Fighting the Urge

A Little Context

I’ve done this for you before, given you a little snippet of what’s actually going on inside my head. Last night  was tough for me because while balancing care for partner with BPD (who was crashing) I was also fighting the urge of my own demon. But it’s important I share this with you in the same way I do the good stuff where I hope I inspire or motivate others. To show how a person with depression copes on the good days and the bad ones.

Stop my brain, I want to get off.

It’s just after 3am. I’m still awake. Again. I really don’t know why this keeps happening. I know insomnia is a symptom of depression, but I really thought I was doing better than this. But no, I back to fighting the urge to self harm, back with the dark thoughts, back to sobbing in the dark with what feels like a gnawing, aching hole in my chest. It really, really sucks.
So why am I back here? I’m well on the path to recovery if you look at the big picture. I shouldn’t be back fighting the urge to harm myself. I’ve already scratched myself, but thankfully not too badly. And in this frame of mind, why am I writing this?
I’ll be honest. It’s giving me something to focus on. My hands are busy because I’m typing. Weirdly it’s helping pull me out of it a little, because it’s oddly like talking to someone. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see me sleeping tonight. I feel truly awful. But that persistent, nagging urge has quieted. It’s taken a lot to get to this point. I’ve watched about 3 hours of That 70’s Show on Netflix, I’ve tried meditating, reading, playing a game. Believe me the thoughts are still there, but I’m fighting the urge off with everything I have at my disposal.
It Might Seem Simple to you, Fighting the Urge. It’s Not.
Now to some people it would be really simple. When it comes to this subject they think it’s a case of you just don’t do it. I really wish it worked that way. You see, the dark whisper in my ear reminding me how useless I am has been screaming tonight. A relentless torrent of abuse, over and over. Crushing me. Reminding me of how utterly worthless I am. The draw of pain to silence that voice is seductive. I can punish myself for all of my failings. After all, the darkest part of me believes I deserve it.
But I’m fighting the urge. At this point I’m not even truly clear on why. Everything else is saying to me that it’s what I deserve. Logic doesn’t really come into this. All I know is that if I succumb, I will feel worse. I will feel like a failure. I have to fight this. All I want  is to get better. No matter what the bitch in my head is saying, I have a family that loves me, a partner that loves me. I’m going to keep holding on to that tonight.
It’s time I try to attempt sleep again, so I’ll sign off now. Wish me luck!

More Than You Think I Am

I Am More

We are more than you think we are.  I guarantee it!  How well do you know me?  Perhaps not very well.  What about the person sat next to or opposite you?  Perhaps all you know is what you see.  But we are more than you think we are.  Moreover, we are more than our mental health diagnosis.  I explore this further, telling you a little bit about me that you don’t know.

If you want to find out more about why I chose this as a topic, you can visit our Patreon page where I share a behind-the-scenes inspiration story about this topic.  Featuring a music track that acted as a creative muse and some of my thoughts behind this video, it’s something you won’t want to miss!  Why not head over there now?

Why not subscribe?

Join the PBTS Community and receive our monthly newsletter as well as updates straight to your inbox!  Enter your email address below:

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

Taking Time Out to Recharge

Taking Time Out

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

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

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

So how do we do it?

My Time Out

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

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

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

It was time out.

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

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

A Welcome Break

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

It’s a welcome break.

A time for us.

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

Find What Works For You

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

It can only be beneficial, surely?

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

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

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

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.

Finding Hope in the Darkness

Finding Hope in the Darkness

Finding hope can be a challenge.  Sometimes we feel that it’s impossible, but we don’t know how to do it any differently. So this week I have a challenge for you all! Why not take a look?

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 Patron - Finding HopeDisclaimer: 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.

Evaluating Experience

The Weight of Experience

Experience is one of those things that we seem plagued with in life.  Often, it can be beneficial because there are situations we go through and we know what to do or not do because experience has taught us.  Sometimes, though, experience can be a problem.  Take, for example, a job interview.  Nowadays, a lot of companies want previous experience – something which you, as a fresh-out-of-uni/college student, might not have.  Getting that experience can be difficult, especially if no one will give you a chance without you having previous experience.  It can be extremely frustrating!Quote: Experience is the teacher of all things - Julius Caeser.

Another thing that usually goes hand in hand with experience is qualifications.  If you are going for a job as a translator, for example, employers will look to see if you have the experience (ie, living in the country of the language you are translating to/from) and whether or not you have the qualifications (ie a degree or equivalent).  Qualifications are something that can be hard to come by, though at the same time a lot of people nowadays go to university to get degrees and an emphasis is put on getting higher education.  Sometimes, though, things happen, plans change and qualifications become a little redundant.

