The Difference Between Thoughts and Plans

*Trigger Warning: this post talks about suicide, suicidal thoughts and suicidal plans.*

Thoughts…Plans…Suicide…

Whenever someone with depression or a mental illness that can prompt depression-like symptoms is in a counselling or therapy appointment, one of the most common questions asked by the therapist is: “have you made any plans to end your life?”  It’s a scary question and one that we don’t like to contemplate.  Whether we’ve had those thoughts or not, the notion that we might end our lives can be terrifying.

For friends and family members, it’s almost a taboo topic.  No one likes to hear that their loved one is having thoughts about their own death.  If you hear that someone close to you is considering ending their life, it might prompt you to reevaluate yourself, asking why you’re not enough to keep them here.

Regardless of who is talking about it – the therapist, the one suffering, the friend or the family member – suicide is never a pleasant topic.  That said, it is one that is integral to many mental health conditions and it’s important that we break down the stigmas attached.  So here, I’m going to tell you a few things about suicide that might help.

“Plans To End My Life”

For the majority of people, hearing someone talk about suicide immediately makes them think that person is planning to end their life.  Certainly, this might be a possibility and it seems to be the part of suicide that we hear the most about.  True, we hear about people who have committed suicide but whenever we hear about people who think of suicide, we hear about those who are making plans.

In many respects, it’s almost become something of a horror story.  Someone struggling with mental health mentions suicidal thoughts and next thing we know they’re being sectioned for their own safety.  OK, these things don’t quite go down like that, but it’s one of the impressions of suicide that I’ve heard.

But did you know that there is a difference between plans and thoughts?  It’s something that people forget but it’s a very important differentiation to note.

Suicidal Thoughts

Contrary to popular belief, suicidal thoughts are far more common than you might believe.  According to mind.org.uk anyone can have them, regardless of their background or situation in life.  Yet it might surprise you to know it’s not quite as concerning as it’s made out to be.

Many of us who struggle with suicidal thoughts don’t actually have any intention of following through on them.  We have thoughts about how we would do it, we have thoughts about what the world would be like if we did do it but they aren’t plans.  They are abstract thoughts.  Think of them as the fleeting thoughts, the ones that aren’t too important, but surface every now and again.  A lot of the time, they’re not very intense and we’re not likely to act on them.  They are more like musings than actual proper, seriously considered thoughts.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not making light of suicidal thoughts.  If someone is having them then it is vital they consult a medical professional to determine whether there is an underlying problem.  What I am saying is that we, as friends and family members, should not freak out if someone we love comes to us and tells us they are having suicidal thoughts.  The best thing to do is to be understanding, to be calm and empathetic.

Having suicidal thoughts does not mean that we will necessarily act on them but they must be taken seriously nonetheless!

What You Need To Know

As with all aspects of mental health, suicidal thoughts vary from person to person.  Some experience them strongly, some don’t.  For some, they last a long time, for others they are fleeting.  As for reasons, some people have clear ones why they would be thinking of it, others might not know.  It is a complicated thing.  The best things you can do are:

No one likes admitting to having suicidal thoughts and it can be scary for both sides.  Yet it can be part and parcel of having depression, bipolar, BPD and other mental illnesses.  A counsellor once told me this:

“Suicidal thoughts aren’t necessarily a bad thing.  It means your mind is looking for a way out of your current situation.  All we have to do is provide it with an alternative.”

So what do you say?  Shall we work together to find an alternative for the ones we love?

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.

Left Behind – The Battle Behind the Choice

Simply Put: I Left

OK, so this latest post in my journey is difficult for me to write.  It talks about why I made the decision to leave behind a big part of my life.  A lot of people don’t know this, perhaps a lot of people don’t understand it, but here it is: the battle behind why I left my church.

