Why I’m a Christian but Have a Problem With Religion

Being a Depressed Christian

As someone who has been a Christian for more or less my whole life, has pastors for parents and a brother who holds a degree in theology (though this post is not about them), this post is incredibly hard for me to write.  For some, it might be equally hard to read but it’s one of those things that I feel needs to be said.  Let’s walk.

Those of you who follow this blog regularly may have seen my series about Inside My Head, where I delve deep into my journey, into my mind, and look at some of the things that constitute me.  If you followed that series, you would have come across part 5 where I talk about how my faith affects my mental health.  In a nutshell, how being a Christian doesn’t make everything hunky dory, how I will still struggle and how that’s OK.  My life isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect and I don’t have to be.

But that doesn’t mean life as a depressed Christian is easy.

Mental Health and the Church

Throughout history, the church has done a lot of good work through it’s charitable actions.  That said, it’s also done a lot of negative things.  You might immediately think of it’s stance on homosexuality which, up until fairly recently, has been very against it.  Female bishops has been another one it is reasonably unpopular for.  As with any organisation or religious body, there will be things it does brilliantly and things it does poorly.  Well, I want to highlight one of those things.

Mental health has always been stigmatised in churches.  It’s one thing that the Christian community, particularly, isn’t so good at talking about.  Take depression, for example: for a long time, the attitude towards depression in church has been “if you’re depressed, you don’t believe enough”.  In other words, your faith is lacking if you suffer from depression because how can you believe in the Almighty God who created the Heavens and the Earth if you are depressed?  From their approach: you can’t.  Pure and simple.

Take these for example:

What do you think?  Do you read them the same way I do?

Mental Health and My Church

Now, this is a subject that I’ve steered pretty clear of since starting Pushing Back the Shadows, because I’m the type of person who doesn’t want to offend others.  I think, however, the time has come to bring it into the light.  Yes, it will offend some people but I’m sorry, I have to make others aware.

You already know that churches can sometimes be the worst offenders for mental health stigmatisation, as I’ve already mentioned.  When we say this, however, we think of the church as a whole.  Christians in their collective.  What about the individual churches?  Mine is going to remain unnamed and I won’t mention any names of any people but I just want to tell you a little bit about that.

As you know, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety back in August 2016, but I was struggling before then.  Part of juggling my full-time job in the bank and managing everything else meant I was exhausted and I reached a stage where I felt as though I had no energy.  Consequently, I started missing services because, when it came to the weekends, I was that tired that I couldn’t get myself out of bed.  I was absent from a lot of things and it shocked me how long people took to care.

At this stage, I should also point out that at least seven people I can think of in my church have depression.  You would think they would understand.  Apparently not.  It seems that as soon as it became apparent it was a long-term problem, a deep-rooted one that was going to take a lot of fixing, people didn’t want to know.  It makes it hard.

Putting the Onus On

When I disappeared, I was shocked by the response I had.  Originally I had almost no messages.  Then, as the weeks dragged by, I started to get a few messages from people who had noticed my absence.  “Hope you’re OK.”  “Hope to see you soon.”  Those sorts of niceties.  As the problem became more long-term, however, those messages dwindled until I only had two people consistently messaging me.  Now, as I write this, I only have one person who messages me on a regular basis to check if I’m alright.

When I mention this, the first thing they say is that they don’t hear from me.  Those of you struggling with depression and anxiety know how hard it is, sometimes, to reach out and send a message to someone else.  You feel like a burden, you feel unwanted, so why would you?  But it’s my fault for not messaging, evidently.  It links directly into what I said about putting the onus on the person who is struggling.  They always say that I know they’re there for me, that they are doing all they can…but are they?

I do get messages occasionally from other people in the church.  Most of the time, though, it’s because they want something.  Sometimes it comes with the preamble of a “how are you” or something along those lines but, more often than not, it’s straight to brass tacks.  Quite frankly, it hurts.

