Stigma Free

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Some things are just too important to just ignore.

I’ve been through it and thankfully out the other side, I know that mental health illnesses ARE DIFFERENT, and not one diagnosis fits everyone.

No one and I mean no one can or should tell another person that they know how you feel, as simply no one knows what goes through another person’s head, especially when it comes to mental health related issues.

What I can do is relate, I can listen, I will always reach out and make sure people are okay, I can read their telltale signs because I know just as well as anyone on how hard you try to hide them.

One of the most important decisions I made was when I was diagnosed with depression was to be open and honest, and it helped me no end in regards to my recovery.

It’s important to find that inner strength and courage to talk, but it’s equally important if not more so that people listen, that people take the time to try and understand, to try and relate.

Mental Health is a truly awful illness, believe me, it rips every single identifiable belief that you once had away.

It leaves you feeling like you are not only lost but nothing is ever going to get better, smiling on the outside, but dying inside, every single second of every single day.

Even the celebrations or moments of joy within your life, or shared by the people you care about fail to mask just how you feel within yourself, as you struggle to contain your biggest secret.

But it can get better and it does, but only in time, with a lot of patience, to remember to give yourself a break, to make sure you concentrate on yourself, to become a higher priority than always bottom, and to learn to love yourself again.

The stigma behind mental health is very real, I lost friendships because of it, people who distanced themselves away from me, others who thought it was their place to give me tough love and tell me exactly how I felt and if I didn’t take their advice I would never get better.

But I did get better and I did it my way.

I may write from time to time about how depression affected me in that moment, and what is actually even more important to write about is the recovery process, so others can see hope.

But I want to be even more open if I can be, I’ll help absolutely anyone as I know just how hard and how difficult depression can be.

So I want to say to anyone if you’re struggling I’m always here for you, I don’t know what your going through but I can relate.

And for anyone who doesn’t quite understand mental health, here’s your chance to ask me, on here or privately.

But the more we talk, the more we understand, and by doing so we stop the stigma.

#MentalHealthAwareness

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My Truths Part 2

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I need to stop searching for that perfect life.

Not a life that everyone sees but a life that I see.

A life that you may have, and that’s now no longer for me.

I wanted the world, my world.

I wanted happiness, I wanted laughter, I wanted love, I wanted normal day to day routine.

I wanted to be kind, I wanted to be loyal, I wanted to be supportive and encouraging.

But I’ve also been reminded that as quick as I am to do these things I don’t show the love back on myself.

If I portrayed aloud the feelings I have for myself, especially in the moments that aren’t going right for me, the person even in the mirror would walk away.

People can be hard, people can be judgemental, people can be cruel and honest too in their own judgements.

But no one is going to be your harshest critic other than yourself, so why do we do it.

Things aren’t going right for me, they’ve never gone right for me.

Yes I’ve had moments of celebration, proud moments of achievement, things I can look back on and remember I did good.

But lots of mistakes, lots of overthinking and wishing I had or hadn’t done something.

Regrets many probably.

But equally these regrets and mistakes shape us.

I’ve always had this image, probably instilled inside me from a very young age, that perfect life.

That question that got asked and still to this day gets asked, where do you see yourself, what are your dreams, what do you want to do and achieve in life.

For me it’s always been to be happy.

To be in love, to be loved, a wife, a family, to earn a living to enjoy the moments, to create memories, lasting ones that I could always look back on with fondness and laughter.

This image I have created from a young age may not be too dissimilar to what some of you have, normally I’d say your lucky.

But are you?

That picture portrait that we image is no more than a photograph, a still image of how we hope life will play out.

But nothing comes without sacrifice, hard work, tears, of frustration and joy and relief.

I’m who I am, I’ve tried for so, so long searching for that picture perfect life, that probably doesn’t even exist, well not for me, and certainly not in a clouded memory that I first thought, dreamt and imagined it to be.

I feel tired that I’m searching for something to get me going, get me to the place and places that can or could get me on my path to life and happiness.

We should all have dreams, and we should never stop wishing that picture perfect life is no more than a brave grasp away.

