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

Advertisements

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.

When The Going Gets…Good?

The Diary

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked since starting the blog, thus making my condition public, is if it’s possible for me to feel real, mad happiness. And the answer is always accompanied with an eye-roll.

Yes. I can.

Think of it this way, my serotonin levels are low, right? Which, yeah, technically impairs my ability to feel like a gleeful little leprechaun. But use that same principle with other hormones.

If a woman has slightly higher testosterone levels, she might show signs through her reproductive health or maybe some physical elements. But she isn’t a man, is she?

What I’m saying is that, just because something is present, it doesn’t always dominate.

I’m fortunate in the sense that things, right now, are going pretty well for me. I just landed my dream job, working with the SSPCA – Scotland’s leading animal rescue charity. The big dogs.

Sorry.

My social life is relatively active, considering I was a hermit about 3 months ago. I go out, make wine-based mistakes like every other 23 year old, and I’m now able to laugh about situations that would’ve literally driven me mad in the past.

But while things are going well, I do still find it hard to keep focused on the good stuff. For me, there is a constant preoccupation with danger and negative situations. I sometimes struggle to acknowledge how genuinely good things are, and instead spend my time worrying over meeting new people, proving myself and doing things completely right. For example, when I accepted the new job this week – I was happy, yes. But almost instantly my mind was filled with doubts – what if I don’t make friends? what if they think I’m incapable? And soon I start thinking that I should decline the job, stay where I am and – ultimately – be miserable. I can somewhat override this now, though. Depression wants you to stay boxed in, by yourself and numb. And you know you’re getting better when you can start to ignore it.

The best way I can describe my current state is that I’m happy, but I constantly feel like I’ve got something in the back of my mind. There’s almost a physical pressure in my head, and I can’t quite shake it some days. It’s extremely important for me to stay busy, but my attention span is pretty poor, and occasionally I’ll go blank because my heads in overdrive. You literally have to force that ‘feeling’ out of your head.

brainpic

My best attempt at a diagram of the situation. CBT gives an exit route/vent to the blues, after they’ve been pushed back.

In order for me to get better, I had this mental list of things that I wanted to tackle. Things that would genuinely make me happier. Examples being getting a new job, mending relationships/friendships that I cared about, seeing my friends more, taking better care of my physical state and saying ‘Fuck It’ a lot more. Prior to diagnosis, I had given up on all of these things. I was content to stay in a job that I hated, didn’t really care about people around me and definitely didn’t look after myself. I was also a huge introvert, hence why it’s important for me to be more spontaneous now. I 100% believe that these goals have helped me to get over a large part of the illness, and while there’s still things to tackle, I’m getting there. Definitely.

I think that a large part of my initial understanding of depression was warped. I’ve always tried to be an advocate for ‘it’s not always what it looks like’, because people with this condition – as well as bipolar, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses ARE normal people. I think of the conditions as a little ‘glitch’ in their circuit boards. It’s completely possible to be happy when you have a negatively-wired mind, as weird as that sounds. And for me, it’s important that the stigma is dissolved. I’d like to be able to laugh without someone implying that it’s a rarity or some sort of miracle!

To be fair, it’s actually difficult for me to accept when I’m feeling happy. Not that I don’t want to be, but my mind is so busy processing the anxious thoughts, that when a nice one comes along, it freaks. It’s like walking back into school after the summer holidays. If you imagine my brain as a campus, and about 60% of the other pupils are anxious/blue/paranoid thoughts. A nice little thought comes in, sees everyone looking at them, and has to quickly find the table with it’s other, happy friends. That thought seems odd, out of place and finds it difficult to blend in to the literal madness. But it finds the table, sits, and gets on with it. The more that this happens, the better. The ‘campus’ will eventually be full of good shit, thus, Happy Kathryn!

Holy fucking hell, that was a terrible metaphor.

Anyway, in this ‘pursuit of happiness’, I’ll always be open about the success/failure of my own goals. Before starting this blog, I used to read other peoples’, and I didn’t always feel that they were honest when things went really good, or even really bad. A lot of their posts were just about staying static, to be honest. There was no progress reports. Admitting failure and being proud of your successes are key in truly getting better, I think. So I’ll do just that. Plus, it’ll probably make for a more interesting read.

