Episode 53 – Continue to Step

Step By Step

How often do we take our journey one step at a time?  Perhaps minute by minute?  When we end up going back a few steps, it can feel like the end of the world, and we can blame ourselves.  Relapse.  How do we cope with it?  I share my thoughts on how we can deal with relapse and being knocked back.

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Become a Patron - Continue to StepDisclaimer: 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 Not That Simple…

The Simple Answer

How often do people have simple solutions to our problems?  “Just snap out of it.”  “What about all the things you have good in your life?”  “Calm down.”  Yet is the answer ever as easy as that?  I share my thoughts on the matter and provide you with a comparison to determine whether or not it is as simple as it appears!

Useful Links:
Looking For the Positives

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Become a Patron - It's Not That SimpleDisclaimer: 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.

Taking Time Out to Put Time In…

Put Time Aside

I’ve talked a lot about the need to put time aside for ourselves, haven’t I?  Taking time out from our busy lives to simply stop.  Whether we’re too busy living life in the fast lane or we just don’t actually take that time out from our lives, we all need to stop for a moment, don’t we?

But why?  Why do we need to stop?  As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes it’s important for us to take that time out so that we can practise self-care.  It’s not always easy to do that, however, especially not with life being as fast-paced as it often is.  Yet it’s crucial, is it not?

In this post, I’m not just talking about taking time out, though, I’m also highlighting what we put our time into.  Our time is precious, is it not?  One of the most valuable commodities this world has to offer.  So it’s important we remember we’re not just responsible for taking time out of our busy lives, we’re also responsible for what we choose to put it into.

Behind the Metaphor

Alright, so we’ve already established frequently that I enjoy playing video games.  It’s my key downtime moments, my chance to unwind.  Some people enjoy a hot bath, others a good book, me…video games.  Recently, I started playing the Forza series, beginning with Motorsport 6, then moving onto Horizon 3 and now, after finding a good deal, Horizon 2.  (I know, I’m going backwards, but what can I say?)  To all who look at them, they appear to be racing games where you drive, you race, you compete, you (hopefully) win.  But there’s more to it than that.

One thing I love doing is taking a car, putting it in the garage and tinkering.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a petrol head or a grease monkey, but I really do love coaxing these cars to be better than better.  You’d think Lamborghinis, Ferraris, McLarens and the works would be the almighty holy grail of cars anyway, but in these games you can tinker with a variety of different car parts – from their engines to their platform and handling, tyres through to drivetrains and more.  It’s by swapping and alternating some of these parts that you can get these cars to the top of their respective classes and turn them into almost unbeatable machines.

And I love it!

Originally, however, I didn’t know what I was doing with them.  I’ve already mentioned that I’m not a petrol head or grease monkey.  I wouldn’t know how to do any of this stuff with my actual car.  That’s where the game makes it easier because it does it all for you, except you control what parts are being added and switched.  For those who can’t be bothered to do this or really don’t understand it, there’s a “quick upgrade” option, which you can select and the game will install all upgrades to bring it to its supposed optimal performance level.  OK, it doesn’t always work that way, but it’s an option.

But for me, it didn’t quite work.  Which was then that I realised I had to actually put time into my cars.

What I Put In

Selecting that quick upgrade option saved me a lot of time.  I didn’t have to go through the different workshops, selecting and deselecting parts, looking at performance scores and charts, determining what parts I wanted.  I also didn’t have to learn what on earth it was all about so that I would actually stand a chance of understanding what I was doing.

Ultimately, however, that didn’t serve me half as well as it was intended.  A lot of the time, the quick upgrade feature would simply add all available parts.  Alternatively, it would maximise engine power and not worry quite so much about handling, giving you speed over overall performance.

Yet how often is that what’s needed?

Customising a car in Horizon 3.

For some cars, the power is already inbuilt and what they need is the handling to go with it.  Springs and dampeners, better brakes, body weight reductions.  For others, they did actually need that power.  In other cases, an entirely new engine or entirely new drivetrain – changing it from all-wheel drive to rear/front-wheel drive, for example – was needed.

How would the quick upgrade know that?

It was all about that personal touch; how to get the car driving exactly as you wanted.  Personal preferences, driving styles and so on were lost inside that quick upgrade, as it indiscriminately whacked every upgrade it thought best onto the car.  So it needed something a little bit more…me.

Gradually, I started learning what I was doing.  Tutorials on YouTube or on the game, tinkering, experimenting and finally I was building cars of my own on this game.  And do you know what?  They worked a lot better!  Why?  Because they had a better match to my driving style.

Taking Time Out to Put Time In

So what am I actually trying to say?  Simply put, sometimes it’s not about taking the time out to recharge, it’s about making sure we take the time out so that we can put time in.  Be it a hobby, a new skill, something that we want to learn…if we don’t put the time in, we won’t get anywhere with it.

