The Dark and the Light

About a Friend – the Dark Behind the Smile

When I found out what he suffered from, I didn’t fully understand it. I had an understanding of depression from knowing other people with it but, as you’d expect, they were all different.

I did look up some bits about his condition but, for the most part, I just asked him or read his posts about it. That said, I did have to look up Borderline Personality Disorder as I’d never heard of it before.

“Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a disorder of mood and how a person interacts with others. It’s the most commonly recognised personality disorder. In general, someone with a personality disorder will differ significantly from an average person in terms of how he or she thinks, perceives, feels or relates to others.” This is from the NHS website. It’s a neat little definition but doesn’t tell me much about Lex (Alex). There’s a lot more to every person than just a diagnosis and invisible illnesses like this don’t just fit into a diagnosis box for us to understand.

About Our Friendship

Lex and I have always had a good relationship. He was one of my best friends through Uni and has remained one while a lot of close friends came and went. We’re into similar books, games and movies, listen to a lot of the same music, share a lot of opinions and so much more. That’s a recipe for a great friendship, right? I would say so, and I reached the point years ago where I knew I wanted Lex to be a life-long friend. Not having him there would create a dark hole.

So, I guess, the question is, has his condition altered our friendship in any way? Well, learning the guy you consider to be a brother suffers from incurable depression is a disheartening piece of news that makes you question a lot. I questioned how good a friend I was since I didn’t notice someone so close to me was hiding a living hell. Yes, he masked it very well, but still – it made me question.

The Diagnosis

Learning, after, that he actually had BPD was partly a relief and also confusing. I was relieved because it meant the doctors (hopefully) had more of a clue with how to manage his illness and confusing because I thought I understood his depression but a personality disorder didn’t make sense to me. Dark thoughts aside, his personality seemed fine – it was his mental state and emotions that were fluctuating.

There are simple things that I hadn’t taken for granted but thought would be the same that had taken a drastic u-turn. Being happy is such a simple idea to me and, whilst people get sad and angry and all sorts of different emotions, I wondered if he would ever be happy again. Would it take its toll for him to want to end it all? These kinds of questions have frightened me. I could give him all sorts of encouragement and tell him good things about himself, but part of his condition is that he his mind won’t let him believe or feel it. Tricky, but I accepted the challenge for my friend.

Friends For the Dark Times

Most people have friends who call on them when they’re needed and this was no different. It was a sad challenge to undertake but I’d always have said yes to helping him. Not always knowing how to help when I desperately want to is gut-wrenching and makes you feel helpless. He told me that some of his friends ignored or abandoned him, probably because he required ‘more work’ than their other friends; this made me feel worse for him.

For me, learning that someone is in trouble is an instant “are you okay?” or “hope are you?” message, not brushing it under the rug and pretending it’s not there. I was angry with them for leaving him to it but I understood that some people don’t know what to do or how to react, so I made sure to tell him and, hopefully, ease his loss. If someone is hiding in their home and not coming out, you may automatically think they want to be alone, but they may actually be feeling unwanted and need someone to tell them they’re definitely wanted.

Overall, I do feel something has changed but not much has actually changed; only my perception has. Our friendship is the same but how we deal with life has changed. We still share the same interests, we still get on the same as normal and still trust each other the same. What’s changed is knowing he has a dark passenger, knowing he feels things differently. Little things that I’ve noticed have changed but he’s still the same person. The main thing is that he has to deal with a hard hand dealt by life. We all have our demons, but his have a lot of teeth and mean business. Having such a close friend who struggles with depression and BPD is hard at times but it’s a matter of whether you let them go or stay loyal.

It’s a dark challenge in life but the friendship is still light.

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Ara Bell

A returning guest poster, Ara is a young author who lives in Dorset with her partner.  She works for a large corporation by day and writes in her spare time.  Previous to that, however, she worked as a carer for people with mental health problems and dementia for 4 years.  Originally from Essex, she moved to Wolverhampton for university, where she studied English and Creative Writing.  That was also where she met Alex and began supporting him with his mental health struggles as he battled with his depression, anxiety and eventually with his self-harm and Borderline Personality Disorder.  Find more of her work here!

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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 Am Borderline – by Brittany Ryan

“I Am Borderline” – the Diagnosis

In a recent job interview, I was asked to ‘sum up who I am in 3 words’. My mind screamed, “Say 24601! DO IT!” Knowing that’s not appropriate, I said  generic words that came to my mind that made NO sense. It was then that I knew that the interview I was pretending, probably just failed. Who am I? Well, I’m borderline. But, can you just tell people that? Probably not. How and when was I diagnosed with BPD? Funny you should ask. It was actually an episode of Law and Order: SVU.

Weird, right?