Mental Health and Being Christian

At the end of the day, the church does have a fair amount to improve upon regarding mental health.  Whether you have faith as small as that mustard seed or whether you believe wholeheartedly, God will not solve your depression in a heartbeat.  It might not be a part of His plan.  He may have a different purpose for it.  That may sound cruel but think of it in the same way you would an operation.  Some live-saving operations will come with pain and perhaps months of rehabilitation, yet they are done for that important reason that, in itself, is positive.  Think of it like that.

American Christian Christy Wimber had one of the most refreshing approaches to this that I’ve come across.  She said that, in today’s modern age, mental illness was a tool used by the Devil and that this whole notion of “if you are not healed, your faith is not strong enough” was a load of rubbish.  I find myself agreeing with that, as depression and anxiety and all the other mental illnesses have absolutely nothing – that’s right ABSOLUTELY NOTHING – to do with your faith.

My Message

If you’re a Christian or a member of any other religion struggling with mental illness, let me remind you that it’s OK to struggle.  I do everyday and that doesn’t make me any less of a Christian.  But my challenge is for any members of churches reading this: step up to the mark.  Be the support that the church is meant to be.  Designate people to maintain contact with others, instead of leaving it all to the pastor or all to the person struggling.  We, as Christians, are called to serve others, to help them and to show the love of Jesus to other people.  Personally, I believe this is sorely lacking.

We need to be better.

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.

I Just Smile…

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by.

If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
For you.

Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near

Have you heard that song?  Smile – Charlie Chaplin?  I think it’s a great song really.  So simplistic, so calm and yet with such a powerful meaning. No matter how dark the night gets, no matter how much pressure is caving in around you, if you smile then you can get through.  You can get through.  So smile.

I Smile

I smile.I’ve had it said before that I’m someone people would not expect to be depressed.  Why?  Quite simply, because I’m almost always smiling or laughing or joking.  Really, I am!  I know some of these posts might not come across in that way but at uni I was always known as the one who told the awful jokes.  In fact, my uni friends coined the term “A Cinders Joke” to describe my humour.  (Yes, my nickname was Cinders, only because I liked the song Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman!)  Still, that should give you a pretty good idea of what kind of personality I am.

Except…a lot of it is forced.

It’s one thing I’m oddly proud of.  My mask is that flawless and that honed that people don’t know that they’re looking at a mask.  Well, until they know to look for it, that is.  I smile, I laugh, I joke, I poke fun at people and everyone buys it.  Why?  Because it’s practised.

You see, smiling is one of the biggest tools that we, as depressed people, have.  It disarms people, giving them the excuse they need to think we’re OK.  Sometimes they know something’s not right but the smile is reason enough not to ask us.  Sometimes they actually do buy it and believe that we are doing alright.

So I smile.

Fool You Once

Recently on our Twitter account, I came across a photo someone had posted where they were smiling, yet had still put the hashtag #depression in there.  When I commented on this, their response was that they do their best to smile so people leave them alone.  You know what?  That’s true. Sometimes we know we’re on a bad day so we smile in the hopes that people don’t ask us about it.  Although talking about it is supposed to help, not everyone is understanding, not everyone will be caring.  We smile to deflect it.

It fools people.  But there’s more to it.

Sometimes it can fool me too…

It sounds weird, I know, but if I can convince you that everything is fine, that I’m not either breaking or close to breaking inside, then I stand a chance of convincing myself.  Maybe I’m not quite as bad as I think I am.  If I was, people would say something, no?  Surely they would.

Or so you’d think…

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

Fool You Twice

Sometimes it works, though.  A simple smile to deflect the questions people will ask, to convince them that I’m fine, is able to convince me. Granted, it doesn’t always work but sometimes…sometimes I can find that hope.

Smile because it confuses people. Because it's easier than explaining what is killing you inside.So I smile.  To fool you, to attempt to fool myself, to put that image of “OKness” out there.  It’s my biggest weapon for fighting depression and fighting the stigma attached to it.  It’s the best way to shut down any unwanted questions.  If anything, it’s one of the most successful ways.

So I smile.

Shame On You

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

How many times have I fooled you with a smile?  How many times have others fooled you?  My challenge for you is to look deeper the next time someone you know smiles at you.  With life as rubbish and difficult as it can be, chances are they’re putting on a mask, the same way I do.  Look deeper, beyond what you see on the surface, to see if there is hidden pain or brokenness underneath.  If there is, help them.

