Tag Archives: Holidays

So It’s Been A Year…

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care 💚

It’s been roughly a year since the UK went into a restricted state. We’ve been in and out of lockdown. Many things have never been back. Therefore I thought I’d reflect a little on the last year. Some things will be linked to mental health, others more general.

What I’ve Learnt

The whole situation has been a learning curve. I think everyone has learnt something about themselves and others as well as maybe other skills. Here are mine:

1. I need social contact

I’ve always found social contact difficult and overwhelming. I’ve always pushed myself to do things socially and I’m exhausted afterwards. But I’ve found I do need it. I have missed seeing people. Having the hugs. Being with my friends. Just hearing their voices (I struggle still with phone conversations). I can’t wait to meet them.

2. I need alone time

I’ve known this for a while but it has been confirmed with being stuck with the people I live with All! The! Time! I need quiet. I need to get away. It’s tiring being with other people. I think everyone needs alone time really, we all just differ on how much.

3. I can draw

Turns out I can draw. And actually practice does improve it.

4. Phone/video appointments aren’t a substitute for face to face

Obviously a lot of appointments changed to being either online or via phone. I’ve found these so hard. I feel like I can’t get things across as well as I do face to face (and I don’t feel I do that very well anyway). I feel people lose the ability to understand people as well when you take away the physicalness of being in the same room. Also technology has a habit of not working and making it all more stressful. (Although being able to have my cat with me during therapy was a positive).

5. You can’t make eye contact on Zoom

Someone pointed this out to me and its bugged me ever since because its true and no matter what I try I can’t change that. I hate eye contact most of the time but I also try really hard to make some as I know it’s expected. I should be happy therefore that I don’t have to make eye contact but instead it’s annoyed me. Yes, I’m a paradox.

What Scares Me

Along with learning many things, this whole situation has created many fears within me for the present and the future.

1. Fear people will get ill

I’ve always been scared of people in my life getting ill. It’s out of my control although I have gonw through many things that I believe have given me control. Logically it’s not true, mentally I feel to blame when people get sick. This was heightened once we really got into the reduction of social contact and lockdown (before that coronavirus didn’t bother me, odd I know). I was often in tears that something I had or hadn’t done was going to make those close to me ill. I was so strict with cleaning and washing hands, more than usual. I was terrified. I still am.

2. Going outside or into shops

I’ve always found being out and about anxiety inducing, especially on my own. I’m now able to walk the dog just me and him but otherwise I struggle. This has been heightened in these times even though I was forced to shop for my parents on my own. My anxiety was through the roof. Now the thought of going back in to shops without anyone or any restrictions in the future terrifies me.

3. The lack of restrictions

There will come a time when restrictions are gone. Yes it will be a positive in many ways but I don’t feel anywhere near ready for this to happen and I don’t think I will be for some time. Each time a restriction is eased I feel such a state of anxiety that I have panic attacks over it. The thought of things being “normal” is something I can’t comprehend yet.

Where am I at?

So overall I’m struggling mentally with everything. There is a lot of change currently and it’s left me unsettled. Large parts of lockdown have been a struggle but other parts have played into my comfort zones of hiding away from people. I’m very much a home body. People keep talking about holidays and that’s the last thing I want to do. Not going on holiday was a plus for me and now I have no excuse to stay home. I both want things to come back but others I want to stay as they are.

What are your thoughts on your current situation, wherever you are? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Covid Christmas

Christmas has come around again and this year is going to be different. A lot of people may be separated from those they normally spend this time of year with. This may be a blessing for some but awful for others who may feel lonely. The pressure of Christmas to be good is still there too.

This post is just going to be some things that may be useful to know about and some other things to maybe consider. A lot will be UK based as that’s where I am but if you have something you wish to add feel free to use the comments so others can see it.

The first think I’m going to share is a hash tag on twitter, to help those who are feeling lonely or struggling with Christmas. It was set up by the wonderful comedian Sarah Millican a few years ago and has been very popular. The hash tag is #joinin. Everyone is able to connect via the hash tag and hopefully reach out to each other. As it’s on Twitter you can use it from anywhere in the world.

For a lot of people money has been tight this year with lack of work or losing jobs. If you’re struggling don’t feel you have to give a gift. And if you want to don’t worry about going expensive. Gifts, if able to be given, should not be about reciprocity. I give because I want to make people happy, not to receive something in return. I’m sure whoever it is you want to gift something too would rather you were able to manage to live than give them something and struggle. If they wouldn’t then they don’t deserve a gift (I know this is different and harder with children and I apologise for not having suggestions for this). Also if you want to give why not spread it out so they get a surprise in January?

In the UK if you need someone to talk to you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123. They are available at any time though lines may be busy. This doesn’t mean they won’t talk to you so please hang on. I know people who have found them very useful to talk to. There are crisis lines available in most countries and you can find some of these via the menu on here.

If you don’t feel safe mixing with other people during this time then remember you are allowed to say you don’t want to. If it helps to make an excuse then that’s fine. You have no reason to feel guilty for putting yourself first. You are important. I know this is easier said than done, I really do, but it’s not selfish to put yourself first.

