Category Archives: Self Help

Body Image

This year’s mental health awareness week has the topic of body image. I was unsure how to cover this as I don’t have an eating disorder or body dysmorphia. However I realised I have had my own issues with my body and my mental illness has effected how I feel about myself physically.

What is body image?

“Body image is a person’s perception of the aesthetics or sexual attractiveness of their own body. It involves how a person sees themselves, compared to the standards that have been set by society.” (Wikipedia, May 2019).

My body image

Throughout my life I have been overweight. This has led to me hating my body and the way I look. It’s eaten away at my self esteem and led to me having little confidence in myself. My body image has had a negative effect on my mental health. It hasn’t been helped by the medication I’m on leading me to gain even more weight. It has become a bit of a cycle of feeling worse so increasing meds leading to increasing weight and then feeling worse again.

People have told me that they have found me attractive or that there are nice features of me. I struggle to believe it and cannot see this at all. My body image in their eyes is skewed. I think this hasn’t been helped by the trauma I’ve been through that has led to me hating my body even more. I can only see something that has been used and abused. Something that has let me down when I’ve needed it most.

Improving body image

There are some things we can do to help our body image. They are not always easy and it won’t be a quick fix.

The first thing you can do is avoid negative media. Avoid looking at diet accounts and airbrushed models. They give us a false representation of what we feel we should look like and feed into our doubts about ourselves. Instead try and look for body positivity accounts to follow. Body Positive Panda is a great account on Instagram to follow and there are many more like her.

Another thing we can do to improve our body image is to stop comparing ourselves to others. Easier said than done, I know (I am probably one of the worst offenders for this). But we should know that we are unique.

We can also improve body image by dressing in a way that makes us feel confident. This will be different for everyone. I’m most confident in a funny t-shirt and jeans. Others may prefer a suit. It’s up to you.

Practicing self care can also help with body image. Seeing ourselves as someone who is worth treating nicely and respecting our bodies will have a positive impact.

For more information on body image check out National Eating Disorders who have lots of information (you don’t need to have an eating disorder to have a problem with body image). Feel free to share your experiences and tips for better body image in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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New Year’s Eve

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

For me, New Year’s Eve is the most difficult day of the year. Last New Year’s Eve I attempted to take my own life. This year I’ve found myself planning to do the same (I have discussed this with my care coordinator and have a plan to keep me safe in place). I hate this day so much.

New Year’s Eve, apart from being a day of celebration for many, is a bad anniversary for me. This makes it harder for me to join in with the partying and celebrating. In fact I don’t understand why people see it as a reason to celebrate.

For me New Year makes me look back on the previous year and sometimes years before. This I find distressing as I relive all the bad things in my life. For example this last year I have attempted to end my life five times. This makes me feel despairing and wondering if the following year will be the same or worse. I find it hard to be optimistic about the future.

Another reason this New Year is difficult is that 2019 will see me turn 30. For me this feels really difficult to comprehend. I find myself worrying about what I will do to mark the occasion and whether anyone will be around to help me mark this milestone. I also feel pressure to celebrate my birthday when to me it shows my failure to end my life. Its very confusing. I know the things I said are a paradox.

I also have things to look forward to in 2019 but it’s hard to see this right now. The whole new year, new me idea is something I hate. Change to me is scary. It feels overwhelming and with the pressure of the new year, new me brigade it makes me want to hide away. I don’t feel good enough. I find myself comparing myself to others.

So what’s my advice for New Year’s Eve and New Year in general?

  • If you don’t want to celebrate New Year’s Eve then don’t. I will be sitting with the dog reading my book in my pyjamas.
  • Don’t feel pressure to change anything. If you feel it’s too much right now then it’s OK to do things at your own pace any time of the year.
  • Distract. If you find yourself dwelling on the past, try to do something to distract yourself.
  • Try to avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant so can make things feel worse.
  • Talk. Reach out to others. They can help you. You’ll be surprised how many others dislike New Year’s Eve.

So all that is left for me to do is wish you a peaceful New Year. Take care of yourself. You are important and you matter.

To connect you can use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Lonely This Christmas

Christmas is a great time of year for most people but for some it is really lonely. If you have a mental illness it’s quite easy to find yourself feeling lonely and this time of the year can heighten those feelings. Also if you are feeling lonely it is likely to have a negative impact on your mental health. Loneliness is a silent killer with people who are lonely dying years earlier than the average life expectancy.

Feeling lonely doesn’t necessarily mean that you are alone. You can feel lonely among a group of people. It is about how connected you feel to the people around you. You can feel isolated from people when you feel they don’t understand you. At this time of year with parties and get togethers, if you have a mental illness, it can feel difficult to connect with others and enjoy their company.

I often feel lonely at this time of the year as with my anxiety I struggle to deal with large groups of people. I also see a lot of family that can be stressful as I don’t always feel connected to the people and worry I’m being judged for having a mental illness.