But for me, it’s about stopping, taking in a deep breath, breathing and feeling alive, no longer just existing anymore.

Tearing up that imaginary life plan, and letting life embrace me for everything that it is and will be.

Life is hard, I know this to be true.

There will be moments of joy and there will be moments of sadness, they’ll be moments that test me and moments that strengthen me, when like now I struggle to pick myself up and go again.

But go again I shall.

Life isn’t about what we dream it’s about what we deliver on.

It’s about being happy.

It’s about achieving.

It’s about living.

Seeking out adventures and feeling alive.

I’m at a crossroads of uncertainty, and it scares me, hugely, but it’s time I took that sharp intake of breath and started living a life that isn’t planned out and just go with a life that happens and flows.

My Truths Part 1

I’ve been soul searching in the last few days, subconsciously and in subconsciously, not for anything in particular, just reason of such.

I’ve gone from having routine and structure, and a reason to keep getting up and living to again none.

It’s hard.

I wrote the below status of a word and shared it publicly elsewhere, and then thought I should really share it in here too.

I should share everything in this blog, because this records my journey, good, bad and indifferent.

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When I’m tired, mentally tired, I look to quotes to try and explain how I’m feeling, I post these quotes and hide behind them.

Some I post, others I don’t.

But these are the ones that sit in my photo album unsure of what next to do with them.

People really don’t understand, family are supportive and no doubt frustrated, but they are too close.

Many friends no longer reach out because they no longer know how to read me.

So I go round and round in circles until I can find just an ounce of something that I feel is positive to get back up and go again.

Perception I’ve used that word a lot in the last few days, people see what they choose to see and ignore everything else, and that goes for me the person too.

When I went through depression in the early days I felt as though my mind had been wiped completely away, every single thought, experience, memory had gone, instantly.

A vague sense like a dream that things had happened, but no belief that they actually did.

Where I am now is better, and more in control, but standing here in the unknown of not knowing where my life is going to take me next, and it scares me.

Because I just don’t know!

I have to constantly remind myself that things will get better, when in reality I don’t even know if this will be true.

To some you’ll see I have lots going on, some things I enjoy at times and others I am starting not too.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, it’s just that I’m growing tired of not having the life that I thought I might have, the constant struggles to get back to where I once was.

Substituting hobbies to attempt to try and fill just an element of a day to have something to look forward too.

And then enjoying it, and developing a passion, for that passion to suddenly start becoming another weight, at times holding me down.

Writing is an expression, I feel as though I can’t write anymore, to tell my truths because people will think I’m having a setback, and if or when that happens, depression will always have a hold and define me, because you’ll always let it.

If you can’t express emotion you bottle it up until you can no longer take anymore, I never want to be in that position again, ever!

It simply isn’t worth it.

Friends will come and friends will go, I know it because it’s already happened.

And I’m alright with that.

There’s a quote in that montage that says the person that tries to keep everyone happy is the most lonely person.

I can identify with that.

I feel lonely!

I know I have a supportive family and they will do anything and everything they can for me, because they have.

I know I now have a loyal friend base who I share many rounds of laughter with.

But even then it doesn’t mean your not lonely.

I don’t think I have loved enough in my life and I certainly don’t feel I have experienced enough love back.

I don’t know where my next step will be, what next challenge it will come from, or which direction it might take me in.

I’m just being honest, opening up my heart and trying to give myself my best chance of a better future.

Perception

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Today I want to talk about ‘Perception’, having written a very personal piece for ‘Mental Health Awareness’ a couple of week’s ago, and then following that article up with an update, I almost wrote elements of this one straight away.

But with everything something stops you and holds you back.

For me, I’ve been better, a lot better, as recovered as I could be, despite always acknowledging that depression would always be there.

I know my triggers and I now know how to counteract them so they don’t become huge overwhelming issues.

But with it I have always said that I crave routine.

Very recently that routine stopped.

I’m back to square one, looking for work and even though I’m genuinely alright, I feel flat, for no exact reason whatsoever.

