Building Our Dreams Up

Dreams

Have you got a dream?  I don’t mean the sleepy kind but the dreams that are plans for your life.  Something that you want to achieve.  It might be a career goal, a desire for a particular house or car or other possession.  What is it?

Tara, writer of www.wegotreal.com, wrote out her list of 100 dreams to share with us.  Included in those were things like visiting South America or Europe or Asia; travel for a year with her family overseas; read 1-2 books a month; perform in a community theatre production and many more.  Perhaps some of these coincide with your own dreams.  Personally, I want a Lamborghini.  Preferably a Gallardo or a Huracán, but we shall see what happens, eh?

Building Dreams

So you might be thinking that dreams are a strange choice of topic for a mental health blog.  It certainly seemed quite strange for me, but there is logic to my madness.  It all started with a tweet.  As coincidence would have it, this tweet:

It’s good food for thought, isn’t it?  After all, how many people like this do we actually know?  If we’re being honest, we know quite a few, don’t we?  They spend a lot of time telling other people how to live their lives, what they should and shouldn’t be doing.  But are they actually living?

The stereotypical and most obvious example would be parents.  Some parents insist that their children follow a specific career or educational path.  They have to go to uni, they must train to be something majorly successful such as a doctor or a lawyer.  Anything else is substandard, not good enough.  Alternatively, they believe that their child should enter the family business.  It doesn’t matter whether or not the child wants to, that business has been in the family for years and the child should follow in their parents’ footsteps no matter what.

Does this sound familiar?

Living Our Lives

Now those examples I gave before are perhaps a minority case.  I don’t really know how many people actually tell their children what they should and shouldn’t do in terms of their dreams.  My parents were always good at letting me make my own mind up, decide for myself what I wanted to do.  Not everyone is like that, though.

How many people tell us how we should live our lives?  Be it simple things such as how we should manage our daily stresses or how we should raise our children, do our work, all sorts of things like that?  Worse, how many people try and crush our dreams, labelling them as insignificant, unobtainable or as just plain stupid?

A scarier question, though…is are we guilty of doing that?

That’s right, I asked if we – that includes me as well as you – are guilty of telling other people how to live their lives or belittling their dreams.  It’s not something we will want to admit to…but I can’t help but wonder whether or not we’ve done it.

In truth, though, I think we’re all a little guilty of getting so wrapped up in what we think we should do and what we think others should do that we don’t really live our lives.  We hold ourselves to the dreams and standards that others set for us and we don’t really do what we love.  It can be a daunting prospect, though, following those dreams.  But does that mean we shouldn’t do it?

Chasing the Dreams

So what do we do?  Instead of telling others how they should live their lives, holding them back from their dreams – whether that’s by trying to put them on a particular path or by saying things like “I don’t think that’s a good idea, how can you afford it?” etc – we should focus on our own dreams.

I’ll give you an example: this website.  When my mental health started to spiral and I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I felt a calling to start a mental health support website.  I knew that it was going to be difficult, as we have running costs and it takes time to create the content, but I felt it was something important to do.  As a result, I’m building my own business out of this, so that I can bring about the awareness that is needed for people struggling with mental health conditions while making a living at the same time.  After all, it’s what I love doing.  I love helping the people who come to us needing help, I love raising the awareness and changing the lives of people who know nothing or next to nothing about mental health.

But it comes with costs.

As a result, there are people out there who disapprove.  Some people believe I shouldn’t be trying to make money from this – even though it’s all through donations that people are willingly pledging.  I’m not making people pay me for what I do.  I give it away for free and accept donations and pledges of support from others.  Others believe I should be in a job that is more secure, that pays a flat or set rate.  The trouble with that is that it would stifle the website because I wouldn’t be able to put the work in that I do.

So what is the right way?

I firmly believe that this is what I am meant to be doing.  This is my calling, my dream, my one aim in life.  No matter what other people think, no matter what they say, it is my responsibility to chase my dream.  No one else can tell me what I should be doing with my life.  After all, it is my life and it is mine to live.

So chase those dreams!

Who knows where they will take you!

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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.

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.

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.

“But the facts say…and they can’t be argued with!”

