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Progress….. schmogress

Progress. It’s a word I hear constantly covering all manner of subjects. In the dictionary it’s defined as ‘moving toward an improved or more developed state or to a forward position’. In short I feel it seems you aren’t anybody anymore unless you are making progress.

We all know the world we live in is so very pressured and that stress levels are through the roof for many people. We are constantly looking to improve everything, to have nicer homes, better jobs, more money, to lose weight, to exercise more, to save the planet, to raise well rounded children and so many more I could list. The trouble is though so many of us are pressured toward progress before we’ve even managed to feel like we’ve mastered the thing we are doing now.

I write and talk about mental health as so many of you know and it feels a bit at times like people are more interested in progress than how they are feeling at that moment in time. I often have conversations with people who will say they are having therapy and instead of saying that it’s helping them they feel the need to say how many sessions in they are and how far away they think they are from no longer needing that kind of therapy. Of course feeling like you can move on from a kind of therapy as you’ve received a benefit and need to put it into practice is an amazing thing but it’s also amazing to be receiving therapy and knowing it’s what you need even if you don’t see an end in sight or feel that you are progressing as quickly as you should.

We are measuring progress using other people’s tape measures and that can be a very dangerous thing. One persons ability to deal with trauma is very different to the next and the constant pursuit of progress means that some are left feeling crappy because they haven’t been able to move away from something as quickly as someone else.

In a world where we are trying to encourage individuality and self awareness pressuring people into thinking they have to progress at the same rate as others is I feel damaging and actually could hinder the progress being made. Yet we are still doing it. We allow ourselves to be pressured into thinking that we have to do it in the same way and at the same pace as everyone else and for someone with mental health issues that is a very dangerous thing.

I was having a discussion with someone this week about something that was worrying me and has been worrying me for sometime. The person trying to be supportive said to me that I didn’t need to still be worrying about that and it was time I let it go. That person was totally right. I 100% agreed with them however you try telling the brain of a mental health sufferer that. Not only will their brain do whatever it wants to do (in my case worry) but it will also add additional pressure because then I started to worry about why I was still worrying because I should clearly be over it as other people would have dealt with it by now.

Progress is clearly a wonderful thing which makes people strive for better and improving oneself and your position is something we have all done and will all continue to do. I just wonder if we are missing out on being where we are at for a while. Working out whether we are happy in the position we are in and actually whether we don’t want to push for progress at this time. If you have a small home that you can afford, you adore and makes you happy why should you feel pressured to buy a bigger one? If you are happy in the job role you are in then why should you feel like you need to chase something that pays more if you don’t need to? If you are suffering with your mental health and need some space in that moment to decide what to do next as opposed to embarking on a therapy you might not be sure about well that’s okay and we shouldn’t feel pressured to do otherwise. In times of crisis I agree things may be a little different though.

I think the message I’m trying to get across here is that where you are is where you are and that’s totally okay. You don’t have to be in the throws of improving everything all the time. It’s okay to just be and regroup. Of course there will be times that progress is at the forefront of your mind and that’s totally okay too. Be who you are as after all that is your super power.

Much love, Lucy xxx

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Male mental health by me a woman…..

Recently I used Instagram stories to ask the people that follow me what they would like me to write about. I sometimes find myself stuck in a blog type rut and I thought that would be a really good way of giving me some inspiration. Interestingly one of the most suggested topics was male mental health.

Now I’m obviously missing one of the most essential things you need to be a male (I am, promise!) and therefore a male perspective of mental health is not something I can easily give. However I keep coming back to the topic and thought about how it should be one I tackle. I may be a woman but I am raising boys. I would be very naive if I didn’t realise that at some point I would have to tackle how mental health effects men in my role as a wife and mother. On reflection this has already started. As a girl who grew up with a sister, went to an all girls school and whose Dad often worked away for long periods of time I was massively lacking knowledge in the world of all things male. Having had boys and watching them grow I now realise that many of the issues I used to think were female specific are in fact affecting both genders.

My sons who are seven and nine are already dealing with pressures that life and in particularly school throw at them. Not having the right trainers, not being allowed a mobile phone (at this age!) not having the right haircut, not playing the right video games and the list goes on and on. I have seen the anguish in their faces when we discuss these topics and I see clearly that to them these pressures cause considerable worry when trying to please their peers and not be made fun of. The funny thing is of course that most of us as grown ups have learned the lesson that being who we are is how we become the most beautiful version of ourselves and that one persons cool is another persons embarrassment. Take me and my flowers for example. I’ve mentioned before I’m often mocked because I love flowers and would happily spend hours arranging them but to me watching a football match would be an absolute bore.