I know I’m going to be alright, I have confidence in my own abilities, but for some unknown reason to me, I’ve allowed myself to shutdown.

A lack of routine does that to you.

No reason to be anywhere apart from under your covers and in bed.

That’s where I’ve mainly been for the last couple of days, and today something has been postponed, and I hoped it would be so I didn’t have to go, and pretend that life is great.

That’s where perception comes from.

People, all people view not only their own lives, but lives of others based on perception.

What they think they believe is real.

One of the main things that got me through my struggles with depression was the courage to open up, leaving everything bare for anyone to read.

But I feel I can’t be as open to do that anymore, because the perception in my own clearer thoughts is; people, family, friends will think I’ve had a setback, when in reality I haven’t.

Things aren’t good I know that but I also know that I’m still in control, I just don’t have any purpose or reasons to function like I have been doing, because my day to day routine has changed.

Working plays a huge part in your continued progress, without it you have to find something within to keep going, and sometimes it’s hard, really hard.

A friend who has and continues to struggle with depression and anxiety shared an image yesterday.

This image was a list of points that you should consider doing to help anyone you know who is struggling with depression.

Based on someone’s perception of what mental health issues were.

Perception!

Not always the truth.

But one of these examples stood out to me like a sore thumb.

“Try to convince them to go for a short walk with you. There is a good chance they will feel better for it”

Perception is go for a walk, you’ll feel better, let me tell you now, or if you choose to ask and then listen to those that are suffering, going for a walk rarely helps.

The struggle to climb out of bed, your safe haven, even though many times you struggle to sleep in it, the anxiety pangs at just the thought of leaving your house, it’s very real, believe me.

But the second part of that example is: “try to convince them to go for a walk with you”.

But next to no one says do you fancy going for a walk with me.

That’s why I want to talk about ‘Perception’, I almost wrote this next part straight after my update article.

I wouldn’t say it annoys me but it does to some degree, but definitely frustrates me is this.

Mental Health Awareness Week?

What chance do those people who are struggling with and without support get?

One week of awareness!

Thousands of people sharing or retweeting a message that has no direct meaning to them, and now it’s forgotten about.

Those absolutely and pointless posts of “if you need to talk, I’m here”.

In my article whereby I spoke openly about suicide for the very first time, I mentioned this:

Mental Health matters and to address it, people need to talk about it, so those that suffer can get help and support, and others to understand it.

It’s not only about those that suffer who should talk, it’s about society talking, every single day about it, to acknowledge it, to understand it, and by doing so it helps to lower the stigma about it.

The hardest part is opening up, especially if you are seeking help for the very first time.

For anyone to post a pointless message of “you are there to help”, instead of doing that reach out to someone yourself, make them feel worthwhile.

Because I’ve sat many times previously in floods of tears, looking up and down my contacts list and being at a total loss of who to contact, a loss of not being able to ruin someone’s day, or if the person I chose would even understand or be able to help.

Which also brings me onto a charity support group, (who I won’t name).

I know without any doubt this charity does amazing work, it’s another Facebook status post that I see shared too willingly around.

“If you are going through hard times, depression, suicide, ring this number for help and support”.

For the people who share it, they think they are helping to create awareness, again your not.

For all this is an amazing charity, who support many, many people, they aren’t allowed to probe, they are there to listen, the first step has to be taken by the caller.

And how do I know this?

Because I’ve called that number on  a night where my world was falling apart all around me.

I phoned that number multiple times, as the courage I first found to call it, I no longer had when I first heard a voice on the other end of the line.

But when I did manage to say hello back through a chokehold full of tears, they couldn’t help me.

They asked me what was wrong and I didn’t know.

Many people who are diagnosed with depression, don’t even know they had depression, so how can you tell someone what is wrong when you can’t even explain it yourself.

You’re desperate for reassurance, someone to tell you everything is going to be okay.

This article is about ‘perception’, what we think is real may not be as real or as truthful as we first thought it to be.

What we need is to be more empathetic towards each other, to be more open and understanding towards the conversations that may scare us, but really do need to be shared and talked about.

