“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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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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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.

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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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.

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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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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Your Voice Matters – Depression

Your Voice – Depression

In a world full of 6 billion+ people, we can feel as though our voice gets lost.  We are one person in a sea of millions of faces.  What do we matter?  Yet, each one of us has a voice, one that needs sharing, and so in this special post I bring you the experiences of people who suffer with depression and what it means to them.  Take a look.

* Due to the high number of responses we received, we were not able to include everyone’s response.  If you want to see all the responses then visit the tweet on Twitter or the post on Facebook!

So there you have it: the experiences of people who struggle with depression.  Is it what you expected it to be?  Different?  Let us know, we’re interested in your experiences as well!

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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.

Taking Time Out to Recharge

Taking Time Out

Do you have children?  If so, what sort of disciplinary methods do you use?  In our house, we have time out.  If the toddler is misbehaving, she usually sits on the chair for a number of minutes according to her age and reflects on what she’s done.  Then we reinforce it with the loss of a toy only if necessary.  Regardless, time out is usually the first port of call.  (Admittedly, it doesn’t always go well, as recently we had a 2-hour screaming fit from her where she didn’t want to be on the chair!!)

In this context, time out is a punishment, used to discipline a misbehaving child.  For this post, however, it takes on another meaning.  The joy of words, eh?  So many different meanings.

I’ve written before about how rest can be difficult to come by, and so we have to find different ways to recharge ourselves.  (Note: this does not involve using USB cables or chargers connected to live electricity ports or anything like that!)  If you have insomnia, like me, then that rest can be almost impossible to achieve by sleeping, as it’s more like a sleepless battle.

So how do we do it?

My Time Out

If you ask Cheryl, she will tell you that I work on this website a lot.  Whether it’s writing posts, recording podcasts or videos or simply interacting on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or our other social media accounts, I put a lot of time into it.

Which makes it all the more important to take some time out.

This year, for Cheryl’s birthday, she received some vouchers for Hoar Cross Hall and she decided it would be nice if she and I went for a couple’s spa day.  No kids, no work, no stress, just a nice day or relaxation.  To be honest, it was a wonderful experience.  Swimming in the pools, lounging with a book on the loungers, enjoying lunch together and having that relaxing feeling that there was no stress, no pressures of life and nothing else to worry about while we were in those walls.  Everyone was just there to relax, spend time together and work on finding that precious “me time”.

It was time out.

Time out from the daily routine of working or child-sitting, from the stresses that come from everyday things like bills or shopping or other such daily occurrences; time out from the darkness of depression and anxiety.

It was time to recharge, to rest, to relax.

A Welcome Break

I’m not saying for one minute that my depression wasn’t there, that my anxiety wasn’t constantly nipping at my heels.  Spending the day in swimwear was enough to trip the old anxiety a bit, as concerns about body image flood in along with the number of people at the resort.  However, it was time when I could actually find that relaxation time as well.  As difficult as it can be, pushing those mental health struggles aside to swim in the pool, to sit and chat in the Jacuzzi or to read a good book can be so beneficial to us.

It’s a welcome break.

A time for us.

It might be difficult to achieve, but it is entirely possible.  After all, we all have things that we enjoy doing.

Find What Works For You

Now, I understand that not everyone can afford a spa day.  Even as gifts from others, those things can only come around once every so often.  Taking that time out to relax doesn’t have to be a spa day.  It can be something else, something that you enjoy.  A nice walk in a nature reserve, a trip to a museum, a concert, whatever works for you.  If there is something that you enjoy, something that can distract you from the darkness inside your head, why not take some time out to do that?

It can only be beneficial, surely?

It doesn’t have to be expensive.  Nor does it have to be something grand that will take up a whole day or a week.  Sometimes just an hour or two can be enough.  With friends, without friends, whatever works for you.

And that’s the point: whatever works for you.

So why not try it?  Who knows what kind of good it will do?

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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.

Knowing When Not to Fight

Not Fighting and Giving Up

A battle from Age of Empires 3.
A battle from Age of Empires III.