Take me, for example.  I trained as a linguist, getting a degree in French and Linguistics.  I didn’t do too badly and languages open a lot of doors, as it provides opportunities in translation but also in different countries if I wanted to move.  Having a background in Czech as well from the time I lived in the Czech Republic with my family, you’d think I would have gone into a career in languages.

Then depression happened.

Granted, getting a job in those fields was rather difficult and I ended up first in a wholesaler warehouse and then a bank, but depression knocked my career aspirations completely off.  Instead of looking at translation or language teaching or a career in France, I looked into blogging.  Specifically, mental health blogging and writing.

Which, as you know, is what I do now.

Experience…Or Lack Thereof

From that bit of my background, you’ll have seen I don’t have any qualifications in mental health.  In fact, you’ll see on every page of this website the words: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.  I put that because, no matter what I write, I am not qualified.

But I have experience.

Now, one thing I’ve noticed during my walk with depression, anxiety and insomnia is that people seem to look more for the qualifications.  When I first started posting content from this website on Facebook, a psycologist that I know immediately started commenting telling me she was surprised I was doing this and how “in her experience” these were the arguments against what I was saying.  She also went to great lengths, at one point, to make sure I knew exactly how long she had studied and how long she had been a psycologist.  Similarly, in my post about the So-Called Professional, I went with my friend to speak to that doctor after that disasterous appointment and she was equally dismissive of the things I had to say.

In more recent weeks, I’ve had similar struggles with my own GP.  I believe the things I’m feeling and experiencing, such as the vast swinging of my mood, to be symptomatic of Rapid Cycling Bipolar or Ultra Rapid Cycling Bipolar.  It’s taken a couple of months but I’ve finally managed to get a GP to listen.  It took both my partner and I fighting, where the GP refused to entertain the notion based on “his experience”.  It seems my lack of any qualifications and my lesser experience than his was simply not good enough for me to have an opinion, as it seems to be with a lot of other people.

But is experience all that it’s cracked up to be?  Is it the be all and end all?

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

Extenuating Experience

One thing that I find to be true is that those of us who have personal experience of mental health seem to relate to it far better.  I know this is like the majority of things in life but hear me out.  Where doctors see us as patients who have X condition and need treatment A, therapy B and department C to be successfully treated, we take it to a more personal level.  We interact with each other, we look at how things affect us and apply that to other situations.

Customer Experience MattersMy prime example would be my blog.  Specifically, things like my Understanding Self-Harm guide.  Imagine a doctor whose only experience of self-harm is the patients in front of him and what they’ve done.  Explaining self-harm the way I have would be difficult, if not impossible.  Would he understand all the innate needs and desires that we feel when we want to do it?  Could he imagine just how different all those needs or desires would be?  After all, no two mental health struggles are exactly the same.

Is not my experience, in this instance, far more valuable than his years of training, his qualifications and then his subsequent years of qualification?  Am I not able to explain the phenomenon of self-harm better than the doctor might?  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that my opinion is so much better than the professional, qualified opinion.  What I’m saying is that my opinion is different and that that can be a good thing!  You see, the professionals, with all their years of study, qualification and experience, will have all the technicalities, the medical and physiological answers down to a T.  Me, standing in for the lay person Joe Public, will have the whys, the hows and some of the reasoning behind what I do.

Is that so difficult to imagine?

That I, Alex Davies, lay person with no qualifications in the mental health sector whatsoever, might actually have a different, yet just as important, understanding of mental health?

The Power of Our Experiences

Unlike the professionals, as not all of them will have lived with these conditions, we know what’s going on inside our heads.  We know where we fall on categorisations.  Mood charts and on everything else that would come under our diagnosis, we understand.  We know how we feel.  Don’t we?  We know if something isn’t right.  Does that mean we should always bow to the professional opinion because they have their qualifications?

No.

I don’t think so.

Professionals are great, as they have the technical side of things nailed, this is true.  But we understand what’s actually going on inside our heads.  My opinion may not be a learned, qualified one but, instead, it’s one brought through first-hand experience and one that, in its own way, is just as valuable.

What do you think?  Are our experiences and our opinions just as valid as the professional one?  I’d like to know!

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.

Ignorance or Ignoring?

Are People Ignorant or Just Ignoring the Issue?

