A lot of noise

I make a lot of noise. I do. I talk (or rather write) honestly about my struggles in the hope it helps someone. Not just someone going through the same but maybe also someone trying to better understand a loved one. A lot of the time my honesty is met with kindness and I am grateful for that. Sometimes however it can deemed attention seeking and I wanted to address this a little.

I am seeking attention, but not for praise or pity, for recognition and understanding. Even some of my close friends and family still say things to me like ‘Well what’s wrong with you?’ And if you read my blogs you would probably already be of a better understanding. It takes a lot of energy to express our truest struggles, that’s why some people find therapy so triggering and this is why some people prefer not share because they don’t want to open up for fear of what lies beyond, maybe in the reaction of their peers. However this is also why advocates write and promote health issues. It’s not to say ‘hey look at me I’m thriving despite XYZ’ because most of us aren’t thriving the majority of the time. It’s not to say ‘hey feel sorry for me’ because your pity gains us nothing. It’s to say ‘Hey I have this….. if you haven’t heard of it here is a bit more information. It might help you better support someone who also has it, or it might prove useful to gaining a diagnosis, if you think you have it.’

It’s also to say ‘You’re not weak for feeling this way or thinking these thoughts, you’re not alone, and you’re not attention seeking for sharing.’

We all know their are people worse off than us we don’t want your sympathy to encompass us or your relationships with us. We aren’t asking you to change your behaviours to better suit us. We’re just asking for your support. So if you replaced the ‘attention’ in attention seeking with support you would see that all we’re really doing is support seeking, and trying to find allyship. We’re asking for your acknowledgment of our struggles and your belief.

What we’re also doing, is offering you our support. We’re standing in solidarity with you and saying we believe you when you tell us you are hurting. We’re opening ourselves up in promise to be more understanding of your struggles too.

Everyone can make noise, feel sorry for themselves and wish life was different. Everyone. It doesn’t make you weak to say so and it doesn’t make you an enabler to provide support to someone with a health condition. It makes you an ally. If we didn’t make any noise about our circumstances we would never be telling the full truth because to omit said struggles would be like saying we don’t have them, and we do. We all do! Whether they are similar in nature or totally different, each struggle is valid.

Telling someone who opens up about their struggle that it could be worse is not helpful, because they already know it could be worse, but for them it’s bad enough to mention. Telling someone to be positive is ok, but if they felt able to be positive they probably would be being so already. People don’t choose misery. If they did they wouldn’t be hoping to feel better in the first place they’d accept it and live with it.

So many things go unsaid and I’m tired of living in fear of reproach for how I manage my physical and mental health. There is no right way to manage, there are different ways that work differently for different people. But what works for one may not work for another it’s a lot of trial and error and countless days spent looking for new ways to live better. I’m not saying we should all make noise, but I am saying, if you choose to speak up in order to advocate for yourself or others you should be able to do so without fear of recrimination.

I was chatting to an online friend whilst recording a podcast about being our authentic selves. Feeling able to be honest about how we’re feeling is often part of the reckoning when wanting to live a more honest life. It will probably lose you some people along the way but if it does they aren’t your people. You are allowed to speak up, you are allowed to be honest about your feelings and if it makes other people uncomfortable you should be able to have those conversations without apologising for being honest. You are also perfectly entitled to be private, if being open doesn’t sit well with you, you don’t have to be, but you’re allowed to change your mind.

Being truthful doesn’t equal being negative. Speaking up doesn’t equal attention seeking. Putting your feelings out into the world doesn’t give any person the right to make you feel like shit. Make noise, stay quiet, fight for your rights or don’t, but whatever you decide, do it for you. Because you know yourself best, and you don’t have to suppress yourself in order to make someone else feel comfortable.

Therapy is not just for picking up broken pieces

A couple of weeks ago I had some news that really turned my world upside down a bit. I haven’t talked about it much because there is so much other stuff going on, but it’s been a struggle managing my emotions. I felt myself spiralling a bit, like I do every so often, usually when I’m due on. I decided to try and get ahead of this, so I called my GP who offered to refer me for talking therapies. I’ve had talk therapy before, many times actually, sometimes it’s helped other times not so much, but I’m never opposed to it, because I believe when you’re feeling mentally unwell you need to be open to trying things that might help. So I gratefully agreed to have a telephone appointment.

