Monthly Archives: June 2018

Tough To Hear

This is a personal piece. Please be aware that content may be triggering.

The phrase “I think you’re doing well” can actually be one of the most difficult phrases to hear. Especially when in your head everything feels like it is falling apart. It can be meant as a well meaning phrase to buoy you up and compliment you but it can in actual fact make things seem tougher.

This week someone said this phrase to me because on the surface things are going well. I am attending therapy, volunteering my time and keeping up with my blog. All positives. Yet underneath it all I feel I am falling apart. Where am I really at? Yes, I am attending therapy, but each week is followed by a melt down to a friend and me feeling the need to punish myself. Yes, I’m offering my time, but I’m aware I am saying yes to a lot when actually I feel low and need to say no. And while I am keeping up with my blog, I am finding it hard to keep creating content, which makes me feel useless. On top of all this the voice is telling me to die and I am self harming and hair pulling. Not such a happy picture. 

I realise I sound negative, and I promise I am trying to be positive, but it is really difficult to do when so much seems against you. It is hard to put on a smile every day and make people think you are doing ok. It takes a supreme amount of energy to carry on with every day tasks. Being positive is hard.

Then someone says the phrase “you are doing well” and it brings up a lot of different thoughts and emotions. Yes, some are good, like “I’m glad I’m showing I can cope” or “maybe I’m doing better than I think”. But there are many negatives.

One thing you may think is “if everyone thinks I am doing well am I going to let them down?” You feel that because things aren’t going well under the exterior view that if any cracks start to show you will be a let down. Of course this isn’t true but you feel the pressure to appear ok. This can make all that you are feeling with seem more difficult as you’re masking your true emotions, scared to show the ‘real’ you. 

Another way this phrase can be invalidating is that you it makes you feel that you must be ok as that is what others think of you. You feel like maybe your problems aren’t as big as you feel they are and that you’re making a fuss over nothing. This is not true. What you feel is valid. If you’re struggling still that is ok and it is ok to express this to other people. 

So while I understand that people are trying to be helpful by saying I am doing well, when I am struggling still it is actually one of the worst things for me to hear as it invalidates me. If you know someone is struggling please don’t add pressure by using this phrase. Please just accept they are struggling and validate their feelings by saying “I understand why you feel this way and it’s ok to feel like you do.”

 Are there any phrases you wish people wouldn’t say to you when you’re struggling? Feel free to share in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Campaigns and Charities: STOP Suicide Cambridge

This is the second post in my series looking at different campaigns and Charities linked to mental health. The aim is to showcase the good work that is going on in the mental health community. For other posts in the series look here. In this post I will be looking at the STOP Suicide Cambridge campaign and talking about what they do.

What is STOP Suicide Cambridge?

STOP Suicide Cambridge is a campaign led by two charities; Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire Mind (CPSL Mind) and Lifecraft. It is supported by the local NHS and Public Health teams. It is a suicide prevention campaign that started life as an NHS England funded pilot but is now continuing via other funding. The idea is to empower groups and individuals across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to stop suicide. However the campaign is spreading wider via social media. 

How does STOP Suicide Cambridge work?

STOP Suicide Cambridge aims to help prevent suicides by making people aware of the warning signs of suicide, getting people to ask directly about suicide and helping those who feel suicidal to stay safe. It uses people called campaign makers to spread its message and to encourage people to take the STOP Suicide pledge. 

The STOP Suicide pledge can be taken by groups or individuals and aims to get people to make a commitment to themselves and members of their community to talk more openly about suicide and help those in distress. The personal pledge can be seen below.

The campaign also aims to make people more aware of the warning signs and how subtle they can be in order to prevent suicide. Suicide in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough caused close to twice the number of deaths that are caused by road accidents in the area. The campaign wants people to ask the question “are you feeling suicidal?” if they are concerned about someone. They want people to be aware that asking the question won’t put the idea of suicide in someone’s mind but it may save their life. 

If you want to find out more about the campaign, or to become a campaign maker, or wish to take the STOP Suicide pledge you can do this on the website stopsuicidepledge.org. The campaign also has links on social media with Twitter Facebook or Instagram.

Book Review: The Stranger On The Bridge 

Overview

 “The Stranger On The Bridge” by Jonny Benjamin tells the story of Jonny’s life, starting with when he was stood on Waterloo Bridge, about to take his own life, and was saved by a passing stranger. The book looks at what led Jonny to this point, in detail, from his childhood to more recent experiences. The book also looks at the story of how Jonny found the stranger who saved his life and the work he, Jonny, has done within mental health campaigning since. 

