Feeling Lost

I’ve not done much writing lately. I know Alex hasn’t either. He’s currently struggling to find the motivation to work on the website. Me? I’m just too busy going from here to there, trying to get everything done in time for Christmas. Some days I manage to schedule on Twitter, some days I don’t. When I don’t, I feel that I am seriously letting Alex down. When he’s been through periods like this before, I’ve been able to pick up the slack. But this time?

This time, I’m struggling to do that. Yes,like a lot of people this time of year, I’m running around sorting presents, food preparation and fitting in seeing people. But that’s not why I’m struggling. The reason is I’m feeling lost. The website has been such a big part of our lives. A project we’ve worked on together that has given us feelings of worth and productivity. And my partner in all this, the creative mind, the fuel that burns the fire that creates such wonderful articles, seems to have lost the will to carry on.

A Calling

I often say Alex was called to do this. I truly believe he is. He saw a need and has spent the last 18 months trying to fill that need for others, helping to improve understanding of mental health and support both sufferers and those around them. He has done this relentlessly for all this time. And now it seems he is feeling lost, that his contributions are not enough or worth peoples time. I’ve always said that even if we only help one person, that is enough.

The truth is we’ve helped a lot of people. Probably more than Alex ever realises. The hardest part of this is that I know how great he is at this. But due to BPD, depression and low self-esteem he doesn’t see it. I can’t force him to. All I can do is remind him of the impact he has, that the work he does, does have value. But while he’s feeling lost like this, I cannot find the path for him. He has to do this for himself.

Why Am I Feeling Lost Too?

So why is this instilling me with feeling lost too? Because previously I’ve been able to eventually motivate him again. We’ve looked at some new approaches and worked at it and found ways of bringing new content, tried new mediums. Been adaptable. Sometimes what happens in my mental health journey would inspire Alex on a particular track, or get him into such a state he would be calling to arms all of those who follow on Facebook or Twitter to give their thoughts or advice. But that spark just isn’t there and I am at a loss of how to ignite it.

Now this may just be another one of those periods where due to BPD his motivation has taken a hit. What scares me is what if it isn’t? What if he’s lost his calling? To be so passionate about something that he’s committed such a large part of his life to it, yet now to almost feel nothing? Yes, that really scares me. It scares me that one day he may feel the same about us, the relationship and family we’ve worked so hard to build. (Yes I am fully aware that this is my own insecurities and depression having a field day, but the thought still creeps in).

All I can do is wait. Wait and see. I’m going to keep on doing what I can, but like I said it’s not up to me.

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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.

Give Up The Ghost

Haunted by the Past

Do you ever feel you’re haunted? That cold feeling running through your stomach and the hairs standing up all over you? That feeling of fear and dread that almost paralyses you? Some people don’t believe in ghosts. The idea that there is anything after death is just inconceivable to some. I personally believe there is more after this life than an empty nothingness, but that’s a conversation for another day. The ghosts I’m talking about today are when ghosts from your past come up to haunt you and set off feelings of anxiety and depression. I have my ghosts as I’m sure you do too. We all do. But how do you give up the ghost and move forwards? Because when it comes to your mental health how can you ever hope for recovery when even the mention of the name of one of your ghosts sends you back into the darkness? A song I love by Ella Henderson describes it perfectly:

I keep going to the river to pray
‘Cause I need something that can wash out the pain
And at most
I’m sleeping all these demons away
But your ghost, the ghost of you
It keeps me awake

Facing Down the Monster

It’s hard. Believe me. I face down one of my ghosts several times every week in the shape of my ex-husband. He’s a big contributor to the scars you don’t see that make up my complete lack of self-esteem.  I also have to wrestle with anxiety every time he has visitation with the children, it goes into overdrive if I see his behaviour slipping into the patterns that caused our relationship to become so toxic. It’s hard. I don’t always succeed very well at keeping it under control, but one thing I’ve noticed that is I am getting better at it. Where I used to lose my speech when dealing with him in difficult circumstances, with no small amount of effort I am pushing it back. I can talk and actually take positive control of the conversation. In doing so I am slowly starting to give up the ghost of that relationship that has at times haunted my life.

