5 top mental health podcasts for 2019

So, I’m a big fan of my headphones. I’m a big fan of tuning in and tuning out. I love my music but sometimes I get bored. As I was going through my bored stage, I went looking for something new to whet my appetite and keep me occupied on the bus to work or walking at lunchtime.

As you can probably tell, I have a passion for and interest in mental health which is why I got onto iTunes and went searching for the perfect podcast. And there are hundreds out there. If you were thinking of making the jump from music to moments of wisdom and knowledge, check out the podcasts below. The subjects are interesting and I’ve found some really great snippets of mental health advice lurking in them.

CTRL ALT DELETE (Emma Gannon)

Ctrl Alt Delete (Photo credit - Emma Gannon)
Ctrl Alt Delete (Photo credit – Emma Gannon)

If you haven’t heard of podcasting genius, Emma Gannon, you need to. I was drawn to this podcast by some of the topics that Emma covered and some of the guests she had on the programme were really interesting, for example, authors Matt Haig (Reasons to Stay Alive), Bella Mackie (Jog On) and Jodi Picoult (My Sister’s Keeper). There were also episodes that made me laugh out loud on the bus from comedienne and author, Bryony Gordon (Eat, Drink, Run/Mad Girl), and author, Sarah Knight (The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k). All of these people are so honest and accessible thanks to Emma. Their honest conversations make you feel like you’re not alone when you’re having

Favourite episode: CTRl, ALT, DELETE Podcast #69: Bryony Gordon (On Marathons and Mental Health)

Mentally Yrs

Mentally Yrs (Photo credit: Metro Online)

This is a great podcast run by Yvette Caster and Ellen Scott of the Metro Online. They talk frankly and honestly about topics such as mental health and money, living life on the internet and the effects of social media. Both presenters have spoken openly about their own mental health experiences too which really cements what they know and the advice/information given to listeners.

Favourite episode: Talking Borderline Personality Disorder with Beth Allan

Happy Place (Fearne Cotton)

Happy Place (Photo credit: Ferne Cotton)

This is such a, as the title suggests, happy podcast. It’s so full of hope, wisdom and useful information. The idea is to find that bit of happiness and joy and calm time in your busy life so you’re looking after your mental health. Fearne talks about her own experiences too and interviews some great and inspirational people such as Stephen Fry, Emma Willis, Paloma Faith and Melanie C.

Favourite episode: Happy Place, Matt Haig

If I Can Do It

If I Can Do It (Photo credit: Bryony Gordon & The Telegraph)

I do have to say that I BLOODY LOVE this lady, Bryony Gordon. She’s a columnist at The Telegraph newspaper/online and is the author of fantastic books ‘Mad Girl’ and ‘Eat, Drink, Run’. The reason I love her, apart from the swearing and hilarious anecdotes, is her complete honesty. I laughed out loud at the fact that she was convinced to run the London Marathon after seeing the Royals at a Heads Together event! This podcast is all about overcoming the odds to do something incredible. And sometimes, that’s just staying alive.

Most inspirational episode: Mel B (Or Scary Spice from The Spice Girls)

Nothing, I’m Fine

Nothing I’m Fine (Photo credit: Nothing I’m Fine)

This is a new podcast for me but a great one nonetheless. It’s ‘two blondes talking brains’ and chatting openly and honestly about mental health and their experiences. It’s nice because you feel like you’re part of the chat and that you’re sitting quietly in the corner getting some great insight.

Favourite episode: Ep #1 Anxiety, my old friend

Sometimes we need need a bit of reassurance and advice and sometimes, we don’t want to ask for it. We just want to see what we can find out for ourselves and know we’re not alone. I hope you’ll find these useful and enjoy learning and self-helping in a relaxed way, whether you’re in the car, on the bus or taking a walk at lunchtime.

Hygge, feeling cozy and puppy cuddles

So, I don’t know about you, but I love getting cozy on a cold winters night, armed with hot chocolate, my PJs and our puppy.

