person’s life. Having an anxiety disorder is not worrying about going to the dentist or worrying about passing your upcoming exam. Having an anxiety disorder can become pathological and maladaptive. They can cause distress that interferes with your ability to lead a normal life. Anxiety can be a serious mental illness. Suffering with an anxiety disorder means having a constant and overwhelming worry and fear which can be crippling.

Anxiety has prevented me from doing so much. It has stolen my childhood. It is so difficult to do normal everyday things when the anxiety inside you is so loud you can’t ignore it. It’s so devastating, but people underestimate it. If you tell someone you suffer with an anxiety disorder they just say, “oh, so you’re feeling anxious? why don’t you just stop worrying?”. How can I just stop worrying? My fears are irrational, they are constant. They do not stop. Not ever. I am not just anxious. I am not just feeling anxious. I am mentally ill. I am suffering with a severe mental illness that prevents me from living every single day.

I can always tell when my anxiety is worse some weeks than others. Over the past couple of weeks my anxiety has been quite high, probably an nearing a 10 out of 10. My anxiety presents me with physical symptoms – inability to make eye contact, inability to remain still, sweating, movement and clapping of the hands, heart palpitations, dizziness, difficulty breathing, cyanosis to the nails and nose and panic attacks. Sometimes it prevents me from sleeping, leaving the house, or interacting.

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The above picture was taken in November 2014 – a month filled with severe mental illness, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, 4 hour long panic attacks and the inability to remain at college. I took the picture to show the true effects of what anxiety does to you – cyanosis in the finger nails due to lack of oxygen. Having an anxiety disorder is not attention-seeking nor is it over-exaggerated or simply an emotion. An Anxiety disorder causes very REAL physical symptoms.

I wanted to highlight the true effects of having an anxiety disorder in this post because I feel like suffering with anxiety can often be misunderstood and looked over. Anxiety can be a severe and life-threatening mental health illness that can prevent function in daily life and lead to self-harming behaviours and suicide.

Please be disorder aware and be mindful of those suffering with poor mental health

Watch my short film on Anxiety

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

POEM – The morning after I killed myself

The morning after I killed myself, I woke up.

I made myself breakfast in bed. I added salt and pepper to my eggs and used my toast for a cheese and bacon sandwich. I squeezed a grapefruit into a juice glass. I scraped the ashes from the frying pan and rinsed the butter off the counter. I washed the dishes and folded the towels.

The morning after I killed myself, I fell in love. Not with the boy down the street or the middle school principal. Not with the everyday jogger or the grocer who always left the avocados out of the bag. I fell in love with my mother and the way she sat on the floor of my room holding each rock from my collection in her palms until they grew dark with sweat. I fell in love with my father down at the river as he placed my note into a bottle and sent it into the current. With my brother who once believed in unicorns but who now sat in his desk at school trying desperately to believe I still existed.

The morning after I killed myself, I walked the dog. I watched the way her tail twitched when a bird flew by or how her pace quickened at the sight of a cat. I saw the empty space in her eyes when she reached a stick and turned around to greet me so we could play catch but saw nothing but sky in my place. I stood by as strangers stroked her muzzle and she wilted beneath their touch like she did once for mine.

The morning after I killed myself, I went back to the neighbours’ yard where I left my footprints in concrete as a two year old and examined how they were already fading. I picked a few day lilies and pulled a few weeds and watched the elderly woman through her window as she read the paper with the news of my death. I saw her husband spit tobacco into the kitchen sink and bring her her daily medication.

The morning after I killed myself, I watched the sun come up. Each orange tree opened like a hand and the kid down the street pointed out a single red cloud to his mother. The morning after I killed myself, I went back to that body in the morgue and tried to talk some sense into her. I told her about the avocados and the stepping stones, the river and her parents. I told her about the sunsets and the dog and the beach. The morning after I killed myself, I tried to unkill myself, but couldn’t finish what I started.

[Credit: Meggie Royer]

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

Life gets better!

Life gets better. Does it really? You’ve probably heard this phrase a thousand times during your battle with mental illness. Truth is, people aren’t just saying it. Life actually does get better. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. But it will someday, I promise. You’ll have good days, and you’ll have bad days, just remember; the bad days only last 24 hours! You will get through this. You will live again. Today will be better than yesterday. Tomorrow will be better than today.

I know it’s not easy to believe that things get better. This world is big, dark, scary place…especially if you’re only 18 years old like me. The world is massive – full of mystery, full of surprise, of happiness, of wonder, of future…It’s what you make it. Having mental illness can damper your view on this world, I know. I’ve experienced it first hand. You feel so alone – like everyone around you has figured out their life but you. You feel like no one understands you, no one understands your pain or your struggle. You don’t know how to reach out to people, you don’t know how to live everyday with happiness. You feel like you’re the only person that feels so down all the time. Truth is; those people around you that look so happy all the time – you don’t see them 24 hours a day like you see yourself. What happens when you’re not there? They cry, they have bad days, sometimes they don’t want to live any more too. We are never alone. I promise.

