That Friday Feeling.

That Friday Feeling.

For the last couple of years I’ve been in the dark as to what that Friday feeling is. I was glad that my friends, family and partner would be around; but as far as my life went, the weekends were much the same as the week.Now that I’ve returned to university and spend the week in lectures or under pressure to prepare for the next day’s topic, I suddenly understand this concept a lot better.

I’ve done a lot of things this week that I’m proud of, and a lot that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve gone to lectures in rooms full of strangers without having a panic attack. I’ve learnt how to use a new library system and have stayed ahead of the reading. I’ve joined the Creative Writing Society and found a group who are starting a Board Games Society. I’ve made a few friends and learnt a few things – but it won’t be Historic facts that I disclose in this series of Friday blogs.

I want to talk about life at university, things I’ve learnt from my first year (all those years ago) and things I’ve learnt from what I did differently this time around. So on this Friday when I’ve chosen not to continue studying, I’ll talk about overworking!

I’ve mentioned in my mental health blogs the importance of caring for yourself, but in the context of university this can be tough. We’ve got a library which is open until late which contains more books than we could read in a lifetime, online journals which mean we don’t even need to move in order to access materials, and looming deadlines which get closer far too quickly. There’s also the possibility of doing the opposite – of spending every hour drinking or hanging out with our new friends and forgetting what we’re spending £9000 on.

As a workaholic I’m prone to the first, and have help organising my schedule to ensure I don’t work too hard. But what if you don’t have this help? I’d advise making a schedule and plotting in everything you have to do that week.

  • Lectures
  • Key reading (lecture prep)
  • Meetings
  • Work (if you have a job)
  • Social Activities

Key Reading: Your lecturer will sometimes advise reading for you to do before the next lecture, I’d encourage you to do this as it helps you feel more confident during the lecture and can save time later

Social Activities: Try not to sign up to every society and show up to every meeting, it’ll get crazy! But do sign up to one or two, it’s a great way of making friends with people who share hobbies or interests. Most of my friends from first year are actually dance friends who I met at a society.

 

So what am I doing differently? I’m listening to my own advice! I’m someone who studies too much if left to my own devices so I’m being disciplined with myself while keeping one eye on those approaching deadlines. Working too much drained me the first time round and made me so ill I had to leave, but likewise working too little could end in the failure of modules with essentially the same result. Keep it balanced 🙂

What About God?

What About God?

For some of you, perhaps even most, God is a subject in which you have little or no interest. For me, it’s a subject in which I’m interested but slightly afraid of. I’m not trying to force God onto you, but I thought those who are interested should have an opportunity to hear about suicide from this point of view.

My friend Sharon has written a guest blog which I hope sheds some light on the subject for those of you who give it a read.

Suicide + God = ??

For many the question of God’s view of suicide is far from relevant – you may have long given up on any hope of a God of love. For others the niggling fear of hell may begin to raise the God issue. From the outset I am going to be entirely honest with you – I am a Christian and not just one of those nominal Christians. I am a passionate and dedicated follower of Jesus Christ. So yes, what I write will be entirely biased by my convictions about God and his unfailing love for you. It will be biased by my absolute belief that God not only loves you but cares for you and declares your life as precious; that he is in the business of making beauty from ashes.

It is not for me to explore the morality of any form of suicide but I believe God wants to speak to the emotional and spiritual distress that can lead to suicide. Suicide is not the killer, it is the hopelessness, loneliness, self-hatred and despair that pervades the soul and squeezes out any signs of life. God wants to bring hope and life, to bring light into the darkness. He wants to convey to you NOT disappointment or frustration but unyielding love and compassion. Come as you are, call out to him – God is there and wants to be found.

Sharon

More information on mental health from this perspective.

Podcast by a church leader who lost a son to suicide

Christian helpine: open 9am-midnight.

Finding Support.

Finding Support.

