One reason to stay alive

Today’s post was supposed to be ’10 reasons to stay alive’. However since it’s mental health awareness week and I’m a MH blogger I feel like I can be honest and say that I’m having a really tough time today. Sometimes life doesn’t go the way you want it to and the pain seeps into your soul until you forget what it felt like before. You’d do anything to get rid of that feeling and sometimes death can seem like a viable option to setting yourself free.

I’m here to tell you, from the depths of that pit, that death is not a good choice. I am hurting now, and I’m fighting with you which probably should make this advice all the more reliable. I fully believe, from previous experience and ignoring my current feelings, that life will get better.

I’ve been in pain before and I’ve felt joy after. I remember feeling so grateful for those people who called 999 and those doctors who made me drink charcoal to stop me poisoning myself beyond repair. I was so so so glad that I’d failed to kill myself, and so excited to be alive. Just because life is tough right now, doesn’t mean that I won’t get back to that place… in fact I’m pretty certain that I will!

So take it from me, someone who’s been where you are and I’m pretty low right now…. death is not a good option. Death steals the joy that’s waiting in your future. Death steals hope. Death steals you away from those who love you.

Please choose a different option. ❤

 

If you need more help please call your local crisis team, 111, or Samaritans.

A letter to loved ones

Thank you for supporting us.

Sometimes it may seem like we aren’t grateful for your help, but I promise you that we are… or will be when we’re in a better place. With you by our side we can fight through everything that life throws at us. You are our shield, our sword, the soldier at our right hand in battle. You enable us to feel more brave and stronger than we are by ourselves. Without you our progress would probably be slower and more difficult than it already is.

We’re sorry for all the times that we take our emotions out on you. We do our best not to hurt you and to keep them under control but it’s really hard! We know that it can take it’s toll on you and that it hurts and we’re sorry for all of the times that we’ve caused you pain.

Although we may not show it, we love you. We love you even when we shout at you. We love you even when we push you away. When we hold on to you and refuse to let you leave, it’s because we love you. Thank you for your patience.

You may not understand our illness but we’re so grateful that you’ve taken the time to listen to us anyway. You may not know it, but we notice when you take the time to find out a little more.

We notice when you take time out of your day to make us feel special.

We notice when you care enough to check up on us.

Although you may not get much out of us now, when we get better you’ll be the first one invited for a drink to celebrate. You’ll be credited in our articles, books and blogs about our recovery. You’ll be the one we tell our doctors, nurses and counsellors about.

And one day when you’re feeling down, we’ll be the first one there to help.

 

Remember to enjoy it!

The first obstacle showed itself only hours after my dad dropped me off at the airport – I remembered that I hate flying! My family usually travel using ferries or a car so it had been quite a while since I’d got on a plane. So I squeezed my armrest so hard that I’m surprised I didn’t leave marks and babbled nervously away to the bored businessman beside me, as the aircraft (which suddenly felt very flimsy) screamed and vibrated as it sped into the air. It didn’t get any better once we were up either, I tried to read but couldn’t concentrate so instead stared out of the window at the distance we’d drop to the ground if we crashed. Luckily there was a very kind air host who brought me a cup of tea to calm me down, and if you’re reading this – thank you so much!

When we touched down I’d never been more relieved to stand on solid ground and couldn’t get off of the plane quickly enough. I had a cigarette in the sunshine and calmed myself before preparing for the next step of my journey. I’d planned it well and knew exactly where the shuttle stopped and where to alight in order to get my train to Firenze. It was at the train station that I realised my first big mistake – I spoke no Italian! Everyone had told me that anyone I spoke to would speak English but they were wrong: no one could understand me as I begged them for directions to my platform and the screens were all in Italian. Panic stations? Nope, nip outside for a quick cigarette and some breathing exercises, a cheeky bit of mindfulness because I’d left enough time before my train. Eventually I found it, sat in my reserved seat and took a deep breath.

The next step was to catch a bus from the station to the plaza near my hostel. I’d looked this up on google maps and thought I knew where it stopped, but I couldn’t find it. So it’s here that I’ll pause to give my next piece of advice: if you’re tired and struggling, give yourself a break! It’s better to fork out the extra cash for a taxi than to stand panicking at a bus stop where you can’t communicate with anyone. So if you need to change your plans and just get to the hotel/hostel and have a rest, do it! There’s nothing wrong with accepting that you’ve taken on a bit too much and need an easier route. I took a taxi.