It was season 18 in January 2017. The episode was called ‘Motherly Love’ to be exact. The mother was a psychiatrist and basically had narcissistic personality disorder. The ex-husband listed the symptoms to badass Olivia Benson and I was like, “holy balls… I have that! But wait… I’m not that narcissistic.” *Frantically ran to Dr. Google. What a reliable guy.* Apparently, NPD and BPD are sister disorders and I fit the criteria of BPD perfectly. The next day I sat down with my therapist and told her what Law and Order: SVU, Dr. Google, and I came up with. She confirmed 10000%. I sat back and was like whoa…That’s pretty cool! I’m ill… oh sh*t. I’m ill.

What next?

It’s true. Psychologists/psychiatrists really don’t know how to handle borderline. Well, some don’t. I don’t think my psychologist knew what to do, but she didn’t give up on me. My psychiatrist flat out didn’t believe my diagnosis and kept putting me on drugs to the point where he recommended that I do TMS, (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). That escalated quickly.

The 9 Symptoms of Being Borderline 1-3

So, what exactly does it mean to have borderline personality disorder? It depends from person to person in all actuality. There are 9 symptoms and if you have 5 of them, you are borderline. Unfortunately, ya girl has all 9.

  1. I have a very unstable sense of self and self-image. What others see, I do not see at all. I’ve been told I look like a young Angelina Jolie and I just laugh in their face. I don’t tell them what I see because I don’t want to hear them tell me the opposite because I feel as though they have to because I’m their friend. When in all reality, I’m sure they are telling the truth, but I don’t trust.
  2. I am the known at my job as the Gif Queen, but in my personal life, I am the Queen of Isolation. When everything around me is “stable,” I feel nothing inside. I am an empty, hallow, robot that does not want to go anywhere or do anything. It’s pulling teeth to go see my family, but I love them, so I have to prepare myself mentally the whole day in advance.
  3. Being borderline can make you empathic. I am one of those individuals. If I have a connection with someone, I can feel your pain and put myself in your shoes. When Chester Bennington died, I was able to put myself in his last moments and feel his pain. He meant a lot to me and feeling that only made my borderline worse. However, if you around those you don’t know or care about, you may feel nothing. And that’s what happens to me. I feel nothing. That’s why people may label those with BPD ‘psychopaths.’ Honestly, people just don’t take the time to understand.

    With Me So Far?  Here’s 4 and 5, which surround relationships.

  4. Unstable relationships due to black and white thinking. This one is my life. One day, I want to see you and the next, I don’t want you to talk to me. I want to ignore you. This happens a lot with men. The guy may not have done anything wrong in reality, but in my mind, he’s ruined me and I don’t want anything to do with him. This leads to number 5…
  5. Intense fear of abandonment- My liffeeee again! I make scenarios in my mind about someone and just tell myself they will leave. So, I leave first. I disappear without a trace. Do I think of how that person feels? Nope. It’s happened to me so many times and that person never cared how I felt, obviously I shouldn’t neither right? This is a carefree process, isn’t it? I feel like this is all some Freudian learning process gone wrong.
    Now for 6-9…
  6. Intense changeable moods that can last several days to a few hours- I know some people may not like the word trigger, but that’s what happens to me. I get triggered. I get overstimulated with sights, sounds, too many people being close to me, someone saying one word that I take in a negative connotation, and I am sent over the edge for the rest of the day or few days depending on what happened. These intense feelings also bring on suicidal ideation and self-harm. I self-harm in different ways. If I feel too much emotion in physical pain from anxiety and I feel like I want to rip my insides apart, I cut myself on my arms or legs. If I situations around me feel out of control, I usually don’t eat for a number of days and if I feel really depressed, I’ll binge.
  7. I am a constant ticking time bomb of anxiety and worry. I suffer from major depressive and anxiety disorder. Just add them to the list of mental illnesses, shall we?
  8. Ahh, this one is always fun: impulsive and risky behaviours. How am I impulsive? Spending money I don’t have. When I’ve been through some trying days, I love to go on amazon and buy, buy, buy. There are other ways to that I’m impulsive, but we won’t go into that.
  9. When I was in college, I changed my major 5 times. I went from 4 medical majors to finally deciding on Marketing. Now, I am going to get my Master’s in Visual Communications Design because I don’t know what to do with my life, all I know is that I need more degrees to get a better job. Sad but true.
In Conclusion

For me, that’s how borderline effects my life. It is different for everyone and each individual goes through their own treatment. My therapist and I are working hard to change my method of thinking, but it’s a daily struggle, especially when my mind says “no.” My words of encouragement are that you’re not alone in this struggle. You may feel alone, because trust me there are times when I feel like the only person in the world and I don’t want to reach out to anyone with my issues or pain, but do it. You never know who will grab your hand while you feel like you’re drowning.

