Episode 50 – Sometimes We Have To Take It

Sometimes We Need To Take It

It can be difficult when we find ourselves on the rough end of someone’s mental illness.  Sometimes, though, despite our best intentions and wanting to walk away from it, we have to take it.  But there is a cautionary note to this too.  What?  Listen to find out!

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Successful Self-Care
Top Tips for Self-Care
Practising Self-Care and Pacing Ourselves

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Whose Problem Is It Anyway?

Problems Problems Problems…

Whenever something bad happens like someone not talking to us or people not understanding our mental health, we make it our problem.  We blame ourselves.  Don’t we?  And yet is it really down to us?  Let’s find out.

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Who I Am

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“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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Who I Am

Who Am I ?

At one time or another, everyone faces this question. Sometimes we follow it up with who do I want to be or where do I see my self in 5 years, but the starting point is always, who am I? It’s sometimes that big philosophical moment, that moment of addressing the human condition or even a self-inspection of our own souls. Yet it is the bedrock of who we are. That core of what makes who up who I am. So who am I?

Now I could list the things I am.  A mum, a daughter, a partner, a call centre worker. I am depressed. Is that me?

No.

Who I am is so much more, even if I don’t see it myself a lot of the time.

Getting To The Crux

So what’s got me thinking about all this? Well, to do that I’ve got to tell you a little story. Someone in my life who I love very much has hurt me, repeatedly in the last few months, someone who I would never have thought would. Called me unforgivable things. Rejected me and Alex when we’ve tried to reach out to them. Ignored us for weeks on end. This person has promised over and over that they’ll change, that they’re sorry and that they won’t do it again, to then repeat the whole process, again and again. It’s been agonising for both of us.  Believe me, there is a lot of anger both in me and Alex about this.

Then this morning, a call came. This person needed help. Nothing huge, but they needed a lift and they called me. So what did I do?

Now you could ( quite rightly) argue that I told this person to swing their hook. They’ve hurt me and those who I love, over and over. Why should I help them?

Because at the crux of me, that is who I am. Who I am is the person that if someone calls and says they need help, I help. No matter how much they’ve hurt me. I am the person who will answer that call, go out in the dark to take a friend food when they haven’t eaten, lend money when I don’t really have it to give. Buy someone a gift they can’t afford for themselves because I know it will help lift them out of the darkness.

It’s who I am.

I know, it’s annoying as anything. Because more often than not I will end up getting hurt again. But does that mean I won’t help? No. Does it mean I have forgotten or forgiven those actions? Definitely a NO. Believe me, you have no idea of the anger I felt this morning when this call came. It would have been very easy to leave them stranded.

But as I say, that’s not who I am. It doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else. It certainly doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven their actions. (they may have had quite an earful about it on the car ride) It’s just, this is me. It’s conflicting and annoying and it can contribute to my mental health issues in a terrible way sometimes. The impact of having people you care about you use and abuse you can be huge. I am learning to build up walls to that, but it’s slow.  And it goes for everyone in my life.

Now I know that I’ve mentioned the movie ‘Moana’ before, but one of the lines from my favourite songs in the movie looks at the issue of who you are.

“Who am I? I am the girl who loves my island, and the girl who loves the sea. It calls me…………..I am everything I’ve learned and more”

For the character loving her island and the sea is conflicting and even against the wishes of her parents. They are angry and fearful that she will be hurt because of her fathers own experiences. I get that. I see why Alex is so angry with the people who hurt me, it reminds him too much of his own hurts. But does it mean I should change one of the core things of who I am? One of the things that he loves about me?

I truly hope not.

Like I said, I have not forgiven or forgotten. I am learning. But this part of me, no I won’t change it. It’s who I am.

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Episode 49 – How Can We Get Help?

Asking For Help

Asking for help can be one of the toughest things to do.  When we finally work up that courage, there are a few things that can knock us back down.  Being ignored or not properly listened to, having our struggle belittled and having advice shoved at us.  In this episode, I ask how we’re meant to get help when that’s all people do.  Warning: it’s not for the easily offended.  It carries an important message that we must share.  These are things we must change.  So why not listen?  See what you can do.  Look after others.  But most importantly: listen and take the time to understand.  You won’t be able to assist them otherwise.

