A little less me than usual……

As any of you who suffer with mental health issues to any extent know sometimes they can rise up and smack you in the face when you are least expecting it. Sometimes life is just life, relatively normal, ticking along and suddenly you feel like you want the world to open up and swallow you just to keep from having to face the day.

Being honest I’ve had a few hints that this was coming, I’ve noticed myself looking in the rear view mirror of the car over the last week and not only using it to drive the car safely (yes sometimes I can manage driving!) but also as a way of criticising myself, comments like ‘look at your wrinkles’ and ‘shit job with your makeup today Luce’ have been creeping back in. I’ve been drawn to my bed to the point where getting up has been getting harder and some of the things I usually find joyful don’t seem to have been giving me the smile they usually would.

The final thing that has tipped me over the edge is the snow. I didn’t realise how much anxiety I had about driving in the snow until this morning. Yesterday karl was off and he has no issues driving in snow so it was something that I didn’t need to worry about. Today with the task of getting the boys to school and me to work I have literally gone to a million pieces. The thought of starting the car and skidding all over the place is all too much and I feel like my chest gets tighter every time I think about it. As it’s turned out Leo’s school is closed and I’ve decided not to risk driving to get Nate in after seeing the carnage on the hills going down into town on Facebook. Yet I’m frozen to the spot worrying. This ridiculous, illogical and quite frankly irrational worry is crippling me.

I have sorted a lift into work but I’m panicking about what will happen later if we can’t get home. I’m worried about karl getting home from work again. I’m worried that I don’t have the energy to get into the shower and that when I do get into work I will be less than useless. I’m worried because my sickness record is appalling thanks to my hysterectomy last year and I have to have my toe nail removed on Monday and I can’t be dealing with a spike in depression and anxiety now.

I am concerned that the people I love are getting fed up with how useless I have been lately, how little I have been myself and how much of a drain I am. Let alone the fact that soon I will be the one with one less toe nail and look like some sort of oddball. I’ve been in flip flops and one shoe on one off for about two months now and am getting a bit sick of it all.

I think reading this back it’s quite obvious why I’m feeling low. I have an exam coming up at work, some out of work commitments, an impending building project, surgery, a mess of a house and a general feeling that I’m absolutely not up to any of the tasks at hand. The snow seems to have been the straw that broke the camels back!

Being honest I’m not sure why I’ve written this post. It helps me to write things down, so I can make sense of how I’m feeling and so I know that anyone reading will understand why I’m not being myself. I also hope that other sufferers will like I often do take stock of the fact that I’m not the only one suffering. I know I have to keep going because I have no other choice but inside I want to curl up in a ball and sleep forever.

Be kind lovely people, look out for others, it may not make sense but many of us are not quite ourselves at the moment. If you managed to read this drivel I applaud you, not only do you deserve a medal but a massive cocktail with a sparkler and umbrella on me!

Sorry for being miserable. Hopefully I will be okay soon.

Lucy xxx

My bullet journal for 2018

Earlier this week I put a post on Instagram about how I had started a bullet journal for next year and whether people would find it useful for me to write a post about how I had put it together, how it helps with mindfulness and my mental health.

So, here you go! Last year I saw many a YouTube video on setting up a bullet journal and thought it was a fab idea. I loved the idea of a mood tracker, sleep tracker, keeping up with social media followers and many other tables and graphs that I could colour in. The reality was I made the whole thing far too complicated and when I fell behind with the various trackers I had created it made me feel stressed, anxious and like a failure.

This is if course an overreaction but when you are someone suffering with anxiety and depression you really don’t need anymore pressures that could potentially make you feel even more shitty about yourself so I gave up. But as the year has gone on I’ve thought more and more about how much I like to doodle and how a much more simplified version would actually be a very good thing.

I bought a cheap as chips notepad from Home Bargains which had lined pages and dots along the top and bottom for ease of lines.

I have a pot of pens and pencils that I dig out for doodling when I can so felt that I could use those so didn’t need to buy anymore stationary than that. I mostly used Berol felt tips, some thin nibbed black gel pens, pencils and a ruler. I decided to incorporate my favourite parts of the bullet journal I had done last year without all the stress so started with a simple drawing on the front page. This could be anything but I chose to make it displaying the year and my name.

