Getting what you want and still being unhappy about it…..

I know what you are thinking…… what an ungrateful title and it’s true. Getting what you want and what you’ve worked hard for is the most amazing feeling in the world and yet for so many of us it is also so hard to deal with and negotiate. The feelings can be overwhelming, all encompassing and actually can have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing. I don’t think this lasts forever but that it is our minds way of adapting to what are often significant changes in our lives.

I imagine many people wouldn’t get that in the mind of someone who suffers with their mental health they can be happy and have nothing but good things going on and yet still feel utterly lost. Life is such a rollercoaster in so many ways and I feel like many of us are just more susceptible than others to be affected by each and every twist and turn.

I am of course mostly talking about my own life, this last year has been full on, stressful and demanding. I’ve had some victories which I have been so happy about and the changes that follow them have been ones that have not always been on my own timeline and that’s something I’ve always found hard.

Coming off my antidepressants is something I have written about here often. We are at the year mark now and as much as I ‘m happy to be medication free I am also disappointed that one of the main reasons I came off them was because of physical side effects which actually haven’t gone away. I have always been someone who in my struggles has been more depressed that anxious though the two are always present however anxiety seems to be my main issue now and to the point where it is having physical side effects which are causing me some considerable issues.

There is of course an argument to go back onto some form of medication and that’s what most people I discuss this with say to me. At the moment it’s not a route I want to take and I am for now managing myself using other methods that I have learned through my years of therapy and the many books I have made myself read on the subject. That doesn’t make it easy though. Medication doesn’t make it easy, there are no magical cures and no quick fixes to help us deal with life and how our brains process it. In fact I have considered maybe I was naïve and thought that coming off my tablets and being chemical free would somehow make everything better. I realise reading back what I wrote at the time and six months tablet free that I wasn’t but I do think that I was happy to blame the tablets for all the physical issues I was having when in fact it seems like they didn’t really have much bearing on it at all.

Lately I have found that lots of things that used to bring me joy I haven’t had time for or haven’t been able to include in life as much as I’d like. Time then moves on and you fill it with the other things that are more ‘important’ and all of a sudden find that those joyful things have taken a backseat and that you are affected by them not being there anymore. I am sure this is one of the reasons why I am not so happy at the moment and finding that things that should be making me smile aren’t. Reading is one of those things, I love to read and find myself in a world that is totally unlike my own, to get lost in the tales of others, in love stories and fantasy worlds and to have some escapism from the real world. Alas, there is a giant pile of books I haven’t got through, my concentration is so lacking and I’m always so tired that I just can’t manage to read. I have recently got through one book, ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller which took me back to A Level Lucy who studied Classics and lapped up all the history of Greek Mythology. I enjoyed reading it but felt guilty for taking the time to do so.

I used to run and savour exercise but again I just don’t feel like there is time at the moment. Of course there would be if I made time for it but that would have to be at the detriment of something else and the Lucy I am at the moment who finds more joy in a sharing bag of Doritoes than in trying to fit into running gear is scared of being judged for being bigger than I have been in a long time and for not being very good at it anymore. I still love going on my walks but I tend to go at times when it’s very quiet and I feel like I can be myself and not have to see people.

I was talking to a friend who is very similar to me with her mental health. She has recently been able to make some changes in her life which are amazingly positive and make a huge difference to her wellbeing but now that she has done it she is worrying about other things. We both cursed our brains for not allowing us to just be happy for ourselves and instead to revert to the default position of worrying and not letting our minds rest.

I think with me and the position I find myself in now is that the anxiety I am having about all manners of life is something I need to get in control as I can’t be happy and content all the while I am worrying about every tiny detail, not getting any sleep and not saying no to things I can’t sustain because I feel like I will be judged for saying no. This is an ongoing journey and having referred myself back for more CBT (three months on the waiting list and counting) it’s one I hope to deal with and manage in order for my life to be on an even keel again.

