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!!!

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

My new dilema

As of yesterday, I have a fantastic new job. (finally!) Far better than I could have expected and if I keep my cool, don’t put too much pressure on myself and keep my head down this could be the most amazing opportunity for learning, development and to be a part of something truly amazing.

As excited as I am, there is one big issue weighing on my mind. I’ve struggled for so long with my health and had a lot of my career over the past year affected by it, I don’t want it to become an issue again.

So, to pre-empt any potential struggles or tough days I might have, do I tell my new employers a little bit about my anxiety and medication and risk them making a u-turn on the decision to employ me or do I just keep my head down and cross that bridge when I come to it?

Any advice on this would be amazing. Genuinely really struggling to work out which would be the best thing. It’s such a good opportunity I dont want to risk it ending before its even begun, but I also don’t want it to ever be a serious issue in the future and it come as a surprise to those I’d be working for.

Tough one.

J x

The (overdue) Jen Project

It was nearly a month ago I blogged about scrapping ‘The Happiness Project’ idea and re-branding it as ‘The Jen Project’.  I’m not going to lie, with being away, trying my hardest to find a job and having a few tough weeks on a new higher dosage of medication it’s gone a bit on the back burner and I’ve just been concentrating on getting through each day.  After yet another disappointing CBT session on Tuesday though, I’m now even more determined than ever to go solo and not have to rely on medical professionals to get me out of this…

SO!

The big plan….not very revolutionary and nowhere as thorough and organised at the happiness project was set out.  No monthly aims or goals, no monthly tasks, no deadlines and I’m not going to try and predict and outline my happiness for the coming months.  Organised fun is bad enough, but organised happiness? Definitely not for me.

Instead I’ve had a big think about 4 fundamental basic things I should be doing and can easily be doing to make life a little bit easier, more productive and most importantly happier.  It basically breaks down to health, wealth, passions and people, some of which actually interlink (which is handy!)

1) Health

To me this is crucial; to improve both my mental and physical well being and in turn improve how I look and feel about myself and raise my confidence – a part of me that’s been significantly knocked.  This is going to be the hardest of my aims as these are all changes of routine, instead of introducing new habits and tasks

– On the physical side eating healthier, cutting out the crap, drinking a lot more water, getting fresh air every day, exercising a little bit every day

– As of today I’ve started running which will also help my mental health but as soon as possible I’m going to join either classes at the gym or start dance classes.  This will help give me goals and friendly competition – I hate being the worst in a class

– At the moment my skin is terrible and although I’m a size 8 (UK) I’m getting a bit squidgy around the edges and starting to see lumps and bumps in places there weren’t any before.  I’ve taken ‘before pics’ of the key areas I want to see improvement and I can use them for inspiration and for motivation to see how much I’ve improved

– making an effort with my hair, make up and clothes as much as possible.  I’ve noticed even something as little as wearing a good pair of knickers or matching underwear that are hidden from public view can really boost my self esteem.  Idea is how I look and how I feel are interlinked.  If I’ve not done my hair or make up and I go to the shops looking like a sack of potatoes, I’ll feel like it

– For mental well-being I’m reading a lot of books on mindfulness (which is something I’m really trying to bring into my everyday thinking).  I’m also practicing meditation most days, keeping up to date with my thoughts diary to track any patterns and attempting yoga most nights before bed

2) Wealth

With being out of work more than I’ve been in work over the past year, my finances are in a pretty bad way (i.e. none existent).  At the nearly ripe old age of 27 it’s time to be a bit more sensible and think of the future.  Although money doesn’t equal happiness, the stresses it can bring certainly makes us unhappy, and some of the opportunities it can bring may lead to happy experiences.  After a tough year relying on my boyfriend a lot for money, it’ll be incredible for both of us to be financially independent and not have to worry about how we’re going to make ends meet as well as treat ourselves to somethings we’ve had to completely forget about 

– Getting back working, in a job I enjoy which will give me stability, confidence and develop me

– Clear off all of my overhanging bills and debts as quickly as possible so they’re no longer the black cloud I’ve got following me around.  Also want to start paying back the various family members who’ve bailed me out

– Be a lot more careful with my money – make a plan and stick to it

– Wherever possible put money away into a savings account.  Not going to save for anything in particular, but given the state of my health and employment over the past year it’d only be sensible to give myself a buffer against any possible future bad times – that alone will be unbelievably reassuring

3) Passions

Over the past 6 years for reasons ranging from health, controlling relationships, and money I’ve gradually lost all of the passions I once had and have found little enthusiasm for anything in particular.  Now I’m finding myself again, learning a lot about myself and getting my life back on track these are all going to be rekindled to fulfill the voids I’ve had and to give my life a big boost of enjoyment and purpose

– Food – is a big part of my life both in and out of work so I’m going to read all I can buying second cookery books and subscribing to a magazine, I’m going to get in the kitchen a lot more both cooking and baking, and going to try new restaurants to get ideas

– Music – another big passion of mine and originally the career path I wanted to take.  I’m going to absorb and listen to as much new music as my ears will handle, make sure I’m listening to old cd’s and playlists around the house a lot more, going to gigs and reading my favourite musicians autobiographies

– Books – a bit of a new passion but something I’m keen to develop.  I want to read as much as possible, starting with most of my other half’s books and one’s in my collection I’ve never opened.  Im going hunt down and cherish new hidden little book shops and rifle through charity shops for hidden gems

– Dancing – used to be a big part of my life going to classes in and out of school several times a week from age 3-19.  When I left for uni I never pursued it in my new city and it’s one of my biggest regrets.  Encompassing fitness, fun, music and meeting new people it really ticks all the boxes for what I want to achieve

4) People

I’m very much a people person and I work in a very customer serviced based industry.  I always love talking to someone new and I love the feeling of being able to help others.  Also recently, with everything that’s gone on a lot of ‘friends’ have drifted away, so I’m seeing this time of change within myself as a time to change those around me

– Volunteering in a charity shop to help others and meet a new group of people

– Making an effort when meeting a new group of people to befriend at least one person and do my best to stay in touch

– Making a bigger effort with those poor suffering friends who have amazingly stuck by my side.  Lack of money and enthusiasm for life has put all of these relationships on the back burner and now’s the time to make amends and make the effort to get them in foreground of my social life

– trying to not let people down and really going to extra mile.  I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down over the past year, burnt a lot of bridges and my illness has made me quite self-centered around my own problems.  I’m going to seize the opportunity to help others, be more reliable, not let people down especially when plans have been made and really make amends wherever possible

I’m going to achieve all of these overnight and I’m not going to be pursuing them all at once.  But I’m not going to section them off for achieving in separate months as I can do several at once – like eating healthier and exercising go hand in hand, but I can also do those and meet up with people and bake a cake for my new dance class or book group.  I’m going to take each day as it comes and seize any and every opportunity to work these new goals into my world and get my life into a place where I am happy and content again.  Ultimately, even if I succeed at keeping up a few of these, then I’ll have regained some control over my life – something I’ve not had for a very long time – and hopefully get closer to a strategy for tackling my mental health for good

Let me know what methods and ‘projects’ you’re trying

J x

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

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