When You’re Hurt

I’m Hurt

Has someone ever hurt you?  Whether they’ve done something intentionally or unintentionally, it’s quite easy for us to feel hurt over someone’s actions or inactions.  What do we do with that, though?  How do we move on?  Let’s look.

I feel disconnected from the world and I feel like no one even notices me or cares about me anymore.Thinking about my journey, it’s easy to identify a number of times that I have felt hurt.  My example comes from my church.  I used to be heavily involved in everything and yet when my depression hit and I disappeared, no one really got in touch.  A few people messaged for a few weeks but once it became apparent that this was a long-term problem, people stopped messaging.  It really didn’t do much for making me feel important and, in all honesty, it still hurts.  I thought that it was a church family and yet no one bothered to help me after the first few weeks.

I’m sure you can think of other examples.  Relationships that have broken down, coworkers who have done the wrong thing, even parents or children who have done something wrong.  But what do you do when someone hurts you?  How do you deal with it?

Stuff Them

Wouldn’t that be easiest?  To say “stuff them” (or whatever variation of that you would prefer, as there are quite a few) and try and treat them horribly?  “An eye for an eye” would be quite applicable here, would it not?  Do to them what they’ve done to us, let them know how it feels.  It would make us feel better, teaching them what their actions have wrought.

A lot of people say that doing that would make it all better.  You get to teach them a lesson, you get to exact some form of revenge and you also get the joy of watching them suffer.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  But is it?

Looking at the world today, I’d say that there is enough of that sort of thing.  How many revenge killings do we see in the news?  Stories of people getting even in some way.  Don’t you think there is enough hurt in this world that we could do with spreading a little bit of the opposite?  It’s harder, true, but so much better.

Don’t Let Them Change You

I don’t know about you but I would say I’m quite a nice person.  When someone hurts me, my first thought isn’t to hurt them back.  Usually, despite it taking a lot of time and considerable amounts of pain, I try and forgive them.  It might just be who I am, but that’s what I do.  Still, that set me thinking: what would happen if I did to them what they’d done to me?  What would that make me?

Don't treat people as bad as they are; treat them as good as you are.My advice to you: don’t change.  Whether you think you’re a nice person or not, if you wouldn’t treat them the way they treated you, then don’t.  As clichéd as it might sound, forgive and forget.  Why should their bad actions turn you into a bad person?  If you wouldn’t do it, then don’t let them change you into someone that you’re not.

If someone hurts you, give them a second chance.  Perhaps give them a third chance.  In fact, give them as many chances as you want to (within reason) to make it right.  If they won’t then walk away.  That’s all there is to it.  Forgiving them is between you and them, as no one else needs to know.  However, don’t let them turn you into something that you’re not.

I know it’s hard when someone hurts you but you have the wonderful opportunity of being better than them.  If you’re not a nasty person, don’t become a nasty person for the sake of revenge.

Take care, guys.

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.

Episode 34 – Medication Mentalities


Medication vs therapy vs other approaches…it’s an age-old debate nowadays.  There are many different mentalities.  Plenty of people take medication, plenty say therapy helped themPlenty say that you should never touch medication.  So what is the right answer?  I discuss that in this episode, breaking open both sides of this controversial topic and see what the best approach is.  The answer might surprise you!  Why not join 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.

A Blanket Fort

Memories of Blanket Forts

Have you ever made a fort out of blankets?  In our house, it was something we used to do a lot as children.  Grab an airer or clothes horse, grab some sheets and blankets and build a den or a fort.  It’s simple, it’s fun and it’s something that kids enjoy.

I remember we had some brilliant blanket forts as children.  We used to let our imaginations run a little wild and see if we could make it bigger and better than last time.  Often this meant borrowing some of the double sheets from mum and dad, or a large blanket.  Add some torches, some pillows and a couple of fun things to do like books or toys and you were sorted!

Does that sound like something that you’ve tried?  Perhaps you’ve got some fond memories of making dens or blanket forts when you were younger.  I think it might be something we’ve all done from time to time.  It’s great fun!  But guess what!

It has a practical application for adults too!

A Blanket Fort

Roughly six months ago, I made a blanket fort.  My friend, who was in the process of learning how to cope with being separated from her husband, was struggling.  She’d had to take the kids over to see him for his visit.  Consequently, her anxiety had tripped, she was doing really badly.  During these times, it’s common for her speech to disappear so she can’t communicate.  She also worries at her hands with her fingernails, scratching psychological itches.  Frustrations increase when she can’t talk or when she catches herself itching.  Needless to say, it gets into a bit of a vicious cycle that she can’t seem to bring to a halt.

