The Woefully Wild

An honest blog sharing the ups and downs of my personal mental health journey

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Werkin' Fo Tips...To Cure My Crippling Anxiety.

In our current state of affairs, it seems I am suddenly trying to do far more things than I'd normally do.

I started doing cross stitch. I got less than half way through the letter 'B' and sacked it off.

I bought all the ingredients to make a (very specific) cake and just left them on my kitchen worktop for about 2 weeks. There could potentially be worms living in there now. Or maybe in a drastic turn of events the worms have made the cake for me.  
I even started doing yoga, for fuck sake.

All striving, no arriving. Or in other words, I've got a lot of ideas that I'm doing shit all with.

What I've managed to do is convince myself that because we now have a lot of time on our (washed) hands, I should be making the most of every single second of every single day.

Which is an absolutely great concept...if you're some kind of sane superhuman and not an unhinged, pizza eating peasant that does nothing but watch 'Ru Paul's Drag Race' all day, like moi.

Making the most of every day is the dream, but it's not really reality. Even the healthiest, most hardworking and determined person is at some point gunna forget to wash their pants and be pissed off because it's ruined their very strict daily schedule. Also then tomorrow is ruined because they'll be pantless.

Don't tell me you've never had to go pantless.

How I'm feeling at the moment, as I'm sure a lot of people are, is if I don't achieve as much as possible in a day then I'm a failure. If I don't leave the house for my one allowance of daily exercise/walk to the shop to get more gin, well then I've failed.

The reason I feel like this is because our choice has been taken away from us. We don't have the choice, the freedom, to go out/socialise with people/pretend to exercise anymore and so if we don't utilise that time then it's a waste, a failure.

Which I do slightly agree with. I suppose we should be making the most we can out of this weird, impossible situation we're currently in.

But woah, holds up them there'ses is horses there now, cowboi. So the saying goes.

If you're suffering from anxiety during this difficult time, well then that makes matters a whooooooooole lot worse.

Why lockdown makes anxiety so bad is that it gives you more time to be trapped in your own head and less time to have the freedom of potentially, some days, wanting to actually leave the house.

It's wanting something you can't have. But with anxiety, it's more like wanting something you don't actually want to have....yes, I'm aware that probably doesn't make any sense to an un-anxious brain.
I've been suffering from quite severe anxiety for almost a year now. It's not the first time I've experienced it, it's just the longest time I've experienced it. 

For those of you who may have just started to experience anxiety, situational or otherwise, then welcome to the club, my friends. I'm sorry you're here.

For the lucky people that haven't experienced it before at all, I'll give you a brief synopsis of my personal experiences below:

Step 1)
 My head feels like it's going to explode and my body feels like a noodle. 

Step 2) Most days, if not every day, the thought of leaving the house makes me feel and/or be sick due to either paranoia, self consciousness and/or the thought of any social interaction whatsoever.

When I do manage to leave the house, I start sweating like Mr. Motivator (if you don't know who this is, shame on you) the only differences are I have no motivation, I'm not wearing lycra and it's not the 90s. So basically...I'm just sweating.

Step 3) Insomnia, shout out to all my other insomniacs, isn't our life hilariously shit.

Step 4) My body frequently physically reacts from my anxiety. This includes muscle spasms/seizing up, I've had my jaw clenched for what feels like eternity, and sometimes I get temporary loss of vision. Which is obviously always fun.

(There's also another bazillion different physical reactions you can potentially have, nearly all of which aren't actually obviously linked to anxiety at all, which is half the problem).

Step 5) The weirdest and scariest one is derealisation. (I've already written about this before, you can read it here).

If you can't be arsed to read the post I did about it before (don't blame you) a quick low down is as follows:

Derealisation makes you feel like you're dreaming when you're awake. Not like in a cool little floaty way, in like a scary am I asleep/will I wake up/is the world even real kinda way. I genuinely have to pinch myself to check I haven't passed out or wet myself occasionally. 

Side note: there's also 'depersonalisation', which I luckily haven't experienced. I believe it feels like a disconnection between your body and your mind, making you feel like you're watching someone else rather than yourself. Y'know, that completely normal kinda thing. I suppose it could potentially be like watching a really tragic TV show that you're starring in. I've just come up with a great film concept. I'm going to call it, 'The Truman Show'.

Step 6) Last, but by all means not least, classic ole' panic attacks. When someone tells you they feel like they're dying when they're having a panic attack, they aren't actually exaggerating.  I haven't died so, maybe don't take that as gospel, but the first one I had was the worst thing ever. And they don't usually get nicer either.

The rest I'm sure you can find on the World Wide Web these days. However, I would advise heavily against Googling symptoms of anything...literally anything. We all know when we do it automatically says we're basically going to spontaneously combust.

N.B. I went against everything I said and Google'd 'spontaneous combustion' and the Wikipedia photo is just a pair of shoes with smoke coming out of them. I'm sorry to those of you that have been affected by spontaneous combustion, but it's fucking hilarious. 