My mum even commented after a recent event where anxiety over the children had spiralled, instead of crumbling (with a little coaxing and some excellent advice from one of the wisest people I know) I pushed down the feelings and dealt with the problem head on. For once, fear did not rule me. Okay, it took it out of me to do that, but the important thing is I did it. In doing so, I was that bit closer to exorcising that demon.

Give Up the Ghost, No More Haunting

I am very clear on one thing, it is NOT easy to do this. It takes time, perseverance and patience to give up the ghost of those who have played a part in damaging your mental health. Because, to get like this, to have my self esteem so damaged, there are individuals who can share some of the blame. One thing I have realised though is that by letting these spectres from my past haunt me, they still have a hold over me and why on earth should they have the power to do that? They more than likely don’t give a second thought to the harm they’ve inflicted to others, such people rarely do. So let them go. Delete them from your Facebook friends, get rid of the pictures you may have. Give up the ghost. Stop letting them de-rail your recovery. They have no right to do that.

 

 

 

They don’t give the harm they do to you a second thought, so why should you waste any of your thoughts on them?

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The Things They Don’t Tell You

Going In Blind

There’s a lot of times in life when you go into things blind. New relationships, new jobs; you may think you know what you’re getting into but you get into things and it’s not quite what you expected. Sometimes it’s good things, but more commonly you find the things they don’t tell you are the ‘not so pleasant’ surprises. And it’s the same with mental health.

If you find yourself at that point you’ve gone to the doctor to get help because of depression or anxiety, the go-to move is for the GP to prescribe antidepressants as a stop gap while you wait for appropriate counselling. Good right? Well yes and no. Yes, they are putting in some treatment to help you, but you quite often find that due to time constraints there’s little to no explanation of side effects before you walk out of the appointment. The assumption is that you’ll read the finely printed leaflet in your box of pills.

But let’s be honest, how many people actually do that? I only do it because it’s a habit I learned from my dad. His knowledge of medicines and chemistry was pretty awesome and on more than one occasion he’d pointed out to his own doctor the perils of prescribing certain medications at the same time. (I recall one particular combination where the side effect could have been death). But he got me in the habit, I read the little leaflets and research the medication. But a lot of people don’t.

A Risky Business

The things they don’t tell you can be pretty damned important. Did you know if you are taking Sertraline you cannot take ibuprofen? Or have grapefruit juice? Alex certainly didn’t when he was first prescribed it. But it’s actually really important as it can do severe damage.

Likewise the side effects of some anti-depressants get glossed over. Some of the side effects can be short term, but there are some that just don’t seem to go. Alex still gets hideous leg cramps due to his meds. We both have, let’s just say…an interesting time with our stomachs. (Spicy food is not your friend with Sertraline). I expected side effects. I didn’t expect them not to ever go away.

But that’s just it. Your GP doesn’t have the time to tell you. What’s so wrong with this is that when you have depression or anxiety your mental state is not necessarily at it’s most rational or logical. You are trusting your doctor that they are doing the right thing. I’m not saying they’re not. But a frank discussion of what type of side effects could come into play could help direct which medication to prescribe. Looking back, if I’d known that a year on I’d still be plagued with stomach cramps, almost daily upset stomachs to the point that the doctor ended up prescribing an additional medication to help my stomach cope with the 200mg of Sertraline I take a day. Well, I may have asked to look at something else.

The Things They Don’t Tell You Can Really Matter

That’s just the problem. Because of the huge pressures on time and resources  there just isn’t the opportunity for your doctor to talk like that. But the side effects can really matter. Take for example one of the more commonly known side effects of anti-depressants; impotence and loss of libido. If you are a couple who were trying for a baby (maybe even the  inability to have one was a triggering factor to your mental health issues), then something that decreases your sexual drive in this way is going to make things even more tricky. It could just make things even worse.

And we see this time and time again. As highlighted in Hope Virgo‘s recent campaign to #dumpthescales , it wasn’t commonly known that access to eating disorder help was being determined by weight thresholds. Yep, even if you were known to suffer from anorexia or bulimia, you could be refused treatment because you weren’t skinny enough. When a concerned parent takes their child to the doctor because of eating disorder problems, what they don’t tell you is that your child could be turned away for weighing too much even when it’s openly acknowledged that eating disorders are mental illnesses. It’s insane!

