Leave Me Alone, I’m Lonely

I’m lonely.

How often do you hear those words?  Whether spoken out loud or written on a social media update, I find those words frequently.  People have asked me how I cope living on my own as surely I get lonely.  Back when I worked at my previous job, I’d leave work, get on the bus or, later, in the car and go back to my flat, all alone, no one there to greet me.  Some believe that was the cause of my depression.  I’m not so convinced but that’s another story.

But sometimes that’s how I like it.

People often say, when I talk about being on my own, that I have to get out more if I don’t want to be lonely.  However, I’d like to challenge that today, as I think there is a profound difference between being alone and being lonely.  Let’s see if you agree with me.

I’m Alone but Not Lonely

Sometimes a little bit of personal space is nice. Whenever I’ve been out and the depression or anxiety kicks in, there is nothing better than getting into the confines of my flat or my car, switching on my music or a video game and just blasting the thoughts and feelings away.  Listening to music, playing that video game, both can work but it seems they only work if I can actually be on my own.

I’m alone.

But I’m not lonely.

I’m making the most of my own personal space, with no one around.  I can drop my mask and leave it behind, allowing myself to be exactly as I am, without the front.  I don’t need it.  Even when I’m around friends and family, there is that guard up because I don’t want to drag them down as well.  Sometimes being alone can be the best thing ever.  It allows me to just be me.

The inspiration for this post actually came from a P!nk song that someone’s Twitter tweet made me think of.  Called Leave Me Alone, I’m Lonely, it speaks of how sometimes that personal space is good, because it allows us to have that break.  Too much of a good thing – or sometimes anything at all – can be too much, so it’s good to have a break.  Take a listen if you haven’t already heard it.

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I’m Not Alone, but I’m Lonely

Sightly harder to grasp, but it’s possible to feel lonely when you’re not alone.  When people have absolutely no idea what you’re going through, it can be quite isolating.  I distinctly remember walking into work on a really bad day, putting that front on and finding that only one person noticed.  I was surrounded by people and yet so alone that it was unbelievable. Granted, it wasn’t entirely their fault because I’d put that front up, but it was a contributing factor that no one looked.

Similarly, it is a growing problem that those of us who struggle with mental health issues find that we are put into a box in society, simply because people don’t understand mental health.  We might have plenty of friends – in person, on social media or on our phone – but we can be so alone.  As I write this, the thought of “I’m in a room full of people yet I’m so alone” is going through my head.

Even when there are all these people around, it’s easy for me to feel like a bother and not want to open up to people for fear of disturbing them or burdening them.  A difficult mindset to get out of, it isolates me.  Thus, I am with people and not alone, but I’m lonely, because I feel like I have no one to talk to.  Unfortunately, this is the category that a lot of people I talk to fall into.  They want to talk to someone yet they feel they can’t.

Learn About Lonely

My challenge for you is to learn the signs for when someone wants to be lonely.  It’s not that they don’t want your help – they probably value you a lot more than they feel able to let on – but they need a little bit of time away from everything else.  It isn’t against you, far from it, but it’s something they need at the time.  As P!nk says, “tonight, leave me alone, I’m lonely.  I’m tired, leave me alone I’m lonely”.  We will want you to come back, we just need a bit of space.  It isn’t personal.

It never is.

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A Very Mental Christmas – Day 5

Day 5 – Family Fandangos

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What a Bad Day Feels Like

Diary of a Bad Day

Most of my posts are aimed at information, or support and encouragement. I don’t often go into my own journey much. But this is something I want to share, if for no other reason it can give you an insight into what the mind of someone with depression can be like. Just from discussions with my own family, I know they don’t find it easy to understand what a bad day feels like.  But I also want to remind anyone going through this that the bad days don’t last forever. However much it may feel like it, they don’t.  As I write this I’m not too bad, I’ve been a bit up and down, but otherwise ok.  I wrote it as I felt it, so please be aware it’s not pretty.