The lady I spoke to ran through a standard mental health questionnaire, then at the end she said I score mildly for depression and anxiety. I told her yes, it is mild at the moment, but I’m trying to intercept it before it gets moderate-severe. Her response was that I don’t meet the criteria at this stage for ongoing therapy. I’ve had this conversation before. I’ve written posts about it before too. I feel like this is the reason we are in the crisis we are in with mental health in this country, because we are waiting for people to be in their own full blown mental health crisis before offering them any support. I know that whilst the NHS is under so much pressure their resources might need to be elsewhere, but this isn’t a new thing; even before covid people were being turned away for not being depressed enough. Because I don’t want to die I’m not in crisis, because I’m not self harming or hurting anyone else I’m not in crisis. The sad thing is… I have wanted to die. I have self harmed and I have hurt people I love in the process of all of that. This time, this time I wanted to ask for help before I spiralled, before I lost control and needed to pick up the broken pieces of my life for the hundredth time.

Instead I got given some reading material and a thank you for my time.

This is not enough. Luckily for me. I am well aware of my triggers, I’m aware of my privilege and I have a great support network in my family. There is always the option to go private, but with my physical health being as rubbish as it is I usually need to top up care with massage or B12 injections, therapy is an added expense and when you’re down to the last penny you usually have to sacrifice one or the other. The trouble is with therapy is, it’s not just a one off cost. You have to pay this every week or every month sometimes forever and my fear is I’m one of those people that will need therapy forever. The thing with physical health is it affects our mental health too and so if I sacrifice the things that make me feel physically better, I’ll also be putting myself at a higher risk of feeling mentally worse. The struggle is real.

Life is hard right now for everyone and there will be people out there in worse situations than myself, probably not getting the help they need either. Learning to live through these times has been a colossal trek and we are all still hiking up cliffs hanging on for dear life. But mental health is not a new problem, it’s not a craze or a trend, it’s a continuous battle in the modern world, a battle that if not fought early and hard, can be and too often is, deadly. It’s a life threatening problem that we as a society have still not been able to tackle.

It’s great to post about mental health and raise awareness, open up and find solace in each other online but still this isn’t enough. Saying it’s ok to not be okay is one thing, telling people to reach out is another, neither are cures for a breakdown or social anxiety and sometimes they’re not even easy to do. I may know I’ll feel better if I reach out but doing it is a different matter all together.

So what can you do if you don’t meet the criteria for intervention but are still struggling? You can prioritise self care. You can access online support. You can reach out to family members or friends if you feel able. You can make time to read, write, do a course that makes you feel better about yourself. You can practice breathing and you can call any of the below numbers for professional support. If financially able you can look into finding private therapists that are able to support you long term. What you mustn’t do, is feel like the lack of free support available means you’re not worthy. You are. Whatever your next move is, please take this reminder that your struggles are valid. Your life still matters and you are going to make it.

To the you that feels too much.

Some days if not many, I feel like life is too much for me.

Too problematic

Too demanding

Too stressful

Too hard

Too expensive 

Too ominous

So I had a think about how I can break it down, because in all honesty I am all too often feeling as though I am one meltdown away from a psychotic break, and that isn’t a healthy way to live.

That’s when I realised problems are unavoidable, but I have the power to stop reacting to them and start tackling them with a clearer head. 

Most of the demands I speak of, I put upon myself. I am not able to meet the unrealistic expectations of my own making. However I am able to lower my expectation all together and treat myself with more kindness. Celebrate the small successes and work a little harder to focus on a solution based outlook.

Stress is part of life, but it doesn’t have to be the soul dictator of mine. The only reason it sinks it’s claws deep into my psyche is because I feed it with my adrenaline fuelled responses. I am highly sensitive and I am emotive but I don’t have to let my overriding emotion be stress.