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About the Author

Brittany Ryan is a social media marketer and soon to be graphic designer. After having symptoms since she was 8 years old, she was finally diagnosed with BPD in January 2017 at the age of 26. She shares her experiences with BPD on her blog, . Knowing there is a heavy stigma around BPD, she likes to be very open about her experiences and feelings in her blog so that way others know that they are not alone in their illness. Everyone’s feelings are valid.

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.

5 Natural Ways to Lift Your Mood on a Bad Day

5 Natural Ways to Lift Your Mood On A Bad Day

Everyone has those days where nothing seems to be going right. When this happens, it’s easy to feel defeated and get stuck in a negative mindset for the rest of the day – or even for the whole week. But in times like these, there will always be things you can do to feel better. Here are 5 easy ways to lift your mood on a bad day.

5 Natural Ways to Boost Your Mood on a Bad Day
Photo Credit: jill111 via Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons License
Go Barefoot in Nature

 The simple act of going barefoot on the grass has a surprising number of physical and mental health benefits. Walking barefoot stimulates the nervous system, which helps to provide greater balance and improve overall immunity. It also allows your body to feel the earth directly and truly connect with the natural world. Exposure to nature this way can relax your mind, ease stress and give you a greater sense of well-being. Whenever you’re having a bad day, take a moment to flip off those shoes, go outside in the sunlight, and reconnect with nature.


 Exercise has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to boost mood. Doing just 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity will give you a boost in endorphins and make you feel happier. Set aside some time during the day to exercise, whether that involves doing a few push-ups at home, playing a sport you love, or working out at the gym. Try to find an exercise that you really enjoy, as this is the best way to stay motivated.

5 Natural Ways to Boost Your Mood on a Bad Day
Photo Credit: Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash under License
 Connect with Loved Ones

 One of the best things you can do when you’ve had a bad day is to connect with your loved ones. When you spend quality time with people who care about you, it’s easier to put your problems into perspective and ease your stress. If your family and friends live far away, give them a call to confide in them. Sometimes all you need to feel better is someone to vent to and seek comfort from.

Read a Good Book

 There is nothing better than immersing yourself in a good book after a stressful day. Reading helps to take your mind elsewhere, allowing you to forget about your struggles for a while. Instead of spending your free time scrolling through social media, find a quiet place to read where there are no interruptions and get stuck into a good book. Spending just 30 minutes reading something you enjoy can help to relax your mind and body, putting you in a better mood for the day.

Listen to Uplifting Music

 There is no doubt music has the power to affect your mood and emotions. Listening to upbeat, feel-good songs can immediately help to lift your spirits on a bad day. Make a playlist of the songs that make you feel happy and turn this on whenever you’re feeling down or stressed. Sing along and dance to the music too, and you will feel better in no time.

About the Author

Johanna Cider is a New Zealand-based writer who is passionate about living with a positive outlook. She loves taking short, sweet weekend getaways to recharge and escape from the noisy chaos of city life. You can find more of her work on Tumblr.

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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.

Top Tips for Self-Care – by Brad Krause

Self-Care and You

Self-care can mean a lot of things, but it boils down to making sure your physical, mental, and emotional health are all well taken care of. This is important for everyone, but especially for people who lead busy lives or have very stressful occupations. There are many different ways to practice self-care, so it’s important to think of your specific needs; what works for one person may not work for another.You may choose to focus on things outside of yourself, such as your home.

Decluttering for Self-Care

Decluttering your house can help you feel better both physically and mentally, allowing you to create a more serene environment and de-stress. Or, you may decide to focus on your eating habits, your exercise routine, and getting enough sleep each night in order to gain more energy and boost your mood. Whatever you choose to do, it should fit your lifestyle so you’ll get the most benefits. Here are a few tips on how to practice self-care for your mind and your body.

Start simple

Self-care doesn’t have to mean overwhelming changes. You can start simple, such as creating a better bedtime routine, and still feel the benefits. There are many overlooked activities that will help you feel better, including finding ways to relax and reduce stress and anxiety. You might focus on your relationships and learn to say “no” when you need to, or make more time during the day to practice a favourite hobby to de-stress.


A cluttered home can be a distraction and can make it harder to concentrate
on the important things, so make a plan to go through each room to clear
things out. Go through closets, drawers, cabinets, and the garage, attic space, and basement. Make piles for items you want to donate, throw away,
and sell. Look for ways to hang onto your favorite belongings that will
allow you to make room, such as condensing photo albums by scanning
pictures on the computer and saving them to a thumb drive.