CBT – Part II.

The Diary, Uncategorized

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything informative regarding treatment, so I thought I’d give you the lowdown on what’s being going on during Jim and I’s appointments.

To recap, the last time I posted about CBT, it was just starting. I was a naive little thing, who didn’t actually believe that it’d make a difference in the grand scheme of things. But it has, and not in the way I expected.

My appointments have now gone from weekly to fortnightly, which I suppose is a good sign – well, as good as it could get when you’re literally being treated for being a miserable cow. The past few months with Jim have been…bizarre. He’s a strange guy, but they always say that those who study the mind are somewhat mad themselves, don’t they?

The sessions start off the exact same way that they always have, with a session objective and focus point. Jim usually asks me to score my weeks out of 10, and expects a full justification on the score given. For example, last week I said ‘7/8, because nothing bad has happened.’ Jim doesn’t like that. He feels ‘just because nothing bad has happened, doesn’t mean it deserves that score.’ He wants reasons, prompting me to eventually list the positive things in life. Family, friends etc – I think he does this to remind me that there’s good shit going on. I’m not so ill anymore where I don’t know this, but he likes to remind me, I guess.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been studying my perception of things and how it compares to the actual reality. The thing with my condition is that, once you have your first ‘wobbly’ moment, your perspective is almost instantly tarnished. Nothing is completely good, everything MUST have a negative side – or at least a side that you’re unsure of. Paranoia is a better term for it. Usually, Jim asks about my thoughts regarding a situation that’s occurred since last seeing each other. A typical conversation might go like this:

Jim: And how did that make you feel?

Me: Ehhh, a bit shit I suppose. Like I’m a bad person.

Jim: But what do bad people do? In your opinion…

Me: Kill people, steal, cheat…that kind of thing *nervous laugh*

Jim: And do you do those things?

Me: …No.

Jim: So are you really that bad a person then?

He probes at everything. He wants to know why you think your thoughts, and where they’ve come from. He will always emphasize the difference between thoughts and reality, which is probably the hardest part for me to accept. I’m a stubborn git, so it’s hard for me to understand that my thoughts aren’t completely right, 100% of the time.

In terms of diagnosis progression, I’ve started to show signs of a bipolar-sort syndrome. One minute I’m in love with everything and everyone, the next I’ll be sliding back in to who I was in December. I’ll admit that I can be passive aggressive, and I go silent with genuine anger sometimes – for no reason at all. It’s easier to shake now, though. And usually I just sleep it off, or go to my mums to feel a bit safer. That sounds morbid, as if I cant be left alone – but once you know what your mind is capable of, you’re better safe than sorry. It rarely happens, but when it does, that’s the jam. Jim approves, and seems chuffed that I’m able to take this protective steps for myself.

I get ‘homework’ now, too. I bought myself a sassy little folder from Paperchase for it.

£2.50 by-the-way. For a sheet of fucking colourful plastic.

It’s full of leaflets, worksheets and appointment cards. If I escape the appointment without some sort of workbook, Jim will mail it to me the next day. There is absolutely no escaping that shit. Anyway, it’s actually an Australian programme that we follow, broken down into units like Worry, Intrusive Thoughts, Repetitive Behaviour and GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder). Every base is kinda covered. Typically, I need to fill out a few pages for the next session, along with a quiz to keep track of my general mood, regularity of harmful thoughts etc. Which, by-the-way, are very rare and diluted now. Always a funky sign!

The thing that still surprises me about CBT is the level of mindfulness that I’m gaining. Since starting, I’m definitely more aware of my thoughts and their origins. And even though I can’t control them, I understand them a little more. I know what causes me to jump to conclusions, to feel fear or to be comforted.

Prosecco. Pizza. Will & Grace – in that order. FYI.