Don’t let them fool you twice to shame you!

As for me, though…I’m still gonna keep that mask handy.

Why?

Because I smile.

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.

I Am Cut

*This post come with potential trigger warnings.*

Cut

I wanted to tell you a little bit about what self-harming is like.  To do that, I wanted to write about when it’s happened to me.  What happens when I pick up that blade, what happens when I get the urge.  So, I’ve gone onto my old blog and pulled a post that I wrote not long after it had happened. Here we go…

Blood and a Blade

There’s blood.  So much blood.  It’s fairly late on Sunday evening and I’m sitting in the bathroom looking at the crimson liquid running down my leg.  Amazing what a razor blade can do to the fragile body I’m trapped in.  Only three cuts but there is quite a bit of blood.  Strangely it doesn’t bother me though.  Is that a bad thing?

How did I get here?  Right now my mind is whirling trying to remember as I write this for you.  My day wasn’t a bad day, if anything it was a fairly decent day.  By decent, I mean nothing too bad happened.  Does that make a difference?  For reasons that I still don’t know, however, my mood dropped like a stone.  Overwhelming, it swept me up and washed me away in a torrent of despair and crushing darkness and a single thought pounded over and over in my head: you’re not worth anything.  Just get it over with.  End it.  Finish it.

In that moment, as overwhelmed as I was, I felt as if I had two choices: either end it once and for all or take it out on myself.  I’m not worth it so why should I care?  Ending it all wasn’t an option, as there are reasons for me to live, so in my state at that point I only had one option, one way out of the crushing darkness and back into some state of decent emotional level: self-harm.

Slowly I pick up the blade.  Almost absently, as though I’m not really telling myself what to do, I put the blade to my skin and slowly, ever so slowly, I drag it.  Blood wells up immediately, as though the thoughts and the darkness is being carried out of me in that crimson stream.  Quickly, without thinking, I add another.  And another.

Hand shaking slightly, I put the blade down. Three cuts was all it took to shake me out of those thoughts.  Numb, I watched the blood for a moment, feeling my chest loosen, my heart stop thumping as hard as it had been and my mind to slowly quieten.  Then, as I watch the blood trickle across my knee, the realisation of what I’ve done suddenly sinks in.

Horrified, I drop the blade, which hits the floor with a clatter.  Grabbing some toilet paper, I press it against the wounds and sit there, shaking. One thing I’d always said is that I’d never get to this stage and suddenly I’m there, swept up like a bit of driftwood in a current.  In my shamed and slightly panicked state I nearly pick the blade up again to release those thoughts but instead I push myself up and hobble to the living room. Barely able to make myself work properly, I grab my phone and punch in the first name I can think of,  It rings…and rings…and rings…and suddenly my friend is there asking if I’m alright.  For a long moment words failed me.  At least it seemed like a long moment to me.  I remember uttering the words “I’ve done something stupid” and then, like a dam bursting, the words come tumbling out.

I have no idea how long I sat there, shaking on the living room floor, talking to my friend.  All the while she tells me it’s ok, it will be ok and all the while I want to scream that it isn’t ok.  But I can’t.  All I can do is repeat that I don’t know what I’ve done.  I answer questions, I comply with instructions as she talks me through stopping the bleeding but over and over in my mind is the thought “what have I done…?”  I can’t explain it properly because I don’t understand it.  I just know it’s happened.

Wednesday evening it happened again, once more for no discernible reason.  At last count, I have sixteen cuts on my leg.  Sixteen reminders that I failed to stop myself.  Sixteen reminders that I fought myself and lost.  Sixteen symbols that I feel worthless.  Some would say it’s a cry for help, which maybe it is.  Others would say it’s an attempt to get attention…but I don’t want that.  I want to stop but deep down I know it helped.  Even if it was only temporary, it stopped everything.  I think, like stubbing one’s toe on a door would temporarily let you forget about a headache you have, this allowed me to temporarily subdue the thoughts in my head.  It shouldn’t have helped…but it did.