Change things up

Sticking to the same routine day after day can lead to boredom and
dissatisfaction with life overall, so think of some easy ways you can
change things up a bit. For instance, take a different route to work or introduce a new exercise in your workout routine. If you want to think bigger, you might try something new, like learning a foreign language or taking a class on how to repair cars. Changing things up can help you find new passions and stay motivated in the things you enjoy doing.

Eat well

Sticking with a well-balanced diet can help you feel better both inside and out, so do some research on the best ways to eat healthier. Introduce fresh fruits and veggies into every meal and use a refillable water bottle so you can keep track of how much you’re drinking.

Spend time with yourself

Many of us stay so busy and focused on the needs of others that we forget to check in with ourselves. Make it a point to sit and read write in a journal, or meditate. Do something every day that will allow you to spend time with yourself in a quiet, calm space in order to learn to relax and feel comfortable in your own skin. Practising self-care is important for everyone, but for those who find they are living with stress, depression, or anxiety, it can be imperative. Talk to your doctor about more ways you can help yourself feel better, and communicate with your loved ones about the ways they can assist you.

About the Author

Brad Krause graduated from college in 2010 and went straight to the
corporate world at the headquarters of a popular retail company. But
what started as a dream job soured quickly. After four years of working
15-hour days and neglecting his health, he decided enough was enough. Through aiding a friend during a tough time, Brad discovered his real
calling–helping people implement self-care practices that improve
their overall wellbeing. He created to share his own knowledge and the many great resources he finds on his self-care journey.

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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.

“You Are A Worthless Fat Girl” – guest post by Hope Virgo

“You are a worthless fat girl”

That was the voice that resonated throughout my head as I looked at myself in the mirror in the gym. Over the last few months that voice had got louder again, shouting… that relentless voice nagging at me. It was so loud whenever I went to the gym and instead of my gym sessions being some sort of relief I would leave them feeling so ugly. I hated it. And I hated how loud she was becoming again. It frustrated me and got me down. That voice made me feel not good enough for anyone or anything. The truth is I knew I was struggling. I knew I wasn’t going to stop eating again, but I knew something had to change in me to get my mind set back to where it should be.

Over the last two years my body shape has definitely changed. I stopped running quite as much after I relapsed in 2016 and tried to vary up my exercise by going to the gym. But I then had to learn to navigate having a different shaped body; one that wasn’t stick thing, boney and one that needed a new sort of wardrobe.

The thing about recovery from anorexia is it isn’t a straight line. Over the last year I have talked so openly about my anorexia. I don’t want to speak negatively but I want to be real. I have given my complete self to so many of you, I have been opened up about my medication, about my suicidal thoughts and about the reality of living with anorexia.

I talk very openly about it and I feel completely vulnerable to judgement. Vulnerable to the comments about mental health and people’s opinions about me and as to why I share my story. And the frustrating thing is it is the negative feelings, and feelings of “fatness” that make me start to doubt myself. They start off small but slowly and surely they will chip away at me. Chipping and chipping until I feel a mess. They chip away at me so then other comments hurt even more. They chip away until I feel like I shouldn’t be sharing my story. Until I feel like this fake, standing up there…

A huge part of recovery is learning how to control those voices in your head and learn how to not let them dominate your every day. And learning where to get your strength from when they feel like they are shouting even louder than usual.

For me it can at times feel completely and utterly exhausting fighting these voices. These manipulative relentless voices that I don’t know how to stop but finding this strength is essential to maintaining my recovery. And staying strong is what we need to do.

For me I talk, I tell people how I feel. I share these feelings of failure, the fat feelings…I explain that I don’t want to get sick again and that I know fighting on is the thing I must do. I am so lucky to have people round me who take my eating disorder seriously and that I don’t have to prove a point by skipping meals.

The frustrating thing about anorexia is that when you start to fight that voice it gets louder and louder. And so you have to fight harder. But fighting harder is completely possible and when you don’t feel like you have the strength to do it please dig deep, focus on your motivations, dig deep, and stay strong as beating anorexia is 100% possible.

For me I do just this; I remind myself of my motivations and remind myself that life with anorexia is NOT worth living with. Like seriously what did anorexia ever really do for me other than pop me in hospital for a year. All the stuff that anorexia promised me turned out to be a lie.

Try and remember this, stand strong, keep fighting and don’t ever give up!


About the Author

Hope is an author, mental health campaigner and an ambassador for the Shaw Mind Foundation.  Author of Stand Tall Little Girl, she suffered with anorexia for over 4 years before being admitted to hospital in 2007.  Now in ongoing recovery, she uses her experience to raise awareness for mental health and eating disorders and to inspire people to get well and break the stigma that surrounds mental health.  Why not check out some of her work?

