Body for Mind : My First Week

The Diary, Uncategorized

I think to think I’ve tried most methods to maintain, if not improve, my mental health. Medication – check. Therapy – been there. Meditation – tried that.

For a while, I was a fucking hippy, trying to see what soothing effect it might have.

The one thing I could never, ever stand was people telling me that they felt relief with exercise and healthy eating…


I follow a lot of gym bunnies on Instagram, and some of my friends are in the fitness and health field. My timelines are forever loaded with the irritating, motivational ‘fitspo’ pictures and guides.

‘How the fuck can that make you feel good? Genuinely?’

I hated hearing about how people enjoyed exercise, how it helped their stress levels and how their outlook on life was improved by working out and treating their body right. I rubbished it as a lie in order to rope in some more poor bastards to their gym classes, or to pay for expensive diet regimes.

It felt patronising, if I’m honest. Someone telling me, a person with a diagnosed condition, that sit-ups and lettuce could help. I felt like they were almost implying that my brain could be rewired if I ate more Omega 3, or avoided oven chips.

It wasn’t until last month, when I had a ‘shakey moment’, that I decided to cave to the hype. I made a deal with myself that I’d set up an experiment, for a short period of time, to see if working out more and eating better had any effect on my bipolar. I ordered a new recipe book, dug out my dad’s WonderCore and gave myself two months to feel an improvement.

I started planning meals, subscribed to yoga tutorials and drew up my own work-out routine with exercise that I might actually enjoy. For added pressure, I told all my friends about my plan so that they would spot when I was being lazy or eating shit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still giving myself treats – everything in moderation, they say.

The focus wasn’t on weight loss or physical improvements, but I welcomed the possibility of getting more fit and toning up my ever-growing arse. As previously disclosed, I’ve dealt with eating phobias when I was younger, so it was important to me not to get caught up in the wrong goals.

And so it begun. I was one of those people.

giphy

It’s been a week now.

I work out 4 times a week, at home, and use the Lean In 15 cook book to make up my packed lunches and dinners.

I hate myself for saying this – but I can feel things changing already.

Let’s be clear, I won’t be posting any ‘progress pics’ of my pale boy-ish body. That’s not what I’m doing this for. But I do feel my shape changing.

With hillwalking, my legs have become more toned and the yoga has helped my core. I work myself into a sweat for 1 hour and then I stop – making sure not to overdo it. My biggest surprise has been how much I enjoy my new meals, I eat so much more fruit and vegetables – despite previously eating quite a lot. My meals taste healthy and light, but I’m rarely able to finish them because they’re so filling!

It feels good to have my workmates comment on how tasty my lunches look now, as opposed to jokingly rolling their eyes at yet another box of doughnuts.

As for my mind? The progress is coming, but it’s much slower.

I try and power-walk 3 miles a night, luckily I live in quite a safe and scenic area so it doesn’t feel like a chore. After my first walk, I felt great. I felt like I’d actually found something I could stick to and incorporate into my strict routine. Working out definitely helps to relieve any stress, but mostly it serves as a distraction.

Living alone, I find I get too wrapped up in my own thoughts when I don’t have company, so this was helpful.

Although it only been a week, I’m optimistic about the changes to come. I’ve become one of those people that I once hated, but I was probably jealous of their will-power.

Anyway, that’s the first week done. Stay tuned to see how I get on!

So far, so great.

feeling myself

Benzo’s Are A Girl’s Best Friend: Unsolicited Advice on Progress

The Diary

Jen McGuire

 

I often find it difficult to talk about my varying mental health issues. Not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but because I’ve been dealing with them for so long. I don’t remember a point in my teenage or adult life where it hasn’t been something I’ve had to face head on. In a way, the depression and the anxiety are a part of me that I’ve never been without- I have blue eyes, I’m allergic to penicillin and sometimes I’m cripplingly afraid to go outside. If you know me well, you know I’m a walking bingo card for psychological dysfunction. But, with a little help from our good old friends Sertraline and Chardonnay (a mixture I lovingly refer to as truth serum), Ican shed some light on my unconventional coping mechanisms, and how I’ve survived the past eight years of cerebral chaos.

