MHAW16 – relationships

With the theme for mental health awareness week being relationships, I’m taking this opportunity to look at those not just in my life now but have shaped my mental health over the years

Boyfriends
Over the 8 years I’ve suffered with depression I’ve had 2 long term relationships, each lasting around 2-2.5 years. Throughout both relationships my mental health spiralled. Both failed to see me as an equal part of the partnership, neither saw me as a girlfriend or treated me like one, but treated me as a commodity. There was very little comprise in either relationship with each of the others demons being seen as priority over my health and well being, with me often being left not being understood or even heard. When you have one bad relationship you do everything you can to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again and the next guy will be different, but over the course of my second relationship it became apparent how shockingly similar they were. As soon as both relationships ended it was glaringly obvious how much my mental health lifted, no longer being in the shackles, being held back, unrecognised and unappreciated. Now ensuring I find someone who actually makes me feel good about myself and appreciates me and respects me warts and all seems like an impossible task, but I understand how important it is to get it right. I’m not having my head wobbling off from someone else again. I’ve worked far too hard on my mental health to risk jeopardising it letting another wrongun into my life

Doctors
My relationship with my doctors and health care has been non existent to say the least. They’re supposed to be the person you can confide it, open up to in a nonjudged situation in order to get help. Because I’ve moved house so much I’ve not had one steady doctor who knows my full story. Even when Ive visited my local GP surgery. due to staffing issues they don’t have a steady doctor I can see but a locum who float in to cover and as such the last 6 visits I’ve made I have had a different doctor every time. This wouldn’t be such a problem if it was physical problems I was speaking to them about. But having to open up, give my back story and explain where I’m at each and every time is not only frustrating but exhausting. It also means my care has been slap dash, each doctor giving me the first treatment that comes to mind rather than looking at what’s been tried so far and actually knowing what works for me and what doesn’t. And do you know what, a lot of doctors still don’t know how to deal with mental health issues. Over the last 4 years I’ve also struggled with the level of counselling cbt I’ve been put forward for. With my sessions either being cancelled last minute knocking my confidence and recovery or other treatments have been rushed for the sake of making up a few extra minutes of over run time and even changed therapists half way through treatment due to maternity leave. All very disruptive and unnecessary. They say mental health is better to be talked about, something I fully agree with but having to unnecessarily open up to so many different people is unbelievably difficult. It’s not the doctor’s fault, I know that. But equally it makes me reluctant to go to them about anything at all.

Family
We’re not a close family at all. But one thing I am proud of is that in me being so open about my mental health and my attack, it’s meant my family have opened up and we’re now all talking a bit more. Particularly my relationship with my mum which was pretty nonexistent about 6 years ago after a massive falling out, now we’re closer than ever. Living back at home at the age of 28 is less than ideal and isn’t something I’d boast about if I had an online dating profile, but for now its what’s needed. Just having people around, not necessarily to open up to, but just company I can trust is making the world of difference. If you’d told me a few years ago I’d be sat in most nights binge watching Grace and Frankie with mum and a bottle of wine or two putting the world to rights, I would never have believed you. So I guess that’s a huge silver lining in all of this. I’m very glad to have a family I can fall back on when needed. They drive me insane a lot of the time, but they’re the only one I’ve got and I guess they’ll do. In all seriousness, I’d be lost without their support. 

friendships
My friendships are unusual in a have a lot of scattered friends, none of whom really know each other. I can’t just get them all in one room or on a night out and catch up with them all at once, which would be a hell of a lot easier, especially while Im out of work and don’t have any money to be able to do anything when I see them. Despite this shortcoming, my friends are the best.
Each and every single time I get knocked down, I have a parade of cheerleaders picking me back up. After I left my last job in March, a dear friend I’d not seen properly in about a year took me out drinking pretty much for a full week, knowing that I needed to let off steam and they were going to make sure I did it semi-responsibly and get home safe. I’ve got those friends who I just nip to, unannounced, demand cups of tea and cuddles with their menagerie of fur babies. I’ve got the friends I don’t see for years but check up on me in a text most days. I’ve also got the friends I see once every few years and it’s like we were never apart. As much as I love the latter type, I always feel like my life is in some utter turmoil everytime I see them. One day, I’ll get there and be able to say everything is fine. It’s probably a little while off yet, but for the moment I’m quite happy with them feeding me all the tea, cake and bourbon while they listen to me rant. There’s also the friends who I have met over the last few months, and have been hugely accepting, non-judgemental and ultimately supportive in everything is going through. Each and everyone of my friends are beautiful understanding people. I wish I could give them all a medal for putting up with my shit.