Facing the Facts

Facts…I don’t know about you but I used to hate them at school and university!  Every essay I ever had to write about anything had to be backed up with cold hard facts.  It didn’t even really matter what it was about, we had to reinforce our arguments.  I can honestly say it used to frustrate me to no end because I knew what my argument said, it felt justified, why did I need to include this fact or that fact to make it concrete?

Regardless of my feeling towards them, facts exist.  They’re all around us.  Sometimes simple things, other times a little more abstract, but we can find examples of them in our everyday lives.  The trouble is, they can be taken in three different ways:

  • treated as gospel
  • taken with indifference
  • completely ignored

Which are you?

Really, I’m sure we can all think of someone to fit each of those three categories.  I certainly can!  I could go on almost endlessly about certain individuals who refuse to accept what’s going on around them, even though it’s almost as set in stone as is possible.  Personally, I treat them with indifference because they’re there, I can’t change them, I’ll use them if necessary but other than that they can keep to themselves.  If that makes sense, of course.

It’s the first point that I want to focus on.

“The stats tell you all you need to know.”

That was said to me by someone over on our Twitter account, who believed firmly that I was wrong in saying that our struggle with our mental health doesn’t define us.  Apparently, things like thoughts, behaviours, etc are defining attributes and all of those, filled with mental illness, make our struggle our identity.  I argued that those can be changed, but apparently it’s a case that “it’s not about being convinced, the stats tell you all you need to know”.

Well…politely put…that’s a load of tosh.

Why?

Because why exactly should we go by the stats?  They might tell us that depression is a dark pit that only the extremely lucky can climb out of; that anxiety is a never-ending cycle of panic, calm, panic, calm; that insomnia is sleepless nights for the rest of your life.  Perhaps they tell us that people need medication and/or therapy in order to get out of mental illness, and even that isn’t guaranteed to work.

But why should we limit ourselves by what the stats and the facts tell us?

Aim for the Moon

Why exactly should we limit ourselves based on what the stats and facts are telling us?  Surely that is nonsensical?  After all, doing so only serves to shoot ourselves in the foot, crippling us before we’ve even left the starting line.  Believe me when I say it won’t get us anywhere.  Instead of helping us get better or work through our mental illness, we’ll start to believe that we cannot get out of it.

We will be limited before we’ve even started.

So what should we do instead?  Metaphorically speaking, we should aim for the moon, because that way if we fall, we fall amongst the stars.  Might seem whimsical and almost like some ridiculous fantasy, but isn’t it true?  If we set our sights on what the stats have told us and where the facts are, that’s as far as we will ever go, if we make it even that far.  If we set our sights beyond that then we stand a far better chance of making it past the limitations that they have put on us to begin with.

Wouldn’t you say that’s better?

In every single one of us, there is the potential to be something better than we are now.  We can move past the restraints our mental illness puts on us.  Granted, some of us will become another one of the “can’t be cured” statistics, but others of us might get through, who knows?

But why should we let the stats and the facts tell us that it’s pointless to even try?

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Become a Patron - Facing the FactsDisclaimer: 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.

Flipping the Fail to Find Fulfilment

When We Fail

Failure.  To fail.  Failing.  These are all words that we’ve come to dread, aren’t they?  They make us feel as though we’re not good enough.  We’re hopeless.  Worthless.  Rubbish.  In short: we have failed and we will never amount to anything.

Does this sound familiar?  In your life, you might feel like you’ve brushed with failure many times, or maybe just a few times as you’ve bulldozed your way to success.  Certainly, it’s a feeling that is one of the most common in the world.  But what is failure?  When we fail, are we a failure?  Have we failed?  Perhaps…but perhaps not.

Back in August 2017, Cheryl wrote about how there are days when she feels like a failure.  Days when nothing seems to go right and when we feel as though we are worthless, hopeless…that we can’t get anything right.  It’s almost as if we fail at everything we put our minds to.  We can’t achieve.  It’s been just over a year since she wrote that post and, in all honesty, it hasn’t been the last time she’s felt this way.  There are, however, two sides to every story and I would like to tell you my side.