For anyone who knows me or follows my Instagram you will know I love stars so these seemed to be perfect for the front page. I wanted inspirational quotes to play a huge part in this years journal as they do in everyday life but decided that the front page was good as it was. I then went on to a simple Index, I left four pages for this so I can have room to Index the whole book. This is really important for how I’m doing the journal as it will make finding what I’m looking for so much easier throughout the year.

I love lettering so really enjoy this but was amazed by how many lettering tutorials there are on Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram so even if you are someone who isn’t too keen on lettering you can find a font that looks good and that you can master simply. I then added pages for goals and aims, blog ideas and hopes and dreams for the year. I can fill these in as I go and reflect back on them at the end of 2018. As you can see I’ve not quite finished the colouring in but it gives you an idea and is really simple. I’m not tracking anything, giving myself dates to get stuff done by but simply jotting down things as they come into my head.

In the templates I have seen many others use the pages after this for all the various trackers, favourite quotes, meal plans and all manner of other bits and pieces but again I found this hard as I wasn’t sure how many pages to leave before I started my actual diary and if I wanted to add others in it would look odd after so I’ve kept it simple again and just gone straight into the year.

For every new month I’ve used a double page spread for the month with a drawing and a notes section but this could be adapted in anyway which suits you best. That’s the thing, it needs to suit you and help you not confuse you and leave you feeling daft for not doing it in the way everyone else is. Again these aren’t all finished but these give you an idea and I have to say it’s so relaxing doing that monthly page that I am really looking forward to doing all the others.

Again the beauty of this is that you can do it however you want so January is a bit different but as I went on I found what works for me best and what I enjoyed most drawing. Then I went really controversial and used a double page spread for the month so a line for each day of the month, it’s much quicker to do, will still give me the space I need but didn’t need so much effort put into it that I ended up giving up after the 76,000th shout of ‘Mummy!’ From the boys. I managed to get the whole year marked up in less that a day and with opportunities to add on as I wanted which felt like a real achievement.

At the end of every month I put a gratitude page and a reflections page for the month and there is plenty of space to add favourite quotes, doodles and stick things in should I want to.

Then after the year I started to add on the additional pages I wanted to, no trackers as I have neither the time or the pressure of them but a page for meal ideas, a page for house ideas and I’m sure there will be others to come as the year goes on. Here I can doodle my favourite quotes and stick in pictures. All of these can be found easily by the Index and I have loads of room to add on as many pages as I want up to the end of the notebook because I’ve kept the journal so simple.

There are so many different ways for doing these bullet journals and none are right or wrong. I’ve kept it simple, functional and easy to maintain so I can make the most of the mindfulness and organisation while not pressuring myself to keep up with trackers and charts. I can write down as little or as much as I want or I can simply use it as a diary to keep up with all the things going on in my life.

I hear you say that I could just go and buy a diary but as I said the thought that I have created something totally bespoke to me and suitable for my needs is a great feeling. It also gives me somewhere to be creative and something to share with others (I’ve already had some questions about where I got the idea from) now I don’t have masses of free time and run around like a mad woman (oh the irony) most of the time but one of my biggest moans of the last year was feeling unorganised. This will assist and can always be with me only being in a small notepad.

There are lots of journals and planners already made up for this purpose and some that are fantastically aimed at those with MH issues to all degrees however because I love to draw this option suited me better. So many people have acknowledged that next year they want to live life more simply and this is one of those ways for me, doing something I want to do but in my own way in a simple manner.

I would love to hear what you think, to see if you’ve been inspired to do anything similar and how you are going into 2018. Feel free to get in touch!

Thank you for reading this year, for being there, for taking on board me and all the crap I go on about and for supporting Tired From Whitstable, both here, in the newspaper and across my social media. I am blown away and can honestly say you make a crazy woman very happy!