Trying to get two little people trying to find their way in a fast paced world where everyone seems to grow up faster by the year though is of course tough and we try and toss up what is important to them alongside doing our best to encourage their own unique personalities. I can see from this young age why mental health issues such as anxiety play such a big part in so many male lives. To be so very concerned about all these things from such a young age is a huge burden to bear. I have always been honest with the boys about my own issues and as such I think we are a very aware family about mental health and the many ways it can effect us. The boys are both used to talking about how they feel and they know that if there is an issue it’s really important to find a way to express it as it allows them to look at the problem in a different way and not be consumed by it. We are far from perfect but I’m so very aware that I don’t want the boys to have the crippling issues I’ve had to deal with all my adult life and if I can help in anyway to give them some tools to deal with whatever issues arise I will.

When you look at the statistics surrounding men and mental health it’s quite staggering. Male suicide figures show that many more men commit suicide than women and it’s the same across the whole world. There are news stories often about young men in particular who have taken their own lives for many different reasons. I can’t describe the sadness I feel when read about and think about this. Why is it seen as more acceptable for a woman to seek help, to talk about her issues or to say openly ‘I suffer with my mental health’? I don’t know the answer to the question, whatever it is it’s wrong. Men and women who are so equal in so many ways now (I appreciate there are still some differences but I’m not here to discuss gender pay gaps etc) should both be able to seek help for their mental health in the same way for whatever reason they need to without fear of judgement or being seen as any less manly.

The idea that boys have to be tough and not have feelings is something that has been turned on it’s head in many societies however I understand and see that there is still a huge pressure in this area. It must be a huge conflict for a man who is suffering if he feels he always has to be strong and can’t show weakness. I can only look at my own journey here and mention my own experiences which is that by admitting and dealing with my demons not only am I stronger but I realise how just how brave I can be. You have to start though and as so many of us know that very first step is often the hardest and loneliest one we will ever take.

The boys have always loved the music of Avicii, as have I and this is where they get it from. I remember them singing along in the car as toddlers to his song ‘wake me up’ and there aren’t many days that go by where we don’t listen to his music. For those who don’t know who he is Avicii was a Swedish musician who mostly made dance music. His real name was Tim Bergling and he was born in 1989 six years after me. He had phenomenal success with his music which although is based on dance covered many genres making it all the more popular. I remember years ago reading a piece about his extreme social anxiety and how he found it so hard performing at concerts as he focussed on how it could all go wrong and couldn’t cope. He self medicated with alcohol and got to a point where he had made himself so ill he was hospitalised. In 2016 he stopped touring after an addiction to prescription painkillers and him realising he needed to make changes in his life.

It’s hard to imagine someone at the peak of a successful career suffering so massively with their mental health. Being rich, famous and successful are things that many ‘normal’ people can only wish for. But this is what I have often said here mental health doesn’t discriminate. It touches on the lives of everyone from everywhere and no one can be safe in the knowledge that they will never experience in some way because most of us do. Two years after quitting touring Avicii took his own life. Clearly still in great anguish and unable to escape his demons. The first anniversary of his death is tomorrow the 20th of April, he was 28. I was so very sad when I heard he had died and although they didn’t release the cause of his death straight away I knew what it would be.

The boys and I have had many conversation over the last year about his death. At first I wasn’t sure whether to be honest with them as it’s such a hard hitting subject for a small person but Karl and I discussed it and decided it would be okay to tell them about this huge issue. We have been delicate but the boys know that their favourite pop star felt that he couldn’t continue. We discuss how sad it was that he felt he had no where else to go and places that can help you if you feel that you have no where else to turn. They have asked me questions about whether I have had such thoughts before and what kinds of places where we live can help. They have both spoken numerous times about how hard it is to understand as Avicii was so cool and made ‘the best’ music. It’s been a learning curve for them that sometimes you can have all the cool stuff, be popular and liked but still not be happy. It’s opened dialogue about being who you are and that life is hard no matter what but an awful lot harder if you are trying to please everyone else the whole time. We have also had to cover that some people no matter what aren’t kind and no matter what you do you will never please them!