I also love the newish concept of ‘Hygge’.It hints at being able to relax and enjoy your own space & time. For someone with anxiety, this can be really hard. I’m constantly on the go. Reading To Aspie or Not to Aspie’s blog about behaving oneself and learning to chill out has made me see that I need to be cozy & cuddle the pup more often. I mean look at its little, furry 4 month old face…

This was our attempt at cozy with my partners sister Ellie, Dominos pizza & Mamma Mia… Except Maisey the fluffy whirlwind had other ideas!

Rules for coziness:

  1. PJs are a must
  2. A cheesy happy film is a goer
  3. Good company, be that your own or someone else’s
  4. Chocolate
  5. Plenty of blankets

We did pretty well tonight at cozy… when we weren’t outside in -1C waiting for our fluffy friend to ‘drop the kids off’!

Via Daily Prompt: Cozy

Proclivity for the mind

In truth, I did just have to Google what the Daily Prompt: Proclivity actually meant, but thought I’d give it a go.

I have a proclivity for talking about mental health. It’s something I feel passionately about, strongly about & having experience of it, it’s something I have tendency to talk about a lot.

However, since the update to my ‘diagnosis’, I feel a bit like a fraud. I don’t feel ok in my skin. My mind is an unsure, uneven, overwhelmed entity. I feel like I don’t fit into the world I do strongly associate with.

My proclivity for mental health also goes hand in hand with that of my other love, running. It helps clear the fog, gets me away from the annoyance of daily life & lets me breathe. I’ve run the stages (5k,10k, Half Marathon & Marathon), read so many books, have collected running tops, medals etc. It waned for a bit because I was injured but I’m getting back to it by taking part in RED January. ‘RED’ stands for ‘Run Every Day’ – and is to raise money for the mental health charity, Mind.

This will have my focus for the next month. I do have a tendency to launch full force into things & then give up so we’ll see!

What do you have a strong tendency to talk about? What gets you excited?

Torn feelings: A diagnosis

So, finally, after so many years of struggling emotionally and mentally, the psychologist revealed to me today what it is that’s been going on with me.

The Daily Prompt of ‘Torn’ is quite fitting.

The very nice psychologist came to the following conclusions about me:

  1. I have severe social anxiety
  2. I have a sensory disorder (I get overloaded by certain things I see, hear or feel)
  3. I have Alexithymia(I have difficulty inexperiencing, expressing and describing my emotions and how I feel)

So, not only am I torn about how I feel but also my mind is torn three different and separate ways. And now I have to work out how to deal with each of them.

This is pretty spot on right now…

It’s bad, isn’t it, that my whole life I’ve never fitted in and now the same’s true for my diagnosis? I was frustrated, angry, disappointed and cried a hell of a lot. That’s because I know how to do this and do it well. And this rings true…

I was told a few days ago that I was an ‘interesting case’ and that I was ‘definitely special and fabulous’. Lovely, but seeing as compliments freak me out and make me awkward, it wasn’t great.

I have a full report basically telling me I’m very anxious. Which I knew.

The cause? For those who know me, you’ll already know this…My Dad. This surprises me not. That’s a WHOLE different blogpost for when I’m less seethingly angry at him. Or when it’s simmering. I write better when there’s simmering.

For now, I’ll continue to be torn between the diagnosis I got today and what I’ve been told in the past, and try to find my way to self-help.

❤️❤️❤️

If anyone has any hints or tips on dealing with the above, that would be awesome.

My best buddy Anger

During the process of trying to find out exactly what my issues are and how to deal with them, I’ve discovered I have a new best friend.

Someone that I’m drawing closer to, taking knowledge from, and someone who’s leading by example in my life at present. My good old buddy, Anger. This is how I think she’d look…

img_0991-1

Now, you might know Anger and be able to quieten her down when she gets too much. I can’t seem to do this. She’s the friend you don’t want.

