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!

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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

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

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.