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Talking Things Through
Practically Perfect

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Continuing to be Remembered

“Don’t Forget You’re Remembered”

It’s an amazing thing, isn’t it, what happens when you have a mental breakdown and suddenly disappear off the face of the earth.  For a short while, it’s as though nothing’s happened.  You lock yourself away, avoiding anything and everything that could possibly make your excruciating mental state worse and you go radio silent, preventing anything from getting to you.  Then, people suddenly seem to notice that you’ve gone.  That’s when the messages start.  Messages reminding you that “you’re remembered in thoughts and prayers”, “best wishes to you” and the like.

You’re remembered.

Isn’t that nice?  In my mind, it sounds remarkably like I’m already dead, but that might just be me and the state of mind that I’ve been in recently.  Anyway, it has a sense of finality to it.  Perhaps they think you’re never coming back.  Or maybe they’ve just given up on you already.  After all, the world can be very fickle.

Have you ever felt that?  That the words people choose for their messages push your mind in certain directions?  “I’m thinking of you”, having that ongoing concern but “you’re remembered in thoughts and prayers” feeling like you’re a part of the past?  It’s something I’ve dwelt on for a long time, wondering.

You see, there are so many things that I believe people get wrong when dealing with mental health.  One of those big things, as I’ve written about before, is putting the onus of communication onto the sufferer.  I feel there is no need for it, as people who care – and truly care – about the person suffering shouldn’t take the attitude that says “well I never hear from you, so why should I message?”  Though that’s a subject from a previous post.

But even when they’re not talking…don’t worry, because you’re remembered…

A Lame Excuse

Perhaps a little of my anger will show through in this particular section, but I’m sure as we progress you will understand where I’m coming from.  You see, the lines of “you’re remembered in our thoughts and prayers” just smacks of an excuse to me.  Not just any excuse, but a pretty poor excuse.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but it really really sounds like they’re saying “I want to care but I’m far too busy, so I’ll give you this lovely sentiment of being remembered so that you’ll feel better.”

Am I wrong?

It feels lazy.  As though they’re either too busy to bother arranging something or they simply cannot be bothered.  At least, that’s what it seems like to me.

Now, a lot of people reading this who have used that line will argue with it.  They’ll say that they’ve tried to arrange things, that they’ve attempted to make more of an effort to see you.  They’ll say that they’ve been met with a brick wall of radio silence, that they’ve not had any answers or that there has been no effort made on the part of the sufferer.  In other words, they’ll say it’s not their fault.

And maybe it isn’t.  Maybe they are simply doing the best they can with the situation that they have.  After all, if we won’t reply then what exactly can they do, eh?

What people don’t realise is that first impression, that initial moment is the key.

Cataclysm

In interviews, they say, it takes only 7 seconds to make that first impression.  7 seconds.  That’s it.  If we fail…then we fail, that’s it.  No more chances to make that good impression.

So let’s travel back together to that XXX.  How did it begin?  As I’ve already mentioned, it began with me putting up those walls, dropping out of things, initiating that radio silence.   Getting to grips with my condition left me with little room for anything else.

It was hell.

The radio silence, for the record, might as well not have happened.  After all, with no messages coming in to find out how things were, there was no point in maintaining that radio silence because there was nothing to respond to.  Not that I would have been able to respond if there had been messages.  With depression haunting my every waking moment, I didn’t want to talk to people.  I didn’t have the energy.  Because that’s one of the big problems with depression and other mental health struggles: the lack of energy.  Responding to people, trying to find the words to explain how I was feeling…that took energy that I didn’t have.

That brings us back to first impressions.  No one had noticed I wasn’t there, no one had thought to drop me a message to find out how things were going.  That cemented itself into my mind and, when the messages finally started coming, it was too late.

I’d given up.

They were meaningless.

The Blame Culture

You see, we live in a culture that seems to emphasise blaming others for whatever is going on in our lives.  Whether it’s a person, an object or something else, we will blame anyone or anything so long as we can avoid shouldering that responsibility.  It’s far too common, isn’t it?   I mean…have you ever heard someone use the excuse of “the dog ate my homework”?  I’m sure that’s one you’ve heard of.  Check these out (from the Reader’s Digest):

You see what I mean?  We are so intent on escaping any kind of culpability that we will blame everything and anything else.  And that’s what happens in these situations.  People will give us those short, “heartfelt” reminders that we are “remembered” but then do nothing else.  When we raise it as an issue, we are then told that we’re being ungrateful or that we never give them a chance or that we simply don’t message or don’t respond so why should they?

