First Day Fears

I’m Going Back, But I’m Not Better

My anxiety is ramping up each day this week. From Thursday onwards, I’ve noticed a distinct uptick in those anxious feelings. I’m more forgetful (I left my keys in the supermarket!) It doesn’t seem to take a lot to knock me backwards and the scratching of my hands has resumed at a frenzied rate. Why? Because I’m going back to work next week even though I’m not fully better. My head is going crazy with first day fears even though I’m returning to a job I’ve done for 16 years.

The Coming Weeks

Oddly I’ve decided to put this experience to good use. For the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing with you what this going back to work experience is like. From the first day fears, to me being back at full speed and everything in between. I want to share all of this with you, whether I’m successful or not. It’s a journey many of you are going to have to take at some point. Depression and anxiety can severely impact on our work attendance, some people have months off or even never return to work because of mental health issues.

I’ve decided to go back after a lengthy absence. I feel I’m improved enough that with some help from my employer that I can do this. I need to from a financial stand point, but also from the point of view of my recovery. It’s time to face this challenge, because if I don’t do it now I never will.

Facing Down First Day Fears

So what is kicking the anxiety off? I know the people I work with, I know the job inside out. It’s the same building I’ve been going to for years. I’m not scared of any of these things, parts of me are even looking forward to seeing friends I haven’t seen for months. What exactly am I so anxious about?

My current biggest fear is me. Or more precisely my mental health. I don’t cope well with crowds or loud environments and the office I work in has an abundance of both. The fear is that I’ll walk in, not be able to cope and end up back at square one. This fear is nagging at me, I don’t want to go backwards. But there is that risk.

So what do we do?

Well I’m taking the risk. I’m going back and facing down those first day fears head on. My boss is prepared as he can be, he knows that I’m not good with noise so he’s arranged for a desk in a quieter wing of the office. Colleagues are being made aware to try to not bombard me (a common problem when people return from absence in my office). For me, I’ve made as many arrangements as i can to make it easy as possible.

Preparations

So here goes. Here’s my list of what I’m doing to get myself ready as possible. My thinking is if I share it with you it will help me follow through with everything. Plus you never know, it might help someone else too!

  • Make the first journey as easy as possible. To do this I’m making sure the car is clean and tidy inside. I’ve arranged that someone else is going to take the kids to school so that stress is removed for now. I’ve made a playlist of relaxing music as well. Car will be fuelled and checked over.
  • Get my stuff together. I’ve already chosen and hung up my clothes ready for the day. Lunch will be prepped the night before and everything I will need will be in my bag. ( sicknotes, letters from counselor, return to work note, pass and fidget spinner)
  • Treat myself.  Have a relaxing bath the night before. Take a small bar of chocolate with me on the day. Make dinner as easy as I can for the day (slow cooker, ready meal or if all else fails, takeaway).
  • Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. This one may sound odd, but it’s what I’m doing. I’m going for counselling the day before to try to get some of the worst things out and get some strategies for coping set in place.  My partner is going to have his phone to hand in case it gets really bad on the day. I also have talked things through with my boss about the most scary concerns I have and he’s doing what he can to help me cope.
Ready, Set….

So, for me I’m looking at phased return , amended duties, a quieter environment to sit and getting occupational health involved to make this process as smooth as possible. My boss is fully aware that I may need to step away from the office, I may lose my speech when stressed or begin scratching. One of my closest friends at work has already said they’ll be on hand if I need some help, even if it’s just to make me laugh or wind me up.

All in all, I think I’m as ready as I can be. I’ll let you know how it goes next week, what’s worked, what hasn’t etc. Here’s hoping I haven’t crashed and burned! If you are facing this challenge too I wish for you that it goes well.  It’s scary as anything facing down those first day fears, but I think with a little bit of preparation it won’t be as bad as you or I think.