Happy new year you lovely people xx

Analysing Anxiety……

As many of you know and have been bored to tears by me for the majority of this year about I suffer with depression and anxiety. Always have in some way and quite probably always will. This year so far has been the hardest journey for me out of all the previous ones. So much so that this one I feel is the one that will change the way I deal with me forever.

These changes are positive and all I believe what will make me going forward be in control more of how depression and anxiety affects me and not letting it beat me again (yes I know I’ve said this a million times before!) One of my main issues was and I realise now has always been a total lack of self esteem. My inner dialogue has always been negative to the point where I have talked myself out of doing the smallest and simplest things because I have simply felt I’m not able to, would be laughed at or that as usually I am totally and utterly useless so why bother trying.

This anxiety that came out of this inner dialogue meant that I had literally stopped myself from doing things. To give totally honest examples I would plan how I would walk into and out of the school on the school run as I didn’t want to walk a way where that many people would see me and potentially not like me, what I write, how I look or who I am. Even though of course the vast majority of those people don’t know me and even if they did probably not well enough to condemn me and ostracise me and lets be honest if people don’t like me I really can’t do much about that and  hiding myself away won’t change their feelings about me. It even got so bad that earlier this year I would park the car in a road quite away from school and would watch the clock until five to three then need to rush in knowing that the children would be coming out as I got there so I would avoid seeing lots of people. It got that bad! It sounds ridiculous and I’m even laughing at myself a bit writing it but that was what anxiety was doing to me.

I did the same with parking my car at work and even trips to the toilet where I would need to leave the office I worked in I would plan for times I felt would be quiet and I wouldn’t bump into people. I didn’t want to have to explain my issues to people or feel I was being judged so I tried to disappear. Of course no one can actually disappear, unless you have one of three Deathly Hallows and your last name is Potter! But I would have done anything to be able to. I was literally driving myself mad and even the slightest knock would turn me into a wreck and made me feel like I simply couldn’t go on.

I realise now that my anxiety goes hand in hand with my depression and the more down I am the more anxious I become. The issue of course as I have said so many times before was that I simply did not have the option of shutting down, I had to fight it for my children, my husband and the people I love but, most of all for me. I am a human being who has all manner of issues and experiences that have bought me to where I am today but what has gone before me does not take away from the fact that I have a future and that I like everyone else deserve to be happy. My own version of happy of course, it might not be what would make others happy but who cares, happiness is a personal choice and it really has nothing to do with anyone else. As long as those closest to me are okay and we are happy then that will do me.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t strut around with my head held high but I try to smile more (not in a creepy way I hope) and if I feel anxious about walking a certain way or doing a specific thing I have a little word with myself and ask what is the worst that could happen? The honest answer from my more peaceful mind is not a lot and if something did well you know what as a thirty four year old woman I would have to deal with it. I can’t go on over analysing everything and as the very wise Newt Scamander said, ‘worrying only makes you suffer twice’ and I believe lovely people that he is right.

I can’t pretend that depression and therefore anxiety won’t be a part of my life anymore but I have finally made peace with the fact that they are a part of who I am and I am their master not the other way around. I also will do myself no good whatsoever telling myself I am ugly, no good, worthless, stupid or that I need to prove my worth to others just so I feel validated. I can validate me and other than eating far too much cake and having a slightly unhealthy obsession with Keeping Up with the Kardashians I’m okay. My children are happy (albeit appallingly behaved the vast majority of the time) Karl and I are in the best place I think we have been in a long time, our home is messy but full of love and there is cider in the fridge.

This may seem like a strange post to write but I wanted to write it to emphasise how you can come through a crisis and although you will still need to handle the triggers you can give yourself the tools to do so. I was chatting to someone the other day and we talked about it like having an extra handbag. Like the one I always carry that has powder, deodorant, my phone, a notepad, my money, lego figures (mum to boys!) plasters and a variety of other delights I also have the invisible one that contains all the things I have learned in CBT and all the tools that I can use to get me through the day with a smile on my face and feeling okay about me.

As I have mentioned in the past my Pinterest account helps me massively in this respect and I see it as a form of therapy each and every day to scroll through positive and inspirational quotes that lift me and make me feel okay to be who I am.