I have no idea if this is what the people who suggested I write about male mental health had in mind and I’m worried I’ve come no where near doing the job justice but I hope that if you’ve got this far you’ve taken something away from this blog post. If nothing else please listen to some of Avicii’s music and the beautiful words he wrote. There are some amazing places you can look to for help if you are suffering now. You don’t have to feel alone or that there is no where else to turn. You can contact The Samaritans here and the Rethink Mental Illness site here has lots of resources also.

Thanks for reading xxx

Reflections from an antidepressant free woman

It occurs to me that I’ve hardly written anything here for months. I think a big part of that is life and it going at 150mph as usual and me struggling to keep up. It also and this is the hard bit for me to write is because I’ve been trying to get to know myself again.

Sounds ridiculous I know. As a thirty five year old woman you would think i should have a pretty good idea of who I am but I think that coming off my tablets and having to take on board all that entailed has made me realise quite a few things about me.

In lots of ways it’s heightened my sensitivity to everything and I mean everything. That’s a good thing in some ways but really hard in others. Coming off my tablets didn’t mean I was cured and no longer suffered with the MH issues I do it simply meant I wasn’t happy to deal with the physical side effects anymore. That’s a massively personal decision and one I stand by and would respect anyone in their decisions with regards to being on meds or not. They are amazing things and help so many people, I’m definitely a fan I just felt they were not for me anymore.

I’ve definitely come into a bit of a slump, feeling everything can be exhausting and beautiful all at the same time. I find I process things now in a very different way to how I did before and have taken a much more logical approach to myself and my struggles. In my head now I play out what is worrying, bothering or making me down. I ask myself questions about it, I write down the answers and I try to talk about them to people I know have my best interests at heart. These are things I did sometimes do when I was taking my tablets but I almost thought that because I was taking them they helped to deal with all that and I was with hindsight lazy in how I dealt with my thoughts and feelings.

When I have bad days now I tend to go to being angry with myself for not being able to just snap out of it and guilty for those around me who might get frustrated and pissed off with me (I don’t think they do, it’s just my mind) then I remember even when I was medicated my default position throughout my whole adult life has been one of hating myself. I’ve always been cruel to myself and so far it’s never helped once in fact it’s made my life harder and I’ve suffered ridiculously because of it. So I’ve learned on days like today to take it as just that, a day like today. Maybe tomorrow I will feel like this and if it goes on too long I need to take responsibility for those feelings and seek to get some help with them. Or maybe tomorrow I will feel okay and realise today was just one of those days.

It’s not easy, in fact dealing with these issues on a daily basis is hard and exhausting. It really is fighting a battle no one knows anything about and all that before you do anything else like be a parent, go to work and do all the other things that are expected of grown ups. Sometimes as well I now realise that I blame my mental health issues for things when actually they have nothing to do with it. To give the most common example with the boys. Two boys, a year apart in age with totally different interests, who both feel they are entitled to everything now, who don’t understand that their parents get tired and have to work exceptionally hard to give them all the things they do and who try to kill each other at least seven times a day would I think give any human being a headache from time to time. They are good boys, I don’t mean to make them sound like they aren’t but they like lots of other children don’t realise how lucky they are and often take it for granted. When the boys are being shits I feel down and disrespected. When my friends children are being shits they feel down and disrespected. These feelings aren’t exclusive to those with mental health issues but are probably present in all parents at some point in the children raising adventures of life.

Also I realise that sometimes people make me feel crap. Things they say, things they do and how they treat people. Again this isn’t all about me having mental health issues and a lot more about the fact that some people are arseholes and it says more about them. Once you accept this fact and don’t blame mental health it’s quite an empowering feeling. The fact I have the issues I do may of course mean that my reaction to these people is a bit more severe or it bothers me for longer but any person would be bothered by such behaviour whether they were a MH sufferer or not and if I remember that I can draw strength from it. Feeling crap because of people’s actions whether it be Donald Trump or a rude staff member at a supermarket is not exclusive to me and sadly occurs the world over again because some people are just not nice.

So as much as staying on my meds would have been easier I’m pleased I decided to take that leap. For someone like me processing these thoughts and feelings no matter how hard or painful is something I realise now that I need to do. I need to be aware and mindful of my own thoughts and how I deal with them. Then I can in turn realise how they effect me and learn to deal with them in a way that is healthy, beneficial and kind to me and those around me. It takes more time to live in this way and I sometimes wonder if it’s worth it when I could just go back on my meds but then and this is one of the most profound things I have said in ages surely time when spent on you and your health is worth spending. Doing what you want to do and in a way you want to do it isn’t selfish it’s essential. Caring for yourself is key and however you do this is valid, important and worth it even if others wouldn’t deal with the same issue in the same way or don’t understand your path.