And I hate myself for it…because I said I never would…

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.

Identifying Identity

Identity

In a world of shifting values, we are constantly questioning who we are. Society tells us we should be thinner, taller, prettier, more muscular and so many other things that sometimes we don’t know whether we are any good.  There are some many ads on the TV and on websites and video sites like YouTube, all aimed at telling us that we need the latest products to make us look like all our favourite celebrities.  Even on social media, we get ads telling us about the latest product or regime to give us that “perfect body”, like this that I found on Twitter the other day:

The Twitter stream and Facebook news feeds are full of similar posts, touting the latest products, regimes and more in order to change the way we look.  Supplementing those posts are posts about body image, mostly ones that shame people who aren’t a certain size or don’t have a certain hairstyle, hair type, eye colour or more.

Moreover, society wants us to conform, to be like everyone else.  If we’re different, that’s considered to be a bad thing.  As a result, it makes it very hard for us to find our identity.  As the world tries to tell us who we are, the real us gets buried beneath the landslide of labels that threaten us.

Labels

One of the other prevailing problems surrounding society and identity is the persistence of labels, particularly in the field of medicine.  Our illness becomes our identity.  If someone is depressed, they are depressed.  If someone has bipolar, they are bipolar.  Their medical condition is a label that’s attached to them firmly.  It dominates their mind, preventing them from thinking of themselves in any other light.

Labels are for jars, NOT people.Medical labels aren’t the only ones that people get stuck with but they are predominantly ones that are hard to shake.  They get inside your mind and stick with you, forcing you to start thinking of yourself in that manner.  You start to think of yourself as depressed, bipolar, anxious, an insomniac and all the other labels that get allocated to you.  They become so ingrained that you can’t think of yourself as anything else.

Do you find that?  Have you had an experience of being labelled or feeling as though you carry a label?  I’m sure you’d agree, it’s a horrible sensation.

Identifying My Identity

With all those aforementioned factors pushing at me, it can be hard to identify my own identity.  Depression and anxiety cloud my mind, collaborating with my insomnia, to make me believe that that’s all there is, that I am the sum of my depression, I am the sum of my anxiety and I am the sum of my insomnia.  Trapped in that tunnel, that’s all I can see, like tunnel vision if you will.

But that’s not me.

A man with a question mark face.It takes a great mental shift but, at some point, you start to realise that you’re not the sum of your mental illnesses.  I have depression but I am not depression.  It is a part of me, it does not define me.  My mental illness is only a small part of me.  Yes, it drives my life, can give me copious numbers of bad days but it is not who I am.  Even though it also gives me the entire talking point and drive for this website, it’s not my entire life.

It can be the same way for you.  Your mental illness is either all of you or part of you but it’s what you make it.  It is your choice.  That choice, that mindset can be changed with a considerable amount of energy and time but it can happen.  It can happen if you choose for it to happen but only if you choose.

You are not the sum of your mental illness.

Nor are you the sum of your past mistakes.

You are you.  Wonderful, unique and different.

Just like me.

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.

Achievements Great and Small

A Look Back

The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you've come.They say that you should only look in that rearview mirror in life to see how far you’ve come.  Today, that’s what I’ve done.  I’ve looked back over the last few months to see what kind of things I’ve achieved.  My first thought was launching this website to get my story and the stories of others out there.  I consider it to be one of my biggest achievements.  If you had told me a few weeks prior to the launch date that I was going to do this, I would have laughed and thought you were having me on.  But I’ve done it and it’s meeting some success.

Looking back over those months, I can see some of the changes in my life, some of the things I’ve achieved.  Yes, there are plenty of failures or steps back – I guess it wouldn’t be a journey if there weren’t any of those things around – but there are still achievements too.

Big Achievements

When we look back at our progress, we seem to look for the big achievements.  Anything less than magnificent gets pushed to one side.  For example, I’ve been working on my Twitter account and trying to get the following up on there.  After a chat with a specialist, I managed to gain 150 followers over the weekend!  I’d consider that an achievement.  Alright, in the grand scheme of things it’s probably not much, as you look at some of the mental health charities and organisations who have thousands upon thousands of followers, but for me who is just starting out, it’s an achievement.