I think I started therapy assuming that Jim would be some monocle-wearing idiot, questioning me about my childhood and such. But really, all he does is assure me that everything starts somewhere. And it’s his job to find why my depression began, and how to deal with it. In terms of the bipolar symptoms, he’s monitoring those along with my GP. I always thought that a therapist would just try to make you happy and get over shit, but it’s actually the contrary. There’s a lot of confronting yourself, as cheesy as that sounds. It’s all good though, I know that it’ll make a difference in the long run.

Anyway, it’s going okay. I can’t say I enjoy blethering about feelings to a relatively new person, I’m a bottler. It’s a bit tricky for me to start appointments, but once the ball starts rolling, I’m good.

I’ll always endorse the attendance of therapy to anyone who has the option. Private or NHS, these people are pretty good at what they do. As I’ve said before, it’s a mindfuck, but you’ll get there. It’s worth it.

People Say The Funniest Shit.

The Diary

This week at work, a colleague and I got chatting whilst preparing to be humped (yet again) by sale shoppers. The subject of choice was old people, and how unbelievably hilarious, albeit controversial, their opinions usually are. We’re talking casual racism, casual homophobia, casual EVERYTHING. When I say these things are ‘hilarious’, I of course mean that the naivety and lack of knowledge behind their views is comical – not the racism/homophobia/whatnot…duh.

I’m looking at you, Sheila. You twisted, magnificent woman.

Anyway, the conversation progressed onto how the elderly perceive mental health. I, being a qualified nutjob who lives with my grandparents, have had countless experiences in this field. And it got me thinking about this post – the inappropriate shit people say and do when they know you’re being treated for the blues and anxiety.

 And it’s not just old people.

Thinking about it now, it’s genuinely funny. But at the time, when it happens, you cannot help but make the ‘say what now?’ face. The good intentions are there, but you can’t help but get pissy when people open their cakeholes and their wise words come rolling off their tongue – blessing your poor, tormented mind with an instant calmness.

Note the sarcasm.

Below are genuine things that people have said and done to me since being diagnosed. Some frequently asked questions and daily statements.

Heads up – people are fucking stupid.


 

*mid panic attack* ‘Whatevers making you anxious, just don’t think about it, calm down. Switch off from the world!’ 

Oh my god, I mean..I didn’t think to try that! Thank you, oh wise one! (I’ll see your ‘just dont think about it’, and raise you a ‘Go fuck yourself’. Dick.)

‘Look at the amazing life you have, you’re so lucky! What have you got to be depressed about?’

I am not sad through lacking anything, nor through choice. I am sad because the chemicals in my brain are literally making me sad. You know, the same chemicals that make you an assuming, condescending PRICK. Those ones.

*Switches TV channel to prevent me from seeing a sad scene in a film or show* ‘I just thought you might not be able to handle it, y’know?’

Understandable, I suppose. Except my depression isn’t caused by watching Marley and Me, Mum.

*has a good day* ‘OH YOU’RE IN A GOOD MOOD! YAY :D’

Fucked it. Absolutely fucked it. Having depression doesn’t mean you can’t experience good moods, let’s clarify that. It just makes bad moods slightly harder to shake. And if people say this kind of shit to you, it highlights that your good days are easier for everyone. Saying this basically translates as ‘Oh good, you seem slightly more upbeat today so I don’t need to pretend to be a decent person to you.’

‘But you always seem so confident and loud!’

Touche, I do. And its taken me a while to get back to that stage. But bare in mind that Robin Williams, a comedian-  a man who was literally a millionaire through being hilarious and brilliantly talented – also had depression, and it killed him. Do not think that all sufferers will have sad faces. THAT is the stigma of the illness.

‘Do you not think it’s a bit drastic to put you on medication?’ 

I had this said to me a week after I first thought about topping myself into the canal. ‘Bit drastic’? Nahhhh babes. Anything that doesn’t make me do that is just sublime, thanks though. Not to mention the implication that my feelings were so temporary and easily fixed using fucking prayers and aromatherapy oils from Body Shop. Bye, Felicia.

‘I just don’t really believe depression is a thing. I think you make a choice to feel that way and for it to stick.’