So often, while I’m scrolling through tweets and doing my interactions on Twitter, I see stories of how people seem to be struggling with how others view mental health.  Too often they are talking about how other people dismiss their struggles as trivial or “all in their head”.  I can’t help but wonder, when reading these, whether it is deliberate.  Are they ignoring the issue?

In the past year, someone I know has gone through a separation.  This separation has been made difficult by the other party effectively burying their head in the sand.  Despite my friend being out of the house for a year or so, the partner still insisted that my friend was going to come back, that they were all going to be happy families again.  My friend has said unequivocally that that will never happen, yet still the ex-partner insists on referring to my friend as “love” and won’t accept that they are completely separated.

Is the ex-partner truly ignorant of the issue?  Or simply ignoring it?

Ignorance

At Pushing Back the Shadows, we are no stranger to ignorance.  We see it every day on our Twitter account, on our Facebook account and on other social media profiles.  Plenty of people don’t seem to understand mental health.  More the hows and whys than anything else, but there is that lack of understanding.  When I see these, I try and offer explanations for some of the things going on.  I try and shed light on those issues.  After all, it’s what we do.

Personally, I find ignorance is excusable to a point.  If you haven’t really come across anything that really requires you to learn about the subject, how can you be expected to know about it?  With mental health, if you don’t really know of anyone who suffers (granted, statistically there will be someone but they might not be open about it) then why would you feel the need to educate yourself?  To a point it is excusable, as everyone has something they need educating about.

But when does it become inexcusable?

Ignoring the Issue

As with my friend’s ex-partner, there comes a time when the ignorance is more than just ignorance.  It’s deliberate.  People who have the evidence put in front of them or have had the problems explained multiple times are ignoring the issue, plain and simple.  Unfortunately, there aren’t two ways about it.  They are burying their heads in the sand, unwilling to accept that their view or their belief is being challenged.  Some perceive mental health to be a load of rubbish and, despite more and more people talking about their struggles, refuse to budge from that stance.  Others realise there is a problem but won’t accept that the person suffering cannot always make a change the way they would want.  They think of it as an issue of laziness, which isn’t always the case.

For people like this, it doesn’t seem to be a case of ignorance, as they have had plenty of opportunities to learn.  It comes down to ignoring the issue, refusing to accept something different to what they believe.  It’s sad that people like this exist, but that’s what makes us all unique and all different.

Ignorance vs Ignoring the Issue

So what do we do with these people?  Those who are ignorant and those who bury their heads in the sand?  Realistically?  We should seek to educate those who are ignorant to the struggles of mental health but not to the point of exhausting ourselves.  We should identify when they are refusing to accept the truth or reality and when they are burying their head in the sand and realise that we’ve tried our best, we can do no more.  As long as we’ve tried, that is what counts.

What do you think?

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.

A Blanket Fort

Memories of Blanket Forts

Have you ever made a fort out of blankets?  In our house, it was something we used to do a lot as children.  Grab an airer or clothes horse, grab some sheets and blankets and build a den or a fort.  It’s simple, it’s fun and it’s something that kids enjoy.

I remember we had some brilliant blanket forts as children.  We used to let our imaginations run a little wild and see if we could make it bigger and better than last time.  Often this meant borrowing some of the double sheets from mum and dad, or a large blanket.  Add some torches, some pillows and a couple of fun things to do like books or toys and you were sorted!

Does that sound like something that you’ve tried?  Perhaps you’ve got some fond memories of making dens or blanket forts when you were younger.  I think it might be something we’ve all done from time to time.  It’s great fun!  But guess what!

It has a practical application for adults too!

A Blanket Fort

Roughly six months ago, I made a blanket fort.  My friend, who was in the process of learning how to cope with being separated from her husband, was struggling.  She’d had to take the kids over to see him for his visit.  Consequently, her anxiety had tripped, she was doing really badly.  During these times, it’s common for her speech to disappear so she can’t communicate.  She also worries at her hands with her fingernails, scratching psychological itches.  Frustrations increase when she can’t talk or when she catches herself itching.  Needless to say, it gets into a bit of a vicious cycle that she can’t seem to bring to a halt.

I was on the phone with her at this point, as she and the kids were staying with me for that day.  Due to housing troubles, it had had to be arranged like that so she could leave her old house.  As I was talking to her, I quickly picked up on just how bad things had got.  It was then that I remembered this cartoon:

Making a blanket nest to help someone through depression.

You probably see where I’m going with this, but I had an idea.