I was on the phone with her at this point, as she and the kids were staying with me for that day.  Due to housing troubles, it had had to be arranged like that so she could leave her old house.  As I was talking to her, I quickly picked up on just how bad things had got.  It was then that I remembered this cartoon:

Making a blanket nest to help someone through depression.

You probably see where I’m going with this, but I had an idea.

Quickly, I grabbed the airers dotted around the flat.  Grabbing some blankets off the bed and duvet covers out of the cupboard, I started setting up a nice blanket fort around the sofa.  It took a little work but it was there, able to be sat in.  A few cushions came next, then I had another idea.  I have a little light-up Death Star model that changes colours and can be quite therapeutic, so I added that as well.  Finally, I put my tablet in there, setting it to play some relaxing music and go through space pictures.

The fort was complete.

The Effects of the Blanket Fort

It may sound silly, perhaps almost childish, to make a blanket fort.  After all, it’s something we do as children, not as adults (unless we’re playing with a child).  That said, it had the desired effect.

Upon her arrival, I brought my friend into the lounge where the blanket fort was set up.  Her initial reaction was surprise that anyone would do something like that for her but, once she had been brought into the fort, her anxiety started to abate.  After about an hour or so of sitting in that blanket fort, she was completely calm once more.  Even though it sounds a little daft, it worked.

And perhaps that’s the most important part.

You see, it doesn’t have to be a blanket fort.  It can be a snuggly blanket, a little nest like in the cartoon above, or any number of other things.  The whole point is that you’re creating a safe space for them.  Somewhere reasonably confined, warm and inviting where they can relax.  If they like music, put music on.  Lights?  They can help.  Alternatively, darkness might be more their thing.  Whatever they like, try and make it as inviting to them as possible.

As another small example of a safe space, I’ve talked about how music has a big influence on my life.  When I need a safe space, I plug my headphones in, turn my iPod on and listen to music.  With noise-cancelling headphones, I can retreat from the world and relax a bit.  It works for me, it might work for others.

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.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

What You Don’t Do Says More To Me Than What You Say

After my return to work In January, I hit a lot of issues with my employer. Promises of support were constantly made, but little to nothing materialized. There were constant roadblocks, either in the inaction of my manager at the time, or the complete lack of support I received from HR. I was already struggling, yet for every little thing I found I was having to fight for it, tooth and nail. Despite promises of change I’d find their actions speak louder than words, nothing would alter and I would spin further into a vortex of feeling worthless and unwanted.

These actions (or in this case lack thereof) made me worse. My mental health took a serious hit as I battled even to get basic things sorted. A review with occupational health, a return to work meeting, even the basic stress assessment; it took a union rep getting involved to achieve any of these basic requirements. What may surprise you is the company I work for has a very prominent relationship with a mental health charity. They are active across Twitter with campaigns to try to raise mental health awareness with some very high-profile public figures. What I found was that despite their very vocal stance to the world, when it comes to their staff their actions speak louder than words. As a member of staff I found that you will lack support, basic rights under the disability act will not be fulfilled unless you push for them and that the management have a woeful lack of training or support in how to handle employees with mental health issues.

How Would That Make You feel?

It left me feeling un-valued and unwanted.

But it’s something you will find a lot, and not just in the world of work. In our personal lives too. How often do we say we care about people, compared with how often we show them. Like Alex has covered in the Onus, there is a tendency for people to be very vocal with their support, but lacking in the physical.

It also goes deeper than that. When we don’t show people what they mean to us it can inflict huge amounts of damage that you won’t see on the surface. Likewise when we treat people as something less than , it wounds. These scars that you don’t see are usually the longest lasting, the contributing factors to depression and anxiety that affects a person for years to come.

When Actions Speak Louder than Words

To put this into context, I’ll explain something from my past that even now impacts me. When I was 15 years old I began dating my first boyfriend. In my eyes, he was loving caring and everything I wanted. I thought he was perfect. You would think that he would have the same sort of feelings, right? Sadly, no.

The reality was he was considerably older than me. When we went out he would force me to lie about my age, so that it appeared more appropriate. He would dictate what i ate, would criticize how I dressed and how I did my hair. I was never good enough as me. I was often made to feel that I was being granted some sort of honour just to be with him. So even just the normal gestures of a couple in love were denied to me. Holding hands in public? No. Being taken on normal dates? Out of the question.

