Hope and help

I’ve just got back from the most perfect few days away for my boyfriends birthday with him and some friends. 4 gorgeous days in the Lake district, which if you don’t know where that is looks a little like this

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To say it was magical and the happiest few days of my life is a huge understatement. For the majority of the time I was there I didn’t feel any anxiety or depressive symptoms – the first time in months. The change in scenery alone would have done me wonders but with this emotional relief as well….it felt incredible. I never wanted to leave

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Thursday night I had a bad panic attack just before we made the journey home. Since then I’ve not been able to shake off horrid feelings of constant anxiety and really low dark thoughts. It’s out of the blue, unexplainable and Im really struggling to keep it under control. The stark contrast in going from the best moments of my life to feeling so lost, helpless and hopeless; it’s brutal and it’s hit me hard.

Now I’m away from a place that has been paradise for the past few days I’m back to reality. I honestly was hoping and believed the trip away would be a welcome breath of fresh air and I’d come back revitalised, motivated and ready to take on the challenges ahead but it couldn’t be further from the truth and its tearing me apart.

Tomorrow is 1st March. I’ll have been out of work exactly three months. I’ve been applying for jobs nearly every single day of those three months. Easily sent my cv to over 150 people for all sorts of work. How many have I heard back from with a positive outcome? Just 1. 1 I’m being interviewed for next week and I already know I’m not what they’re looking for. Disheartening doesn’t even come close. Every single application I get rejected from or just don’t hear back from is a knock in my confidence and my belief I can get out of this situation and move on with my life.

Add to that my cbt has been far from regular so I’m not regain strength in my state of mind as quickly as I’d have wanted. Also my medication has quadrupled in the 6 weeks I’ve been taking it, with the latest new dosage completely wiping me out of energy motivation, destroying sleep patterns, giving me really bad chest and stomach pains and I honestly think it’s making me worse. My docs said if these tablets don’t suit they won’t give me any more meds because I’ve tried so many in such a short time.

So. With no job, no money, little support network, little help with docs and meds not working the question is what am I supposed to do?

The only part of my life that makes me happy and gives me hope for the future is my wonderful relationship, but with all of the above going on its tough to not let the bad stuff infect that too. My relationship is the only thing keeping me going right now, the only thing I’ve got to keep fighting for.

I’m not planning on giving in or taking matters into my own hands, despite the thoughts running through my head.

I am really struggling to see any light at the end of the tunnel though; I’m not even sure which direction I’m going in any more.

I’m struggling and I need help.

J x

My love affair with Mt everest and Myself

Today is valentines day. Whilst this doesn’t normally bear any significance in my relationship or my life, I have had a thought on a different angle for it today.

For those of us suffering from a mental health illness, love is quite a monumental task. Loving those around us who support us is easy even if we often struggle to show it. But there’s a different love that we forget about most but this is probably the most difficult and most important kind

To love ourself

In order to get back on the road to recovery, Ive realised I need to give myself a break and take time to notice the little steps I’m taking not just the bigger picture. Over the past week while I’ve been battling hard against my demons I’ve forgotten to be kind to myself and take time to love myself for who I am.

So where does everest fit in?

One of the small joys and passions I’m focusing on at the moment is reading, with one of my recent literary conquests being Bear Grylls autobiography ‘mud swear and tears’.  I not only find him and his adventures fascinating but he’s an excellent writer with an amazing humble and appreciative outlook on life. Unlike me, he’s a religious man, but I find his attitude towards motivating himself, and getting through tough times really eye opening and reassuring.

When describing his ascent of everest he discourages the title of ‘he conquered the mountain’ but that the mountain let him climb her. When she was stormy with dangerous weather he saw that as a sign and respected to not challenge this so stopped the expedition for a day or so. But when the storm had passed and it was safe to progress he’d be thankful for the opportunity she’d given him and make the most of it while he could.

There would be times after a tough day climbing, the expedition would finish the day off by demoralisingly descending the exact route they’d just taken. In going back down they were to become acquainted with the altitude and become stronger before moving onwards with their climb.

Although dealing with depression and conquering the biggest mountain in the world don’t have many similarities, I can relate to if the weather is stormy to just sit back and ride it out. On a bad head day it’s best not to fight it, get upset or frustrated because it’ll only get worse. In respecting thats bad days happen I can take care of myself, treat myself to self care and try to learn something about controlling the beast. Equally when the storm has passed and all seems good and clear again I need to take this opportunity to make progress, make my happiness and work as hard as possible to safe guard myself for if the same happens again.