As many of you know last year I became a Champion for the Time to Change Campaign in my area. Champions are mental health sufferers who want to help others by talking about their own struggles with mental health issues. This Thursday the 7th of Feb is their ‘Time to Talk’ day. A day encouraging people to have a conversation about mental health. This is a huge thing and really every day should be one. I am going to be working on Thursday but will be equipped with some resources and will be encouraging people to talk about their MH or to learn about others. I am honest about my struggles probably to the point of oversharing but I believe it’s important. It needs talking about and by talking about it we can spread awareness and even help those around us (listening is a massive part of this too!) So do me a favour if you can please and have a chat with someone on Thursday, in person, via text, email, social media, over a fence, at the checkout or wherever. Let me know if you do and how it went. You can find out more about the Time to Change Campaign here.

As always thanks for reading and if you need to need to get in touch please do.

Lucy xxx

Another year in review…… how old am I?!

So…….. we are in that in between Christmas and new year bit for another year. I’m not quite sure how we have got here. I’m quite sure I told this year at the beginning that it wasn’t to fly by like 2017 did and that I needed some time to savour it all.

Apparently I am not in charge of the universe and am sat writing this post in a funny Christmas haze where I’m not sure exactly what the day is and I’m quite sure I don’t need to eat anything for another month at the very least.

I wrote an Instagram post about how I get so full of ideas, hopes and inspirations for the new year that I then get overwhelmed and end up just wanting to sleep and push a massive pause button (if anyone sees one please push it for me!) I’m not sure if this happens to others or whether it’s a part of me with my mental health struggles and whether it makes any sense to others at all. To be a person with low self esteem it can be really hard to make positive changes become effective as you manage to talk yourself out of them before you begin. It’s like a bizarre cycle of having great ideas, writing them down, getting excited about them, telling others who get excited for you and then saying ‘actually no, I’m too useless to do that’ and it all being forgotten. I am much better with this than I used to be but some of my inner critic still plays a massive part in my thought processes at this time of year.

2018 as years go was actually quite a good one. There were some big changes and lots of upheaval but all to good ends. We had our extension built and made our home suit us. We lived through and survived the building works without killing each other and have come to appreciate our home so much more. I have written more about mental health which for me has been a big thing. Not just because of the massive stigma that is still attached to having MH issues but also because laying yourself bare is hard. Reflecting on thoughts and feelings that hurt you or are painful is a difficult process however one which I realise for me is key. I often return to previous things I have written and acknowledge that I have made progress, been able to identify triggers have been able to smile on reflection.

This year I had an idea, an idea which started as a tiny thought in the back of my mind which was watered and eventually after my negative thoughts telling me I couldn’t do it ended up with me telling others and organising my first ‘Talking about Mental Health’ session in January. Since making the event public and the numbers of people confirmed to be attending has gone up I’ve spent a fair amount of time telling myself I’m ridiculous, that how dare someone like me think that I could help anyone and who the fuck am I to think that people might want to listen to me talk about mental health and small ways to cope with it. I’ve written emails out asking to cancel it ( and not sent them) and made numerous excuses in my head as to why it will never work. However I’m not doing that. I’m going to go and talk even if it’s just to my Mum (she is definitely coming!) and I’m going to keep talking. I will talk about mental health wherever anyone will have me. I will write about it, I will spread awareness of it and I will help people. Because my voice is worthy of being heard, my experiences real and I think I can offer something to others.

I would say that this year has become one of awareness for me. I took more time to maintain and improve my mental health because it is a necessity for me. I came off my antidepressants because of the side effects they were having. I made a conscious decision here that I needed to make a change and approached it with an open mind as to whether I would go onto others or not. I wasn’t going to give myself a hard time either way as I believe that if you need them antidepressants are amazing. As I type though I am currently not taking any. I have lots of thoughts about this as I have found the whole process very hard. It was physically and mentally exhausting and has meant I now have to increase my small measures to keep my depression and anxiety in check. If I need to go back on a different kind of antidepressant I will but for now I am on a journey with myself and it feels good to be learning more about me and what my mind needs.