I’m Only Human

Society has brought us up to believe that failure is bad.  If we fail then we haven’t achieved our goal and our efforts have been in vain.  Sound about right?  Whatever we have failed at – big tasks, small tasks or even something monolithic and almost monumental – we are worthless because we’ve not achieved.  That job we’ve applied for that we didn’t get?  We’re not good enough.  The problem that needed solving that we just can’t figure out?  We’re not smart enough.  Whatever it is that we haven’t achieved, we’re simply not good enough.

But we’re only human.

As Cheryl said in her post, to fail is human.  It’s something we all go through, something we all have to face.  Wouldn’t you say so?

“But I’m human. I’m also suffering with mental illness. And I’m not alone. Just from our interactions on Twitter, I know I’m not the only one who slipped and fell into darkness again. Oddly enough, that’s why I’m writing this, it’s why I’m not hiding and avoiding my task of getting my pick of the week posted. To remind everyone who slips that they are not alone. We make mistakes.” – Cheryl, from “Feeling Like a Failure”, August 2017

To fail is human, to fall is natural and we all go through it.  Through the shame, the disappointment and everything else that goes on inside of us when we fail, we are only human at the end of the day, and it’s natural.

But our mental illness doesn’t allow for that, does it?

“I Must Be Worthless”

While struggling with a mental illness, our self-worth takes a beating whenever we fail.  For those of you who are good at maths (not me, to put that on record), it’s as though our emotions surrounding failure have been magnified by the power of a billion.  It’s almost too much to deal with.

We feel worthless.

Cheryl is guilty of this.  I am also guilty of this.  I’m sure if you are being honest, you are also guilty of this too.  That simple acknowledgement can also feel like a failure, as we believe we should be better than this, but we don’t always process it rationally, do we?  You see, mental illness has a way of accentuating our feelings, making us feel worse than we actually are.  Depression, anxiety, BPD, bipolar…they love nothing more than to prey on our own emotions and make them ten, twenty, a hundred times worse than they are.  It can make us feel as though our failure is colossal and that we are completely worthless, for we can’t see the worth we have.

Though there is something I’ve not yet told you.  Something that might take this perception and concept of failure and flip it on its head.

You ready?

A Small Secret

There’s a little secret to dealing with failure.  You see, we tend to focus on one very simple, little, insignificant detail:

We did not achieve what we set out to do.

Looking at those words, it sums it up.  We set out with a goal in mind and we didn’t achieve that goal, therefore we’ve failed.  Despite our best efforts, we haven’t achieved that aim, ergo we are a failure, we have failed, there are no two ways about it.

Except…there are two ways about it.

Who says that your success or failure resides solely in achieving the aim that you set out to attain?  If anything, the aim itself is just one part of the journey to success.  Because that’s what it is: a journey.  Each time we set out to attain a goal, we are on a miniature journey to success and the end result is simply a part of that.  To refuse to acknowledge that is to discount the decisions, the attempts and everything else that goes into it.

So what is the reality?  What makes a failure not a failure?

The Reality of Failure

Even if you don’t achieve what you set out to do, you have not failed.  That’s right, I said YOU HAVE NOT FAILED!  Why not?  Because you tried.  Think to yourself, how much courage did it take to take that first step on your success journey?  The decision to try despite all the nagging voices and doubts inside your head (and sometimes outside your head in the form of real people) telling you that you couldn’t do it?  You’ve got to take those into account.

The reality is even if you didn’t achieve your goal, you still tried.  Against everything telling you why you shouldn’t or couldn’t do it, you still tried.  And that, my friends, is a success in itself.  You see, failure is only a true failure if you didn’t try.  As Lester B. Pearson said, “Failures are made by those who fail to dare, not by those who dare to fail.”

“Failures are made by those who fail to dare, not by those who dare to fail.” – Lester B. Pearson

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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.

The Speed of Progress – How Fast Should We Go?

Less Haste, More Speed

How often have you heard that??  Less haste, more speed.  If I had £1 for every time either I or my partner have said variations of this to both my stepchildren, I’d probably be a billionaire!  When the 4-year-old is putting her toys away, she’s in such a mad dash to get them tidy and moving onto the next thing that she often gets called back multiple times because she’s forgotten something.  Likewise, the teenager is often called back to redo some of the washing up because it hasn’t been done properly.  He’s in such a rush to get on his PS4 that he’s done a half-job and it needs to be done again.

