Fear and Change

Just a quick one this week as I’m busy hiding from the sun in Gran Canaria. If you doubt this I’ve attached proof that not everybody works the sun:

I promised that today I would chat about how I’ve prepared for the changes that life after university will bring, but I’ve since realised that I’ve not done as well as previously anticipated. As you’ll know, I aim to be honest in this blog and so today is no exception.

I said my goodbyes, spending quality time with each person before I left, taking photos and making memories to take with me. I made plans to have friends stay with me in my new flat, to visit others, of the places I’ll visit alone once I’ve settled in. I’ve ensured I have enough medication to last me a month – this one is important if you’re on regular medication, you do not want to run out before you’ve sorted a new doctor and it’s one less thing to worry about once you get there. I’ve even told my doctor that I’m leaving town so that they’re ready to transfer my notes when the time comes. All these things are useful, and some essential since you’d struggle to move house if you didn’t bother to pack anything, and people would probably be offended if you didn’t even tell them that you were going; but they haven’t made the process easy.

There are times, when despite all of our imagined wisdom we find ourselves drowning in the unknown. We reach a new level and realise that despite our best efforts some things will always be daunting. Change is one of those things. We can prepare ourselves and make it easier, but we are unable to stop it from being a little scary. I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps that is the point… in order to move into something exciting and new you have to step out of what is comfortable and easy and tread blindly into the unknown.

If this is the case why have I bothered writing at all?

To encourage you to take bold steps! Beyond what you know a whole new world of opportunity waits. If you stick to what you can already see, you’re missing out on views higher up the mountain. So do something that scares you today! It doesn’t have to be extravagant: there were times when I was afraid to step outside of my house, stand in a queue, get on a bus or talk to people my age. But by doing a little bit more than we’re comfortable with each day we can change all of that and expand our boundaries! Step into your front drive, get on a bus until the next stop, take a friend along and reward yourselves afterwards.

Most of all remember that things which scare you are not always bad. So take some bold steps and make your life into what you want it to be without being afraid that it won’t work out. I have no idea where this quote comes from but I love it and I want to leave you with this: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear”.

Please like, share and follow or check me out on twitter: @KayleighHather also Facebook @KayleighNHather ❤️

If you’ve got some spare time I’d love to hear from you. How do you prepare for change? How do you combat your fears? Join the conversation 🙂

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Saying Goodbye

Life has presented me with some really exciting opportunities recently. I’ve finally finished my degree and I’ve been offered graduate level job in a new town, 2.5 hours away from my home town. But with all this excitement comes the shadow of change, of endings.

I am moving away from all the places I’ve known in my life. Regular sights and sounds and people. Locations which have absorbed the emotions i felt while there, the nostalgic scents of past experiences. I live right next to a Church of England church where the bell ringing rehearsals have driven me towards insanity every Thursday evening for the past 24 years. Behind my house is a primary school where the screams of over excited children and the dinner ladies’ orderly shouts have invaded my garden each lunchtime for as long as I can remember. I know all of the short cuts, where the traffic is worst, exactly how long it takes me to walk anywhere; in this place I am (a little bored) but comfortable.

I am moving to somewhere entirely unfamiliar where my fiance is the closest person I know, at 45 minutes away. It’s going to be very different from having most of my family living within a 10 minute radius, and all my friends in the same place. So while this is a really exciting period, it’s also a time of change and loss.

This is something which would be tough for anyone, so I just wanted to share some thoughts about saying goodbye.

Set out some time

In your last few weeks and days in a place it can spiral into busyness, leaving little time for seeing every one who you’d like to say goodbye to. So block time out for seeing friends. Ignore the ‘To Do’ list for a while and just relax with your friends and say a real heartfelt goodbye. Unless you block this time out it could end up feeling like you’ve left things wide open without closure or time for a good ending, or you could be left with so little time you could end up playing tetris with your time in the last couple days and not have time for proper goodbye.

Letters and gifts

You might feel that it’s right to give a gift or card to thank those who have worked with you or who you’re less likely to see once you leave. I gave cards, and sometimes a gift, to mentors and lecturers or others who had professionally supported me. I didn’t feel like I needed to do this to everyone but if you feel like this is the right thing then it might help you to ensure you get everything across that you wanted to say before leaving. Equally, if you don’t feel like this is for you then don’t feel bad about not doing it! Everyone says goodbye in different ways so do what’s right for you.

Making a plan

I think this is particularly important for me because of my fear of change. I found it really important to add less finality to my goodbyes by creating a plan with some of my friends. Agreeing to have weekly or monthly phone calls, writing letters or arranging visits can really help to make everything seem less daunting. It means that I know how often (at least) I will be speaking to those I value and how often they’ve greed to speak to me. In other words, I have solid evidence upon leaving that these people will remain in my life.

Put yourself first

It sounds selfish at first glance but it’s really important. If something is going to damage your wellbeing – or even risk it – then don’t feel pressured into doing it. If you don’t feel comfortable saying goodbye to someone or making plans or buying a gift, then don’t do it. Whatever you decide to do, keep your personal safety and wellbeing at the forefront of your mind and make sure that you prioritise whatever is most important to you.