Have you noticed that humans are normally drawn to people who seem similar, or have something in common with themselves? I certainly do… When I walk into a room by myself the first thing I scope out (after the toilets) is people I think I might get along with. People around my age, or people dressed in a similar style, people reading a book I’ve read or someone I overheard talking about something that I like. Why? Because we aren’t supposed to go through life alone. We are like magnets, we’re pulled towards other people so that we can share burdens as well as joy with them. So that we don’t have to do it all by ourselves. Even if you’re very introverted you probably still have a couple of friends who you’re happy to chat with, you still don’t want to be entirely alone. Nobody does if they’re honest with themselves.

When you’re dealing with suicidal feelings, or even if you’re just feeling a bit down; the worst thing for you is to try and cope without any support. There are people out there who we can talk to who understand what we’re going through. Charities such as the Samaritans are great for this, they’re empathetic and kind on the phone and they even offered to have me over for a cuppa once. If you don’t want to talk to someone you know about how you’re feeling it’s worth giving them a call. There are other people too, doctors can refer you to mental health teams or give you medication which might help, at least in the short term. There are also online support groups: on facebook there are groups for people with all sorts of diagnoses which are great for getting support from people who know exactly what you’re going through.

Family and friends are the best support you can get though. Even when they don’t understand what you’re feeling, they’ll still want to help and they’ll do their best. If you don’t want to talk about it I’d still recommend giving someone a call, they could pop over and bring ice-cream, you could go out for a coffee or a walk. Do something you’d normally like with them, without the worry of having to discuss how you’re feeling and it’ll help more than you’d expect.

If you’re supporting someone with mental health problems, or someone who’s just having a bad week; try to respect their wishes. If they don’t want to talk about it why not just watch a movie with some snacks instead and just be there. If they don’t want to go out why not go to their house, have a night in and just hang out with them. And if they do talk, just listen. You might not be able to solve all of their problems, but having someone there to help them get it out of their system, even if they need a rant, is good enough.

What I’m advising is not to try and do this without help. Life is a constant battle, and you wouldn’t send someone into battle without an army. Build it around yourself and let your friends help you to fight! It’s too hard to keep fighting on your own.

Settling down.

Settling down.

Well I didn’t get rid of the cat, seems like they love the stupid creature so it isn’t going anywhere. I’ve tried working on her so that she’ll just leave but that isn’t working either. No matter how much I chase her around and get on her nerves she sticks around like the rodent she is. I’ve discovered that I kind of like the danger anyway, winding her up until she hisses at me is a bit scary but it’s a pretty intense buzz. The adrenaline kicks in and I run (faster than her) but I can always come back for more later.

I chase dogs too sometimes. When mum takes me to the field and unhooks me from the lead I get to run free. There are normally loads of other dogs around and I get to make some friends while the cat’s locked in at home. She can’t steal attention while I’m at the field. They take me to training too, it’s a bit like school and can be a bit of a drag sometimes. But – oh boy! The treat quota while I’m there is heavy. All I have to do is touch a hand with my nose, or maybe sit down and clickclick there’s a treat for me. Easy.

I got a new bone this week, bright yellow and deeeee-licious. I pretend it’s cat flavoured and rip it to shreds. She should be scared and run away but I don’t think she realises. It doesn’t really matter though, she spends most of her time curled up on a dining-room chair sleeping. I’ve never seen anyone sleep so much in my life, there are so many things to do besides sleep! You can run, that’s my favourite. You can play tug of war or fetch. You can find one of the people and they’ll give you a good belly rub…

I love belly rubs. I try to keep my eyes open but it’s so heavenly it’s a tough job. They’ve used them to coerce me before though… into the bath! The worst experience. Come on Noche, there’s a good girl, ooh a nice doggy massage. NO. A nice doggy massage is a belly rub, it is definitely not having gooey sticky shampoo rubbed into my fur. Then they turn the water on and it hisses like the cat and rains on me! It’s warmer than rain which is better, but still not good. When I get out I always give myself a big shake all over them, serves them right for shoving me in the shower and getting me all wet.

