charity · help · mental health · news · stigma · support

Goodbye Hair

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Though this is a delayed post (considering I officially finished this fundraising on the 1st of July) for those still following I wanted to show that I was true to my word! I declared if I ended up rasing £2000 or more I would cut off most of my hair and seen as we came to an amazing total of £2,375 on Saturday the 1st of July I went to get the chop!

It’s a big change but I also feel like this journey has made a big change in me, so out with the old and in with the new! My first drink of the year was experienced with family having a celebratory meal and though going back to drinking has been odd it’s great to notice how I don’t feel the need to fall back into old habits and I’m building a new more healthy relationship with drinking and socialising. 

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So now onto the next big adventure, becoming a qualified level 3 personal trainer in 10 weeks!

charity · help · mental health · stigma · support

Month No. 6

Month Numbero Six

6 months today!!!

That’s it I have officially been sober for half a year, thanks to all the very generous donations you have all made to this wonderful charity Mind!

This experience has been life changing, what started as a decision to simply raise some money while addressing my relationship with drinking and the effects it has on my mental health has turned into something far greater than I could have ever imagined!
A journey where I re-discovered my self-value and that in itself is a realisation I had long forgotten.

So to keep it simple and sweet for all those who have followed me through this journey, if you don’t know much about mental health please discover more and help break the stigma by educating yourself and others, as you can make such a difference in so many people’s lives! And to all those who suffer with mental difficulties, if I can make this journey to recovery so can you! You’re never too far gone, reach a hand out, speak out and though the world doesn’t always reach out a helping hand or listening ear straight away there are people out there who will prove you wrong and want to help and support you, but most of all please know you are worth recovery, you are worth something and you are NEVER truly alone.

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The last thing I shall leave you with are a few words that I wrote roughly 4 years ago but still remain very true today…

If you’re reading this and you have ever felt completely alone, or you have felt at times you have fallen short of people’s expectations, if you have ever hated yourself or lacked self-worth or self-belief, if you have lost someone you loved even if its someone you just had to let go of, if you have had a million things you have wanted to say and not one willing ear to listen to you, if you have held back the tears for ages then burst when there is no one there to hug you, well I love you.

Not because I pity you, and not just because I relate, but because I truly believe everyone is worthy of love and no one should feel alone. I care because yes I’ve been there and I would never wish that upon anyone. People don’t understand that power of love…

This may just be my interpretation of love but I once read love was not selfish, so therefore love is selfless, so you can forget yourself and your fears, your problems to focus on that person and just be there, even if they don’t do the same for you in return.
So yes I love you because I want you to know you’re never alone.

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bpd · charity · depression · help · mental health · news · stigma · suicide · support

TV Appearance

This month I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to appear on ‘That’s Oxford TV’, where I had a chance to share my personal story on mental health.

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I was interviewed by the lovely Emma-Jane Taylor and though the experience was fairly nerve wracking it was great to have a platform to discuss such an important topic, and by sharing some of my experiences I hope others can find that bravery to start to share theirs.

To watch the interview just click the link below: WATCH HERE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIYAM1wjYV4&feature=youtu.be

 

charity · depression · help · men · mental health · stigma · suicide · support

Self-Harm

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This is a hard subject to approach and a hard one to write about… there is a lot of stigma behind this topic and also confusion. What exactly is self-harm?

For me I would sum it up as taking anything surrounding you good or bad and turning it against yourself to cause physical or emotional harm. Sometimes taking pleasure from the pain it brings, other times doing it as a form of self-punishment believing that it’s what you deserve.
It can often become an addiction and a coping mechanism for very difficult feelings.

For those who don’t understand why someone would turn to self-harm here are just a few reasons why it might appeal to someone or become a last resort…

  • express something that is hard to put into words
  • turn invisible thoughts or feelings into something visible
  • change emotional pain into physical pain
  • reduce overwhelming emotional feelings or thoughts
  • have a sense of being in control
  • escape traumatic memories
  • have something in life that they can rely on
  • punish yourself for your feelings and experiences
  • stop feeling numb, disconnected or dissociated
  • create a reason to physically care for themselves
  • express suicidal feelingsand thoughts without taking their own life.

 

Types of self-harm

I almost don’t want to list any as sometimes I feel like I’m listing to myself the only options I used to feel I had. I also feel reserved doing so as these are by no means good options and any release they bring I can guarantee they hold a lot more pain and hardship for you in the long run.
However here are just a few I can think of:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Cutting yourself or causing harm to oneself by punching/pinching etc.
  • Refusing to eat (starvation)
  • Burning yourself
  • Self-sabotage in friendships and relationships (on purposely pushing others away)
  • Promiscuous behaviour (with intent to replace other forms of self-harm or as a form of escape)

 

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Besides the obvious reasons self-harm is bad for you there is also a high risk of addiction, as these things may bring temporary release it’s something people can come to rely on so when in desperate need or in emotional turmoil they turn straight to self harm as some relief can be better than none. It’s almost like a distorted comfort blanket but any comfort self-harm brings you is a lie and only pushes you to devalue yourself and your life more and more.

