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Mental Health Real Life Stuff

Hold On

Hold on and have faith in whatever you believe in, be it god, yourself, the healing power of time, modern medicine or a combination of any or all of them. Hold on, because it’s all just temporary an none of it is real. It might feel real – unbearably so, but it isn’t. It is valid and it is legitimate and it should be acknowledged, but it isn’t real.

These moments of crushing despair, impending doom and a fear so thick you can feel it trying to strangle you, are all the figments of an unwell mind and you WILL come through it and you WILL get better…just hold on.

You won’t always feel this tired and life won’t always ache. You will move beyond this yearning for a quiet relief and a release from this malaise that makes your soul itch unrelentingly. Just hold on.

It’s okay if you don’t feel ready to race forward and embrace recovery. These things take time and you’re only ready when you’re ready. It’s as important to feel these feelings as it is to let them go.

You can’t just think yourself well again. If it were that simple we’d all be happy all of the time, because nobody would choose this. Life has its lessons and we all learn them in our own time. Don’t be hard on yourself if you aren’t getting better as quickly as you think you should be.  It takes as long as it takes and it can’t be rushed and that’s okay.

The most useful lesson I’ve learned is to be in the moment and have faith in the future. Once I stopped worrying that I’d never be okay again and trusted that I’d come out the other side. I relaxed into the moment and felt what I needed to feel. I cried my tears and had patience that if I held on, I would one day be okay again.

I’m certain there will be relapses, times in my life when the walls start closing in and it all feels like too much. It won’t always be sunshine and rainbows. But in those moments of chaos, to the best of my ability I will continue to hold on and trust that I will weather the storm as I have time and time again.

Hold on, because better days are coming and you deserve to be happy.

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Mental Health Real Life Stuff

Dear Me

We all have bad patches and they aren’t necessarily anything to be worried about, but when you are in the midst of them, they are all you can see, feel and believe.

Cartoon version of me with short red hair looks depressed.

Since coming off my anti depressants I have started to scrutinize every low mood, every bad day and every tear. Is this a relapse? Am I destined to once again being medicated? Or is this simply what life feels like when it is experienced raw, glaring and without a buffer?

Generally speaking I find it quite hard to write about things while I’m going through them. It’s only as I come out through the other side of it all, and I can see the situation from another perspective, that I feel I can go back and write it all down. I think that’s partly why I’ve been so quiet on the blog of late. I don’t want to tempt fate when things are going well, but then when the doubt creeps in, everything becomes too real, the water gets murky and I can’t bring myself to put pen too paper for totally different reasons.

But now I think I need to, because maybe that will bring me the clarity I’m hoping for. I appear to slipped backwards into old habits, becoming my own worst critic and seeing myself through whatever the opposite of rose tinted glasses might be. Crap tinted glasses? Disgust tinted glasses? Shame tinted glasses? Whatever the lens prescription, I have noticed myself doing it and I’m currently trying to prize them away before they become permanently fused to my head and require medical intervention to get them back off.

I don’t really get why I’m like this with myself when I’m so different with other people. I encourage and support other people and yet discourage and rebuke myself and then devalue my efforts. I know we all go through stuff, we all struggle.  So, once again comes the need to remove myself from the situation and view it from afar, as an impartial third party. When I consciously try I’ve learned to do it quite well.

Cartoon me with the word This is my life now.

For me one of the easiest ways to forgive my own shortcomings it’s try and imagine I’m talking to someone else, to afford myself the patience and compassion that I would extend to any other person.

And so, during this moment of clarity I have decided to write myself a letter and to read and reflect upon this when the self-loathing rears its head. When I can’t bear to be around myself anymore.

Cartoon me sitting at a desk with a quill writing a letter.

Dear Me,

I want to remind you that you are beautiful. You have a kind heart and although you struggle to believe it at times, you’re doing fine.

You matter and you have the right to exist and the right to be happy.

You try so hard to be a good person, you do your best to help other people when they need you and you try to write about the Demons in your head that would have you believe that you aren’t enough in order to help other people understand and fight the demons of their own. But the thing is, you are enough. It’s ok not to be ok. It’s ok to feel less than happy, it doesn’t mean you’re failing or relapsing it just means you’re human.