This has been a hard one to write and I hope not terrible for you to read. I will continue to give updates as I find it helps me to hear about others journeys and if I can help or offer kind words to even one person then it makes it totally worth putting my story out there. Thanks for reading and if you feel the need to get in touch please do so via my contact page.


 

 

Depression…. you b*****d

When I speak to people who read my blog (my mum and Auntie Bev…. hello!) they say how they like how honest I am about mental health. That I speak about my struggles openly and that others respect me for that.

Things have been good lately, life has been busy, tiring and there has been lots to organise and remember but I’ve been okay. That is the thing about depression and anxiety, you can be in control, on top of them, managing and smiling then all of a sudden the clouds come over and you start to doubt everything you are doing.

I’ve known it was coming this week and smiled through my working week thinking once I’m home it will be okay. The first day off was fine, the sun was shining and I went shopping for new work clothes with my mum. We had a nice lunch and talked about life and I enjoyed every minute. 

When I started trying on clothes in the shops I knew that it was inevitable I would have a wobble, I’ve gained weight, around three stone since 2014 when I went down to only nine stone which for someone of five foot seven was too small. I do now though feel bigger than I should be and am having all the feelings that go with it such as thoughts of being unattractive, disappointed with myself and in short an elephant in jeggings.

Yesterday was tough, it was pouring down with rain when I woke up and as Karl was on earlies I was on school run duties and Leo as he often does at the worst possible time decided to be the child who calls his mother an idiot and refuses to do anything. I got to school with tears in my eyes and felt like I could manage nothing more than sitting under a blanket and pretending the world outside didn’t exist.

The problem was that I had booked to go on a photography walk with the very lovely Karen at ‘Love your Camera’. Karen is becoming a friend and I really enjoy hers and other creatives company however I couldn’t deal with the thought of being sociable. There was a question mark over whether the walk would go ahead due to the weather and I emailed Karen and asked if it was okay for me not to go. All the other participants felt that they wanted to brave the rain so I somehow picked myself up and made myself go and of course had a fab time with some amazing people. Still knowing though that the bastard black cloud was hanging over my head.

Today was the start of four days off with Karl and two days off with the boys after their first week back at school and Nates first week at junior school. It started with swimming lessons which involved Leo refusing to get in and then once he had faking sickness so he could get out. 

We then went into town and had breakfast rolls at Champs, one of our favourite bakeries and cafes. The food was yummy but the boys were hard work with Leo managing to spray Ribena all over his face and Nate wiping his greasy bacon fingers over my bright and cheery floral kimono I had worn to lift my mood.

I knew when we got home I would have to embrace it, not everyday is going to be sunshine and happiness and if it’s a down day tomorrow will start afresh. I can’t let a bad day become a bad life. I can’t let myself get into the cycles I was in before where my lack of self esteem made me the saddest and most unrecognisable version of me I have ever been. 

I think being a woman (or a man) with MH issues you need to embrace the fact that you will always be more susceptible to bad times than others. Then add all the shit life can throw at you and it would be foolish to think you will be able to be on top of the world every moment and all sunshine and flowers. Well I suppose my life is more full of flowers than most but you know what I mean! 

Tonight I plan on eating a bar of my favourite chocolate and being okay with me. Okay with being a little bit off my game and embracing the fact that sometimes the clouds get a bit dark. It is just that though, they won’t be like that forever and soon the sun will shine again. Until then I have candles, blankets and the aforementioned chocolate (no you can’t have any!) 

If you are feeling crappy and low tonight know you are not alone. Millions of people all over the world are suffering with their mental health but none of them are you. You have the power over your mental health and only you can understand it and deal with it accordingly. Therapists, family and friends can help us get the skills and tools we need to deal with it but it’s us who has to pick up those tools and go forward. Pick up that axe and smash the fuck out of your anxiety and depression because although it’s a part of you it’s not who you are and never forget it. The people who love you won’t.

Sorry about all the swearing, it seems chocolate makes me aggressive! Get in touch if you need to. Lots of love, Lucy xxx

wellbeing, creativity and violence?