I also need to learn to not get annoyed or disappointed with myself for having a bad day or ‘going down’. It might feel like all my hard work recovering is unravelling but I need to see this as my bodies way of slowing things down, be patient in getting better and ultimately get stronger before I make the next big push towards the summit and ultimately my recovery

So I guess, this valentines day my valentine is me (because I can’t get bear grylls) and I’m going to keep working on keeping this love affair going

J x

REVIEW: Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin

the_happiness_project_book_by_gretchen_rubinThe Happiness Project; Gretchen Rubin

Whilst this book isn’t specifically intended for or aimed at solving problems with mental health, I’ve found it to be extremely useful and has led to me trialing my own ‘Happiness Project’ or ‘Jen project’ as I’ve called mine.

Gretchen spends the book, month by month over the course of a year seeking to improve different aspects of her life; money, work, love, children, friendships, passions and more.  Each aspect she takes in turn and breaks down into smaller key changes to her daily routine or to the way she reacts to situations as she goes through the month.  Then at the end of each month she continues with all of the new changes she’s made as well as setting the goals for the next aspect of her life.

The book is incredibly easy, funny, and touching to read with a lot of really good tips and thoughts to reflect on.  The main points I’ve picked up from the book are cherishing the little moments that so many of us take for granted and often pass us by as we live in a world of auto pilot.  It encourages you to think about how your happiness and your actions affect those people around you; family, friends, children and at work.  It also draws attention to how just the smallest of adjustments to your daily routine, or tweaking how you would normally react in a certain situation can really have a big impact.

Gretchen is beautifully eloquent but not in an intimidating way; the book is accessible and enjoyable.  A lot of uplifting and enlightening quotes are splashed around the pages; many taken from the many books shes read in the name of research and some fantastic little memorable truths which she has developed on her own quest.

Whilst the book is fantastic -she’s incredibly organised in laying out all of her plans from the start which I struggle to find realistic – things that might be a problem or an issue at the start of the project may actually sort themselves out without any need for specific action, or new issues may have arisen that hadn’t been taken into account.  She’s also done her research on the topic, A LOT of research.  All of the books she read to help her understand and discover her happiness are listed in the back of the book, which is great for future reference but is a little intimidating and for the average Joe would be an extremely timely thing to go through before embarking on your own project.  The book is fantastically engaging and relatable, but there are a few times in the book where I get almost smell a whiff of smugness on the pages, as though she’s a little too proud of her happiness and her wonderful life.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book.  I’ve even written down the things I’ve learnt from it and want to use myself in the back of my ‘Head Journal’.

I think anyone who’s having a tough time with their mental health for whatever reason should read it.  She really focuses on the little changes we can make daily that make the big difference, which is certainly something anyone can easily give a go.  The book in it’s own way is a course on mindfulness; teaching the reader to let go and live for the moment.  You feel a great sense of motivation reading, wanting to get started on your own version of the project.  The biggest things that have resonated with me are to take time to develop my passions – something I’ve pushed to the back of my priority list over the past few years, to make an effort with people, be generous with my time as well as my money in order to be rewarded, and to not be so expectant of praise and enthusiasm of others.

This really is a fantastic little book.  I’ll certainly be dipping into it for little happiness boosts for many years to come

I’m struggling…

It’s times like this my head has that God awful lmfao song going through it on repeat with the lyrics changed to “everyday I’m struggling”. I can’t say it helps in any way to make things better.

Last Wednesday I had a bad day. A day a little down in the dumps which was suddenly propelled into being a really bad day, illogically triggered by a bit of bad news about my partners potential lead for a new job – something that doesn’t even directly involve me. It lead to a night of crying, despair, hopelessness, feeling empty and angry and soon enough it escalated to me hurting myself. I have never been so disappointed in myself for resorting to self harm. I thought I’d been doing so well the previous few weeks. To tell the truth this episode of self harm had knocked me and confidence the hardest.

So I put it down to a bad head day or a “foggy” day as I sometimes call it, tried to learn and move on from it. But ive not been able to shake it off. A bad day has turned into a bad week. 7 days on and no matter how hard I try I can’t get rid of this sinking feeling in my stomach 

There’s moments with little glimmers of sunshine in the fog, and I feel relief as though it’s about to clear and I’m back on the up. Then something happens; something trivial, a little crap, upsetting or annoying but something that could happen to anyone at anytime and would normally be just dealt with and forgotten about. This will ridiculously and illogically trigger a downward spiral of mood, anxiety and trigger all of the thoughts I’d been trying to move away from. 