I get that this post is probably massively depressing but it really isn’t meant to be. I think it’s me saying you know what its okay to have loads of amazing things going on and still feel like you haven’t quite found your feet, its okay to not feel confident all the time and its definitely okay to start over on a journey even if its one you’ve undertaken before.

I am grateful for all of the huge blessings I have in my life. I am grateful that I’ve become who I am from where I was three years ago when I started this blog and undertook some of the toughest times of my life. I am blessed in so many ways and I just need to get my brain in check to recognise that just because I am blessed doesn’t mean its not okay to always be happy. To recognise that I am who I am and that I will always feel everything and often harder than others do. I am a work in progress every single day and at the moment I need to see that the work on me is what is desperately needing to be done as opposed to prioritising other things that will still be there when I’ve sorted my ever worrying, never switching off brain.

So if you like me are up every night with insomnia, suffering with constant thoughts of not being good enough or not being able to cope, the dizziness and shaking that anxiety brings and the tears that come from no where then please know, you will be okay, you need some help and that’s absolutely fine. You can push pause and you have places you can look for help. You may also benefit from telling someone and reminding yourself of the things that bring you joy. The things your brain may have allowed you to push out you can make time for and the people around you will respect and understand that.

Much love, Lucy xxx

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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

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!

Things we say to ourselves….. Self Esteem Project part two

I have to say that I was blown away by the response I got to my last blog post. I never thought that talking about self esteem in the way I have been would strike a chord with so many of you. I want to thank everyone who took the time to read, to get in touch and who took part in that first task.

I have been thinking lots about future newsletters and how I can make sure that each one is different and looking at self esteem from other perspectives. This week I have been thinking about small things I do on a regular basis to boost my own self esteem. When I say small I mean tiny. Things that others probably don’t even realise I am doing but I am constantly. These things help me get through every single day and I think they will be able to help you too.

I like to call this process ‘things I say to myself’ and I think on some level I have done it since I was small. I realised quite early on that I wasn’t the same as other people. I didn’t have the self confidence and belief that others seemed to and I had to work that bit harder to see the stars through the darkness. In these early days I realised that it made me feel better to hear and read positive things. I would listen to music that I found uplifting and that had lyrics that resonated with me. Some of this music I would turn to at times of upset and need. It was often different music for different things. I recall a Backstreet Boys song (don’t laugh, I’m old!) where the lyrics went and I still remember them by heart ‘if you ever feel like no one cares, when you try your best but you get no where, don’t give in’ yes this is full of emotional teenage angst but it helped me through hard times.

In times of hardship or need I recall talking to myself and saying things I needed to hear such as ‘you can do this’ ‘just get through it Luce’ and various other words of encouragement. Of course we know that I say some awful and nasty negative things to myself but even though I do this I am able to acknowledge that if I say positive things to myself then I feel brighter and able to carry on.

I’m not for a second saying that this method always works. For me it doesn’t. When I am at my lowest few things can pull me out of it and saying kind things to myself won’t all of a sudden make everything better but they will help. They will offer a glimmer of some light even if at the time it is hard to see it.

Last year when I was at my lowest I listened to Jess Glynne on repeat. I have written before about how much her music helped me and her many mantras about not being too hard on yourself and moving forward became the words I would say to myself just to get through the minutes of the day.

I got to the point where it helped me massively to write down all these positive things I would say to myself as constant reminders that I could refer to when I needed it. I had notebooks all over the place full of doodles with inspirational quotes and positive mantras filling the pages. I have written before about my ‘Quotes to live by’ Pinterest board which I still fill on a daily basis with these positive things I can say to myself that will at any time of need give me a boost.

This concept isn’t a new thing. Daily affirmations are practiced by many, positive quotes adorn the walls of houses across the world and the wartime slogan ‘keep calm and carry on’ is uttered all over the place on a regular basis. There is a reason for this. The things we say to ourselves are important. They can make us feel things. They can help us. It doesn’t cost any money and you can use them at any time day or night.