Me and this person are no longer friends. That’s all.

meme

‘OH YOU HAVE DEPRESSION? Do you like, hurt yourself?’

This is actually a thing. Someone has LEGIT asked me this. No, I don’t. Nor will I ever. But for asking that with an intrigued smirk on your face, you should.

‘You shouldn’t really be out at parties then, should you?’

Quite the contrary, my friend. Quite the fucking contrary.

‘So, like, what makes you sad then?’

My serotonin levels, bae. WBU?

‘Aw babe, I think you just need a cup of tea and a big cuddle.’

And I think you need to get the fuck away from me, Sliver Dick.

‘Know what calms me down and cheers me up? Serving customers and interacting with people.’

New manager to me, on our first shift together. Yup.

AND MY ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE!

‘You just need to talk about it. Come on, what’s wrong?’

Off. You. Shall. Fuck. If someone’s wants to talk, they eventually will. And it’ll take all the energy that they have to do so, it took me a week just to prepare myself to talk to my best friend about how I was feeling. So sitting in Starbucks and talking to you about it will NOT cure anything. Sorry.

I did warn you, people are stupid.

The craic with CBT.

The Diary, Uncategorized

This week, I attended my second CBT session with Uncle Fester the lovely Jim.

God love the man, but he genuinely takes an hour to ask a question.

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is designed to understand why you’re thoughts are what they are. It’s a mindfuck, basically. And for an hour each week, Jim will evaluate my reactions towards specific things that have happened since our last render-vouz. This post is basically to outline what happens when you start attending the Crazy Clinic, and why it’s actually not that bad.


Every Wednesday, I’ll wait in the reception area until I see his wee, round moon face. He’s a delightful guy, seems to know his stuff and always, ALWAYS comments on the weather as we walk to the consultation room. It’s a big white room with two chairs, a computer and a filing cabinet. He has a Reebok backpack and wears the same shoes as Nuns. Those wee clunky black things. So fetch.

The reception is shared with the dental department on the other side of the building, so sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is there because they’re a lunatic or if they need a filling. This week there was a woman crying with her head in her hands and rocking in her seat. So I’m thinking her dental was stronger than her mental, na’mean?

Anyway, we’ll usually go in, sit down and wait for him to find the bits of paper that he needs. He’ll go over what we discussed last week, and always say this before we start:

‘So the point in these first few appointments is to get to know you and why you’re here, and what you want to achieve by coming here. Okay?’

Aye, okay Jim.

We started using little sheets called Behavioral Models which break down a specific event that occurred during the last week. The event has to be of a negative nature, so this week I used the fact that I didn’t get into my chosen uni course. It didn’t cause a flare up, but it was the only real negative thing to happen.

The models look a little bit like this, except I have to write under the headings. This one has already been filled out by some poor soul.

Infographic

I think Jim gets pissed off with me sometimes because I start blethering and going off subject, a sign – he says – of why I’m there. Refusal to ‘open up’.

I’m an Ice Queen, mate. A bottler, a closed book, a mystery to all.

That kinda thing.

Anyway, we use that model to promote conversation about how my wee head deals with negative news or bad vibes in general. He seems to think that I took the uni news well, compared to how I would’ve dealt with it in March – alcohol, not eating and toying with the idea of legging it to Dublin.

Jim’s job is to take my thoughts, actions, physical reactions and emotional behaviour then cause me to question why they stick with me. Instead of just fading away like most thoughts, my mind holds onto some bad things and causes me to react in certain ways. The week before, we looked into why a high school ‘frenemy’ had piped up and caused me to briefly consider doing stupid things. Why does her opinion matter? Why would a so-called sane person like her want to get a reaction? The truth is, her opinion didn’t matter – it still doesn’t. But my mind is impressionable, so it stuck and hit a nerve.

CBT is bit like tidying your room.

