Sense and Sensibility…and Shots

Happy Monday one and all. I hope you had fabulous weekends and managed to take some time for yourselves. In general, I had a lovely weekend but as the title suggests, I didn’t manage to weigh up being sensible with having tequila shots!

It’s on a very rare occasion these days that I actually drink alcohol. Years ago, I would be out all the time with my friends, being really boozy and trying to drink away the anxiety. However, and as many of you will probably know, it definitely doesn’t help. In fact, it makes things worse. Recently, because of my new diagnosis, Dad-stuff and studying stuff, I’ve been feeling really angry and anxious. I’m not entirely sure my anti-psychotic medication is helping as I’ve now started having chest pains which I’ve never had before and have lost the feeling in three of the toes on my left foot (odd I know).

Anyway, going off topic as per usual!

So I started my weekend out with my local Parkrun and 144 other enthusiastic runners at 9am on Saturday morning. I felt like a just needed to run the anxiety out of me. It was getting more and more pent-up. It was a good run and nearly had a PB.

Then there was shopping and spending time with my Mum and sister which was fun and cuddling the puppy later in the afternoon.

I got myself into an anxious and angry tizz before I even left the house as I couldn’t decide what to wear and could feel the rage building. Eventually (the pup had fallen asleep by the time I’d chosen what to wear), I left the house and my little sis ‘made me up’ for my evening out.

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Then there was gin. Then there was a Long Island Ice Tea. And then there was Tequila. The latter being all my undoing. I don’t think of how awful it makes me feel until it’s the day after and I actually want to die. The evening was amazing and there were conversations flowing about mental health and how we were all dealing with our problems. An alcohol fuelled therapy session.

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The day after. I felt OK, bit of a headache. By 10.30am, I was cleaning the house, stripping the beds and doing the washing. I then took the puppy on a long-ish walk, sorted and cleaned my wardrobe, did the food shopping, made dinner, and cleaned the kitchen (again). This might look like me being super productive but when I’m on the edge-of-my-seat anxious, I clean. Obsessively. I get angry and raging when things aren’t tidy or in their place. Luckily, my partner was out so didn’t get to see me throwing things about. THIS is the problem with alcohol.

Then came the chest pains, the rushing thoughts, the panic attack and my poor other half telling me I was going to hospital. I panicked about him leaving me and started ranting about my Dad. My partner insisted on hospital but I refused to go. There’s nothing they could do about it so I just sat and waited for the pains to settle. My lovely man sat and gave me hugs, made me laugh and helped to take my mind off things. I used the reliable co-codamol to knock me out and help the pains.

What I’m gathering from this is that common sense should’ve told me not to drink as much as I did. I should’ve had the intelligence and sensibility not to do that to myself but ultimately, the shots won. I was upset because having a drink for me is not the same as it is for the majority of people and it makes me sad.

Those of you who struggle with your mental health, have you given up drinking altogether? Is that the best way forward?

Time to Talk 2018

A week today, Time to Change is holding its annual ‘Time to Talk’ Day which encourages people to speak out about their mental health.

tttd-960-x-9602For so long, having a mental health problem was seen as something you should be ashamed to talk about. You would never have dreamed of telling your family, friends or colleagues about it because they would see it as a weakness. But actually, as the stigma is being broken down, we’re seeing that actually those of us who can’t quite deal with our mental health, are warriors in our own right. It’s great that charities like Time to Change, Mind, Hafal/Gofal (in Wales) etc are encouraging conversations.

I read an interesting article on the Huffington Post about how people who have anxiety ‘perceive the world in a fundamentally different way’  As the article says, you can’t argue with science can you?

Time to Talk Day is an awesome concept encouraging everyone, everywhere and anywhere to take five minutes and ask how someone’s doing. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate but it shows that you care.

Coming to terms with my Borderline diagnosis has been an interesting journey. I was told in November last year and have been mulling it over ever since. I still find it strange to say that’s what I have and I feel almost relieved. I offered to be a case study for BBC for Time to Talk Day and chatting through my experiences all over again was still scary and did affect me. I had to ring my partner for a chat afterwards because he always cheers me up. Immediately, he asked how I was. It was that simple and it made me feel better knowing I could tell him about it.