My boys have grown in height and personality. They have been massively challenging and this year has been a tough one for Karl and I as parents. I am blessed and I know that to have children is a privilege denied to many and I take my responsibilities as a parent very seriously. This doesn’t mean though that I am very good at it or that I have any of the answers. I am from a family of mostly girls. I don’t get boys and I often feel sad that lots of their interests we don’t share. I go along with them of course but it’s hard to know that they would always rather talk about cars or minecraft than listen to me talk about some of the things I am interested in. I do though when I look at the bigger picture realise that they are patient with me when I stop to take pictures of flowers or they walk in when I’m doing yoga on YouTube (you should see their faces!) they are also very good at helping with my Instagram pictures and show an interest in what I am doing even if they roll their eyes when I ask them to pose holding a candle!

Boys are tough when they are young so people keep telling me, they test boundaries, struggle with surging testosterone and finding their identity. With only a year age gap and both being keen spirited and strong it makes for interesting times and due to shift work and being on my own a lot it adds to some of the parenting fun but I love the boys more everyday and watching them grow is nothing short of an adventure.

As I do every year I learned a lot about myself in 2018 and grew to appreciate the people I love more and more. There are always hardships in any relationship but I honestly believe that if you can rely on the people you love no matter what you do, have done, your mood or how hard work you are then you have it made. Some of the hardest lessons I have learned is that not everyone will stay in the dark times and actually those people never loved you anyway. You become very wary of those kinds of people and you learn a lot from them (it may not feel like it at the time but it will all be good lessons) I hope that the people around me know that they in turn can rely on me in the same way and that I will fight for those I love when I need to. There simply isn’t time in the world for false friendships and toxic relationships and this I’ve learned over the last couple of years is something I am totally allowed to walk away from. We are all entitled to take things out of our lives that cause hurt or upset and we must never forget it.

I am excited for 2019, to build on the lessons from this year, to host more mental health talks, to become more aware of my own mental health and to help others to do the same. To spend time with the people I love, to smile more, to visit places I have never been and to have a better relationship with my own body. To be kind to me for once instead of filling myself with negative thoughts and to know it’s okay to not be okay all the time and to acknowledge that no one has a perfect life and if they say they do they are lying!

I’ve met some amazing people this last year and can’t wait to spend more time with new friends and meeting some new ones along the way.

I am so grateful to each and everyone of you who reads my blog, who takes the time to say hi, to click like, to follow me here or on my social media and who accept me for who I am. The glorious mess that I am and to not make me feel bad about it. I hope you continue to read in the coming year and that you know how much I appreciate you listening.

Here’s to 2019!

Christmas my way…….

I’m quite sure that I’m not the only one feeling the overwhelm and pressure that comes with the season. I’ve read and seen lots of blogs, Instagram posts and tweets about how to have a slow, simple Christmas and I feel a bit like that comes with its own kind of stress.

It sounds mad doesn’t it that someone like me gets anxious at the thought of a ‘normal’ hectic Christmas but then has the same anxieties about trying to keep things slow and simple and actually knackering myself out trying to slow things down.

I feel that the key for me is pressure. Lots of pressure. Pressure from all manner of different places on how I should conduct my Christmas when actually I need to work out what kind of Christmas I want for me and my family and just go with that.

Like many others I’m all for shopping local (in fact this year I have done most of my shopping from small, independent businesses) however I’m also acutely aware that the vast majority of small, independent shops don’t want my children to break their stock if I dragged them shopping with me. I have to prioritise my time and I don’t want them to feel the pressure I am so we don’t tend to shop at weekends and just spend time doing other things (wrestling and discussing minecraft if the boys have their way)

My point is I have massively good intentions but as a mother I have to plan the season in the way that I feel is best for my family. I simply can’t spend as much time as I would like on things such as making presents or elaborate present wrapping. I will do my best but by the time the boys go to bed and I’ve tidied up I want to collapse in a heap. Often that’s all I do!

It feels almost selfish to put it all to one side and go to bed but I am in such a space of knowing if I overload much more all of the bits will come falling down around me (imagine giant Jenga) and I will end up in a mess that will last well into the new year.

I know I cannot have a totally slow and simple Christmas because that’s not my life. We work shifts, we pass like ships in the night and we have to make the most of every minute together as a family. I have to cram some things in otherwise one of us would miss something and I would rather rush around like a loon and know that I will get to see the boys school play as opposed to missing it. I also know that when I can taking the time to be more relaxed is vital. I need that time when I can lay under a blanket and just be for a bit without having to worry about making salt dough decorations or homemade mince pies.