1: Selective Self-Seeking

Unconventional self-help tip numero uno: sometimes you have to be selfish. If I had a pound for every time someone told me they’d delayed getting help to ‘protect’ a loved one’s concerns, I’d have Zac Efron on a diamond encrusted leash. It’s normal to be reluctant to worry the people you care about, but looking out for yourself is the first step to progress. What makes mental health disorders so incomprehensible to those who have not experienced them, is their enduring nature. You can’t just take a course of pills and feel better, it isn’t a virus that needs to be placed into isolation, and it can’t be surgically removed. When battling addiction, they say admitting you have a problem is the hardest part of recovery, and I think the same can be said for mental health. Admit it to yourself and those around you, and then do everything you can to kick its arse into remission. In the beginning, you need to look at what youneed and what’s going to make you better. Those who truly have your best interests to heart, will accept that and aid you in your journey. Those who don’t, do not care about you and will get crotch-punched later in life (either metaphorically by karma, or literally by me if I ever meet them). Be aware of the things that are good for you mentally, and be selfish in your attempts to surround yourself with them… Just try not to be a massive dick about it.

 

2: Accepting the Ugly

When I was 15 I had my first panic attack in the middle of my high school gym hall. If you have ever experienced one of these little shits, you’ll know your first thought is that you’re very possibly dying. In between mentally planning who was going to sing ‘Wonderwall’ at my funeral, and who gets my electric pink Stratocaster in my will, I saw my local GP. What I’ve come to realise as I rapidly approach my mid-twenties, is that not once did this doctor ever explain that this could very likely be an ongoing issue (spoiler: it has been). My mentality at the time, fragile as it was, was that it would just be a blip in an otherwise normal adolescence. For nearly eight years I’ve wondered when it’s all going to stop, when I’m going to “get better”. This notion was shattered only a few months ago when my new (and infinitely more likeable) doctor told me “Jen, you’ve had this for eight years now. It’s not going away.” Whilst that might seem harsh to some, it was a revelation to me. Yes, I would love to wake up tomorrow and never have to deal with any of it ever again. I’d give almost anything to not have another panic attack or a day spent crying in the dark. But recent experience suggests that this is something that is always going to be a part of me, and that’s okay. I can and have coped, and so can you. We all have things we don’t like about ourselves, but you can take part of it and turn it into a positive. Let your efforts to protect your own wellbeing against all odds become one of your biggest strengths, I promise you’ll come to love yourself for it.

 

3: Knowing Yourself

By living with mental health disorders, it has become somewhat difficult to differentiate between aspects of my personality, and symptoms of my conditions. Am I a paranoid person, or is the anxiety making me that way? Am I pessimistic or am I just on a downer right now? Will drinking bring out the best or worst in me tonight? Which version of myself am I today? Who am I? What will I be? This is the hardest thing for me to write about, because battling with what’s me and what’s a side effect has brought me upon some of my biggest crises to date. I wish I had an answer to this, but I’m still trying to work it out myself. On the good days, I trust in myself to know who I am. I’m funny, intelligent, kind and sensitive. On the bad I interpret these traits as being annoying, arrogant, selfish and cold. Maybe I am all of these things, or perhaps I’m none of them. What I’ve come to learn is that you can find solace in the uncertainty of it all. I can change, I can grow and I can learn because it’s all a part of who I have the potential to be. I also know the things that will never change: I will never not rap R Kelly’s ‘Ignition’ to random strangers in a club; I’ll always eat the blue M&M’s first and so help me god if there’s tequila anywhere near me I will vomit rainbows. What I’m trying to say, is take advantage of what is unique to you today and look forward to learning the rest tomorrow, next week or a year from now.

 

4: Progressing

I’m not a fan of the term ‘recovery’ when it comes to mental health. It implies something going away, never to return, to be forgotten about and rarely discussed. Even if what you’re going through does ‘Die Hard’ it has the potential to return ‘With A Vengeance’ like some sort of ‘Lethal Weapon’… Excellent action movie puns aside, it is completely normal to accept that you may take three steps forward and five steps back. You might be crushing it in the office today, then sobbing on the bathroom floor tomorrow. A couple of weeks ago I was hysterically crying and vomiting in a bucket on my mum’s living room floor, and now I’m writing an article promoting mental health wellbeing. The journey from depression and anxiety to fully functioning human being is kind of like the Trump presidency- unpredictable, daunting and senseless. You can’t call it, so roll with the punches and pat yourself on the back for getting through each day. They say thank heavens for small mercies, and I agree. Applaud yourself for any and all progresses, no matter how minor they might seem. Managed to eat some toast despite not having an appetite all week? Progress. Not self-harming when you’ve had a really bad day? Progress. Telling a friend what you’re going through at the minute? Progress, progress, progress.

