Want to see a super cute puppy…?

… Then absolutely read on.

So if you’re an animal lover like me, nothing in the world can excite you more than getting your very own pet. Now, bless my poor partner, I’ve been going on and on and on and mostly, on about getting a little four-legged friend. We moved into our house, I asked ‘Is it puppy time?’, every time someone went past with a dog it was ‘Look at its little face!’ and so on.

I was not expecting that said partner would call me up from downstairs one Friday morning and say ‘I reckon we should get a puppy now.’ I think I might’ve stopped breathing.

All joking apart, it’s been proven that dogs can actually help your mental health in a few ways:

  • They make you smile
  • They give you focus
  • Cuddles help alleviate stress/anxiety
  • Going out for walks and getting fresh air can really help
  • They give you so much love that you can’t help but fall for them

Also saw that today on BBC News it says dog owners have a lower mortality rate…Hurrah!

Well, ours has certainly made an impact in the past 3 weeks. Granted, we’ve found it really hard and a massive change to both our lives. But, it’s a great thing.

And here she is…. Our Maisey.

Pup

When I’m feeling blue, it’s like she can tell so she sits on my shoulder or wants a cuddle or wants to play. She’s a welcome distraction from some of the things that go around in my head. My partner and me will sit and watch TV and she’ll come and perch herself on us. We then do the ‘Awww look how cute she is!’ and ‘We’re so glad we got her’ type cooing. Very parent-like!

It’s such a good thing my partner is there and we can share the puppy because if I was alone, it might just push me over the edge. I’ve never had to look after something so fully before and it rely on me for feeding, going to the toilet and cuddles. He’s been fantastic and if he can see it’s getting to me, he’ll take her away for 5mins so I can collect my calm. (She won’t pose for a selfie like this with me!)

Los and pup

She’s 11 weeks old now and we’re all getting used to each other. We’ve been taking her to ‘Puppy socialisation’ or ‘a class where puppies run around and I think I’ve gone to heaven’. She does like to wander off. All the other puppies are playing together and ours is exploring and trying to climb things. Definitely should’ve called her Dora. She does make me smile and I do find my anxiety subsides… Well, sometimes when I’m not worrying about her. This little face is already helping me feel a bit less on edge and more settled.

See? I wasn’t wrong when I promised you a cute puppy.

me and pup

 

 

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My First Time to Change Talk

Yesterday, despite being a Time to Change Champion for the past year, I did my first Anti-Stigma talk to around 40 members of the local police force. And it went really well.

I was a little bit nervous about getting up and talking to people about Time to Change and my personal experiences with mental health at work. I’d created some slides with plenty of pictures and (what I thought to be) interesting content. I really wanted to do this talk to find out how the police were approaching mental health with their officers and what help was available.

The weather was awful on the motorway and made the 20-minute motorway journey less enjoyable. Found the venue and chucked some make up on in the car. As we arrived, the nerves started to creep in but not as badly as they used to. I was getting the anxiety sweats despite feeling quite calm so decided my winter cardi had to come off. Alas, I managed to get dressed wrong and was wearing my top back-to-front. The cardigan stayed on and the sweats remained.

The officers were so good and listened to what I had to say. There were questions afterwards which I answered and made sure I didn’t waffle! It was reassuring having one of the co-ordinators from Time to Change there with me for my first rodeo.

After completing the talk, some of the officers complimented me on what I’d spoken about which was really amazing. A few years ago, talking about my mental health, what happened with work places and highlighting the discrimination I faced, was something I would never have done. I’m hoping that sharing my story will help others, especially some of those guys in the police who are so brave and see all sorts of things.

With my sister being an officer, I worry about her and her mental health. I’ve tried to palm her off with leaflets and information but according to the police trainer yesterday, they can access counselling and groups internally. He also said they’d look after her. News to my ears for sure!

If you ever feel brave enough to share your mental health story, absolutely do. You never know who might hear it or see it and feel empowered.

Yesterday, figures were released that said 300,000 people in the UK had workplace issues because of their mental health. There needs to be a change in the way employers approach those with depression, anxiety, bipolar etc. Granted, some people don’t feel comfortable sharing. It all depends on how your boss is.

 

Why our children need our help

As I was driving to work today, I heard on the radio that Childline has ‘received its highest number of counselling sessions with young people having suicidal thoughts and feelings.