Life is hard. It can be. It is. Though treating myself with disscontempt seems to come easy. Why is that? What can I do to change how I view situations? Could I perhaps allow myself more time to process difficulties? I think considering the amount of time I spend feeling like I’m climbing Ben Nevis it’s possible there’s room for improvement on my processing techniques.

Expenditure is essential to the cost of living, but it doesn’t have to be essential to my happiness. Material things are not that important to me so why do I always feel like I am missing out when I can’t afford stuff? Maybe because I spend too long comparing myself to my peers instead of accepting like our thoughts, opinions and lifestyles, our budgets are different.

I don’t believe a positive outlook will automatically grant you a positive life. What I have learned over time is the people I have come across with bigger problems than my own, people facing harder challenges and worse health, all seem to be more optimistic than I am. So maybe, I’ll try and count my blessings more often and throw away the curse that is negativity. I gain nothing from it and it gains everything from me.

My whole life I have felt as though I am too much for some people. It has taken me 30 (and then some) years to accept, they are just not my people. I’ve been battling with the ‘too’ instead of accepting just being me. It’ll come as no surprise to my family and friends that I feel this way because I’ve felt for a long time like I’ve been told I’m….

Too loud 

Too dramatic 

Too sensitive 

Too outspoken 

Too fiery

Too wild 

Too intense 

Too blunt 

If I had to describe myself now I would still use a few of the above words, but I would drop the too and I’d try and rephrase, because nobody has the right to tell me I am ‘too’ anything.

Yes as I mentioned, I am highly sensitive, but that makes way for empathy, for compassion. I care, not too much, there is no too much. I am caring, and that is something the world needs more of. It’s ok to care. In fact it’s good, until it isn’t, and you care too much about what other people think. I don’t want to do that anymore. 

Yes I am fiery, but only when it comes to things I believe in, I am passionate and I am driven by things that excite me. They are not the same things that excited me 10 years ago. Now I am excited by books, and words, and art. I’m excited by flavours and food and Sundays in bed. Safely replacing 10 jägers and a scrap outside the kebab shop. I’m excited AF when my daughter comes home with a bronze star or shares her sweets with her little best mate.

I am blunt, because I can’t fake anything. It’s funny really that I’ve been coined a ‘drama queen’ because my acting skills are fucking awful. My face will say everything my mouth forgets. If anything, I might be ‘too’ honest, but only because I genuinely believe honesty is always the best policy, and my sensitivity, believe it or not actually makes me quite a good judge of character. I don’t have the time, and I DEFINITELY ain’t got the energy to pretend. 

I WAS wild, now I am about as far from wild as a candle flickering into winter giving off vague scents of unwashed hair and 2 day old pyjamas. I am the opposite of wild, providing the opposite is not chilled. No, I’m not chilled, because I worry. I worry because I care. I want to be better. I want people to see me for the better person I am because I deserve that. Are you still with me?

I am still intense, because once I start speaking I really spill my guts. My opinions are emotive, and I have no façade. I do not hide myself behind pretence. I am intensely vulnerable and I am open. 

This can be a blessing and a curse. I overshare, but I also over love. I know if I was advising a friend on these qualities I would tell them both are ok.  

I am a complex mass of physical pain and panic. Of memories I’d rather forget and a future I’m desperate to control. To panic is to care. To be aware of your faults isn’t heroic or admirable, not really, but owning them and trying to fine tune them takes effort. And effort itself is admirable. 

I have had struggles, but they are not worse or more severe than those of others, they are just mine, they are part of me. They shape me, and I have no doubt. Not one speck of doubt, that I am a better person because of them. 

I am not too much. 

I’m just me.

You can also read this blog here at House 21

Acute Anxiety.

I can’t tell you why I’ve been feeling anxious lately, not really. I could guess a few contributing factors but I don’t know why it feels so bad, or why when I’m led in bed at night things I did 15 years ago pop into my head and I can’t get them out. Or the fact that I can be stood in the post office queue and have to walk out leaving my parcels on the counter because my mind is in flight mode. Or why I wake up at 4am crying. Why I feel like I can’t breathe.