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Life is hard. Whether it is trouble with family, friends, your workplace, or perhaps, the inability to even find employment, there are many factors that contribute to making our lives that much more difficult to deal with. Life IS stressful, Fortunately, there are small ways to embrace the very precious things in our daily lives that we sometimes forget to enjoy.

Please, become comfortable with yourself. No amount of anything, be it money or otherwise, will make you happy if you are unhappy with yourself. Stand in front of the mirror and list all the things you like about yourself. Do you like your hair, your eyes, your personality? I bet you’re a wonderful person. Are you caring, considerate, loving? You are you. No one else is like you – you are amazing! Don’t hope to be somebody else.

Accept that you make mistakes. Allow the knowledge you carried afterwards to make you a stronger & wiser person. It’s only a problem if you keep repeating these mistakes. Accept the past altogether. While it is easier said than done, it must be done. You cannot alter history. As devastating or hurtful as the past can be, it is the future we look toward and can impact. Use tragedy as an outlet to join community efforts that seek to prevent/support that cause. Remember that whatever you are doing should be toward making a better tomorrow. Not rehashing the past. If you find yourself thinking more of the past than your future perhaps you should seek the help of a professional/family member/church member that you can talk to to help to give you the nudge you need to move forward with your beautiful life.

Remember you are loved and you live to love. There are people in this world who although they may not know you, love you. This could be distant family or perhaps, a stranger who simply believes in your potential. Know that you are loved and exude that love to those around you so that you may reap the reward of being an exemplary example of human kindness and self-fulfillment. You have to love yourself in order to love others entirely.

Be priceless. There is no amount of monetary value that can be placed on changing someone’s life in a positive way. Be the first to lend a hand or simply listen to someone. Even if you aren’t the person you’d like to be today, love yourself and send love to the person you’re working so hard to become.

Smile. It always gets better if you want it to. No amount of self-loathing will change your present. But hard work and a genuine smile will be your gift for tomorrow.

Negative thoughts plague us all. When they begin, think of things you do like. Distract yourself momentarily with things you do love and find something positive to do. Do not linger with these thoughts. Be strong and move on.

I love you!

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

Who am I?

Hello smilers!

My name is Savannah Lloyd. I am 18 years old and from a small village in South Wales. I am currently living life in Oxford thanks to being at Oxford Brookes university!

I have set up this blog to share my personal experiences with mental health, to educate others on all types of mental health problems, to be a mental health advocate and campaigner as well as a youtuber, blogger and author (Smiling Through Recovery is available via Amazon)

I was born on May the 31st 1997, one of the hottest days of the year. I grew up in a loving family with lots of pets and loved exploring outdoors. I loved building tree houses, clambering through the woods and streams as well as paying a close attention to the environment around me and the animals that inhabited it.

Unfortunately, when I was 8 years old, I become very aware of the situations and people around me. I become very shy and reserved, never spoke up in class and had few friends. I got on with everyone around me but found it difficult in social interactions. I began to get bullied for being different in my final year of primary school and this continued through comprehensive school.

At 12 years, I made my first suicide attempt after weeks of physical and emotional bullying. I kept these suicidal feelings to myself and didn’t open up about it for years. I began self harming, developed depression and anxiety (unknown to me at the time) and completely went down hill in school. I began getting distracted in lessons and school didn’t feel like a safe place to be. At 13 years old, I started counselling for self-harming but found that the sessions did no help.

During my time at comprehensive school I suffered with several undiagnosed mental health issues and eventually took a turn for the worse at 15 years old (August 2013). I was fed up of getting bullied, struggled to accept myself, had a very low self-esteem and lack of confidence and could barely look at myself in the mirror. I self-harmed on a weekly basis and often had suicidal thoughts.

10 months later in June 2014, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. I had lost  over 25.4 kg (4 stone) in a 10 month period, had black outs and dizzy spells, bruised easy, had pale skin and could barely stand. I hated eating and barely drank. In November 2014, I was also diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and Endogenous Depression. It is still unknown (though I have many traits) whether or not I have a diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder.

Since my diagnoses, I have come so far yet so little. I have recovered, I have relapsed, I have struggled, I have lived. Mental Illness is not easy. Recovery is so hard, and relapse is always so tempting. However, my mental health problems have given me a great deal of knowledge, a great deal of empathy and passion to fix stigma associated to mental health. Therefore, I am a mental health campaigner, blogger and author and continue every day to end stigma associated to mental health.

Through this blog, I hope to share both my positive and negative experiences in order to highlight the realism of mental health problems and the impact it has on people’s lives.

Smile through recovery, always.

I love you

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