21/11/2017

Why am I like this? I am at heart a fixer and yet I am incapable of fixing myself.  It’s the constant nagging belief that somewhere in my soul I’ve been stamped as not good enough. There is no shaking this off today. This is something ingrained and it impacts how I behave, how I am emotionally. It’s part of my mental health problem. It can make me needy, clingy and possessive. But also angry, volatile and spiteful. I hate me when I’m like this and would give anything not to be this way. Yet the question still constantly nags at me; why? Why am I like this?

Yesterday was one of those days. But it wasn’t there when I woke. It slammed into me out of the blue while out shopping. I mean shopping for heaven’s sake! From being fine to just so dragged into the darkness I was almost suffocating.  And what triggered it? Buying chocolate coins. Yep, I know. Stupid, right?  But picking up the chocolate coins for the children’s stockings for Christmas was suddenly a big deal. This will be our first Christmas not in our own home, my first Christmas on antidepressants, my first Christmas without dad… on and on the list went, and all darker thoughts than the last.  

Make it Stop

Then today. Today I have been struggling so much. The negative spiral from yesterday has continued and a huge feeling of unworthiness engulfed me this morning. The litany of self-abuse began…..Not pretty. Not thin. Too old. Ugly. Bad mom. Stupid. Irrationally jealous. Clumsy. Worthless. Worthless. Just so irrecoverably worthless. I’m praying to feel numb but it isn’t coming.  I’m hiding my arms because I’ve drawn blood with my fingernails. It was that or the blade. And I’m overwhelmed with guilt that all I want to do is draw more blood to help switch these feelings off..

All I see is how unworthy I am. I don’t deserve happiness, love, anything. How would anyone? Every part of me is saying I am not good, yet I should be ok. I have so much to be happy about. But it’s the sense that I don’t deserve anything good that’s crippling me.

I want to tell those I love what’s going on. But the fear is holding me back. It’s stifling me. I fear I will push them away. All these feelings are crashing around my brain and it’s like I can’t see anything but how unworthy I am. Like the jealousy. How do I explain that all it’s making me do is want to turn against myself?  To hate myself even more?

I’m terrified that it will scare them how dark my mind is going. Perhaps by recognizing these feelings today I will feel a little better. I know it’s depression that’s driving this. The rational part of my brain wants to see the reality, but it’s clouded. I just wish I knew why. All I want to do right now is let the darkness engulf me. I’m not going to let it, I have too many things to hold on to, but it’s really hard.

Being There

So as you can probably tell, those particular days were rough. But I got through. It took a little self-care, some encouragement and support and a few well timed hugs. So if there is someone you care about going through this, you now know something about what a bad day feels like. So be there for them, because can you imagine facing your own mind attacking you like that without someone to help you through?

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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…

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Practically Perfect – Part 5 – Time Out

Welcome to part 5, the final part, of our Practically Perfect series.  In case you missed part 4, you can check it out here.  In today’s post, we’re looking at the importance of time out.  How about we take a look?

Time Out

Whenever I babysit my goddaughter, one of the things that we put into place for discipline is time out.  If she is naughty, she goes and sits on a chair for a little bit so that she is away from her toys or TV or whatever she happens to be doing at the time.  It’s an enforced period of quiet so that she has time to reflect on the fact that she’s crossed the line.

Now, I’m clearly not referring to that sort of time out in this post but the concepts are quite similar.  In my opinion, while everything I’ve mentioned in both this series, About of Self-Harm and Talking Things Through are important, it is equally important for you to take some time out.

Why take some time out?  What purpose does it serve?  Well, naturally it isn’t so you can think about what you’ve done wrong – although a little time out every now and again when things do go wrong isn’t necessarily a bad thing!!  No, its purpose is a bit different.  Let me tell you about that.