You don’t want to do it, but you have to because otherwise your mind becomes a tip. You’ll go into corners and find the most hideous mess and have to put it in a bin bag, and you’ll probably find things that are embarrassing and hurtful, but they need tidied up too. It makes you realise how many memories, experiences and feelings your brain processes on a daily basis. And if you have depression or anxiety, those things become more relevant and stronger than they need to be. You cling onto shit, basically. CBT is there to establish the links with those and your illness, and eventually snap them.

As the appointment goes on, Jim tries to explain why my brain is struggling to let go of hypothetical situations. He says that some people, for some reason, can’t see the line between real life and facts, and the little paranoid situation that they’ve fabricated in their heads.

This week, he gave me a little ‘workbook’ to add to my folder. It’s a collection of forms to fill out ‘whenever I feel like it’. Different sheets ask different questions about family life, aspirations, hobbies, health history and shit like that. I think he’s trying to figure out if I’ve been permanently damaged by Daddy Issues.

At the end of each meeting, he always asks if I want to come back. He never assumes. The thing with therapy is that, as intrusive as it can be, it’s on your terms. It’s a consensual fucking of your mind.

He’ll ask, I’ll say yes and we wait another 7 riveting days for our next chat.

There is no long sofa on which I lie down and confess my deep turmoil to a bearded, professor-like chap.

There are no padded walls.

It’s literally talking to a slightly inquisitive, stone-faced bald guy who just wants to know why the fuck you’re so worried.

If you’re given the option, do it. It helps.

fester and debbie

An in-session photo of Jim and I.

Don’t Let them Squash Your Doughnut

The Diary, Uncategorized

I remember it like it was last week. Because it literally was last week.

I was raiding through my sisters newly-extended wardrobe (AKA her overflow into what used to be my wardrobe) for my SQA certificates. So there I was, ankle deep in New Look and ASOS gear, when I found it. When I was 10, my auntie gave me a Winnie The Pooh stationary set and letter-writing kit, and there it was.

I liked writing notes, apparently.

Thing is, when I opened the little box, I found a mound of recorded body measurements. I knew they were there, but I forgot how bloody scary it was. From the age of 10, I’ve had an on/off relationship with eating phobias and been obsessive over my weight.

I remember being a child and measuring my hips, upper waist and ‘muffin top’ area every night. I used to keep track and hide the results in this little box. The body tracking developed into a phobia of eating in public and deliberately putting myself off the food by thinking of anything that would do the trick – the idea of sick, spiders, gorey film scenes etc.

Thankfully, my mum is stubborn as fuck and wouldn’t let it go any further. I was forced to sit at the dinner table until my plate was clear, while the rest of the family went about their nightly routines. So, ultimately, I ate my dinner alone most nights. The only time I really got my way was at school, when I wouldn’t eat all day. I’d have a carton of mango juice in the morning and that was me until dinner time. School actually fed my phobia (pardon the pun) as I was repeatedly reminded of my pale, skinny frame by the girls I was ‘friends’ with. Those same girls started rumours of anorexia, and HILARIOUSLY pointed out my bee-sting tits. HA.HA.HA. OH MY GOD TOO FUNNY AND ORIGINAL…

I remember one day, specifically, when the main one tripped me up outside Tesco – just as I was about to tuck into a jam doughnut. See, if I ate, it was always sugary. Somehow I thought this would keep me going and not faint. So there I was, clutching to my 12p treat, and she trips me. So I go face first, squashing the doughnut in the process. Laughs all round, followed by a brilliant ‘Oh my god, I’m so sorry!’ act. Needless to say, I was mortified, so I was quiet. She seen I was embarrassed, and chose her time to say:

‘Not like you were going to eat it, anyway, eh?’

The other girls stayed quiet, which was great and lovely – obviously. Nothing like support from my peers, woop!

The day after that, I left the group.

The thing with eating phobias is that they like to be encouraged. These girls calling me skinny made and ruined my day at the same time. Her squashing my ‘lunch’ probably made me ecstatic. The only way to beat eating phobias and disorder is to remind the individual of their loss of control, which my Gran done superbly. She consistently would say I didn’t look well or good, not in terms of facial appearance but my teenage body was boyish and shit. I developed anaemia from lack of iron, my blood vitals were embarrassing and, at 16, an underlying heart condition became evident through my body struggling to keep up with over-exercising – something I still flirt with nowadays.