In private he would tell me he loved me. But the truth is if this is how someone behaves to someone they ‘love’ their actions speak louder than words. This is not love. This is not how you treat anyone else. It damaged me to the point that I feel unworthy, to the point I struggle to believe when someone genuinely cares for me. I don’t believe when they say they love me, think I’m special or beautiful.

Just because We Are all Guilty of This Doesn’t Make it Right

Yes, we can all be guilty of this from time to time.  In the early days of my relationship with Alex, I would often omit him from conversations with my ex-husband, if Alex called when I was taking my children to visit their father I’d pretend it was someone else on the phone. Yes, my reasons were based on fear of my ex-husbands reaction. But it does not excuse it. Alex and I ended up having a blazing row via phone over this very issue. As he explained how it was making him feel, something inside me snapped.  I needed to put my fear aside and deal with the matter at hand. My ex knew I was with someone new, so why was I pretending like Alex didn’t exist? Who was this helping? The honest answer is no-one.  If anything it was wounding the man I love.

We Need to Change

I’ve been on the receiving end being treated where the words being spoken did not match the actions.  I knew immediately it had to stop.  It’s something I think we all need to apply in our lives. Our actions speak louder than words.  For corporate entities they need to look at how they treat their employees before espousing their support for mental health. They need to be the example before they can preach for change. When they don’t is when employees are left feeling un-valued and disillusioned.

In relationships we need to show the ones we love, that we love them. Not just say the words. Show it. How we act to others, be they our family, friends or partners, can hugely impact them. If they suffer with mental health issues it can be even more important. When your mind is already telling you how worthless and imperfect you are, it will only see validation when people’s actions do not match the words from their mouths.

Actions speak louder than words. So don’t just say the words you think people need to hear.

Act.

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.

 

 

Rishin – The Interview

What condition(s) do you live with?

Brain Cyst- I have an Arachnoid cyst at my right temporal lobe. It has been ignored for the most part because the standard response has been “they usually don’t cause problems”. At my last neurology appointment, I was booked in for an MRI and referred to a neurosurgeon because of some new symptoms.

Epilepsy – I have nocturnal epilepsy. I also have absence seizures during the daytime, but the night time events are worse. It mostly comes out at night, mostly… 

Cluster Headaches (AKA Suicide Headaches) – These are a primary headache disorder and a type of Trigeminal autonomic cephalgia (TAC), the trigeminal nerve is the same nerve that conducts the signals to the brain when you have a brain freeze after eating or drinking something cold.

I mention this because it’s one of the best analogies I can think of for the pain. So, remember your last brain freeze. Now think of what that pain was like.  Do you have the memory of the pain? That stabbing behind the eye and the pain at one side of your head.  Multiply it by 20 and you are close to what a Cluster Headache is like. I’m literally not bothered when I get a brain freeze/ice cream headache anymore, it’s insignificant compared to a Cluster attack.  Some people have bouts of attacks over a period of weeks or months, daily, multiple times a day. These are defined as being episodic.  Other people are chronic, this means they don’t get a break any longer than two weeks between bouts.  As you can see this isn’t a minor inconvenience like a hangover, it’s a life-changing condition that can have tragic consequences.  A cluster attack can last anything from approximately 20 minutes to hours.

When I call them Suicide Headaches it’s not hyperbole. The nickname Suicide Headaches is one that has been earned. People have died by suicide because of this disease.  They are incredibly painful, here on my website I compare the pain to an event I really don’t want to repeat again.

Paranoia & Visual & Auditory Hallucinations – I developed these approximately at the same time as the cluster headaches, the absence seizures and most of what I’m still dealing with today.  I’m lucky in that my hallucinations are brief and while at times they have been bloody scary each one hasn’t lasted long.  Even now I find them very distracting and I have a specific type that, well to be frank, terrifies me.  The paranoia is an insidious bastard. It gets under your skin and twists the world. It nearly destroyed my life. When I think back to what I was like at my worst, well I’m surprised I’m still here.

 Depression, Anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – It basically comes as a package deal. My Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis is very recent, and we are still unravelling what this means.  My mood is a rapid rollercoaster with highs and lows hitting me so quickly that some days I’m exhausted just trying to stay contained.  The reason I called them a package deal is that I was given the depression diagnosis years ago. However, recent events have caused my psychiatrist to re-evaluate me.