Time to Recharge

The other week I was interacting on our Twitter account, joining a few conversations and chatting to a few people, and I came across the following:

Would you agree?  Is it possible to help others if you’ve broken yourself due to neglecting yourself?  Surely at some point you have to take some time out for yourself so you can get some help, wouldn’t you agree?

When supporting someone through mental health struggles, it can be so easy to forget yourself.  I speak as a first-hand offender on this count!  You get so caught up in trying to help them that you forget that you need a break.  As Aidan said: “Peace of mind is everything.”  We need to have those moments of peace in our lives, otherwise we will burn ourselves out.

Practise the Pause

In Episode 5 of the PBTS Podcast, I talked about practising the pause.  Taking a few moments out of your busy days to do something that you enjoy.  For me, that could be computer gaming or watching a good film.  For some it could be a relaxing bath or a good book.  Whatever it is you enjoy, take some time out to do that.

Effectively, put yourself on time out.

Turn off your phone, turn off your Facebook or Twitter and simply be.  You don’t have to respond to those messages instantaneously or be constantly online.  The world can do without you for a few moments so you can simply rest.  Recharge.  Take a break.

It’s important for your own well-being.

Take a moment.  Stop.  Practise the pause.  Looking after yourself is one of the most important things you can do.

After all: how can you look after someone else when you’re on the verge of collapse?

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Practically Perfect – Part 4 – Wrong

Welcome to Part 4 of our Practically Perfect series.  Last week we looked at a couple of practicalities surrounding representative access and prepaid prescription certificates.  If you missed it, you can check it out here.  Today, we shall be looking at what happens when you get it wrong.  It’s unfortunately inevitable that, at some point, you will get it wrong, so let’s look at how we fix that.

Getting It Wrong

Everyone gets it wrong at some point.  It’s part of being human, part of life.  We’re fallible, we sometimes go with what we think is right without taking other avenues into consideration.  As such, we have the potential to screw things up royally without necessarily intending to.  But what do we do?  How do we right that wrong?  Let’s have a look.

Realise There’s A Problem

The first and most important thing is realising that there is a problem.  If you refuse to admit that there is anything wrong, you will never fix it and it’s likely that the whole situation will just get worse.  Think of the old adage about sweeping things under the rug and that should give you a pretty good idea.  The problems just get bigger and bigger until they’re noticeable.

Once you realise that there is a problem, you can fix it.  All too often I see problems where people are ignoring the fact that something is wrong.  It leads to relationships being strained and tense.  Realising there is a problem is very much the first step.

Give Them Space

Once you’ve identified that there is a problem, don’t rush into trying to fix it.  Give them a little space.  Sometimes they will need a little time to adjust to what’s happened, especially if it’s kicked them into a spiral.  As with everything I say, this is dependent on the person and what the person is like, as to whether or not it will work, but this is certainly one for me.

The reason I mention this one is because I know someone who, when they do something wrong and they realise there is a problem, will start bombarding with messages or phone calls to try and fix it.  This is one of the worst things that you can do, as it leads to them feeling badgered – something that I’ve mentioned in our series of Talking Things Through.

At the same time, you don’t want to leave it too long.  Going for over a week without speaking of what happened is equally bad, as it will conjure up all sorts of worst-case scenarios in their mind.  Is the friendship irreparable?  Can there be reconciliation?  Will they ever hear from you again?  Too many of those can spark another depressive spiral or anxiety attack.  I’m sure that’s the last thing you would want.

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Listen

This one is really the crux of the matter, especially if you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong or you think they are being a little oversensitive.  Don’t get me wrong, it could be that they are being oversensitive but you might also find that it is their mental health that has caused the problem.

As I’ve mentioned in Talking Things Through, listening can be key to solving the problem.  If it is their mental health that’s causing the issue, particularly in the case where you might not see the problem, then listening can open up their reasoning for it.  It can be a vital tool.