 

Myths and facts about cutting and self-harm
Because cutting and other means of self-harm tend to be taboo subjects, the people around you—and possibly even you—may harbor serious misunderstandings about your motivations and state of mind. Don’t let these myths get in the way of getting help or helping someone you care about.
Myth: People who cut and self-injure are trying to get attention.

Fact: The painful truth is that people who self-harm generally harm themselves in secret. They aren’t trying to manipulate others or draw attention to themselves. In fact, shame and fear can make it very difficult to come forward and ask for help.

Myth: People who self-injure are crazy and/or dangerous.

Fact: It is true that many people who self-harm suffer from anxiety, depression, or a previous trauma—just like millions of others in the general population, but that doesn’t make them crazy or dangerous. Self-injury is how they cope. Sticking a label like “crazy” or “dangerous” on a person isn’t accurate or helpful.

Myth: People who self-injure want to die.

Fact: People who self-injure usually do not want to die. When they self-harm, they are not trying to kill themselves—they are trying to cope with their problems and pain. In fact, self-injury may be a way of helping themselves go on living. However, in the long-term, people who self-injure have a much higher risk of suicide, which is why it’s so important to seek help.

Myth: If the wounds aren’t bad, it’s not that serious.

Fact: The severity of a person’s wounds has very little to do with how much he or she may be suffering. Don’t assume that because the wounds or injuries are minor, there’s nothing to worry about.

Personal Experience and Recovery

Self-harm can enter peoples lives in a manner of different ways. For me I was a somewhat usual hyper child, however I do remember I could get carried away with my feelings and sometimes it would get me into trouble. One time I got told off for my behaviour and I suddenly felt this internal pain which was sharp and made it hard for me to breathe, by no means had I been yelled at or scolded but it felt like I might as well have been! Once I got home this feeling didn’t leave and I simply remember wondering if physical pain would counteract this strange overwhelming feeling, then without any real intent to harm myself I took a paper clip and one cut was all it took, the worse part of all it worked.

I do not want to overindulge in where it took me further into teenage years etc. but safe to say that self-harm (cutting myself) became an addiction of which caused temporary relief to what was a constant emotional roller-coaster. At roughly 16 I do remember stopping for a few years, but it soon came back as it was all I knew that helped, and with little concern for my body or well-being it branched out into many other forms of self harm into my early 20’s.
I stopped cutting again temporarily but turned to things such as drinking too much and other self destructive behaviour. With no value for myself or my life I wasn’t really bothered by the consequences, but my actions not only harmed myself but sometimes others also. Which in turn lead me down a whole other path of guilt and self-punishment pushing me ever so closer and closer to the edge.
In short self-harm simply gets you no where positive fast, if anything it pushes you further and further back into the darkness.

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Recovery
I am no authority on this whatsoever, and I wont lie professional help was at times often quite scarce but recovery started within (as cheesy as that sounds!) but choosing not to self-harm simply because it harmed my body and doing things like pampering myself and attempting to paint my nails or having a healthy dinner were acts of self-love which slowly rippled into my sense of well-being. Telling myself ‘I am worth more than the temporary release of self-harm’ or ‘I matter as a person’ and ‘This is not your fault’ became challenges I would daily try to repeat to myself in an attempt that if I continued to say then maybe eventually I would believe them?
Communication with others was a massive and scary step! The idea or dealing with rejection made me feel like I may be pushed over the edge and I was scared at times of what I might do if reacted to negatively.
Ultimately recovery is different for everyone though, some really need professional help, others the support of friends and family can be a life changer, but for me the final step or the big PUSH was a follow up sort of ‘damage control’ appointment after being hospitalised after an ‘episode’. It was only meant to be 30 mins but it carried on for over an hour and by the end of the session they turned around to me and said ‘thank you’, they mentioned my insight into my condition and self-awareness was incredibly eye opening and I was doing better than I thought. They even mentioned I could go on to help and educate others, this set alight something in me and by no means did I go home and suddenly get better but I was determined to work out how to tell people and help support others who felt the same as I did.

tumblr_static_self-loveIn group therapy I got a chance to meet others who did feel and think very similar to myself and that was the final straw! I refused to let myself and these wonderful people suffer in silence, condemned by our own thoughts, often house bound and sometimes criticised by others who had no idea of the daily battle within our minds.
So though I am still recovering in many ways on this journey when I say you are not alone I am not throwing a comfort blanket over your pain, I’m saying I see your pain, I hear your pain and I am telling you that you are NOT alone and you are worth far more than you can even comprehend. We all have fight in us just choose to fight for the right people and the right causes and most of all fight for yourself.