Less haste, more speed.

The only trouble with this is we’re in a culture of instant gratification.  In the world of information, everything is there at our fingertips.  All it’s dependant on is our typing and browser speeds.  In shopping, plenty of companies offer Next Day Delivery or immediate reservation for collection.  In cuisine and dining we have our fast foods such as McDonald’s or KFC, but we also have “instant noodles”, “instant mash” and other “instant” products.

We want things now and we’re so used to it, in this social mess of a society, that we often think many other things should be instantaneous.

Like, perhaps, a recovery from a mental illness…

Slow Progress

The offending glass…

When it comes to our own recovery, we never think we’re going as fast as we should be.  As I write this, I’m recovering from a hand injury.  A glass shattered in my hand while I was washing it up and it’s left me with no feeling in half my thumb and I’ve had to have stitches.  Apparently there’s a chance the feeling might return to my thumb, and I know the wound will heal, but naturally I want it to be done now.  Not tomorrow, not next week, not later than that.

Don’t we always?

My poor hand…

Yet I know that, as with all such things, it will take time.  We aren’t like Harry Potter, we can’t just wave a magic wand and suddenly everything is healed and back to the way it was.  It simply doesn’t work that way.

So what do I do?  I have to be patient.

The Truth About Progress

We all heal at different speeds, don’t we?  Some of us can close wounds quicker than others, some of us recover at a far more rapid rate than other family members or friends.  Why?  There’s probably some scientific, medical, mystical reasoning for it but I’m afraid I don’t know that one.  I only know that our illness, be it mental or physical, and our recovery are personal.  Exactly what it says on the tin: they are our illness and our recovery.  No one else’s.

Even when other people try and get involved by coming and telling us that we really ought to be better by now – admittedly this happens more with mental illness than physical conditions – it is not their recovery.  They have no part in it.  We will recover, but it’s for us to do in our own time.  We might not know when that will be but we will still do it in our time.

And that’s OK.  It’s OK not to be OK, we don’t have to recover immediately.  We don’t need to be more resilient.  We will get there when we get there and not before.

So please try not to be too hard on yourself.  You’re making progress.  You’re getting better.  It doesn’t matter how quickly or slowly you go…you’re in a marathon, not a sprint.

Keep going!

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How To Overcome Anxiety

For those of us who get it, anxiety can be crippling. It’s difficult to get ourselves past it, but there are ways that we can overcome our anxieties. Here, I share my tips for overcoming yours today.

Useful Links:
Vote for Sarah Cardwell
Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

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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 Art of Escapism

Escapism – Plain and Simple

We all have our fantasies, don’t we?  Dreams that we wish would happen, things that we would do “if we had the money” or “if there were no limits”.  Like being a superhero!  What child doesn’t dream of magical powers?  As entertaining as these fantasies are, however, they aren’t real.  Unfortunately, they are just escapism, plain and simple.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of escapism is as follows:

Noun:
1. an inclination to or habit of retreating from unpleasant or
unacceptable reality, as through diversion or fantasy.

Now I don’t know about you, but I certainly love a little bit of escapism.  It’s one of my most successful ways of coping.  When my depression hits, retreat to some fantasy world.  Anxiety attack?  Distraction through fantasy.  Simple, really.  Moreover, it’s effective!  Those distractions don’t have to be massive or complicated.  No, if anything they can be plain and simple.

Distraction Bonanza!!

What would you do, then, if you could do anything?  Anything at all.  I’m curious!  There are so many things out there that we can do, the world is our oyster, so to speak.  Perhaps you prefer the outdoor world, travelling across the globe and visiting all sorts of wonderful places.  Alternatively, you might prefer the indoor world of books, video games, films.  You might be a creative type, enjoying writing, drawing, creating sculptures or music.  Whatever your tastes, I’m sure there is something that you would enjoy doing if you could do that for a moment.

For me, the answer comes squarely down on video games.  At least, for the moment, as our hobbies and interests can be quite fluid, changing from week to week.  Still, video games have lasted a long time for me and been very successful over the years at providing me with a good distraction.  I’d like to say I have a few different tastes, though looking at them, they do seem to boil down to one particular genre:

Fantasy and role-playing games.