Learn From It

I suppose this one, along with apologising, goes without saying, really, but it’s still an integral part of when things go wrong.  Learning from the experience will help you avoid it next time.  If it’s related to their mental health, it’s really important to learn from it because it can prevent future problems down the line.  This is even more true if the problem may repeat itself due to something you would not normally have picked up on.

A good example of this is one that I’ve cited before where I was sitting in the car with my friend on a particularly bad day.  I hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast and, as we were driving, I wasn’t particularly interested in my lunch.  She was trying to get me to eat, telling me I needed to eat, and I ended up snapping.  It wasn’t anything that she had said, it was simply that I was having a really bad depression day.  Needless to say, she listened to what the problem was, learned from it and we haven’t had an experience like that since.

Next Week

Join us next week for wrapping up this series with one of the most important parts of my practical tips.  Cryptic, I know, but you will have to come back to find out what I’m referring to!  See you then!

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Practically Perfect – Part 3 – Representative

Welcome to Part 3 of the Practically Perfect series!  If you missed part 2 then don’t worry, you can check it out here.  This week we’re looking at having a representative and some of the different ways that that can help you.  We also take a look at another tip for our UK followers, something that I wasn’t aware about that has helped me a lot!  Shall we get started?

Having a Representative

Representative access is something that I would highly recommend setting up if you haven’t already.  A lot of people might assume this is something you do with your parents with things like their bank accounts, just in case you need to manage their affairs for them, sort of like a Power of Attorney.  In actuality, setting up representative access isn’t quite like that, although it has its similarities.  In a nutshell, you arrange for a person you trust to speak on your behalf in different situations.

The best example I can give is my GP’s.  I have a friend set up to speak on my behalf, so she can phone up to enquire about appointments, book appointments, order repeat prescriptions for me and much more.  Similarly, she is set up on numerous other official capacities – speaking with the council, etc – so that she can speak on my behalf.

Representative access doesn’t just have to be set up at the doctor’s.  As I just mentioned, it can be set up over a number of different companies and situations.  In last week’s post, I mentioned how this can be useful for work, although it’s important to note that not every workplace will do this.  Likewise, not every company will allow representative access to people.  It’s all about approaching the companies and asking if they are willing for representatives to be set up.

Why Have a Representative?

When I was working, I used to spend all day taking phone calls, ready to deal with customer enquiries or customer accounts.  As a result, I developed a strong desire to avoid the phone as much as possible.  If I don’t have to make a phone call or can justify procrastinating, I will do so.  More often than not, now, I will get an anxiety attack just before having to make the call, which almost makes the call itself a lot worse.

As a direct result of all this, having a representative who can make those phone calls on my behalf is a great blessing.  It prevents me from having to do it myself, which reduces the number of panic attacks I have in a week and also gets the things I need accomplishing done.  It’s a win-win situation, as it helps me keep on top of things.

The other important point to mention is that it can tie in to the same reason you would take someone with you to a doctor’s appointment.  People say that having someone with you is useful because they might catch things that you miss, think of questions that you might not think of and they are there for support.  In the same way, a representative might think of those questions you wouldn’t think of.  In my case, if I’m on a bad depression day, my representative can be pushy with the doctor to get me an appointment, where I would have given up at the first hurdle.

There are plenty of other reasons but those are the ones that stick out for me.

My UK Top Tip

To those of you living in the UK, here is a quick tip.  My representative helped me set it up, which is why it’s being mentioned in this post.  As we all know, prescription charges can be expensive when they start to mount up, especially when you’re on something that you have to take daily.  If you’re a UK resident then you can get an NHS Prepayment Medical Certificate.  This basically allows you to pay a set price per month for the certificate and then you can get as many prescriptions a month all for that one price.

So, the certificate costs just over £10.  If you get two prescriptions a month, you’re already saving!  It comes out as Direct Debit and then you can get an unlimited number of prescriptions a month by only paying that £10 a month.  The certificate itself is the size of a credit card, so it fits in your purse or wallet easily as well.