One such example was Monday. A nice morning. I got up, applied for jobs and left the house to get my phone fixed – a niggling job I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I was feeling good, happy and motivated. On my way there my car brakes stopped working. I eventually made it home flustered and stressed. I have no money to fix the car and it’s my only form of independence at the moment to get to the shops, job interviews and see my other half.

On a different day, in a different situation I would have reacted rationally and either written it off as one of those things and forgetten about it or I would Have sought to get it fixed however I could. Instead it threw me into an uncomfortable, anxious state, blubbering on the sofa. I tried to talk myself out of it, even put myself to bed just after lunch to try and sleep off my ever decreasing mood. But nothing would work. I woke up more anxious and with thoughts of wanting to run away and hurt myself.

It’s as if my mind is a coiled spring, sitting there ready and waiting for a trigger to send it spiraling back down into darkness.

It’s exhausting. Each and every time it happens my mind will start punishing itself, realing off all the big stresses and worries I have at the moment. Things I can’t really do much about, certainly not in that state. Things such as my unemployment, financial situation, living situation. This will then turn to frustration and anger I’m not making as much improvement as I want to and my health is holding the above stresses back.

Eventually this will turn into disappointment in myself. Comparing myself to my younger siblings (ones a doctor and another’s a nearly qualified architect, both have travelled. I have not done any of these)  I’ll get upset with myself and beat myself up more, taking everything personally rather than breaking each issue down and realising it’s just a shit situation.

Finally my little negative head, once it’s triggered is very difficult to stop. Once it’s finished worrying about the big stuff, it’ll work its way through everything right now that annoys me, upsets me or frustrates me. All things I can do nothing about. Like the size of my pokey bedroom at my parents, the tumble drier being put every night beneath my room keeping me away, the way my dad speaks to the dogs more than me, over cooked bland vegetables that seem to be served every meal time. All little petty irrelevant things that when observed, aren’t even a big deal.

Ridiculous, yes?

When I take a step away from the situation once I’ve calmed down Its all so illogical and I feel so stupid for the way I’ve reacted. Promising to myself to do better next time and not get as out of control again. Then days later a similar trigger will set me off, and back down into the darkness I go.

It’s a vicious cycle that I’m struggling to break. I feel like I’m teetering on a knife edge of feeling low but manageable and crying my eyes out wanting the world to swallow me up. What ever happened to my option of happiness?!

Actors and musicians often talk about their “big break”.  That lucky series of events that rapidly propels them and their career to success. I guess in a way I’m waiting for my own “big break”.  Just for even 1 thing to fall into place and the rest to follow suit in their own little way. I don’t want massive success or a big salary. I just want things to be settled and my life to get back to a happy, manageable equilibrium.

Until then, I guess I’m just going to have to try my hardest to get out of this plug hole I seem to be trapped in.

J x

Fighting for control

This time 6 years ago I was nearing the end of a turbulent and traumatic 2 year relationship. It was here I first noticed something wasn’t right within myself and first thought I had depression. It was also during this time I was forced into no contact with all of my friends, family, lost my passions, personality and pretty much all control of my life.

It wasn’t the first time situations in my life that made me unhappy and change who I was had been controlled by others or other circumstances. Such as my dad falling ill when in my final years of Primary school leaving me to look after my 3 younger siblings instead of playing with my friends. Also my parents choice to send me to an all girls private school where I hated all 7 years passionately and experienced horrid torment from bullies for a couple of years of my time there.

Following the relieved end of that horrid relationship, I set upon proving to myself and others my independence and self sufficiency. I regained my jen-ness and couldn’t have been more proud that I was back to my former self only a bit more resilient and mature. I felt like new…more like jen than ever before.

Now, having faced this current episode of depression for the past year I am again struggling with control of my own life, feeling lost, vulnerable, heavily reliant on others and with a distinct lack of jen-ness. But this time its this horrid illness and blackness that’s taken over and causing all the agony and despair.

Until this weekend after a chat with my wonderful other half, I’d never realised how key getting control of my all aspects of my life again is to my recovery. Getting control of my diet and exercise and general health will aid and hopefully improve a lot of confidence and motivation issues I’m struggling with as well as my mental well-being. To be able to explore my passions again without fear of disruption will allow me to get control of my happiness. Having a choice in my living situation and job instead of merely choosing the only option available to me will allow me control and freedom with my life. Being in a stable financial situation will allow me to pay off over hanging debts and spend my money doing things I enjoy doing as well as look to the future. All of this control will allow me to not only get my fondly loved jen-ness back but also keep on top of my mental health, to become accountable for the actions and decisions I make and to be responsible for the things that don’t go according to plan.  Hopefully it’ll help keep better control of my thoughts when my head goes a bit wobbly so I don’t end up in the mess I’ve been in too many times over the past few months.