But then I wondered, what other big achievements have I achieved?

In today’s world where stigma is rife and people are quick to judge you for the taboo subjects such as mental health, it’s a considerable achievement to share your story.  Whether you do it on a website like I do or whether it’s just in one-to-one settings or small groups, it’s a big achievement.  Opening up about it is something that’s very difficult yet very important.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s achieved that at some stage.

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

Small Achievements

Why should we focus on the big achievements?  Sometimes a big achievement isn’t an accomplishment of some colossal size.  Sometimes it’s all about the smaller ones.  Simple things, such as getting out of bed or having a shower.  Not-so-simple things like leaving the flat to go to the shops.  All of those little achievements mount up, bringing you a sense of accomplishment.

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in & day out.Fairly recently, I shared a post to my Facebook page that talked about some of those little accomplishments.  By Katelyn Marie Lesho, it talked about how she brushed her hair for the first time in four weeks.  To you or I, that might not sound like a big deal but when you’re living with depression, even something as simple as that can be a big achievement.  Sometimes even the smallest of achievements can be big.

My Achievements, Great and Small

So what have I achieved?  What do I have to be thankful for accomplishing?  I’m sure there are many things that I forget about but here are a couple:

I started a website.

I shared my story.

I raised awareness for mental health.

I babysat my goddaughter and godson.

I left the flat multiple times in one week.

I went to the shops.

I got out of bed.

Achievements both great and small.  It doesn’t matter whether they were done in that order or all mixed up, whether I’d done them once or multiple times, they are all important in their own way.  Some of you will recognise some of those achievements, as they will be ones that you’ve achieved yourselves.  Even if you feel like they aren’t so significant, though, don’t underestimate their power.

Stick with it.  No matter how dark the night gets, no matter how badly you feel as though you’re doing, you’re achieving a lot more than you think.  You’ve got this.  Go and be that glowstick and remember that you’re a work in progress, you’re making progress every day and you can do it!

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.

When the Scars Fade

*Potential Trigger Warning: in this post we talk about self-harm scars, so be advised there might be a potential trigger in this post.*

Scars

Wanna know how I got these scars?  Who am I kidding, you already know how I got them.  What matters to me right now, though, is that they’re here.  That’s what I want to talk to you about.  My scars.

It's hard to hide your story when it's written all over your body.Scars can be both physical or emotional.  We all know what physical scars look like.  I have two near the bottom of my stomach from where I had hernias as a baby.  Other people have other scars, it’s just part of the fragility of our bodies.  Traumatic events can leave memories, anxieties and fears on your mind that can be thought of like scars.  Again, just part of our fragility.

As you might expect, I now have plenty of marks and half-healed wounds from my struggle.  In Pills and Blades, I told you about my self-harming journey.  My depression, as with a number of other people, has manifested itself in this way.  It’s a way of giving me several types of release but it also leaves behind a physical mark, almost like a badge of my struggle.  You can check out more about self-harm in our series About Self-Harm.  For now, though, let’s focus on those scars.

A Comfort and An Antagonist

It’s odd, isn’t it, how you can think of those physical marks as both comforting yet antagonistic at the same time.  It’s something that might not make sense to a lot of people.  You cut yourself, the cut starts to heal, the cut then starts to leave a mark…and you take comfort in that.  Why?  It’s not a good thing, really.  Self-destruction is never perceived as good.  So where is the comfort?

In Pills and Blades I list three reasons why I self-harm:

  1. Self-hatred
  2. A way of feeling
  3. A distraction technique

In a nutshell, that’s what it comes down to.  So if it’s a reminder of my self-hatred, if it’s a way of feeling and a distraction technique, why would I be finding comfort from it?

My scars are fading and I feel lost without them.

The simple truth, as I mention later on in our series About Self-Harm, is that they provide me with some form of evidence that I’m struggling.  Call it a badge of achievement, in perhaps a rather twisted sense of the concept.  It’s a marker that tells me my struggle is real, that it’s not all imagined in my head and that I genuinely have a problem.  For that reason, they are a comfort for me.

