Some things you need to know about mental health……

Long time no speak lovely friends. How are you?

I am writing this to you on World Mental Health Day. A day which I hold very dear in my heart. I speak to people most days about mental health in some capacity. Sometimes not the big stuff but just the little things that in the mind of someone who is low become the massive things that stand in the way of getting through the day. Those things that feel like you are carrying around an invisible weight and no matter how many things you put down you just can’t get away from.

It occurred to me only yesterday that more and more often lately I’ve been talking to people who are living with those who are really struggling with poor mental health and are themselves struggling to understand their place in it all and how they can help their loved ones. How hard is that? I’ve often said how much I respect Karl for sticking by me at my darkest times and not giving up on me which I’m sure sometimes would have been the easier thing to do.

So for today a blog about some of the ways in which those who have mental health issues suffer seemed like a good idea. To aid understanding and to add some clarity to why sometimes we do and say the things we do.

I often get the classic ‘but you always seem happy’ and yes I often do. After many years you find a way of smiling through it much of the time. Often of course I am happy. MH sufferers don’t always feel low and anxious all of the time and like anyone else suffering with a medical issue our symptoms come and go. I’ve got a good network around me and there are people who I know I can talk to if I’m getting low or my anxiety starts to take over. This makes me feel safe. If someone with poor MH doesn’t want to confide in you don’t be offended. Sometimes we don’t know why or how we are feeling the way we are so putting it into words can be hard and it’s easier to do that with the people who know us really well.

I have heard many times also that people with poor MH are anti social. This is a very interesting point and actually on reflection I get why people could think this. But it’s not actually true. I am a social person. I like to go out, meet people, see friends and family and all the ‘normal’ things we love in life however I also go through times when I can’t be around people. This is totally about me and usually nothing to do with them. It’s all about my inner voice. I’ve written about it before. Some days crippling anxiety and self esteem issues mean that day to day things are like climbing mountains. I feel worthless, abhorrent and every insecurity I’ve ever had starts shouting at me from inside my own head. To give an example of what this looks like for me the school run is a particularly tough one. If I’m feeling this way and in a low point I don’t want to see people as I worry they will judge how I look, won’t understand why I’m feeling the way I am and will in general think I’m a horrible person. This is I know mostly ridiculous but it’s a genuine fear so I park in obscure places, I avoid the high street where I’m more likely to bump into people, I use the alleyways that weave to the boys school and keep my head down in the play ground. Seems massively antisocial doesn’t it but look closely and you would see me picking my nails, fiddling with my zip and shuffling uncomfortably on my feet. It’s not antisocial it’s self preservation.

Similarly people who suffer often don’t want to do things because they simply don’t feel up to them. It’s really easy to say yes to social events, work engagements and all manner of other things but when that time comes you aren’t in the right frame of mind, you are so low that even getting washed to go out seems too much, you don’t want to face people and you worry that you won’t be wanted or great company when you do get there. You often find that when you cancel plans a couple of times people stop asking you. It’s happened to me. It doesn’t feel great but I guess it’s easier than the worry that comes with feeling you have to cancel and people getting angry with you.

As a blogger I have to walk a very fine line with my mental health and going along to things that put me massively out of my comfort zone. I always feel like I’ve been asked to some of the events I have been by mistake and when I get there they will ask me to leave or that I will be too fat, too ugly and a disappointment to the other people who go. I try and go to these things as often as I feel able though as some of the people I have met through them are the people who get me most and will understand if I’m an anxious mess when I get there.

We as human beings want to fix things, we want to help people and offer solutions to problems which in most things work. However mental health can be so tricky on this score. If one of your loved ones is suffering you want to have that magic wand to wave and to make it all better but sadly you can’t. You can though just be there for them. Ask them what you can do. For me it’s often a hug, a cup of tea and just sitting with me. Allowing me the space to feel what I’m feeling and making sure I am safe. Letting me know I can talk if I want to but that I don’t have to. Not talking at me and telling me how I should feel or making me feel bad for suffering at that time.

Mental health sufferers don’t want to be a burden, we don’t want to be difficult to live with and we know that on some days we can be that bit harder to love. But we also haven’t chosen to be this way. We are on our own journey and we appreciate all you do for us while we are dealing with it.