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A Tweet, A Trigger and A Minefield

*This post contains images of self-harm, which may trigger people.*

A Trigger

Triggers are something that I hear a lot about, both on and off the internet.  Therapists will ask if we know what triggers our depression or anxiety, we will then be told to look at identifying our triggers so we can look at coping with them.  Is this sounding familiar?  Theoretically, if you can identify a trigger, you can start employing your coping mechanisms to ensure that you get through whatever situation it is that might set you off.

Recently on Twitter, I advertised our Understanding Self-Harm page to promote awareness for self-harm.  It contained the image below:

Understanding Self-Harm scars.

What do you think?  Do you think the image is particularly triggering?  Or is it more that the image is a bit shocking and uncomfortable to look at?  Here are some of the responses I’ve had to it:


Do you agree with these?  What do you think?

Talking Triggers

First off, I feel I need to say that I do believe in mental health triggers.  Honestly, I do.  There are things I know that can set me off on a depressive spiral or a panic attack, no matter what I try to do.  Admittedly, I’m not very good at identifying those triggers, nor am I particularly good at avoiding them or dealing with them, but I know they are there.

My question, however, is this: at what point do triggers hamper mental health progress?

One thing that society teaches us on a regular basis is to keep our mental health struggles hidden.  Have depression?  Smile.  Have anxiety?  Breathe.  We are taught, very much like Elsa in Frozen (yes, I have a 3-year-old who loves Frozen) to keep it in: don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be.  If we avoid talking about subjects containing potential triggers or avoid using images like the one above because they “may trigger someone”, how are we doing ourselves any good?  I’ve been told the image above has shocked people into reading the content because they find it disturbing enough that they want to know more.  Would you not say that’s a good thing?

It’s raised awareness for self-harm.  It’s raised mental health awareness.  Someone else has walked away with an understanding of a struggle that plagues a lot of us.

I’d say that’s a good thing.

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My Experiences

Two comments – one of which has since been removed because the user decided to block me – went along these lines:

I feel, at this point, I need to direct people to reading my journey, particularly posts like Pills and Blades, that discuss my own personal struggle with self-harm.  I have loads of scars covering my legs, even now after I’ve been “clean” for a few months.  It’s something that I’ve battled with relentlessly.  Below are just a couple of instances of when that happened.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sharing these lightly.  I’ve made sure that my scars are hidden so that people won’t see them and start judging me or commenting, etc.  Sharing them with you all is something I’m doing to continue raising that awareness and take the first step in my stand.

I believe that this subject needs to be talked about.  I believe people need to see these images so that they might understand just how serious mental health is.  Outside, in public, we put on smiles, we fake feeling as though we’re part of the community and we try and appear normal.  Behind closed doors, however, we end up turning to coping mechanisms like the one in the pictures above.  It’s something that’s not talked about, something that we avoid showing others, but we do it.

And people need to realise this.

People need to see the damage we do.

Shying away from it is not going to work anymore.

We need to be more vocal about this!

A Minefield

Realistically, what can I do regarding the images that will potentially trigger others?  It’s like being caught between a rock and a hard place.  On one hand you have the people who need to see the image, who need to be shocked into reading and become aware.  On the other hand, you have all those who would claim to be triggered by the image (whether that’s genuinely triggered or, as so many people will do, jumping on the bandwagon to have a moan).  In the middle, you have me and the people like me who are all trying to raise the awareness.

As far as triggers go, though, it’s a minefield.  Everyone is different, everyone has different triggers.  Asking anyone to find something that won’t trigger anybody is virtually impossible.  So why should we hide what we feel, why should we avoid any potentially triggering images when there is no image that exists that might not trigger someone?

We need to stand up.  We need to take ownership.  This is real, this is happening.  People struggle with this on a daily basis.  To make a change, we need to shock people and we need to make them uncomfortable, because people will never change if they are comfortable.

Ultimately, I’m not going to apologise for these images.  People need to see this.  Realistically, the minefield is such that I won’t be able to find images that won’t offend someone, somewhere, so I will use the images I feel best fit what I’m trying to accomplish.  What I will say is that understanding of self-harm needs to be raised.  We need to do this.  We need to take that stand.  So stand with me.  Help me fight this stigma.

I hope you understand.