Anyway, when you have anxiety it's just even more of a bad idea to Google symptoms, so go to websites like Mind or CALM that actually help you realise you're not as weird as you think, but more importantly not as alone as you think.

There is no cure for anxiety. Anxiety is part of being a human, it's just that some humans may already possess/have learnt the complex art of telling anxiety to fuck off, and others may not have learnt that quite yet.

I'm speaking about this all fairly in jest/somewhat negatively as I normally like to do, but it is important to try and fill your new found time with something to occupy yourself with. Whether it's pre-existing or brand new hobbies/interests/whatever. I'm sure you're bored of how cliche that is to hear, I know I am.

The difference is learning not to beat yourself up if you can't be arsed or don't want to do something. If you feel like it, just try different things occasionally and see what suits you best.


One thing that's helping me at the moment is having some sort of routine. I once read if you do only one thing a day, make your bed. At the same time, every single morning. It sounds stupid and simple, because it is, but my bed is loving it's life right now. I've been making the hell out of it. It's also helped set up more of a routine for the rest of the day.

I hate to admit this because I spend so much time complaining how it never works, but practicing meditation and yoga is actually doing something for me at the moment. Heaven forbid. I don't quite know what that something is yet, but it's something. And no, I will never use the term 'yogi'...ever.


Has it made my anxiety ease off yet? Nope. Has it made me less impatient yet? Nope. Have I turned into Russell Brand yet? I really hope not. Is it preoccupying me during a time of extra stress and uncertainty? Yes.

That'll be it then. If it's making some sort of difference, in some sort of way, it's worth trying to stick it out.

This has been a long one, but lastly (and I've mentioned this quite a lot recently) please check in with anyone you know that is living on their own and may be struggling right now. Especially if they have pre-existing mental health conditions.

It's very easy to be preoccupied with your own troubles, everyone should be checking in with everyone anyway, but from experience living alone in this strange time is really quite horrible.

Oh yeah so, my tips for dealing with anxiety in a nutshell:

  • Try and do something.
  • Don't punish yourself if you can't be bothered or in my case, you're just shit at it.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Wash other people's hands if you really have to.
  • Don't try and become Russell Brand, there's no need.
  • Don't read the Daily Mail.
  • Don't forget that just because Piers Morgan has made a lot of valid points recently doesn't mean he's not going to instantly return back to being an absolute tool kit when this is all over.

Stay safe, wash your bits, be kind, check in with people, see you on the other side.

TWW x
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Friday, 7 February 2020

Time To Talk Day

I've been seriously crap at posting recently and deleted my last post by accident because I'm a moron. I'm clearly not big fat blogger enough to know how to un-delete(?) something so that's gone forever now, bye. 

I've got quite a lot in the mind tank that I want to write about but I've been massively unproductive writing wise because all of my time is currently taken up by looking for a new job. 

I'm studying to be a Counsellor at the end of the month.  This is something extremely close to my heart and I've realised this is what I want to do with my life - a huge change from the career I was building before. 

Speaking of counselling, this brings me on quite nicely to what my post is actually about. 

February 6th has been branded 'Time To Talk Day', the aim to encourage people to speak up about mental health and reach out to someone you know that might be struggling. 

Days like this are great for raising awareness of mental health and reminding us that we need to banish the stigma and actually recognise when someone we know (or very importantly, ourselves) aren't quite feeling right. 

This should be something we keep in mind every day.

I've always been very open about feeling shit. But I'm only open about feeling shit when I'm not feeling shit anymore. The way I'm (trying) to explain this is important - I know first hand that when you're deeply depressed the last thing you want to do is talk about it. You don't really want to talk about anything. 

Looking back to my last period of depression I would just get angry and upset if someone tried to talk to me about it. The reason I did this is because explaining it (especially to someone that hasn't gone through it) is genuinely exhausting. "Cheer up, it'll be okay" blah blah blah, no please just fuck off. I can't cheer up and it won't be okay* so I'm sorry, but I can't be assed to explain it to you right now.

This sounds harsh, and yeah...it is really, but if you're on the receiving end of a conversation like this please know it's not meant rudely or ungratefully, it's probably the illness talking. Be patient and try to empathise with what the other person may be feeling, even if you don't completely understand it yourself. 

Empathy is literally THE most important thing in the world. If you don't have empathy, you don't have much at all. 

Anyway. Yes. I've always been very open about feeling shit, but this is a rarity. Unfortunately (but understandably) there aren't enough people who feel comfortable speaking up about depression or knowing what to say to someone who's depressed. 

Being able to speak openly about depression isn't something that comes naturally to me. It's scary and uncomfortable and I spend basically all my time worried what other people think about me. "OOoOoh she must be well crazy. Last time I saw her she was well miserable and weird" etc, etc. Yeah, probably. 

But the truth is, if people don't speak up about it, it will continue to be a ridiculously taboo subject and will continue to make people feel uncomfortable to even mention it. You don't need to shout from the rooftops that you're down and don't know what to do with yourself, you don't have to talk about it if you're having a particularly rough day and you want everyone and everything to piss off (story of my life), you don't have to moan about it publicly on a shitty blog, but please see the importance of recognising when you or someone else is in a black hole and needs to get out. 