Strangers
This might seem an odd one, how can I have a relationship with a stranger? But. I can. On the night I was attacked I started talking to a group of locals in the pub, making friends on my first night in the Lake District. The female in the group could instantly pick up that something wasn’t right and the guy who later attacked me was behaving very oddly and I was obviously very uncomfortable. As a complete stranger, she gave me her number and insisted I text her when I got back safe to the hotel and also that I meet up with her the following week, promising that I wouldn’t be alone and she’d show me round. She’s also been the only witness to give evidence regarding my side of the police case. Imagine meeting someone and within 24 hours having to give an account of the night because of such a horrid crime? She’s been an absolute angel, not just on the night being a good samaritain and not just in how she’s handled the case. At least once every few weeks I’ll get a text off her checking on me and we’re now even Facebook friends. What an absolute gem! It’s people like this who make the world go round.

My situation right now may have been caused by one or two key vile people I’ve crossed paths with, but it’s all of the other wonderful human beings I am lucky enough to have in my life that have given me faith in humanity and have kept me moving forwards. I cannot thank them enough. Talking is crucial to anyone dealing with a mental health issue and our relationships are our means to be heard.

Go give someone a hug!!!

“what were you wearing when you were sexually assaulted?”

https://www.the-pool.com/news-views/latest-news/2016/19/what-were-you-wearing-when-you-were-sexually-assaulted-

“what kind of an inappropriate question is that?” you’re probably thinking right now. And you’d be right. This article even admits so. Yet they still printed it, and as a follower of the pool for interesting articles and product reviews, there it popped up in my timeline about 9.00pm last night. There I was happily minding my own business on my sofa, watching TV with my family. To be floored by gut-wrenching, stomach churning anxiety, panic, fear and the thought I was going to be sick all just at the sight of the headline. I didn’t dare open the article of fear it would exacerbate this internal earthquake but I gave it the benefit of the doubt, something positive might come from it. But no, it’s a vile article showing images of clothes from sexual assaults. Particularly harrowing is the black background they’re on. I don’t know why it was written, the authors intentions or even who the intended reader would be. It seems to have failed to put themselves in the shoes of a victim who might be reading it. Because who in the right mind would be interested in something with such a headline if they haven’t been attacked. I thought it might have offered support, compassion or even empowerment to women (and indeed men) who have been through such a harrowing and life changing ordeal. But the article was none of these things; it was cold, soulless and seeing these victims as entities to be investigated, not human beings.

All things considered in my own situation I’ve done extremely well to keep my head on my shoulders throughout my own ordeal. Don’t get me wrong there are always ups and downs, days that I struggle but I’ve always been able to handle them. This week has been tough. Any day now I’ll be waiting to hear from the police news about their next move. As the accused attackers bail was up last week, I’m literally biting my nails on the edge of my seat to find out if a) his bail will be extended for a fifth time to allow further investigation b) the case is going to court or c) the case is being dropped completely. Its tough enough the ordeal has been going on so long, its such a lengthy process. The longer this is going on the worse I seem to get when unexpected triggers such as the word “rape” being used out of context, people discussing it in groups and indeed things in the media like this article do appear. Coincidentally, 10th may is also the date that will stick in my mind for years. The date in 2014 I put myself into hospital with a cocktail of my favourite wine and my anti-depressants. It’s not getting easier, it’s getting so much harder. Yesterday, that article completely floored me. There I am trying to be strong, keeping my head threading water until this is all over and someone posts a mindless and seemingly pointless article and it’s all over my timeline. I know I can hide it, which is what I have done. But once the damage is done in just reading that headline its too late and unfortunately I can’t hide, block and unfollow my own memories.