Quickly, I grabbed the airers dotted around the flat.  Grabbing some blankets off the bed and duvet covers out of the cupboard, I started setting up a nice blanket fort around the sofa.  It took a little work but it was there, able to be sat in.  A few cushions came next, then I had another idea.  I have a little light-up Death Star model that changes colours and can be quite therapeutic, so I added that as well.  Finally, I put my tablet in there, setting it to play some relaxing music and go through space pictures.

The fort was complete.

The Effects of the Blanket Fort

It may sound silly, perhaps almost childish, to make a blanket fort.  After all, it’s something we do as children, not as adults (unless we’re playing with a child).  That said, it had the desired effect.

Upon her arrival, I brought my friend into the lounge where the blanket fort was set up.  Her initial reaction was surprise that anyone would do something like that for her but, once she had been brought into the fort, her anxiety started to abate.  After about an hour or so of sitting in that blanket fort, she was completely calm once more.  Even though it sounds a little daft, it worked.

And perhaps that’s the most important part.

You see, it doesn’t have to be a blanket fort.  It can be a snuggly blanket, a little nest like in the cartoon above, or any number of other things.  The whole point is that you’re creating a safe space for them.  Somewhere reasonably confined, warm and inviting where they can relax.  If they like music, put music on.  Lights?  They can help.  Alternatively, darkness might be more their thing.  Whatever they like, try and make it as inviting to them as possible.

As another small example of a safe space, I’ve talked about how music has a big influence on my life.  When I need a safe space, I plug my headphones in, turn my iPod on and listen to music.  With noise-cancelling headphones, I can retreat from the world and relax a bit.  It works for me, it might work for others.

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.

Rishin – The Interview

What condition(s) do you live with?

Brain Cyst- I have an Arachnoid cyst at my right temporal lobe. It has been ignored for the most part because the standard response has been “they usually don’t cause problems”. At my last neurology appointment, I was booked in for an MRI and referred to a neurosurgeon because of some new symptoms.

Epilepsy – I have nocturnal epilepsy. I also have absence seizures during the daytime, but the night time events are worse. It mostly comes out at night, mostly… 

Cluster Headaches (AKA Suicide Headaches) – These are a primary headache disorder and a type of Trigeminal autonomic cephalgia (TAC), the trigeminal nerve is the same nerve that conducts the signals to the brain when you have a brain freeze after eating or drinking something cold.

I mention this because it’s one of the best analogies I can think of for the pain. So, remember your last brain freeze. Now think of what that pain was like.  Do you have the memory of the pain? That stabbing behind the eye and the pain at one side of your head.  Multiply it by 20 and you are close to what a Cluster Headache is like. I’m literally not bothered when I get a brain freeze/ice cream headache anymore, it’s insignificant compared to a Cluster attack.  Some people have bouts of attacks over a period of weeks or months, daily, multiple times a day. These are defined as being episodic.  Other people are chronic, this means they don’t get a break any longer than two weeks between bouts.  As you can see this isn’t a minor inconvenience like a hangover, it’s a life-changing condition that can have tragic consequences.  A cluster attack can last anything from approximately 20 minutes to hours.

When I call them Suicide Headaches it’s not hyperbole. The nickname Suicide Headaches is one that has been earned. People have died by suicide because of this disease.  They are incredibly painful, here on my website I compare the pain to an event I really don’t want to repeat again.

Paranoia & Visual & Auditory Hallucinations – I developed these approximately at the same time as the cluster headaches, the absence seizures and most of what I’m still dealing with today.  I’m lucky in that my hallucinations are brief and while at times they have been bloody scary each one hasn’t lasted long.  Even now I find them very distracting and I have a specific type that, well to be frank, terrifies me.  The paranoia is an insidious bastard. It gets under your skin and twists the world. It nearly destroyed my life. When I think back to what I was like at my worst, well I’m surprised I’m still here.

 Depression, Anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – It basically comes as a package deal. My Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis is very recent, and we are still unravelling what this means.  My mood is a rapid rollercoaster with highs and lows hitting me so quickly that some days I’m exhausted just trying to stay contained.  The reason I called them a package deal is that I was given the depression diagnosis years ago. However, recent events have caused my psychiatrist to re-evaluate me.

My symptoms have been a nightmare. It’s such a tangled mess. I’ve bounced around different medical professionals with all of them trying to unravel their specialist area from the rest.

My Cluster Headache (CH) diagnosis alone took five years but that’s not unheard of with CH.