It dropped me off outside of my hostel, I was tired and hungry and couldn’t find any food. I was also slightly panicked at the thought of going back outside into the land where nobody spoke any English. I was meeting a friend that evening to attend the dance together and he agreed to meet me. We had to ask the hosts of our event to help us in ordering food, and they gladly obliged. So the next piece of advice – if you need help, ask for it! People in hostels or hotels will normally speak some English, if you find yourself stuck just ask for assistance rather than sitting around feeling tired, hungry and helpless!

You might not be able to move at the same pace as you anticipated before arriving. I certainly found myself a lot more tired than I’d predicted and had to cancel a few visits in order to catch up on some sleep. There’s nothing wrong with that. The important thing that I had to remember and think you should too, is that it’s more important to enjoy the trip than to see everything you could possible see in that area. I prioritised the organised aspects, attending dances in palaces and going on a walking tour of the city, above trips to museums and lesser sights in the local area. I missed out on seeing some thing which I’d have liked to see, but the most important thing was that I stayed healthy enough to enjoy the things that I did. So I guess my point is to prioritise your health and stay flexible when  you might have to change plans.

The last point in this short series is that you should probably stay in touch with your family and friends if you can. I made sure to call or text my parents every day so they knew I was okay, and I think this is important. They can’t see how well you’re coping or how much fun you’re having, but sending that one text that only takes thirty seconds can ease a lot of worry for them and let them know that you’re safe and enjoying your trip.

So my final advice to you is:

  • Give yourself a break – it’s ok to struggle while you’re there. Just focus on remembering your coping mechanisms and staying calm
  • If you need help – ask for it!
  • Prioritise your health – don’t push yourself too hard to see everything when what you really need is a break.
  • Stay flexible – sometimes plans may have to change, try to enjoy whatever the trip throws your way
  • Stay in touch with loved ones, they’ll be keen to know how it’s going.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this very short series about travelling with a mental illness. Remember that mental health problems don’t have to stop you living your dreams, if you work hard you can do anything that you want to do!

Live your dream

Live your dream

I have always wanted to go to Italy. In 2014 I booked a cheap trip to Venice over Groupon with my partner at the time, it was to be my first excursion abroad without my parents to somewhere that I had chosen. Images of romantic Gondola rides along the river and strolls down ancient winding streets floated around in my mind, alongside expectations of cheap red wine and the most delicious authentic pasta dishes. Everything was booked and payed for out of my savings, I’d begun to allow myself to get excited about the trip. Then a few months before we left I found myself single, and another month after that I found myself in a psychiatric hospital. My dreams were scuppered. I convinced myself (and was probably right) that I wasn’t well enough to go. So I stayed home and allowed the shadow of my ruined dreams to immerse me in darkness while he went without me.

I wanted to begin this series with this story not to encourage you to go travelling while you really are too unstable to go, but to demonstrate that not being able to go now doesn’t mean that your dreams of travel should be put to bed forever. If I’d gone on this trip it could have ended badly and I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it, it would have been a disappointment and I would have felt more upset afterwards… this is all disregarding the damage that going on holiday with an ex boyfriend could have done. Because of this, I’m advising you to know your limits. If you know that you’re probably not stable enough to go travelling then don’t do it – being miles away from family and friends in a country where you don’t speak the language is not the best way to test yourself.

Having said that, don’t let the dream die! As long as you stay alive, there will be another chance. Engage with any treatment you may be offered, be responsible with your medication and allow family and friends to help you. Let that dream of yours simmer away in the background and spur you on towards recovery!

Two years later I was stable. My dream of going to Italy was reignited by the opportunity to meet a group of dancers over there. I jumped at the chance! This time it was Florence rather than Venice but in my head it wasn’t that different: this new place still held the beautiful views, ancient streets and authentic Italian food that I’d dreamed of. I saved up and booked my ticket to ‘Florence Lindy Exchange’, knowing that once I arrived I could meet up with other dancers and wouldn’t be entirely alone. This is point number two – don’t go alone, either go with a friend or meet other people there on an organised trip. Not only does this safeguard you against crime, loneliness and getting lost, it is also a great opportunity to meet new friends!