If I were to sum up this blog post it would be like this. Christmas to me is about love. You do it however feels right for you and your family whether that be a family of friends, close relatives or just your own household. If you get to have a slow and simple Christmas that’s bloody amazing, if it’s a bit frantic and frazzling make some time for you where you can and know that the people around you will love you no matter how much you get done. If you have good intentions to be eco friendly or supporting of small business but haven’t been able to get a grip on this or get out to the high street then that’s okay too. A couple of small things will make a big difference. Ensuring you recycle over the festive period and perhaps ordering a couple of bits online from small businesses ticks those boxes.

We aren’t superhumans, we won’t always get it right nor though does that mean we are getting it wrong. We are doing the best we can with the tools we have and if anyone judges you for that then send them my way. You go through a hell of a lot in a year to be judged on how you decide to spend your time over the Christmas period and how you decide it works best for you.

To that end this year we are having lamb for Christmas dinner and on Boxing Day we are having steak and halloumi fries. We aren’t doing the elf on the shelf nor am I partaking in the Christmas advent calendar making competition at the boys school. I’ve lost no weight on the lead up to fit in my Christmas dress and people will have to lump it.

I am doing what’s right for me and that’s all any of us can do. I am excited for you however you decide to spend your festive season and I look forward to seeing pictures and hearing about it here. I realise this year I can be an anxious mess or I can say I can only do what I can do. I also know that my resolve will at some point soften and that I will need to remind myself of this blog post, my coping tools for times of need and the fact that just because I live with mental health issues it doesn’t mean they need to be any worse over Christmas and no one around me would want them to be.

On that note I’m off to pick the monsters up from school. Wishing you a fab week lovely people xxx

A massive announcement…….

Hey lovely people, how are you?

For some time now I have had a little voice in the back of my mind that keeps getting louder. It has been telling me I need to talk more about mental health. Thoughts of all the places I feel I could help and how what I have to say might matter to people who are suffering have begun to fill my brain and its now got to a Jumanji like drumming that won’t leave me alone.

For sometime I have thought who am I to stand up and ask people to listen to me? Why would anyone want to and what have I got to offer that countless other people out there aren’t already offering. The answer I now realise is me. I can offer me. I can offer someone who deals with depression, anxiety and self esteem issues. I can offer someone who has tried pretty much every therapy both traditional and complimentary and can give honest and frank opinions about how each one has helped me and I am also someone who has over many years written down every nugget of information or skill that I have taken from each and every one of those therapies to help me maintain and improve my mental wellbeing on a daily basis.

I want people to talk and hear more about mental health and feel like they have a safe space to do so. I want to promote the fact that if you are suffering it’s not just the GP you can got to for help and sometimes you may not feel like you need the GP just yet. You just need some time to listen and some ideas of how things can work better for you.

So with a little help from some friends I’m setting up ‘Talking about Mental Health’ regular sessions where we can do just that. A space where it’s safe, you can listen, you can share (but only if you want to) and you can come away with tools to help YOU on a daily basis. I am not a therapist and can not offer any kind of medical advice but I am a Time to Change Campaign Champion and will offer signposting at every session.

I can’t wave a magic wand, I really wish I could (would have been so helpful in my own life) but I want to help. I want this to be Weight-watchers for well-being which is ironic as knowing me there will be cake! A regular session you can attend when you need to that can help you. Somewhere where there will always be a smiling face and someone who knows what utter crap mental health issues can cause in a persons life.

The incredibly lovely Vanessa and Jo from Farm Work Play on Monkshill Farm have offered me their amazing space on a Saturday once a month to do just this. Starting on the 19th of January 2019 in the middle of what is often the hardest most bleak month for many of us. I would love for this to grow as I feel it is my calling so this first step is to me a massive thing and I have been desperate to share my vision with you.

You can book tickets here (to give me an idea of numbers) but if you haven’t booked and feel on the day you need to be there then please don’t worry. I won’t turn anyone away. All I ask is that you bring yourselves, a notebook and some coins towards the cost of tea, coffee and cake.

You can also find out more on the new Facebook page called @talkingaboutmh I have created an event here that also links to the ticket site if that’s easier for you.

There is free parking onsite and the farm is so lovely it’s the perfect space to talk about our mental health.

Please share and support this new venture. It would mean the world to me.

Lucy xxx

Coming off antidepressants and how it was for me

Each one of us as an individual is able to deal with our mental health in a totally personal way in the same way we do with our physical health. If god forbid we were diagnosed with cancer we would be given information about the treatments available to us, how each would affect us and given the opportunity to decide for ourselves which is the best course to take in our own opinions.

