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

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

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.

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. 

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.

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!!!

The power of talk and starting my journey to positive thinking

Something I’ve struggled with since being diagnosed with depression is being able to accurately describe my thoughts, feelings and what’s wrong. I don’t normally have a problem with opening up and sharing personal information but for some reason my depression has had me tongue tied. Whether it’s embarrassment, shame, denial, fear of not being understood or laughed at or a combination of all of them somethings held me back from laying it all out on the table to the people that can help the most. Even doctors and therapists I find myself struggling to summon up exactly the correct thoughts and feelings, kicking myself later when I get home “why didn’t I mention that…” and “I should have said this”

Yesterday I was due to start a new job. A trial waitressing a nearby newly opened pub. Whilst it didn’t exactly offer the greatest prospects money is money right now when I’m in a state of unemployment and the social benefits of getting out of the house, meeting new people were really exciting thoughts. In my previous post I was really looking forward to making a positive step in the right direction. I didn’t make it. Despite pep talks from the other half and myself I fell apart. Anxiety took over, a panic attack spread throughout me and before I knew it I was curled in a ball on my floor with a blanket crying uncontrollably for a out an hour. I couldn’t put it into words where this had come from and I could barely fathom myself what was going on.

Truth be told I’m not sure I’m quite ready for work. Certainly not when my moods and head are so unpredictable. Who’s to say if I was fine and had made it to my shift that a panic attack wouldn’t have happened in a day or a weeks time. I just can’t trust my health at the moment to be relied upon for work. While I’m eager to get back to work for the financial and social benefits I have to take a step back and make sure I’m in a state fit enough to do so, so the same doesn’t happen again. The guilt I felt yesterday for not being able to go and feeling like a failure was horrid and it was only through giving myself a good talking to that I’ve managed to shake off my relapse so quickly. Spending time with my partner talking over my plans for the next step in my recovery has given me a massive boost. He’s the one person I can talk to candidly about everything I know he’ll not only listen, offer support and show understanding but he’ll also offer feedback which helps me put my actions into perspective. whilst I’m not seeing any professionals and my support network of friends and family to have real life conversations with is limited, these talks with my boyfriend are crucial in being able manage my illness better myself and be reassured in his understanding. Speaking with him has given me the confidence to speak with my doctors and cbt in the same way – both big daunting appointments I have upcoming this week about my care.

My mindfulness meditation book and the course itself are helping to change my way of thinking and approaches to tasks in every day life. With advice I’m getting from the happiness project book I’m trying to make lots of little adjustments to my daily routine which will coax me back in the right direction and help me make the most of the choices I have. With my parents away this week I have a free house to focus on my health and getting better without the normal distractions. Little bits of exercise, getting into a routine getting out of bed, eating a bit healthier and continuing my reading, mindfulness programme and happiness project with all help me make the initial positive steps I need to take to help find my jen-ness again

Will keep updating with how things are going.

Stay safe
J x

Fighting Fire with Fire

Christmas generally isn’t the easiest time for me, as it isn’t for most other people suffering from some form of mental illness.  For me, anxiety is a big downer on my festive spirit with a nice juicy dose before I’m due to go out anywhere, especially if its to be meeting groups of people I’m unfamiliar with.  This normally leaves me at home, on my own, feeling lonely, down, guilty with this generally spiraling into further anxiety and depression as I sit there feeling sorry for myself.

This year, as being at home has also given me strong feelings of anxiety, social awkwardness and generally not wanting to be around certain members for too long, I’ve found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place – anxiety coming head on with anxiety.

Every night or day I’ve been going out to see my other half’s friends and family, catching up with people I barely know and meeting a lot of others for the first time (who I probably won’t see for another year).  I’m so proud of myself for doing it and so pleased with the results.  If I hadn’t, Christmas being sat in my little box room at my parents would have been particularly grim.  It’s been tough and I may not have been the “normal happy jen” but I did it.  Unfortunately, one of the standard questions asked by people you rarely see or who don’t know you is something work related which I’ve had to tactfully steer around so as not to bore people with the complicated trials and tribulations of the past few weeks of my life, leaving them wishing they’d never asked. Pretty impressed at how I’ve handled things, throwing myself into situations that would normally have me a little on edge, being able to put recent events behind me and successfully enjoyed myself.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the bits of time I have spent with my family.  Unnecessary sarcastic comments about work, money, living situation and how well my other siblings are doing sneaking in to normal conversation taking the wind out of my sails and putting me back to square one in feeling pretty shit about myself.  The big kicker was the massive elephant in the room (or lack of) on Christmas Day.  I woke to a text saying I wasn’t to expect any presents under the tree for me.  Low and behold while everyone else is tearing wrapping paper off lovely gifts there I am sat with a cup of tea.  I don’t mean for it to sound like I’m being a spoiled brat, throwing my dummy out of the pram.  But it’s a pretty cruel punishment for recent events and on the one day I wanted to try and put everything behind me and not be reminded of my situation, it couldn’t have been made more obvious.  Completely heartbreaking when even my younger brothers notice and ask what’s going on.

Whilst I may not have been rich in gifts this year, I have been rich in love and support from my other half and his family and friends.  It’s these amazing people that have got me through a ridiculous past month and hopefully will be there as I gather my life back together over the coming weeks.  I can also take away from this time how strong I’ve managed to be in a difficult and upsetting time; this I am really proud of and I feel like I can walk into the next chapter with confidence and my head held high.

Stay safe

J x

Breath of fresh air

When you’re going through a time of feeling low in your life, whether it’s anxiety, depression or something else it can seem like it takes over your life and it becomes the only thing you speak about. Whilst tonight I’ve met up with a friend who has been and is going through similar troubles, to be able to have a conversation that doesn’t start with the question “how are you feeling” is unbelievably refreshing and makes me feel like I’m able to move on with my life and not let this beast completely consume me. These rare moments, glimpses into what life used to be like are so cherished and should be held onto fondly. Fingers crossed for another tomorrow

Keep smiling and stay safe