Unless you talk, how will you get help? How will you help other people? And how will we get other people to understand what it feels like?

Telling someone that you genuinely want to die (horrible, right?) is hardly the nicest or easiest or most normal thing to open up about, but 9/10 times the person you're telling will do everything in their power to help/get help for you. And that is why talking about it is important.

If you need help, please don't be ashamed to ask for it. Remember, this happens to 1 in 4 of us - that's bloody huge. 

Before I go, to anyone in Bristol that reads this for some strange reason, there is a 'Talk Club' once a week at both Bristol Beer Factory in Bedmo and in Horfield. This club is specifically aimed at men who may be struggling with their mental health and want to maintain good mental health through the simple act of listening and being listened to. It's really surprising how much talking can actually help and this group is a great way to do it. 

The 'Talk Club Bristol' Facebook group has around 200 members so go and get involved. 

Take care of yourselves, pals. And if you don't feel like talking about it today, try again tomorrow.

*it WILL be okay, but I know being told that constantly is annoying as hell.

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/time-talk-day
https://www.wetalkclub.com/

TWW x
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Monday, 19 August 2019

No Thank You, Sir

I'm personally really shit at saying no to things. 

Normally it's for fear of missing out, but it's often because I don't want to offend people by saying "nah thanks". A lot of the time it's also just easier to say yes to things. 

Here's a perfectly reasonable and relatable example for you:

I've probably visited Co-Op at least 80 more times than I've wanted to in my life because I've said yes to someone that's asked me to go with them. 80 times might be a slight exaggeration, but not totally...one trip to Co-Op feels like you've been in there for years. So actually, who even knows how many times I've been there? It's dire, overpriced and I lost my debit card down a crack there once (which, might I add, seems to have happened to a few people I know, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's actually some sort of Co-Op scheme they've come up with to make you stay in there forever and ever until you die). But anyway, the woman just went, "oh no, that's a shame". Yes it is a shame isn't it Susan, you bellend, because I can't pay for anything in other shops now can I?! How awfully convenient. Let's just say it's not my favourite place to frequent. 

Alas, I won't say no to a Co-Op trip just in case the person I'm going with has a loyalty card or their Mum works there and me saying no really offends them. So I'll go reluctantly and no doubt lose something else down the bloody crack. My dignity, probably (if I have any left after walking through the doors that is...or if I had any in the first place).

Anyway, I digress. My reason for writing this post is slightly larger than just complaining about shops I don't want to go to. It's the importance of occasionally saying no to things not only that I don't want to do, but also sometimes the things I actually do want to do.

We all know the new and positive experiences that can come from saying yes to things, but saying yes all the time can actually be pretty detrimental to our mental health. 

Saying yes for 'fear of missing out' can have a huge knock-on affect to your wellbeing - the amount of times I've said yes to something when I've not been feeling great, done it, and then (un)surprisingly felt a million times worse afterwards is past countable now. 

Realistically, the brief sadness and disappointment of missing out on something fun with your friends is never as bad as the feeling you have when you've gone out, had a few too many million ciders and then the next day, week, month afterwards feel weirdly guilty and horrible about the fact that you've done it when you probably shouldn't have...so then you do it all over again to get over feeling like that. And again, and again, until you just make yourself feel really quite shite all round. 

The truth is, the only person that's putting the pressure on to do things I don't necessarily need/want to do is myself. The only person that's worried about missing out on the fun is me - the fun that is had all the time, the fun that will continue to happen with or without me being there, the fun that most of the time I'm actually there experiencing anyway - so surely saying no now and again isn't the end of the world? There's (quite literally) always next time.

Another thing I think is important to touch on is having realistic expectations of saying no to something. From experience (without sounding like an AA meeting) if I'm really trying to say no to something and then fail at the first hurdle it makes me feel like a terrible, useless piece of crap. Cutting yourself off from something completely and then punishing yourself if you've 'caved in' and done it anyway is only harming yourself more. 

This may or may not be the best way of going about things, it actually seems a bit contradictory in a way, but personally if I'm trying to say no to something I won't cut myself off from it completely. That way I won't punish myself as much if I 'fail', I'll just try again next time. 

These are my personal little examples of this: 

'Dry January' (I've never got past 7th January, so next year maybe I'll get to 8th January) and cheese. Maaaaan I can't express the feelings I have towards cheese. 

When I lived with my parents we probably had about 12 different types of cheese in our fridge. When I stopped living with my parents (like the complete and utter grown up I am) I swore to myself I'd never buy cheese for just myself because I would actually become cheese and ultimately get real chubby and sad and poor. I managed this for a while, then one day I got a bit down and craved cheese and basically bought a whole delis worth (no, not from Co-Op) and relapsed and hated myself and had dreams of being eaten by a brie. 
Nowadays I just keep a bit of cheddar in the fridge for when I want it and try not to think about it so much.

We're only human beings, we can't go cold turkey on things all the time. Or cold cheese, whatever. 
Cut yourself some slack...OR SOME CHEESE, WHATEVER. 