 

5: “You’re going to have to save yourself.”

A depressive, 20-something English graduate quoting Bukowski? “HOW ORIGINAL!” I hear you cry. But spare me your eye rolls, because I have a point to make and you bet your apprehensive arse that it’s a good one. Like so many, I turn to literature on the dark days to bring my spirits up. I even managed to bullshit a degree out of it, but that’s neither here nor there… However, one verse by Charles Bukowski always comes to mind when I’m giving myself a pep-talk:

“Nobody can save you but

yourself.

and you’re worth saving.

it’s a war not easily won.

but if anything is worth winning then

this is it”

 

While it might sound daunting, I’ve found a great deal of comfort in knowing it’s all on me. We are all the masters of our own destiny and the engineers to our own happiness. Talk to people, love people, share your life with people, but remember it all starts and ends with you. The strongest people I know are the ones fighting the monsters in their own head. Getting yourself out of bed and seeking help is the most empowering thing you can do. When you feel like your life is getting out of your control, take it back. When you’re crippled with self-doubt, find comfort in the promise of tomorrow. Put one foot in front of the other, and know that whenever you fall there is always a way to get back up. You are both the victim and the hero in your own story. Dammit, you are the story, so start writing.

The Crazy Clinic Chronicles

The Diary

I try to be as open as possible about my treatment and personal progress, as you know. So, with this in mind, my aim is to document my visits to the doctor and any changes to my medication/routine.

Is it too personal? Perhaps too much sharing? Probably.

But I know that there are people dealing with undiagnosed mental health struggles and, this way, they get to see that seeking help and being on prescribed medication isn’t as scary as it seems.


My last visit for an evaluation was a month ago, my doctor had changed my dosage for my anti-anxiety drugs and, today, wanted to see how the alterations had affected me. Four weeks ago, I had complained of a ‘spike’ in my nerves. The way my anxiety works means that when it flares up, my bipolar symptoms can too. Feeding the fire, so to speak. It’s easy for me to separate anxiety from my more severe problems now, I can sense when it’s coming and how it’ll affect my mood swings. Last month, I had started experiencing faint hallucinations and severe distraction. I couldn’t focus on a task for more than 30/40 seconds without something breaking my attention.

Imagine Dory from Finding Nemo on drugs. That was me.

Anyway, the changes involved going from one, slow-release tablet in the morning to two, fast-acting pills taken 6 hours apart. For the first week, I didn’t feel any better. Worse, in fact. I was having small panic attacks on the commute to work and was only able to remain calm due to the knowledge that I had taken action and had to be patient to see changes. By the second week, I noticed a huge change in my nerves in the morning. I was walking up calm instead of shaking with irrational fear. At this point, mornings were starting to get lighter and brighter too, which makes a huge difference to me. I was able to leave the house much more confidently.

Today I had my re-evaluation, and while it could’ve went better, I’m staying optimistic with treatment. I had yet another increase with a different drug, one which I was disappointed in having to take.

I’m still naive in the sense that I always think my doses will go down, rather than increase or plateau. 

I’m allowing myself to be bothered by this increase because it’s normal to be disappointed at needing help. There’s no need to act like you’re happy to be taking even more medication. Will it help? Yes. Do you need to enjoy taking it? Absolutely fucking not.

Anyway…

I’ve got a new, and dare I say better, doctor. She explained to me that once your mind stabilises and is ready to bounce back, it might need some help to get there. It’s been through a shock. So, again, in a month she’ll evaluate my progress with the new medication. I have appointments between now and then, so any issues that arise can be tackled pretty quickly.

My homework until then is to learn more about Bipolar Type II.

