Mental Health

What’s The Meaning Of All This?

During my 38 years on this planet, I have often pondered the meaning of life.  I have asked myself time and again – “why am I here and what is my purpose?”

I would drive myself mad trying to work out what the grand plan was. Would I be destined for greatness? Was I here to save a life, to make an amazing discovery? To become an artist or a musician? I had no idea, so I just got a normal job, led a normal life and did the best I could.

I stopped asking the question “what is the meaning of all this?”

The years passed. I carried on each day, riding a figurative roller coaster.  Up one minute, down the next, seeing things wonderful and terrible.

I tore myself apart for not being good enough, not being pretty enough and not being enough in general.  I tried to shape myself into all the things I thought I should be, worrying more about the wrapping than the gift inside.  For years and years I loathed myself for my inadequacy.

The bits between now and then are sprinkled throughout the stories you will find in my blog.  I won’t elaborate on them here, but from the lows and the highs and everything that falls between, here is what I’ve learned.

Happiness comes when you relax. Sometimes I dress up, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I wear make up and sometimes I go out with a bare and exposed face. Both are okay and nobody has died from seeing me as I am beneath the mask.

Happiness comes when you love.  When you love yourself and you love other people, life is better. Spending time working on being beautiful on the inside is more important than a flat stomach or a thigh gap. We will, God willing, grow old. Things will droop, but as long as our heart remains perky we will be okay.

Happiness comes from doing what you love. For me it is writing and sharing my stories in the hope it can bring solace, comfort and inspiration to another person. Find a pursuit you love and embrace it. If you can’t do it for a living do it as a hobby. Who knows where it could lead you. Even if it goes nowhere, your heart will be full while you are lost in joy.

Happiness comes when we grow. We aren’t perfect – nobody is. Where would be the fun in that?  Challenge yourself.  You don’t need to burst through your boundaries but stretch them a little.  Learn a new chord, write a new song, learn a new dance routine or in my case, buy a domain name for your blog and put yourself out there. Challenge yourself and feel proud that you did.  Whether you achieve what you set out to do or you don’t, you will have tried and that is amazing.  That is what matters.

So, when I think about the meaning of life I think of all these things and realise it is surprisingly simple and profound.

Be happy and love each other in every way you can.

I genuinely love you all and hope you do too because you are special and beautiful and full of magic.

Shine brightly.


Mental Health

Recovery Is…

Recovery is the space in between.  The peaceful moments that separate anxiety attacks and depressive episodes.

Recovery is knowing you may go through it all again, but understanding you will come out the other side stronger and more equipped to deal with it the next time.

Recovery is learning about yourself and what makes you tick.  Learning your triggers, knowing the warning signs so you can take yourself out of the situation while the power is still yours; before the depression or the panic takes the reigns.

Recovery is taking each day as it comes with no expectations and no judgement.

Recovery is knowing you matter.  Knowing that your condition doesn’t devalue your worth and your importance.

Recovery is being kind to yourself and respectful of the fact you have a condition. Loving that bit of yourself too, because it is a part of who you are.

Recovery is having a panic attack, but not berating yourself afterwards.

Recovery is feeling comfortable enough to know and respect your boundaries and finding ways to work within them whilst still moving forward.

Recovery is ongoing and continuous.

Recovery is a lesson to be learned and an oportunity to grow.

Recovery is wonderful.

Recovery is yours for the taking.

Mental Health

Once Upon a time 

Chapter One

I once lived with someone and she was awful. She wouldn’t let me eat and she tried to control every decision I ever made. Whenever she looked at me the criticism would begin.

“You’re fat”.

“You’re ugly”.

“You’re fat and you are ugly. Nobody will ever love you”.

At first I would try not to listen, but over time she got louder and more persistent, more aggressive and much more spiteful.  She controlled what I ate (if I ate) And when. Little by little, so I didn’t even notice, she took over my entire life.  At first it was small things like treats and snacks…

“You shouldn’t eat that… think of your figure”.