We Need to Talk

Considering we live in the information age, currently there seems to be a big gap when it comes to all things mental health. From not knowing where or who to go to for help, to even just open discussions about treatment, there seems to be a lot of blundering around in the dark. It’s because of things like this that people make basic wrong assumptions about subjects like self harm, eating disorders and medication.

“You can’t be anorexic, you’re not that skinny.”

“People only self-harm to get attention.”

“You shouldn’t take anti-depressants, they’ll turn you into a zombie.”

So what do we do about it? We need to really start talking about it! From our doctors being more open and honest about side effects, to even us as sufferers sharing more of what is going on with us we can help educate people. We can break down the stigma. By sharing our experiences, having those conversations with our families and friends we can make a change.  Even if it’s just as simple as knowing that because your friend is on Sertraline may be why they’re ducking out of curry night, to how overwhelming it can feel to a sufferer of anxiety to do shopping and finding blessed relief in a store that is running the Autism Hour initiative; it all helps. Just having that little bit more knowledge can make all the difference.

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The Little Things

To You It May Seem Stupid

Sometimes it can be the smallest, most seemingly insignificant things that can trigger a person. Likewise it can be the tiny acts that you make as a supporter of a sufferer of depression that can make all the difference; that can turn a bad day into something survivable. This weekend I am struggling. I did everything I can to prepare for it as I knew this weekend would be hard. It’s been a year to the day since my dad collapsed and never woke up again. I have tried to do all the things I know will help me cope. All the little things I would suggest to someone who was facing a hurdle like this. Spending time with friends and family in the safe space of my home has been a help. We’ve laughed, I’ve cooked, I’ve spent time doing daft little acts to make others smile, but that aching, gnawing is just devouring me. It feels like my heart has turned into heavy, weighted stone, and is dragging me backwards into the dark. I know that this is part of grief, aided and abetted by depression having a field day, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Don’t Under-Estimate the Importance of the Little Things

It’s the little things that are both helping me and flooring me this weekend. The simple act of my sister sending a photo collage she’d printed of my dad was beautiful. Standing in the bathroom of my mother’s home and seeing that a year on and my dad’s razor still sits on the bathroom shelf, broke my heart. As I stood there, I picked up the can of body-spray of his that was also still there. Just holding it close to my nose and for a moment it conjured up a huge sense of him. The scent I was so used to smelling, bringing back a flood of memories. Him and mum getting ready to go out for an evening with friends. My son proudly announcing he was clean after a sleepover at his grandparents, when in actuality all he’d done was liberally sprayed himself with his granddad’s Lynx.

So many of what some people would see as small, insignificant things. Nothing worthy of getting upset over. Yet I have been so low that I have struggled to keep from crying since I woke this morning.

The Flip Side

There is also the flip side. The little things that have made it okay. Spending half an hour snuggled in bed with Alex and Little ‘Un watching ‘ Scooby-Doo: Where Are You?’ this morning helped more than I think he realised. Hugs from those I love. Being given the space to be quiet if I needed it. A cup of tea just placed by my side without a word.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is whether someone is grieving or battling their own black dog (or like me are trying to deal with both) then the little things matter. The little acts of kindness that can be made, even if it’s just a phone call or a text can make a huge difference. These things help to counterbalance all the little things that can sneak up on someone and knock them to the floor.  After all what may seem like nothing to you, could be the thing that makes someone else’s heart break into pieces.

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Let it Be

A Revelation

Now, while I do identify myself as a Christian, I don’t know if I’d be classified as a good one. I drifted away from church as a teenager and have only in the last few years come back to it (albeit to a very different church to the Church of England  I walked away from). But throughout, I’ve still had faith. Belief in that higher power that helps us be more. Now, I don’t care if you have faith or not, or what in; that’s your choice. But for me, today I had a revelation. It was something quite a few people had already told me, but the speaker today had been driven to bring a message. Let it be.

Now, no he didn’t stand there and specifically start quoting The Beatles, but was more talking about how much we strive to be defined and accepted. How we judge ourselves and others by what they do,when actually we need to accept who we are. God loves us unconditionally as we are. Rather than fighting to be more, or to get others to recognise our status, we need to just be.

Your Approval is Not Required
It really hit home with both me and Alex. For him, helping him to redefine how he perceives the work he does here at PBTS. When he’s lacking in motivation, the lack of external recognition from people close to him has made him question the validity of what he’s doing. After all, blogging is not what people look at as a ‘proper’ job, no matter how much work he puts in. But does it matter what others think? It’s what he feels called to do. He reaches out to people struggling with depression and other mental illnesses every day on Twitter and Facebook.