You’re quite happily plodding along with your distant buddies ‘Calm’ and ‘In control’ when suddenly, Anger feels neglected and kicks off that you’re not paying her any attention. Then, ‘BAM!’ you’re on a one-woman trip to Regretsville with no way of getting off that train. Again, it’s what I imagine & I don’t actually look like that ⬇️


Anyone who struggles with their anger will know only too well what if feels like.

So, the other morning, I was trying to eat my breakfast and the puppy was being naughty. She was trying to eat the curtains, Christmas tree, my foot, digging the carpet and barking; basically anything to get my attention. I, thanks to various books and training advice, was ignoring her.

However, the surge of anger came. Now, the rational side of my brain said ‘She’s only a puppy’ and ‘You know she’s doing this for attention’, however the ir-rant-tional side is screaming ‘I can’t take it. She’s interrupting my routine and my time. She’s distracting me and being a nightmare’.

Physical feelingsBurning/fluttering in the pit of my stomach

  • Feeling hot
  • Feeling flush with rage
  • Getting the shakes
  • Getting hot sweats
  • Wanting to punch something
  • Wanting to scream

Mental feelingsRage

  • Stress
  • Irritability

Anger, of course, is there egging me on. It’s making me want to scream at the top of my lungs until I run out of air, cry hysterically, leave the house and runaway. Anger is basically taking over and kicking me out of my own skin. Since I’ve started on new medication (Quetiapine), it’s getting worse. I’m getting angry because I’m letting Anger get to me and spur me on.

If anyone has any tips of how they control their good friend Anger, I’m all ears.

I’m trying to move away from my intoxicating friend Anger & focus more on those true friends, Calm & In Control & Safe. The ones that keep me (half) sane and keep me out of trouble. The fluttery feelings will hopefully pass & I’m going to attempt to stay away from Anger & her train to Regretsville & maybe give Patience and Calm a try. I hear they’re lovely this time of year.

It’s been emotional, Anger buddy, but it’s time we parted ways. For now.

My true calling

If you can’t tell, I’m embracing the Daily Prompts these days. It lets you be so creative & explore new avenues of thought previously unknown. I love reading everyone else’s too! So, here’s my go at ‘Daily Prompt: Calling’

I sit alone awake at night & think of all the times,

My mind has been all a-flutter, a-whizz with lots of rhymes.

Sometimes my thoughts become too much floating in my head,

So I write them down or tap them out before I go to bed.

I feel like poetry is my calling & really helps me breathe,

But most of the time it lurks below the surface, safe & underneath.

Until a time when I let it out & it shows what it can do,

I get out my phone or my notepad & let the creativity sneak right through.

My true calling channels my emotions & helps me feel at ease,

It calms me & my fretting down so that no one ever sees.

What a swan-like person I really am with my faffing feet,

Hiding my anxious mind from most people that I meet.

Big thank you for reading & please post a link to your prompts below. I’d love to see your interpretation! ❤️ (Beautiful image from here)

Poem: There’s nothing like a Legend

‘There’s nothing like a legend to turn your life around,

They help you live the life you want & help you stand your ground.

They shower you with so much love & bucket loads of affection,

The times they’ve been your shining knight, far more than you can mention.

They’re nothing like the films, the plays, and books or on TV,

There’s so much more to them than that, so much everyone else can’t see.

They might not ride around on horses or appear in a puff of a cloud,

Instead they’re disguised as normal people, extraordinary & making you proud.

Legends are supposed to be mythical but real life ones are right there,

Just to give you the whole world & show you that they care.’

Dedicated to a real life legends & altogether amazing people who help me so much. And to one in particular who saves me everyday ❤️

Daily Prompt – Legend

Mental health, money & me

We’ve just come back from Christmas shopping & it was the hardest thing. Generally, 50% of people are traumatised by festive shoppers but this is different.