Bottom line, I’m hurt, shaken and struggling to see the motive the author of this article had. One thing that’s come to light through my own ordeal is just how many others can tell similar stories. I can imagine all will have a reaction not to dissimilar from my own to such an article.

And for the record. Black skinny jeans. Vintage flat calf boots. White shirt dress. Camel trench coat.

Keeping in control

A lot of things have taken hold of my life, turned it upside down that I have had very little or no control of; from redundancies, housemates stealing off me, bad friends, bad relationships, bad jobs, being attacked…all of which have had a negative impact on my mental health and left me repeatedly “getting back on my feet”.  With yet another “fresh start” (most overused and underrated phrase in my life!) looming, a new job and a move back to a city I love, I am doing everything possible to claw back control over my own life and hopefully steadfast me into keeping it that way…..not letting it loose again so easily!  The last thing I need right now is any form of my anxiety or depression to start flickering.

First off the job and the move itself is something I have been in control of.  All too often over the past couple of years, I’ve made career moves I’ve not been 100% happy with but have had to take because it’s been the only offer on the table at the time and I unfortunately don’t have the privilege of being able to afford being unemployed.  This time round I chose the best option for both my career, my personal/social life and my finances from a range of different options; dismissing some very early on in the hope that I’d find something that would perfectly fit…and I have! It’s a brilliant opportunity and driving home from my interview and trial shift the other night I had a silly grin on my face like the kind you get on a giddy loved up first date (you know the one!)  I also know this move will be good – city I have lived in before and feel comfortable in, where I have a lot of friends both in and out of my line of work as well as it only being 40 mins from my folks if I want to come home.  Ticks all the boxes!

Next on the list is being in control of whats going in my body.  Over the years I’ve been prescribed numerous anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, beta-blockers, sedatives, contraceptives, as well as the anti hepatitis and AIDS tablets I was given in November (which made me feel worse than any anti-depressant).  Each one of these has come with their own side affects and left my body confused as to whats going on.  I’ve taken a stance to as much as possible not put any synthetic chemicals into my body.  No painkillers, no anti-depressants (despite the doctors recommendation), and no hormonal based contraception (now using the IUD).  I’m also where possible eating no junk food, processed food or take aways.  Trying to drink as much water, green tea and eat as much fruit and veg as possible.  I’m a lot more aware of where things are coming from and trying my best to buy free range/organic produce across the board.  It’s tough but already I’m feeling such a difference.  I’m also trying my hardest to source natural skincare and make up products too, may as well!

On the theme of being in control of what I’m doing to my body, I’m really trying to exercise.  Even just taking the dogs for a walk and getting some fresh air is really making a difference to my mentality. I’ve downloaded a fab app called Track Yoga which has easy to follow routines and allows me to be competitive with myself.  I’m also about to renew my Headspace app which I’m finding difficult to stick to but I can see is having some benefits to my focus and motivation.  I’ll be more able to develop these areas once I’m in the routine of my new job and settled in my new living space.  I’m also really trying to get back into my reading.  I seem to keep buying a lot of books but not doing a lot with them.

I’ve noticed historically, when I’ve felt like I’ve been losing control on my life, I seem to have gained a piercing or tattoo.  These past few weeks it’s been a very near thing adding my collection of metal bars but as of yet I’ve managed to steer clear of this.  Given I’m technically unemployed still, I’m soon to be commuting 100 miles a day, my car is pretty much illegal and don’t quite know when my next wages will be, I’ve probably got better things to be spending my money on.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so sensible and grown up in my life!  I’m going to start seeing these things as treats rather special-Jen coping mechanisms.  Next wage packet I get, I’ll be heading straight to a piercing shop!