When you are diagnosed with any kind of mental health issue the idea should be the same. You should be offered a number of possible routes you can follow in order to feel better and cope with what could be a chronic condition. The good thing about the various treatments for mental health issues is that they can all be used in conjunction with each other (with a couple of exceptions) and usually at least one of these options will help you and make you feel like you again.

I like many of us who has suffered for a long time have tried most of the options available to me to assist with my depression, anxiety and self esteem issues. When I first tried antidepressants I was eighteen. I had reached a point where I couldn’t continue any longer and I at the advice of my GP took the tablets. I also agreed to see a counsellor. I have to say that my experience here was awful. I was so young and numb to everything that I didn’t think to question when the counsellor suggested a different tablet he felt I would respond better to and asked my GP to change my prescription. I didn’t even see my GP to discuss this I just collected the prescription and swapped from the one I was on to the new one in the space of a day.

Anyone who has tried to change or come off antidepressants may now be screaming at the screen. This was of course a ridiculous thing to do without first weaning myself off the first one and I had what can only be described as a psychotic episode at a family friends wedding one day after changing the tablets. Luckily I had only been invited to the evening and managed to keep my meltdown to the toilets otherwise I am quite sure my bizarre behaviour would have ended the friendship. I don’t remember all of it but I can recall screaming, wailing and not being able to stop crying or calm myself. I was so scared. The room didn’t feel like a room and my mum who was trying to look after me could offer me no comfort whatsoever. It got so bad that my mum had to call Karl (we had been together a year at this point) who was working to come and physically remove me from the building and take me home. I remember him having to undress me and put me into bed and stay next to me as I just couldn’t calm down. This may have gone on for hours, I have absolutely no idea.

When I did return to see the GP he was angry I hadn’t been given any advice by the counsellor in relation to the change of tablets and the leaflets inside the boxes just didn’t make it clear that the side effects of withdrawal can be devastating. I’m incredibly lucky that the episode I had was around people who knew me and as much of a nightmare as  I was looked after me and made sure that I was safe. I still shudder to this day when I think back to that night. This was in 2003.

So fast forward to 2014 when after resisting for sometime and in the middle of an eating disorder I relented and realised that tablets were something that I needed again. I had always promised myself that I would never ever go back on them and that I would be a failure if I did. But I had two boys that I needed to think about and it was my responsibility to do all I could to make myself better and with a lovely Community Psychiatric Nurse explaining to me exactly what to expect I got another prescription.

I have never been unable to care for my children with my mental health issues and although I probably don’t need to say it I always feel like people will judge my abilities as a mother when I say about them so to make myself feel better I feel the need to make that point.

I was prescribed Fluoxetine as this I was assured would not make me put on any weight (something that at that point meant a lot to me even though I was so very ill) and I had months worth of therapy, I felt that I totally embraced treatment and wanted to get better and with time I felt the benefit of the treatment choices I had gone with. I had some raises in dosage and being honest my tablets became a part of who I was. Long after the talking therapies ended and I felt ‘better’ the tablets were there with me every morning with my cup of tea and the little green box that contained them was never far away.

As many of you know I had another massive crash in 2017 and this was the one which I think provided me with the most clarity about my mental health. I feel more at peace with my issues now than I ever have and I no longer try and pretend they don’t exist. I acknowledge I am in treatment in some way each and every day and always will be and I use what I need to in order to assist me. These are mostly things I have written about before. Its like my own personal treatment plan that involves me choosing what I need at the time whether that be talking therapies or others I will cover later in this post. The thing is though that in 2018 I was still taking the same increased dosage of my tablets I had been since 2014.

I made the decision in August to wean myself off them not because I felt that I didn’t need them anymore but because of some physical side effects I had been suffering with that my GP felt could be as a result of them. I had never been told that some of the side effects you can have from antidepressants can increase the longer you are on them and when I found this out the thought scared me. I realised that I had stayed on them because I thought I should as opposed to knowing that I absolutely couldn’t cope without them. The doctor and I came up with a plan for me to wean myself off them slowly so I could see if the physical side effects reduced with a view to beginning another if I felt I needed them.

I had to be very mindful of what withdrawal could do as well as equipping myself with ways of dealing with my mental health issues while the chemicals in my brain did their thing. Sounds so simple, right?! I also had to continue to work and be a mum while this was ongoing. I didn’t feel nervous or worried though, I actually felt empowered and like I was doing a good thing for me and my body.