Because of my mood highs & lows, I tend to spend lots of money. I tend to spend more money than I can afford on things that I don’t really need but that make me feel better at that time. In short, I have no concept of money & will happily spend hundreds of pounds of money on clothes, presents, books. You name it, I’ll have a reason in my mind to buy it.

In the past I’ve racked up so much debt that it’s made my anxiety go through the roof but at the time of spending, I wouldn’t even think about it. A sense of how much or what on wouldn’t phase me.

I’d pay some of the bill off each month but always spent more than I paid back. One vicious cycle. One hideous problem.

This was me today…

Hiding how twitchy & upset behind the shades. They’re my saving grace on many levels. I’m not great with bright lights anyway but today was a case of doing some hiding.

Only when I met Karl did I actually tell him. I hadn’t told anyone before. I was ashamed of the habit I’d gotten myself into at University. It was the making of me & the breaking of my bank account.

And speaking of banks, all they did was extend my overdraft & credit card limits, despite me ringing at all times of the day to ask what I could do about it. I was like a drug addict going cold turkey.

My partner just so happens to be a whizz with numbers so he was straight into helping me, creating a budget, a list each month of what I wanted to buy that month etc. I handed over my cards to him & decided having a limited amount of cash so when i was spent up, I was spent up. Generally, it works well.

I’m:

  • Better with the concept of money
  • I only spend what I have on me
  • I value my money more
  • I’m more organised with what I want to buy
  • I pay my bills on time

However, mentally:

  • It’s like withdrawal
  • All I can think about is spending
  • I sulk
  • I try to rationalise it in my head but it’s like a Wimbledon tennis match

I’m trying. My partner jokingly always says ‘Why yes you are’. He also tells me I am doing well but I don’t feel it.

I have, however, shared my story with the mental health charity, Hafal. They’ve launched a money advice service with Lloyd’s Bank to help people like me. It’s UK wide & could really help if you’re like me & want help.

The website is called the Mental Health & Money Advice Service.Take look. It might not help you but it might help someone you know.

Determining the Diagnosis

If you’re struggling to see someone and get the mental health diagnosis you need, you’re not alone. With 1 in 4 people suffering with their mental health, this is not uncommon.

The problems with getting a diagnosis include:

  • GPs having limited experience of mental illness
  • Waiting lists in the UK being overwhelmed with GP referrals
  • Some of the disorders present themselves as something else so can be hard to diagnose
  • Having a negative 8-minute consultation with the GP and not wanting to bother again
  • Not getting a concrete one

Having been in limbo for the past 20+ years of my life as to what was wrong with me and who I actually am, I’ve become almost obsessed with finding out. Weirdly, the obsession is something that’s helping me with my diagnosis plight.

After I hit rock bottom in October and saw my new GP, I was referred within six weeks to see the Community Mental Health Team. I was so surprised that it took such a short amount of time but so pleased that my plea for help was being taken seriously. The last time I was referred to the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) where I used to live, they sat with clipboards, studied me and when I told them about my episode of crashing my car they said I couldn’t make excuses for bad driving. You can imagine how I was feeling about seeing the CMHT this time around. Because we’ve moved, I now come under a different health board. Thank.Goodness. There’s been more progress in two months here than there has been in 20+ years with the other one.

In the time leading up to the appointment, I couldn’t sleep. I was grumpy, panicking, feeling sick and at the same time, felt so productive and totally amazing, I couldn’t complain. On the day of the appointment, I had been in two meetings at work and pretty much sped to the appointment (running late as usual). Sitting in the waiting room, I was twitching, biting the side of my cheek and feeling the sense of overwhelming foreboding that I wasn’t going to get anywhere.

The psychiatrist, turns out, was lovely. I took all of my proof of moods with me, my sleep patterns and any notes of ‘unusual behaviour’. She looked through it all, asked me lots of questions and listened to what I was saying.