Self care can go by the wayside sometimes during busy periods but this is when it is most needed. If you can, try and do one bit of self care each day. It doesn’t have to be huge and may be something you’re already doing. Taking note of it will show yourself that you are worth looking after. It can be as simple as having a shower (which isn’t always simple I know) or having some water. You are worthy of being looked after.

For those who have an eating disorder, Christmas can create all number of challenges. I’m no expert on this but in the UK the charity Beat will be available for support everyday from 4pm to 9pm. There is also information on their website about things to consider at Christmas and their support services.

These are just a few things that may help. As I said at the top of the post if you have a useful resource then please add it to the comments or you can share with me via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and I will try and get it shared. This means if you’re looking for something I haven’t shared it may be worth checking the comments or one of these places.

Please take care of yourselves this Christmas. You are all important and awesome. Be kind 💚

Poinsettia Drawing by myself. There is a meaning to this flower. For more information look here.

New Year, New You?

So it’s that time of year: New Year. Ugh. I hate it. There is so much out there about New Year, New You, and I hate it. Why must the new year signal a major change? Why must we put pressure on everyone to do more and change who they are?

The thing is I do get why people choose a new year to make a change to their lifestyle. It’s a good marker. And actually I have no problem with that part. My issue is with the advertising companies and the social media influencers. We should not be pushing people to make a change. If they want to that’s fine but putting pressure on makes people feel inadequate. It may also have a backwards effect as if they’re not ready to change it will be forgotten within a couple of weeks.

Another reason I think it’s a bad thing to push people to change is that it can make people feel like a failure. If you’re bombarded with all these things you should change you start to think you’re not good enough. That somehow you’ve failed as a person and the only way people will like you is if you change everything. This is just not true. Yes there may be small things you might want to do to feel better about yourself but that’s it, you should only be doing it for you, not because some advert has told you to.

A major part of the New Year, New You dynamic is based on losing weight. It’s the time of year when adverts for gyms and dieting are prominent. You’re made to feel fat and bad for enjoying food over Christmas. This can really effect people with distorted views around the way they look and food. They see it as a sign they need to lose weight even though they may already be under weight. It can retrigger eating disorder behaviours. Or start them off. It lowers people’s self esteem.

A lot of this New Year, New You malarkey is just there to make people feel bad. To put pressure on to be someone society sees as acceptable. To quash individuality. It’s not about your happiness in the eyes of the companies pushing it. It’s about making you spend money.

I also want to tackle here another part that is linked to the New Year, New You philosophy. This is the fact that we are encouraged to look back and reminisce over the last 12 months (and in 2019 it seems the last decade as well). I know I’m not alone in hating this. I don’t want to look back at all my failures. Yes it could help me change things but it also is likely to make me depressed and feel awful. I know many people are looking at achievements but when I’ve had a year where I have been very ill mentally it is hard. I feel like a failure and end up comparing myself to others. It feels like a minefield.

So what can we do?

My advice is to just treat New Year as any other time of the year. It is just a date. Just a marking of time. It is no more significant than any other if we don’t want it to be. If you want to make a change then do, but don’t feel you have to. It’s not a necessity. Block the diet and “lifestyle” ads. Treat yourself with kindness. You are amazing to get to this point. What will be, will be. There is no pressure to put goals in place for the long term if all you can manage is the next hour or even five minutes.

If you have tips to help with dealing with the New Year pressures then feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

All I Want For Christmas

I was thinking about things I’d really like for Christmas. Obviously there are the materialistic items (🤞Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire illustrated edition) but also there are some huge things I would love to see happen personally and more for mental health in our society. Therefore I thought I’d share some of my wishes (though I’m aware with just 2 and a half weeks to Christmas (at time of writing) these are unlikely to happen, maybe 2020).

1. No suicidal thoughts

This is personal, although I wish it for everyone. I’d just like to be like others and not be wanting to die on a near constant basis. It feels impossible at the moment when my first thought on waking is I wish I wasn’t alive. It would be nice to have at least a break from the overwhelming thoughts of dying.

2. Shorter waiting times

This is one for everyone in mental health services. Often we wait forever for support. It can be from weeks to months to years. It’s really not good enough. I’ve been referred for therapy again and been told if the referral is accepted I could be waiting up to two years. We need real change in this area to stop people falling through the gaps.

3. Continuity of care

This is huge to me and so many others. Seeing the same person is essential in all areas of health but the turnover of staff in mental health is huge. This means we often are faced with new staff at our most vulnerable who know nothing about us. I’ve lost count of the number of psychiatrists I’ve seen in the last two years. It is nearly always someone new. I’m on my fifth care coordinator of the year. The changes effect my mental health massively. We need to retain staff.

4. More money for mental health research

Mental health is one of the least funded areas of research in medicine. Yet again it is the poor relation in health care. It is also one of the least understood areas. This needs to change when it effects so many people. It would also help other areas of health care as helping people with their mental health aids them looking after their physical health too.

5. Better self esteem.

This is a personal one. I hate myself. It’s not a secret. I have no feeling of self worth. I put myself down constantly. It needs to change but it’s a struggle so if I could get it magically fixed for Christmas that would be great.