I suppose it would be fair to say that I still struggle with this. As I type (at my mums house), I know there’s an exercise chart on my bedroom wall down the road. There’s also post-its with descending numbers on them, which can only be taken down once I reach that weight.* Thinking about it, its bloody hilarious. At 23, I still-sometimes- genuinely believe my body is supposed to be rake thin. But it’s not. It’s just part-time madness.

*A young me got that tip from Portia De Rossi’s book ‘An Unbearable Lightness’, wild.

I eat like a horse now, albeit it’s because I know I’ll burn it off through working on my feet all day. I still deal with anaemia, but that’s not life-shattering. And my tits are still, yes, tiny. But I won’t allow myself to start recording my body again. I embrace the one curve that I have- my arse, and I try my best to stay fit.

I know people will think I was a stupid wee girl who just wanted to be skinny, but this phobia is closely connected to the OCD that I now deal with. OCD demands control of different elements of your life, back then it was eating, and now I deal with it in other ways – another day, though.

I suppose the point of this post is to give a shout out to the girl who tripped me.

I was skinny, yes.

I had an eating disorder, yes.

But you’re now grossly overweight, with like-minded, vicious friends. You’ll always say hello to me in the street, and I’ll always want to kick you in your hairy face.

But it’s all good, because you’ll never squash my doughnut again.

And that’s all that matters.

What’s Good??????

If you or anyone you know is struggling with an eating phobia or disorder, please seek medical attention. It’s not worth it, and I know it’s not a choice to live with it – but it’s a choice to get rid of it.

Following Fashion

The Fashion Edit

Judging by my day-to-day apparel, you wouldn’t think I have a keen interest and knowledge of fashion. You’d probably think my style icons were Rab C Nesbit, or maybe Joan Jett on a good day. The fact is, I’ve studied fashion over the years and expanded into the styling field while working as a photographer. I rarely get to show my own style, considering I spend most of my time in my work uniform and I simply don’t have the time or money to shop where I really want to.

COS. The Row.Chloe. Zadig et Voltaire.

That being said, I take my love of fashion to social media. I follow a tonne of ridiculously well-dress folks with the most flawless feeds. I always like to follow the official designer pages, too. Just because I actually like the creative processes behind the collections. I sound like a wanker saying that, right? But it’s true. Being a creative student made me appreciate the designers’ influences and watch how they promoted their work.

Anyway, the point of this post is to show off a couple of my favourites to follow!

You’re welcome!


 

Lucy @ Florals 

Credit: floralsandcorals.com

Lucy’s feed is easily one of my favourites, simply because it’s so well put together. Her personal style comes through so well, combining a lot of day-to-day looks as well as some special pieces. You’ll never see a layout shot done so well, either. Florals and Corals is ideal if you love minimalist styles with a feminine twist, or Paris-worthy chic outfits. The blog also gives you the option to shop alternatives to Lucy’s looks, making it easy to emulate her style if you choose to. Following Lucy also proved interesting, as she recently openly spoke about her struggle with an eating phobia and elements of OCD. Head over to her blog to read more, and be ready to cry with outfit envy.

Blog: http://www.floralsandcorals.com // Instagram: LucyFlorals

 


Terri @ ‘Her Fastest Fashion’

 

terri

Credit: Her Fastest Fashion

Working with Terri, I know that this girl knows her stuff. I’ll always seek her opinion when it comes to abusing the staff discount! Her Fastest Fashion is all about well..that. Terri blogs about making fashion accessible and open to everyone, specialising in cost-effective style which I really admire. The blog is full of urban fashion, with a splash of sass for more glam looks. Terri makes it easy to focus on individual products, too. So you can track down your favourite bits and bobs, and make them your own. Not to mention, the blog hosts a number of giveaways – and who doesn’t love a giveaway? If you love street-wear with a girly touch, or bold statement pieces, follow Terri!

Blog: http://www.herfastestfashion.com // Instagram: HerFastestFashion