Ciao.

TWW x
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Thursday, 2 May 2019

Sabotage

Something I'm apparently struggling with recently is allowing myself to feel okay with the 'inbetween' stages that are sandwiched in the middle of feeling like absolute shite and feeling absolutely shite-ing fantastic.

The other day I genuinely felt the happiest I'd felt in ages but my brain started going into freak-out mode and I assumed it was a telling sign of a manic episode. I instantly started worrying and trying to calm myself down (but mainly I was worrying about how people were perceiving me, which in hindsight is just ridiculous as I was surrounded by my friends having a great time).

In actual fact I wasn't starting to have a manic episode, it was just a lovely, normal, appropriate and warranted feeling of happiness because I was having a good day. I literally started questioning how I was feeling because...I was having a good day.

As a result of my worrying so much I managed to get into a pit of anxiousness which then made me start to have a not so great time. I basically self-sabotaged my own night.

So, this brings me on to the fact that I've sadly realised - self-sabotage is reeeeeally common. Too common.

Why do people seem to be punishing themselves or questioning their happiness when it's completely normal?! I'm sure there's many different reasons, but I'm pretty certain a lot of it stems from past situations where (for some absurd reason) someone else has implied you're not good enough.

It's not just our own happiness that seems annoyingly easy to self-sabotage, its our success, our confidence, our ability to achieve things that are totally achievable regardless how long it may take (and its okay if it takes the rest of your bloody life if it needs to, who cares?!) Well...we care, because most likely self-sabotage will set in the moment you realise it'll take longer than expected to achieve said achievement. Classic.

I'm speaking from experience because I've personally self-sabotaged in every situation above.

Success: I'm 27 - I didn't know what I wanted to do career wise until I fell into working in TV a couple of years ago. I didn't go to university, I assumed I wasn't good enough, so after school I was in huge limbo and had zero confidence and zero clue what I was supposed to be doing.

I've already successfully self-sabotaged by even writing that sentence, and 9/10 times this is my response to anyone that asks what I do for a living. I assume they're going to think I'm shit before even telling them what I do.

I didn't 'fall' into working in TV, I found something I enjoyed and worked really bloody hard for it, it just took me a bit longer than 'the norm', whatever the hell that is. For god sake, the idea you have to go to university to get a decent job that you actually enjoy and that pays well just isn't true in the slightest. You can do extremely well regardless of going to university or not, anyone that tells you otherwise is an utter moron.

Confidence: I have a skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris Rogue (sounds well exotic) which I've had forever, I just didn't know it had a name until recently. It makes my skin really red, especially on my face, so I've always worn a lot of makeup to cover it up, because it makes me feel like crap and makes me really self conscious. When I was younger people commented on it, when I got older people commented on it (and still do, occasionally) but now the comments are about the amount of makeup I wear. So, what I've realised I do is mention the amount of makeup I'm wearing before someone else can mention it, so ultimately I'm the one that's making myself feel like shit and commenting on it. That's actually just really stupid. I even tried laser surgery on my face until I realised it was the most painful thing in the world and literally wasn't even 1% worth it. So now I've decided I'll instead just say if the amount of foundation I'm wearing is offending you, kindly go fuck yourself and try not to trip on the 'you're a huge knob-head it's my face and I'll do what I want' step on the way out.

Achievements: For me the biggest thing I'm trying to achieve is realising that having a mental illness is completely okay and is a lifelong journey that's not going to suddenly change or disappear overnight. I'm not going to talk myself down because my brain is a bit different to yours, and I'm not going to try and justify it to other people because of their own ignorance and misunderstanding of it - that's your problem mate, not mine.

I'll leave it on this note, because I've gone off on one again...

You're good enough, don't be your own worst enemy because it's a waste of time and is a huge detriment to your own mental health.

Don't let people make you feel like shit - it's their fault they're a dick, not yours.

Allow yourself to be happy.

TWW x
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Thursday, 7 March 2019

2-4-1 at Spoons

My problem is I'm impatient. I say that like it's my only problem, it definitely isn't...

I've been presented with a problem (Bipolar) tried to deal with it (failed) then got fed up and pretended the problem doesn't exist anymore (it does).


Instead of trying to understand what's happening, it's far easier to just ignore it and focus on something else. 


Sometimes this attitude towards things helps. Most of the time it doesn't.


Say you've fallen over drunk on a night out (I may or may not be speaking from experience) and you've really bitchin' hurt your knee, but it doesn't matter because you're on your way to Spoons for 2-4-1 cocktails (yes, I sometimes still get these). 


What do you do? You pretend you haven't just fallen over and carry on having a good night. That is a relatively relatable example of ignoring a problem and focussing on something else. 


Turns out when you've got Bipolar, buying 2-4-1 cocktails doesn't actually disguise how shit you feel. Instead, you've just wasted £6 (yes hypothetically it's only a £6 offer and no, I'm not being sponsored by Wetherspoons for this post) and you just look like a big ole' idiot. Also, if anything it just makes you feel worse afterwards (a mental hangover, if you will). 