At the same time they are antagonistic.  They are a reminder of the battles that I’ve lost with my head.  Scars like these carry with them guilt and shame as well.  You cover them up so people won’t see, so the stigma won’t be attached to you.  If you talk about them, it’s only with a few people, people you trust.  You see…sometimes the scars are our biggest enemy as well as our best friend.

Especially when they fade…

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

When They Fade

In my mind, there is nothing worse than when the scars start to fade.  Those physical reminders that your struggle is real, those comforting marks of evidence are beginning to disappear.  Suddenly the struggle is back inside your head with no outward sign that things are not OK.  You find you have to begin convincing yourself all over again that your struggle is real.

The scars start to fade and the urge to bring them back becomes stronger and stronger.

When my scars start to fade, my urge to bring them back starts to grow.  It’s a vicious cycle of cut, scar, scars fade, miss them so cut again.  You’re trapped in that never-ending circle, unable to get yourself out.  You look down at your scars and find the overwhelming urge to reopen every single one of them, to watch the blood run down your arm, leg, stomach or wherever you cut.

Then comes the guilt.

Guilt

The guilt is the hardest part.  You’re getting there, your medication is working.  The fact that your scars are fading suggests that you haven’t cut in a while.  Surely that means you’re doing well, right?  So why would you want to reopen them?  Won’t that put you back several steps?

Sadly, it will.  Everyone is happy that you’re making progress, everyone is pleased that you’re not cutting at the moment and so the guilt overwhelms you.  As you pick that blade up again, you feel that colossal weight of shame but at the same time you feel the release as you renew those scars on your skin.  Silver turns white to red and you feel as though you have your evidence again.

For a moment you’re at peace.

Then it starts all over again.

Just because the scars started to fade…

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.

Pushing Back the Shadows and Me

Pushing My Boundaries

Those of you who follow this blog or have read our About Page will know that I founded Pushing Back the Shadows based on a vision that I had.  Call it a dream or a calling or whatever you will but it was a significant step in my journey and I want to tell you about that today.

In my post Before the Morning, I told you a bit about my personal blog that I’d started back when my depression first hit.  It was designed to allow close friends and family to keep up to date with my struggle and how things were going without me having to message everyone individually.  As it grew, it also became a source of explanations so I could give them insights into how I was feeling and why certain things happened.  In short, it was a journal, an information site and a connectivity exercise.

But it became so much more.

From Before the Morning came the vision.  Add the catalyst I mentioned in my last post in My Journey and you have the drive.  From that drive, Pushing Back the Shadows was born.

Pushing Back the Shadows

Mental health is one of those highly stigmatised topics that no one wants to talk about.  For those suffering mental health issues, it’s the fear of being judged or the fear that people won’t understand that muzzles them.  For those supporting them, it’s the fear of saying the wrong thing and not being understanding that keeps them quiet.

Pushing Back the Shadows aims to change that.

Given how I’ve always enjoyed writing and I seem to be able to describe how I’m feeling, I decided it was time to put that to good use.  On my personal blog, I’ve always been able to explain how I’m feeling with a decent amount of success, so I wanted to take that further.  I wanted to create a place where people struggling with mental health could find encouragement and support but I also wanted a place where those supporting them could find tips, suggestions and explanations.  Pushing Back the Shadows is my way of doing that.

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

Breaking the Stigma

Mental health needs to be talked about.  It’s as simple as that.  If we don’t talk about it, how can we hope to understand it?  How can we hope to help people?  We need to talk about it and that means breaking down the stigma.

Through PBTS, I want to get the conversations going.  We have our community forums that people can use to start those discussions or join in with existing discussions.  If we can get people talking then we can break down the stigma, bring that greater understanding and get people the help that they need.

My story is just one story, my journey is just the walk of one man struggling.  Only by bringing our stories and our experiences together can we hope to break that stigma.

My Call to Action

I’d like to leave you with something I wrote recently as the PBTS manifesto.  I firmly believe in this and want to share it with you.  Check it out:

I want to live in a world where mental health is not stigmatised.