It’s ok to want Solitude from time to time, it doesn’t mean you’re turning into a hermit. Give yourself permission to say no thank you to say I need some me time.

Well done for stepping out of your comfort zone and daring to go to Liverpool by yourself and to stay in a hotel away from home on your own. That was a big deal for you and you should be proud of your achievement. Now you know you can do it give yourself permission to say no thank you if you don’t want to do it again. But you never know, the next time maybe easier and you might enjoy a little bit more. Either option is fine.

It’s ok that you didn’t feel a late at the moment you got home. Doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful for all deserving of the experience. Emotions take time to process and understand, and each day that passes give you a better view of the events that transpired and that elation and pride is starting to seep in.

Well done Claire, you did great.

Blips will happen and when they do don’t panic. Wait it out. Read this letter. You’ve come so far and you have a bright future ahead of you if you just believe nothing is permanent and everything is possible.

Trust in yourself because you’ve come this far, you can carry on and you can do great things.

Keep on keeping on the Claire, I’m proud of you, I believe in you and I love you.

– Me

Cartoon me smiling and the words Love Ya

 

 

Categories
Forward Thinking Mental Health Real Life Stuff

Another Day In Paradise

It’s a beautiful day and something in my soul that has been dormant for far too long is waking up.  The magic of the mundane is begining to glisten like the sunlight on morning dew and I am feeling renewed. For too long I have been sleepwalking through each day, ignoring the ordinary beauty and the wonder that makes up the patchwork quilt we call life. I don’t know if I became depressed because I stopped noticing the beauty, or if I stopped noticing the beauty because I became depressed, but somewhere along the road, I put my head down and  my blinkers on and just kept looking forward trying to find my way out of the fog. But today, I felt as if the fog was lifting.  I could see colour again, and feel, really feel…joy once more.

Never the sort of person that can just enjoy the moment for what it is, I started reflecting on this and why I was again able to tap into my happiness and what feels like a soul level. What was it?  Well, I think the catalyst that started this all off is I started to care about myself again.  My lovely friend Nicola started selling Bodyshop Products and I wanted to support her in her venture so I started buying bits here and there.  And because I’d bought them, it seemed logical that I should use them. And each time I used them, I was subconciously affirming to myself I mattered, I was important, I deserved love. So it took it a step further and intentionally directed loving thoughts towards myself when using my Bodyshop products and wonderful things followed.

As I started feeling better about myself I started taking better care of myself too.  I started eating better, cut out the junk food (not deliberately, I just stopped desiring it) and I’ve rediscovered my love for aromatherapy and all things hippy-dippy.  I’ve started wearing funky eyeshadow again and feeling like I like the person I am.  I’m reading books and going for walks and enjoying the colourful world that envelops me.

For the first time in a long time I feel as if I am recovering from this depression as opposed to just adapting to it and it feels wonderful. For the first time in a long time I feel like I could possibly get better, and thrive, not just survive. I feel like I could have a life filled with confident happiness, not fear. With our without the tablets (we’ll see) I feel like I have a chance of a great future and it all started with a bit of pampering and TLC.

Love yourself, because when you do, amazing things can happen.

 

 

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Mental Health Real Life Stuff

Ponderings

I hadn’t planned on writing about Mental Illness again for a while but I’ve been having a bad couple of weeks and it got me thinking…what if I’ll never be rid of this?

People live with conditions that can’t be cured, only managed, all the time.  What if this is one of those?

What if this is just how I am, forever?

The tablets, that seemed to be a miracle cure, have stopped being quite as effective as they were.  Is this just a bad patch?  Am I going to be able to climb back up again?  Or actually, is this just a normal thing that happens to everyone? I get confused as to what I should be feeling while I’m taking my medication.  Should I be feeling happy, elated, sad or desolate?

Should I be feeling anything at all?

I look around at everyone else and wonder if they struggle as I do.  If this is normal? If I am normal?

I feel things too deeply, I think too much, I go over and over it all in my head until I’ve forgotten what exactly it was I was worrying about in the first place.