If I was to tell you that I wasn’t fighting anymore, invariably you’d think I’d given up, wouldn’t you?  In any of the copious video games that I play – Civilisation 5, Age of Empires III, that sort of thing – if you stop fighting then you’ve effectively surrendered.  To win, you have to defeat the other players; to defeat the other players, you have to fight.  If you know the games in question, you could argue that in Age of Empires II, you can win by building a Wonder of the World or capturing all the religious relics and holding them for a set amount of time, but in order to stop the enemy from taking them, guess what…you have to fight!

If you’re like me and you play similar games, you might think it’s a bit odd for someone to say “don’t fight”.  Almost controversially, that’s exactly what I’m saying to you now.

Don’t fight.

It’s a fine line between not fighting and giving up, but it’s an important differentiation that I think needs to be established.  After all…it’s your life we’re talking about here!

The Fight of Our Lives

Depression, anxiety, bipolar and other mental health struggles have one thing in common: they’re a battle.  Whether it’s pulling yourself out of a dark pit or fighting off a panic attack, or simply getting out of bed in the morning, it’s a fight.  The worst part is that fight lasts from the minute we get up to the minute we go to bed, and sometimes even though the night.  Every minute of every day, we find ourselves fighting battles in our heads.  Regardless of what those battles are, we find ourselves embroiled in them, fighting for control.

It sounds like some kind of epic fantasy story, along the lines of the Wheel of Time or the Lord of the Rings, doesn’t it?  (Please tell me you enjoy those!)

With all those waking moments taken up in the fight of our lives, not much thought is given to the concept of not fighting.  Whether it’s stigma or whether it’s something more, this idea of not fighting is very much akin to the notion of giving up.  Giving up in a mental health battle, as I’m sure you thought when you read those words, means suicide.

Not something we want to consider.

But this notion is wrong.

Picking the Battles to Fight

When I tell you not to fight, I don’t mean give up.  Absolutely not!  Keep fighting with every breath and ounce of energy that you have.  No one deserves to lose that fight.  Instead, I’m telling you to pick your battles.  Choose when to fight.

My example?  It’s comes directly from my journey.  See, I’m convinced that my medication isn’t working as well as it should.  A lot of people would tell me that my expectations of it are far too high, that I’m thinking it will do more than it actually will.  Others will give me that classic line “you’re making a big deal of nothing”.  Charming, really!  My point, though, is that those notions can make me want to fight what my body is telling me.  My body says that the meds aren’t working sufficiently, yet my instinct would be to fight it.  Refuse to go to the doctors, that sort of thing.

But where will that get me?

Similarly, there are people who would fight the idea of going on medication in the first place.  Others will fight the necessity to take a trip to the doctor – a bit like I did originally – trying to convince themselves that nothing’s wrong.  They’ll continue fighting themselves – out of stubbornness or fear or whatever else might be motivating them – and effectively making the problem worse.

It’s all about picking the battles.

Choose Your Battlefield

You are the experts on yourselves, guys.  You know what you can do, what you can’t do and so on.  With that in mind, pick your battles carefully.  Don’t delude yourselves into believing things are fine if they’re not.  Try not to get caught up in spats between other mental health sufferers, because those realistically won’t help anyone.  If there is a treatment plan devised for you, don’t fight it.  Believe me, with only so many spoons to hand, it isn’t worth fighting it.  It will save you energy in the long run.

So pick your battles.

You’re not giving up.

You’re not losing.

Instead, you’re being smart.  Tactical.  Clever.

You’ve got this.  More than you might care to believe.

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.

Practising Self-Care and Pacing Ourselves

Practising self-care sounds selfish but really it’s anything but! If anything, it’s good for us.  We need to look after ourselves before we can look after others, no?  I think so.  Join me as I talk about how I practise self-care in some conventional forms and why I make sure to pace myself even when on a brilliant day.

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Become a Patron - Practising Self-CareDisclaimer: 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.