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.

Don’t Tip the Scales

The Table Tip

It might seem like an odd title for a post, “Don’t Tip the Scales” but, as usual, there is logic to my madness (I know, I know…it’s scarce!)  Before I reveal that, though, I want you to think of the show Total Wipeout.  Do you remember that?  Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina and hosted by Richard Hammond, it was an obstacle course competition where contestants pitted themselves against each other to be crowned the Wipeout Champion.  They’d go through the qualifier, eliminating the out-of-shape or slowest of them.  Next came a second challenge designed to thin out the herd even more.  Then the last three would compete in the epic Wipeout Zone for the title of champion.

I loved it!

Seeing people fail…while it’s not necessarily a nice thing to enjoy, seeing people fall into the pools or muddy pits was actually really funny.  A bit like seeing those people take on Takeshi’s Castle or the American Ninja Warrior challenges.  There’s an odd kick that can be had out of seeing these people, so confident and full of that bravado, trying and failing to beat the course.

One part that I remember from Total Wipeout was the Tippy Table in the Dizzy Dummies run.  A large table that tipped steadily from side to side (at least as far as I remember it), making contestants slide into the pools at either side.  It’s that that I want you to picture.

The Total Wipeout Tippy Table

A Mental Health Tip

Just as the Tippy Table tipped contestants into the water, I find our mental health can tip us as well.  If you have depression and anxiety, as I do, then it’s possible for our mental health to tip like that Tippy Table.  Walking with depression and anxiety is like walking a knife’s edge because one false move or misstep and you’re over the edge.

What do I mean?  Well, I’d like to tell you a little story of something that I’ve experienced.  It’s one of the harder parts of walking with depression and anxiety.  I was sat in my old church in one of the services, participating as I normally would (I was in the brass band, the singing group and so on) and I suddenly felt my anxiety clawing at me.  Yes, I do actually mean clawing at me, because it felt like some ferocious beast trying to suffocate my heart.

I sat there as best I could, trying to fight the demon – yeah, I know, not very religious and holy to have a demon inside of me in church, but that’s how it felt at the time!  Unfortunately, all my best efforts failed and I ended up having to get up and remove myself from that situation.  I found a small, quiet room and barricaded myself in a little so that I could have a moment to attempt to recover.  Seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn’t work.

In the end, I went home.  It was only a five minute walk, round the corner to the block of flats I lived in, but I thought the fresh air and the home environment would have done me some good.  Already, the anxiety was abating and my heart-rate was slowing back down to normal.  I bet you can’t guess what happened next…

Off the Knife-Edge

Imagine for a moment that you are walking on that balance bar.  Cheryl did one recently at Cattle Country when we went on holiday.  We’d stopped off to break up the journey and give the 4-year-old a little bit of respite from the car and Cheryl decided she was going to do the balance beam.  As her weight shifted, the beam went to turn one way so she compensated for it to right herself.  That compensation turned into overcompensation, however, and she fell off the other side instead.

Well, this is what happened to me.  In my attempts to push myself out of my anxiety attack, I pushed myself too far.  Instead of my mood and emotions rising and rising in the uncontrollable bouts of anxiety, they plummeted like a meteor crashing or a spaceship re-entering the atmosphere in free fall.

My mood crashed.

In a matter of half an hour, perhaps even less time, I went from being so anxious that I was bright red from additional blood flow, heart racing, unable to sit still and remain in the situation, to being at rock bottom.  I was feeling nothing.  It was as if I’d just completely severed any kind of emotional link in order to protect myself, much like an electrical device has a fuse to protect itself from too much electricity.

And so it was that I crashed.  Completely and utterly, back to “the cutting room floor”, so to speak.  Yes, I’m attempting to put a humorous spin on it, but that’s one way that I cope.  In pushing myself out of the anxiety attack, I’d sent myself head-first into a depressive spiral that sent me back to self-harm to cope.  It wasn’t something I’d have thought I’d go straight to, but it happened.