I want to stop taking the tablets, I know that isn’t going to happen.  I’m not well and this is a real condition, it’s not in my head (except it is) and I need medicine to help me control my intensely low mood.  But, even with it, the self-doubt creeps in.

I’m not good enough, I don’t do enough, I can’t cope with enough, I am not enough.

And it feels so ridiculous that I would feel this way because my life is wonderful.  I am happy, I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful dog and wonderful family and friends.  I enjoy my job (save for the moments when I lose faith in myself and start to believe I’m no good at it).  I have no justification to feel the way I do and that’s how I know it’s an illness, because if I was well, I wouldn’t feel this way.

Life is a tightrope between tears and laughter and it’s hard to stay balanced.  Ultimately, this is me and that isn’t going to change any time soon but I’ll keep treading the rope and moving forward.

I know I’m not the only person to feel this way.  I know there are so many of us out there.  Perhaps this IS normal. Just needed to get that out there. Keep on keeping on guys, we got this!

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Mental Health Real Life Stuff

When You Assume You Make An Ass out of You, Not Me!

I’m in two minds about what to write here today so I’m going to go with both because both points are important and both points are valid.

So, where to begin?  Well, I was recently (and not for the first time) in the rather undesirable position of being asked by a well-intentioned stranger when my baby was due. Great, thanks for asking, except I’m not pregnant, nor have I ever been. God It upset me. I was inconsolable.  At the time I awkwardly laughed it off with a brave face and a throwaway comment about just being fat, but when he had gone I sat and I cried.

I went home and I cried some more. Then I had a couple of glasses of wine and I cried into them until it was time for bed at which point I cried myself to sleep.  I woke the next morning and cried some more, until finally at around 10 am I snapped out it and started to realise his words didn’t matter.

Until I had processed everything and cried it out of my system, nothing anyone could say was going to make me feel any better.  I felt ashamed, ugly, worthless, unattractive and grotesque. Not that I think pregnant ladies are any of those things but their bellies are swollen with human life, as opposed to burgers and trapped wind.

I decided I needed to write it all down but I wasn’t sure if I should write about the power of your words and how you should be thoughtful and kind when choosing them, or, if I should write about the fact that we are the ones who give power to other people’s words by choosing to let them hurt us.  Well, after some thought I’ve gone with both, and here’s why.

They are both true.

You, as a human being have a moral responsibility to not be an arse. By all means be assertive, insist on being treated fairly and demand good service, but don’t be an arse!  Saying hurtful things out of spite is not big and it’s not clever and your words can do real damage, so cut it out, immediately.  That’s not the issue here though.

Thoughtlessness can be more damaging than horridness.  In my case, a person asking me if I was up the duff, with child, had a bun in the oven, was having a baby, was hurtful on many levels. It made me feel like I must look bloated and fat for somebody to assume this when the only bun in my oven are the Belgian, and from Gregg’s.

If you are commenting on somebody’s appearance keep it polite.

“You look nice” – Safe

“You look pretty” – Safe

“I like your hair” – safe.

“Are you storing small human in your distended abdomen?” – RISKY!

If somebody is pregnant and they want you to know, they will probably tell you. So, unless a woman is holding a picture of an ultrasound whilst pointing at her belly and saying the words “I am pregnant”, don’t ask her because, odds are it’s only a matter of time until you’re wrong and you get a slap.

On the other side of this though, is the thinking that I could have chosen to just say, no, this is just me and I’m me shaped. I am no different to how I was in the seconds before this inaccurate assumption was made. I was happy and confident(ish) and generally feeling good about myself. Why should this person’s opinion affect or alter anything? I’m exactly the same person. Literally NOTHING has changed!

So, I can either cry into my wine or I can hold my head high and say, actually, I’m awesome.  Quite frankly, life is too short for watered down wine.

Cheers.

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40by40 Mental Health Real Life Stuff

Look Who’s Back…

You may or may not have noticed I’ve been somewhat quiet on the blogging front of late.  I very deliberately took a bit of a break from it all as I was putting too much pressure on myself.

Now I’m at a point I feel ready to get back on the proverbial horse and carry on with my journey.