Saying goodbye is only 1 part of moving on, it is equally important to prepare for where you’re going. Every very ending is the beginning of something new, and while this is all scary and can be upsetting it’s also incredibly exciting! Next week I’m going to talk about the other side of this coin, the emotional preparation for moving somewhere new. Have a lovely week, I’ll see you then!

If you like what you’re reading please like and follow this blog and check out my twitter: @KayleighHather

Cyber positivity.

I’ve been thinking recently about how much power negativity has over myself and the people I know. It’s insane. We can be drowned in compliments and we’ll cling to the single negative comment for dear life. It seems ridiculous to me, as though human beings are wired to always remember the negative rather than the good stuff.

For a while now I’ve been doing little things to try to change this for those I love. Every few days I’ll send a random text telling one of my friends if family how awesome they are, sometimes it’s a long emotional message, other times I literally just send the words ‘just a reminder that you’re great’. Either way, it means these people receive little reminders that there is a lot of positive stuff about them.

I think this is something more people need to do. Technology is making it so much easier to keep in contact with people and what are we using it for? Looking at memes? Scrolling through pictures of kittens or other balls of fluffy adorableness? Posting witty statuses or pictures to collect likes? I’m not saying I’m not partial to the odd otter swimming in a bath tub. Full disclosure, I once got mildly addicted to watching this live feed of new born kittens and I wouldn’t stop watching for anyone, so don’t think I’m judging here. I’m just asking whether you think that is all we should be doing with it? If we could use this technology to build people up, shouldn’t we be doing more of that?

So let me encourage you. Next time you’re scrolling through the same posts on Facebook for the 16th time that day, pause for a moment and send a quick message. Remind someone that you care, that they’re amazing.

Send a little random cyber positivity.

Finishing what I started

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so thanks to those of you who have stuck with me!

After leaving my course at the university of Reading and taking a couple of years out, I returned to university as a mature student to complete my degree. Last week, after years of wanting to do it and a lot of moments doubting whether I could, I finished!

It’s been quite a journey. For a while I became the student that all universities have, who completes their studies a ghost. They’re a face in lectures without a voice or personality. Every now and then people question whether you’re actually on their course at all.

Strangely enough it was one of the most antisocial things that I did, that changed all of that…

I started eating lunch in the Chapel. I felt a bit awkward sitting in a loud, crowded refectory full of chatting students when I was by myself. The Chapel was quiet, comfortable, and boasted free Coffee: which in my opinion is always a win. At some point this changed, and I’m not sure when or how, but people started appearing. Other people eating their lunch in the Chapel, inhaling the free caffeine, and chatting to me!

These people are now my friends, my community. We studied together, laughed together, held each other up when we felt ourselves slipping. All of a sudden I wasn’t a hermit but part of a little family.

I did an internship at the University too, working with the Equality and Diversity manager. I got to work on projects such as a reciprocal mentoring, focus groups, a report on improving staff mental health and the organisation of a conference. Its been tough at times but with supportive friends and colleagues around me I’ve got through and produced some good and long lasting work.

Now I’m moving on! I’ve got a job in Sussex working within mental health, and am really excited to enter this new chapter of my life.

I’ve learnt a lot since I last wrote and I’m looking forward to posting each week again. So thanks for bearing with me while I’ve been so busy! Remember to take care of yourself and I’ll be back with you next week!

K

Forget the Stigma!

I want you guys to know something about yourself – you are awesome! Something else? If you have a mental illness it does not make you a lesser being. If you take medication for it, that doesn’t make you weak. You have an illness, and you wouldn’t think any less of someone for breaking their leg or having diabetes would you? I know that some people struggle with this stuff and I just wanted to encourage you today if that’s something that’s tough for you.

When I was first diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder I panicked. I thought that it meant that my personality was wrong or that I was a bad person. It does not mean that! I am a great person, I care about other people and will do all that I can to help those around me when I can – there is nothing wrong with my personality. All that diagnosis means is that there’s a reason for what goes on in my brain. There’s a reason for the mood swings and slightly skewed vision of myself and for all the other symptoms that I deal with. But I’m just a person with an illness, I’m not flawed or any less valuable for it.

In the same way, all your diagnosis means is that you’ve got an illness and the good thing about it is that with a diagnosis you can get some help! If you’ve never asked for help yet, please do, there will be people around you somewhere that want to help even if you can’t see it.

Sometimes that help comes in the form of medication – that’s okay! Anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication are just to help you manage day by day, and you should be no more ashamed of that than a diabetic person would be of taking Insulin.

You may not get better, or it may take a long time. While you’re recovering you may not be able to do everything and keep up with everyone around you. That’s okay too! I broke my ribs a while back, and they took ages to heal. It hurt a lot, so I was taking painkillers regularly (medication) and was unable to do any sports or even walk around much. That was okay. It’s no different needing to get extra sleep, take more time to yourself or anything you have to do in order to help yourself to heal.

Never be ashamed of your illness, or let anyone make you feel bad because of it. Just because your illness is largely invisible doesn’t mean that it’s any easier than a physical one.

