Episode 53 – Continue to Step

Step By Step

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

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Become a Patron - Continue to StepDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

It’s Not That Simple…

The Simple Answer

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

Useful Links:
Looking For the Positives

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Become a Patron - It's Not That SimpleDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Taking Time Out to Put Time In…

Put Time Aside

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

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

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

Behind the Metaphor

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

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

And I love it!

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

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

What I Put In

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

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

Yet how often is that what’s needed?

Customising a car in Horizon 3.

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

How would the quick upgrade know that?

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

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

Taking Time Out to Put Time In

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

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

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Become a Patron - No Room For ErrorDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Episode 52 – Why World Mental Health Day Is A Problem

World Mental Health Day 2018

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

Useful Links:
Episode 48 – Advocacy Immunity

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Become a Patron - Why World Mental Health Day Is A ProblemDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Have We Changed?

“You’ve Changed!”

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

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Become a Patron - Have We Changed?Disclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Facing Down the Demons Anxiety Gives Us

When Demons Drag Us Down

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

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

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

Out and About…or not…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I faced down one such demon!

Facing Down While Looking Up

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

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

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

Quite the dilemma.

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

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

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

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

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Become a Patron - How To Overcome AnxietyDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

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.

Episode 51 – Relationships and Mental Health

Mental Relationships


Maintaining relationships while struggling with our mental health can be incredibly difficult, both on us as the sufferer but also on the other person.  Together, Cheryl and I look at how we manage to maintain a successful relationship while we both struggle with our mental health.  We cover practical suggestions and other tips and tricks.  Why not join us?

Useful Links:
Talking Things Through
Practically Perfect

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Become a Patron - Relationships and Mental HealthDisclaimer: 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.

If We’re Honest…

Being Honest

Honesty is supposedly seldom-seen in today’s world.  People are rarely honest with each other and some businesses are built on dishonesty.  With mental health, however, it is important that we practise honesty.  But not just to other people!  We need to remember honesty with ourselves as part of our self-care.  What do I mean?  Find out more.

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Become a Patron - If We're HonestDisclaimer: 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 Name of the Beast

What’s In A Name?

“Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.”
– Juliet Capulet, Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

What’s in a name then?  I felt Juliet Capulet had a few interesting thoughts on that, though we’re not really here to discuss names, are we?  No, this post is on a slightly different slant.  More specifically: diagnosis.

Plenty of people have asked me over the years why I am committed to delving as deeply into my mental health as I can to find out exactly what I struggle with.  After all, I do seem to dig deeper and deeper until I’m satisfied that everything that is there is diagnosed – which is how my Borderline Personality Disorder came to light.

But why do I do it?

A Society Neatly Labelled

We have a lot of labels in our society.  Naturally, it makes sense that things around us have labels, but we find a lot of people have them too.  Everyone, nowadays, seems to have some kind of label, no?  Some defining attribute, something in their physical appearance, something else…it gets taken and turned into a label.

So it is with mental health as well, for people find their diagnosis becomes their identity.  Just as the classic line for AA says “Hi, my name is X and I’m an alcoholic”, we find plenty of people are being labelled according to their mental health.  People are known by whether they’re depressed, anxious, bipolar, have a personality disorder, or even an array of physical health conditions.

Assuming all that is accurate…why, then, would I want to find out what all my labels are?

Quite simply: it names the beast.

The Name of the Beast

Call me crazy (although my mother had me tested…no, only joking) but I find a label helps me to cope with my mental illness.  In the same way someone else can identify it, I find that I can better identify with it as well.  It helps me understand what I’m dealing with.  In a sense, it gives me a truer understanding of the problem.

Alright, let’s sidetrack a moment.  Imagine you’re in the swimming pool with your child – for argument’s sake, we’ll say a four-year-old, as I’ve got experience of that.  As she can’t swim well, she’s got a rubber ring on but you find the rubber ring keeps deflating.  That implies that there is a hole in it where the air is escaping, but you can’t fix it without knowing where the hole is.  So begins the epic hunt for this tiny pinprick so that it can be fixed.  The only trouble is you have to know exactly where that hole is.

Likewise, having a diagnosis provides me with the information that I need to be able to cope with the condition.  Before the diagnosis, I know something is wrong.  I know that there are things that will need changing, perhaps, or things that will need attention before whatever it is can be made better.  But without knowing what it is that needs fixing (as opposed to the location for the rubber ring analogy), how can I fix it?

So for me, having a name for whatever is wrong, having a diagnosis is helpful.

The Caution to this Tale

Knowing what the illness or condition is is all very well, but what happens afterwards, what we choose to do with it is something else entirely.  For some, it seems to be that they collect medical diagnoses almost like scout/brownie badges, as avidly as a collector.  That’s not disagreeing that they have those conditions, but does it really help them move past it?

Others will take those labels, make them their own and continue to hold onto them the way a miser holds onto money.  They cannot be parted from them because suddenly it is an immovable part of their personality or psyche and no one can take that away from them.

It’s important, as we gather these labels, that we don’t stick them to ourselves with superglue.  We still have that responsibility to try and work through them instead of sitting in them.  If we don’t move forwards, we will be forever stuck with them when there is still the potential to move past it or through it.  (Granted, some conditions are lifelong and that’s OK, but others aren’t and it’s those that this last comment concerns itself with).

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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.