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charity · depression · mental health · stigma · suicide

Stigma

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Seen as one of the main reasons I started this blog was to help prevent stigma I thought it would be a good topic to address. So what exactly do we mean when we associate stigma towards mental health?

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Though statistics show that over 450 million people world-wide have a mental health problem, there is still a strong social stigma attached to mental health, and people with mental health problems can experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives.
Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives.

We know that people with mental health problems are amongst the least likely of any group with a long-term health condition or disability to:

  • find work
  • be in a steady, long-term relationship
  • live in decent housing 
  • be socially included in mainstream society.

This is believed to occur because society in general has stereotyped views about mental illness and how it affects people. Many people believe that people with mental ill health are violent and dangerous, when in fact they are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves than harming other people.

Media doesn’t help at times often portraying those who can suffer with mental health difficulties to be dangerous, aggressive, criminal, evil, or very disabled and unable to live normal, fulfilled lives. Which is far more often than not very far from the case.

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That is why campaigns such as Time to Change tackling stigma towards this subject are so important! Below they address some forms of stigma towards mental health…

There are lots of myths about mental health. Knowing a few facts can help us to challenge any negative thoughts and actions. 

Here are some to think about:

  • Myth: Mental health problems are very rare.
  • Fact: 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
  • Myth: People with mental illness aren’t able to work.
  • Fact: We probably all work with someone experiencing a mental health problem.
  • Myth: Young people just go through ups and downs as part of puberty, it’s nothing.
  • Fact: 1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem.
  • Myth: People with mental health illnesses are usually violent and unpredictable.
  • Fact: People with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence. 
  • Myth: People with mental health problems don’t experience discrimination
  • Fact: 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination.
  • Myth: It’s easy for young people to talk to friends about their feelings.
  • Fact: Nearly three in four young people fear the reactions of friends when they talk about their mental health problems.

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Mental health stigma and discrimination has become such a talked about subject that many including the royal family are looking at addressing it and tackling it as no one should ever be made to feel ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone that they experience mental health problems.


The more we focus on educating others on mental health and the more that sufferers feel happy to speak up and speak out the more we can change peoples attitudes and lives. 

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anxiety · charity · depression · help · mental health · news · stigma · support

Mental Health and Exercise

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Personally exercise in my mental health journey has been a massive life saver for me! I have also heard from many others suffering with mental health difficulties that they have found exercise incredibly beneficial to helping them cope easier in everyday life but what are the facts behind this if any…

What impact does physical activity have on wellbeing?

Physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on our mood. A study asked people to rate their mood immediately after periods of physical activity and periods of inactivity. Researchers found that the participants felt more content, more awake and calmer after being physically active compared to after periods of inactivity.
Exercise also seems to have an effect on certain chemicals in the brain, like dopamine and serotonin. Brain cells use these chemicals to communicate with each other, so they affect your mood and thinking.

Impact on Stress

When events occur that make us feel threatened or that upset our balance in some way, our body’s defences cut in and create a stress response, which may make us feel a variety of uncomfortable physical symptoms and make us behave differently, and we may also experience emotions more intensely.stress_managment

Exercise seems to reduce harmful changes in the brain caused by stress. Research on employed adults has found that highly active individuals tend to have lower stress rates compared to individuals who are less active.

 

Impact on depression & anxiety

Physical activity can be an alternative treatment for depression. It can be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with medication and/or psychological therapy. It has few side effects and does not have the stigma that some people perceive to be attached to taking antidepressants or attending psychotherapy and counselling.

Physical activity can reduce levels of anxiety in people with mild symptoms and may also be helpful for treating clinical anxiety. Physical activity is available to all, has few costs attached, and is an empowering approach that can support self-management.

It can certainly be harder to get active when you are depressed. But being active lifts your mood and gives you a sense of being in control and in touch with other people.

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Now all these facts make sense and in theory are great, but what if you are not naturally inclined to do or enjoy exercise? Well being active does not mean heading out for a marathon run or going to the gym. It can be much simpler than that and can be tailored to what you enjoy and what is suitable for you depending on your health and lifestyle.

  • Firstly – any exercise is better than none.
  • BUT moderate level of exercise seems to work best.
  • This is roughly equivalent to walking fast, but being able to talk to someone at the same time.
  • You need to do about 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise on at least 5 days of every week. This can be done in one 30 minute session or broken up into shorter 10 or 15 minute sessions.
  • This can not only lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, but also seems to help depression – so you get a double benefit.
  • Don’t start suddenly – build more physical activity into your life gradually, in small steps

You can make it fun too, maybe start a group sport like basketball or football, or join a running class making it social as well, even gardening or going on a nice walk can be good exercise. Going out for a dance or cycling, anything that gets you moving is a great place to start and then the more you do it the more you will see and feel the benefits and prioritise it into your lifestyle.