He’s a listening ear to those who need it, when they need it most. Listening to the speaker this morning it bought it home, that the approval and support of those who don’t see it as a ‘real’ job isn’t really necessary. From day one, he’s felt called to do this and that alone gives it worth. So instead of fighting for the approval he’s going to let it be. He cannot force others to see the value in his work, but that does not devalue what he does.

I Need to learn to Let it Be

For me, it drove something else home. I mentioned in a previous post how someone in my life had recently inflicted a great deal of hurt on me. That no matter what I did, or how hard I tried, nothing was good enough. Because they are important to me, I kept fighting. Kept trying, giving them what they wanted to get it thrown back in my face again and again. My depressive side had a field day with it. I was obviously not good enough. A failure. It heaped the blame on to my shoulders alone. Which in turn was driving me to try harder and harder to get this persons’ approval and affection.

So many people had said to me that I was fighting too hard. If anything by fighting so hard it was having the opposite effect and driving this person even further away. For a long time I couldn’t hear it.

Backing Off

But I’d started to back off in recent weeks. I’d accepted that the acquiescing to every single demand they made wasn’t making any difference. So why was I doing that? I remember sitting with Alex one evening saying how I didn’t know what else I could do, what more could I change ? The answer was so simple. Let it be. I have done everything I can and more. This does not mean I’m bad, I am a good person, this is not something I can force to change. I have to let this individual come to terms with their own issues on their terms. The moment I realised that, things began to get better. I felt better. I’ve accepted how I am; I will always help someone when they call, but that does not mean I have to fix everything for others. It’s just not realistically possible. And that does not make me a bad person or a failure.

It’s not easy to remember that when you have mental health issues. You are not defined by how others treat you, it defines them. If they behave poorly, do as the Beatles suggest, “let it be”.

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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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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.

Getting Out of The Comfort Zone

A Safe Place

This week I attended my first in a series of coaching sessions aimed at helping me cope with the challenges that I face when I am at work. My first of several 3-hour sessions. All aimed at giving me some tools to help me manage my anxiety and depression in the office. There have been times when I have been struggling. Yet despite my manager’s initial scepticism, she agreed that some in-work coaching would be beneficial. Now, not every employer would do this. Luckily the company I work for has strong links with a mental health charity. This in turn means that sometimes they are willing to go the extra mile and get things for their staff to help them cope.  For me, it meant getting out of the comfort zone of what I am used to.

One thing I have never really realised is how important a safe place is to me. Getting out of the comfort zone of home is one thing, but I hadn’t realised how much I needed to feel safe. Even at work.

Getting Out of The Comfort Zone and Progress

Sometimes it can be challenging to see the progress we are making. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what we see as our failures and short comings.  But very time we stretch ourselves, doing things that make us uncomfortable, we are making progress. So for me, this was doing this coaching session. I was having to be very open and vulnerable about how my mental health impacts me in the office with a complete stranger. I’ll be honest, I found it really hard. When the course was first recommended by the DSE representative, I really couldn’t see me doing it. For want of a better word, it seemed another bit of fluffy nonsense that really was just there so employer’s can be seen to be ‘helping’. But it wasn’t.

What it highlighted to me was one of the places I feel least safe is at work. I often feel exposed. The feeling of everyone judging and looking at you as you crash into a panic attack is terrifying. The logical thinking would be that no-one is ACTUALLY looking at you, but it’s still palpable.  Some of that comes because there is that fear in my head of ‘what will people think?’. It’s been hard enough when colleagues have glimpsed my self-harm scars and asked about them.

But here’s my challenge to all of you. When you’re next asked about your self harm scars, or about your mental health, try getting out of the comfort zone and be honest.  It is a challenge, but it also helps you progress.

The Challenge

Now it doesn’t have to be anything huge (my son recommended base jumping off a bridge to really push those boundaries!). But do those little things. If you struggle getting out of the house, try each time you go to be out that little bit longer. Without even thinking about it, I’ve been subconsciously doing this with Alex for a while. He struggles to be out of the house for long. Yet we’ve managed excursions that have been for 3 or 4 hours, when previously he could only have coped with 1 or 2. Yes, it’s exhausting, but it’s progress.