Ready Your Weapons.

Life is a battle, especially when you’re living with a mental illness, so it’s important to be ready for a fight. But what can we do to make sure we’re ready?

WEAPON: Know your coping mechanisms

Coping mechanisms are what we have to fight with, they’re the methods with which we batter away our negative thinking patterns and fight against what our illness tells us to do. I have a diary where I make a note of any negative thoughts and use CBT to question whether they’re reliable. I have a scrapbook with encouraging notes from my friends and family which tell me my true value when life makes me question it. I have a colouring book and crochet to keep my hands busy and mind distracted when I need to keep my badly behaving brain at bay. I have mindfulness exercises and grounding exercises for when I need to gain some control. Medication can also fall into this category, it can help you to live day to day and ward off the worst effects of your illness. Do not be ashamed or afraid to take your medication, it is a weapon.

I advise that when choosing these coping mechanisms we are aware that some can be negative. For example: alcohol is a blocking technique, it can calm us and distract us from the problem at hand… however excessive drinking can have dangerous consequences and it also means we never deal with the core issues which are hurting us. There is a list of some positive (and less so) coping mechanisms here.

SHIELD: Keep your support network tight.

The people around you are your support network: they can be friends, family or even a doctor or nurse who are assigned as your case worker (or whatever they call it).  Make sure you talk to friends and family honestly if you can, let them know how you’re feeling and allow them to show you that they care. Keep in touch with doctors etc and do your best to show up to appointments or rearrange if you have to. This way people are keeping an eye on you, if they notice you’re getting a bit tired with the battle they can prop you up a bit and help you to fight. Here is a link to my blog on getting support/supporting someone whose struggling.

MEDIC: Know where to go in a crisis.

Knowing what to do when you’re in the middle of a crisis is really hard. When I reach my lowest possible point I revert to my most natural coping mechanisms (some of which are harmful) but there are ways to lessen the chances of this happening.

Firstly I’d get to know your early warning signs: when I’m on my way to a crisis I withdraw into my room and socialise less, I binge watch shows until I think I’m a character within it, I chain smoke, I stop doing things to help people. These are some of my early warning signs, because I’m so aware of them I’m able to take measures to stop myself from spiralling deeper, and I’m able to let other people know that I’m struggling.

Secondly, think about some of your coping mechanisms. Are there some that work better than others? For me, a fast walk with my headphones in calms me down a lot and can avert the worst bit of a crisis so that I’m able to respond more rationally. Once I’d identified my most effective coping mechanisms I told my family and friends so that if they notice these warning signs they can help me to remember how to cope.

Thirdly, take the number of professionals who can help. I have spoken to the local crisis team a number of times and Samaritans too. Both can really help. Save the numbers in your phone and have them ready at a moment’s notice in case of emergency. You may not think you’re worth helping, but surely it’s worth at least giving someone the chance to try? (Numbers at the bottom of the page

Now we fight!

The battle will not always be easy, no battle is! But to find the most worthwhile things in life we need to fight through the suffering and pain and come out of the other side. No matter how hard it gets – keep fighting! You’re not fighting alone, people all over the place are rooting for you, and I’m one of them. Never give up.

 

NUMBER FOR SAMARITANS (UK)

INFORMATION ABOUT CRISIS TEAMS (UK)

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CRISES

 

It’s okay to slip.

On Wednesday I was writing about the importance of looking how far you’ve come and noticing your progress without comparing it to that of other people. However, I understand that when we’re looking back we may also notice times when we’ve taken a step backwards and fallen back into a behaviour we thought we’d gotten rid of. So I wanted to remind you all that it’s okay to slip up.

We’re fighting a battle here. Every day we’re fighting against the monsters in our brain that seek to control and destroy us. People get knocked down in battle every now and then, it’s not surprising, nor is it something for which they should feel guilty. What I’m trying to say is that this is hard, living with a mental illness is not easy by any stretch, so when we mess up and fall back a little that’s not something that should fill us with overwhelming guilt. It probably will make us feel bad, but we don’t have to.

Recovery is an ongoing process. I’ve left the recovery service behind and been discharged from the mental health service, but I’m still recovering. This illness still has its roots in me and I have to shake them off every day without fail. Sometimes I’m not strong enough. Sometimes I fall back into easier and more harmful patterns which I thought I’d managed to stop.

A little while ago I cut myself. I’d not self-harmed for over year and it felt like a huge step backwards. The disappointment and guilt over what I’d just done was even worse than the initial upset which had led me to doing it! I thought I’d undone over a year of hard work in that split second. But that wasn’t true.

I hadn’t undone all of the hard work. What I’d had is a blip. I made a mistake in that moment because I’m not perfect and because life is a constant fight. I’d lost one tiny battle but decided that if I forgave myself for this little error I could still win the battle. If you feel like you’ve taken a step backwards, please remember it’s only a step or two. You’re still further  on than you were, you’re still making progress and can continue to do so. Don’t allow that guilt or disappointment to continue to unravel that progress. You can still move forward, just keep taking those little steps.