And each of these conversations start with us.

Don’t be that person who will say you’ll be there, be that person who is.

Mental Health matters and to address it, people need to talk about it, so those that suffer can get help and support, and everyone can understand it.

 

Mental Health Awareness Week – Update

 

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I thought it may be best to follow up on last week’s article regarding ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’.

For the very first time I spoke out publicly regarding suicide.

Prompted by something hard hitting in the media, that desperately needed saying, and as I mentioned last week, had that not happened, I probably, more definitely, wouldn’t of shared my truths either.

Writing the article was one thing, it’s something that I’ve considered long and hard doing.

Even going way back when I used to visit a counsellor.

The mental health nurse said to me in my sessions when I revealed I was looking to write a book, describing my journey, which I’m still yet to sit down and start.

But she said, only you will know when or if ever you are ready to reveal something so close to you.

It was daunting to write, similar to every other article in regards to mental health and depression before it.

But suicide is different.

It’s a topic that rarely is spoken about.

Many people think they understand and get it, but they don’t.

Many people think that suicide and mental health illnesses go hand in hand, but that isn’t always the case either.

I took the opportunity to speak out, to tell my truths, because it may of helped someone, it may have reassured them, it may have helped those that don’t suffer to understand more.

It’s certainly helped me.

A national week of something certainly brings awareness, but mental health illnesses shouldn’t need a special day or a week, to be highlighted and then forgotten about.

I said last week, “Mental Health Awareness matters, and the only way to address it is to talk about it.”

“People need to understand depression is a pain like none other, that constant mental battle that you simply cannot escape from.”

From writing my article last week I’ve had positivity from it, thankfully.

Messages from complete strangers letting me know that I am brave for not only writing it, but being brave enough to share it.

To share a personal, upsetting insight to how it is, one that many have messaged to say they related to exactly that.

And sharing the article wasn’t something I could do straight away, I summoned up some inner strength from god knows where to share it far and wide across my social media platforms.

Many people will naturally draw their own conclusions based on either their own experiences or what they think they know.

Many friends will have thought that because I went through depression that suicide had been on the cards.

Because that’s what some people naturally think.

Since posting my article, my truths, very few, less than five within my friends circles have commented about it.

What can you really say to that article!?!

It will have really shocked some people, and upset others, it probably still does.

It certainly upset me writing it.

I thought before posting it what impact it may have on my family, I thought about asking them if it was alright to post, but I chose not too.

This is my life!

These are my truths!

My story!

And quite frankly it was the last hidden secret that was left to tell.

The reason I first started this blog was to get everything out, to stop thinking, and overthinking.

Hard and as difficult it has been to read, even for me reading it back, it has played a big part in my recovery.

Since my diagnosis with depression, right throughout my recovery, I mentioned a handful of friends already knew about that one night.

One of them said at the time, which since writing and posting this article has been ringing at me, a constant flashback was;

“I’m pleased you didn’t”

I’m pleased I didn’t either.

One thing that rattled me last week was a vision that I had created.

This vision was lining every person I had and have met in the last five and a half years, and switching their lights off.

Hundreds, if not thousands of people, some acquaintances, some now great friends.

Had I gone through with suicide that night, I would never have known any of them, and they would never had known me.

That’s a vision I want to quickly forget, but in turn acknowledge and be greatful that I chose life.

Right now my life isn’t great, but good, 18 months on it’s still nowhere where I’d like it to be.

Nowhere where I thought and hoped it would be.

But I’m better, I know myself inside out, I know when to take a break and put myself first over everything, because I need too.

We all need too.

I actively talk about mental health, about depression and anxiety, because I’ve been there, no one knows what is going through another person’s mind, but I can relate.

Something that gets said way too often by people who think they know is, “I know what your feeling and going through.”

Sorry but you don’t.

If you’ve gone through depression or anxiety or suicide, you can relate, but sorry, no one will ever know.

Since being diagnosed and receiving the help I needed to gain strength and come out of the other side, I openly and honestly talk about how it had affected my life.