Its going to be tough. Its not going to be pleasant in some parts.I know there’s a lot of changes I’ve got to make and decisions to face. But it’s going feel amazing to have my life back.

Scrapping my happiness project.

Full steam ahead with my jen project

J x

My happiness project part 3 – Jan review and feb plans and goals

I’ve been meaning to get this post written for the past week but unfortunately another case of unexpected unemployment and a relapse have put things on hold.  Although I’m still struggling, I was hoping writing this might help

January – Personal space; whilst my goal of moving out of my parents into a new space with my partner was a very optimistic goal given the state of my personal finances and lack of job I’ve realised I was unrealistic and I’ve accepted I’ve needed to start smaller.  Big improvements won’t happen over night but little changes can be.  One of my flaws is my impatience and its’s something I really need to practice

1) One goal I set my self in December I have manged to keep is to improve what space I do have at my parents.  I’ve made my dinky box room a little nicer with a fragranced candle, blankets and throws from my old house, photos, a pile of books and my other half has lent me his kindle to watch films on as the room isn’t big enough for a TV.  It’s really helped having a space that’s mine, where I can just be.  I’ve made it into a bit of a reading den and use it for the meditations I’m still trying to do everyday.  Whilst it isn’t the best situation, its the best I can do with the situation I have.  Any place I move onto from here will seem like a dream mansion!

2) Focusing on nothing but working and saving was the next goal  I set myself.  The aim of only focusing on work has happened – at the moment it’s all I think about.  I managed to score myself some temp admin work which would have seen me through until mid march.  It was decent pay for easy work, allowed me to feel useful and productive again in a working environment and I actually enjoyed the routine of getting up, eating breakfast, and getting an early night when I got home.  I was all going so well.  Then after a week we were told due to problems and complications with the client we were doing the work for, the entire project was being put on hold and it was going right back to its early development stages.  So I’m back looking for any work that might have me.  Frustrating after I’ve had a little tiny taste of being back in the ‘real world’ doing normal day to day things and I know it can’t be helped.  I guess all I can do is, (to quote a fictional character I most relate to) ‘just keep swimming’….thanks Dory

3) Treating myself to personal time each and every day was my final aim for January – I found this to be the easiest and most beneficial.  Some days I couldn’t be bothered and only wanted to crawl into bed and cry on my own, but most of the days I managed to treat myself to a bit of me time.  Having dogs at my parents and living on the edge of a small country park with a lot of surrounding farm land makes it really enjoyable (and inexcusable) to go for a walk.  Even just a 10 minute stroll around the block has helped lift any prevailing head storms.  I’ve also taken more time to enjoy baths and allowed myself a little pamper night to boost my self confidence a little.  I’ve also started to get back into 2 hobbies which I enjoy but recently the effort I’ve put into them has disappeared.  I love cooking for other people and find it extremely therapeutic, I find myself in a happy place whenever I’m creating something.  Also reading, something I’ve always struggled to maintain after long hours of work I tend to find it difficult to concentrate on a book and have often opted for  something a little more visual with less brain power required.  Since living at home I’ve read more books over the past couple of months, than I have done the past couple of years (its still not a fantastic amount but I’m getting there).  I’m enjoying alternating between self help books, non-fiction like biographies and also fiction books. All of these have helped me discover some sort of inner calm and allow me to slip into my own little ‘happy place’ when this world gets a little too much.

Febraury; personal happiness.  As detailed in my post in December this is also really important to me.  I’ve spent a lot of the past year not very happy for many reasons and I feel a little distant from the things I actually enjoy and that do make me happy.  I’m going to look at contributing factors both in and out of work.  I almost feel like I’m starting to build up from scratch after so much turmoil and disruption recently so reminding myself of what makes me happy seems like a good place to start.  I also want to ensure some form of stability in my next job, with an aim to be there for the foreseeable future; for me being happy in my workplace is paramount so I’m going to have a good hard think about the type of career and jobs I wish to pursue and how to go about doing them.  It’s all well and good making all of these discoveries and doing those things I enjoy, but I also need to make a plan for longevity and maintaining my happiness in all aspects of life, and to better prepare myself for the darker days which are bound to happen.

I’m off to go find my happiness, I’ll report back in about 3-4 weeks time with how it’s all gone!

J x