So how can we tackle loneliness at Christmas?

If we’re going out with friends at Christmas it may help to trust a friend with our difficulties. They may be able to support us and help us feel connected to the group. It may also be useful to think of topics to help with making conversations. People like to know our interests and we won’t be boring anyone no matter what our brain is telling us.

If you are alone this Christmas there is a great push on social media to connect with others. Sarah Millican runs something called #joinin on Christmas day and other days of the Christmas break. This is a way to connect people on twitter who are alone at this time of the year. Even if you’re spending time with family you can still join in if you feel isolated.

If you need someone to talk to the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For othe crisis numbers check out the menu and click on crisis numbers. For other useful websites check out the menu and click on useful websites.

For more information on loneliness check out the Mind website. You can also find a link on their page to a blog post I wrote for them on loneliness.

If you have any tips or want to try and connect with others feel free to use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Fear Of Abandonment

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), or Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD), is diagnosed by seeing if a person matches at least give of nine different criteria. One of these nine criteria is fear of abandonment. This means you worry about people leaving you. This fear can be real or imagined. This is one of the criteria I identify with and have found very difficult of late to cope with. Therefore I thought I would write about how it effects me personally. Of course everyone is different and others will experience it differently.

When have I felt fear of abandonment?

I have felt fear of abandonment in a few different situations and for different reasons. The first event I am going to mention was a perceived abandonment. I was meeting a group of friends and became convinced they weren’t going to show up. I had no evidence for this at all but my mind became convinced this would be the case. It was totally unfounded and of course they showed up as planned.

The second event was when I found out my therapy was being halved from a year to six months. This led to me feeling fearful that I was being abandoned by the therapists involved in my care. This also happened when my care coordinator talked about reducing the support I received. I suddenly felt terrified I was being abandoned.

How do I feel about, and react, to fear of abandonment?

When I feel the fear of abandonment, the terror that takes over me can be all encompassing. It is like a blanket of fear and can make me feel sick with anxiety. I start to become very defensive and try my best to protect myself from the perceived threat of someone leaving, real or not. This can start in my brain where I begin to tell myself I’m not important and it doesn’t matter if they leave me. I then start to detach from the person as much as possible. I might withdraw or stop talking to them as regularly. I make myself much less reliant on them. I do all I can to make the abandonment feel less painful, even though in the long run it hurts me more.

How should I deal with the fear of abandonment?

With fear of abandonment it can be the little gestures that make us feel we are going to be left. To deal with this there is the skill of non-judgementalness. This where we try bit to judge a person’s actions but look at all the possibilities of why they may be acting that way. It is a hard skill to engage but an important one.

When the abandonment is more real, in that a person is actually leaving, it is more difficult to deal with. Here it can be a case of using skills to ensure our safety and not getting to crisis point.

How can you help with fear of abandonment?

There are a couple of ways to help us not fear abandonment and they include not breaking promises to us as well as reassuring us. These things can make all the difference. Sometimes we just need to hear that you’re still there and care about us.

If you have any tips on dealing with fear of abandonment feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Coping With Stress

Stress is a part of everyday life but when you have a mental illness it can be more difficult to deal with. We all know what it is like to feel stressed and to deal with the pressures of life. There is, however, a link between mental illness and stress. Stress can cause mental illness but also mental illness can cause stress. Therefore it is important to be aware of the signs of stress and how to cope with it.

Stress can give us both mental and physical signs to look out for. You might feel irritable, anxious, depressed or like your thoughts are racing. Your behaviour might change and you might find yourself finding it hard to make decisions, snapping at people or unable to concentrate. The physical signs of stress can include headaches, indigestion, feeling sick, being tired all the time or having problems with sleep. For more information on the signs of stress check out the Mind website here.

How can I cope with stress?

Below are a few ways that I have found helpful when trying to cope with stress. Hopefully they will be useful.

1. Have a routine: Routines really help me when I am feeling stressed. They mean I make sure essential things get done and I can build into them other things that I need to do. Routines make me feel safe and secure. However, try to be flexible with your routine otherwise it can create more stress if things don’t go to plan. It is ok if routines have to change. It is not the end of the world though it can feel like it.

2. Learn to say NO: This is something I find incredibly hard to do but it is so important. It is ok to say no to things in order to give yourself time to look after you. Self care is important and the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is so true. However, I understand that it can be difficult as you don’t want to let people down or feel left out. The truth is you will let more people down and miss out more of you keeping saying yes and then the stress gets too much.

3. Try to be organised: This is easier said than done sometimes but being organised can really help. When I plan things it really helps to reduce my anxiety and I would be lost without my phone to help me. Having everything written down and recorded helps me to feel more at ease and I stress much less about an event if I know what I am doing. 