Anyway, as I said, I don't have the patience to accept I've got something wrong with me. It's far easier to just pretend it's not happening and carry on as 'normal'. Life goes on and all that. Actually, it turns out patience and acceptance are probably two of the main factors of dealing with Bipolar, or any other mental health issue for that matter.


So, I haven't written a blog for a while. I've kind of been busy trying to sort my life out. Turns out, that's harder than it looks. (I've just turned 27 and paid my first water bill on my own - don't tell me being an adult isn't hard). 


N.B. two things I could have done with learning at school - the importance of mental health and 'how to be an adult', because I have absolutely no clue.


I've been doing fine up until this point. I mean, as of the middle of January I've been doing fine, before that I was a state - but you can laugh at my expense in my previous blogs, if you wish.


The point is, I went through a 'hypomanic' episode when everything felt all great and rose-tinted (or maybe more like beer-goggled, if I'm honest) and then, BAM, there you have it - now I feel shit again. Just as I was feeling 'normal' it's like someone has taken the 2-4-1 cocktail offer down at Spoons and now I have to pay full price for only one Sex On The Beach. And I don't have the time or patience for that. 


So yes, I am relating my current state of mind to feeling like someone has taken the 2-4-1 offer down at Spoons and I'm just sat waiting (im)patiently, annoyed, and if I'm honest just disappointed. Just sat waaaaiting for them to put the offer back up again. Which they will, they always do, they just like to keep you guessing (sneaky, sneaky Spoons).  


The annoying thing about when it's your head keeping you guessing and not Gary at V-Shed who's just been told to take the offers down, is that your head doesn't bother telling you when the offer is coming down, or back on for that matter. It just one day appears again and everything is back to 'normal'. The world is as it should be, Gary may even potentially get a pay rise. 


You literally can't keep up with the offers anymore. You've got no time or patience for the offers anymore. You start pondering the idea of just sitting outside V-Shed with a can of Thatchers instead, waiting for Gary to get fired (because inevitably he will) and that's just bloody well easier than putting up with the whole charade. (It's probably at this point worth mentioning Gary is in fact just a metaphor and isn't some poor innocent Wetherspoons worker I have it in for...I am in fact still annoyed about them taking their offers down because that's just an absolute joke).


Basically, if I haven't made this clear, this whole entire metaphor for having no patience or understanding of my illness has become extremely apparent to me recently. I've gone from being sad to happy to sad again in what feels like quite literally the blink of an eye. I haven't even managed to get used to being happy and 'normal' before I feel like it goes back to feeling the complete opposite again (yes this is pretty much the definition of Bipolar in a nutshell, but I'm just having a rant).


Because I haven't allowed myself to find time, patience or acceptance of my illness yet, every time my mood changes it feels like I'm having to start all over again and it's frustrating and disappointing.


I guess what I (and you, if you're experiencing the same or similar) need to learn is that when the offers get taken down, they will eventually get put back up. Sometimes it takes a while and you feel like you can't really be assed to wait, but when they do eventually go back up, it's worth it.


Then, eventually, you may even become so prepared that you'll have all the ingredients for a Sex On The Beach ready and waiting yourself so you don't have to impatiently wait for the next time the offer changes again. You can just do it your bloody self.


PS. I'm sorry, Gary.


TWW x
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Friday, 28 December 2018

New Year, Same Me (Well, Maybe A Little Bit Different)

As we approach 2019, I look back at 2018 with a mixture of emotions.

I'll be honest, 2018 was officially the hardest year of my life, so it's safe to say I'm not particularly sad to leave it behind.


However, I do have a lot of things to be grateful for this year. I am grateful for having such supportive family and friends. I am grateful to have a roof over my head, a job that I enjoy that have also been extremely understanding and supportive. I am grateful to be alive.


This might all be sounding a bit like a self help Instagram feed full of inspirational quotes posted over photos of cherry blossom or a beach somewhere in the Caribbean, however, we should all take a step back and recognise what we should be grateful for, this year and every year.


I'm not always great at expressing how I feel (quite ironic in a way, being Bipolar and all). I seem to struggle with expressing anything that could make me look like a failure or maybe rejected in some way. I seem to struggle with anything that makes me feel weak or a bit helpless. I tend to get angry and defensive if someone questions something I don't know the answer to, or questions how I may be feeling. This has naturally been worse in the last 6 months due to the complex array of emotions I've been experiencing, the medication I've had to pump myself with and a diagnosis that I still haven't quite got my head around.


With all of this mashed together, I've often taken it out on the people closest to me. The people that have helped me the most. 


So in 2019, that needs to change. I won't punish the people closest to me for something they have purely only tried to help me with. 


I'm going to be a bit blunt now. 


In September 2018 I tried to take my own life. I'm not ready to go into it yet, maybe I will in the future, but the details aren't important right now. The fact is, it happened. The fact is, I felt so low that I attempted it, but was fortunate enough to be surrounded by people that helped me through. So here I am, sat here today, typing this right now. That is why I am grateful to be alive. 