Elements of depression are still there, and they always will be, but I have regained the ability to shut down that inner voice, and keep control of my mind.

Each year I have supported a charity or a cause championing mental health, because mental health does really matter.

I’d like to think that if anyone needs help or reassurance they could feel like they could reach out and contact me.

Equally, I’d like to think that anyone in my friends circles that wanted to find out more, are open to just ask me too.

As painful at times that it can be, if I can talk to someone, anyone and give them an insight to what it was like, and how it affected my life, the more they may understand and appreciate it.

As for the book, it may well now be time to revisit it, and finally pen my truths.

Mental Health matters and should be talked about, if you are struggling, find the courage to tell someone, share the weight that is on your shoulders, it can make all the difference.

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Mental Health Awareness Week

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It’s widely known that this week is identified as ‘Mental Health Awareness’ week, and because it is, it was always likely that I was going to write an update.

But the difference is, I was actually going to write a new post last week after watching something in the media.

It was just a question to myself on how I would start this piece and if I was brave enough to write it and post it.

Last week, on one of the UK soap operas, they addressed Mental Health, Depression and Suicide.

No apparent warning signs, and one of their favourite characters took his own life.

I didn’t watch the soap, but once it was aired my social media streams lit up.

So I watched it.

And credit to all involved, it was hard hitting, hard to watch and a fantastic portrayal of what depression and suicide feels like in those dark and lonely moments.

Here is the clip if anyone wants to watch it.

Which leads onto now…

One thing I have never really spoken about within this blog has been suicide.

I’ve skated over it once or twice in earlier articles but I’ve never publicly spoken about it really.

After seeing that clip, I questioned whether to speak up and out, or leave it alone.

On that night I did post about it, because Mental Health Awareness matters, and the only way to address it is to talk about it, to give those who are suffering the help and support they need and to show hope is there to come back, just as I did.

People need to understand depression is a pain like none other, that constant mental battle that you simply cannot escape from.

Even as I write this I’m struggling to find the right words to start this.

The date of 27th December 2012 is and will be forever more etched in my mind.

Many people think depression and suicide go hand in hand, but it doesn’t.

But on that one date it did for me.

When I suffered with depression, I wouldn’t ever of said I was suicidal, no long sustained suicidal thoughts.

My trigger let’s say was always about escaping.

Disappearing in the middle of the night, never to be found again.

I now know in hindsight, when I was ill through dark thoughts and depression, that had I ever gone through with that, the likelihood would have been a poor outcome.

I’m relieved that something deep within my core stopped me from carrying through with those thoughts.

Just like something deep in my core stopped me carrying out my plan on 27th December 2012.

I can honestly say I don’t know if I feel guilty and ashamed for admitting this publicly or proud to stand up and address it.

After seeing and speaking to my then counsellor when I was diagnosed with depression, who I spoke openly too about everything.

My family who are aware of this one time, but don’t know details.

And a handful of friends who also know everything, I’ve never disclosed or discussed suicide to anyone.

And although I won’t go into the finer details here, because quite frankly no one needs to hear them, but last week’s events rattled me.

Their portrayal took me right back to that night.

I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live the life I was living either, trying to hide it from others for fear.

At that time I don’t even think I realised I had depression, I knew something wasn’t right, I was struggling, and doing my damnedness not to let anyone spot a sign that might unravel my life.

On this night, I drank heavily to try and numb the pain.

The pain of what was going on in my life, how I thought I saw my life, and try to block out what my mind was trying to convince me to do.

That night I went through different phases of emotions, anger, frustration, uncontrollable tears.

Despite all of these emotions I had a presence of mind to say goodbye to people in my life.

It was that close!

Saying sorry to people when I had nothing to say sorry for on a past disagreement, just in case they thought that might have pushed me over the edge.

It wasn’t.

It was a build up of a multitude of issues that I could no longer process any longer.

With it being Christmas time, no one questioned it, they thought I might have been drunk and I was being emotional.

Little did they know.