I want to live in a world where people can talk about depression or anxiety without fear of being judged.

I want to live in a world where people struggling with mental health issues can be supported – properly supported – without people keeping them at arm’s length, not knowing what to do or what to say.

I want to live in a world where we can all be one big community, supporting each other in our trials with compassion, understanding and patience.  A world where mental health is openly talked about, where people can feel as though they are taken seriously and they don’t have to cover it up or hide who they really are.  A world where people are not put down as “weak” for being depression or anxious.

I want to live in a world where we are accepted.

But I can’t do it alone.

Join the Pushing Back the Shadows community and help me as I raise awareness, pushing back those shadows.  Help me as I strive to build this better world, where we can be open about our mental health problems and people can accept us, having the understanding of why we are how we are.

Together, we can end the stigma.

I want to live in that world!

What about you?

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.

A Man Called Bob

A Man Called Bob

When you throw a stone into a lake, you see the ripples expand.  It can be quite mesmerising to watch.  It’s also a source of encouragement.  When we cause a splash, we don’t know how far the ripples of our actions will reach.

And it started with a man called Bob.

Ripples

That ripple I’d mentioned came from my friend’s request to allow her sister access to this blog so she could better understand her husband’s depression by reading some of the explanations I’ve put up.  Whilst reading some of the things I’d written, she had found some answers to some of her questions and my writings had also helped her to understand some of the reasons behind some of the things he does.  A classic example of this would be how he puts on a mask like I do, even when it is just them, exactly the way I do.  There were a few other examples but I don’t need to go into too much detail on here.  After all, it’s not my story.

Somehow my explanations made it clearer and helped her gain a better understanding of it all.  Naturally, hearing that gave me a boost.  Yes, I used that blog to pour out my thoughts and emotions, releasing them.  That said, the blog had also helped someone.

Another ripple has been created.

The CD

Two or three days ago now, my friend sent me a message.  After reading my blog a bit more, her sister had decided she wanted to make me a CD that contained a compilation of relaxing music, designed to help me unwind.  I’ve given it a go and it does seem to help me unwind a bit, so I’m quite grateful to her for that, although in the end she did not make the CD.  My friend’s message explained why.

My good news stems from the husband, who, for the sake of anonymity and his own privacy, shall be called Bob in this post.  According to my friend, Bob had heard his wife had read some of my blog and was starting to understand his struggle better thanks to the words I’d written.  I don’t know quite what transpired but somehow he ended up reading this blog as well and apparently he found something in it that he has been able to connect with.  I don’t mean connecting with the feelings of isolation or how we feel like no one truly understands or anything like that, I mean he found something in my struggle that he could identify with and that has unlocked something inside him.

Around this time he has found out his wife was going to make me that relaxation CD .  He decided he wanted to do that for me instead.  Once he had made it, he then went to his in-laws’ house to meet my friend so he could deliver the CD, making sure it would reach me.  While he was there, he also managed to spend some time with my friend’s daughter.  That is something that has not happened in a long time.

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

What of it?

I can almost hear you thinking I’ve gone mad.  A man I’ve called Bob made me a CD, met my friend and spent time with her daughter, what of it?

Well, allow me to explain just how amazing this news is.

Bob has struggled with his depression worse than I have, for it’s kept him virtually housebound for a while now.  Unless his wife or his in-laws or parents encourage him massively, he doesn’t leave the house.  Like me, he finds it hard to find the motivation to do anything.  For him to decide he was going to make that CD for me and motivate himself enough to do so was a big step forwards for him.

As if that wasn’t big enough, though, for him to then leave the house and make the effort to get that CD to someone he knew would be able to deliver it, that is just incredible!  Whatever part of the blog he read, whatever part of my struggle he has connected with, it gave him the motivation to do this for me.  If I’m honest, I’m somewhat staggered by how it’s made me feel.