Likewise, we are quick to blame others when we lose contact with people or they don’t get in touch.  Who is really to blame, though?  After all, both parties could do more.  We, as mental health sufferers, could try and message a bit more and see if we can keep in touch.  Similarly, we as friends and family members supporting loved ones could make more effort to be understanding, compassionate, and realise that sometimes it might not be possible for the sufferer to message first.

My Conclusion

At the end of the day, having that reminder that we are “remembered in thoughts and prayers” is a cop out.  Why not replace it with actual direct questions?  Granted, a lot of people think “Hi, how are you doing?” is a bit of a lame message, so why not take it the next level deeper?  “Hi, how are things going?  Been thinking of you lately.  I’ve been doing X, Y or Z recently.”  Make that little bit more effort.

Who knows?  It might actually get you somewhere.

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Episode 48 – Advocacy Immunity

Advocates and Their Immunity – Myth?

It seems to be a common misconception that people think advocates have some sort of mental health immunity.  Like diplomatic immunity, it’s almost believed that advocates are exempt from some of the daily mental health struggles.  Is it true?  Is it something that you, perhaps, believe?  We have many myths, such as high-functioning depression, that are actually true, but is this one?  Truthfully, it always surprises me to hear it, but here I shall debunk the myth behind this.  Why not join me?

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Become a Patron - Advocacy ImmunityDisclaimer: 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.

Managing Motivation – My Secret!

Managing Motivation

Do you ever find you’ve got no motivation to do anything? Well here, I share my secret as to how I get motivation to be productive. Why not join me?  It’s important for getting your work or other jobs done but it’s also vital for practising that successful self-care.  So do you want to get motivated?  Check out the video for more!

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Practising Self-Care
Successful Self-Care

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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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Trying to Change

Is Change Possible?

Something that I frequently find myself thinking is what will it take for my mental health to truly recover? I get tired of trying to change and it seems to be an incredibly long journey.  Little things can knock me backwards. Yet everyone says that compared with how I was, I am vastly improved. I don’t feel it though.  But I keep trying, over and over. I do the exercises and activities I’ve learned from counselling over and over, along with taking my medication. A broken leg would be healed by now, but my broken mind? Apparently not. Only recently, it took everything in my power not to end up back self-harming. The crawling shadow of depression has been haunting me for days and I’m exhausted from fighting it. So why do I do it? Why do I keep trying to change what seems to be inevitable?

Stubbornness: My Greatest Character Flaw

One thing many people say about me, is that I’m stubborn. It can be one of my less desirable traits.  Like my dad before me, I dig my heels in and won’t back down. One of his favourite songs when I was a teenager was by a band called Chumbawumba, it inspired him to keep going with his small business even in the face of increasing odds of failure. It kept him going. Last year when he was in a coma after collapsing I played this song to him over and over, trying to get him to come back to us. Sadly, the truth was he’d already gone.

After his death last year, I truly thought I would not recover. My mental health was already devastated. Losing my dad on top plunged me even further into the darkness. But I kept hearing that song. The same line, over and over.

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down.

Every time I think about giving up trying to change my mental health state, I hear this song. Like a whisper from heaven, I hear it and see my dad, telling me not to give up.

Keep Trying to Change, because it’s Time for Change

The reason I keep trying to change is that I want to show that even when you may not ever be cured of a mental health problem, you can change enough of your behaviours to manage it. You can be the person to break down the stigma surrounding mental health by talking about it. By sharing my experience I have come into contact with countless others, and we’ve learnt from each other, supported each other. These are changes I want to continue making. By sharing my story at work, it’s helped others step up and voice their concerns over mental health and how it’s treated in the workplace. To make the change, we have to be the change.

So yes, it’s difficult. There are times I feel it would be easier just to sink back into the darkness. But I don’t. You don’t have to. It’s okay to have a mental health problem, no matter what it is. There will be bad days, there will be good days and that’s okay too. By being honest about it, hopefully we can bring someone else out of the darkness where they thought they were all alone.

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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.