Finally, as mentioned in my previous post I’m having problems with counselling (surprise surprise!) and that my current form of therapy is making the most of the amazing supportive friends I have.  Unfortunately, over the past few months in all the drama that’s gone on a few have fallen by the way side but I think that’s to be expected.  Amazingly though an awful lot of people I’ve not spoken to for years have got in touch which is incredible! As I currently can’t get counselling I’m going to promise myself to make more of an effort with the wonderful people in my life and not just in supporting me but I’m really being as pro-active as possible in helping them in their lives as well.  It’s very easy when you’re going through a tough time to become self absorbed (something I’ve definitely been guilty of before) and I find I’m always very good at letting the black dog talk me out of seeing plans through, so I’m making a stance with myself and vowing to always stick to plans and try to start giving something back to the people I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life.  Why have one counsellor that I pay when I have a lot for the price of a brew and a cake!

While all of the above are just little simple changes, and a lot of them make common sense, for me it’s not necessarily the changes that I value but the control I’m now having my own life.  It’s made such a difference.  While some things are still very much out of my control, are weighing on my mind and probably will be until the court case is all done and dusted, at least I’ve got the mechanisms in place to hopefully stop my head spinning out.

J x

Keep your head up, keep your heart strong ❤

One of my favourite songs and a big dog walk is what was needed today. Heads been in a bit of a funk and I could have easily hidden under my duvet all day, riddled with anxiety and “the fear” but I’m so pleased I got out. 3 tired dogs, one tired jen, one clearer head.

Definitely earned my brew, packet of biscuits and my book

It’s the little things that make a big difference

J x

Baps, flaps and scars

Given the experience I shared in my second to last post, it’d be pretty ridiculous if I now told you that I’ve just done my first ever nude photo shoot right? Well, it is, and I did.

Now, let me set the scene; I’ve not just marched into a random studio and got my kit off with some babestation style poses being pulled off.  A very good friend and absolute hero of mine, Lord (yes Lord) Damian McGillicuddy who used to arrange photoshoots and workshops at a hotel I used to work at and for years we’ve been meaning to get together to do a “shoot”.  We recently got back in touch following my move home and he invited me on a roadshow to Ireland for 4 days where I’d be modelling in his seminars and if I wanted to, we could experiment with a private shoot.  The prospect of a few days away, getting some headspace and speaking to no-one who knows about my situation was extremely inviting!

So, before the final seminar I bared all – scars both physical and mental on full vulnerable display – and we experimented with some sexy natural looking shots; 50s style, black and white, boyfriend shirt, with a vibe that I didn’t even know the camera was in the room at all.

Yes, I completely agree what I’ve done probably seems completely mental given everything that’s gone on recently.  Most “normal” people wouldn’t go getting their baps and flaps out so liberally after an attack, but I’ll tell you why for me it kind of makes sense.

Some psychologists use exposure as a means of therapy for phobias i.e. fear of heights gets treats with visits to high places, fear of spiders a trip to the zoo, fear of jam go to tea room etc. Now the feelings I’ve been having haven’t necessarily been a fear but they’ve been a feeling of distance between my mind and my body; almost detached.  There’s also the elements of knocked confidence, anxiety and loss of control on my own life.  Like I said, I’ve known Damian for years and we’ve been meaning to do a photo shoot together for the past 4 years.  I’d feel pretty shit if after all this time, I was offered this opportunity and I had to turn it down because of the incident that happened in November.  That’d be another way for said incident to be affecting my life and another point to him.  What better way to stick two fingers up to the situation, grow some big girl balls and regain control of my life?! Plus I’ve never exactly been shy in a bit of nudity – boobs are boobs and a foof’s a foof. I’d hate for any more of my personality to be reserved and restricted because of what’s gone on. So….the little jelly tots came out!

The experience itself was incredible.  A lot more natural than I thought it would be, it didn’t feel weird and I didn’t feel awkward or vulnerable.  It’s not like plenty of people haven’t seen me and my bits in all their glory over the past few months anyway with all the doctors and nurses and police that have had a look.  Honestly, if I wanted this many people to see my bits I should have become a stripper! (you have to try and find light in a situation somewhere!) In all seriousness, after the shoot I felt liberated, empowered, extremely sexy and very emotional; something I’ve lost touch with recently.

Now I’m not advocating everyone in my situation runs to the nearest photographer and gets their bits out.  But I am a firm believer in there not being a rule book for dealing with any form of trauma or mental health issues.  To do whatever feels comfortable for you and whatever helps.