Over the past nineteen months that Pushing Back the Shadows has been going, I’ve talked about my faith only a few times.  Not because I’m embarrassed about it – quite the opposite, really – I just don’t agree with using this mental health platform to push my religious beliefs onto anyone else.  If they happen to coincide with what I’m writing about, I’ll add them in, but only then.  It’s because of my faith that you’ve had posts such as The Mustard Seed – the fifth part of the Inside My Head series – and Why I’m a Christian But Have a Problem With Religion.  Now we come to this one.

To clarify, before you read what I have to say, this does not reflect everyone in that church.  Nor does it reflect my views on the church as a whole, the Salvation Army (as that’s the church involved), any kind of problem with other churches or other faiths and denominations.  It is what it is.

So what happened?

My Life In the Church

OK, let’s jump back to the beginning for a moment.  I’ll catch you up, don’t worry.  I was brought up in the church.  My parents are Salvation Army ministers and, as such, I’d go every Sunday, attend the Sunday School, you know how it goes.  I also became a member of the church, first as a Junior Soldier (the young people’s commitment) and, later on, a senior solider.  We also moved a lot, which was par for the course, and it led to many fantastic experiences such as living in Prague in the Czech Republic.  That’s definitely something I wouldn’t change for the world!

Don’t laugh…it was for an article and the photographer got me to pose! 🙂

Eventually, as these things happen, I was old enough to go to uni and my parents were moving onto their next posting.  Needless to say, I stayed behind, going to the local Salvation Army church.  That’s where our little journey begins.

Despite a few problems early on – being the pastor’s kid can present those kinds of challenges, as some people will dislike you simply because of who your parents are, others will think you know everything about the inner workings for the same reason and there are a few other reasons too – I settled into the part that I was to play.  A member of the brass band and the songsters (church choir, in a nutshell) as well as the worship team and youth team.  Later, I became deputy bandmaster for the brass band.  I took on the leadership of the worship team.  Also, I started leading my own groups in the Sunday School.

So what, you ask, went wrong?

My Mental Breakdown

Fast forward to around August 2016, when I had my breakdown with depression and anxiety.  I was under extreme pressure at work due to the number of calls I’d take working for the bank, how I was only a temporary worker and able to be let go at any given time (something that seemed held over our heads when it suited) and pressured into being at work and not being off sick.  We know how work turned out for me, but what about my church life?

I was under a lot of pressure there too.  Being a member of the different groups in the church was alright, I could cope with the responsibilities, but the leadership I was under became an issue.  Doing my best, then being told that I was doing things wrong but being given no guidance on how I was meant to do it…it led to problems.  Especially as my depression and anxiety started creeping up, I started to feel as though I couldn’t take a step without getting it wrong.  Quite rapidly – and rather shockingly – my church life, which had been a rock and a constant in my life for nearly a decade, was becoming very similar to that terrible workplace.

Having depression and anxiety is crippling and I’m unashamed to admit it got the better of me.  Exhausted, drained of almost all energy, I found that I was having to make choices.  Did I go to things like band practice, church, social gatherings or did I conserve my energy to get myself out the door for work, my only source of income and supporting myself?  I think we both know which I picked.  Unfortunately, not everyone saw it that way.  Apparently I was choosing to let my depression and anxiety beat me, choosing to let it keep me inside.  While that was right on a fundamental level, the truth was much more complicated than that.

One By One…

Aside from that one comment, at first everyone was supportive.  They tried to keep in touch, reminded me that I was missed, telling me that I was remembered in thoughts and prayers.  Then, as it became more apparent that my condition wasn’t improving at the pace they might have liked, they started to drop off the radar.  Encouraging messages and phone calls became fewer.  Visits that were barely in existence from the beginning also became fewer, bordering on the non-existent.

Add into this some of the people that I’d supported in that church, through difficult times, sometimes without getting anything in return, started disappearing off the radar as well…you can imagine how it must have felt.  All the while, the subtle voice of my Dark Passenger was whispering in my ear, telling me I didn’t matter.