What is it you want to accomplish today?  What do you want to get out of whatever it is you’re trying to do?  I’d like to encourage you: take time out so that you can put time in.  You’ll be amazed at what you can do!

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Become a Patron - No Room For ErrorDisclaimer: 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.

Looking for the Positives

Positivity and Depression

It’s something we’ve touched on before, the idea that simply being positive will cure depression. It’s something that any sufferer will at some point face. Someone well-meaning will point out all the good things you have going for you in effort to somehow snap you out of the darkness. If it were truly that simple would depression even exist? This is not to say we shouldn’t keep looking for the positives as a way of getting through, but waving them at people like some magic cure isn’t going to work either.

Recently, someone close to me, in an effort to ‘snap me out of it’ during a depressive episode, did try the ‘you’ve got so much to be happy about’ approach. It didn’t work. If anything, it made me feel worse. In my head it translated to ‘you have so much to be happy about, so why aren’t you? You’re so ungrateful.’ All the things they pointed out to me as my reasons to be happy, my relationship, my children, my job, my home; it’s not like I don’t appreciate and am grateful every day for the things I have. I am incredibly thankful for all the wonderful things in my life. But having them all pointed out to me as if I don’t appreciate all these things already hurt a great deal.

I Don’t Go Looking for the Positives

I know what the positives in my life are. I do. A depressive episode doesn’t change that. Yes, it can make it harder to see them, but they’re still there. I know they’re there. Reminding me isn’t going to shift the feelings that depression creates. Because I want to make something very clear; depression is not simply being unhappy. This is something that some people forget. It is an illness. Would you ask someone with a broken leg to be positive to make it better? Of course not!

Positivity does have it’s place with mental health. But it is personal. Other people telling you what to be positive about is not going to help. I don’t go looking for positives. I just take some time each day to remind myself what I see as the positives. And I change them regularly as part of an exercise that my counsellor and I have devised. And right now I’m going through a difficult patch, I’m struggling because my mental health is not at it’s best. But that’s okay. Like with any illness, there are times when we feel a bit worse than others. Right now, I’m not so good. But I’m doing what I can to get me through. I have the tools, I have the support I need and thankfully work are being understanding.

A Little Tip or Two

It’s not due to a lack of looking for the positives that has created this episode. It’s a culmination of things going on in my life, feeding into the illness and amplifying things so I feel like it’s crushing me. This does not mean I am ungrateful or unseeing of the positive aspects in my life, if anything it makes me even more grateful. I see the good things probably even more clearly than you do. To me, they are in technicolor compared with the insidious monster that slithers through my head.

So next time you’re helping someone with depression, rather than sit there and list all the things they have to be happy about. Just talk to them. Let them go looking for the positives themselves. By all means praise something about them that you like, encourage them. But please, PLEASE, don’t go telling a sufferer all the things they should be positive about, because in all honesty it does more harm than good.

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Become a Patron - Don't Let You Limit YourselfDisclaimer: 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 52 – Why World Mental Health Day Is A Problem

World Mental Health Day 2018

Following World Mental Health Day 2018, I find that there is a problem with this concept of taking a part of life, be it mental health or alcoholism, etc, and putting it up on a big national or global stage for a day, a week or a month.  In this episode, I tap into the problem with these events.  Why not join me?

Useful Links:
Episode 48 – Advocacy Immunity

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Become a Patron - Why World Mental Health Day Is A ProblemDisclaimer: 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.

Have We Changed?

“You’ve Changed!”

When we tell people that we have a mental health condition, whether we like it or not, they believe we’ve changed.  Somehow, we’re different.  Yes, we can want to changeWe can try to change.  But revealing a new piece of information about ourselves…are we really all that different?  Join me as I explore how someone said that I’m different, how people perceive new information about us and whether or not we really have changed.  Trust me, you won’t want to miss it!

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Become a Patron - Have We Changed?Disclaimer: 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.

Facing Down the Demons Anxiety Gives Us

When Demons Drag Us Down

We all have our demons, don’t we?  They come in all shapes and sizes, some incredibly scary, others that just create small chinks in our armour and worry away at us.  They try and wear us down, or some even drag us down with every single opportunity that they get.  Often, they are specific to each person as well, as our mental health is a very individual thing and different things affect people in different ways.  (Yes, there can be similarities, but really they aren’t exactly the same.)

So take a moment and reflect, what might your demons be?  Now ask yourself whether or not they have a strong hold on you, or whether you’re good at fending them off.  You don’t need to tell me, nor do you need to be embarrassed or ashamed.  This isn’t a criticism.  After all, there are days when we all fail, so take heart…no one is perfect.

Got those demons?  Firmly fixed in your head?  Remembering what kind of hold they have over you?  Great…let me tell you about mine.

Out and About…or not…?