My symptoms have been a nightmare. It’s such a tangled mess. I’ve bounced around different medical professionals with all of them trying to unravel their specialist area from the rest.

My Cluster Headache (CH) diagnosis alone took five years but that’s not unheard of with CH.

Parasomnia – Firstly, I want to acknowledge that night time events cause people a lot of pain and difficulty in their life.  But I’ve saved this one for last for some light-hearted content.  I’ve been known to prance around in my sleep, it’s probably related to my epilepsy from what I can gather.  On more than one occasion my wife has been woken to see me waving my arms around, walking, and even doing a Tai Chi form.  So, there I am standing, stark naked, pulling off snake creeps down, an unfortunate name considering the situation, completely asleep.  It took me weeks to live that one down.

How long have you been living with it/them?

Over a decade.

How does it affect you?

With the Cluster Headaches I don’t have good days. I have bad and not so bad. There is a lot more about CH I could go into but it’s beyond the scope of one interview.

A bad day is when I’m dealing with multiple CH attacks throughout the day, my mood is low, and my coordination and speech are unsteady.

So, it’s a case of getting through one attack recovering slightly, and then dealing with the next one. In between there are what we call Shadows, which are low-level persistent pain that ebb and flows until another attack hits.

My worse day, so far, was a few months back. I had an attack wake me at about 6 am and the last one finished at 10 pm.

Once the first one had subsided the next hit at 10 am, then at 12 pm. That subsided and then from 3 pm until 10 pm I was having them for an hour with about a 20-minute break in between attacks. Not a good day.

A not so bad day is a day with lots of Shadows that don’t result in multiple attacks, but I can still get one or two full attacks. However, these tend to be shorter.

I frequently have trouble with my speech, nothing too bad, sometimes I can’t find the right word. We live with it and I go with the flow because the more frustrated I get the worse it can be.

My life has been completely changed by all of this. I don’t go out and while I maintain contact with friends via the internet that’s it.

I did manage some volunteer work with Samaritans at one point. That was because I had the flexibility in choosing my hours and Samaritans were incredibly understanding. But on more than one occasion I got hit with an attack and had to get someone to cover for me.

As for BPD well, my mood switches at a moment’s notice I get highs, but they don’t last very long at all. Long enough for me to have lots of awesome plans then I hit bottom and wonder why I was so bothered by it all.

Emotions are magnified. Right now, I can be objective about how I feel but when I’m having a bad day I don’t recognise that my reaction to an event is disproportionate.

On a bad day I don’t respond well to other people’s emotions, especially anger. My own anger goes inward, and I rage inside. It’s hard to put into words in some ways. It’s a lightning storm building up, a volcano building pressure. Other people’s emotions can hit me hard.

What kinds of methods or treatments do you use to cope?  What is most effective?  What is least effective?

For CH I’m on oxygen as an abortive, believe it or not it’s fantastic. It doesn’t always work but I do get some relief. I also take medication as a preventative and I use Sumatriptan injections at the onset of an attack, again sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

OTC painkillers do nothing for CH, all they did was give me medication overuse headaches. I was basically swallowing the damn things like Smarties for five years.

I don’t want to go off on a religious tangent but for my BPD and other mood-related difficulties I have found Buddhist meditation and philosophy very helpful. I’m lucky because my teacher is a Buddhist priest and I am actively involved with the sangha (community).

I’m due to be assessed for therapy for my BPD but I think Buddhism has given me many tools that have helped.

If there was one thing you could say to someone going through the same condition(s) as you, what would it be?

Talk. Please talk. Whether it’s to a family member, a friend, or even a support line like Samaritans 116 123, talk about what you are going through. You will discover that you have immense strength within you but even the strongest of us need to off-load at times.

What would your advice be to people trying to support people with your condition(s)?

Learn as much as you can about the problem. Be it a rare neurological disease like Cluster Headaches or mental ill health. How much you know will dictate how well you can advocate for your loved one.

Listen to the person you are supporting.

We think that we can listen but when we are supporting someone we ought to ensure that the time we give them is well spent. It can be tempting to react based on fear and dismiss their concerns but when we listen fully we ensure that the time is about them and not our fears. I talk about this in my Mindful Listening series.

Make sure you take some time for self-care.

Even if it is only a short walk, a relaxing bath, or a funny film. Supporting someone can be draining, it’s emotionally stressful when we offer ourselves as a sounding board or when we fight for another’s rights. Doing all of that for a loved intensifies the stress.