I can tell you that intrusive thoughts (like those in the above pic) are fucking awful I can be there one minute planning my next holiday or working on the laptop and the next – bam ‘why did you do____ (insert all and any life mistakes here.)’

Hormones are also the devil when it comes to anxiety. People often underestimate their power to make you feel off kilter seemingly for no reason. Anxiety can manifest into physical symptoms such as stomach upset, fatigue, tension and or cluster headaches, increased flare ups in other conditions eg in my case fibromyalgia.

I’ve spent this week convincing myself why I should keep putting one foot in front of the other. (With a little help from my friends) I’m not exaggerating when I say somedays I can’t see the wood for the trees, and the urge to disappear is overwhelming. I don’t want to feel like this, but it’s exactly the out of control response that is anxiety’s sole purpose.

Fight or flight, our bodies natural response to intensely stressful situations. Some say they also freeze in these situations. When I’m anxious I find it hard to retain even simple information. I can become irritable as the panic overwhelms me and overly sensitive to noise, smells, touch. A literal sensory overload.

Here I’ve included some things that have helped me this week. They are by no means a cure or substitute for medical advice but they have helped me go from ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’ to ‘let’s get through today one step at a time.’

Fresh air is free and highly underrated. My natural response is always to take to my bed when I feel depressed or anxious. To block the world out and keep myself safe in my sanctuary, but this week I’ve fought that urge, it wasn’t without difficulty and I took some convincing from my friends and mum, but I got outside. And the results were almost instantaneous. The blustery air helped calm me in a way that lying in bed shaking just wasn’t doing.

Phone a friend. This one is always really hard for me because I hate talking on the phone and the idea of speaking to people when I feel like this is all consuming. I worry what they will think of me and I know I’ll cry because crying is my autopilot response, but on Monday I dragged myself and my daughter to my friends house and for a few hours I felt completely relieved of the demons in my head. It was a great distraction. Choose friends you know will understand if you need to offload.

Crying is a completely normal reaction to an anxious situation- let the tears come they release oxytocin and the likely hood is you’ll feel a little better afterwards.

Distraction is a great therapy tool and never underestimate its power. Some people say you need to face the problem head on and I’m sure in certain circumstances that’s true but to get through an acute phase of anxiety I find it particularly helpful. I do a lot of reading so choose the kind of things you read based on how you’re feeling. If you’re anxious a chic lit book maybe more suitable than a psychological thriller.

Finally my last and favourite – Swear!! No I’m not joking. Science somewhere proves that swearing aloud can’t reduce stress levels. So chuck it in the fuck it bucket and call it a prick for good luck. You can read this blog over on House21 also!

Do you know Carol?

If anyone’s ever referred to you as a nutter, a drama queen or an attention seeker because you opened up about your mental health, then you may have some things in common with Carol. There’s a fine line between getting a pat on the back for opening up and being called an attention seeker for airing your dirty laundry online, in public, to too many people.

Example – Carol writes a status about how she’s been battling depression for years and she wants help.

Queue 100 comments of support ‘always here for you babe’ and other such pleasantries that flurry in.

One month later after getting approximately 2 people reach out ‘in real life’ since her last status. Carol writes another one about how down she’s feeling, and how her life is becoming unmanageable.

This post only acquires 3 comments, all from acquaintances, 2 of concern, one attempting banter, by telling her to stop moaning! None of her close friends comment support.

That could well be because they have messaged her privately, and that’s the most hopeful outcome. But it could also be because they’re bored. Bored of hearing again, about how depressed she is. They aren’t sure she’s genuine, their opinion is she’s putting too much on her facebook. It’s past her depression expiry date. She’s been like this for ages now.

Your time’s up on the depression clock Carol, get better or keep quiet.

3 months later and Carol is dead by suicide. Thousands of tributes pour in, with memories of times long passed, lovely well wishes to her family and such.