Plodding onwards, chums.

leonardo dicaprio cheers martin scorsese congratulations hooray

# Yes, I’m aware Leo has appeared twice. He’s soothing to me. Fuck off.

Down on the Upside

The Diary

 Kieran Monaghan, 26

Lets start things off light-hearted shall we?! Here is anxiety bear:


Cute isn’t he?! Now that you have been eased into the murky waters of this harrowing tale let me begin…
It was on the 23rd May 2016 I finally decided to confront what I had known for years: My mental health was on its arse and I needed to make changes. After being on stand-by mode for what had seemed like months, I made an impulsive decision to visit my friend in Germany for 2 weeks to sort my head out, remove my self from friends, family, work, the pressures of finding that perfect ‘career job’ and all the general petty worries someone in their mid 20’s going through the motions would feel.
The year prior to this I had just finished my dissertation and was finally free from the confines of formal education. I genuinely thought I would now be free to do exactly as I pleased. What followed however, was months of a directionless existence. Not knowing what I wanted to do with my degree I slipped back into old habits, working full-time at the same job I had since leaving school, grasping at every possible opportunity to gorge myself with drink to break up the grind of being just another cog in the machine. I was even finding it difficult to socialise with close friends if alcohol wasn’t involved in some shape or form, I felt completely disconnected from reality at this point. I was approaching 25 and hadn’t accomplished nearly 10% of the goals I had mentally set myself out at 18. My delusions with reality had gotten so bad that one morning, a week before my 25th birthday, I woke up for work and was contemplating throwing myself in front of an incoming train just to escape from it all. This is the only time I have ever truly considered self-harm or taking my life.

My trip to Germany felt like the reset button my life needed. I went two whole weeks without a negative thought veering into my rearview mirror during the trip. Surrounded by strangers, no prior judgement, no wall or front to put up to appeases others, it was utter bliss. Coming home to reality broke me and made me realise I wasn’t well. I told my family everything that I had been feeling the past year which brought up some uncomfortable home truths as well as making me examine my psyche in a way I was completely unwilling to before. I sought out help and was diagnosed with depression and high levels of anxiety and was put on meds to stabilise my moods and behaviour.
From a young age I have suffered from extreme anxiety. I have always been quite introverted in nature and find most social situations with large crowds of people uncomfortable unless I’m out of my face. What started off as an inconvenience for my social life slowly started to weave its way into my everyday life. I would take the smallest fear or doubt in my head and blow it up to the point were I would spend full days in my room paralysed with anxiety. I always use a strange analogy to describe what it feels like to me having high levels of anxiety:
“Do you know when you get a line from a song stuck in your head from hours on end and you can’t seem to shake it out no matter how hard you try? Anxiety is like that, but take what would appear to be a pretty harmless idea/thought, repeating it over and over in your head until it warps into the worst possible version of that thought you can imagine leaving you feeling helpless and absorbed by your insecurities.”
That might sound a tad melodramatic but this is something I was having to deal with on a near daily basis but too embarrassed to say to anyone. Being trapped inside your head fighting a never-ending mental war on yourself is tough for anyone and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
That analogy not do anything for you? Here it is a more visual description of what living with anxiety is like:

Being a self-hating privileged white male, I am very self-aware that myself and many guys grow up without really facing any kind of hardships in our day to day lives, both personally and professionally. The one area where males have always faltered with is talking about their feelings and being ‘emotional’. Even as someone who would identify themselves as quite effeminate, the stigma of masculinity has always lured over my head when it has came to expressing how I really feel at the best of times. I have been in past relationships where I have been unable to express how I’m feeling to the other half no matter how hard I’m being pushed. One particular relationship, which was by no means a bad relationship, ended pretty badly as the girl got understandably frustrated that I couldn’t express myself to her in the way I really wanted to. In my head I had just always been taught to avoid confrontation at all costs as men are supposed to be ‘strong’ and ‘stoic’. traditional masculinity is something I have always tried to fight against but at the end of the day I still felt trapped by the cliches of being a man.
Being able to openly discuss mental health and our feelings is something I have tried to make a priority with my male friends when we are out drinking, as sadly being intoxicated is the easiest way for men to let down that macho facade and be real with themselves even if just momentarily. Last summer I was telling my closest friend, who was suffering from a long-term battle with Cancer, that I felt genuinely embarrassed talking to him about my problems after everything he had been through to this point. I felt pathetic that I had at points wanted to give up on my life when he was fighting everyday just to stay around a little longer. But being the incredible compassionate human being that he was told me “That just because your problems aren’t as severe as mine, doesn’t mean they aren’t any less insignificant”. Despite all the bullshit he was going through, he was still willing to lend an ear and talk to me about troubles I felt uncomfortable talking to anyone else about at that stage. For that and everything else he done for me over the years, I’m truly grateful to have had someone there to listen to me when I needed it most.
So what your wanting to know now is that I confronted my problems, got the help I needed and am now fully recovered and live happily ever after?! Well kids, life isn’t the fairytales Disney and countless other feel good stories depict it to be. Have I gotten better?! Of course. Being able to talk openly about my troubles makes it easier to confront them when they occasionally come back out to play. I certainly have more good days than bad days but those bad days can still be as bad as they used to be. The only difference is now I have the support system of friends and family to pull me out of that funk when I get into that headspace. Honestly without them this might be a much different blog post.