You are important too, remember that.

What was it like working for Samaritans, helping people with mental health struggles? Were there challenges?

Even though I don’t volunteer now I still consider confidentiality sacred. So, I won’t discuss any specific calls.

If I were to sum my experience up it would be this. It changed my life and myself for the better. It made me a stronger and more compassionate person.

Challenges? Yes. You can’t offer that kind of support without it being challenging but the call is the callers time. I was there for them.

If I had anything that I found very personal or emotionally difficult I knew I had a fantastic support network within the organisation. They really are remarkably caring and supportive of their volunteers.

The training is first rate too. At the time you don’t realise just how good the training is, but it prepares you in so many ways.

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 Onus pt 3 – The Responsibility Clause

Responsibility of Friends and Family

The Onus.  Those two words carry with them so much importance – an importance that I’ve emphasised.  It’s a duty, a responsibility, one that no one really seems to want to take ownership of.  It’s also one that we must take ownership of.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve talked about the two parts that I believe are crucial for us to understand regarding the onus:

  1. We, as friends and family members, shouldn’t put the onus on the person suffering from mental health issues.
  2. Putting the onus on the sufferer and not keeping in touch can lead to feelings of neglect or feeling like they deserve the isolation.

If you haven’t already read the first two parts of this, I’d recommend that you do so.  In short, though: we shouldn’t be putting the onus on those suffering because they aren’t likely to speak out about what they’re going through.  The potential effect of this can be highly damaging,as they can start to believe that they aren’t worth the time or effort that it would take to send them a message (which is…5 minutes if you type slowly?)

Now, I’ll be honest: this topic has been highly divisive over the months that these posts have been published, because it’s immediately created an argument.  Mental health sufferers have agreed with me, saying that they often feel abandoned and cut off due to people putting the onus on them.  Friends and family, however, have said there is only so much that they can do before they feel like their efforts are being wasted.  If they are met with what seems to be a brick wall, they will give up.

But, as I’m sure you have already guessed, there is another part to this tale…

…the Responsibility Clause.

The Responsibility Clause

What do I mean by this?  Are friends and family responsible for giving up?  Do the mental health sufferers need to be responsible for having the onus put on them?  Absolutely not!  No, the responsibility clause is something different.  In my mind, this is what it would be:

The Responsibility Clause places responsibility on both parties.  For friends and family, they have the duty of care for their loved ones, which includes keeping in touch while recognising the sufferer might not be able to instigate contact themselves.  They should not place the onus solely on the sufferer, using the fact that they have not done something as an excuse to avoid contact.  For the sufferer, the responsibility is theirs to be as honest and responsive as they can.

Does that sound reasonable?  Perhaps you’ve had similar thoughts as you’ve been reading through my posts about the Onus.  Whichever side of the fence you fall on, though, I hope you will agree with me on this part:

We, as mental health sufferers, need to be responsible.

That’s right – I said it!  We need to be responsible.  Naturally, this would be for our own actions or inactions, as we can’t be responsible for what other people do or don’t do, can we?  So we need to be responsible.

Responsibilities Unpacked

So friends and family, we’ve already discussed what ways you can be responsible for yourselves.  Don’t put the onus on the mental health sufferer, as they might not be able to reach out; don’t wait for them to instigate conversation.  It doesn’t mean they don’t care, it means they’re struggling.  So don’t withhold contact just because you haven’t heard from them.  It doesn’t always work that way.

For mental health sufferers, though, be it depression, anxiety, bipolar or any other mental illness, we have two responsibilities: to be honest and responsive.  What do I mean by these though?  Responsive is exactly what it says on the tin: if someone messages us, we should respond.  Granted, it might take us a day or two to do so, but we still have that duty to respond.  After all, why should people continue to message us if we’re not responsive?  I understand, having been there myself, that it can be difficult sometimes to summon the energy or brain power to respond, but that doesn’t lessen our responsibility.  If anything, it makes it more important for the days when we are able to message, when we are able to make phone calls.

Secondly, the honesty part…this one is harder.  Naturally, it means we have to be honest but about what?  Quite simply, our struggles.  We have a tendency, don’t we, to say that we’re fine when asked how we are.  Now while this is a coping mechanism, albeit not the best, we need to try and be more honest.  If we are open with our struggles, friends and family will be able to understand what we’re going through and how to help us, because we can tell them what it is we need.  It’s important that we don’t just brush their attempts off, withdrawing deeper into our own shell.  That, in itself, can be just as bad as the friend or family member not getting in touch.