Anyone else enjoy these?  Here are a few that I really enjoy:

SkyrimSkyrim - My ideal escapism.

Ah, the Elder Scrolls.  Ever since Morrowind, I’ve been a fan.  Creating a character, choosing what they look like, what skills to focus on – be it magic, stealth or toe-to-toe combat – and going out into the world to do whatever you want to do…it has a great appeal!  And Skyrim is just the latest in that vein.

There’s something about roaming the beautiful, cold tundras of Skryim, climbing from the lowest valleys to the highest peaks, finding things to fight and sharpening your skills.  It’s one of the joys of such games for me: being able to create that character and explore.  I love it!

Fallout 4Fallout 4 - another ideal form of Escapism.

Another strong contender – and unsurprisingly from the same company as the Elder Scrolls series – is Fallout 4.  Similar to Skyrim in the sense that you create your character, you choose your proficiency – stealth, combat, science, medicine, etc – and you go out and explore the Wasteland.  Post-nuclear blast that destroyed most of the world, the Wasteland is exactly what it says on the tin…yet it has an odd beauty to it.  There’s something about the desolation that is breathtaking and impressive.  It’s no surprise, really, that I lose myself in some of these games!

Dying Light

Dying Light - more good escapism.

Granted, this one isn’t quite like the other two, as you don’t create your own character.  You’re a GRE agent called Kyle Crane, dropped into the quarantined city of Harran to retrieve an important file.  The city is quarantined due to an outbreak of some virus that has turned most of the population into zombies.  You have to sharpen your skills and learn how to survive in this city, while you try and track down the perpetrator who has this file.  If you don’t want to do that immediately, that’s OK, as there are plenty of side quests that you can do.  With plenty of action, some jumpy moments and a boat-load of scares, it’s something that can certainly draw you in.  It might only appeal to a select audience, but it’s definitely one that appeals to me!

There are plenty more games that I could list – Forza Motorsports 6, Forza Horizon 3, Sid Meier’s Civilisation 5 &6, Age of Empires II & III and so on, but you don’t need me to waffle on about those.  Let’s talk escapism instead.

Escapism Perfected

Three aforementioned games, games that have a solid storyline to them but also have plenty of things to do beyond or around that.  In some, you create your character, in all of them, you choose what you want to do.  Add in the others and you have some that are simply more scenario-based (Civ or AoE, for example) but all of them have one thing in common:

Escapism.

These games offer me priceless moments of escaping from the reality that I might find myself in.  A depressive spiral, a day where I’m numb, a day where my anxiety is bubbling and boiling, threatening to go over…these games act as something to get me out of that.

It’s a distraction.

Something I can focus on other than what’s going on with me wherever I am at that point.

It’s escapism and it’s an art that I’ve perfected over the years.  Perhaps it’s not the best coping mechanism, but it’s one that I use to practise my self-care.  After all, isn’t that what successful self-care is all about?  Something that can draw me in, that can lift me out of those situations?  In each of those games, I’m not Alex the depressed, anxious Borderline Personality Disorder sufferer, I’m Alex the Warrior, Alex the Mage, Alex the Sniper, Alex the GRE Agent.  Driver, wandered, civilisation leader, strategist, commander of armies.  For a moment, however brief, I am able to be someone else.  That lifts me out of the pit.

Over To You

So what works for you?  What’s your ideal form of escapism?  Better yet, have you got any examples to show me if you write or draw or sculpt or something else?  I’d love to know!

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Acceptance – Our Problem or Not?

Acceptance – What I Mean

When you hear the word “acceptance”, what is it you think of?  Do you think about receiving a gift and accepting it?  Perhaps you think of other people accepting something that you’ve said.  Potentially you think of agreement? According to the dictionary, it’s all three.  More often than not, we’d probably lean towards the second definition, wouldn’t we?  But what does that have to do with our mental health?

Recently, I attended one of my Talking Therapy appointments with my mental health counsellor and we talked about some of the issues that I have regarding a couple of different situations in my life.  I shan’t go into detail about those on here, as they aren’t relevant, but suffice it to say that they involve situations that I cannot control.

