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

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.

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.

 

What not to say.

What not to say.

I am well enough, now, to recognise that sometimes those around me are walking on egg shells. Honestly I can be incredibly sensitive and fly off the handle about almost anything when I’m having a bad day. However on a good day I’m pretty stable and it’s not so easy to knock me off kilter, so I’ve picked some phrases that annoy me (even on a good day) so you know what to avoid and don’t have to walk quite so carefully.

You’re Always Ill. 

Put it this way, how often do you get a cold? It’s likely that people with mental illnesses get colds no more frequently than you do. The difference is that we are sometimes ill because of the long term illness that we suffer with, making it look as though we’re ill more often. However, swap out the problems with our brain for a more visible problem, a wheelchair for example. This person may have colds just as frequently as us, and will need to use the wheelchair every day… would you tell them that they’re always ill?

Chances are, the person you’re saying this to is trying really hard to manage their condition and in saying this you’re likely insinuating that they aren’t doing very well. So please, before you say this just consider their feelings. We’re not asking for sympathy all of the time, in fact I’d prefer my illness to be ignored for the most part, we’re simply asking that you don’t make us sound attention seeking, lazy or useless which is how this phrase makes me feel.

Everyone feels that way sometimes.

Do they? Do you? Consider this carefully because I think most people don’t and I understand that it often comes from a place of trying to help. The problem is that a mental illness is a real problem, a real illness – it says so in the title: ‘mental illness’. You’re right that everyone is sad, stressed, anxious, angry or tired sometimes; but that isn’t actually the same thing.

I’ve said before that I have pretty regular mood swings as a symptom. People can have mood swings, but do they push you from suicidal to completely despising everybody who talks to them and then you swing into such a high that you can’t control what you’re saying or how you’re moving? Do you have to monitor every single thought and emotion that passes into your mind just to avoid erratic behaviour? It’s the same with any mental illness: do you really understand the symptoms? Do you really think that everyone feels this way sometimes? It’s unlikely that this is the case…

If you’d like more information about symptoms of various illnesses to help you to understand why not try the MIND website?

Try to be positive.

Oh we are trying… we are trying so hard to be positive! I completely understand where people are coming from with this one – we do often get worse when we allow ourselves to mope and dwell on the difficulties we face, and I’ve often suggested on this blog that we push our boundaries and do things to improve our mood. However, I think this largely comes from a lack of understanding, because you’re essentially telling them that their problems aren’t that worthy of emotions and that’s not going to help. Instead try something a little more practical if you really want to help: invite them out for a coffee or bring coffee to them… I’ve written a post about this here> Loving in Tough Times

There are people doing much worse than you/what have you got to complain about?

There is always someone doing better. There is always someone doing worse. That makes no difference, and makes our individual suffering no less relevant. Mental illnesses don’t care whether people are suffering more than you, mental illnesses just want to make you suffer and they do this regardless of anything physical or emotional happening in your life. My brain doesn’t regulate emotions to reasonable levels so there were times when I’d spill something, not be able to cope with that and I’d go back to bed…. yes I was well aware that people were suffering more than me and that spilling something wasn’t a good reason to go back to bed, but at the time it was all I could do to cope.

By saying things like this you’re encouraging people to feel guilty about the suffering of others, as well as feeling guilty that they’re upset when people are in worse situations. It won’t help them. It won’t help you either, as they’re likely not to speak to you about how they’re feeling again.

 

This may have felt like a bit of a rant and I suppose that’s inevitable since I’m talking about the most irritating things that people say to me. The reason that I wrote this is not to lecture people or to upset them about how they may have spoken to people in the past, but to educate on why these things don’t help and may hurt. I want to encourage good relationships and careful thought before we speak to people because I think that is really important. So please, think carefully before you speak and ensure (as much as you can) that whatever you say is kind, truthful and helpful.