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To read more on the benefits click here

 

 

 

Personal Experience

Exercise for me has been the biggest aid in recovery bar medication!
It gave me something to focus on, to let my adrenaline out, and has incredibly helped me tone down my intense and irrational emotions. If I’m angry it’s my go to, without it I can be prone to exploding at others or myself. If I’m sad it’s my go to, and though I cannot exercise all the time I make sure to keep a healthy outlook on it, so take many days off and though I eat healthily (which also MASSIVELY helps improve moods and mental health!) I eat often and never go hungry which is important for recovery.

The connection between body and mind has been something I have never overly focused on, thinking of it more as a ‘yoga term’. But the more I have paid attention to looking after and caring for my body, the more my mind has benefited from it. Actually it has benefited far more than I could imagine! It feels like an act of kindness to yourself which ripples through your body and into your mind, personally helping change my outlook on the world and myself.

Now motivated purely by the way it makes me feel and not the way it makes me look, it has left me feeling incredibly satisfied and happy in my body and therefore feeling more comfortable within my mind.

I feel so passionately towards this I’m actually taking a personal training course soon hoping to become a PT who can inspire others to take a different view and approach towards exercise, where your main aim and focus is on a happier, more content you. The side effects more so being a healthy and fitter body which you can rely on and feel more happy in.

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   SO WATCH THIS SPACE!!!!

anxiety · bipolar · bpd · charity · depression · help · mental health · stigma · support

Medication

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Mental health and medication has always been an odd subject to approach, personally from a young age and including my teenage years I refused medication, not liking the idea of a pill changing the way I think and feel. I was suspicious of it and didn’t want to risk the long list of possible side effects which can come with taking medication.
However eventually I did end up on medication in my 20’s and I have been pretty lucky with the results as it has been a massive aid to helping me get myself and my life back on track after years of turbulent emotions and events in my life.

Medication prescribed for mental health reasons is referred to as ‘Psychiatric Medication’ which includes all drugs which can be prescribed to treat different types of mental health problems, or to reduce the symptoms.

The idea of taking this medication is not to cure the mental health problems the individual suffers from but to help reduce the symptoms of their diagnosis and help them cope better.
It’s also known to be combined with other types of therapy so taking medication and undergoing a type of talking therapy can work together very well hand in hand.
Ultimately it is down to each individual on what medication and treatment is best.

 

Stigma towards mental health medication  medication

As this medication is ultimately for the mind there is a fair amount of fear and stigma towards whether or not people should be taking this medication or relying on it to help with particular mental health symptoms.

One big fear is the side effects, like most medication it is possible to suffer from them but when taking any medication there is always a risk.

I for one suffered many side effects with trying contraceptive medication but then suffered barely any on roaccutane which was prescribed for my skin at the time.

Personally I think if your symptoms are so bad you are considering medication in the first place it’s worth the risk. But many have a bad history with side effects, so again it’s down to the individual and how they feel, and what they want to do at the end of the day.

55688Personal Experience

The first from of medication I accepted was anti-depressants (one I believe most people are fairly familiar with) I had got to a point where I really needed the help! Depression as in deep, dark, forever looming depression laid heavy on me daily, and I needed ALL the help I could get so I made a doctors appointment and started on a low dose.

This very quickly was made clear to me that it wasn’t working, the dose being far too low. Personally I was unsure of whether this was down to the doctors testing the ‘placebo’ effect at first but either way the dose was quickly increased and I started to feel a difference. It was by no means a miracle cure but the sting of depression was no where near as painful and with no noticeable side effects (which were bad enough to complain about) I was happy to stick to taking this medication which was advised to be taken for the foreseeable future.

A different medication I was not very aware of was prescribed to me within a mental day care centre after a series of many difficult ‘episodes’. Here I was given an antipsychotic, a drug I could barely pronounce and knew very little about. Avoiding reading the long list of side effects I was told by a psychiatric nurse which side effects to look out for and as I was very tuned into my ‘mental make-up’ at this point I was confident going forward on being able to notice if I was becoming worse.
Thankfully I was lucky it had a positive effect, I mean it dulled my senses, particularly my emotions which considering I have an emotional unstable disorder wasn’t bad at all!

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Alcohol however often made both of these drugs either not work or do the opposite of what they were supposed to do, encouraging my episodes to spiral put of control quickly. I mean technically you can drink on them but then again the amount I was drinking it was not a good idea at all and caused many problems moving forward.

Not drinking has made a massive difference to taking the medication and I hope to eventually come off the antipsychotic medication all together and take it slowly and monitor the anti-depressants. But I am not ashamed to say that I needed the help this medication gave me and if I have to remain on it then I’m grateful I have it as an option and if I feel strong enough to come off it then again I’m happy it helped me get to the point that I felt comfortable enough to do so.