Find out more here.  It’s saved me a lot of money already!  I have two prescriptions a month and was getting extra prescriptions as the doctor changed my medication.

Also, your representative can go and collect the prescriptions for you.  Generally, all they need is your prepaid prescription certificate, your date of birth and your address.

Next Week

In next week’s post, I’m going to be looking at what happens when you get it wrong.  Invariably, it won’t be plain sailing, you will get something wrong at some point.  It’s what you do after that’s important…but what do you do?  Find out next week!

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Practically Perfect – Part 2 – Working It Out

Welcome to Part 2 of our Practically Perfect Series!  If you missed part 1, you can find it here.  Today we’re looking at managing a working life while battling through mental health issues.  As someone who has gone through the struggles of mental health in the workplace, I shall be unpacking a few tips for managing that work life.  Let’s jump in!

Working Life vs Mental Health

If you’re a working professional struggling with mental health issues, I’m sure you know how difficult it is to maintain that work life.  The fear of being treated differently because of your condition, or the stigmatisation that can be rife in the workplace, it makes dealing with mental health issues that much more complicated, which it really shouldn’t.  With all the struggles we face daily, we don’t need the extra pressure.

I can cope with work despite my mental health problems, but not with this discrimination and bullying.How do we face those struggles, though?  Already we’re at a disadvantage, as our minds are telling us we cannot cope with it, we won’t be taken seriously and so many other anxious or depressive thoughts.  It’s so easy for us to think we will fail before we’ve even started.  The fact that a lot of companies still have that negative attitude towards mental health really doesn’t help.  But what can we do?  Moreover, how can we, as friends and family, support our working friends or family members?

A Few Practical Working Tips

There are a number of options that people can explore that they don’t necessarily know exist.  When my depression hit back when I was still working for the bank, I had absolutely no idea that any of these options were available to me.  If I had, I think I would have struggled less in the beginning.  You may be familiar with them but just in case, here they are:

Colleague Forums

There are online forums on the company intranet that allow for discussion about mental health.  I found these to be particularly useful, as I could communicate with colleagues across the brand about my mental health.  It brought me support from others who were struggling and also allowed that degree of anonymity if you weren’t comfortable disclosing who you were as you were struggling.  Just be advised: some companies may not appreciate you doing this during work hours.  Breaks only, and all that!

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Occupational Health

Occupational HealthI never knew Occupational Health existed in a mental health capacity.  If you can get them involved, they can liaise with your doctor, assess you and offer some workplace adjustments to make it easier for you to be at work.  We all think of Occupational Health as giving people the ergonomic chairs or set desks to allow them those adjustments for their physical health but they also offer an array of mental health adjustments.  Schedule alterations, additional medical breaks, set working hours and more.  Getting in touch does involve you having an assessment and potentially some liaising with your GP but they can certainly offer those sorts of adjustments to make it easier for you to cope at work.

Representation

This was something that the company I worked for didn’t offer but some companies do nowadays.  In the same way that you can get representative access in other areas, you can get a representative to speak on your behalf in work.  If you’re struggling with making that phone call to phone in sick, some companies allow you to set up a representative to speak on your behalf.  Check out next week’s post on Representative Access for more information!

HR

HR is normally something quite scary but it is an important stepping stone for your mental health in the workplace.  They can approve things like change of hours if needed, temporary changes of working styles and things of that nature.  Additionally, they are also the ones who get Occupational Health involved if Occupational Health isn’t already.  They may also have a specialist team that can offer you an array of support.

The Union

The Union is also something that people don’t like hearing about but they have a number of options.  They can act as your representative, they often have access to counselling services and they can step in and mediate when things aren’t going well in the workplace, such as with management handling.  I left it too long to join the Union and it cost me my job, so don’t leave it long!