But mostly it isn’t too bad here. I have my toys, my bed and my sofa. I have my people, and I don’t have to share them too much because I don’t actually think the cat’s that keen on their attention. I guess I’ll just have to get used to her… and those damn baths!

Loving Yourself.

Loving Yourself.

Did you know that the life of a pearl begins with a piece of grit? When grit gets inside of an Oyster shell, the oyster begins coating it in the material that makes a pearl. Despite its beginnings, pearls are valuable and desirable. People wear them around as jewellery and show them off.

Did you know that diamonds are found beneath tons of dirt?

Did you know that in order to find gold, we panned in dirty rivers?

Not only does this prove that everything precious has to be worked for; but this also shows that no matter how dirty or worthless you feel, it doesn’t make you worth any  less. You are precious and worth the work!

I’ve felt worthless. I’ve felt unloved. I’ve felt dirty.

When I was at my worst I did things to cope which only spiralled me further out of control. I did things which made me feel dirty, worthless and undeserving of love. I stopped loving and started playing games. So when you read this blog please don’t think that I’m perfect or that I find it easy  to love myself, it’s been a struggle for years. Take heart in the fact that I’ve got there, and since I’m no better than you – you can  get there too!

Take a look at yourself in the mirror. What do you like about yourself? At first everyone laughs or shrugs this off as though there’s nothing you love about yourself but if you look hard enough you’ll find something. I like my cheekbones, there’s a lot about myself that I don’t like the look of but I cling to the fact that I have good cheekbones. Even negatives can be turned into positives sometimes: I am a perfectionist which means it’s harder for me to reach a standard I’m happy with, but it also means that I work hard at everything I do in order to reach that standard.

It might be hard work, but trying to find something you love about yourself is worth the time and effort.

Now think about something that you regret, a mistake you’ve made. How does it make you feel? Maybe this is a layer of dirt that you think makes you less beautiful or less precious. I’ve done things that made me feel like this, and sometimes they still do; but I’ve figured out that this isn’t true. We all make mistakes, we’re humans and it’s our trademark! But these mistakes are nothing but a thin layer of dirt around a diamond – we are still worth the same. Our mistakes do not define us: they’re just something we did, or maybe didn’t do.

Can I tell you something else? This applies to everyone! There could be someone you know, right now, who’s feeling worthless; and you can help them to see what’s special about them. Why not drop someone a compliment? Tell them they look nice today, tell them you’re glad you know them, even simply smiling at someone can make a difference!

If you’re struggling with this and want to talk to someone about it why not give the Samaritans a call? They’re brilliant, and have helped me more times than I can count.

Samaritans

Surviving – A Practical Guide.

Surviving – A Practical Guide.

Your survival is important, so the first thing to remember is that whatever you need to do in order to get by is okay. (Unless you start doing something illegal I guess.) If you can’t go to work, university, school or whatever it is you do – that’s okay. If you can’t face cleaning your house – that’s okay. If you have a sudden desire to eat a pint of ice-cream – that’s okay. It’s called self-care and is quite frankly a term I’ve heard so much about I’ve grown a little bored of it.

 

Learn/Practice a skill:

When I was at my worst I baked. I enjoyed baking before, but I was never any good at it but being unwell gave me the opportunity to work on this skill. Not only did it keep my hands busy but I also achieved something which is great for improving your self esteem. If you’re struggling with concentration, pick something practical like this to get you out of your head, and into an activity. It takes up time where you could be pondering how awful your life is – and if I’m honest, mulling in your sadness will only make things worse.

Build a safety net:

You may think that nobody understands but even with this perspective, people can still help. When feeling this low it can be tempting to avoid people altogether and become very secluded, but this won’t help. Sure, some days it’s okay to spend time alone doing something you enjoy, but there are people who will want to help – because you’re precious! So every so often arrange to meet someone, even if you text them twenty minutes before and they only come over for a coffee. It’ll remind you that people care.