You’ll all be glad to know I won’t be posting the pictures on my blog – no-one needs to see my kipper and pancakes! I’ll be keeping the pictures for myself as a reminder of the strength I’ve had to do them when I’m struggling and probably show them to everyone I meet when I’m 90 – what I looked like “back in the day”.

One thing I will share with you though is a wonderful quote which I’ve picked up from Lord McGillicuddy himself as his favourite quote and was actually featured at the end of his seminars this week.  Something very relevant to how I feel and has been resonant with me since I first heard it – think it’ll stick with me for a while

On a serious note, I’d like to thank the Damian and his team for the opportunity to go to Ireland.  I found strength in me I didn’t know I had.  Damian’s an incredibly honest, wonderful, supportive gentleman; proper salt of the earth and I’m very lucky to be able to call him a friend. The past few days away has done me the world of good and given me a new perspective on moving forward.  Check out his other INCREDIBLE photography which is significantly better without my mug in……https://www.damianmcgillicuddy.com/

J x

rocky

 

 

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this”

Just a weird observation, could be purely coincidental or it could be my brain has been trying to tell me something all along.

Travelling up to the lakes in november, I had an old favourite song from my emo days stuck in my head – the most prolific lyric being “i’ve got a bad feeling about this”.  That lyric then twirled round my head for the following few weeks, even with me when I went back to the hotel for the third and final time.  Just noticed now I’m home, it’s gone.

They do say once an emo kid, always an emo kid

So here we are…

So here we are. 9 months since my last post and I’m back.  Things were going so well.  Since my last post I’ve been doing amazingly off the medication, I became single (turns out the relationship was a significant stem of my depression), moved out of my parents into a cute little flat on my own, promoted to restaurant manager, even took myself on a jaunt on my own to Edinburgh to fulfil a bucket list dream in seeing the Foo Fighters (I’m not going to lie…I cried when they opened their set!).  Back when I wrote my last post, if someone had told me all of this would be happening in the following few months and my mental health would be steady and controlled, I would have bet a significant sum against it becoming reality.  How wrong I was!  Life was going well and I was the happiest and most content I’d been in as long as I could remember.

October I left the job I had and was offered the role of a lifetime up in the Lake District.  Beautiful hotel, even more beautiful views, restaurant manager of a michelin star restaurant, working alongside an old manager who I have always admired and dreamed of working with again.  Good salary with free live in accommodation allowing me to sort out my finances for good, and the perfect opportunity which would make my career for life, allow me to stick two fingers up at a lot of people and give me the stability I’ve been craving.  Anyone would have been stupid to even hesitate answering the offer.  In hindsight, I had a weird uneasy gut feeling in accepting which I just put down to nerves but is probably something I should have listened to more closely. It was quite daunting how good an opportunity it was; a lot of pressure to enjoy it and equally make sure I didn’t mess it up – people would kill for that kind of opportunity, so I ignored the alarm bells.

So, 13th November I relocated to start my new life.  New place, new job, new people; the perfect fresh start to really move on from the drama and stresses of the previous 18 months fighting the black dog.  It meant the world to me that this went well.

I can’t give too many details away about what happened next as there’s still a police investigation going on. But, what I can say is on my first night of this new venture I was taken out for dinner and drinks by a new colleague to welcome me to the hotel.  This led to me being spiked and later I was attacked in the room I was staying in at the hotel.    The following day I spent a very scared and very lonely 12 hours with the police – most of which were spent without a phone because my battery had died early that day.  Easily the longest and most terrifying day of my life; completely unknown to anyone trying to piece together what had happened, craving a hug and wondering how I was going to tell my friends and family.  I returned home to my parents house 14 hours after reporting it feeling lost, empty, numb and completely unable to cry.  Small blessings in this incident are I don’t remember a thing, and other than a few bruises I wasn’t hurt.