A Balancing Act

So, as you can see, having a mental illness is just like a balancing act.  You walk the knife’s edge, trying not to tip yourself one way or the other.  It’s a constant struggle between sink or swim, fight or flight, getting yourself where you need to be with the resources that you have.  If you wonder why someone with depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions is often tired…this is why.

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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 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.

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.

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.

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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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.

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.

Telling People the Truth…Harsh or Fair?

Convincing Depressed People They’re Mentally Ill – Truth or Lie?

Don’t you love it when someone is trying to make a point, one that goes against what you believe, and they then inadvertently give you a greater social media footprint for that day, better website views and a post topic?  Truth be told…I love it!

So let’s dive in.  What happened?  Well, on the 13th of August 2018, I sat down at my computer, opened my browser and started loading my website along with my social media accounts that I was going to work that day.  As I was catching up on my Twitter notifications, I came across this one response to a tweet of mine.  It was from Rob Grant.  Check it out:

So let’s look at the tweet in question.  It was one of our #BruisedMinds images that I share across our social media platforms.  In fact, it was the image on the left.  Looks pretty encouraging, right?  Well apparently Rob disagreed with one part of it: that depression is a mental illness.

Let’s have a look at his reply and break it down (no, honestly, I’m not getting some kind of enjoyment from this…but oh I do love a good debate/argument!)

“Mental Illness Can’t Be Cured – Depression Can”

OK, suffice it to say that I’m confused with this bit.  In a nutshell, Rob’s whole argument centred around this concept.  He is convinced that depression is not a mental illness because it can be cured, as opposed to things like schizophrenia or bipolar.  Forget for a moment that depression affects the mind and it’s, by its very nature, an illness (as apparently that’s wrong) but look instead at the part where he says it can be cured.

Did you know that?  Hooray!  That black dog inside your head can finally be cured!  *Now re-read those last two lines in a sarcastic tone of voice please…*

There’s a word for his kind of argument but I’m polite and won’t say it.  Even so, what is he on about?  Depression can be cured?  Since when?  Every single article that I’ve found – both scientific and casual – say that depression has no cure but it is treatable.  Treatable.  We’re given medication, we’re given therapy, but that doesn’t amount to a cure.  There’s no magic bullet that zaps it.  It’s trial and error for everyone which, correct me if I’m wrong, is treatment, not a cure.

But that’s not the point I want to make here.  That particular point stems from the first part of his tweet…

Convincing Depressed People They Are Mentally Ill Will Put Them In a Deeper Hole…Truth or Lie?

OK…let’s make one thing very clear: depression affects the mind, depression is an illness, depression is, therefore, a mental illness.  Are we all agreed?  If we’re not, you might want to skip the next section, because you won’t like it.

Alright, glad you’re still with me.  So how many of you actually have a problem with the term “mental illness”?  Do you find that it actually makes you worse?  Interestingly, I had a number of people tell me it actually made them feel better in terms of fighting their depression.  So, ignoring the remark he made at the beginning of that, let me tell you what I think.

Personally, I’ve found that there is nothing wrong with being told I have a mental illness.  Truth be told, it is something that I would expect once I’ve been told that I have depression.  After all, depression is a mental illness in my mind.  Regardless, I find that it is beneficial for people to know that they are mentally ill.

Think of it this way: your computer has a problem that needs fixing.  You get it to run a diagnostic and it comes up with the error code and what the problem is.  OK, machines can’t think in the same way that we do, so it’s not like you’re telling the computer it’s ill…but by getting it to tell you what’s wrong, you’re able to fix it.  Likewise, if someone has anorexia then surely there’s something in their brain preventing them from eating?  So is that not a mental illness?  Whether a biological or chemical factor preventing us from doing what is deemed “normal”, is it not still an illness?  If we aren’t told that we are mentally ill, won’t we just assume that we’re fine and then not get treatment?

What do you think?

So you tell me…is making the link between depression and mental illness cruel?  Is informing someone that they have a mental illness going to put them into a deeper pit of darkness and despair?  Somehow I don’t think so – though I’d welcome attempts to change my mind.

Let’s see if you can!

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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 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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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.