Search for the positives:

This can be tricky, so start simple. Name one thing you like about yourself: something you’re good at, a physical feature, are you kind or loyal or funny? If that’s too hard right now try naming one thing you’re grateful for: do you have a roof over your head, hot meals, friends? Even the simplest things count and I promise it gets easier with practise.

Relax!:

What relaxes you? You might find this tough, but take a bit of time to yourself and chill out. Have a bath, watch some TV, read a book; anything that takes your mind off your worries and takes care of you. Just think, you’d do it for someone else you love – love yourself for a change!

Live in the moment:

If the future freaks you out, which it definitely did for me, then focus on what’s happening right now. Rather than planning weeks or days in advance, wake up in the morning and decide what you want to do right now. It doesn’t matter if you’re not productive or if you spend all day in your jammies, the important thing is that you’re focusing on the small things and trying to enjoy them.

Remember what’s precious:

When I was at my lowest I was asked by a doctor what my ‘preventative methods’ were. If I’m honest, there weren’t any that worked right then, but I realised that those things were the most precious things to me. I have lots of little cousins, and I wanted to see them grow up without pain. One of them gave me a fossil, I carried it with me everywhere to remind me that he loved me and looked up to me – to remind me that he needed me in his life. So grab an object that reminds you of something important, and cling to it.

 

A couple of years ago I was living like this every day in order to survive to the next. You don’t have to think about surviving till you’re sixty, or even until next week, just focus on surviving until tomorrow and deal with the next day when it comes. I know everyone says it’ll get easier, but I can promise you that it does – because I’ve been in that place and I’ve survived.

Here’s some other really useful advice on surviving with suicidal feelings:

Advice from MIND

If you’re in a crisis and could do with a little more help please call someone. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, we all need reinforcements now and then.

Samaritan

Freedom.

Freedom.

The dog’s gone out. Emma comes outside and calls walkies with the same patronising tone they use for children, then she attaches some sort of rope-like contraption to her collar and away they go. Then it’s time to celebrate: from the moment they leave I have about forty-five minutes of freedom! I can walk around without her following me… some of us don’t need a lead to go for a walk. They get proud of the dog if she jumps to their hand, can jump over fences and don’t get rewarded for it. But I suppose the only reward I need is the knowledge of my blatant superiority.

Anyway so they’ve taken the dog out. The first thing I do is see if she’s left any food behind; my food may be that stuff with gravy and real chunks of meat but I don’t mind slumming it now and then with a mouthful of dog biscuits – especially if I’ve already eaten my own food as a starter. She never eats all of her food anyway, the stupid mutt doesn’t understand the worth of  a good bit of meat; I’d eat it while she was home but she’d get up in my face if I did that. Next I steal her water. Since the clumsy oaf keeps knocking mine over with her gigantic bumbling nose, I think it’s only fair to sneak some of hers while she’s away… it’s important to stay hydrated after all.

Once I’m fed and watered it’s time for a bit of unadulterated attention from my humans. I love a good nuzzle, and a scratch behind my ears. They sometimes pick me up for a cuddle which is slightly irritating but it’s worth putting up with for the extra affection. It’s so much nicer to get loved up without that pesky dog jumping up at me, she gets so jealous she seems to forget that I was here first!

So once I’ve fulfilled my love quota I pop back to her bowl for another slurp and then see what the weather’s doing. If it’s not looking too shabby outside I’ll do a bit of sunbathing, I find the warmest piece of floor and nap in it. Glorious. Unfortunately though my humans seem to have chosen a fairly grim place to live in terms of the weather, which frequently destroys the possibility of sunbathing. On these occasions I hole up under the dinner table and have a peaceful nap on one of the chairs. Or even the sofa since I’m allowed on it – yet another advantage of not being a scruffy (and rather ginormous) dog.

Inevitably the dog will wake me up soon, but those forty-five minutes of freedom are perfect. Dog-free is just the way I like my life to be. If only they’d get rid of her permanently, I’d thoroughly enjoy the peace and quiet… maybe I’ll tell the humans that I’m allergic? Not that they’d understand me: humans are so bad at learning languages, and they never even tried to learn cat.