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A New Year

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all from the Pushing Back the Shadows team!

Out With the Old Year

2018!  Is it just me or does anyone else think that 2017 flew by?  It seems like only yesterday that we were celebrating the end of 2016, which most people seemed to think was an awful year.  I know that’s what everyone says – that it seemed like only yesterday – but it really does.

Looking back at 2017, I’ve had a few opportunities to pick as highlights. Starting this website, for example, has been a major highlight as it’s enabled me to help people with their mental health struggles.  Whether on Twitter, Facebook or just this website, it’s been extremely rewarding to be able to connect with people and bring a little light into their darkness. Simply by reaching out and encouraging them, I’ve been encouraged as well.

Still, 2017 has had its difficulties.  If you follow my journey, you’ll have seen it’s had its ups and it’s had its downs.  I wrote about the Harrowing Void, how my scars have faded and the desire to bring them back has just increased.  I told you about my sleepless battle, how depression and anxiety affected me at work and much more.

In With the New Year

So as we’re gearing up towards the New Year, we might be approaching it with anticipation and trepidation or excitement and enthusiasm.  Perhaps you’re thinking that this will be your year, where everything goes right, you get that dream promotion, you get your finances in order and so on.  Conversely, you might be thinking it will be a disaster of a year where everything goes wrong, you lose lots of things dear to you.  Who knows?

In truth, no one knows what the future will bring.  2018 will continue to be elusive and mysterious.  It’s important to remember, as we approach this new year of new opportunities and events, that the only thing we can truly control is the here and now.  We don’t know what tomorrow holds, yesterday is done, so we focus on the present.  Live for today.

Now, I’m not saying go wild and blow all your money, drive your car recklessly, go out and buy booze and drugs and live wildly because that’s just not practical.  No, what I’m saying is make the most of the time that we have.  Tomorrow could be one day too late, as anxiety keeps telling us, or it could be one of the biggest success stories of our lives.  Make the most of it.  If that doesn’t tell you what I’m trying to say, check out this scene and let one of my favourite fictional characters tell you:

2018

So, as 2018 unfolds and we launch into this new year, take the time that is given to you, decide what to do with it.  Perhaps start a new project, one that will help your mental health.  Alternatively, make a New Year’s Resolution that might change the course of your life.  2018 is your oyster, you go and make the most of it.

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Dirty Little Secret

What Makes You So Uncomfortable?

One thing Alex and I have received commentary on is the image we use for our Understanding Self-Harm page. We’ve had a few people comment that they fear it will be triggering, that the sight of someone’s arms with healed scars will encourage them to cut. The interesting thing is these comments have not come solely from sufferers, they have predominantly come from people with little to no experience of mental health.  The sufferers I have spoken to both on social media and the real world have said that an image like that was NOT triggering at all. It didn’t encourage the need to cut. If anything, it showed that you can get to a point where the cuts will heal. Cutting can stop. So the dirty little secret seems to be that it’s not because of a fear of triggering. People don’t like the image because it makes them uncomfortable.

The Dirty Little Secret

I have self-harm scars. There, I’ve said it. I have scars on my stomach, arms and legs that I inflicted upon myself when my mental health was in a pretty poor state.  My recovery is happening day by day, with the help of medication despite a woeful lack of contact from my therapist. (I haven’t had a session with her since November due to her cancelling) In that time I’ve had two instances of self-harm and whilst that sounds bad, neither relapse was as serious as previously.  I’ve been able to get past them with the support of Alex and my family. But my scars are very visible if I’m not vigilant in keeping them covered.

And I do. I hide them from everyone if I can, even from the man I love and who loves me. It’s not from a fear of triggering someone (my partner has had issues with self-harm too), but from the stigma and judgement that arises when people encounter self-harm scarring. Self harm is now a dirty little secret. I hide how my depression has manifested because of the reactions from others. My previous partner would make me feel guilty, shout at me and generally make me humiliated that I’d harmed myself. When I should have been treated with understanding and care, I was treated with anger and disgust.