Is it not the typically British view when it comes to talking about our mental health, to reach out and then be shunned for reaching out. Keep it to yourself Carol, the world doesn’t need to know. DESPITE the fact we’re still banging on about how ok it is to not be ok. It isn’t though is it?

To publicly share that you aren’t ok, is deemed unnecessary, attention seeking, desperate, and yet to publicly share pics of almost anything else, including, your dinner, dead birds, neck nominations, and those kind of ridiculous trends, to rant about anything else on your status is ok (I’m using these as a vague comparison)

The point I’m trying to make is, people aren’t always ok. Sure there is always somebody worse off but how much worse than Carol can you get? Just because one person hurts differently shouldn’t devalue the feelings of others. Just because we don’t deem Carol’s depression relevant, doesn’t mean it isn’t. None of us have the monopoly on who feels worse.

A lot of us have grown up during a time where talking about your feelings was deemed over the top, or melodramatic and yet here we are now countering it, telling our kids to open up, then vilifying someone else’s for doing just that. Eye rolling with the inconvenience of having to read someone else ‘drama’ on social media. Cheer up Carol for fucks sake!

But Carol didn’t cheer up.

I’ve been both the oversharer (no shit) and the person who moans profusely about people sharing their life stories (the hypocrisy isn’t lost on me)

In recent years I’ve tried to give myself a reprimand when it comes to being judgemental, however of course I still judge people. I just do it a lot more silently and with more compassion. We’re only human, nobody expects us not to have an opinion, but it’s important for me to try and reflect on how damaging our opinions can be when outwardly shared.

I came off Facebook for a long time, leaving only my blog open, because I battled internally about what was too much to share on my personal page when I felt at my weakest. I also took the lack of comments from people close to me as personal slights. Nobody cares about me. I’ve talked before about my insecurities so that won’t come as a shock.

Most of the time when we feel like opening up, or at least in my experience with it, we may just need to sound off and maybe it’s a cry for help, but predominantly it’s more about finding someone who gets ‘it’ rather than it being about seeking the attention of strangers in a bid to win the ‘who’s more depressed competition’

If you struggle to open up, when you finally do find the courage, hearing comments like ‘oh bore off’ ‘she/he’s such an attention seeker’ ‘drama queen’ and so on can be really damaging.

Of course we could all work harder to remain positive, to accept that life could be much worse and to moan less about trivial things, but we would also do well to listen more. To care more. To find a bit more compassion, and remember that mental illness whatever it stems from, whether it be trauma, a chemical imbalance, addiction, as a reaction to a personal circumstances, injury, WHATEVER it is still just that, an illness. Desperate people do desperate things, waiting until someone’s dead by suicide to give them the shout out you feel is obligatory on Facebook, is categorically too late. If they’re reaching out now, assume it’s genuine.

I’m also in no way implying we’re complicit in someone’s depression or suicide by not responding to their statuses or stories on social media. I simply mean – if you’ve got nothing nice to say, say nothing. And if you care about someone, let them know.

That was a rather long winded attempt at explaining the above 2 lines, but I hope it sinks in. Stop telling Carols everywhere to open up, then shaming them when they do.

And finally, if you are worrying about what you should be saying or doing. Don’t! People will judge you whatever your choices and actions, even the good ones, so just be yourself and keep talking about how you feel, because it’s your truth, and I’m almost certain, there’s someone out there who needs to hear it. ❤️

5 things not to say to someone with mental health problems.

1) But why are you depressed? What have you got to be depressed about.

Maybe nothing. Why have you got a cold when it’s warm outside? Getting the message? Things that seem trivial to some are huge for others and maybe there’s not a specific reason. Remember it’s a chemical imbalance, an illness like any other.

2) It could be worse, you need to think yourself lucky.

And you Karen, need to shut the fuck up. We know it could be worse. It could always be worse. But honestly, that’s irrelevant and unhelpful.

3) You just need to ______ (insert unsolicited advice here) go to the gym, eat better, go out more, lighten up. Etc etc.

Again, unhelpful and bordering on offensive. A) We may have already tried what you mention or B) We may not feel able or ready to tackle these ‘small’ things yet.