Sometimes I’d ignore her warnings and eat them anyway but then I’d spend the rest of the day listening to her screaming and berating me.  In the end it just became easier to submit to her will.  She broke my heart, my spirit and my mind until I had no idea how to move away from her. I didn’t know how to exist without her in my life.

I gave my confidence away to her a piece at a time until it was all gone. She locked it away in a cupboard and wore the key around her neck like a medal.  She was the victor and I was defeated.

If I wanted to go out I would need to strike up the most elaborate of bargains. 2 hours exercise for a low calorie meal out with friends.  She would always have to come along, the gooseberry nobody wanted, but couldn’t seem to shake.  Making sure I didn’t cheat or have too much fun.  Whenever I spoke, she would snigger and snort with disgust, mimic my words back to me over and over so I’d know how stupid I sounded.

I was tired all the time – tired of her, tired of life.  She didn’t care.  She hated me and needed me to suffer.  It was exhausting and I was exhausted.  I would see people laughing, enjoying life, enjoying food and wish I could have some of that happiness, but my companion had convinced me by now that one bite of food would result in an immediate weight gain and render me even more unlovable than I already was.  She had convinced me that I had nothing of worth to contribute to the world.  The only hope I had of having any value in society was to follow her rules.  I stopped going out. I cried a lot.  I battled against food when I should have been battling her.  Every meal was a major decision. A debate, a panic, attack, nausea and tiny bites. It was horrible.  She was always there.

Chapter Two

I once lived with someone.  She moved in first and I saw there was a vacancy so I moved in shortly after. My god, she was pathetic. She would believe anything I told her and since I like to mess with people’s heads we were a great match.  I’d tell her she was fat and the stupid woman believed me. I’d say she was ugly and dead inside and she’d believe that too – not at first because these things take time so I had to chip away.  Little by little she gave herself away.  Sometimes she cried and that disgusted me, she was so weak. Sometimes she’d try and stand up to me and that would enrage me more – HOW DARE SHE!

Sometimes I’d scream angrily at her and others little whispers were more effective.

Ugly girl. Fat girl. Stupid Girl. Useless Girl. Lazy Girl. Nothing Girl.

After a time it stopped being a game.  I genuinely hated her and I needed her to go, to move out and take her patheticness with her.  The snivelling, the tears, the constant fear that she seemed to wallow in irritated me. All I could do was continue to control her in the hope she would turn into a more bearable companion.

Some chance!

Chapter Three

I knew I couldn’t carry on like this.  One of us had to leave.  I thought it would most certainly be me.  I was so weak, so tired from trying to fight a much stronger foe. An opponent that had me completely controlled and trapped in a house she had painted grey. She had locked all the doors and closed the curtains.

But, as luck would have it, even when the curtains are closed sometimes a crack is all that is needed to let enough light shine inside to show you a way out.  For me, that light was a book  It wasn’t about anxiety, depression, eating disorders or how to get rid of an annoying housemate.  It was about love and hope and kindness and joy and it was so profound that it spoke to my soul and made me believe that it was actually possible to climb out of the pit of despair I had fallen into..

A joyful spark resonated within me and started to grow.  It was a slow process and the companion I lived with stayed with me for a long time, shouting her abuse, manipulating my thoughts and undermining my confidence. But over time I learned how to pay less attention to her and more attention to me.  I was able to ignore the nasty comments and the mockery more often that I was responding to them.  I was remembering who I was, growing stronger and stronger until one day I looked for her and found she was gone. I started to do things again, to find joy in things.  I was able to love myself a little bit and to eat without guilt or self loathing.

Chapter Four 

I’m not sure what changed, but one day she started getting stronger.  I tried screaming louder.  I tried being more cruel. I tried so hard to keep my grip around her neck, but she stepped back and refused to listen. I kept trying and every now and then I’d get through. She would cry or give up for a time, but then she’d get back up again, faster and stronger. The game wasn’t fun any more. I’d had enough and there was no point sticking around so I packed my things and walked away without a word.