Image result for dirty little secret self harm

Why Do People Judge?

As a society people are not good with difference. There is an ingrained aversion to anything that does not conform as what we think of as ‘normal’.  There is a prevalent (and worrying) trend for a certain type of body image. Whether it’s ripped abs or being a size 6 with DD breasts, there is increasing pressure from media of all forms to appear a certain way. And scars do not fit in with that.

I’ll give you an example; look at the picture below. It was circulated on  Facebook as the woman featured had chosen rather than undergo painful reconstructive surgery after a double mastectomy, to have a beautiful tattoo celebrating that she survived breast cancer.  This picture of her breast-less, tattooed body was posted and very quickly there was a backlash. People complained that it was obscene, gross, wrong and Facebook responded by getting the picture removed.

Image result for mastectomy tattoos

Why Exactly?

There is an almost daily stream of semi-nudity (in some cases full nudity) of numerous celebrities. That’s ok, but someones survival of breast cancer is not? The truth of this dirty little secret is society doesn’t like to be reminded of illness. Whether it’s cause is mental, disease based or genetic, there are people who cannot bear to see the physical manifestations of illness.

In the same way some cancer sufferers wear a wig to hide their hair loss, self-harmers cover their scars because of the judgement and embarrassment they face from the world. We are ill. Self harm is a physical symptom of mental health problems. I have never come across a true sufferer of depression  where the need to hurt themselves was instigated by an image of someone else’s scars. What drives you to pick up a blade, or scratch or any other method is within you. It can be a need for self destruction, self-hatred, a release from anxiety or from numbness. It is NOT because you’ve seen some scars.

So maybe we need to look at it this way. An image is not triggering. It’s just making you uncomfortable to see something that you’d prefer didn’t exist. But depression, anxiety, self-harm; they all exist and pretending they don’t is just as harmful to sufferers as if you’d handed them the blade yourself.

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It’s Not You, It’s Me

It Really Is

This is one of these cliche phrases, usually trotted out during a break up. It’s a phrase meant to be a balm when you’re hurting someone. “It’s not you, it’s me”, usually means it is you but the person saying it is too chicken to say so. The phrase has become so over-used it’s become ironic. But where our friends and family and our mental health are concerned, its true. It’s really not you, it’s me.  Not sure what I’m getting at? Let me explain.

I Don’t Mean to Hurt You

So often when depression and anxiety and other mental health issues impact a person, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to get out and about. Sometimes leaving your home becomes impossible. Social events? Forget it. The sheer enormity of dealing with people is just too much. Alex suffers like this. I do too sometimes. We shut ourselves away, we cancel on friends and family. We just can’t do it. The tendency will be to beat ourselves up about it, we will be plagued with guilt. But there are times that no matter how much we care for the people we were meant to see, we just can’t do it.

And it hurts them.

I’ve had it happen to me more than once. I’ve arranged with Alex to do something, try and get us out and about. But the time comes and he just can’t. Either depression or anxiety have consumed him and he cannot get himself out of his home. Oh boy, can that hurt!

It’s Not Personal

No matter how many times that Alex has assured me with the old cliche,’it’s not you, it’s me’ the treacherous voice in my head will come back with me being the cause.  The logical part of my brain knows that the issues Alex experiences due to his mental health can prevent him from going out. I know it isn’t personal. Yet for friends and family it will often feel like it is. I know that because I’ve felt it too. For me, it can kick off the dark voice in my head that tells me how worthless and useless I am. I’m obviously just not worth spending the time with.

But I’m learning to fight back against that instinct. It’s difficult, don’t get me wrong. I need to be reassured because I’ve spent so long being convinced of my own worthlessness. But I am learning that when it comes to mental health the cliche ‘ it’s not you it’s me ‘ is not a cliche at all. It’s the sad reality.

When I Say It’s Not You, It’s Me, I Mean It

That’s the point of this post. If you are supporting a loved one you can end up being hurt because of how their mental health can make them act. Depression and anxiety can make you snappish, irritable, unsociable, reclusive and so much more. We don’t mean or want to be this way. It’s part and parcel of living with these issues, and we are trying every day to overcome them.