At first I was exhausted but I think that was probably because life at that point was so very busy. The GP explained to me that Fluoxetine is usually one of the easier tablets to come off as it has a much shorter half life than some of the other common ones so gets out of your system more quickly but that this often didn’t work like that and particularly not for people like me who had been on them a long time.

I started to get very dizzy after about a week, not so much that I couldn’t do anything but I was aware of it. I felt spaced, vacant and a bit removed from life. That sounds ever so dramatic I know but that’s exactly how it felt. My memory seemed to suffer a bit and I felt like I wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I took a few days off work to just rest and spent the majority of that time in bed. This was the end of August and very hot so not the best time to be in bed but I listened to my body and it just needed to stop.

I started some new sessions of talking therapies at this time knowing that I would likely be going through some new emotions and not being exactly sure how it would effect me. This helped me massively as the counsellor within about five minutes made me see how anxious I was. I sat in front of her picking at my nails and making the sides of my fingers bleed. I hadn’t even realised I was doing it. At the end of that session she gave me a stone and asked me to keep it nearby and if I felt the need to pick my fingers to pick it up and feel it. Sounds so strange but it really worked. I would feel the stone and roll it around in my hands, feel the edges, the smooth parts, the rough parts and it gave me something else to focus on. It was a calming influence too and I still two months later have it with me wherever I go for if I need it. I actually have two now as I quite like picking the colour I fancy!

She also gave me a notebook and asked me every time I felt I needed it to open it and write down how I was feeling. She explained that she did this every morning and during the day when she felt that her emotions were getting out of control. I began to use the book at work mostly. I would get in every morning and while my computer was logging on I would jot down how I was feeling. Not war and peace and at times just single words but I found it a very efficient tool at clearing my mind which made me more present in the moment. This is something else I still do every morning. Funnily enough I don’t tend to do it outside of work I think because I am in my own sanctuary at home so find it a safer space to talk and be open but without failure at the start of every shift I write a few words in my book. This is something I think I will now continue to do as part of my mental health treatment as I like how in control I feel for addressing those thoughts and feelings and there is something almost like purging them when you write them down.

I spent the following month and a half feeling relatively ‘normal’ for me (don’t laugh!) I had ups and downs but no worse than when I was on my tablets and actually that made me think, do I need to start on new ones. I decided not and to persevere with my own methods and see how I could be as a mental health sufferer without tablets. All was going really well until this last week when I feel like I have had a real slump. I can honestly say I’ve been the most miserable I’ve been in a long time. I’ve just felt low, down, angry , frustrated and unsettled. It occurs to me though that I at this point am totally chemical free. My brain is working itself out on its own and that will surely be having an effect on my mood. luckily it has coincided with a period of annual leave from work where I am focussing on self care.

I have been evaluating, journaling, talking and being kind to myself (lots of hot chocolate too)  I can’t tell you how easy it would be for me to go back to the GP and put myself back on tablets but I feel like I need to give it another month and then look at it again. I think for me acknowledging that I need to give my body and brain time is a massive thing and a way in itself of me taking control of my own treatment. If I go back on another tablet that’s absolutely fine and if I don’t then that’s good too.

I am so much better at listening to myself and not expecting so much of myself and this means I don’t feel like a failure the second I get something wrong. I am also very lucky that I have people around me who know my journey and are always willing to listen. My handbag is full of stones, notepads, essential oils (lavender is amazing) bright lipsticks (an instant boost) and a couple of little things the boys have bought me that always make me smile and I like my handbag am full of things I can do for myself to take charge of the bad days. I can meditate, I can take time to breathe and if I need to I can push pause and take time out. This isn’t always easy with little people and work but it’s amazing how just a couple of minutes of time out can make a difference in a shitty day. I also have the GP’s phone number in my phone and I’m not ashamed to call it if I need to.

In conclusion I am all for doing whatever you need to do to take charge of your own mental health and I respect, admire and have love for everyone who suffers and gets through it in the ways that they can. I of course also know that there are places that in time of crisis I can go and would urge anyone to do the same if they need to. There are places for all kinds of treatments which should be undertaken in consultation with a medical professional if necessary. This is about my personal journey and if you are thinking about making a change in your own treatment please seek advice.

Wow, that was a long post! If you found it helpful please let me know and if you have any questions please feel free to get in contact. I hope I’ve not bored you too much!