After what seemed like a lifetime, she said she could rule out a few things but said that my moods and lack of control over emotions pointed to Borderline Personality Disorder or ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’. We talked about it and looked at the Mind website for a breakdown of the diagnosis. It seemed to fit me to a T. She did suggest that I also have a test for Autism, which has been suggested a few times by my counsellor too.

I came out of the appointment feeling confused. Relieved, that we’d put our fingers on it, scared, because this was something new and I didn’t know much about it, and still a bit unsettled. The psychiatrist changed my medication from anti-depressants to mood stabilisers, something I’ve been banging on about for years.

If you’re in that stage where you’re not sure what to do about your mental health and feel like there’s more to it than ‘You’re just having a bad day’ or a bad week, make sure you tell someone.

I’d suggest the following (although I’m by no means an expert!):

  • Keep a track of your moods, emotions etc so you have proof for your GP of how you’re feeling (A diary might be a good way of doing this)
  • Make an appointment with your GP and tell them what’s going on
  • Fill in the test they give to monitor how you’re feeling
  • Have a chat with them and see if you can be referred to see a mental health specialist
  • If you’re not opposed, trial the medication they give you and if it’s not right, tell them
  • Don’t give up!

Grandma's Special HerbsThe last one is the most important. Don’t just settle for what you’ve been told. If you don’t think that’s right, tell your GP. If the medication doesn’t sit well or you experience bad side affects, tell your GP. You have to do what’s right for you and make sure it suits you and works for you.

It takes guts to do it but I believe you can do it. You deserve it. You owe it to you to be able to live the life you’re here to live.

Book Review: ‘Madness: A Bipolar Life’ by Marya Hornbacher

If you haven’t heard of Marya Hornbacher and haven’t had the opportunity to read her powerful biography ‘Madness: A Bipolar Life’, this is my intervention. And you should.

After speaking to my counsellor and mentioning possible diagnoses of Autism and Bipolar 2, I decided to see if there were any books around these subjects and this was the first of my finding. And I’m glad it was. Although Marya has severe Bipolar Disorder 1, some of the things she mentions doing in her book hit home.

“My brain sometimes departs from the agreed-upon reality, and my private reality is a very lonely place. But in the end, I’m not sure I wish I’d never gone there.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Madness: A Bipolar Life

img_0500The way that she describes her experiences are both poetic and ultimately, sad. She talks about madness as if it’s  “…sitting in an old plaid bathrobe in your kitchen, unpleasant and unshaved. Madness is a rotten guest.”

Don’t we all just feel that way? Those days where you head into the bathroom to get ready for work and the day ahead but you can’t. There’s something stopping you, standing in your way and not letting you move ahead. You want to do life but you don’t. All at the same time.

I have an appointment with a psychiatrist this week and I don’t know how my mind will behave. Do I want it to behave? Do I want it to behave like a naughty toddler, kicking up a fuss so the doctor can see what it’s really like? I’m so nervous. When I was assessed before and was having a bit of an episode, I drove my car into a lorry. It was stationary. It was my fault. I don’t wholly remember it. The Mental Health Team’s response? ‘It won’t be your mind or the tablets. We can’t account for bad driving.’ Hence my fear and anxiety.

“I’m sick. It’s true. It isn’t going to go away. All my life, I’ve thought that if I just worked hard enough, it would. I’ve always thought that if I just pulled myself together, I’d be a good person, a calm person, a person like everyone else.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Madness: A Bipolar Life

I honestly take my mental health hat off to Marya for her bravery and creativity writing this reflection. At times, I felt so sad for her, then angry at the system for fobbing her off for so long, then a sense of association and finally, a wish for her to have peace and find the help she needed.

Ending the stigma surrounding mental health and especially conditions like Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Multiple Personality Disorder and so on, has never been so important. Next on my list to read is ‘Sane: Mental Illness, Addiction and the 12 Steps’

‘Madness: A Bipolar Life’ is definitely a must-read. It’s a tough read but it will just make you admire Marya Hornbacher even more.