My third point is to plan well. My diagnosis leaves me vulnerable to ill health if something doesn’t pass as expected so I ensured that there was no space for this as I planned my trip. I asked the organisers for recommended hostels and requested a room of my own as I know that I need my own space. I found the schedule for the organised part of the trip online and added to it other interesting places that I wanted to visit. I printed maps of the city and drew routes to the places I’d be going onto it. I made sure there was plenty of time (probably more than I needed) between each stage of my transport from home to the hostel and back again. By the time I’d finished, there was little room for anything to go too wrong.

So before you go:

  • Don’t panic if your dream of travel seems too far away, keep fighting and it will come within your reach
  • Don’t go to test yourself or to prove people wrong, be sure that you’re stable before you go
  • Don’t go alone, either go with a friend or meet an organised group while you’re there
  • Plan well – make sure you’re staying somewhere safe, that you know where you’re going and that you’ve bought health insurance (just in case).

 

 

Loving In Tough Times.

Loving In Tough Times.

When life gets difficult we sometimes push the people that we love away. I’m not sure why we do it. Whether it’s an attempt to pretend we’re okay, or to keep people at a distance when we’re feeling vulnerable. If not, perhaps it’s because we just don’t feel like we’ll be good company, don’t want to cause a fuss or need to cuccoon ourselves within a duvet, and cuccoons aren’t as efficient with a partner. For whatever reason we do it, it seems to be a human instinct to distance ourselves from others when we’re struggling with life.

This can make it hard for those around us to show love. When we feel pushed away it’s only natural that we back off, if they say that’s what they want it makes sense that we do it because we love them. While sometimes this is a good thing, it can mean that people end up feeling isolated and there are ways to show them how you feel despite their desire to be alone. The first of these is really easy to do, simply sending a text or giving a call to tell them you’re there when they change their mind is important. It lets them know that once they’re feeling up to company you’re available, it lets them know that the door isn’t closed. It lets them know that you care.

If someone doesn’t want to chat you can always offer alternatives. Rather than talking perhaps they’d like to watch a movie and eat junk food – I know that’s always a good option for me. Otherwise there are board games, video games, reading a book side-by-side. There are no end of options where you can spend time with people without talking to them. These moments can build a bond between you, you’ll each know that you went through the struggle together, even if you didn’t feel up to talking about it.

Another alternative is helping them with whatever they need. If they’re feeling unable to leave the house perhaps they could do with someone to collect groceries (or even some sweet treats). I’ve lost track of the number of times where I’ve been too ill to go out, and friends have dropped off chocolates, crisps, tea-bags, even cigarettes although they’re often less willing with that one. It’s a great help as it lessens the worries in our head and has the added advantage of forcing us to see someone, even if they do only stay long enough to hand over a bag of goodies.

Sometimes it’s good to push a little, when in the depths of struggles it can be hard for people to know what is really good for them. For example, when I’m at my worst I could hide in my room for days only emerging for a cup of tea if I got really desperate. I won’t cook, step outside of my front door or respond to most messages I receive. However, this isn’t actually very good for me. If I do this I end up feeling worse. It can be really helpful for friends to encourage me out of the house and come with me, or even come over to bring me downstairs or into the garden for a chat.

In the event that someone does want to talk about what they’re fighting through, be there. Listen to them and take note of what they’re saying. Never judge them or allow them to think that their troubles are not worth being upset over. Allow them to take their anger or hurt out on you a little bit, it can be good for them and they’ll really know that you love them. Don’t try to fix their problems, but be there for them to talk to and give advice if they ask for it. If you’d like to read more, click here.

 

I know this was a pretty concise guide, and that’s probably because I’m definitely no expert. But what I do know is that it’s important for people to know that struggling with life or illness does not make them any less precious to you. It’s vital for them to know that you love them, that you’ll be there for them whenever they need you. If you deal with tough times in this way, rather than pushing you apart, they can push you together. They can create a bond between you that makes them a valuable experience, however horrible they may be at the time.