My thoughts

I had this book on pre-order and had been waiting quite a while for its release. I was not disappointed. Jonny is one of my inspirations and this book shows you why. Jonny shows how he has campaigned for better mental health care and education in an attempt to break down stigma. His story is very relatable though and he has detailed how he has struggled as well. 

In the book Jonny looks at the relationship between mental health and physical health. In particular he discussed his experience of being diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and how this impacted on his mental health. He makes what I feel is a good point that mental and physical health are very much linked and that when one declines so can the other. Jonny discusses how medication for his physical health condition had a detrimental effect on his mental health. He is very open and honest in his account, as he is throughout the book.

By looking back on his life, Jonny shows that a mental illness can start early in childhood. He doesn’t blame anyone for his illness but discussed the impact different events had on his mental health. While acknowledging that mental illness can start so young, Jonny also notes that the Children and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHs) are in a mess and much needs to be done to improve access to, and care in, these services.

Throughout the book Jonny talks about his campaigning and there are a lot of statistics presented in the book which, to me, shows just how important what Jonny does is. He looks at many different areas where there are acute problems with mental health. I agree a great deal with Jonny’s point that talking isn’t enough and that we need to campaign for better services.

Another part of the book I found highly relatable was when Jonny was discussing the impact having a mental illness can have on your loved ones. It is often under sold just how big an impact it has. Jonny talks about it a lot and how he felt he wanted to protect those closest to him. He made the excellent point that it is possible to love those around you when you feel nothing but hatred for yourself. 

An intrinsic part of the book is Neil’s story. Neil is the stranger on the bridge and it is so good that Jonny included Neil’s version of what happened that fateful day. In my opinion this adds to the book. 

Overall I would highly recommend reading this book. It is very informative as well as telling a story. It is well written and relatable. If you have read this book feel free to share your views on the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Therapy Journey: Psychology Awareness Programme 

This blog post is part of a series detailing my therapy journey. For other blog posts in the series look here

As part of my therapy referral I was required to take part in a psychology awareness programme before I would be offered an assessment for therapy. This programme took the form of three, one hour sessions over three weeks. Each week focussed on something different. Below I will look at what each week entailed.

Week 1

Week 1 was called “An Introduction to Psychology”. We started off by looking at our expectations of psychology and what we knew about psychology. We then moved on to what a clinical or counselling psychologist is and how they differ from a psychiatrist. The main thing we learnt here is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who prescribed medication, while a psychologist is a psychology graduate who offers talking therapy. We learnt how a psychologist fits into the team of professionals looking after us. 

The next thing we learnt about was what the assessment process involves and what we can expect from it. This included details of who does the assessment and what happens during it. We also learnt what happens after the assessment, including what happens if we are not offered therapy. 

We also learnt about what therapy would be like and the role of ourselves and the psychologist. Therapy is about working together as a team to make improvements. The final thing we looked at was confidentiality and when this may be broken.

Week 2

Week 2, the focus was on self care and different forms it can take, as well as useful tips. We started by looking at physical health, and the impact it can have on our mental health, and how we can look after our physical health. This led on to us looking at eating well and exercise. We discussed the benefits of exercise as well as how to overcome barriers to exercise. We also looked at how recreational drugs can have an effect on both our physical and mental health. 

We then moved on to look at sleep and relaxation. We looked at good sleep hygiene and how routine can help. With relaxation we discussed why it is important and different ways to relax. This included looking at a breathing exercise. At the end of this week we were given a pack full of useful resources to help with self care. This included more information on sleep hygiene and useful organisations. 

Week 3

Week 3 was all about motivation and goal setting. We started off by looking at the cycle of change which has 6 stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and relapse. We talked about where we might be in the cycle of change. We then moved on to look at the pros and cons of starting therapy versus the pros and cons of starting the same. 

After this we started to look at goal setting and how to make SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, meaningful, achieveable, realistic and timely. We looked at the importance of these areas and had a go at making a SMART goal.We then filled out some questionnaires before being offered a date for an assessment. 

Overall the psychology awareness programme was informative and I can see how useful it would be if you have never had any form of therapy before. It also offered a chance to have any questions about therapy answered. I think it was a positive experience and would recommend it to anyone who is offered a chance to attend one before starting therapy.

If you have any questions or experience feel free to use the comments or Facebook or Twitter.