Sometimes in reflection of another person’s life the picture you see is completely different to the one they experience in life.

I cried and cried on every message, I had made my mind up that on this night I was going to go through with it.

I just wanted everything to stop!

Even writing this down is taking me back to a place I don’t want to think about, it’s an important part of my process, one that had this story not happened I know I certainly wouldn’t be sharing with anyone who reads it now.

And one that I will leave on here for anyone to find, but I won’t be sharing it out to friends and family.

I’m even at a stage where I’m thinking of deleting it and not posting it for fear, or lack of understanding.

That night I don’t know how I came back, I truly don’t.

Something within me stopped me, I don’t know what it was.

I remember feeling really numb, for days after.

I spoke to no one, didn’t reply to messages, just went off grid.

And then the realisation that I had to see and speak to people again, when really I didn’t want too.

I wanted to continue to hide away.

I carried this secret with me for almost four years, I was ashamed of myself that my emotions controlled me enough to almost convince myself that suicide was my only answer.

I understand that clip because I lived it.

Just once.

But once is all it can take.

With it being Mental Health Awareness week it’s time to share my truths.

Although I should have been brave enough to share them sooner.

Mental Health matters and should be talked about, if you are struggling, find the courage to tell someone, share the weight that is on your shoulders, it can make all the difference.

Had I not seeked help, I honestly don’t know where I’d be, and had I seeked it sooner, I may not have had the troublesome times that I had suffering in silence.

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Where to start?

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Another month has been and gone since I last wrote an update, and having read that one back this morning, it seems like life has progressed quite quickly.

It’s important to acknowledge your successes just as much as what you consider to be your failures.

No matter how you judge it, you are continuously learning about yourself.

In the worst way imaginable, that’s a positive I’ll always take through depression and my own mental health, without going through the painstakingly slow and frustrating process of regaining control of my life, it has allowed me to strip back everything I thought I once was, and learn everything that I am.

I know myself inside out.

I know my triggers, well most of them, but I also know how to readjust myself to stop them becoming more serious and uncontrollable problems too.

We all have to listen to our bodies, the warning signs are there, we just have to be more aware, listen, adjust and adapt ourselves to the situations we find ourselves in.

Many people, family, friends used to say I had one speed, and that was 100mph, all or nothing.

Part of me is still like that, passion takes over and drives you, harder and faster to achieve your goal.

And sometimes the starting point evolves and pushes you even further.

But what I have discovered and learnt from is you need to take a break.

Regular breaks.

Breaks even when you feel alright, that first pang of something doesn’t feel right, that unknowing of what it is, or anxiety but you push on telling yourself that it’s just a moment and it will pass.

It will pass.

But it will also come back and engulf you too.

That pang of anxiety is when you need to stop, or slow down or take a break, and above all, not feel guilty for having a down day, putting yourself first and looking after yourself.

So what if you made plans, don’t push yourself if ultimately it’s going to put you under more pressure and strain.

Over the last few weeks, positive things have happened in my life.

I’ve managed to gain employment, one of the last big things that has been holding me back from further life progression.

What I’ve always said was I wanted regular routine and a way to earn a living once again.

I don’t need a perfect job, because I’m in the middle of creating a perfect life that sits around me.

By doing the things you enjoy, the things the you are passionate about, and the things that drive you to become a constant better version of yourself.

To say I have found work whereby I keep everything in my life that are passions, whilst also combining it with getting fitter and healthier; that I could never see happening.

Everything is still early days, but I have my life back, and there is still so much potential to come.

Through each post of my journey you will have read the progress that has been made, with odd setbacks along the way.

But the majority of it, progressive and encouraging.

I now have a foothold in not only gaining regular and much needed routine but that ability to earn again.

And that’s a big relief and a big weight off my shoulders and importantly my mind.

Life for me is still a long, tough challenge but steadily it’s improving.

I’ve learnt to enjoy life again, and learnt to slow the pace down when I need too.

We are all just people, and we need to remember to put ourselves higher in our priority lists, to enable ourselves to enjoy the lives we desire to have.

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