So, what’s been happening with me in the two months since I last checked in?  Well, I wrote a book (actually I wrote it about 14 years ago but who is counting) and then I got it published via Amazon as an e-book, with a paperback version to follow shortly.

I became an auntie!  My brother and sister-in-law have a beautiful baby girl who is the motivation I needed to get my book published and I cannot tell you how happy I feel to be Auntie Claire.

I’m still taking Sertraline and for the majority of the time it seems to be helping immensley.

I’m gradually ticking off my 40 by 40 which is both surprising and impressive.  Those who know me know how flightly and whimsical I tend to be.

I’ve been asked, and have agreed, to take part in a video about mental health and the stigma around it. Watch this space for that one. I’ll put up a link as soon as it’s finished.

That’s about it for now but I’m happy to say I have the urge to put pen to paper again and I promise I’ll make sure I write more often.

Claire xx

Categories
Mental Health

Agitation

One of the tell-tale signs that I’m heading for an anxiety attack is an intense feeling of agitation.  Everything is heightened and everything is irritating.

Sounds are amplified to an unbearable level.  People breathing, chewing, speaking. Children crying, all of them claw at me as the noise swells and swells until I can hear my own heart beating and the blood rushing past my ears. I can’t concentrate as the noises swim around in my head. Voices competing to be heard and are lost in the din. I’m stood in the middle of a motorway surrounded by swarms of traffic, trying to find a safe way to cross but never quite finding a gap.

I can’t walk quickly enough. I’m desperate to escape but unsure where to go or what exactly it is I’m trying to flee from. I want to run but I’ve nowhere to go because wherever I went, this would surely follow.

Everything feels more intense.  The heat is too hot, the cold is too cold, my skin feels sore and flush and electric and painful.

My eyes struggle to focus, not really knowing where to look. Everything is unbearably loud and yet, muffled and unintelligible. I can’t pick out the sound I am supposed to be hearing from the ones that are imposing and chaotic.

My brain rattles in my head and I want to lash out or run and hide. Fight or flight is kicking in and it’s only a matter of time before a full blown panic attack invades my entire being, knocks me out of the way and takes over without me being able to do a thing to stop it.

But sometimes I see the signs and the patterns and I can step in and intervene on my own behalf. I’m getting better at this, feeling it coming like a wave and stepping out of it’s path before it knocks me over.

It happened yesterday while I was in town and I managed to stop it. This was a huge victory for me, but more amazingly than this, nobody else seemed to notice.  I could have told them and perhaps I should have, but I didn’t and instead of focusing on all the things and feelings that were driving me to distraction, I breathed.  I breathed deeply and I sipped water and took a bit of time to be silent and to focus on something other than where I was and I came through it unscathed.

Next time I might not manage it and that’s okay because this time I did and that’s something for me to feel happy about.

Anxiety is a war, not a battle.  Sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t.  It’s all okay as long as we keep trying.  Trying to win back the terrain that is our true self.  That is the real victory.

Never give up.

 

Categories
Mental Health

Everything Changes

I hate change, or at least I’m not very good at it.  I’ve never liked it and have always found it unsettling.  Whether it was starting at a new school, a new job, a new relationship there would be the anxiety, the tears and the sure and certain knowledge I’d fail. It would disorientate me and knock me off my feet leaving me swimming, unable to find the ground beneath me.  I would flounder and gasp and try to swim until I was able to grope and grapple my way back to the surface and clamber back to solid ground.

Those are the hard parts, the moments where the ground starts to shift and I have to try to rediscover my surroundings, keeping my head above water, trying not to let anyone down and never letting anyone see that I’m flailing.

I’m not sure if it’s genuinely change that scares me or the likelyhood of failing but either way, things do change and that’s life. Without change there’d be no progress and no growth. As scary as it is, we have to try and move with the current or we’ll drown fighting against it. The question is how?  How do we do the thing that scares us most?  

I’m coming to realise in the bits in between that the way to deal with it is simply to do what comes next.  Don’t worry about the distance left to travel, focus on the next step. Do what needs doing now, the rest will fall into place in time (and if it doesn’t you can deal with that when it comes along).  If you just keep doing what’s next, not looking forward beyond that, you’ll be amazed when you look back and see how far you’ve come.  I know, because I just looked back and realised that actually, despite a minor setback I’m doing okay.  My head is what it is and I may struggle in areas but in others I’m good at what I do. I just need to give myself the space to do it.