Wrapping Up and Next Week

Despite mental health not being a predominant topic in the workplace, there are still numerous options that you can tap into to help you cope.  Don’t be afraid to get you or your loved one or friend involved in these options.  They might make things a lot easier.

Next week we will be looking at Representation and also a tip for our UK followers that really really helped me practically.  I hope you’ll join us!

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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.

Practically Perfect – Part 1 – Let’s Get Physical

I know, I know…you’re all singing Olivia Newton John now.  Sorry, I couldn’t help it.  Anyway, welcome to the first part of our Practically Perfect series!  Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at some of the wonderfully practical ways that you can help people struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses.  Today we’ll be looking at some of the physical cues and symptoms you can watch for.  Let’s jump in!

Physical Symptoms

When raising awareness for mental health struggles, one of the biggest arguments people have is that mental health is not treated with the same kind of respect as physical health.  With a broken leg, people are told not to walk on it.  When someone is suffering from depression or anxiety, they are told to just snap out of it.  I’m sure you’ve heard the argument many a time before.

A Panic AttackDespite mental health being exactly that – mental – there are a number of physical cues that you can watch out for.  Similar to symptoms, they are little signs that can often tell you how your loved one is doing.  Some of these are ones that I exhibit, others are from people I know.

One important thing to note, just before we get into those cues, is that everyone’s mental health is different, therefore this is not an exclusive list, nor is it applicable to every person, as different people will display different cues.

Let’s look.

My Cues

Whenever I’m getting mired in a depressive spiral or an anxiety spike, I tend to have the following physical cues:

  • QuietnessI shut down completely, shutting out all communication and collapsing in on myself, as though I want to disappear.  This one is quite common for me and has also been one that Cheryl has experienced too.
  • Lack of Eye Contactwhen I’m trying to shut myself down, one of the first things to go is eye contact.  Even if you’re talking to me, I don’t tend to look at you.  That’s normally an important sign that something is wrong.
  • Hunchingif I’m feeling particularly anxious or depressed, I try and hide.  I do my best to disappear, which involves me hunkering down in my chair, hunching my shoulders so I can be as small as possible.  My thinking: if I’m making myself smaller, you might miss me.
  • Clenched Handsthis is particularly for the anxiety but I have a tendency to clench my fists when in a panic attack.  Tensing my knuckles or digging my nails into my palms are both ways of producing a small amount of pain in an attempt to snap myself out of it.
  • Colour Changesapparently this is a big one for me.  It’s not one that I notice but when I get very anxious, I start to go red.  Perhaps the increased bloodflow as my heart rate accelerates, but I do go very red.  When I’m stuck in a depressive spiral, however, I go very pale, my lips go grey and I get darker circles around my eyes.  I never knew this happened but Cheryl assures me that’s what tips her off the most.

Those are a few of the physical cues that I can think of.  Usually a couple of friends who have picked up on them will be looking for them if I go quiet, just to confirm their suspicions.  Alternatively, if they notice those things then they will start to try and bring me out of it.

Abnormal Body Language

As I said, those are signs that I exhibit and everyone is different, so others might display differently.  That being said, a good guide to follow is if someone is displaying abnormal body language for their norm.  If it’s out of character then it’s likely that they are experiencing a dip in their mental health.

One example that I’ve given before is how I was talking to a friend and they were trying to convince me to eat.  I hadn’t had any breakfast, at lunchtime I wasn’t really hungry and they were really doing their best to get me to eat something.  In the end, I just turned straight round and snapped that I’d get out of the car and go back to the office if they continued to pester.  Needless to say, it was out of character and it tipped her off that I wasn’t in a good place, I wasn’t in a good state of mind.

If your friend or family member starts exhibiting body language that isn’t normal for them, go out on a limb and assume it’s due to their mental health.

What To Do?

Recognising the signs and symptoms is all very well but what do you do if you do see those physical cues?  Bringing someone back out of that spiral or anxiety attack is challenging at best.  In a nutshell, there is no easy answer to this question.  As everyone is different, the methods for bringing them out of it are also different.  The better you know the person, the easier it will be to find out the most effective method but it is a case of trial and error.