So in 2019, I will look after myself. I will have patience with how I'm feeling and I will trust that those feelings will eventually go, and that I'm strong enough to fight them off. I will be kind to myself, I will be kind to my mind and I will be kind to other people. You never know what is going on behind closed doors or who may need your help. I will offer support, advice, a pint or even just my big old ears to listen to anyone that needs it, because it's happening to more people than we realise. 


In November 2018 I had to sit down with my psychiatrist and discuss whether or not I should go into a psychiatric hospital following one of my (what seems like) many breakdowns. The nearest psychiatric hospital with availability was in Birmingham. I was petrified - I didn't want to be there on my own and so far away from my family when I was feeling like this. It would also cost a lot of money to do this privately - money that my family would have somehow tried to find because they're so supportive, but with struggle. Money that is hard to find and that in reality many, many people just wouldn't be able to. 


NHS psychiatric hospitals require a referral for extreme cases only, because the mental health system is so stretched. The fact you should have to be an 'extreme case' before you are provided with the help you need doesn't sit well with me, but unfortunately that's the reality right now.


The decision to not go to a psychiatric hospital was actually mainly made by a brief 'manic' episode I experienced, almost directly after my depressive episode. I woke up one morning and felt almost cured, like I wasn't depressed anymore and suddenly felt fine. That's why Bipolar can be hard to get your head around (excuse the pun). It somehow masks how you're feeling by making you feel great and then awful and then great again, when in reality that great feeling is part of the illness too. I'm still getting my head around it all, it's hard to keep up with it when it flits so easily from one mood to the other. It's also hard because I'm slowly recognising the signs to look out for, when all my life before this I had no idea it was even happening. It's worth mentioning that 'manic' episodes vary from person to person. My 'manic' episodes are actually known as 'hypomania' and from what I can tell my symptoms are being hyperactive, talkative, confident, overly productive, rapid thoughts and speech and (annoyingly) spending loads of money I don't actually have. Some of these reasons - being talkative, productive and confident for example, aren't always bad. Which is why you don't often realise it's happening. 

So, in 2019 I'm going to get a better understanding of my diagnosis. I know by doing this I'll not only help myself but help people around me who may also be struggling to come to terms with it too. I will not be ashamed of the different moods I find myself in but I will learn to control them and use it to my benefit (if being 'manic' means cleaning the whole house in an hour then so be it, better than living in a sh*t hole).


My advice? Recognise and appreciate the people that help and support you and give them some lovin' in 2019. Most importantly, give yourself some lovin' too, don't be ashamed to admit you might need it now and again.


Ultimately, 2018 has been a right little b*tch. But a b*tch I will accept, learn from and move on from in 2019. These aren't as much New Year's resolutions but general life resolutions to go by from now on.

I will be the same me, but maybe just a little bit different. 


TWW x
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Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Have You Heard Of Derealisation?

No, it's not a new rapper about to drop the hottest mixtape of 2018. It is in fact a disorder that makes you have an almost out of body experience, or the feeling of being detached from reality.

People can experience it very suddenly and briefly or suffer with it nearly all of the time (to those people, you are solid because it's a naaaasty beast to deal with).

I'm going to sum up my derealisation experience fairly swiftly by saying it's weird as SH*T. 

I'll tell you about it, at the risk of me sounding a little bit...'mad'.

I've experienced derealisation a few times now and it normally lasts anywhere between a few minutes to a couple of hours.

The only way I can sum up (but quite accurately) describe the sensation of derealisation is like being in a dream. 

I've had to sit and quite literally pinch myself multiple times because I'm not sure if I'm dreaming or if I'm awake. It feels like you're looking down on yourself and your brain is preeeetty certain it's real...but something is telling you very strongly that it can't be. So, you kind of have to just wait and find out which one it is. Pretty inconvenient to say the least. 

Funny story - I had it in the bath the other day and I automatically assumed I was dreaming but that I'd wet myself or something stupid (hence why I was surrounded by water). In actual fact...I was just in the bloody bath, like I'd planned. No urine in sight, you'll be pleased to know. 

...Now you see why it's so weird. No imaginary unicorns and fairies floating about but thinking maybe you've p*ssed yourself. Not very glamorous. 


So, I didn't know derealisation (which is also very closely linked to dissociation and depersonalisation disorder) was even a thing until I mentioned it to my psychiatrist a few months ago. I was quite nervous trying to describe what I'd been experiencing because when you explain it, it sounds ridiculous. Especially when your opening line is about potentially wetting yourself. 

But, to my amazement when I told him about it he quite matter of factly told me exactly what it was and how common it is to experience it. (Really common, apparently - some studies suggest that everyone can have it in passing at some point in their life. Get your nappies ready, kids...it's coming for you too). 

The reality is, as it's so common it's not usually anything to be concerned about unless it's really persistent. I've done a bit of research about derealisation and it looks like what I've experienced is an extremely mild version of something which is actually really quite horrible to live with. Some people can suffer with derealisation and depersonalisation so badly that it makes them completely lose touch of who they are and what they're doing. Some symptoms of derealisation can include identity shifting, feeling completely separated from your emotions and limbs, dissociative amnesia and even feeling like you're a robot (I imagine that one sounds much better on paper than it actually is). 