The Purpose

When my friend messaged me this news, she said she couldn’t thank me enough.  Seeing him spending time with her toddler made her feel so elated and she was so pleased he had been able to leave the house.  Although, like me, he may not be out of his prison yet, my friend firmly believes I’ve managed to help him unlock the door and open it a little.  To me, that makes it all worth it.  To hear that my struggle has managed to help someone else, even just a little, is an amazing feeling!  Suddenly I wouldn’t change any of it, even looking back at the pain and suffering it’s put me through.  Even if Bob is the only person it helps, it is worth it and I wouldn’t change that.

And that’s because of a man called Bob.

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.

The 3 Biggest Problems with Mental Health Today

3 Biggest Problems with Mental Health Today!

Mental health is such a stigmatised topic in today’s society.  While it’s talked about more, there are still many problems facing it.  Not enough awareness has yet been raised, nor has there been enough support for it over the years.

We need to change that.

Check out the 3 biggest problems for mental health below!

Over to you!

What do you think?  Drop us a comment and let us know!  Or join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter!

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.

The Harrowing Void

The Void

I woke up like this.  I can’t even begin to explain it but I know that I definitely woke up like this.  And I feel the need to tell you about it.  I need to tell you about it because not many people are aware that this is how depression can affect people.  So this is an ad-hoc post, not one that’s been pre-written, pre-planned and neatly scheduled in as business per usual. No, this is the account of the harrowing void, the tale that is buried in me, burning in me today.

As I said: I woke up like this.  I don’t know why because I slept reasonably well for me.  Even my insomnia couldn’t keep me awake for long.  More than that, I dreamt for the first time in what feels like forever.  A bizarre, convoluted and completely random dream with a mix of random people, admittedly, but a dream nonetheless.  So it wasn’t sleep that precipitated this.  So what did?  Moreover, what even is this that I refer to?

It’s the void.

How am I feeling today?  The answer: empty.  There is nothing inside.  No emotions, no thoughts, no feelings, just nothingness.  A harrowing void that is sucking everything out of me.  Enthusiasm, motivation, emotion, energy, excitement, everything…gone.  Wiped out.  Almost as though someone has detonated some black hole inside my head.  But it’s more than that.  Much more than that.

I’m empty inside.

Not just my head.  No, my mind is empty but it’s more.  I feel as though there’s a cavity in my chest.  Not the usual chest cavity, as you don’t tend to notice that, but an emptiness almost like a hole in my heart.  I know there should be feelings or emotions there but there are none.  No joy or sorrow, no fear or anxiety, absolutely nothing.

I’m empty.

Driven Impulses

Occasional small thoughts skim the surface of my mind as I sit here, numb and empty.  For the most part, they are trying to figure out why I’m like this, although as of yet that’s proving to be a futile attempt.  Some of the thoughts skittering across the void are driving me towards self-harm. Somehow, they reason, that will make things better.

I know it won’t.

But they tell me it will.

I know that harming myself will hurt both me and others in the process. People will be sad that I’ve turned back to that once more but where I am at the moment, that seems like the only surefire release for the emptiness. After all, pain is a guaranteed way of feeling something, is it not?  Yes, I’ll feel guilt afterwards, the lingering pain of the cuts and the shame of having fallen again, but it would still guarantee I feel.  More than that, it might even snap me out of this numb funk that I’m in.

A part of me wants to give in.  I’ve still got scars and they bring me that comfort of knowing my mental illness is real but that’s not why I’d want to do it this time.  No, there is a much more harrowing reason of why I’d want to give into those nagging thoughts this time.

Even the guilt and shame I’d feel afterwards would be better than the void.

That’s right, even those negative feelings would be better than feeling nothing.

A Harrowing Void

Do you see why it’s harrowing?  Do you see why some people will turn to physical harm in order to shake the feeling?  It’s clawing at me, eating me alive from the inside out.  Nothing I can think of seems good enough to save me from this.  Computer games, films, TV programmes, simply lying in bed (which I’ve already done plenty of this morning – thanks to lethargy!) and playing music, none of these seem like they are going to lift me.  Even seeing some of my favourite people don’t seem to be making me feel anything.  The only possibility seems to be the blade.  The blade.

I am empty.

I am a shell.

The void is eating me alive.

And I can’t shake it.

I can’t shake it.

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.