4. Talk to others: The phrase “a problem shared is a problem halved” rings very true at times of stress. If you talk to others about how you are feeling you may find they can help you. And even if they can’t it can be highly therapeutic to get how you are feeling off your chest. You might be surprised and find others are feeling the same which can make you feel less isolated and alone. I

5. Avoid drugs and alcohol: It can be tempting when stressed to self medicate with drugs or alcohol. This is very rarely a good idea and will more often end up making you feel worse. Try instead to eat well and drink plenty of water. This can help you feel much better.

These are just a few ways to cope with stress that I have found useful. For more information on stress check out the Mind website. If you have any ways that have helped you cope with stress feel free to share in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Things That Help My Mental Health

Having a mental illness is exhausting and can take it out of you. This means it is important to find things you like or enjoy that can help you when you are feeling particularly bad. Below are some of the things that, over the years, I have found help me and how they’ve helped me. I haven’t included people or pets in this as they are separate things I feel deserve a blog post of their own.

1. Harry Potter: I am a massive Harry Potter fan. I love the world and the detail in it. But Harry Potter means a lot to me because of how it has helped me. I grew up as the Harry Potter books and films were being released. It helped me to fit in with friends at school. I was never very good at making friends but it gave me something to talk about and have in common with others. Harry Potter helped me feel less alone in a world that was difficult for me to navigate because of my mental illness. Harry Potter also offered me an escape from the real world and a brain that was struggling. It still does. I revisit Harry Potter again and again when times are tough.

2. Reading: I’ve already mentioned my love of Harry Potter but reading in general has always been a huge part of my life and something I love to do. It offers me an escape from the workings of my mind, and takes me into different worlds. It can also help me understand more about myself. I read a wide variety of books, encompassing non-fiction and fiction. I’ll read about philosophy and psychology, to understand about our brains and society, but I’ll also read children’s books to escape from the difficulties of the day. I just love reading.

3. Music: I don’t think I would still be here if it wasn’t for music. It means such a lot to me and is a big part of my life. I have found an escape in music; when things are difficult it is easy for me to lose myself in the songs. It is also a great distraction from the voice I hear; I can just out my earphones in and try to drown it out. Music has also helped me to express how I am feeling, not by playing myself, but by finding songs with lyrics that express what I am trying to say. At times I’ve found it hard to show an emotion but music has allowed me to do it in an easy way.

4. Writing: It might be hard to believe but I used to hate writing. Throughout my education I was told I was no good at it so I resisted doing it. However since leaving education I have found a love for expressing myself this way. It helps me to get things out of my head and written down in front of me to see. It has become my main way of expressing myself; I’d much rather write something down than say it. Now writing is something I am passionate about and would love to do as a career. I feel it is something I am getting better at with time.

So those are a few of the things that help me with my mental health. There are others that have had an impact too. What things have helped you with your mental health? Feel free to share in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Distractions

Many of us who suffer with a mental illness find ourselves with intrusive thoughts. These can be thoughts of how we are not good enough, thoughts to self harm, suicidal thoughts or other unpleasant thoughts. They can be hugely distressing and difficult to manage. A big part of dealing with these thoughts is using distractions. These are things we can try to do to take away from the unpleasant thoughts. I have had to use distractions a lot to deal with intrusive thoughts and thought I would share some of my favourites.

1. YouTube – When things are particularly difficult and the thoughts are very loud, I like nothing more than to put my earphones in and watch something on YouTube to distract. It tends to take my mind away from everything I am dealing with. Some of my favourite youtubers to watch are Miss Anxiety, Tom Fletcher and Jim Chapman.

2. Origami (or any arts and crafts) – I am not the most creative person at all but have found origami a good distraction. Having to concentrate on the instructions seems to pull my brain away from the intrusive thoughts. I imagine other arts and crafts activities would have a similar effect too. Plus you will have something to show at the end of it too.

3. Playing with pets – Animals can be a great distraction. Most of the time they are calming (unless they are jumping on you while you try to write a blog post, as is currently happening). I love playing with my two cats and they always make me feel better. As did my guinea pigs when I had them. Animals are highly therapeutic.

4. Pinterest – I have a love for Pinterest and it is one of my first go tos when the thoughts are bad. I love looking up things on there and it soothes my mind. I can look up quotes, scenes from my favourite films or TV shows or just pictures of bookcases (yes it sounds sad but I find it very calming looking at pictures of books). Pinterest is amazing. Check it out.

5. Listening to music – I hear a voice on top of intrusive thoughts and when this gets really bad I distract using music. I normally have it on reasonably loud (please don’t deafen yourself) and choose something I can focus on the lyrics for and what they might mean. I find this way I am really focussing on the music. Podcasts can be useful for this too.

6. Writing – I couldn’t leave this one out. Writing can be a useful tool to distract or to get all your thoughts out of your head. It doesn’t have to be for any particular purpose. You don’t have to share it with the world. I know its not ideal for everyone and there are times when I just can’t write but finding a way to express yourself can be useful.

So those are just a few ways I distract from intrusive thoughts. I would love to hear if you have any other suggestions. Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter.

Picture from Pinterest