This is really sad for a number of reasons:

  1. Children are children. They’re supposed to enjoy being young and not worry about adult problems
  2. Social media. So many images, so much pressure, so much comparison
  3. The pressure. Society wants children to perform to the highest standard, get the best grades, go to the best universities but isn’t taking into account how unhappy they are
  4. Bullying. Has a profound affect on someone. I was bullied and I still hate remembering it now

Some of the stats from Childline/BBC News are particularly sad:

  1. 22,456 counselling sessions were given to children wanting to take their own lives
  2. 72% of those having counselling sessions were girls
  3. 13,746 of the sessions were due to children having anxieties

The stat about the amount of girls receiving counselling is shocking but not surprising. Girls are more likely to tell someone if they’re feeling down whereas boys tend to just get on with it. Does that mean that there are far more children/boys feeling so awful they can’t tell anyone? And if so, what can we do to help?

Charities like Time to Change are proactively heading into schools to talk to children about mental health. More awareness means more children can be helped. More awareness also means that we’ll see how many more children are suffering than first thought. There was also a discussion by government about teaching children earlier in life about how to cope with stress, anxiety and what to do if they’re being bullied. This might just help a few more children to cope with the stresses of being young in the 2000s.

If you’re a young ‘un or have any who are struggling, get them to give Childline a call. If you’re a bit older, the Samaritans can listen when you’re feeling rubbish.

What would have helped you when you were younger? What support do you wish was available?

 

The blues, the masks and the light at the end of the tunnel

*Warning: The video in this post may act as a trigger for anyone suffering with their mental health*

So Tuesday was World Mental Health Awareness Day, a time for everyone to look at how they talk about mental health and how as a nation we can improve it. A day for Time to Change Champions like me to be vocal about stigma and reaching out to those who might be in trouble. Instead, I had my lowest dip I’ve had in a while.

Normally, and to the outside world, I’m looking a bit like this…

PICcollahe

We’re talking no sleeping, crying, thoughts of life ending, feeling hopeless and lost and overall, guilty. I put a warning in above because when I was having my meltdown in my partner’s car (literally went to move it off the driveway), I filmed myself. Ballsy move some might say. But, I wanted to show that some people who appear to be jolly, happy-go-lucky people on the outside might need help and support on the inside.

Here goes… (Excuse the giant face to start with)

So, yes it might not make sense and yes, I was very snotty and yes, a serious amount of tissues were harmed in the making of this spur-of-the moment video, but for good reason.

I hate attention, I don’t work well with compliments and pity makes me feel funny. All I wanted to show was that those you think have everything sussed out and be coping, might not be. As a consequence of my meltdown, I did manage to see a doctor at our new surgery.

I was so scared and had already decided that they weren’t going to help me after previous bad experiences. However, my catastrophic brain was wrong. While in a high and flighty mood a few days previously, I’d made a list of things that I experience. I’d also been filling in a Mood Diary too. So I was armed.

The doctor was amazing. She sat me and my partner down (he was there for support, oh, and to provide tissues) and asked me to start from the beginning. She was so patient and kind and really listened. She said what I’d tracked was useful and that I needed to keep monitoring my sleep (or lack of) and my mood patterns. She prescribed me a totally different kind of tablet and explained what it was and how it could help for now. She also said she’d refer me to a psychiatrist. Out of my horrible ‘I don’t want to live anymore’ mood came a light.

My partner has been an absolute angel. He’s been so supportive and kind and let me cry all over his shoulder. He’s given me tissues for my snotty nose and tried to make me laugh to distract from the pain. I feel so guilty that I have this most amazing person, we have our own home and I’m still, in the depths of my brain, horrifically sad. But he makes it better. He shows me that there’s a light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Sometimes, we have to drop the mask, accept the blues and keep focussing on that bright light of hope. I realised how good I was at hiding my feelings when I asked my partner if he’d noticed any change in me in the past few months. He said he had but also said ‘You hide everything so well but you have been more up and down.’ Even those closest to us have no idea. This is when it’s good to drop the act, get rid of the mask and attack it head on.

Never give up on looking after yourself or your mental health. It’s so important. If at first you don’t succeed with family, friends or doctors, kick up a stink. It’ll be worth it.

Why being a Human Book is awesome…

Yep, you read correctly. And, as someone who loves reading, this was a fantastic opportunity.

The premise behind the Human Library movement is to break down stigma and prejudices in society. It’s about finding out more about people from different cultures, minorities and backgrounds and, not to judging a book by its cover.

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So, being a Human Book means you get to tell your story… And choose your book title. For someone like me who’s obsessed with books and reading, being surrounded by books and buying books, this was such an amazing opportunity. My title was ‘Living on the edge…of my seat’, all about turning my mental health from a negative to a positive and what that’s helped me to achieve. There were some amazing books available for talking to including ‘Seeing the funny side’, ‘Thriving not Surviving’ and ‘The Singing Pensioner’! The lovely singing gentleman just filled so many people with smiles and serenaded someone whenever he got the chance.