Opening Thoughts From Hannah Brown

There was a time, when fuelled by youth and naivety, I thought of anorexia as simply a silly girls desperate attempts to lose weight and ashamedly I suggested it was attention seeking.

Now, with only a few more years on me, I can say with absolute certainty that Eating Disorders are both horrendous and life changing. They tear apart lives leaving a skeleton in mind, body and soul.

I learnt this the hard way, and after starting my own diet at 19, I was eventually diagnosed with anorexia at 23, eventually being admitted to hospital twice in that same year.

Alex was truly honest when we first spoke and said that he had come to realise that he knew next to nothing about eating disorders. I am always on the look out for new people to connect and link in with as we all pledge to improve the dialogue around all mental health issues. Collectively we aim to break stigma, increase understanding and campaign to improve services and Pushing Back The Shadows is the perfect forum for that.

Knowledge is everything when it comes to showing compassion and empathy to anyone suffering with a mental illness, and that has never been more true than when helping someone who is suffering with an eating disorder. In recognition of this, Alex has dedicated a whole week to raising awareness and improving understanding and I have been given the incredible opportunity to open the week. To try and give a proper introduction to eating disorders I am going to dispel a few myths and try to get to the bottom of an illness layered with misconception and stigma.

There is a massive difference between disordered eating and eating disorders, most importantly is that the latter is of course a very severe mental illness. It is however important to recognise the spiral that can occur when disordered eating takes hold and the person looses their sense of control.

Anorexia, very commonly starts out this way. It certainly did for me, as I said I started that diet, cutting out more and more, restringing my life more and more until my whole existence had been defined by meal times and exercise. All consuming, all encompassing and all dominating. There were rules that I placed on myself that were both unrecognisable and incomprehensible to those around me, but to me they were my everything, my security and my comfort.

For others however, being able to control their food and calorie intake forms their relenting attempt at coping with inner turmoil or external pressures. It’s a terrifying existence and one that the sufferers will find themselves consumed by

So recovery- “just eat”. Because it’s that easy? I recall days as an inpatient where I could eat a meal without almost a thought, but then hours later, after a difficult and painful family session, I would be begging for the food to be taken away, the struggle being just too much.

I used food as the thing that I could control, the thing that kept me safe and it became a comfort blanket. The restriction made me feel powerful, looking back the reality was that my illness was in total control. It harboured itself in my body and it pained every part of my existence.

“Well you can’t have an eating disorder because you don’t even look that skinny” and “surely you’re all better now that you’ve weight restored”. Let me tell you, eating disorders don’t actually care- once they infiltrate the mind they take a powerful grip which can only tightens as ones weight initially starts to increase.  Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and whether the person is underweight, normal weight or over weight they can still be diagnosed with an eating disorder. Lets not forget the complexity of eating disorders, a combination of medical and psychiatric illness that is not going to be “cured” through the attainment of a goal weight. Food has been used as some sort of crutch, coping mechanism- it is indicative of a repressed issue that underpins the illnesses existence, recovery is about uncovering everything, recovery is from the inside out and then the outside in.

The next myth that is far too commonly heard is that eating disorders are somehow selective in the people that they effect. It seems that the white females, from a middle class background of high mental aptitude are more likely to become unwell with a form of eating disorder- APPARENTLY.

Now I am no expert and nor do I have statistics in front of me that might collaborate me but I am almost 100% sure that there is no selection process for eating disorders. There is no discrimination, and whilst it is true that there may be certain predispositions to becoming unwell, these predispositions are not found in demographical variables. This means that men, BME groups and even the working class can and do develop eating disorders.

I could go on into so much more detail on all the horrendous myths around eating disorders that require dispelling, that need smashing down and breaking through.

I’ll be brief though;

Eating disorders are not for life, recovery is possible. If you are suffering from this horrible and debilitating illness, please know that if you want to recover, if you are willing to put your heart, soul and courage into making yourself well, using the people around you for love, support and guidance then yes, yes recovery is possible.

There is no one to blame- parents aren’t to blame, loved ones and family members are not to blame. Undoubtedly they may be contributing factors, they may have triggered but they are not in isolation to blame. To suggest so is not conducive to recovery, to assert blame to anyone but the illness will not help through stages of recovery. We all need to acknowledge that sometimes people do things that hurt, that cause anxiety and so much more but individually they do not cause eating disorders.

And finally, all eating disorders are serious. Anorexia kills, we know that. But Bulimia and all the other variants of eating disorders have associated health concerns in equal measure, the effects of the behaviours on the body can be damaging, long term and devastatingly fatal.

An introduction to eating disorders in 1000 words is simply impossible. To dispel rumours, raise awareness and increase understanding takes time and an army of people to speak out and do so with courage and tenacity. There are not enough resources available to fully and comprehensively give this mental illness the exploration that it requires. Layers upon layers, complexities in complexities- there is so much- too much.