Sadly at the end of last year my friend passed away after battling for years and I was fully expecting to go off the rails completely but his death has brought all my close friends closer together than we have been in years and we all have each other to fall in if things get tough. I have also been fortunate enough to bring new folk into my life who have unwillingly helped my recovery without even being aware of it.
If I could say anything to anyone reading this post who can relate to any of this, especially the dudes: please tell a friend or family member and that burden will feel 100 times lighter. Male Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 in Britain and this static will only spiral unless we teach men that its okay to be emotional and talk to others about your problems. Sure its gradual battle that never truly fades away even with time but you will be surprised by what someone showing basic human compassion towards you could do to help.

What Happens When Your Tinder Date Licks Your Hand. (Yes, you read it right.)

The Diary, Uncategorized

I’ve had Tinder on and off for the past year. My experiences have been few but varied, and my ego has been simultaneously fluffed then bruised. A lot of people have a sense of embarrassment for their Swiping Antics, but I see it as a laugh. And as long as you’re safe and tell your friends where you’ll be/who you’ll be with, nothing should go wrong. Right?

Wrong.


He left it to me to decide where we could go for a drink, so naturally I chose my favourite bar in Glasgow and sat myself at a centre table, waiting for him to arrive from uni.I’d been chatting to Kieran* for about a week when I decided he might be alright to have a pint and pizza with, so there I was, patiently waiting to see if Tinder had (once again) failed me.

When he arrived, he offered to buy me a drink. Lovely, great start. He was half Portuguese, and reminded me of someone, I just couldn’t place who it was.

If any of you have ever been on a date with me (doubtful),  I’ll usually say ‘surprise me’ when you offer to go to the bar. I’m judging you on your drink choice. Heavily.

He came back with a gin and tonic, so I thought I’d break the ice by telling him a tale about how a 16 year old me drank 2 gins and ended up in tears – thus, my conclusion that gin makes me cry. I thought it’d be a funny anecdote, but instantly he pulled a disgusted face and started dissecting my story.

‘I mean, just because you cried after gin, doesn’t mean it was the gin that made you cry, know?’

‘Well, yeah…but you know how some people say certain drinks make them cry? I always just assumed it was that.’ *nervous laugh*

‘Maybe it was because you were a stupid wee girl who tried gin.’

Maybe he’s just tired after studying, I thought. He was a PhD student. Or maybe he was on his period, I dunno.

FYI, I fucking hate gin but I drank it because I needed something to prepare me for what was probably going to be a…difficult evening. Plus, I’m not a rude cunt. A concept lost on some people.

We ordered food, and through the week I’d laughed at him via text about his choice of pizza topping. (Ham and pineapple, by-the-way. And if that wasn’t grounds for divorce, I don’t know what was.)  We chatted away about work and friends, I tried to be polite and ask about his course but his responses were verbal pat-downs, questioning my ability to understand the terms he used and the scientists he was referencing. I like science, so my back was up by now. We got on to talking about religion, and he proceeded to ‘jokingly’ called me ‘Fenian Scum’ (I’m not actually Catholic, so that was weird) and refer to himself as an ‘Agnostic, Protestant, Atheist.’ I can’t remember how he justified the existence of such a stance on faith, I’d probably stopped listening by this point. My face was red for him.