For example: imagine that you are working in a call centre for a bank and you get a customer come through.  They’re furious because somehow a transfer that they requested hasn’t arrived in their account.  You then have to investigate, but you feel upset or angry that they are shouting and having a go at you.  Really, it’s not your fault.  You can’t, however, control how they are behaving, can you?

This is the kind of situation I’m referring to.  Something that someone else is doing or saying, an event or occurrence that is out of my control, something that I can try and influence but I cannot directly change.

Frustrating, isn’t it?

The Power of Acceptance

So I discussed the entire situation with my therapist, who listened intently, only asking a few clarifying questions.  Then she asked a very important question: “can you control what that/those person/people is/are doing?”

It stumped me because it seemed like such an obvious answer.  Well…no.  Unfortunately I don’t have telepathy or mind control or something along those lines, so there is no way I can control other people.  Even if I were a nasty person and resorted to things like blackmail – be it through use of a physical object or through emotional means – or threats, I could still not fully control someone.  So no…I can’t control them.

At which point, she made her answer clear.  In order for me to deal with the depression and low mood that follows this particular situation and others like it, I need to learn acceptance.  I cannot control what anyone else but me is doing, therefore I am not responsible for what they do, which means I am not to blame.  In that vein, I can stop beating myself up for everything that is going wrong or things that don’t happen because it is out of my hands.  Yes, I can influence what happens through words and deeds but I cannot control it directly.

Which is where acceptance comes in.

Confusing, right?  Well OK, maybe not completely confusing, but it took me a while to fully grasp it while she was talking.  So let’s look at it another way.

For Example…

A friend of mine is going through a difficult situation.  One of those where there is an ex-husband and kids and so on.  As with a lot of these situations, the matter of child custody is raised and arrangements of that nature are being made.  Both of them want to take an amicable, informal approach but there is a problem.

Both of them have different ideas of how it should be done.

Now, as with any situation where there are different ideas, there will be problems.  One such problem has arisen and they are in disagreement about how to handle it.  Involving when a child will visit, one parent believes the child should continue visiting mid-week as normal, the other (who has more contact as primary caregiver) has identified that this is unsettling the young child, distressing the child as they get confused easily about whose house they are going to.  So they have proposed scrapping the mid-week visits.  The friend wants the ex to make suggestions of alternatives, as they always come up with those suggestions, but the ex is making it as difficult as they possibly can because they “don’t see the problems” that the child is experiencing, nor do they believe that it is for the best.  Really, it is heavily implicit that the ex is doing what suits them best and not putting the child first, even though they vehemently deny it.

Anyway, this friend was particularly upset recently because of trying to make the arrangements and the ex was using a variety of tactics to try and get their own way.  Ranging from verbal bullying and threats to simply being argumentative over every little detail, they were trying to get their own way.  Why?  They disagreed with what was being said and, as I’ve previously mentioned, they were putting their own desires ahead of their child’s wellbeing.

So what do we do?

Acceptance

The trick here is this whole acceptance thing.  My friend cannot control the reactions of the ex.  As always, my friend is putting the children first no matter what.  That means making this difficult decision, scrapping the mid-week and figuring something else out.  Unfortunately, that also means dealing with a difficult ex and a difficult situation.  While talking to me, still upset, it became apparent my friend was self-blaming, asking whether molehills were being made into mountains and so on.

I asked a simple question: “Do you believe you are doing the right thing?”

“Yes.”

“Are you putting your child first?”

“Yes.”

Then, quite simply, the problem is with the ex.  No restrictions are being made, access is not being denied, so the problem is not with my friend.  As difficult as it is, that means accepting the ex’s behaviour because it is one of those uncontrollable factors.  Even with the best will in the world, neither my friend nor I can change the way the ex is reacting.  So why should we let it affect us?  Instead, accept that that is the way they have chosen to behave and let them get on with it.

It doesn’t need to affect us.

The Secret

You see, once we accept that a situation is the way it is, for whatever reason that may be, it loses its power over us.  Yes, we will still feel some of the feelings and emotions but we put techniques into place so that they don’t control our lives.  I’m not saying it’s easy – not in the slightest, as it can be very difficult to do – but if you can do it even a little bit, it can make life a lot easier for you.