There are days when we’re better at it than others. But for friends and family it’s something worth remembering; we don’t mean to hurt you. It’s not you, it’s me.  I and all the sufferers I know want to go to your party, come out for dinner and all the things you want us to be part of. If I’ve cancelled on you or hurt you I am not saying that it’s okay. But I’d hope you’d understand and maybe when the time is right we can talk about it. I don’t want to be ruled by my depression or my anxiety, nor is it an excuse if I’ve hurt you. I’d give anything not to be like this, as would many of the sufferers I know.  We’re sorry. Just don’t let that hurt turn you away, because every sufferer of depression, anxiety and all the other mental illnesses, needs the people who care about them. Your support is invaluable, so don’t let the illness push you away from the person.

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A New Day

Christmas Day!

Merry Christmas Everyone!I’d like to start this post by wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas! From everyone at Pushing Back the Shadows, we hope you have a very good day and, if you’re away for the holidays, a wonderful time!

A New Day

These words have been on my mind a lot for the past few months.  “A New Day.”  It brings a sense of warmth to me.  It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s something that’s unspoilt, unbroken.  It’s another chance, almost like that second chance but with unlimited possibilities.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to get out of bed in the mornings.  As the sunlight creeps through the blinds or the curtains, all you want to do is pull the duvet up over your head, curl up and hide away from the world.  Put the world off for a few more minutes.  Snooze the alarm and have your “just five more minutes” in bed.  Sound familiar?

I’m the epitome of that feeling!

Every morning is a chance to start over.

Even though it’s a morning, I’m a creative person and mornings are meant to be the best time for creativity, I just don’t like facing them.  For me, it’s another day, another struggle.  Another day that I have to put the mask on, face the morning and get through the day without having any incidents.

It’s daunting.

A New Chance

Despite my initial morning thoughts, though, I have been having a think about this whole “new day” concept.  While I might not appreciate them, is there not good in every day?  It’s a new day for attempting whatever I want to attempt.  A chance to start over.  A fresh chance to get it right. Isn’t that a much better way to look at the day?

See, some days are great, where my productivity is on fire, my inspiration is through the roof and my enthusiasm is wonderful.  Other days my motivation and inspiration just suck, majorly.  It’s hard for me to focus on what I’m writing, difficult to work myself up to write anything and sometimes even impossible to get myself to do anything productive.  In short, everything is an uphill climb.

Even on those days where things are difficult and I’m struggling, isn’t there something good in those days?  Is there not something good in every day that we come across?  Whether the day has been good or bad, there’s always something small, something good buried in there somewhere, like a diamond in the rough.  We just have to find it.

2017

Whatever you’re doing today, whether you’re in the middle of opening presents or just finishing washing up after your Christmas dinner or taking a quiet five minutes to let that dinner go down, I’d like you to take a moment.  Pause.  Reflect.  Look back at 2017.  Would you say your year has been good?  Would you say it’s been disastrous?  Take a deeper look.

I’m sure 2017 will have been filled with good moments and bad moments. Some might stand out more than others but there will be a smattering of both in there somewhere.  In terms of Pushing Back the Shadows, we’ve had a wonderful rollercoaster year since we started in May.  Both Cheryl and I have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve had on here, on Twitter, on Facebook and more.  Bringing a light to you all brings a light to ourselves as well.  The community we’ve created…it’s amazing!

So this is our last post for 2017.  Wrapping up the year, so to speak.  Now we can turn our eyes to the next few weeks before the New Year, taking each new day as a chance to start over, a chance to get it right.  Every new day is a gift, it’s up to us what we do with it.

Let’s make the most of it!

Happy Christmas, guys!

Alex

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Episode 17 – The Power of Perspective

When we’re in the middle of our situation, going through the darkness and we’re struggling to find the light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes a shift in perspective or even a completely different perspective can be useful. We might not see the progress we’re making but other people around us might. Join Alex as he looks at the power that perspective can have on our walk with mental health.