4) Chin up, cheer up, smile…

Suck a dick, eat shit…. see where I’m going with this?

5) At least you haven’t got____ or you’re lucky to have_____

Don’t state the obvious. This is the reason many people feel unable to speak out, in fear of being ridiculed or not taken seriously.

These things may seem obvious, they may seem a bit pedantic but to be frank, they could save someone’s life. In my experience someone who is really suffering mentally needs the opposite of what these words convey. They need a listening ear and empathy, not an I told you, you should… or a chin up! The age old saying sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, doesn’t apply to people with depression. All it takes is a little bit of rephrasing on your part. Nobody expects you to walk on egg shells but try to put yourself in that persons shoes and ask yourself if you would find the above 5 things helpful to hear in your time of need. If the answer’s no, stop saying them!

Mindfulness

As a rule I’m not very good at mindfulness. I don’t practise it anywhere near as often as I should. I know it’s proven to work for millions of people and I am trying to warm to it, but I’ve always been a bit skeptical assuming it borders on hippyish and that’s just not me.

However I realise now I’m wrong and actually it can be as simple as getting outside for ten minutes a day and taking stock.

Today I sat by the river working on my novel and applying for yet more jobs. Feeling absolutely exhausted with corporate bollocks and rejection. I’ve been attending interviews like it’s my full time job and I’m starting to take the knock backs personally.

If you know me, you’ll know I take everything to heart and have a real complex around rejection. I decided instead to try and be rational. Give myself some time to take in the beauty of today. I know it sounds über cheesy and it’s not what you think. I don’t chant mantras or meditate (not that there’s anything wrong with those things, it’s just not very me) instead I just sat watching the river, listening to the running water of the weir and gave myself a bit of a pep talk. I always try and be thankful for the big and small things in my life. Like I have a roof over my head, a beautiful family, we don’t live on the bread line (even if we are always skint) and it was important for me to remind myself of these things today. I am a professional, I will find a job that suits me soon, it’s just taking longer than I anticipated but that’s ok.

Mindfulness is about being present, focusing on your surroundings and calmly accepting your feelings. So that’s what I did and I felt all the better for it! I was only sat there an hour, it gave me just enough time to write a synopsis and edit my copy to 3000 words. It was also enough time to feel like I’d had a break, got outdoors, took in the fresh air and got a bit of ‘me’ time in. The sunshine helps and maybe I wouldn’t of made the effort to be mindful if I’d been stuck indoors, but I plan to, going forward to get in a few minutes of mindfulness everyday.

Hamster Wheel

Do you ever feel like your on a hamster wheel?

Round and round you’re turning but you still can’t seem to heal?

You’re doing what they say, talking and moving, eating drinking.

But you’re still not able to stop your mind from over thinking.

Intrusive thoughts they grow, as if from a planted seed.

They are watered daily by you, even given feed.

You want to stop the cycle but you’re not sure how.

You try to spread awareness but it doesn’t seem to help.

You feel like you are failing, as a mother and in life.

But you’re so not failing, I wish you could see.

How strong you are getting through everyday and going about your routine.

People don’t seem to notice, but don’t do it for them.

Do it for yourself, write a journal, grab a pen.

Whatever makes you feel better is an improvement, an act of self care.

Don’t let other people’s opinions ruin your hard work.

They aren’t you, they’re not there.

You’re doing so amazing, I wish that you could see.

To others, to me, just how strong you seem.

Anxiety Behind The Screen!

My experience with anxiety is, or at least has, been a parody of Prozac Nation. Have you ever watched it? It’s a film with Christina Ricci, I recommend it to anyone who feels like they’re going insane. I’ve learned over the years to control it better. I function these days for the most part, and it’s rarely all consuming as it was during my first panic attack.

I remember that day like it was yesterday, I was 14 years old, and maybe unsurprisingly, it came on after I’d been hacking a bong full of hash. But it wasn’t the stoned feeling that was scaring me and making me panic. It was every wrong thing I’d ever done in my life come back to haunt me in those moments. It was all the things that I couldn’t undo, couldn’t unsay. Teenagers do a lot of questionable things during adolescence and I was no exception. Those things now enveloped me and choked me as though I was dying. I was so swamped by thoughts of my failings I couldn’t breathe. I was physically trembling and my heart was beating so fast it’s a wonder it didn’t pop out of my chest.