If you take one thing away from this article- take the learning that eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, forms and variants. They do no discriminate, they’re not a phase or a habit that’s become out of control. It can’t be “fixed” and just eating won’t be a magic cure.

Enjoy this week, learn and comprehend. Be kind to yourself and those around you but most importantly open your mind to an illness that is almost unexplainable and yet provides so much to those it holds in its manipulative grips.

And if you, or a loved on is struggling please get in touch- because everyone deserves an ear to hear.

About the Author

As a blogger and campaigner on mental health issues, Hannah has used her experience of suffering from Anorexia to help support others through the founding of her, own recovery peer support service-, working as a voluntarily organisation. Now, working closely with NHS providers, other professionals in the field together with schools, corporations and MP’s-she continues to help others by increasing the dialogue around eating disorders and encouraging those to speak out, reaching for help that she knows they not only need but most importantly deserve.

Shamelessly Me

Shamelessly Me

My life is good. I have a loving network of family and friends around me. I love my work. I manage financially. I am fit. I have hobbies. I write. I have a full life. I am healthy. But am I?

This is what my anxiety is about. Health. This is what happens to me. I have a symptom; racing heart, tingling on my tongue, lump on my toe, pain around my ribs. All symptoms that can be attributed to something innocent, but not for me, MY symptoms are serious, probably life threatening.  I then dwell on these symptoms, imagining the worse. As my anxiety increases, unsurprisingly, so do my symptoms. This then becomes the next 4,5,6,7 or 8 days worrying about what’s wrong with me, until the symptoms just disappear, or I give in and go to the GP for reassurance.

In some ways I am lucky with my anxiety (I’m writing this on a good day!!). I manage to function normally, being a Mum, being a partner, working, running the house (though maybe not cleaning, but I can’t blame the anxiety for that!). Anxiety doesn’t stop doing things; I generally don’t let it. I know for some anxiety sufferers that this is a place they’d love to be with their anxiety; I know how debilitating it can be. So for that I feel grateful.

In my head, although on the outside I am functioning well, a lot of the time on the inside it’s a different story.  I obsess. I worry. I spend a lot of time being frightened. I fear the worse. I catastrophise. It’s tiring! I also struggle with the selfishness I perceive that I have; it’s all about me after all!

I do have my ways of coping and helping to alleviate my anxiety.  If I don’t exercise, I feel worse. I think this would be one of my biggest positive step tips to others suffering with stress, anxiety or depression. Get out there and exercise.  A walk, a jog, the gym, a team sport; anything physical that you enjoy. For me it is being outside, running or walking.  My state of mind is totally different after I’ve exercised. Truly, you must try this if you haven’t already.

My other coping strategies are yoga, meditation, practising mindfulness, practising gratitude, writing a bullet journal. I also started blogging about my anxiety in June 2016.  The thing I have realised is that these strategies should become day-to-day activities, just part of normal life.  I think that helps to alleviate the frequency of bouts of anxiety, and keep everything in check.

One of the main reasons I started blogging was to try and help others. When I woke in the middle of the night with an anxiety attack, and couldn’t calm myself down, I’d head for my Ipad and write in “helping anxiety”, “how to get rid of anxiety”, I found that not a lot came up that helped me. I needed something immediate to try, something to ease my panic NOW. So I started writing about the things I have found help me. None of them have “cured” me, but it helps, and I hope by writing my ideas and thoughts that I might help maybe one person to get some relief.

My last piece of advice;

Be gentle with yourself, you are doing the best you can, and that is enough.

Amy BlytheAmy Blythe is the author of Shamelessly Me, blogging her journey with anxiety.  She uses it to help herself, in a cathartic way, to live with the anxiety that she faces but also to help others.  For more information, check out her website!

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Pushing Back the Shadows – A Supporter’s Thoughts

This is a post written by one of our supporters.  We would be quite interested to hear your views on this so please leave a comment, let us know what you think.  Let’s get a discussion going!

Although the symptoms of depression are relatively universal, each person’s experience is different because each person is unique.  To dismiss a professional’s help because your depression is different is not saying that the symptoms are different, but that their manifestation is different in each individual.  This then makes the task of professionals challenging when faced with each person who, quite understandably, are focussed on their own signs of depression.  What works for one may not work for another, but the challenge is to not let personal depression manifestations to simply dismiss something before due consideration.