Why not give it a go?  You might be surprised by the results.  After all…the therapists recommend it!  So see where it takes you.  Oh…and let me know how it goes!

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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.

Justified or Just Unjust?

Justified – How It Starts

How did we get here?  In the middle of an argument or at the tail-end of one, both parties wounded in some way, counting the tallied victories or points scored.  That’s the way of it, isn’t it?  We say what we say, do what we do and then decide later whether or not it was justified.  A society of speak/act first, think later.

And we are the pinnacle of that society.

It always starts with something small.  A spark, if you will.  Be it a comment, an action, an inaction…it doesn’t really matter what.  That spark lands on the wood that makes up our life and suddenly there’s the potential for that flame.  Instead of putting it out, we lash back, adding another spark and another and another until suddenly we have a fire.  Not just any old fire like you’d get in the garden firepit, but a roaring one that’s almost out of control.  As the flames rage, so do tempers and we lash back with venom and bile, letting the fires jump from branch to branch just like a forest fire.

We felt justified though, didn’t we?  When we tossed that first spark…weren’t we right?  After all, they were wrong.  Whatever they had said, whatever they had done, they were wrong.

It gives us that feeling of exoneration…but that feeling is short-lived as it turns to ash along with everything else.

Just How Justified Are We?

If I had to pick a favourite quote from a TV programme or a film, the title would definitely go to a particular quote from Doctor Who.  Say what you will about the casting and/or performance of Peter Capaldi, I’m sure we can all agree that this little monologue of his was one of the most memorable moments in the series:

“Because it’s not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does until what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. Sit down and talk! (sigh) Listen to me. Listen, I just, I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.” – the Doctor, from The Zygon Inversion, series 9 episode 8.

So come on.  How justified are we really?  And I include myself in that, because I know I get things wrong.  How right are we?

Perhaps will never know.  But even so, there’s something we need to think about first.

Behind the Scenes

The one thing we forget when we are quick to bite back is what’s going on behind the scenes.  What is the other person or people involved dealing with?  Not just the “here and now”, but beyond that.  How is their home life?  Their job?  Their finances?  Now go deeper.  What about their emotional and mental well-being?  If you believe in such things, what about their spiritual well-being?  Are they actually coping with life?  Their response could be due to any one of these factors.  Also, their initial comments or responses could have been caused by anything.

The harsh truth is no matter how justified you feel in your response, how concretely right you feel, you have absolutely no idea what triggered their response in the first place, nor what they are dealing with.  Life throws plenty of stresses at us and that can create all sorts of responses that we wouldn’t normally give.  While that doesn’t excuse it, it’s certainly something to bear in mind.

But let’s go deeper still.

What if your seemingly justified comment/argument/curse/temper-snap causes some harm?  Those of you familiar with how mental health works will doubtlessly know that some situations and scenarios can lead people down dark paths.  For anxiety, depression and BPD, self-harm can be a release for the pent-up emotions that threaten to overwhelm us.  While we are ultimately responsible for self-harming because we are the ones who pick up the blade, who is to say that someone’s abrupt or rude comment can’t push us down that path?

Behind the scenes, there may be a mountain that they’re struggling with, something that your “just action” (and that’s not to say it isn’t justified, for it might be) pushes them towards.  Who knows what kind of conflagration the spark of your actions will cause?

Getting On With Life

We don’t know what other people are struggling with.  Ultimately, no matter how justified we think we are, we need to stop.  Think.  Assess.  Is it actually worth the hurt, pain and potential suffering that it will cause?  Perhaps it is better to wait for things to calm down before we say our piece.  That’s not to say that anger or arguments cannot be justified – there are plenty of examples of this – but there is a time and a place for it.

My words can only go so far.  For a better meaning behind this post, I’d ask you to check out this song by Philippa Hanna.  It speaks volumes to me and summarises what I’m trying to say beautifully.  Why not take a listen, because you might find it speaks to you.

“Cos we’re all just getting on with living Going into battles nobody sees us fight Yeah, we’re all just getting on with living So try to be forgiving when we don’t see eye to eye We’re all just getting on with life.” – Philippa Hanna, Getting On With Life

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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.