So….. this weeks task then is to come up with some things to say to yourself that are personal to you to help to boost your self esteem. I would like you to write them down, doodle them, make them pretty, stick them on your wall or keep them on a piece of paper you carry with you. Have them accessible and near so if you need that boost you can always use them. I am going to share some of my favourite ones with you and also some resources that can help you come up with your own or find some that suit you.

I understand that this may seem daft. In a world where suicide is so prevalent and mental health issues are so common surely if it’s as easy as saying some nice things to yourself then we would all be fine. Of course that’s not the case but surely if anything can help even in the tiniest of ways then it’s worth a try?

Here are some of my favourites:

‘Life is tough darling, but so are you’

‘You are enough’

‘You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way’

‘A woman is unstoppable after she realises she deserves better’

Go to Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and look up motivational and inspirational quotes, create yourself a board, favourite some tweets or save some Instagram posts so you have a bank of motivation whenever you need it and add to it as often as you can. You can do this in a notebook or diary too so you always have something with you that can help.

I would love to hear your ideas of things you will say to yourself to help boost your self esteem. Please share them and I can create a list to share with you all. Even if you are only able to come up with a couple of things that you can use if you incorporate them into your day I assure you they will help.

I hope you have enjoyed this second instalment of my self esteem project. I still haven’t worked out how to set up a newsletter but as soon as I do I will let you know!

I love to hear from you so get in touch if you need to.

Lucy xxx

Yes I’m hard to love but I didn’t choose to be this way…….

When you are someone who suffers from any kind of mental health issue you will be well aware of the stigmas attached and also how difficult it is for someone who doesn’t suffer to understand.

Let’s be honest why we as sufferers do the things we do often doesn’t make sense. It’s not always rational, it’s not simple or following common sense and it doesn’t always make us feel better but we do it anyway. To give some examples things like not going a certain route to avoid seeing people, not wanting to wash, not wanting to get out of bed, feeling like everyone hates you and many more that I could spend all day listing.

What I as a sufferer find makes things even harder is when people treat you like being down, anxious or anything else you suffer from is a choice you are making. It’s almost that opinion that you could switch it off but choose not to. I can assure you I do not choose to feel low. I don’t choose to feel meaningless, worthless or anxious and I certainly don’t choose when I do or don’t feel this way.

Even someone who is medicated and well aware of their triggers will have good days and bad. Often the bad days hit you like a train when you don’t see them coming. You can wake up and just feel not right. You can feel like the hardest thing in the world to do would be to pull the covers back and get out of bed. The thought of leaving the house and people looking at you and seeing all your weakness pouring out of you is abhorrent. Even when they probably wouldn’t notice anything at all was awry but you know and to face a world knowing that can be debilitating.

I get completely that to be a friend, partner or family member of someone who suffers with their mental health can be exhausting, miserable and downright confusing however the worst thing that you can do is make that person feel like their issues are their own fault and that they are making a conscious decision to be the way they are. Just as no one would chose to have a broken bone no one would ever make a choice to feel the way many of us do inside our own brains somedays.

We as humans make mistakes. Small ones, big ones, life changing ones, ones that can affect everything around us or put our lives in danger. Many of these mistakes are made at times of crisis when actually we as people are making ourselves the hardest to love. When we are the hardest to love that’s often when we need to be shown love and understanding the most.

You as a friend, partner or family member of a mental health sufferer may get frustrated, angry, hurt and have no idea what to do for the best for your loved one. But the best thing to do is just that, love them. Don’t make them feel bad that they are suffering, don’t add to their pain by treating them like having a mental health problem is a choice and don’t take the love away. These times of crisis really are when they need you most.

I find talking really helps and support is on offer for both sufferers and those who care from them. There are massive resources online and you can search for local support groups in your area. Please ask for help and keep talking to each other.