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Twitter is not a Dating Website

I Repeat, Twitter is not a Dating Website

I apologise in advance to all our genuine readers and followers on here, but I am going to be on a bit of a rant here. For those of you who genuinely get in touch for mental health support for yourself or a loved one, this does not apply to you. Though I would love to hear from you on this particular topic too! It’s regarding a trend that seems common across Twitter, that some individuals seem confused what Twitter is for. That, despite what hashtag you may have found someone under, that it’s perfectly okay to hit on them, even if you’ve never interacted with them, when you’ve no idea who they are or why they are on Twitter in the first place.  I want to make one thing very clear to these people: Twitter is not a dating website.

I get it, You’re lonely.

Loneliness can be a terrible thing. Depression can compound it. I know that.  You can be surrounded by people, but still be incredibly lonely.  But that does not excuse such behavior.  Like many people on Twitter I am there for a specific reason, it’s why I post under specific hashtags like #depression and #anxiety.  My bio is very clear that I’m a mental health advocate and that I’m the editor for PBTS. It does not state what my marital status is or that I’m looking for a relationship. Yet this does not stop the consistent stream of Direct Messages from men (and the occasional woman) who think that Twitter is a way to get a date. Or just casual sex.

I am NOT there for that! I’m in a relationship. I’m not looking for someone. My purpose for being on Twitter is to be someone who supports sufferers of mental health issues, and as a sufferer myself. Twitter is not a dating website, I’m not having those sort of conversations on there. Yet it doesn’t matter how politely I say that I’m not interested or that I’m seriously involved with someone, these people still continue trying. They try and continue their wooing until it gets to a point that you have no option but to block them. For me, I’m now at a point where I’m considering a total block on Direct Messaging altogether.

I’m Not Alone

I am not alone in this. I’ve received tweets from numerous followers saying that they get at least 2-3 of these types of propositions a day and that despite being very clear that they do not want this type of interaction, they continue to get pestered. Alex has experienced it too, and like me finds it incredibly uncomfortable.  As my boss at PBTS he has had to step in with some of them and take over the conversation to try and get them to back off because it has tripped my anxiety to a level that I don’t know what to do. I don’t like blocking people, no one wants to dismiss someone else’s loneliness or hurt their feelings. It can be devastating to be brushed off again and again when you’re trying to find someone. But sometimes I’m left with no choice.

You Don’t Even Know Me

Part of my job at PBTS is talking to people, getting conversations going to help people open up about their struggles or to support them. Sometimes these conversations have to take place on Direct Message because of the sensitive nature of them. Many of our interviews are as a result of us building such connections.  But currently I’m at a point where I’m afraid to open my DM folder because I know there will be more of the unwanted type.

The issue is they come out of nowhere. You’ve never interacted with this person, but they’ve decided to follow you without even looking at who you are or what you do. It’s indiscriminate in it’s nature, which is almost offensive in itself when these messages arrive. They’ve seen your profile picture and that’s all. Talk about judging a book by it’s cover alone!

Toxic

What these people don’t see is how toxic this behavior is.  I have serious self-esteem issues. I’m scarred from previous relationships, where who I was inside was nothing to them, all that mattered was what I looked like or what I could do for them. It’s an issue within society that people take more stock in the packaging than the content. These blind approaches are harmful. You have no idea who this person is. Twitter is not a dating website where everyone is actively looking to meet someone. If I’m posting under hashtags like #depression, #anxiety and #mentalhealth, why would that lead you to believe I’m looking for sex or romance?

I’m not.

I am talking and interacting with people who are vulnerable, sometimes I am vulnerable myself. By propositioning such people you are trying to prey on people who do not need this.  Depression so often comes with complete lack of self-esteem that these approaches can worsen what’s already there. You are likely to inflict damage on someone else in your search for gratification. But you won’t even know it and you may not even care. But I do. That’s why I’m writing this post instead of my usual pick of the week.