If you’re finding life really hard at the moment please contact the Samaritans, or your local GP or crisis team! You’re not alone, no matter how much it may feel that way. 

Learning a Love Language.

Learning a Love Language.

In 1995, Gary Chapman published a book called ‘The 5 love languages: the secret to a love that lasts’. In his book he wrote that we each have one primary and one secondary love language and that we tend to demonstrate our love in the way we would like to receive it. In other words, if we feel loved when we get presents we’re most likely to show people our love through buying gifts for them.

The five love languages, according to Chapman are:

  • Gift giving
    • Self explanatory – these people feel most loved when they’re given a gift.
  • Quality time
    • These people feel most loved when they have your undivided attention.
  • Words of affirmation
    • These people like to hear words which tell your feelings for them.
  • Physical touch
    • To these people, nothing shows love more than being held/kissed etc – a physical display of love.
  • Acts of service/devotion
    • These people need displays of love through actions that show how important they are to you.

Ideally, you’d speak the same language but this isn’t always going to happen. Imagine if you were dating someone who was a different nationality to you and you didn’t share a language. How would you communicate? In the same way (although less extreme) if you don’t understand love languages, you can end up being unable to communicate or understand love with the other person. You could end up buying them gifts all day long, but they’d only truly feel loved if you gave them your undivided attention for a while. They wouldn’t feel the love that you were trying to communicate because they don’t speak your language.

In my mind, there’s a couple of ways around this. The first is knowing what language the other person speaks (and which language you do). There’s a quiz for this online (Click here) which is quick and actually quite enjoyable. My top 2 were ‘quality time’ and ‘words of affirmation’, just in case you want to show me some love. You can probably also figure this out through watching them or having a chat about it, however you find it out it’s important to know how they understand love. Once you know what language the other person speaks, you’ll be able to understand when they show you love in a different way to what you’d prefer. Next time you get bought a gift, you’ll understand that that’s the way they show love and therefore will hear their message – I love you.

Another way to cross this language barrier is to learn their language. If they’re not understanding that you love them through your doing the washing up maybe try speaking in a language they do understand. If one of their love languages is physical touch, why not go and give them a cuddle. Or if they speak in affirmations simply say to them ‘I love you’. Message received… problem solved. It may not be the easiest thing for you to speak another language, but it will definitely be worth it if you want to build any kind of relationship.

 

Learning to Love.

Learning to Love.

I’m not going to teach you to love as though you’ve never loved before. I simply mean that loving people is something which we can practice and improve. It gets better over time anyway, all by itself, as long as you pay attention. This is because love isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ scenario. Love is individual and as you get to know the object of your love more deeply, you’ll know how best to show them how you feel.

I’ll start the series properly next week by talking about love languages. I’m sure a lot of you have heard of them but I thought it was worth giving a reminder that everyone understands and shows love in a different way. The problem is, if you speak a different love language to the person you love, how do you communicate? I’d argue it’s all about compromise, as most things unfortunately are. Learning to speak their lingo as they learn to use yours. Just doing this can be tough, but in making a real effort you’re already demonstrating your feelings for them.

Week three is going to focus on being there when the going gets tough. Life isn’t always easy and as a result, neither is love. When life throws stones at your loved ones how do you show them that you care? How can you be there for someone who seems not to want you around while they’re struggling? It’s a tough one, but I think it’s important to remember that you’ll have to fight through life with your loved ones – my friends and family have certainly had to fight things with me!

On Valentine’s Day a lot of people think you have to go big. I’d argue that sometimes this is a good thing. Special things such as presents and surprises, things that require some effort on your part can be a great way of showing people how precious they are to you. However, love isn’t just something that happens one day of the year. So week four won’t only argue for the extravagant demonstrations of love, but also for the tiny little expressions you can show each day.

I’m not an expert on love, in any way. But I do love people and I do my best to show them how much I care in all of the ways above. I fail sometimes, and we all do and will continue to do so but nevertheless I think that by working hard we can get better at it. The things I’ll be suggesting in this month’s series are just a guide which I try to live by and I’m not saying that they’re the only way (or even the best) to show people that you love them. In fact, if you’ve got any ideas I’d love you to get in touch and share them. We’re in this together!