After months of this – visits that never happened, messages that never came, people who were fair weather friends – I left.

The Battle Behind the Decision

I’ll be honest, people don’t understand this decision.  People tell me I didn’t give the church enough credit for what they did, that there were plenty of people trying to support me and that I ungratefully rejected it.  My take is that it was too little, too late.  Yes, there were those who were brilliant (and one who still is) but ultimately they let me down.  When they needed me, they were quick enough to come running.  When I needed them?  That was a different story.

The decision nearly tore me in two.  Part of me wanted to stay because of how long I’d been attending, how much I’d invested in it and the few people there who I still thought of as friend.  The other part…was still reeling from the hurt of what had happened.  Being abandoned in my time of need, being told I was choosing not to be there and being told I was rejecting offers of help…you can imagine.

Ultimately, I decided it was time to leave that part of my life behind me.  Trying to maintain it was only causing more hurt, the reminders of what had happened acting like mental scars.  For the sake of my mental health, for the sake of my recovery, I decided I had to leave the toxic part of my life behind me.

It was the only way.

What Came Next…

After making that decision, things have looked up.  I’ve joined a new church which is amazing.  There are two people in particular who are possibly the loveliest people that you could ever meet, who make sure they stay in touch and who are always on hand if you’ve got a problem.  It’s a beautiful little community of people and, more than that, it’s family.

I bear no ill will against the Salvation Army, for I still attend whenever I visit my parents and maintain a few friendships in the Army outside of that particular church.  As for the people of that church, I don’t hate them.  The only thing I feel, when I feel anything at all, is sadness.  Sadness that they didn’t realise what they were doing.  That even those who struggle with depression and anxiety and other mental illnesses didn’t know what to do to help me…or perhaps didn’t care enough to try.  Perhaps I’ll never know.

For the sake of my own mental health, though, I had to leave.

And that is the story of how I left my church.

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 55 – Until That Moment

That One Moment In Time

No, this isn’t about Whitney Houston’s One Moment In Time, but there is definitely something to be learnt from that phrase.  We are a people that are quick to criticise, quick to judge and seldom provide the support that we should to those in need.  Let’s find out what we need to know!

Useful Links:
Aspects of Choice

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 - Until That MomentDisclaimer: 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.

Practical Tips for Mental Health

Being Practical

I don’t know about you, but I tend to forget things.  Ask Cheryl and she will tell you the same thing.  It can be hard to stay on top of things when struggling with mental health.  So, without further ado, here are some practical tips that I have to help you manage your day-to-day life!  With Christmas coming up, it could be very important!!

Useful Links:
A Very Mental Christmas
Practically Perfect

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 - Practical Tips for Mental HealthDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

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!

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 54 – Worthy or Unworthy?

Are We Worthy?

It’s easy to belittle our worth and debate whether or not we are worthy of the good things that come our way.  We question our worth, we questions whether or not we deserve these things and I provide you with an answer to that today.  Why not join me?

Useful Links:
What You’re Worth

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 - Worthy or Unworthy?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.

A Walk In Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

It’s Autumn now and perhaps it’s time for us to step back, take a break and relax.  As I walked my little one to school this morning and then walked home again, I had the chance to reflect on this as I walked.  Do we stop and take a break?  Do we pause our busy lives?  Not always.  But we should!

Useful Links:
Successful Self-Care
Taking Time Out

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 - A Walk In Autumn LeavesDisclaimer: 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 53 – Continue to Step

Step By Step

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

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

It’s Not That Simple…

The Simple Answer

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

Useful Links:
Looking For the Positives

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

Taking Time Out to Put Time In…

Put Time Aside

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

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

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

Behind the Metaphor

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

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

And I love it!

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

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

What I Put In

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

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

Yet how often is that what’s needed?

Customising a car in Horizon 3.

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

How would the quick upgrade know that?

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

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

Taking Time Out to Put Time In

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

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

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 - 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.