It’s Not Appropriate

To anyone who thinks that it’s okay to continue with these types of blind advances I have one thing to say. Twitter is not a dating website! If you are looking for romantic or sexual hook-ups there are specific sites designed for this. E-harmony, Match, Grinder or Tinder were set up for a reason. Yes you may have to pay for them, but the people on them are looking for the same thing you are.

So go on those sites, or I don’t know… just go out and meet people who have common interests with you.  If I’m on Twitter it doesn’t give you the right to assume I’m looking for the same thing you are.  You don’t know me. I’m there to talk to people about the subjects that matter to me, be that mental health, music or writing. Don’t assume everyone on Twitter is fair game for your advances, because they’re not. If someone is writing about mental health and it’s impact on themselves or someone they care about, they are not going to appreciate some random stranger hitting on them out of the blue.

So please, PLEASE, if you are someone who does this or are considering it, don’t. Just don’t. You don’t know who you are talking to, it could be a mental health sufferer, it could be a child (Twitter’s minimum age is only 13).  You won’t get what you want out of it and it’s really not welcome. Do your online dating where it’s meant to be done, on online dating websites.

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

 

Alex and The Joker

*This post comes with a potential trigger warning as there are some elements that readers might find triggering.*

This post is the one mentioned in Episode 16 of the PBTS Podcast, taken from my old blog when I originally started writing.  To listen to the podcast, find it here.

The Joker

I tell awful jokes. Really awful ones. I’ve mentioned my humour before because it’s a coping mechanism, a way of getting through the day. It was one of two things that got me through work yesterday and quite often it’s a big part of my mask. I hide behind the jokes, the puns, the humour. That way they can’t see me breaking inside. If you look happy enough and smile enough, people just assume everything is ok, even when it isn’t. They won’t push too hard to find out what’s wrong because, to look at you, they’d say nothing is wrong. So it works well. In fact…sometimes it works too well.
Often I find that the jokes are just getting me through by putting a smile (or a grimace) on other people’s faces…it doesn’t really help me because I don’t find them funny. If anything, I’d say I’m not a funny guy because I don’t feel the funny side of things much anymore. Another thing to add to the list of how broken I am. On the surface I seem to be a joker, playing for the laughs and trying to get people to smile but deep down I’m anything but. Deep down I’m chaos.

Oddly enough, I’ve been thinking a little bit about the Joker from the Batman films over the past couple of days. I watched a clip on YouTube of some of the iconic film moments that are actually accidental, where something didn’t go according to plan and the reaction was so good and so genuine that the filmmaker kept it in the final cut. I find that the Joker has some of the best lines, lines that I can relate to…which is both good and scary at the same time. One such example would be when he asks “Wanna know how I got these scars”…although I think you all know the answer to that.

“Wanna Know How I Got These Scars…?”

I’ll be honest with you: I feel absolutely awful today. Mind is playing up in overdrive, head is almost hurting and my chest is tight and nothing seems to be going right. Not to mention the pain that I’m in both physically and mentally, which is slowly doing my head in. I’m in such a way today that I’ve locked myself in the flat, I haven’t got the motivation or desire to go anywhere. I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t want to do anything.
Well, earlier I was chatting with my friend PJ and I got quite irritated. Not with her but with other people. While we were messaging, I suddenly said a couple of people had made me think of the Joker. In the scene in the hospital when Harvey Dent (Two-Face) is recovering from the explosion that turned him into the villain, the Joker says this:

“You know…you know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan’. Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics because it’s all ‘part of the plan’. But when I say that one little old mayor will die…well then everyone loses their minds!”

I can relate. Supposedly I was meant to somewhere and I really didn’t feel up to it. Effectively, yet again, I’ve let people down because I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. What irritated me, though, is that none of those people noticed that I was struggling, they didn’t message me asking where I was until today. Last week I was at my parents’ and wasn’t meant to be there so when they didn’t see me it was “all part of the plan”. Suddenly, when I’m not there because I feel awful, they all want to know how I am and where I am. Seriously? It’s like a bad joke. In the majority of times, the minute people want something from you, that’s when they start acting all concerned and messaging and finding out how you are. Otherwise they forget about you and don’t bother unless you message them and even then sometimes they don’t bother. I’ve been told that someone is too busy to reply to a message once before, where that person told me their life was too busy to be messaging me. Considering at that point I had no one else to turn to, that cut.