For me, talking to lots of people I don’t know from 12-4pm was pretty easy and pretty awesome. It also highlighted going from speaking to no one anywhere for fear of rejection years ago, to talking to anyone. My self esteem crept in once we were all seated and I thought ‘Well, I don’t think anyone will come and talk to me but that’s ok. I can go and listen to the other books.’ Oh how wrong I was.

HB

It was incredible. From 12pm when it started until 4pm when I left, people wanted to speak to me. And I really enjoyed speaking to them and finding out more about their experiences. It was definitely overwhelming but in the best kind of way. People from all different cultures, backgrounds, ways of life and experience came and sat with me. We chatted about everything we could in the 30mins we were allocated.

This amazing gentleman was from Syria and had only just started learning to speak English. He spoke to me for about 40mins and it was incredible. His life story and passion to do well in the UK was inspiring. I kept telling him how well he was doing and how his English ability was fantastic. (In this photo, he was showing me how young he looked without a beard!)

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It was interesting having lots of different conversations but also talking about mental health, how people felt about it’s representation and how they were coping with the stresses and anxieties in their lives. There were some inspirational stories about overcoming depression for family, accepting who you are and people trying to improve their lives with smiles on their faces.

Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone writes their own stories and create them day-by-day. The difference between you and a paperback book is that you can create your own future. You can escape from what makes life miserable because you, are amazing. You have the power. And you can totally nail being a Human Book.

Find out more about Human Library Cardiff and Human Books UK.

Take Pride, be proud

Happy Tuesday lovely people. If you’re a UK resident, I hope you enjoyed the long Bank Holiday weekend. I put mine to good use.

As a Time to Change Champion, part of the volunteer role is go out and share your story with others in the hope of encouraging more people to talk about their mental health. A really important and relevant topic at the moment. Because I work full-time, I tend to miss out on going out to businesses and presenting so I embrace any opportunity to help the charity open-heartedly!

This weekend, I was lucky enough to go along and support the Time to Change team at Pride Cymru. This celebration of people was so heart-warming and so amazing to see. Cardiff looks to have opened its arms to so many different people and, despite being straight, I was so proud to be part of the celebrations on the weekend. There were rainbows everywhere you looked, hundreds taking part in the parade through the city centre and families enjoying a day out.

My friend Becky and I got all kinds of involved with Dust and Dance glitter on our faces…

Becky and me

You can’t beat a cheeky bit of glitter!

We spent the day talking to lots of people about mental health, hearing their stories and admiring their bravery. One teenage girl told me that she’d come along to Pride with her friends but had that morning come out to her Mum. I couldn’t believe how amazing she was. I can’t imagine how scary it must’ve been for her. But here she was, all dressed up and celebrating with her friends. She said she’d struggled with her mental health but was feeling like a weight had been lifted by embracing who she was.

We met older people, teenagers and families who were all getting in the spirit. It was great to see families with small children, showing them that it’s OK to be yourself, no matter who that is.

TTCW Pride

Plenty of local businesses were getting involved including Coffee#1, South Wales Police and the Principality Building Society.

We missed the lovely Anya (one of the faces of Time to Change and whose blog Me, Myself and Eyes is one to follow) but were extremely happy to see the lovely Beth appear, despite her being really poorly….

Squad

All in all, this awesome event let everyone be themselves and brighter. We were out in force talking mental health while everyone else was promoting equality in a similar fashion. This was my first event and it was amazing hearing the stories, meeting the people and putting faces to a charity that campaigns for ending mental health stigma.

How do you feel about sharing your mental health story? Do you think it helps others to see what you’re going through? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! 

Everything changes but you…

Now I know that one of my best friends will absolutely love me for naming my latest post after a song by her most favourite boy band (now man-band) on the planet. It seemed appropriate. We actually went to see Take That in concert in June and it was great fun. As someone who normally goes to see rock/metal bands, this was definitely a change!

Take That

Hearing this song on the radio the other day got me thinking about my current situation. Everything is definitely changing and my anxiety is in a state of flux. And it’s my own fault for wanting to move forward in life.

Last week, I:

Waved goodbye to my current job to pursue a new role elsewhere

After 2 1/2 years, I said goodbye to lots of amazing people and friends too. It was a really sad day. There were some changes made at my place of work that I didn’t agree with and couldn’t carry on there. Sounds trivial but it was to do with talking therapies. Feeling so strongly about it, I had to take a step back. I was a bit of a champion for mental health in the office so it was a big deal to me. However, I’m really excited about going back in a few weeks’ time to do some Mental Health First Aid Training with them which will be amazingly beneficial and a big step for them.