I took 3 weeks off until rather naively and stubbornly I returned to the hotel a mere 3 weeks after the incident.  It was too soon and definitely did more damage than good, but I’m impatient and just wanted to move on, not let this be the reason for the job of my dreams to fall apart before it had even begun.  Day 4 of the job and Storm Desmond hit the Lakes, leaving our hotel damaged and closed for the following 9 days.  I took that as an opportunity to return home, see some friends, family and finish packing up the last of my flat.  Returning home, everything I’d put off dealing with came flooding in and broke me.  Coupled with the timing of making my formal statement to the police and all the internal medical examinations, re-living the experience in graphic detail to strangers was one of the toughest things I’ve ever experienced.

I ended up getting signed off from work with stress and depression, and the doctors wanting me to go back on medication.  Deflated and defeated I stayed home over Christmas and tried to focus on spending time with friends, family and getting my head straight.  It was a lovely Christmas, but it all felt bittersweet – anyone in hospitality would love to have the festive time off work but for me I was desperate to be kept busy and feel back to some form of normality.

Brave or stupid, I can’t quite decide but I made another attempt to restart the job.  Third time lucky? Unfortunately, it was not to be.  The more time I spent there, the more difficult things got.  In order to return to the hotel, I’d bottled everything up relating to the incident but once I got there, I was bottling everything up.  I was quiet, reserved, numb, completely un-Jen.  I wasn’t showing myself in my true light personally or professionally.  I could see it was having an affect on my job, I wasn’t performing anywhere near as well as I wanted to.  Starting a new job, especially of that caliber you want to go in “balls deep”, full of motivation, passion and enthusiasm.  I was starting each day riddled with anxiety, dread and fear which in turn downward spiralled with the realisation I was struggling, really uncomfortable and needed help.  My anxiety was sky high every day, verging on panic attacks and I wasn’t sleeping well in staff accommodation at all.  This all with the constant triggers and little reminders of the offender and what had happened around……it was only a matter of time before I had to call it a day.  Heartbroken and devastated it had come to this; a week ago today was my last shift at the “dream job”.

As always with me, things are never straight forward.  Due to the location of the incident and my new job in relation to my parents house the support group I’d been referred to wouldn’t even put me on a waiting list until I was back up north.  I saw an assessor who said I’d be fast-tracked due to my lack of emotional support up there.  3 weeks passed and I heard nothing, now I’m back at home trying to piece things together and I’ve had to start the whole counselling process again from scratch.

In all of this, I’ve still not properly cried.  I’ve blubbed and sobbed but not a proper reaction.  I really feel like there’s something deep inside me, building and dying to get out.  I think being so isolated and lonely when it happened and then going back up there not knowing anyone has made me bury all of my emotions pretty deep.

I keep getting told I’m strong, I’ve got through so much over the past few years I’ll be able to get through this etc….I wish I had as much faith.  I’m doing OK, but I’m not great.  I can feel chinks in this armour I’ve put on starting to show.  There’s only so many times something can be broken and put back together before it no longer resembles its original form; I feel like I’m starting to get that way.  It’s tough, really fucking tough.  I feel like I can’t trust my judgement or decision making.  I’m feeling incredibly unsettled, fed up that nothing seems to go right, fed up at constantly moving house, fed up it feels like the world is conspiring against me.  As long as I keep myself busy I’m OK but other than that I feel like I could have a breakdown at any moment.  I nearly had a panic attack yesterday just trying to find a particular pair of shoes, rummaging through my belongings in storage.  It’s not the easiest thing to speak to anyone about. I’m desperate for professional help, but as always it takes its sweet time to be arranged.  Until I’m moving on with my life, with a new job and a new place to live I don’t think I’ll be able to draw a line under it and fully be able to deal with the past few months.

So here we are…..

J x

A letter to myself 14 months ago

I’ve not posted for a little while because I’ve been doing really well with my recovery. I’d be lying if I said every day was perfect, all flowers and sunshine. It’s a daily battle but it’s becoming easier. I know how to handle my head and I’ve put strategies into place to help me should I have another wobble.

I’ve made the decision that this will be my last blog post. Id like to take the lessons I’ve learnt from this horrid past year and move on to a new exciting chapter of my life without being held back by my past. A clean break into a new me.