Only yesterday I found myself in the middle of a hugely busy Ikea store. I could feel my anxiety ramping up, I was cursing myself for not thinking about how Saturdays are awful in there. So many people, so much noise! But I coped. A few months ago I wouldn’t have. The reason I coped was I have been bit by bit pushing myself. Getting out of the comfort zone of home and into environments that, while I still feel reasonably safe are still busy and potential triggers. Practising the breathing techniques I have learnt from counselling in a moderately busy supermarket. Having my fidget cube on me when I went for an interview. Having people with me who help those feelings of safety. Just little exercises to try to push me that bit more.

And if I couldn’t cope? That was okay too. I tried. For every time we achieve a little win against whatever mental health condition we have, it will only because we have tried dozens of times before. Sometimes we will have failed outright. Others, we will have been able to cope for so long, then fell apart over something small. It happens. And it’s okay! Each time we try getting out of the comfort zone we are a step closer to , if not recovery, at least managing the condition. The important thing is to try. 

 

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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.

 

 

This Is Me

Why This Is Me?

For anyone who is a regular reader of this blog, you’re probably aware that music is incredibly important for both myself and Alex. It can help us describe how we feel, lift us when we’re down and be a balm when our mental health is at its worst. A few weeks ago I came across ‘This Is Me’ from the Greatest Showman soundtrack and this wonderfully anthemic piece really did something marvellous. It gave me a massive push, to try, to get out of my comfort zone and do things that terrified me. It reminded me that I’m stubborn and I’m not giving in to depression and anxiety.

Now, okay. To some, going for a couple of job interviews isn’t that big a deal. But to me it is. Going on holiday with Alex and my children for the first time was terrifying. Tonight I’m going to an outdoor performance of Macbeth and it’s been a struggle to find the motivation to make the picnic that I promised I would take. I want to go but the thought of going anywhere today is terribly daunting. This is the impact that having depression can have on me and for some people, well let’s be honest, they neither understand or like it.  Like many others who suffer with depression and anxiety, I’ve heard them all. The ‘just get over it’, the ‘snap out of it’, the ‘what is wrong with you?‘, the list of comments that can get slung at you is endless.

Because They Just Don’t Get It

A lot of people just don’t understand mental health issues. They don’t want to, can be just ignorant or sometimes just downright idiots. Unfortunately the idiots are the worst. Like the ones who think social media is the place to start ranting about how things like depression are because people are weak minded, or lazy. These same people are often the ones who call self harm attention seeking. This kind of thinking is what builds into the stigma that already surrounds mental health.

So what has this got to do with a song you ask? Well, as I was listening to the words I saw how this song could be an anthem for those suffering with mental illness against all those who disparage and belittle. Here’s a snippet of some of those lyrics that got into my head.

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
The Shame Game
That’s the thing. At different times I’ve been told that no-one would love me as I am. I’ve been told I am broken and unworthy because of my mental health . I’ve hidden the scars on my arms, stomach and legs from the world and made to feel ashamed.
But I’m not. One thing Alex and I, and countless others like Hope Virgo, Rebecca Lombardo, Rethink Depression and more are all doing is taking a stand. We are not ashamed to share our mental health journey, we won’t be embarrassed into hiding our symptoms because it makes others uncomfortable. Whether any of these warriors realise it or not, by sharing their journey, like me they are shouting to the world THIS IS ME! Yes, I have a mental illness but it does not define me. I’m not ashamed of my illness and the damage I’ve done to my body when I was at my worst. I was severely ill, but I survived.
So, This Is Me!
Yes! This is me. I’m a mum to 2 children, I work in a call centre, I’m in a happy relationship. One of the things I love is watching The Big Bang Theory, I love cooking and having friends over for dinner.  Oh and yeah, I have depression and anxiety. I take medication for these conditions and there are days that are worse than others. No-one can call me weak minded or lazy, so I am as worthy as anyone else. The same goes for anyone who is suffering. You are not lazy, weak or a failure. You are worthy. Like it says in the song  ‘we are warriors’.
If someone is telling you any of those awful things, put ‘This Is Me’ on and drown them out. (Yes, I know the song is sung by the bearded lady, but what better song to demonstrate inclusion in a world where many are seen as outcasts?) Whether they like it or not, there’s a flood happening right now. People are taking notice and starting to talk about mental health issues, changes are happening. The more people who are standing up and sharing their stories, the more we can normalise the conversation about mental illness.
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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.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