Some studies also suggest derealisation can be linked to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (which makes sense for me), borderline personality disorder or PTSD. If you have experienced a traumatic event, have PTSD or experience high levels of stress your mind can use derealisation as a coping mechanism, which in itself is pretty confusing. It can also be a very common side effect of some medication or coming off some medication too quickly. 

So basically, if like me you have experienced derealisation and have wondered what the hell it is or why it's happening, that could be why. 

Derealisation, like mental health in general, seems to be pretty misunderstood and not spoken about enough. 

The good news is if you suffer from derealisation there are treatments out there that can help, including certain medications and talking therapies. I've also found mindfulness and visualisation works well if it comes on suddenly and you're trying to work out what the bloody hell is going on - just focusing on your breathing can make a real difference and help you focus on being present.

Don't be worried about speaking t0 someone if you are experiencing, or have experienced, derealisation. It's very common, it's treatable, and if anything it makes a good ice breaker story if you're experiencing an awkward silence with distant family members over your turkey this Christmas. Just try not to wet yourself and you'll be fine. Or do, if they're really that boring.

Here's a couple of links to websites that explain a bit more about derealisation: 

TWW x
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Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Men - I'm Talking To You!

Now we're in November it seems like a pretty good time to focus on the importance of men's mental health (however, all the time should be a good time!)

For the whole of November, The Movember Foundation are once again calling on all 'Mo Bros' and 'Mo Sistas' to 'Grow, Move and Host' their way through November (and beyond) to raise funds for men's health.

The Movember Foundation is one of the leading charities for men's health in the UK, and men's mental health and suicide prevention are amongst the main causes it supports.

CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) is an award winning charity also dedicated to male suicide prevention, and has tons of ways you can get involved and raise money all year round.

Not only do these charities have lots of different fundraising options, they have heaps of helpful information and contacts for anyone that needs mental health help or advice.

Statistics on the CALM website show suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.

75% of suicides in the UK in 2015 were male.  Something has to change.

If you or someone you know is feeling vulnerable and needs to speak to someone urgently please remember you can call Samaritans on 116 123.

To mark the importance of
The Movember Foundation, CALM and men's mental health in general, I have called upon three willing male contributors to talk about what mental health means to them, their own personal experiences and why banishing stigma and raising awareness really is so bloody important. 


So, without further ado, I introduce to you my three fabulous 'Mo Bros' - Tom, Nick and Paul.

Tom, 28, soon to be qualified CBT therapist who works full time in Bucks and is originally from Somerset.
Tom says, "I have been interested in mental health since around the age of 14, and at 20 decided to become a therapist and have been working towards that ever since. My career aspirations in life are to one day open up my own practise, complete a masters degree in Mindfulness-based CBT and incorporate this within my practise".

Nick, 36, lives in Bristol and works for Vodafone. He is currently raising money for The Movember Foundation and you can donate to the amazing cause here.

Paul is father of 2, a husband, a big fan of Liverpool FC and mental health speaker and author.
Paul says, "9 years a go, out of the blue, I lost my Dad to suicide. I didn't know how to deal with it, I bottled up that grief and soon found myself in times of despair. Now, I share openly about my story to help others who might be suffering in silence". Be sure to check out Paul's amazing blog, amongst other great things, here.

Hi guys! Thanks so much for allowing me to pick your brains for my new blog post. 

This post is dedicated to you men, and I wanted to ask you some questions in regards to your own personal experiences and what you would like to see happen in the future of men's mental health. 

So, to begin - what does mental health mean to you?

T: I would say, I don’t think of mental health as being ‘black or white’, like an on/ off switch. I would say we’re pretty much all very vulnerable to developing mental health issues at any time, and trying to stay away from that is a process. Almost like a full time job, but just one that you have to do alongside your regular full time job. I would say mental health, as a concept, is largely elusive. But you can flirt with it through various means, such as taking good care of yourself, being with those you love, and prioritising your desires over others. We can all fall down, we can all lose our mental health, but we can also all stand up. So, in summary, I would say mental health is not a destination; but a way of life.

N: 
Mental health has often in the past been a bit of a taboo. People don't like to admit that they struggle with the day to day aspects of their lives. This is particularly difficult for men as they are often told to 'man up'.
P: 
For me, mental health is simply being able to deal with how we feel. We all have a mind, we all have thoughts and we all have mental health. There's still such a separation from the way we treat physical and mental health but I see them as very similar. To better our mental health, we need to know and have support to look after it.

Have you or someone you know been directly affected by a mental illness?