Perhaps you’ve guessed what I’m about to tell you, perhaps not.  Posts such as The Art of Escapism and Living Life in the Fast Lane, along with my podcast episode 38 – Dying Light, might give it away.

I’m a big fan of being inside, perhaps sat in front of a computer game or the TV or something.

Now I know some people will think that’s lazy, but really it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  It’s a coping mechanism, something that will get me through my day.  Why?  Well the answer is quite simple: I’m an extroverted introvert.

Yeah yeah, I know…some mumbo jumbo really, but it makes a lot of sense.  You see, the term extrovert doesn’t fit because I’m not really an outgoing, socially confident person.  Nor am I an introvert because I’m not a shy, reticent person.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  So we land on the term extroverted introvert because I’m somewhere in between.  If it makes a little more sense, I find I relate to these six things:

  1. I need alone time before and after socialising.
  2. I’m very selective with my social calendar.
  3. I make new friendships easily but have trouble maintaining them.
  4. I want true connection because I don’t like small talk.
  5. I’m quiet in a crowd.
  6. I always have an escape plan.

With me?  Great.  Well with that in mind, one of my biggest demons is actually going out of the house (or previously out of the flat).  Part of it was just having to be out and about with so many people around, other parts of it came in where I would struggle with the thought of meeting people I don’t want to meet.  (Maybe some day I’ll tell you about that, but for now that’s my little secret.  I’m not quite ready to share all that.)  Now these people can be people I like but don’t want to see right there and then, or people that I know there is some form of tension or disagreement with so I’d rather avoid them.  Whatever the reason for not wanting to see them, it can create an anxiety which then feeds that delightful demon I struggle with.

Why am I telling you all this though?  It’s an important reason…

I faced down one such demon!

Facing Down While Looking Up

Back in June, my 4-year-old stepdaughter graduated nursery.  As seemed appropriate, we extended an invitation to her biological father – my partner and he split over a year ago due to a really bad relationship – to see if he wanted to come and see his daughter graduate.  Secretly, we both thought he would decline, as he’s been known to avoid anything that I’m at.  (I dare say it amuses me as he’s over 6ft tall, I’m definitely not, and he is burlier than me…yet he avoids me if he can!)  Even more secretly than that thought, I hoped he would decline because he hates me with a passion and I knew that graduation ceremony would be awkward, perhaps even difficult (because he seems to like to make things as difficult as possible).

Can you guess what’s coming?  Yup…he accepted the invitation.

So there’s me, faced with a difficult choice.  Acquiesce to the will of my demons and stay in the safety of my own home, avoiding that confrontation but also avoiding any kind of mental health backlash…or attend my step-daughter’s graduation alongside my partner’s ex-husband.

Quite the dilemma.

Well, not really.  I decided that my step-daughter meant more to me than anything he could say or do.  I love her and I wanted to be at her graduation ceremony and he wasn’t going to stop me.  It didn’t matter what he thought, I was going to be at this special, important event, and I was going to make sure I faced this demon.

So here it is…the photographic evidence that I was there, at my step-daughter’s graduation.  Despite my demon telling me that I couldn’t do it…I did.  I spent time with my partner and her ex, I was there for my step-daughter.

On that day – and a few more since – I overcame my anxiety.

What about you?  What can we get you to do?

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Become a Patron - How To Overcome AnxietyDisclaimer: 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 Little Things

To You It May Seem Stupid

Sometimes it can be the smallest, most seemingly insignificant things that can trigger a person. Likewise it can be the tiny acts that you make as a supporter of a sufferer of depression that can make all the difference; that can turn a bad day into something survivable. This weekend I am struggling. I did everything I can to prepare for it as I knew this weekend would be hard. It’s been a year to the day since my dad collapsed and never woke up again. I have tried to do all the things I know will help me cope. All the little things I would suggest to someone who was facing a hurdle like this. Spending time with friends and family in the safe space of my home has been a help. We’ve laughed, I’ve cooked, I’ve spent time doing daft little acts to make others smile, but that aching, gnawing is just devouring me. It feels like my heart has turned into heavy, weighted stone, and is dragging me backwards into the dark. I know that this is part of grief, aided and abetted by depression having a field day, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Don’t Under-Estimate the Importance of the Little Things

It’s the little things that are both helping me and flooring me this weekend. The simple act of my sister sending a photo collage she’d printed of my dad was beautiful. Standing in the bathroom of my mother’s home and seeing that a year on and my dad’s razor still sits on the bathroom shelf, broke my heart. As I stood there, I picked up the can of body-spray of his that was also still there. Just holding it close to my nose and for a moment it conjured up a huge sense of him. The scent I was so used to smelling, bringing back a flood of memories. Him and mum getting ready to go out for an evening with friends. My son proudly announcing he was clean after a sleepover at his grandparents, when in actuality all he’d done was liberally sprayed himself with his granddad’s Lynx.