What You Don’t Do Says More To Me Than What You Say

After my return to work In January, I hit a lot of issues with my employer. Promises of support were constantly made, but little to nothing materialized. There were constant roadblocks, either in the inaction of my manager at the time, or the complete lack of support I received from HR. I was already struggling, yet for every little thing I found I was having to fight for it, tooth and nail. Despite promises of change I’d find their actions speak louder than words, nothing would alter and I would spin further into a vortex of feeling worthless and unwanted.

These actions (or in this case lack thereof) made me worse. My mental health took a serious hit as I battled even to get basic things sorted. A review with occupational health, a return to work meeting, even the basic stress assessment; it took a union rep getting involved to achieve any of these basic requirements. What may surprise you is the company I work for has a very prominent relationship with a mental health charity. They are active across Twitter with campaigns to try to raise mental health awareness with some very high-profile public figures. What I found was that despite their very vocal stance to the world, when it comes to their staff their actions speak louder than words. As a member of staff I found that you will lack support, basic rights under the disability act will not be fulfilled unless you push for them and that the management have a woeful lack of training or support in how to handle employees with mental health issues.

How Would That Make You feel?

It left me feeling un-valued and unwanted.

But it’s something you will find a lot, and not just in the world of work. In our personal lives too. How often do we say we care about people, compared with how often we show them. Like Alex has covered in the Onus, there is a tendency for people to be very vocal with their support, but lacking in the physical.

It also goes deeper than that. When we don’t show people what they mean to us it can inflict huge amounts of damage that you won’t see on the surface. Likewise when we treat people as something less than , it wounds. These scars that you don’t see are usually the longest lasting, the contributing factors to depression and anxiety that affects a person for years to come.

When Actions Speak Louder than Words

To put this into context, I’ll explain something from my past that even now impacts me. When I was 15 years old I began dating my first boyfriend. In my eyes, he was loving caring and everything I wanted. I thought he was perfect. You would think that he would have the same sort of feelings, right? Sadly, no.

The reality was he was considerably older than me. When we went out he would force me to lie about my age, so that it appeared more appropriate. He would dictate what i ate, would criticize how I dressed and how I did my hair. I was never good enough as me. I was often made to feel that I was being granted some sort of honour just to be with him. So even just the normal gestures of a couple in love were denied to me. Holding hands in public? No. Being taken on normal dates? Out of the question.

In private he would tell me he loved me. But the truth is if this is how someone behaves to someone they ‘love’ their actions speak louder than words. This is not love. This is not how you treat anyone else. It damaged me to the point that I feel unworthy, to the point I struggle to believe when someone genuinely cares for me. I don’t believe when they say they love me, think I’m special or beautiful.

Just because We Are all Guilty of This Doesn’t Make it Right

Yes, we can all be guilty of this from time to time.  In the early days of my relationship with Alex, I would often omit him from conversations with my ex-husband, if Alex called when I was taking my children to visit their father I’d pretend it was someone else on the phone. Yes, my reasons were based on fear of my ex-husbands reaction. But it does not excuse it. Alex and I ended up having a blazing row via phone over this very issue. As he explained how it was making him feel, something inside me snapped.  I needed to put my fear aside and deal with the matter at hand. My ex knew I was with someone new, so why was I pretending like Alex didn’t exist? Who was this helping? The honest answer is no-one.  If anything it was wounding the man I love.

We Need to Change

I’ve been on the receiving end being treated where the words being spoken did not match the actions.  I knew immediately it had to stop.  It’s something I think we all need to apply in our lives. Our actions speak louder than words.  For corporate entities they need to look at how they treat their employees before espousing their support for mental health. They need to be the example before they can preach for change. When they don’t is when employees are left feeling un-valued and disillusioned.

In relationships we need to show the ones we love, that we love them. Not just say the words. Show it. How we act to others, be they our family, friends or partners, can hugely impact them. If they suffer with mental health issues it can be even more important. When your mind is already telling you how worthless and imperfect you are, it will only see validation when people’s actions do not match the words from their mouths.

Actions speak louder than words. So don’t just say the words you think people need to hear.

Act.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

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