I think my main message here is not to make assumptions about people with mental health problems. We don’t all follow a set pattern, we don’t always know how to explain how we are feeling or the things we do and we certainly don’t want to be treated like we are a burden or a pain. You wouldn’t treat someone with a broken leg like they are a burden or a pain so why should we be treated like that because we suffer from depression or another MH issue. Most of us would rather that you ask questions than shy away from us and understand that sometimes we need that extra bit of space.

I hope that this may have helped to give a bit of an insight into how mental health can effect people. There are so many more things I could write and so many examples I could give of how I’ve been treated as a mental health sufferer both good and bad.

If you don’t feel you can talk to someone who is suffering the many online resources can offer insights and help. Particularly if you feel that person may be a risk to themselves or others.

To all my fellow sufferers keep going, you are amazing, you are loved and you are so very important. To all those who are caring for and dealing with loved ones with mental health problems keep going, you are loved and you too are so very important.

Much love,

Lucy xxx

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

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

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!

An October review…….

October is one of those months where I tend to have a bit of a review. My birthday is this month and I think as it approaches every year it makes me evaluate where I am, where I’ve been and what I’ve achieved over the last year.

When I thought about it quickly I thought that this year hasn’t been one full of great things and huge achievements but then I thought again. This year I have focussed more on me than I have for a long time. I have had the at times uncomfortable realisations of who I am, what I’m about and what I need to let go of. I have dare I say it become more happy. I have allowed myself to be who I am in ways that I would have feared to in the past. Worries about being mocked or treated differently I haven’t allowed to plague my thoughts like I used to and I am for the first time in a long time  in a position where I can say that the people I have around me understand and embrace me for me no matter what. Not you Mum, you’ve been doing that for almost thirty five years now!

No matter what is a big statement. No matter what is in good times or bad, when I have had successes or failures. When I’ve made good decisions or hideously awful ones. There really is a huge amount of truth in the saying ‘find your tribe’ and when you do you need to hold on to those people with all you have.

I have talked about my mental health more this year and I feel with more authority. I am on a journey that evolves on a daily basis and it’s a journey that I am at peace with as opposed to fighting against. I have made the decision to come off my antidepressants and to take more control in other ways over my mental health. I have started small practices to help me on a daily basis that are becoming habits. I write down how I feel, I meditate, I read more and I am more realistic with myself.

I have put on about two stone and I’m currently wearing a size eighteen. This is a big thing for me to tell you but after all the peanut m&m’s and those yummy Ikea biscuits I am hardly surprised but for once in my life I am being kind to myself. I have realised that limiting myself is a way I used to self harm in the past and denying myself nice things as some strange way of punishing myself did nothing other than make me miserable. I have cut down on alcohol and started running again (slowly and with a very interesting style but still) I have realised that I am meant to have big boobs and they need to be comfortable so I’ve started buying my bras at Victoria’s secrets because they don’t only make sexy, tiny underwear but they make the most comfortable bras I have ever worn. They are expensive and I only buy them in the sale because that’s what I can afford to do but it feels good to be looking after myself and taking pride in doing so.

I see the beauty in having no plans, in living simply and taking each day as it comes. I love to see friends and walk around taking pictures even if it is somewhere we have taken a million pictures of before. I have realised I like yoga and just because I am not as bendy as most people doesn’t mean I can’t do a downward facing dog as well as the next person.

We have made a small house into a big house and have taken pride in doing so. It’s been a massive lesson for us as a family and a couple but it has bought us closer together and bought pure joy. I look forward to getting the garden finished and starting my flower garden and the thought of cutting flowers I have grown myself next year to display in my home brings a huge grin to my face.

I have realised that there are so many things in this life that are so much more important that I ever thought. Sitting with my parents over a cup of tea talking about the birds, seeing my boys play with their friends, listening to the boys read, eating cake with Karl, taking my mum out and treating her like she deserves to be treated and laughing with my friends. These things are priceless, these moments to be made memories that I can cherish forever.

I want to continue to write and talk about mental health. I want to help people, to give blood (once and counting) to explore more creative pursuits, to spend more time with the people I love and to see them go from strength to strength. I hope that when  I write this post next year it will be another year of little things that have added up to massive things when I will be meeting another year older as a welcome friend full of excitement and promise.

Thanks as always for reading, for listening, for being here and being you. You have no idea how much each and every one of you that has taken the time to email, comment on my social media, hit the like button and talk to me about my blog and writing have helped me this year. You are amazing and I hope you never forget it.

Lucy xxx

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