The timings a little appropriate too, it’s been 2 months since I came off antidepressants which has made a phenomenal difference to my mental health and I’ve not looked back. It’s also a year since I put myself into hospital. Something I didn’t think I’d feel weird about after having come so far since then, but for some reason I can’t quite work out I am feeling a little uncomfortable with the looming day.

So. Here is a letter of advice I’ve written to myself 14 months ago when I was first diagnosed and place on medication. All things I wish I’d heard and believed at the time. I hope it helps someone else in their battle.

Dear jen,

Antipressants are horrid, truly awful things that will make you nearly fatally worse when you start taking them. Don’t jump to the decision to take them just because it seems like the only option. Caution and more thought needs to be given to them and other more natural approaches should be tried first. Meds aren’t a quick fix

The friends and support group you have when you start your recovery won’t be the same when you get back on your feet. A lot of people are shit

Going through this, getting better and the road to recovery is horrid. It’s unattractive, scary, soul destroying and one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do 

Some people just don’t care that you’re having a tough time but there are plenty of other people who do

You will become something you don’t recognise, someone you hate, try to push everyone away and punish yourself for how you are. But a better you will emerge stronger the other side

Self harm doesn’t solve anything and there is no easy way out

There isn’t a ‘normal’ or a ‘better time’ to try to revert back to. You can only move forwards and be better than you ever were

Alcohol will become your best friend and worst enemy and it cannot be trusted

Your judgement on everything becomes completely skewed. Don’t react to situations too quickly – try and see logic and perspective before opening your mouth

Your boyfriend is an exceptional person. The financial and emotional support, love and care he shows is unfailing and unconditional. Tell him and show him every chance you get

You’ll lose all feelings of being horny and lose your sex drive. Sex stops and cuddles will become the most intimate thing you’ll do and it’ll take longer than you can imagine for your self confidence to improve enough for that to change

Talking and listening to people without judgement is the most helpful, supportive and kind thing someone can do with you

You’re really bad at patience. Having patience is the most important thing you’re going to need to get through this. Everything takes so much longer than you can imagine to improve but it will get better

The road to recovery isn’t a straight line. There will be bad days but they should be treated as rest days not days to torment yourself on ‘failing at life’.  celebrate the good days and any little victory

Just because the world is still spinning and people are going about their lives doesn’t mean you can punish them for feeling lost, lonely and isolated

Because of being housebound and being so focused on your illness you’ll become really self centred. Remember the other people in your life around you

Sometimes people just don’t understand but it’s not their fault

The only person who can make an actual difference is you. Doctors, friends, counsellors, therapists, family, medication can only do so much and even then might not happen.

Any progress is good progress and a step in the right direction

Depression will attack your immune system. You’ll get poorly more often and it’ll take longer to recover. This is normal. Keep healthy

It’s ok not to be ok

Baby steps are better than giant leaps

Depression will have an effect on every part of your life. And everything in your life has an effect on your depression. Getting the balance is the tricky part

Those closest to you will be finding your illness hard too. They can’t be at your beck and call. Give them a break if they need space

Don’t be hard on yourself, none of this is your fault

Emotions and feelings you never thought you had will emerge. Dealing with them and recognising what’s you and what’s the monster is what’s most important

The people that matter the most are those who stand by your side while you’re in the darkness and are still there for you when you get to the light – they’ll be friends for life

Deep breath. Be strong. You can do this

Balance and focus

Since starting my new job 4 weeks ago, I’ve done nothing but focus on work.  I’ve not left myself with any time to reflect on the changes I’m going through, to keep up with the positive changes I’d made to my lifestyle or to have any fun

My jobs over the past year have been mainly office based and normal working hours so havent been very demanding. Now I’m in a job that I love and back where I belong in the hustle and bustle of a fine dining restaurant but the challenge of going back to lobg, irregular hours and the physical demands on my body are definitely harder to get used to than I imagined. That teamed with no time for meditation, no proper meals – certainly no healthy eating, too exhausted to exercise, not much down time to myself, as well as messed up hormones and now seemingly ineffective medication has caused a bit of a meltdown. Additionally to all of the above, my anxiety is currently off the scale because I’m terrified of anythibg negative happening with my job and ending up unemployed again and I’m also desperate to get my own space out of my parents house, make some new friends and get back to having a social life.