A caterpillar doesn’t sit and fret about how it’s going to transform into a butterfly. If it did it would drive itself mad with worry.  After all, how exactly does one grow wings and fly?  The caterpillar just caterpillars along doing whatever it is that a caterpillar does and it lets life takes care of the rest. 

Life can seem very overwhelming but I think that’s partly because we jump from here to there in our mind in one giant leap, not allowing ourself time to grow into the changes, expecting a caterpillar to fly.

Everything will be okay, it always is. We just need to worry less, swim with the current, fly when we’re ready, take the paths to unknown destinations one step at a time and trust that the details will work themselves out.

Categories
Mental Health

Blip

I stopped writing and I think that’s where it all went wrong. Everything got too big. It built up and up and had nowhere to go and I began to implode. Often when I need to write most I find it hardest to do. I start worrying that what comes out wont be good enough.  Anyway, why would anyone want to read about the living disaster that is my ill-functioning brain? If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. Ride out the bad and wait until you have something positive to say, something worth offering.  Something that can help. Suffer in silence. Don’t practice what you preach.

It’s 12.17pm and I’m sitting on the sofa with Dolly-Dog curled up on my feet like a furry hot water bottle.  I’m taking my Citalopram and wishing I could be normal, all the while knowing there’s no such thing, or rather, there is and this is it.

The good days outweigh the bad ones now and I’m grateful for that, but somehow it seems to make the bad ones worse because I appear to have forgotten how to deal with them.  They seem like a bigger set back than they should, than they are…

My head itches inside. Everything gets over-analyzed to the point where I regret each utterence, each action.  I feel idiotic.  My stomach lurches, my chest feels tight as if it has been gripped by an invisible force that is trying to squeeze the life out of me.

Anxiety has got me again.

It crept up on me, stealthily stalked me.  I couldn’t see or hear it coming and then it was too late. Now I have to ride it out and try to wrestle back control of myself.

This is real but it isn’t permanent.

The adreniline is real. The accelerated pulse, the tears that cling to every moment, waiting to fall, the fear of an unknown foe, the shallow breaths.

Damn my irratic, imbalanced brain.

Does this really have to be my reality?

Yes, for now, but not forever. Not permanently.

I’ll be okay again.

Categories
Mental Health

Storms


Storms may ravage us, but we can rebuild.

It was the day after storm Doris and the air wass fresh, the sky blue, the birds were singing, and everything felt serene. If somebody had just arrived, they would have had no idea of the violence of yesterday’s weather.

That’s how I feel when a low has passed. The serenity, the calm, and the sense of hope that I can start building again. I can begin to put back together that which the wind has torn asunder. It might never be as it was, I might never be the same but I can rebuild, make something new, maybe something better.

When we are inside it, it feels like we won’t make it out alive. The meloncholy, the pain of a grief that you don’t understand the bewilderment of not wanting to feel this way but somehow feeling solace in the familiarity of it all.  We don’t know when the wind will ease or if there is worse to come. The uncertainty is the worst part.

As the wind blows us this way and that, we feel we wont ever find peace. We are lost at sea.
When the winds drop, the rain stops and the skies clear, that is the moment to take control. Do it before the next storm comes.  Start learning about the climate of your mind.  Learn the signs before the next low comes.  Learn how to build a sea wall, a stronger roof.

The trees that don’t blow down in then wind aren’t the strongest ones or the most steadfast but the ones that move with the wind, that let themselves be flexible. We have to be the same.  If something isn’t working we need to find new ways to do it.  We need to move with the wind of our circumstance.

If you can weather the storm, brighter days and better things will come. When you’re in it, it doesn’t feel that way.  The eye of the storm is a dark, silent, lonely place. How could you believe it would ever end or improve? The truth is, you can’t. All you can do is keep fighting, keep moving forward with your head down, braced against the wind. I don’t mean keep going as if nothing is wrong. Ask for help, tell someone you aren’t okay. There is strength in numbers.