TCC

My partner and I have bought a house

Yes, we do indeed like to do everything all at once! We put an offer on the house in May and it just so happened that we signed just after I’d finished my job. We got the keys and started renovating it pretty much immediately. A week in and it’s a bit of a building site but it’s getting there. We’ve had amazing help from family which has made me less anxious and made it more enjoyable too. Here we are outside our first home together… And me with my ecstatic face and weird neck thing…

house

I’m transitioning in my medication

Definitely the wrong time to be transitioning but it will test if the 100mg of Sertraline are working! Relying on them a bit more as I’ve managed to sprain my ankle so no running to let off the anxiety. Does anyone else feel really tired on Sertraline? It’s making me feel quite sluggish and woozy. My stomach is in a constant state of butterflies, my mind is whizzing 100miles an hour and it’s not slowing down.

There are definitely some BIG changes going on but I’m trying to power through and keep as calm as possible. Really enjoying my new role so far (it’s only been a week!) but the drive makes me rather anxious. I hate not knowing where I’m going and what lanes I need to be in. Sounds daft but I obsess about it. I’m getting slowly better and keeping calm while I tackle it!

Also, I decided to share my story with Hafal and Mental Health UK about my mental health and my relationship with money. Pretty terrified about the reception it will get but if it helps people and makes them feel reassured, it’s worth it. Link to follow when it’s uploaded!

 

 

 

‘Locked door’ approach to mental health from employers

A survey carried out by Rethink Mental Illness has found there’s still prejudice/discrimination when it comes to employers hiring people with mental health issues.

According to the charity, the figures show:

  • 68% of employers hiring someone with severe mental health issues worry they won’t fit into the team
  • 83% of employers would worry someone with a severe mental illness couldn’t deal with the pressures of the job
  • 54% of employers surveyed wouldn’t know how to support someone with schizophrenia

The one that really made for eye-opening reading was:

“Only 43% of all people with mental health problems are in employment, compared to 74% of the general population.” – Rethink Mental Illness survey 2017

How can society do this to people who have illnesses they can’t help? Would they do the same to someone with a broken leg? The problem is, many employers aren’t sure how to deal with people who suffer mentally. Do you treat us differently? Do you treat us the same but keep an extra eye out?

Recently a lady in the US tweeted about how she needed to take a ‘mental health day off’ and what her boss’ reaction was. Read the article here. It went viral because he responded in such an accepting way and thanked her for reminding everyone of the importance of mental health sick days.

Email resposne

(Courtesy of metro.co.uk)

 

Programmes like Time to Change (of which I’m a Champion – Read my story) are helping to end this stigma and also helping organisations to understand what to do when someone needs help. Years ago, I faced discrimination and not great treatment after I was diagnosed with depression. I was made to feel bad about myself, the work I was doing and the fact I didn’t wear make-up to work to ‘make myself more presentable’.

All of the above is why I got involved and became a Champion. I’m proud of how far I’ve come in my career despite my mental health not always being up to scratch. Being accepted by colleagues and in fact, respected, really helps. I was thanked by someone who’d been having mental health issues for reassuring her that there’s no shame in talking about it. Because there isn’t.

For those who won’t hire someone with a mental health issue, thank you. You make us realise how awesome and how much potential we have. It might knock us down initially but when we find the right organisation, it builds us up bigger and better than before.

If this has happened to you, keep going. You can beat this and find the right job for you.

Stay positive 🙂

Social is helping us talk mental health

“Now that I’ve created my new blog, what do I talk about? How do I narrow it down?”

These were the thoughts I had before a Google Alert popped into my inbox and made the choice easier. It actually highlights exactly why I started this blog in fact. Fate or what?

After reading this piece by I:D US about how social media is changing the way we talk about mental health, I realised that’s what me and so many others are doing. We’re all finding ways of coping with our mental health by using or doing whatever is accessible to us. And social media for so many works.

“77% said of young people say it’s easier to find personal stories and advice online than in-person.” – ID:US

It’s really incredible that so many of us who worry about starting these blogs in the first place, do so anyway. Mental strength prevails. We worry in case anyone judges us, doesn’t like what we’re saying, or even worse, doesn’t bother reading it. There’s been a lot to say that social media has had a negative effect on people too. Making people less sociable (the irony), low self esteem and confidence if no one likes or comments on their photos, are a few examples.

(The anxious part of my brain is worrying now that what I’m saying won’t make sense… And so the fight continues)

The key stats I picked out from the ID:US piece (featuring a survey carried out by the Born This Way Foundation) were:

  • 84% of people said social media let them speak to people who were facing similar challenges
  • 70% of those asked said they used the internet to message professionals who could offer support
  • Creating friendships and a support network online is really important

So, what we learn from this?

Making connections is really important. Whether you do it in person or via the internet. The purpose of so many mental health blogs written by those experiencing it are to help raise awareness. It’s also to let those who are suffering know they’re not alone. If my blog can encourage someone to reach out, find out more information or make a new friend, I’m happy about that.

Stay positive 🙂