I’m stubborn and love my job and the opportunities that Its giving me so it’s Down to me to reevaluate the rest of my life and focus on getting the balance back in the favour of keeping my head on the right side of the tracks.

After several failed attempts with medication and an overwhelming concern for trying any new medication now I’ve started a new job, I’ve made the decision to come off medication completely. Instead I’m going to swap the pills I can barely pronounce for herbal supplements like omega and st John’s wort and I’m hoping these will keep my head on a level playing field.

I’m also looking into paid counselling instead of the poor services received through the NHS which so far have proved more damaging than helpful. I’m also asking my parents if they’ll help me fund a course of acupuncture for my birthday.

As well as this Ive got a new wave of motivation for looking after myself during my time out of work – eating healthier, drinking a lot more water, getting proper sleep, exercise, meditation and treating myself to doing something fun on my days off – all things I seem to have neglected over the last few weeks.

I am so proud of myself and so happy not only to be back in a job but doing one I genuinely love and have a passion for. But I also need to remember life isn’t just about work and in order to keep doing this fabulous job I love I need to make sure I take care of myself and not let my health jeopardise things

J x

Back to work with a baptism of fire

Over the past year due to my yoyo mental health and several bad experiences with employers I’ve been unemployed more than I have been employed. Not only has this had massive effects on mine and my boyfriends finances (which adds it’s own level of stresses with mounting bills and returning to living with parents) but it’s also had massive effects on my confidence and self belief.  Since my last failed employment ended in December I’ve been trying to battle my spiraling mental health as well as my spiraling self esteem in a bid to get back to work, back earning money and regain my independence and control on my life.

Wednesday was a big day for me. My first day in my new job. This new start is a little different than others I’ve encountered as this venue was actually my first job back when I was 16. I left 8 years ago and to return was like being welcomed back by a family. Although it was familiar territory and there were a few familiar faces it was the most nervous I have ever been.

Now my chosen industry isn’t one that’s recommended for people with mental health issues. Ive always worked in hospitality and my new role is assistant manager of a fine dining restaurant within a large hotel, with aspirations of pushing hard to gain a michelin star. It’s long hours, physically demanding on your feet all day, a test of mental stamina during busy services, often little sleep, irregular shift patterns, and no place to hide in the customer eye. It’s tough, I’m not going to lie, but I love it and I wouldn’t do anything else.

Upon starting, due to the restaurant manager taking some time off, I’m actually going to be working 9 days straight before my first day off and being left to run the restaurant and my new team of colleagues on my own for 4 days. Nothing like being thrown in the deep end hey!?  Oddly though this isn’t the thing I’m struggling with, I’m actually loving and thriving on the challenge and prefer to be thrown to the lions and to learn my job quickly.

The problem I’m having is with me. I’ve gone from being out of work for 3 months, having had a lot of knocks from previous employers and my health  to being pretty much “better” or “normal” overnight and that jump in change is huge. Don’t get me wrong I’m so grateful for my job and the opportunity I’ve been given and the wonders it’s doing for my mental state and self belief is amazing. But I feel like my confidence and self esteem has a bit of catching up to do, dawdling in the background somewhere.

It’s a lot of big changes, a lot of responsibility, and a huge leap in the right direction; it’s a such a brilliant gift I’ve been given but it’s terrifying at the same time. My insecurities about myself are the worst theyve ever been. I’m finally getting control of my life again and discovering who I am once depression has been taken out of the situation. I’m scared I might not like who I’m turning into, that others and my boyfriend might not like who I’m turning into and I’m terrified of making a wrong move which could trigger a downward spiral sending myself back to where I’ve come from.

I’m taking the pressures of work in my stride and being honest with myself if things get too much. But I need to take it easy on myself in this new time of self discovery too. As with getting better, becoming ‘me’ is going to take time and things arent going to change overnight. I’ve got the ability and opportunity to be who I want to be. I just need to grow some balls, believe in myself and with a bit of patience I’ll be able to do it

J x