So many of what some people would see as small, insignificant things. Nothing worthy of getting upset over. Yet I have been so low that I have struggled to keep from crying since I woke this morning.

The Flip Side

There is also the flip side. The little things that have made it okay. Spending half an hour snuggled in bed with Alex and Little ‘Un watching ‘ Scooby-Doo: Where Are You?’ this morning helped more than I think he realised. Hugs from those I love. Being given the space to be quiet if I needed it. A cup of tea just placed by my side without a word.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is whether someone is grieving or battling their own black dog (or like me are trying to deal with both) then the little things matter. The little acts of kindness that can be made, even if it’s just a phone call or a text can make a huge difference. These things help to counterbalance all the little things that can sneak up on someone and knock them to the floor.  After all what may seem like nothing to you, could be the thing that makes someone else’s heart break into pieces.

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Become a Patron - Don't Let You Limit YourselfDisclaimer: 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.

Don’t Let You Limit Yourself

There Is A Limit

How often do we hear that we all have a limit?  Everything we do, everywhere we look, there are limitations.  Things we can do, things we can’t, things we can say, things we can’t.  How many of those limits are created by our minds?  We might have dreams we don’t think we can achieve.  So as I share something from my life, why not tune in so that you can receive my challenge as well?

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Become a Patron - Don't Let You Limit YourselfDisclaimer: 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.

Living Life in the Fast Lane

Forza – Fast-Paced and Fun!

When it comes to driving games, we often say the faster the better!  Drive anything from classic cars to rally trucks, modern GT cars to the best hypercars available!  As long as it is fast, we don’t mind.  Wouldn’t you say?  With that in mind, I thought I’d tell you about another little gem in my escapism: the Forza series.

Ah, Forza!  In the grand scheme of things, I’m still fairly new to the Forza series.  I started sometime April 2018 with Motorsport 6, delving into a world of cars and official track racing that I just couldn’t put down.  In truth, it was almost the game that I’d been waiting for since I completed 2005’s Midnight Club 3…a game that I’d never found the like of since.

Then came Horizon 3!  After expressing interest in getting it, I was pleasantly surprised to find the game on sale – not just the game itself, but the ultimate edition – for about £33.40 instead of the £120something that it was supposed to be.  So all DLC expansions, car packs, a VIP pass and everything included!  Now this game really took me back to Midnight Club 3 as it was open world, street racing, the works!

And finally, that brings us to the latest chapter which is Horizon 2 (I know, I know, going backwards here!)  Another good buy – the game was free with XBOX Gold this month and the DLC (and I mean the entirety of the game’s DLC – car packs, expansions, VIP, you name it) was at £14.99 instead of about £79.99 (yeah, yeah, I’m lucky!)  It’s set in the beautiful Mediterranean coastlines of Southern France and Northern Italy.  Beautiful.

Except…when you’re going too fast…

Forza Horizon 2

So I hopped straight into the Lamborghini Hurácan that you’re given at the start to drive to the festival.  Then I jumped into a BMW Z4 as my first car.  From there on, it was race race race…until I realised one thing I’d forgotten.  Before I tell you, though, here’s a quick peek at some of the gameplay:

It’s great, isn’t it?  Alright, that’s a McLaren, not a BMW but just look at the speeds and the handling!

But then the penny dropped…I was focusing so much on the speeds, the handling, the colours of the car, any added vinyls and decals that I fancied putting on, that I’d forgotten something very important…

What was around me.

Now, I don’t mean the other cars on the road, because even though it’s important to mind those kinds of surroundings while driving, it wasn’t what I’d forgotten to look at.  I’m talking, instead, about the scenery.  That’s right, being in the beautiful south of France and the north of Italy, right alongside the Mediterranean coastline, there was plenty of beautiful, lush scenery around and the Forza team had done a great job of recreating it!

Which set me thinking…how often do we miss things like that because we’re too busy living life in the fast lane?

Living Life in the Fast Lane

How often do we get caught up in the things of life?  With social media providing us with all the updates we could need, with so many things at our fingertips, it can become all too easy to be swept away in that tide.  We find that we don’t often stop.  We don’t practise that pause.

With that in mind, I decided to slow my Forza game down a little.  See if I could actually take in some of the sights.  What did I find?  Well, take a look for yourself:

Isn’t it beautiful?  The scenery, the level of detail that the developers often put in…and all that could be missed if we’re too focused on driving around as fast as we can, completing race after race.

Don’t you think?

So here’s your challenge: slow your life down a little bit.  Get out of the fast lane and actually start living.  Stop for a moment and take in what’s around you.  Who knows what beautiful views and moments you’re missing because you’re simply going too fast?

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Become a Patron - No Room For ErrorDisclaimer: 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.