I read a hilariously funny thread on The Motherload Page on Facebook this morning about a mum who had some choice words to say about Kirstie Allsopp and her home made Christmas programme. The thread turned into such  a laugh that I had to stop reading as my post surgery tummy really couldn’t handle it.

This has got me thinking this morning about just how differently we see and think about things as mums. For any of you who haven’t seen it Kirstie has made a series of shows for the last few years about her making and crafting things for Christmas. These have included things such as driftwood trees, garlands, embroidered gifts, homemade chocolates and chutneys and on this weeks show pears dipped in gold leaf and used as place settings. The whole ethos behind it is to lose mass produced expensive gifts for handmade and cheaper unique alternatives.

Now I am a bit of a Kirstie fan and love her ideas of creating things for your home from old peoples junk. I also view this with dreaming eyes as I know I neither have the time or the cash to invest and renovate in old items. However it is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine to watch such shows and come Christmas I do get a real kick out of all the amazing crafts, artisans and ideas that her programme showcases.

In real life I like to do craft, I am a fan of drawing and lettering as you all know and I love a bit of papercraft. This does not mean I am very good at it though and I can recall last Christmas getting very uppity after watching what felt like a million you tube videos on how to fold paper stars and not actually achieving any and making what resembled boomerangs. Karl however tried one and ended up folding a perfect star which I still have on my dressing table now as a reminder of how much I made him laugh pouting as I couldn’t get it right!

I have found this year a way of making cardboard barn stars which not only have I managed but I also really enjoy so now the house resembles the bit in Elf where poor Buddy goes into overdrive making snowflakes. Cooking and baking, I barely get by, crochet and embroidery, I’m more likely to stick a needle in my eye and end up in hospital and things like felt make my teeth go funny when it rubs together and makes that funny noise! Anyway my point is as much as I enjoy watching and looking at such crafts I am no good at them and leave it to the professionals. For me though there is a kind of relaxation or therapeutic element to watching such arts being undertaken.

Some of the comments on the Motherload this morning however spoke of wanting to punch Kirstie, how unrealistic her ideas are and how the money she was spending (gold leaf on a pear for example) would be much better spent on other more important things (like prosecco or chocolate Baileys I thought!) I did note that her own children didn’t take part in the show and she uses other children who do not belong to her and do crafts well and behave impeccably. I imagine this is because she like the rest of us knows that if you try and do anything with your own children they see it as a cue to misbehave, cause merry hell and eat everything in sight. Kirstie is a mum to boys too so she like me will face challenges such as arm wrestles over who gets to eat the most cherries, tears and tantrums over the metallic sharpies and constant games of hide and seek because the scissors have gone missing…… again!

It can be seen as yet another pressure on busy mums at Christmas that not only do you need to buy everything, get it all wrapped and ready and have the kids at home for two weeks you also need to make things yourself and spend countless hours doing so and then delivering them with a smile looking glam and not pissed (because of all the prosecco and Chocolate Baileys!)

Kirstie Allsopp will have at the very least, a team of researchers, a make up artist, a hair stylist, an assistant, a runner, someone who cleans up as she goes, someone who buys the stuff in for her to use and childcare on tap. She is also a famous celebrity who has plenty of cash to spend on gold leaf, artisan chocolate and things that are sold at posh Christmas Fairs. This is clearly not and never will be me, I am just happy if I get a compliment about my cardboard stars and a few likes on Instagram. I don’t think Kirstie wants to pressure us mums into a craft induced anxiety attack she is just doing her thing.

It really doesn’t matter what is under the tree this Christmas but who is sat around it. Whether that be your family, friends, moaning children, sleeping elderly relatives, drunk, sober, on their third bottle of chocolate Baileys or whatever. My point is that we are all bloody amazing and our families and friends are grateful to have us even if they haven’t got a place name marked with gold leaf or nothing but beans on toast for their dinner. Christmas is what we make it, we are who we make ourselves and no amount of gold leaf will do anything about that if we don’t believe it.

I leave you with a quote from Lady Cora from Downton Abbey, ‘You are being tested, and you know what they say my darling, being tested only makes you stronger’.