As I think about this title, “Pushing Back the Shadows”, I initially understood it as pushing back the stigma, the lack of understanding that depression is an illness – like physical illnesses – except there are no “plasters” or “bandages” evident.  It is therefore dependent on the explanation of the depressed individual to a professional to obtain the treatment that works best for that individual.  It is hard enough to explain depression without having to do so when you are already depressed!  Therefore, “Pushing Back the Shadows” gives opportunity for people to share their personal experiences in the hope that someone reading it may have that moment when they recognise themselves in the descriptions.  However, is there not a danger of focussing on depression so much that you become the slave to depression and no longer able to look for the next step?

This leads to another viewpoint on “Pushing Back the Shadows”.  If depression is the shadow, then “Pushing Back the Shadows” can be understood as the battle against depression – pushing the dark cloud of depression to the point where daily life can function.  This takes effort and energy, which Alex has already identified, is not necessarily available, making it difficult.  Those who are surrounding and supporting the person want to fight that battle for them and will encourage them to fight, but the battle is for the person alone – only they can take each step, like a young baby learning to walk.

As one who is permanently on anti-depressants to deal with a life-long medical condition, I can identify that the daily battle to “push back the shadows” is faced by more than people diagnosed with depression.  When getting out of bed and getting dressed for someone with a life-long medical condition is achieved – it would be a reason for celebration, a sense of achievement, a battle won.  But in the great scheme of life, such an achievement is not seen as that great – people get out of bed and dressed every day so what is so special in that.  “Pushing Back the Shadow” is a personal achievement in the privacy of an individual’s life and not one where congratulations will be ringing in the ears.  In the perspective of normal life, each battle won is normal – not news-worthy.  Unfortunately this is a fact that has to be accepted – one person’s health battles are not the centre of the universe so will not be high on the radars of many people’s hectic lifestyles and priorities.

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Yet, I suppose the key to any health battle – whether it is mental or physical – starts with understanding.  What are you dealing with?  Unfortunately “Google” will give you loads of information from professional and “wacky” sources.  Unfortunately this is the first search we make in seeking to understand.  But, as academia will remind you – check your sources – anyone can write anything and post it on the internet.  As Alex quite rightly states, this blog is not from a professional basis, but from a personal experience and a desire to help others – it is not of great academic worth but simply an insight – “Pushing Back the Shadows” of understanding.

In seeking to understand, the medical profession have access to tried and tested resources and will happily point you in the direction you need to understand what you are dealing with.  The libraries in the UK are also a great untapped resource that can help as well without the cost of purchasing a book.  However, if you find one that helps you could always invest in your own copy.

When you begin to understand what you are dealing with, you have already achieved the first battle to “Pushing Back the Shadow.”  The first battle, yes, but each day will continue to be a challenge which, like learning a new skill, will get easier over time and practice.

As a supporter, it is never easy to “say the right thing” or “give help at the appropriate time”, especially when you do not see the person every day to be able to gauge where they are on their challenge.  It can also be hurtful when your support is denigrated by a comment or reaction that bears no resemblance to the last contact you had with that individual.  However, “Pushing Back the Shadows” I believe takes understanding, where this blog is only one resource – not the ultimate resource; and takes that desire of the individual and their supporters to want to push against the shadow of depression rather than remaining trapped by it.  It is not a smooth path, but one that has many pitfalls and obstacles to be overcome.  BUT you don’t have to achieve release all at once – it is simply just one step (one day) at a time. This is what each professional and supporter will be encouraging you to do – take the next step – it’s not as big as “the shadow” would try to convince you. They are on your side, even when they say what you don’t want to hear.  They are trying to help you win today’s battle and take the next step to “Push Back the Shadows”.  

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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.

How to Help Friends and Family

There are times in our lives when we are called upon to do things that we never imagined. It is during these times that we find out just how strong we are.

That time for me came when my son fell into a deep depression and began to self-harm. Parenting can be difficult enough if your child is healthy, but if they have a mental illness it can be life altering.

When my children were young I read parenting books; the ones that explained how to train your child to sleep through the night and offered strategies for dealing with temper tantrums. When my children entered adolescents, I studied parenting books that demonstrated how to talk so they would listen and how to cope with angry outbursts while staying calm and maintaining my sanity. When my son suffered from severe depression and starting self-harming, I couldn’t find parenting books that provided me with skills, practical information, and therapeutic tools to help him. I felt frustrated, alone, and helpless.

It took a lot of time and effort to find the right course to help my son, and along the way I was able to help myself and others.

So, how can you help friends and family who are living with a mental health disorder?

Know the signs and symptoms

Knowing the warning signs for mental illness can help you to be a better parent and friend. There are multiple signs such as: excessive worrying or fear, feeling excessively sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks, extreme mood changes, prolonged irritability or anger, changes in sleep and eating habits, extreme difficulty concentrating, reckless behavior, and trying to harm or kill oneself. [i]  This is not a comprehensive list and some of these might be subtle, but knowing this information could be the difference between life and death. 