T: Yes of course. As I said, I have an ongoing relationship with my mental health, in that I am (mostly) always trying to improve it. If I let this slip, I will feel down. I’m quite susceptible to feeling low. Whether this crosses the threshold for ‘depression’, I’d go “maybe”. But generally speaking, I’m probably effected by a tendency to feel low at least once per week. The biggest issue for me, mentally, is definitely sleep though. I have (self-diagnosed) chronic insomnia. Like right now for example, where I’m answering these questions at 04.38 on a Monday morning. I just can’t sleep for days on end. It really gets to me. I refuse to have time off from work because I think “what’s the point? I’ll only lay on the sofa all day” but I do actually really struggle with not sleeping. Predictably, this can easily lead to low mood – I have no energy, I’m bad tempered and I can take it out on those around me. Low mood loves these things.

N: I have struggled with my mental health over the years and have found that people are a lot more understanding and respectful over the last 10 years. This is mainly due to more of a spotlight on mental health and the encouragement to take it seriously. There is a high rate of suicide in men 18 to 40 because we can be too scared to speak up when we aren't coping.

P: 
My Dad suffered with depression shortly before his suicide, but it was a very quick breakdown. He didn't really show any sign of a mental illness before that tragic time. Again with mental illness, I think it's very similar to physical illness. The earlier we can spot it, the earlier we can intervene and treat it, the more change we have of it not getting worse and in a lot of cases fatal.

In hindsight what might you say to yourself, or maybe someone else, struggling with their mental health?

T:
That’s a tough one. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! I’m not sure how receptive I would be on day 3 of no sleep to some gleaming, immaculate version of myself peering back saying “it’ll be okay”. I think I would be too p****d off. What I have learnt through having mental health difficulties is, though, that you can cope with a lot more than you think you can. Put it this way, last year I ran a half marathon. I didn’t sleep for two nights before, I ran it – came in under 2 hours, then drove back to London. I was fine. The lesson here for me here is: just because you don’t think you can do it – doesn’t mean that’s true. So although I wouldn’t use hindsight as my platform, I have used experience to know I am stronger than I think I am.  And I do my best to remember that when I’m up against it. 

N: 
What I would say to anyone feeling at a low point is that it is just that. A low does pass and asking for help doesn't make you weak or less of a man. Men have emotions the same as women but have been told it's not okay to show them. I am happy to see that this seems to be changing and know lots of people that have sought help through counselling and meditation.
P: If I could talk to the 19 year old me who was struggling to deal with my Dad's suicide, I would tell him to not be ashamed of how he was feeling. To talk openly, to know that he's not alone and also to know that things can get better.

Why do you think some men struggle to open up and talk about mental health?

T:
Again, it’s a really tough one. I think stigma is the most pertinent answer, but I wonder if there’s a little more to it than that. As you may know, I’m a therapist myself. I work with people who have mental health difficulties every day and I am one of a huge team who all do the same job. Is there stigma here? Well, surprisingly, yes, but not in the way you might suspect. There are two types of stigma: positive and negative. Negative is your classic: “You can’t be depressed! I saw you walking to Tesco the other day” (we don’t see this so much where I work!) and positive – lesser known. More akin to positive discrimination. 
You got given the job because you’re disabled, for example. Not because of who you are. Positive stigma scares me more and is a much bigger barrier than negative stigma for my opening up. It’s not that I’m ashamed of who I am, but I fear that people would change the way they relate to me. I like banter, I like taking the p**s and I would hate for people to feel they couldn’t do that because I was depressed. However, I suppose I need to consider whether this is a healthy choice, as there have certainly been times I could have done with a chat - but didn’t.  

P: 
Men tend to struggle to open up and talk about mental health due to the blurred definition of what it takes to be a man now. I look at my Grandad who's 93, and the role of a man was far clearer then. Now, a lot of men struggle to find their way and judge themselves for it. Men too struggle to talk with their friends about how they're feeling due to the belief they'd be judged as well, but I think this is slowly changing.

What would you like to see for the future of men's mental health?

T:
 I guess I’d like to see reminders in society that the once socially accepted ‘norm’ of masculinity: beer drinking, tribal tattooed, walking like he’s s**t himself, is on its way out. Call me a millennial but we are now living in a society where women are allowed to be seen as strong, and men are allowed to be seen as vulnerable. More of this please. I blame Disney. Besides, if I keep walking like this I think I’m going to get a hernia. 

N: 
I would like to see the stereotypes for any gender are dispelled allowing people to ask for help without feeling social pressure to be a certain way. Work is being done by many great organisations such as Movember and the Samaritans to aid in this needed change.

P: 
In the future, I'd like to see more men being vocal about their feelings. There's no weakness in it, in fact it's strength to be able to accept you're struggling and to know that vulnerability is ok. I'd also like to see more support put in place, not just for men, but for everyone. Mental health is still under researched, under funded and it's lacking the support and resources we need right now. With time, and with more people talking, this should start to change.
Thank you all for being so amazing and sharing your mental health experiences and the impact it has had on you personally. It isn't always easy to talk so openly about experiences like this, however I truly believe sharing your stories will help others who may be experiencing something similar.

Like you all, I really hope sometime in the not so distant future the stigma no longer exists and more men 
are able to speak up about how they're feeling.

There is absolutely no shame in suffering from a mental illness or having down days. You must always remember, you're not alone and never be afraid to speak up.

TWW x

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