Parasomnia – Firstly, I want to acknowledge that night time events cause people a lot of pain and difficulty in their life.  But I’ve saved this one for last for some light-hearted content.  I’ve been known to prance around in my sleep, it’s probably related to my epilepsy from what I can gather.  On more than one occasion my wife has been woken to see me waving my arms around, walking, and even doing a Tai Chi form.  So, there I am standing, stark naked, pulling off snake creeps down, an unfortunate name considering the situation, completely asleep.  It took me weeks to live that one down.

How long have you been living with it/them?

Over a decade.

How does it affect you?

With the Cluster Headaches I don’t have good days. I have bad and not so bad. There is a lot more about CH I could go into but it’s beyond the scope of one interview.

A bad day is when I’m dealing with multiple CH attacks throughout the day, my mood is low, and my coordination and speech are unsteady.

So, it’s a case of getting through one attack recovering slightly, and then dealing with the next one. In between there are what we call Shadows, which are low-level persistent pain that ebb and flows until another attack hits.

My worse day, so far, was a few months back. I had an attack wake me at about 6 am and the last one finished at 10 pm.

Once the first one had subsided the next hit at 10 am, then at 12 pm. That subsided and then from 3 pm until 10 pm I was having them for an hour with about a 20-minute break in between attacks. Not a good day.

A not so bad day is a day with lots of Shadows that don’t result in multiple attacks, but I can still get one or two full attacks. However, these tend to be shorter.

I frequently have trouble with my speech, nothing too bad, sometimes I can’t find the right word. We live with it and I go with the flow because the more frustrated I get the worse it can be.

My life has been completely changed by all of this. I don’t go out and while I maintain contact with friends via the internet that’s it.

I did manage some volunteer work with Samaritans at one point. That was because I had the flexibility in choosing my hours and Samaritans were incredibly understanding. But on more than one occasion I got hit with an attack and had to get someone to cover for me.

As for BPD well, my mood switches at a moment’s notice I get highs, but they don’t last very long at all. Long enough for me to have lots of awesome plans then I hit bottom and wonder why I was so bothered by it all.

Emotions are magnified. Right now, I can be objective about how I feel but when I’m having a bad day I don’t recognise that my reaction to an event is disproportionate.

On a bad day I don’t respond well to other people’s emotions, especially anger. My own anger goes inward, and I rage inside. It’s hard to put into words in some ways. It’s a lightning storm building up, a volcano building pressure. Other people’s emotions can hit me hard.

What kinds of methods or treatments do you use to cope?  What is most effective?  What is least effective?

For CH I’m on oxygen as an abortive, believe it or not it’s fantastic. It doesn’t always work but I do get some relief. I also take medication as a preventative and I use Sumatriptan injections at the onset of an attack, again sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

OTC painkillers do nothing for CH, all they did was give me medication overuse headaches. I was basically swallowing the damn things like Smarties for five years.

I don’t want to go off on a religious tangent but for my BPD and other mood-related difficulties I have found Buddhist meditation and philosophy very helpful. I’m lucky because my teacher is a Buddhist priest and I am actively involved with the sangha (community).

I’m due to be assessed for therapy for my BPD but I think Buddhism has given me many tools that have helped.

If there was one thing you could say to someone going through the same condition(s) as you, what would it be?

Talk. Please talk. Whether it’s to a family member, a friend, or even a support line like Samaritans 116 123, talk about what you are going through. You will discover that you have immense strength within you but even the strongest of us need to off-load at times.

What would your advice be to people trying to support people with your condition(s)?

Learn as much as you can about the problem. Be it a rare neurological disease like Cluster Headaches or mental ill health. How much you know will dictate how well you can advocate for your loved one.

Listen to the person you are supporting.

We think that we can listen but when we are supporting someone we ought to ensure that the time we give them is well spent. It can be tempting to react based on fear and dismiss their concerns but when we listen fully we ensure that the time is about them and not our fears. I talk about this in my Mindful Listening series.

Make sure you take some time for self-care.

Even if it is only a short walk, a relaxing bath, or a funny film. Supporting someone can be draining, it’s emotionally stressful when we offer ourselves as a sounding board or when we fight for another’s rights. Doing all of that for a loved intensifies the stress.

You are important too, remember that.

What was it like working for Samaritans, helping people with mental health struggles? Were there challenges?

Even though I don’t volunteer now I still consider confidentiality sacred. So, I won’t discuss any specific calls.

If I were to sum my experience up it would be this. It changed my life and myself for the better. It made me a stronger and more compassionate person.

