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.

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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.

Look How Far You’ve Come

How do you judge your life?

Do you look at it in comparison with your facebook friends and come up short?

Do you look around you at everyone else working 9-5 jobs and feel disappointed that you’re not there yet?

Do you read articles about success stories and wonder why you’re not yet going viral with your outstanding recovery?

This is a natural thing and we’re all prone to do it, but there are a few reasons why this always leaves us feeling a little down.

1.Facebook only gives the highlights!

What do you post on facebook? Is it a general update on your life, whether good or bad? I know that when posting I tend to post positive things: today I’ve been for a beautiful walk, today I’ve seen an old friend, today I’m going on holiday. Despite the recent trend for posting pictures of our food online which led to an onslaught of cheese sandwiches and roast dinners popping up on timelines, we don’t tend to post the mundane things in our life online.

But my facebook is not a complete picture of my life, you won’t see the days when I fight to get out of the house or when I’m crying and hurt. People judging my life just from facebook would think I had it pretty jammy, and that’s why comparing our lives to social media profiles can be so dangerous. We’re comparing our whole lives – including the painful bits -with just the highlights of other people’s lives.

2. Everyone has a different story.

I have not met a single person to this day who shares the whole of my life story, or even someone who shares the majority. We can have things in common with people but it is very rare (and perhaps impossible) to find someone with exactly the same life experiences as yours. This means that when comparing your progress with other people, you can start to feel like you’re not doing very well.

The problem is that these people have different struggles to you. It may be that they’re more able to work full time or go to the gym but perhaps they struggle with maintaining emotional connections or breaking their routine. So someone can seem to be making more process than you, but simply be finding different areas difficult. Just because you don’t see their struggles, doesn’t mean they’re not there!

3. Your journey belongs to you.

When my dad did a half-marathon he wanted to get the best time possible. He trained hard and tried his best on the day, and at the end of the race he was pleased with his time. It was a personal best. There were runners crossing the line long before him, and there are always athletes who he’d have struggled to beat with his time, but he was still proud of his time.

Your journey belongs to you. It’s unlikely that any of us would aim to beat an olympic athlete with our swim/run/anything else times (unless of course we’re aiming to be an athlete ourselves) and if we’re willing to do this with exercise, why not with our recovery? Instead of looking around at other people’s progress, look backwards. Look at where you were a week ago, a month ago, a year ago and see how far you’ve come!

A week ago I was struggling to find hope in a world that suddenly looked pretty dim.

A month ago I was buried under deadlines and considering dropping out of university.

A year ago I was too unwell to work, study or do anything much.

Now I have only one exam left, and those deadlines have been replaced by half decent grades. I’m feeling pretty hopeful that my future could be bright again. I’m back at university, blogging and looking for a summer job. I’ve come so far in the next couple of years, perhaps not compared to other people, but that doesn’t matter because other people don’t share my story or my struggles.

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.