Set clear boundaries

Setting clear guidelines, rules or limits with friends and family can keep you from becoming overwhelmed. Make sure that you take time out for yourself. Be aware of enabling or repeatedly “rescuing” him or her, this can lead to a codependent relationship.  When my son was experiencing depression, I did everything for him because I wanted him to feel better and this over-protective parenting led to an unhealthy relationship. During that time, I often felt helpless and without a choice. After speaking with a counselor, I realized that my bond with my son was no longer safe or healthy for me. I slowly let him handle decisions for himself, allowing him to feel pride in what he did, and then I could validate and praise him. Over several months our relationship changed from an enabling one to a nurturing one.

Know how to make symptoms better

There are many ways to help with the symptoms of mental illness. These range from traditional (cognitive behavioral, group, and medication) to non-traditional (art, pet, meditation, music, and movement) therapies and everything in between. The most important thing to remember is to choose a positive method.  My son chose self-harm to help with his suicidal thoughts and depression. The self-harm worked in the moment, but it did not make symptoms better, in fact, in the long run, it made things worse.  The earlier someone living with a mental health condition seeks treatment the better the chance of recovery.  Include your friend or family member in your plans, help them stay positive, and encourage them to follow their treatment plan.

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Talk about it

Not only is it important for treatment that someone who lives with a mental illness talks to others about it, it is equally important that friends and caregivers talk too.  Parents, caretakers, siblings, and friends want to discuss the mental illness in their lives. They want to know that others are going through similar difficulties; they want to know that they are not alone. If those who are directly living through the mental illness of a loved one would be willing to talk about it, then maybe those who are physically experiencing it would be inspired to seek the help they need. If we take away the shame that goes with discussing mental illness and understand that it is an illness like any other, we open a door to real progress and improvement for mental health care.

Yes, I know what you are thinking. It’s scary, I know I kept the secret of my son’s mental illness hidden from just about everyone in my life. Why? Fear, shame, and embarrassment, all words surrounding stigma. Looking back now, I wonder why I was so afraid. Since I have “come out” about my son’s mental illness everyone I know has been supportive and encouraging, but such is not the case for many. I remain in the lucky few. It wasn’t easy for me to discuss my son’s illness. There were many awkward conversations, but the more I talked about mental health, the more comfortable I became and the more people I found who understood, empathized or were going through a similar situation. And these individuals wanted to talk about it openly and honestly. They wanted information, guidance, or just someone to listen.

Remember to validate

Validation is one of the most important elements to learn before helping anyone.

As humans, we want to “fix” problems. Often the best thing to do in a situation is to validate feelings, not diminish them. Validation does not mean you agree with someone else’s choice or even their feelings, instead it’s telling them that it is okay to have these feelings and that you still care about them. This will help your friend or family member feel seen, heard, and accepted and to know that what they say matters and is understood. Everyone deserves to be accepted without judgment.

Help to reduce stigma and take action

Each and every one of us has the power to help eliminate the misunderstanding, lack of acceptance, and the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. [ii]

Share links to resources on social media. Don’t stereotype or label others. Use people first language. Wear a mental health awareness bracelet-this can be a great conversation starter. Become a volunteer and a mental health advocate.

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This is nobody’s fault

There is a propensity in society to blame people for their mental illness, as if they had a choice in the matter. We also tend to blame the parents for the “faults” of their children.

 You wouldn’t want this for yourself, your child or another family member. Do not blame yourself or anyone else. Mental illness is just an illness of the brain. It is just like any other physical illness. Mental illness is no one’s fault.


The daily energy spent on helping someone who lives with a mental illness is enormous. Don’t give up hope, savor the good times. If you are struggling and drained of energy and life-force you can’t help anyone else. It is impossible to do it all yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help in your community.

It takes a village…. The time-honored African proverb speaks of the importance of community. Some say it originated from the Nigerian Igbo culture and proverb Ora na azu nwa, which means, it takes the community/village to raise a child. [iii]

So, use your village or community and get the help you need and deserve.





Theresa Larsen graduated from Florida State University with a degree in elementary education and a minor in psychology. She taught school in England, Wales, and the United States for over twelve years. She is a trained presenter and coordinator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s “Ending the Silence”-a mental health awareness program for youth. She is also a writer and her writing credits include a Welsh children’s book, an educational article published in the Cardiff Advisory Service for Education, parenting and mental health articles published on Yahoo,  PsychCentral, The Mighty, The Stigma Fighters Anthology Volume 2, and her award-winning memoir, Cutting the Soul: A journey into the mental illness of a teenager through the eyes of his mother.  

Learn more about Theresa at

Cutting the Soul at Amazon

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.