A Small Footnote

As with a lot of aspects of mental illness, I believe this approach is subjective to each person.  There are those who will have been damaged by the second part of the onus that I’ve mentioned and feel unable to communicate with others.  We should still try, but for some it might not happen.  In terms of honesty regarding our struggles, that should be done as far as we feel able to or comfortable to, because there will be details we won’t feel comfortable sharing.

At the end of the day, both sides do need to take responsibility and work towards better communication and understanding with each other.  Without both sides accepting some of the onus and some of that responsibility, the eradication of stigma and furthering of mental health awareness will not happen.

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.

My Dad

A Sad Day

It’s a funny day today. It’s a sad day, but one where I want to celebrate rather than mourn. Today is the birthday of my dad. The thought of not celebrating it with him for this first time is causing an ache that just won’t go today. But I don’t want to sit and cry all day. I want to celebrate him. The wonderful things he did and achieved.

First off, I guess I need to tell you a little about him. As a child he was a rogue, scrumping from apple trees, truant from school and always in to mischief. He loved science and was fascinated by space and science fiction. Considering where he grew up in Birmingham in the 1940’s and 50’s, when poverty was a reality and life was hard, he still became someone who looked ahead to the stars.  He loved to read and loved music. All kinds, from The Planets suite to Beyoncé. I think I get that from him. I still remember him putting the L.P of the Planets Suite on for me to listen to and encouraging me to write stories from the images this music formed in my mind.

We didn’t always get on. What parent and child always does? We’d often butt heads because the reality is that I am as stubborn as he could be. We had similar tempers and that immovable sense of what is right. It would cause friction. But like my dad, I would do anything for my family and friends, even to my own detriment sometimes. It can be a bad thing, but if it’s the worst thing about me I’ll take it.

I’m proud to say I’m like my dad

So yes, today I want to cry. But I won’t right now. My dad loved going out for birthday meals, ( well any meal really). He celebrated and would not let things like birthdays or anniversaries just slip by. He loved his family, even when we were pains in the butt. He loved to watch his grandchildren playing and being inventive. He’d play the same song over and over just to watch his granddaughter try to sing along or dance.

So today I’m playing my music loud for him. I’ve sung at the top of my voice and I’m loving the little things my children are doing. (they’ve made a toy stage and put on a puppet show). My daughter and I have played Katy Perry’s Firework and danced around the bedroom singing along to it. Because one thing I’ve learned is that tomorrow is not a given. We all expected my dad to have many more years ahead of him, but life is cruel like that. A long time ago Alex wrote fleeting fragility and even more so today it rings true. Life is fragile and too short.

So yes, I have depression. I have anxiety. But like my dad I’m not going to let something hold me back.  So even though it’s difficult, I’m working again. Alex and I are looking at getting a house together with room for the children to have their own space, even though financially it will be hard. We are both still working on the website, driving it forwards with new ways for people to access content. I’m proud of what we achieve in the face of the naysayers. We may have mental illness issues, but we’re finding our way through.

Don’t Let It Hold You Back

So if you’re struggling today and you feel like giving in. Don’t. There’s always going to be obstacles. I could use today as an excuse to wallow in depression. Believe me, it’s there.  But the best way I can celebrate my dad is to not do that. It’s to play my music, laugh at the kids, work on the website. To do all the things that people think that someone who has depression shouldn’t be able to do.

So, to my dad. If you’re looking down on all of us today, I want you to know I miss you, but I’m going to show everyone that depression doesn’t win. It won’t win, over me or Alex. We will get the children what they need, I will keep working and we’re going to keep on with the website because we know it’s what we have to do. I hope we make you proud.

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.

Episode 33 – Trudging Through the Sludge

Trudging Along

Sometimes life throws a lot of sludge and mud at us and we have to find our way through that.  Trudging through the sludge can be difficult, but here is a take on it that you might not expect.  Why not check it out?

Useful Links:
#MedsWorkedForMe
Drugs Don’t Work
A Tweet, A Trigger, A Minefield
Owning the Struggle

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 Patron - Trudging Through the SludgeDisclaimer: 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.

It’s Just A Song

A Song

You know me, I love a good song.  Music is so great in the way that it speaks and communicates with us in a song that it’s almost therapeutic.  In fact, many people have written and spoken about the wonders of music and how a song can do so much.  Don’t worry, though, this isn’t going to be one of those posts.  Not really.  This one is just about a song…a very particular song.