I know that it might be tough reading for my partner, friends and family and I hope they understand. I want to be able to say what happened and help someone who might be feeling the same way or need an extra push to talk to someone. It’s sort of therapeutic and anxiety-filled all at the same time.

Telling someone something that you’re worried about is a terrifying thing. It can take months, years even, to almost break the stigma in your own mind. But, it’s worth it if it means keeping yourself and your mental health safe.

Next Thursday (1st February), make sure you use your five minutes at work, at home, or at a local community group, to ask how someone is. That question might help to save someone’s life or just make someone’s day.

How to look after your mental health this Blue Monday

The third Monday of January every year has been labelled as ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year. That’s all well and good but what if you struggle for the 364 other days of the year?

There’s a great piece written by Anita Sethi on The Guardian Online who says:

“It’s important to acknowledge that, despite the PR over this particular date, depression can strike on any day, at any time of year.” And she’s right.

There’s no shame in it and as it stands, 1 in 4 people suffer with their mental health. So you’re in good company.

Some days, like so many, I find it hard to comprehend getting out of bed and starting the day. Talking to people seems like a mission, the head fog seems too much and the prospect of being productive while my head is elsewhere seems foreign. However, there are a few things that I do to help myself. These might help you too.

Breathing

OK, bit obvious, however sometimes I forget to take calm, deep breaths. Especially if my mind is playing tricks on me. Sometimes I’ll sit and take eight deep breaths in and out just to clear my mind. It helps me re-focus too.

Exercise

It might sound like a cliche but I’m a real advocate for it. If you’re feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you need some space, go for a walk. Take a stroll on your lunch break and listen to some of your favourite songs. Go to the gym (if you’re part of one), do a bit of yoga, go for a run, anything that will help you let off steam and get the endorphins going. I’m really bad for not getting my bum out of my office chair when I need to so I’m making an effort to do this more. It really helps.

Reading

Positive quotes or an uplifting article can make you feel a bit better. I love Pinterest so I’ll take a look at a few and when I crack a smile, I write down the quote in my notebook so I can look at it. My best friend bought me a book for Christmas that has lots of amazing quotes inside it. Whenever I feel down, I’ll go to this book first and see what it can do.

Listening

Whether you listen to an interesting podcast, your favourite album, an uplifting playlist or your favourite radio station, treat yourself to time alone in your mind with you. Surround your mind with something you really like and enjoy. I like listening to my London Marathon 2016 playlist because it reminds me of how awesome the experience was and the playlist was put together by lots of great friends.

Talking

You might not want to talk to anyone but it can really help. Whether it’s telling a friend, partner or colleague you’re not feeling too great, they might be able to help. Or, they might just leave you alone to have the space you need. Talking about what’s wrong over a cuppa can really help to take the weight off. Sometimes, I find, that what my mind is telling me, isn’t necessarily the truth. If you’re a writer, write how you’re feeling down. As a blogger, I definitely find this helps me.

Take a social media break

Social media is something I both love and hate. I work on it daily and try to keep up with what’s going on nightly. Sometimes, I see things that really put me on a downer. Whether it’s someone going on holiday, getting married, doing incredible things that I’m not doing, it gets me down. I do try to remember that the majority of what’s online is what people want you to see about them. But still, this sense can get lost in the depressed fog of the brain. Take a little break from it. I try really hard at night to put my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ and not look at it. I also put it face down on the night stand. I then pick up my book and get engrossed.

You’re not alone. If you’re feeling really down and feel like you can’t cope, I’ve been there too. I know this might not help, but I’d like you to know. I posted a few weeks ago about having a complete meltdown and filmed what it was like. I also then rang my local GP and asked for help. But this was a big step and I was supported by my amazing partner.

Remember, you’re awesome and you can get through it.

Useful links

Mind

Samaritans

Mental Health Foundation

(In Wales)

CALL

Hafal

Gofal

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)

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.

 

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!