The Joker and I

So…wanna know how I got these scars? Want to know why I’m drawing further and further in on myself? Want to know why this blog is full of depressing stories of how crushed, broken and alone I feel? Look no further. For every word you’ve read, every conversation you’ve skipped over with me because you’ve been “too busy” is stored up ready to explode and maybe one day it’ll be too late, maybe one day I won’t be around. Perhaps I turned to you because I had no one else…did that get considered? Or perhaps I didn’t message because I couldn’t bring myself to message. But I don’t think that would have even crossed your minds…

Already today my phone has been shoved to one side because I’m getting messages from people who would otherwise be ignoring me, too wrapped up in their busy lives to bother finding out who I am and it’s pushing me further and further down. It takes five minutes at most to send a message to find out how someone is, why is it only when they’re not there that you notice?

Yes, this is a bit of a rant but I feel that bad today that I’m past caring. Why should I feel bad for feeling this way when no one else takes any regard of me? Granted, there are some exceptions (you know who you are) but in the majority of people, why is it so hard? I sit here with around 300 scars that I’ve collected over the past few weeks but I’m fairly certain that not many of you would notice or ask how it’s going, even if you’ve read it on here. Why is it so hard to talk to me? I’m broken, I’m bloody, I’m a mess and I’ve almost given up trying…what does it say about you if you’re too busy to be the helping hand that I’m desperately reaching out for?
Or are you just too busy?

“When I’m not supposed to be there, no one thinks of me when I don’t turn up because it’s all ‘part of the plan’. But when I’m supposed to be there and I’m not? Then everyone suddenly loses their minds.”

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Words Hurt

Sticks and Stones

I remember as a child so often being told the old adage ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’. It’s something that’s trotted out so often to victims of bullying when they’re young. The idea that name calling isn’t somehow as damaging as physical violence gets ingrained from the playground upwards, and realistically it’s an attitude that needs to change. Whether you think it’s trivial or not; words hurt.

So many of the people I encounter on Twitter with mental health issues, either have been bullied, or worse are being bullied due to their condition. And this isn’t just children, and it’s not just in schools. It’s adults, in the workplace, on-line and in their own homes. People who are already vulnerable are being scarred even further by psychological damage inflicted by others. I should know. I’m one of them.

We Need To See That Words Hurt

I know as part of my own journey that I need to learn how to forgive those who hurt me, to move on and grow from it. I’m not talking about those people who inadvertently make a mistake and hurt my feelings. If Alex is snappish because of his mental health, I know that it is not meant. He’s not deliberately tried to hurt me or upset me. Usually by talking things through we can work things out again. We look at what happened and see what we can do about it for the future.

No, I’m talking about the times when someone uses names or insults to deliberately hurt you. To undermine you. Especially when they do this to make themselves feel better or more in control. These people are toxic. I have experience of people like this. I am the product of years of certain individuals who thought it was okay to abuse others like that. It eroded me, it broke me. Yet it was invisible to everyone around me.

The scars I’ve inflicted upon myself have been driven by my own self-loathing.  It’s a strong self-hatred that has been reinforced by these individuals confirming that everything bad about myself that my dark passenger whispers to me is true.  It’s a hard habit to break. But I’m trying.

Your Words Can End A Life

I’m serious. They really can. How many young lives have ended in suicide because of bullying? Far too many. It’s a tragedy we see over and over again. And it needs to stop. Zero tolerance of bullying in schools, the workplace, or online should mean exactly that. Zero tolerance. We need to be educating even earlier about the power of words, building it into our daily lives. Just being more mindful and if we see bullying going on, take a stand against it.  Not just sit by and let it happen. Bullying crosses so easily into abuse and it’s effects are devastating.  We have to scrap the old ‘sticks and stones’ and move forwards by recognising that words hurt. The wrong ones can kill.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.