No, it’s not about Scream by ZOEGirlI’ve covered that one already, telling you about how we sometimes feel we have to bleed to be seen or scream to be heard.  It’s not that one.  This song comes from the great Philippa Hanna, who makes the list of favourite singers for me.

So without further ado (or adon’t – no, I can’t help myself) here is the song!

It’s Just A Song

Seriously, It’s Just A Song is the name of the track.  On Philippa’s album Through the Woods (above), it’s one of the final few tracks, but it’s one of those that resonated with me.  Now, given that it’s a love song, you wouldn’t necessarily associate it with the things I’d listen to.  Believe it or not, though, I can be quite the romantic.  Honest.  Don’t look at me like that…

The song itself is absolutely lovely, though!  A nice, gentle ballad to start us off as Philippa reminisces about the time spent with a former beau on a beach, drinking jasmine tea.  She goes as far as to call it a perfect day.  Sitting on the beach with her beau, with the sun coming out for a moment to light up his face through the rain…it does sound perfect.

Then the reality settles back in.  “Pull of gravity, back to reality now.  Just a memory, locked inside of me, safe and sound.”  Like a tidal wave, it’s come crashing back over us and suddenly we remember that it’s a memory, no more than that.

And then…the chorus.  Hauntingly beautiful, with words that hit home those truths.

“It’s just a song but it makes me feel warm every time I hear it.  ‘Cos each time it plays, I can still see your face in my mind.  From that opening bar, every chord, every part plays a bitter yet sweet déja vu.  It’s just a song but it makes me feel closer to you.”

Who Is It About?

Truth be told, despite digging through the internet to find answers, I don’t know what this song is about.  At first glance, it looks like your typical boyfriend-girlfriend breakup story.  Guy meets girl, they fall in love, then they break up and we have to put the heart back together afterwards.  Really, though, it might not be about that.  For all we know, the boyfriend didn’t leave, he might have died somehow.  Quite simply, we don’t know.  However, there are three important truths that we can take from this, truths that can be applied to the world of mental health.

  1. It might be “just a song” but sometimes the small things can have the biggest impact.
  2. We don’t know what people are going through in their private struggles.
  3. Wait and see!!

So, when you look at those three points, the identity of the person she is singing about becomes relevant yet irrelevant at the same time.  To get to a point of understanding those three points (and yes, I know the third one is unrevealed), we don’t really need to know who she’s singing about.  The person is important, there is no doubt about that, but we do not need to know his identity.

Let’s look, then, at those points.

1. It Might Be “Just A Song”

How many times have you heard people say “oh it’s just a bump in the road” or “it’s just a bad day, it’ll pass”.  Similarly, the song referred to on the radio is “just a song”, yet it can have a far bigger effect than others might give it credit for.  It doesn’t matter how significant or insignificant it might seem to someone else, it matters to us.  It’s an integral part of our struggle.  Naturally, that means it has an effect on us.

So we’re affected by it.  And that’s OK.  We’re allowed to be.  Whether it’s a song, a place we used to visit with someone of importance, a place or object that holds memories for us, we’re allowed to be affected.  It’s part of our struggle, part of what we are going through.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  It’s up to us to work through it, even when it feels like “I hear that song again and I’m back to square one again.”

2. People’s Private Struggles

We don’t know who Philippa is singing about, do we?  We assume it’s a boyfriend who has broken up with her, but the truth is we don’t know.  As I mentioned earlier, it might not be a break up, but a bereavement.  We assume it’s a boyfriend, but it might just be a friend.  The point is that it doesn’t really matter who it is, not to us.  Why?  Because sometimes we will always be missing a piece of the puzzle.

Whether we have the answers to our questions or not, others are struggling. That doesn’t mean we need to know, nor does it mean we cannot help them without knowing.  We can help them and support them without knowing everything, but it’s important to remember that sometimes we won’t know everything, that we might not know what’s going on.  Not fully.  And that’s OK.

3. The Surprise Point

My last point that I took from this song is a reminder that I believe is the most important one.  It’s taken directly from the bridge of the song:

Oh I know that there’s life after this, and I know I’m not broken, but sometimes I wonder…

Whatever struggles we are going through, be it depression or anxiety, breakup or bereavement or something else entirely, we still remember that truth.  We know that there’s life after the event.  We know we’re not broken.  Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to hold onto that thought and we might wonder whether or not we are broken, whether there is life after this.