For more information, check out our Talking Things Through series to find out how you can get those conversations started and find out what helps them.

Next Week

Join us next week where we will be looking at a couple of work tips to help you cope at work when things are getting tough!

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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.

I Bet You Won’t Find the Dog!

Can You Find the Dog?

Find the dog in the picture below:

Find the dog in the picture.

 

I found this picture on the Huffington Post after spotting it on Twitter. Looking at their article, I did my best to spot the dog and (I’ll be honest) it was extremely challenging!  I’m sure some of you will have found it instantly but others of you, like me, will have struggled.

Now find the depressed person.

Find the depressed person.

No?  How about here:

Find the depressed person.

Still no one?  OK, well what about here:

Find the depressed person.

It’s challenging, isn’t it.  Yes, these are stock images pulled from Google but the point remains the same:

Mental illness does not have a look.

“But you don’t look depressed…”

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this on Twitter or Facebook or had it said to me over the past year.  It’s something that a lot of people seem to latch onto when you tell them that you have depression or when you are struggling.  “You don’t look depressed.”

Tell me…what does depression or any other mental illness actually look like?

You see, stigma has given rise to the belief that mental illnesses have a look.  To be depressed, you have to be the person who cannot get themselves out of the house, is covered in self-harm scars from head to toe and has not been able to shower or change their clothes in days.  (A generalisation, I know, but I’ve heard it said!)  Yet where do people like myself fit into that depiction?  I have depression, I am depressed, yet almost every morning I get up, shower, eat, go about my day as normal. Where is the stereotypical “depression look” in that?

The answer: there isn’t.

Just like the dog in the first picture, depression and other mental illnesses can be hard to spot.  There is no definable, typical look about each mental illness, despite what stigma and stereotypes might suggest.  People will put on masks, they will act the part, they will do what they can to ensure you never find out that they are ill.  It’s part of the illness.  It’s what we do.

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

Find the Mentally Ill Person

So, you see there is no definitive way of finding the person suffering with a mental illness.  As I’ve mentioned numerous times on this site, mental illness is unique to each individual, manifesting itself in various ways with overlaps between cases but without two cases being completely 100% identical – a little like a Venn diagram.

Take a moment to look around you next time you’re in public.  1 in 4 of those people will have a mental illness.  I guarantee you will see several of them as you look.  My question, though, is do they look any different?  Do they have that “signature look” about them for depression?  Can you see it?

AlexLook at me now.  Do I look depressed?  Is there that signature look?  Somehow, I don’t think you’ll see it.  I hide it.  Perhaps I shouldn’t, but it’s my way of coping.

You will not see it unless you know me very well or I want you to see it.

As one of my former managers said when I had to tell him that I was depressed: “If you were lined up with ten other people and I was told that someone in that line-up had depression, you would have been the last person I would have picked.”

You see?  No “one size fits all” or “definitive” look for mental illness.

The Signs are Always There

Contrary to what I’ve just said, however, I would like to point out that the signs are always there.  In things I say, things I do, things I write on social media, there are clues in all of them that would tell you I’m depressed. There are signs that everyone gives off.  Signs that someone is anxious, signs that someone is depressed, even signs that someone is suicidal.  The trick is finding them.

Like that dog I started this post with, mental illness can be quite hard to spot but you can spot it.  Things out of character, things done out of the ordinary, other little things that you can pick up on.

But they are there.

Just like that dog.

So my challenge to you is this: look for the signs.  Remember that 1 in 4 people suffer with a mental health condition, so look for the signs.  Yes, the signs will be different to each person so there is no definitive guide to spotting them, but they are there.  Look for them.

Don’t let them suffer alone.

But don’t tell them that they “don’t look depressed”.

Because there is no definitive “depressed look”.

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.