Katie – the Interview

Katie – the Interview

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Episode 20 – Finding Light in the Dark

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Become a PatronEpisode 20 – Finding Light in the Dark

When suffering with depression, anxiety, bipolar or any other mental health struggle, it can frequently feel as though we’re struggling to get through the darkness while looking for the light.  Sometimes it feels like the light is some mythical entity that exists only in our imaginations.  But when we press forwards, there is the chance that we can find that light.  Here, I talk about some of my tips for finding the light in the darkness.  Why not join me?

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Through the Dark

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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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No One Cares About the Individual

An Individual Illness

One thing that I’ve always said is that depression is a highly individual illness.  No two cases are the same, no two treatments are the same, which makes it individual.  When people try and compare themselves to the progress others are making, or when people tell others that “this treatment will work for you as it worked for me”, I feel it is important to remind them that it doesn’t work this way.

I say that mental health is unique and individual becasuse we, as human beings, are all very different.  None of us would react in the same way to the situations life puts us in, which is just one mark of our individuality.  Different stressors affect us in different ways and, as such, our mental health becomes very personal, very unique.  My partner and I, for example, process things in different ways because of how unique the illnesses are, despite us both having the same label of “depression”.

Why am I talking about individuality though?  Simply put, as the title says: no one cares about the individual.

No One Cares

It may sound harsh to say that no one cares but hear me out on this one.  Think back over the past couple of years and think about how mental health is in our society.  How is it treated by others?  Is it viewed as important?  Is it belittled?  What do you think about the way it is treated?  Now ask yourself whether or not it has changed vastly in the past couple of years.  What did you come up with?

See, the truth as I see it is that there have been some changes made to mental health services, but not enough.  The world is still rife with stigma and concepts such as self-harm or suicide are still greatly misunderstood.  There are thousands of people struggling with mental illness and yet not enough people are willing to raise their voices to campaign for better services.

Until it’s a celebrity.

Please don’t get me wrong, celebrities struggling with mental illness is just as bad as people like you or me struggling, yet I can’t help but notice that they manage to garner more attention.  When Chester Bennington died, for example, social media exploded with tweets and posts about the singer, from tributes to mental health awareness campaigns.  Yet when Joe Public from down the street died?  Nothing.

Granted, the celebrities have the added bonus of the limelight and that spotlight that means people notice them.  My question, however, is why should it take a celebrity coming out with a mental health struggle before anyone raises their voice?  Why shouldn’t we be campaigning for better mental health care for the individuals struggling?

Why do we sit back apathetically?

Supporting the Individual

The heading says it all, really.  We need to be supporting the individual more because for every Chester Bennington or Robin Williams, there are plenty of people dying from suicide every day.  What are we doing to support them?  No, scratch that…what are you doing to support them?

That’s right, I asked what you are doing to support them.

Because it’s personal.

It’s individual.

It always was.

It always will be.

We need to be caring for the individuals, making our mental health campaigns long-term missions, not something that spikes every time a celebrity dies by suicide.  How many more deaths will it take before we realise this?  Realistically enough is enough, we need to make the change!

But we won’t, will we?

Because no one cares about the individual.

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Episode 19 – Inaction’s Iniquity

Sometimes we might think we can get away with sitting back and doing nothing.  If we don’t get involved, it’s not our problem, right?  Unfortunately that makes us just as culpable as if we deliberately did the wrong thing.  Join me for this episode where I follow on from how we are meant to take ownership of our problems.

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Episode 18 – If Not Us, Then Who?

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Episode 18 – If Not Us, Then Who?

In today’s society, we’re so good at talking about wanting changes. Regardless of what they’re for, we will talk about them a lot and get offended if it doesn’t happen. But when it comes down to standing up for what we believe in and making that change? We’re not so good at that, are we? Join me as I talk about this further.

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Waiting on a Miracle
The Onus – We’re Here For You

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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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Through the Dark

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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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Episode 16 – The Joker

Time for a little bit of my journey in here! Fans of Batman will invariably know the Joker, whether it’s Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson or Mark Hamill or anyone else, they will know him.  Others will undoubtedly know the aforementioned character but how does this fit in with me?  Well, I’m a bit of a Joker and there are a lot of things about him that I’ve found I identify with over the years.  Why not take a listen and find out?

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The Joker Post: http://pushingbacktheshadows.com/2017/12/07/alex-and-the-joker/

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Episode 15 – Relapse

Relapse

Whenever we go through recovery or treatment for an illness, there is a chance that we will relapse.  For most people, they beat themselves up because they’ve relapsed.  They think they should be better than that, should be stronger than that, yet in reality it’s OK to relapse.  Join Alex as he talks about his own relapse and how relapsing should really be viewed.

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Relapse: http://pushingbacktheshadows.com/2017/07/24/relapse/

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