I was completely bummed out. I was sat with this beautiful, insanely smart guy and all I wanted to do was smash his face into his pizza.  I was furious with his false advertising.

‘Tequila?’ I asked. On dates, I like to see what the guy is like after a shot. Barriers go down and true colours come out, I say. Surprisingly, he agreed to it. He did actually seem to mellow out a little, thank god. And for about an hour, he was good company. He was quite sweet, funny and began to have a bit of a laugh with a drunken, older couple beside us.

‘ANDREW GARFIELD!’

I’d finally remembered who he looked like. Spiderman himself. Andy G, solid 10/10.

‘Do you KNOW how often I get that? I mean, its not even funny anymore, fuck.’

You’d honestly think I’d told him he looked like Ed Balls. He wasn’t happy, at all. He was disgusted that I’d brought it up and repeatedly rolled his eyes. I had just told him he looked like one of the world’s most attractive men, and he was explicitly pissed at me.

check please.gif

So we were sat there, awkwardly chair-dancing to some sort of 70s disco song and making small talk. He grabbed my shoulder and twisted me round, squinting his eyes as he done it. My tattoo, he was checking the tattoo. I awkwardly smiled as he mumbled something about it. The next thing I knew, he was looking at my hand. He grabbed it, and LICKED the back of it. My face must’ve been a picture. I assume, now, that he was trying to be flirty and get the rest of the salt from the previous Tequila Slammer. At least I hope that’s what he was doing, I’ll never know.

But still. Homeboy, no. Just no.

A few more beers and another tequila later, we called it a night, and I -being a regular at the bar- said goodbye to my favourite bouncer, who replied with ‘Bye, Michael!’ (A personal joke.) Kieran* scowled at me, questioning why I was being called this. And continued to walk ahead of me in a huff. Nevertheless, I walked 5 steps behind him to his subway stop. I had just stepped onto the escalator when I could see his face hurtling towards mine and him confidently going in for the kill. How could he think this was a good idea? Maybe it was a last ditch attempt to save the date. I closed my eyes and thought of Adam Levine. The kiss passed. He smiled at me, smugly. And all I could think about was the coffee I’d need for the train home. I waved him off, and made a swift move for my station. On my walk, I must’ve looked like a psychopath as I was laughing out loud at the thought of what had just happened.

andy.jpg

Offensive comparison, apparently.

The next day, there were no messages until 8pm. A text saying how he felt in a ‘funk’, and ‘not sure if we were compatible for a relationship.’ No shit, Sherlock. I responded with an aloof, easy-breezy message. Basically, I told him I thought he was mad to even be thinking about a relationship and that I was in total agreement about the compatibility statement.

One date. One date and he was already writing off our future marriage and children. I was devastated. Obviously.

Alas, I proceed to tire my thumb out daily by swiping left. I don’t even know why I still use the fucking thing, call it boredom or an undying need for flattery when you’ve matched with ‘Ben’ from East Kilbride. Or your ex’s best friend. *cough*

The thing with Tinder is that it can either go swimmingly, and you can have a swell evening with your date and possibly strike up something lovely. Or, you can meet someone who is the polar opposite from their interactive impression. This was my first poor experience from using it, and I’m slowly but surely starting to see why people give me that awful look when I tell them what I’m focusing so hard on during lunch.

Don’t hate the player, hate the game, right?

The reality of it all is that, nowadays, you’re becoming less and less likely to meet anyone organically. I’d love to be sitting in a bar and have a guy approach me with fantastic chat and ask for my number, or to have the confidence to approach someone myself. But unfortunately, these things rarely happen. The scene, now, is that single people are sat in their rooms at night sleepily swiping through hoards of strangers. But, c’est la vie. It’s all for fun, and I’ll maybe worry more when I hit 40 and start adopting copious amounts of cats.

I swayed with the idea of writing this post, out of respect for Kieran* and pure shame for myself. But then again, if you can’t laugh, you’ll cry. Tinder is a freak’s playground, and unless you’re savvy, you’ll end up having your hand licked by a huffy, middle-class brat who doesn’t like cake.

I mean, come on…

ew.gif