Chapter Five

I put some paint on the walls, bright and beautiful. I was waking up as if from a long sleep.  I opened the curtains, unlocked the door, stepped outside and took a deep breath.  The colours were stunning, the air sweet and the world beautiful once again.  I stepped forward, ready to take my place back in the world, to be a beautiful part of it and to live my life happily ever after.

The book I read, if anyone would like to read it is The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. It isn’t a religious book but it is a spiritual one and although it isn’t about how to beat depression or anorexia or anything else, I do credit it for helping me turn the corner to start on the path to wellness. It’s definitely worth a read.


Mental Health

A Change is as Good as a Rest

Well, here we are. We have moved to this shiny new bit of internet and here’s why…

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and I’ve had Joyful Spark for just over a year. In that time a lot has changed, not least of all me. I have grown as a person and as a writer.

I have gone from hating and resenting my own mind to embracing and understanding it . Learning all about mental illness and self care. From feeling embarrassed and ashamed of who I am, to feeling proud for what I have had the strength to overcome and sharing every aspect of it in a bid to help others going through similar things and raise awareness in those who fortunately never have.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer but never felt like I had anything worthwhile to say. As it turns out, when you write about what you know, it’s actually quite interesting.

And so, since my ultimate aim is to one day write a book and since I seem to be sticking at it and people are actually enjoying the things I write, I have taken the plunge and here we are.

So, pull up a chair and get comfortable.  Let’s pick up where we left off…

Mental Health

A New Year Revolution

Yes, you read that correctly. 2017 has arrived and brought with it, once again, the promise of a new start. A chance to wipe the slate clean and recreate a happy new you.

Shop windows are adorned with pictures of salad eating, sportswear clad people utilising all kinds of ungodly exercise equipment. Telling us that we can and more than that, should, starve and sweat our way to being something more desirable.

Adverts for gyms, low fat foods, diet supplements and meal plans all shout the message loud and clear. We need to change. Well I’m saying the only thing we need to change is our attitude towards ourselves.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to improve and grow. By all means if we want to tone up or lose weight or whatever, we should do that. We should however do it because we want to and not because January says we should. As far as health fads and weight loss goes, thin doesn’t necessarily mean happy. I’ve been thin and it was one of the most joyless times in my life. That’s not to say I was miserable because I was thin, that had nothing to do with it, but the two don’t go together and losing 2 stone isn’t going to be the magic wand we are programmed to believe it is.

If we have indulged at Christmas and gained a bit of insulation I’m pretty sure it’s going to drop off once we return to our normal routine. We don’t need to join a gym that we will got to for a month and pay for until the end of the year. We don’t need to starve ourselves with grapefruit diets and carrot sticks. Life is short and you’d better believe I’m going to eat cake!

The most unhealthy thing about a January health kick is the way it can make us feel – like we aren’t okay as we are, we aren’t enough. What is that about? We are fine as we are and we need to celebrate what makes us who we are, not try to change that person.
Happiness comes from within so if you want to throw yourself head first into a pursuit, let it be to find what motivates you, what stirs your soul and makes you excited to get up each day. Or to find a place of quiet contentment within you that you can enjoy in each moment of your being.

Let’s embrace our so called imperfections, they are souvenirs from a life well lived and of lessons learned. They are evidence of our happy moments and our battle scars from victories won. Let’s be proud of all we have achieved, however small or insignificant we might feel it is. It’s brought us here to this moment.

What if instead of trying to change who we are we use that energy to look back at how far we have come? Look at everything we have achieved in the last year and try to build on that. Resolve to accept ourselves and love the bits we struggle to love.

I for one will be happy and comfortable in my size 16 clothes and the body that lies beneath them. As for the person that lives inside all that, well I bloody love her too!

Don’t try to change who you are, celebrate it, because you’re amazing.

Happy New Year Everyone, be kind to yourselves.