Lucy xxx

A very personal post……

Last Summer I got a semicolon tattooed on my left wrist. This was something that I had considered doing in the past but never quite been brave enough to go through with. Not because of the pain but because I wasn’t sure I wanted to announce permanently my struggles and put out there that I had dealt with such dark times that I considered that my life possibly shouldn’t go on.

I imagine some of you will know what Project Semicolon is and it’s message ‘your story is not over’. We use a semicolon in a sentence where we could have chosen to end it but actually decide to carry on. This is a very simple but incredibly powerful message.

Suicide is something that we all know about, we read about it, we see it on the news, we hear people discussing how it is the biggest cause of death of males under fifty and just how prevalent it is and yet we still don’t understand why people feel pushed to the point where they can no longer continue.

Not every person will suffer with mental health issues. Some people will suffer but to a lesser degree and some will need help for years and possibly the rest of their lives. It is however a fact that one in four of us will at some point suffer with a mental health issue. That’s huge, it essentially means you are never far away from someone who is, has or may in the future suffer. So why then are people’s misconceptions still so bizarre. Why do people who acknowledge they need help get judged for doing so and why do we in a world where mental health is being addressed in every society still refuse to acknowledge it’s just as worthy of recognition as any other medical issue?

You can never know what will happen to you in the future. One day you can be fine and the next crippled by something you don’t understand, not knowing where to turn and needing help for a crisis. This affects the richest people, the poorest people and all those in between. The triggers and causes may not be the same but MH doesn’t discriminate based on race, class, gender or location.

I have met in my journey so many people who have to deal with their mental health issues in all manner of different ways. Highly functioning people in powerful jobs, positions of authority and who are valued members of their community. I have also met people who have lost everything because of the way their mental health issues have affected them. This does not mean that either group of people have suffered anymore than the other just that they are alike in their issues.

Learning about, talking about and maintaining your mental health is not a weakness but an acknowledgement of a basic need. If we are low in a certain kind of vitamin we take supplements, if we have a broken leg we have a plaster cast. In essence we care for ourselves to make ourselves feel better and no one would blink an eye at someone on crutches in fact they would offer them help wherever they needed it. So why then when someone says they are having a mental health crisis do most people look awkward and want to walk away?

I’m not criticising, it’s hard and if you have never had mental health issues you will struggle to understand and comprehend what someone is going through however, we as human beings have the power to be compassionate, kind and to listen to others. You don’t have to understand someone’s journey to listen and offer support nor do you have to agree with their thought processes and needs. You just need to be kind because do you know what one day you might find yourself in a time of crisis and need just that from someone. Never take mental well-being for granted.

It needs to be maintained like any other avenue of health and is important for the world going forward. We want people who are aware of wellbeing and mindfulness and acknowledge their existence and validity not making sufferers feel that they have no where to turn and are being labelled as ‘over sensitive’ or ‘mental’.

In the last year I have considered ending my story. That overwhelming feeling that the world would be a better place without me, that I have nothing to add and that I can’t continue to fight the demons I have been waging war against for so long. I am proud that with help and support I decided that my story needs to continue. I am proud that on my wrist there is a semicolon for the world to see and to show I like millions of others suffer.

It’s a bit of a conversation starter, people want to know about your experiences and why you’ve ended up where you have. It’s also a great way of letting others know about the work being done by mental health organisations world wide.

Don’t dismiss mental health, don’t make those with mental health issues feel like they are weak or not as whole a person as anyone who isn’t suffering. Be kind and don’t be an asshole. You never know when you might need kindness and compassion from someone. It could be next year, in ten years or tomorrow but you may need it and you will be grateful for those who help as oppose to condemn.

You can see the work done by project semicolon here and also the fab people at The Blurt Foundation here who publish regular pieces on how depression especially affects you and where to go for help.

In conclusion mental health is just as important as physical health and we all have an obligation to remember this.

Please get in touch if you need to.

Much love, Lucy xxx