Challenges? Yes. You can’t offer that kind of support without it being challenging but the call is the callers time. I was there for them.

If I had anything that I found very personal or emotionally difficult I knew I had a fantastic support network within the organisation. They really are remarkably caring and supportive of their volunteers.

The training is first rate too. At the time you don’t realise just how good the training is, but it prepares you in so many ways.

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.

Episode 31 – Hope For the Best

The Best and the Worst

Do you wonder how we can get through a life with depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses?  How do I manage, what kind of motto would I live by to get through?  I share my secret here!  I’ll give you a clue…it involves hoping for the best!

Useful Links:

Whispers of Hope
The Light of Hope

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.

Just a Trend

Mental Illness is just a Trend

That’s right, you read that right.  I, Alex Davies, founder of a website that promotes mental health awareness and support, just said that mental illness is just a trend.  Do I really believe that?  Of course not!  That said, it’s an interesting topic to consider.  Take a walk with me as I unpack it.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in people being diagnosed with mental health issues.  Now, this could be partly due to the increases in external pressures and triggers, as some people would say, or it could be a greater awareness and openness for mental health.  In the past, mental health was not something that was widely talked about.  You kept it hidden.  It wasn’t heard of.  Out of sight, out of mind, that sort of thing. Nowadays, however, it’s more widely talked about.  So is it that it is on the increase or is it just that more people are talking about it?  That’s something for the philosophers to debate.

What I’d like to know, though, is whether or not the epidemic is as bad as it seems or whether it is “just a trend”.  (Note that my opinion will come at the bottom, so you’ll have to read on to find it!)

So is mental health a trend that people follow?  Are the people who claim to have mental health issues genuine?  From where I sit, I see three immediate categories that we can put this into:

  1. Genuine Sufferers
  2. People who don’t quite get it
  3. The social media hype types
Genuine Sufferers

This is exactly what it says on the tin: people who are genuinely suffering with some form of mental illness.  They have those day-to-day issues that hinder them, whether that’s getting out of bed, looking after themselves or being unable to leave the house.  Their struggles are real, their issues hamper their everyday activities and they clearly have some form of mental illness.  Note, these are not always diagnosed as, for some, they cannot make themselves go to the doctor but many of them will have been diagnosed.  They might be on medication and they may be undergoing therapy or they may be managing it with alternative means.  Nevertheless, they are struggling.

For genuine sufferers, they face a wall of stigma and judgement that often prevents them from expressing how they truly feel.  They keep it buried inside, fearing that other people would be harshly critical of them or simply not know how to express it.

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

People Who Don’t Get It

These are probably the most multitudinous that I’ve come across.  You’ve seen them, I’m sure.  The people who post statuses like: “I have to wait a whole year for more Game of Thrones, I’m so depressed!”  In reality, they aren’t depressed, they’re just a little sad, but they blow it out of proportion.  How often do we see it?  Far too often, I think!

Why am I picking up on this group?  Well, I believe it simply adds to the fog of stigma and judgement around us.  If we can see they’re not really depressed, others can see through it too and it just builds up this wishy-washy idea of what depression actually is.  By associating it with the word, it can create that false image that others will then believe.  For all we know, it could be where this “just snap out of it” rubbish came from…

We see it a lot, though, don’t we: the ones who over-exaggerate this sort of thing.  People who give themselves labels without taking that moment to understand what it means.  What is depression?  What is anxiety?  Is it what they make it out to be – being “anxious for school exams” or “depressed because the latest season of Game of Thrones has ended” – or is it something more?

The Social Media Hype Trend

As I’ve mentioned previously, I do a lot of interactions on Twitter and on other social media sites and I now notice patterns in some of the things that go up.  The most common example is the number of people who post things online – particularly photos – and appear to be fishing for compliments.  Comments like “I’m so ugly” or “I’m no good at anything” or “I’m so fat, I need to diet” and other such things are frequent posts.  The photos that are coupled with them, however, more often than not, contradict what is being said.  Like I said: it’s almost as if they’re fishing for compliments.

Now believe me, this isn’t always the case.  Insecurity is a horrible thing and it might be that they just want someone to give them that reassurance.  However, it’s possible that some do it just for the compliments.  If social media makes it “trendy”, everyone wants to get involved.

Your Turn

Over to you…what do you think?  Do you think I’m right or do you think I’m wrong?  Let me know by leaving a comment.  I’m interested in getting a discussion going here.

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.