It’s easy for our perceptions to get skewed.

But…

It’s amazing how I’ve managed to get all of these meanings from a track on an album.  After all…

…it’s just a song…

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.

Learn To Let It Go

Disney Again? Really?

Sorry to say it, but yes I’m referencing Disney again. In the form of ‘Frozen’. As I’ve said before, music is incredibly important to me. It speaks to me and helps me through a lot of what I’m dealing with. ‘Let It Go’ is that hugely popular anthem for the movie that every little girl seems to know verbatim. In the film Elsa seems to be able to let go of the things that have held her back from being her true self. Learning to truly accept who she is and let go of who she used to be is central to the development of her character. But in real life it can be much harder to do this. How do we learn to let it go when hurts from the past are hampering our recovery?

Nothing Worth Doing Is Ever Easy

Someone said to me that letting go of the hurts we’ve experienced is idealistic. That the reality is that it’s much harder to do, sometimes impossible. I know it is. I can be the poster child for holding a grudge. Only recently I had a conversation with Alex that opened my eyes. In my dealings with my ex-husband, Alex noticed I would often become aggressive in tone, I would become stubborn and immovable. Negotiation and compromise (especially as regards our children) just wasn’t an option.

But why?

My ex has undergone an incredible amount of change since our separation, he is now doing everything he can to build bridges with our children and become the father he should have been. He’s maintaining the changes and not reverting to previous form and recognises that who he used to be was not good. So why am I getting aggressive and possessive as regards our children when I can see he is amending himself?

After a considerable amount of discussion (and tears on my part) what finally stumbled from my lips was that I didn’t trust the changes I could see. That I was still holding on to the hurt and pain from our dysfunctional relationship and it was affecting my behaviour and preventing us from moving forwards.

I need to learn to let it go.

It’s Not Even About Forgiveness

That’s the thing. It’s not even about forgiving him. This is for me. Holding on to that pain is not helping me in my recovery. If anything, it just pushes me closer to relapse. And I don’t want to relapse.  I don’t want the scars from the damage that was done over the 18 years we were together to impact my new relationship. I’ll give you an example; recently Alex was unable to attend an Easter Egg hunt with me at my mom’s house because he was mentally and emotionally drained. His mental health wasn’t good and he needed the break.  On the surface, I smiled and reassured him it was OK. I understood. Like him, I know that depression can make us have to make choices of how best to expend our energy.

But inside me it triggered something. A wound opened up. All the times I had been abandoned to attend things by myself with the kids when my ex couldn’t be bothered. The times when we were made to feel we just weren’t good enough for him to want to be around.

Inside, it became raw and painful. I was angry and yet sad at the same time. My brain supplied all the untrue reasons for Alex’s absence (He was embarrassed by us,  we weren’t good enough for him) and to my mind it all became solid truths.  That there is something fundamentally wrong with me (and by association my children) that would mean no man wants to be around.

Crazy, right?

My ex and Alex could not be more different men. Alex is kind, caring and affectionate.  He would do anything for me and the kids and on numerous occasions has. I cannot hold him responsible for how my ex mistreated our family and I cannot punish him for feelings that get inadvertently triggered. So I have to learn to let it go. By taking a moment (after a minor rant to myself) I realised that my anger and pain was essentially being put there by a memory.   By holding on to that pain I was not seeing the reality; Alex wasn’t in a good way and if anything needed my support.  The moment I saw this, I knew I had to put those feelings aside.

By holding on to the pain from my previous relationship I was impeding my children from establishing a better relationship with their father, and stopping me be there for my partner.  I refuse to live like that. I won’t be that person.

It’s Not Easy, But I’ve Got to Learn to Let It Go

So that’s what I’m now trying to do. I’ve got to learn to let it go. I cannot live my life where my depression and anxiety are at constant risk of being triggered because of the past.  Somehow, I’ve got to learn to get past them and look at what’s important. My children. Alex. The future we are building together. I’m going to banish the ghosts of past hurts, so I can get the future I want.

It’s not foolproof. I know that. Triggers are triggers. But it’s how we deal with them. Like anyone else with mental health issues, I have to learn to look past the feelings and look at the reality. Is it really that bad? Is what I’m feeling really accurate or is it just me being haunted by my past experiences?

To quote Elsa;

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all!

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!

What do you think? Because it sounds good to 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.