For about two years following that first panic attack I was quite severely mentally ill. I had nightmares, I had obtrusive thoughts and my poor mum couldn’t leave the house without me phoning her every twenty minutes. Every time she did go out, I had convinced myself she was going to die and the fear of that was beyond what my young mind was able to rationalise. I was out of my depth, popping antidepressants like sweets and using everything in my power to numb the constant noise inside my head. I often wondered then if I was some kind of monster. If I had a kink in my armour that made me mental. If I deserved to feel so helpless and desperate every moment I was awake. I lost friends, my relationships with my family suffered and I feared everything.

Now I’m in my thirties plodding along with a bit more self control and the strength to be open (at least on paper) about how I’m feeling. That doesn’t mean I feel any less though. For example I have a hormone imbalance and when I’m feeling a dip, like now, I get a bit introvert. I actively avoid people and places. I don’t have any patience for small talk and I get irritated easily. Sounds like a bit of PMT eh? But it’s not just a bit of PMT it’s my life. The school run for instance is a nightmare for me this week. I’m really struggling with it. I don’t have a good network of school mum friends as yet and I feel like I have to keep part of myself, this part, hidden. For fear of judgement. So I avoid talking to people. I know you may think that’s silly but whether you believe it or not, there is still a stigma around mental health, especially mum’s with mental health problems. I’m trying hard not to take medication at the moment for other reasons, but yesterday morning, given my hormonally anxious state, I took a Valium to enable me to get through a meeting. I was sat in Pret A Manger drinking decaf coffee with sweaty palms and a knee twitch that I couldn’t stop. It worked (The Valium) and I did some self care by way of talking myself round. I don’t sit there chanting to myself or anything, I just try and focus on something else and remind myself there’s no reason to panic.

Some days it isn’t as easy as that to shake off those feelings of impending doom, even with the aid of a tranquilliser. The mind is a scary place, followed by you’re body’s reactive physical symptoms, you really do feel like you’re dying sometimes. I’ve had days where I’ve felt so out of control I’ve wanted to run away. Before I became a mum it was easier to hide. We all know the mental health service is practically non existent, extremely under funded and under resourced. You only have to try and get an appointment with a counsellor to realise how unlikely it is you’ll ever receive said appointment. All the more reason for us to be more mindful of each other, to look after ourselves. To learn new techniques to manage our symptoms. Of course intervention will in some cases, always be necessary, but there’s a lot we can do to help each other and ourselves too.

    Listen – Ask someone how they are and actually listen to the answer. Check in with your friend who’s gone a bit introvert. He/she might not reply straight away but they’ll know you care, and in times of anxiety that can be a real comfort.
    Practise Self Care – It sounds so cheesy doesn’t it? Self care! Breathing exercises and all that bollocks, but for some people these are a ritual that does the job and kicks a panic attack where it hurts before it’s taken hold. Cut yourself some slack too, rest when you’re stressed and do some feel good things, even when you don’t feel like doing them!
    Ask for help – I know I’ve given the psych services a bit of a bashing, but you don’t necessarily need a qualified professional to help you through a period of high anxiety. You might just need a friend. Tell someone. I am guilty of not doing this because it’s something I feel stupid for feeling, so although I’m able to write about it now, actually talking aloud is still a struggle.
    Don’t play it down– In doing so you’re lying to yourself too. You deserve to feel safe and if you don’t it’s ok to say you don’t.
    Think rationally– I know you must be reading this last one thinking, if it was that fucking easy I wouldn’t be panicking. But I don’t mean during an attack (well, then too if you can) but I mean the rest of the time. Tell yourself over and over again when you’re not in the midst of an attack why you don’t need to worry and why you’re not going to have another one. Psychosomatic!

I’m not an expert and everyone’s symptoms of anxiety will be different. I’ve said before and I’ll keep saying it, mental health doesn’t discriminate. There are hundred of different types of mental illness but they will all meet over lapping symptoms. We are each at risk of having some period of depression or high anxiety during our time on this earth, so we need to work together to educate people and ourselves. We need to mean it when we go around saying it’s ok to not be ok.

When you see this pic of me, perfect make up, fresh hair….. What do you see?

Do you see a happy girl?

A girl with her shit together?

Confidence?

If you answered yes to any of the above you’d be wrong. I got up this morning and it took me an age to feel like I looked ‘ok’ I’m not feeling my best at the moment.

I have no job so deffo don’t fall into the ‘shit together’ category, and my confidence is under par. My anxiety is bad, I’ve had about 4 hours of broken sleep and I’m tired. So fucking tired.

Moral of this post: Don’t assume. All is never as it seems. Looks are deceptive. You never really know what’s going on behind the screens.

Frank Bruno

On Saturday the 2nd March I had the pleasure of attending an evening with Frank Bruno. Being an avid boxing fan I was excited to hear about his bouts against the greats, such as Mike Tyson and Bone Crusher Smith, and of course his amazing win of the title against Oliver McCall. When these fight’s originally occurred I was very young so didn’t watch them first hand, I do however remember Mike Tyson Vs Frank Bruno 2. Purely because it was strange to have this on in my nan’s house, but there she was up late in all her glory on the date of 16th March 1996 with a Tia Maria in hand, watching this brutal rematch that would see Frank defeated a second time by the animal that is ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. Hearing Frank speak honestly about these fights often with huge respect for the other fighters was fascinating. Even after the grudge match with Lennox Lewis, Frank regarded him with respect. He also talked about current fighters such as Chris Eubank Jnr and Tyson Fury.

But for me, the most fascinating, heart wrenching and humbling part of the evening was hearing Frank talk about his battle with Mental Health and how he started the Frank Bruno Foundation, in a bid to ‘knock out’ the stigma that still surrounds mental health today. Frank spiralled into a depression after retiring from the great sport and following the break down of his marriage. He was victim to phone tapping and harassment from the media that made him feel as though he was ‘going mad.’ He was eventually sectioned for the first time in 2003. For years following this he suffered a long and debilitating battle with mental illness and described it as his ‘toughest fight.’ When asked how he overcame his demons, Frank’s reply was ‘I haven’t, but I fight very hard, I use fitness and determination to keep me going.’ I think that’s a really important message for anyone who thinks mental illness is some kind of excuse or elaboration, and believe me, sadly those people do exist. I urge those people to read Frank’s latest book Let Me Be Frank and then decide if you still feel this is some glorified publicity stunt. This is a man who has battled with some of the toughest men in history, but found battling with his mind so much tougher. You have to admire his strength and determination as well as his courage to speak out.

After the show on Saturday we had a photo opportunity with Frank so you can imagine my excitement. I patiently awaited my turn, thinking in my head of something to say, it was probably going to be the one and only time I got to speak to him so I wanted to say something memorable. Frank talked during the evening about his battle with antidepressant medication and how he was now 4 years medication free, I wanted to tell him about my own battle trying to withdraw from the same type of drugs, but there wasn’t enough time. All I was able to stutter when my turn came around was ‘Frank, I’m so excited, shit, everything you do for mental health is amazing’ and I truly meant it. For someone in his stature use his voice to promote health and well being for people who suffer mental illness is truly commendable. We all battle demons from time to time but we tend to put celebrities on pedestals or misunderstand their motives. Frank now has his own charity in The Frank Bruno Foundation and that charity works hard to really help sufferers. He makes no excuses for his illness, blames nobody for his failings and refers to his dad as his ‘hero’ it was a truly inspirational evening and I felt privileged to have been there, obviously I paid a premium for that privilege but it was worth it. It’s a night I will probably remember for the rest of my life. I think I may have found a new hero myself.

His parting line after being asked ‘ Who hit you the hardest Frank?’ Was ‘The Taxman.’ What a legend.