6. My friends to be well

My final wish is that all my friends have good mental health. That they feel better. I want so much for them to see their worth. That they are awesome. In fact I want it for all of you. You are all fabulous. Thank you for being amazing.

Feel free to share your own Christmas wishes in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Christmas Care

As the festive season is now upon us I decided to ask a few people what would help them with their mental health during this period. Here are some of the responses.

@JamesConlon_

@pjshaw192

@YvetteCaster

@eperry27

@sarahsazzlechop

@_divine1_

Self Care

A common theme mentioned by those I asked is self care. I couldn’t agree more. Looking after yourself is important. You are important. It’s OK to do things for you. You are worth looking after.

@Mike_Douglas_

@anxiousosaurus

@georgie_lloyd

@GumOnMyShoeBook

@BeyondTheBorde3

Take Time Out

If you’re struggling, as said above, it’s OK to take some time away from the people you are spending time with. Even if it’s just five minutes in the toilet to take a breather. If you can have a space you can go to away from people to allow yourself a few moments.

@Addict2L

Use your skills

If you’ve done therapy and learnt skills to help yourself. This is the time of year to use them.

@pigletish

Say No

It’s hard but saying no can be so important. Boundaries are important and at this time of year its easy to feel like we have to say yes to everything or we spoil the fun. But that’s just not true and if saying no helps us stay well then we should do this.

@BpdBryan

Money Isn’t Everything

There is a lot of pressure at this time of year to spend a lot of money on presents and going out. However if we don’t have the money we can feel stressed and even put ourselves into debt trying to please people. The thing is people value other things more than presents. They would rather you were well than stressing and making yourself ill over spending money on them. Money doesn’t prove you care. Showing love does.

@CaraLisette

@KatieConibear

@aimes_wilson

@Idaisrecovering

Don’t put pressure on you

This time of year is for you as well as others. If you can’t manage something that’s OK. You need to look after you and others would prefer you to be well than struggling.

@_NatashaDevon

@hannahrainey_

Keep planning

Over the holidays it can be tempting to just give up doing everything. While it’s OK to take a break, it can also be important to make plans so that we keep going and don’t get dragged into sitting in our heads.

@RichBiscuit21

Be open

It’s OK to tell people you’re struggling at this time of year. If you need support it’s OK to ask for it. Don’t be afraid to be open with others.

@EleanorSegall

@insideliamshead

Be with others

For some people being on their own is the biggest problem so if this affects you then make plans to spend time with people.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this post. If you have any tips or things that help you with your mental health during the festive period then feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Summer Self Care

As I write this it is the hottest day of the year. The temperature is close to 37°C and I’m melting, the dog is melting, the cats are melting, everyone is melting. So I thought I’d put together some ideas for summer self care.

1. Sunscreen

With the sun boiling us, it is important we make sure to use sunscreen. Sounds obvious I know but it is something I often forget. This can be catastrophic for me as the medications I’m on mean I’m sensitive to sunlight and burn easier. It is quite common with medication for mental illness and we’re not always told about it. And if you’re hopping outside then maybe add a hat and some cool shades 😎. (Yes I’m aware I sound like an old person trying to be cool, look what turning 30 does to you).

2. Keep hydrated

Again sounds obvious but is another one I fail massively on. I’ve never been good at drinking plenty and I’ve paid for it with kidney problems. It’s something my mum nags me about regularly. Drinking will help our head too. It means we can concentrate better and feel better in ourselves. Obviously water is the best thing to drink but really as long as you’re putting fluid on your body it doesn’t matter. An ice lolly is also a great way to hydrate.

3. Staying inside

OK, bear with me on this. I know I advocate getting out as much as possible but when it’s super hot it can be safer to stay inside. So don’t feel you have to go out in the sunshine. If it’s safer stay inside with the fan on.

4. Get outside

Yep I know I just said stay inside but I want to cover the whole summer not just the hottest day of the year. When the weather allows try and get some time outside. Being among nature especially can be beneficial. Or going for a walk is great self care too. Obviously it’s all about being sensible. Also if it’s summer rain soak up the smell after, it’s one of my favourite smells.

5. Read

If you’ve got the concentration, reading can be great self care. In the summer it is nice if you can find somewhere to chill with a book, be it the garden, park or beach. And if going outside isn’t your thing then it’s the perfect activity to do indoors.

6. Get out the pool

Having a puppy has revolutionised summer. We now have a paddling pool “for the dog” but it’s also lovely to dip your toes in. So why wait for the excuse of having a dog or child to put a pool out and have a paddle. Also if you’re feeling particularly energetic (so not me) then why not go swimming (obviously in a swimming pool rather than a paddling pool).

7. Gardening

I’m not the greatest fan of plants. Having hayfever seems to of turned me against them. But this year at the group I attend we planted flowers and tomato plants and I’ve really enjoyed watching them grow. It’s also given me a sense of achievement. There are many studies exploring the impact of gardening on mental health, all positive. My favourite are sunflowers🌻.

8. Take a shower

In the heat there is nothing better than getting under the shower. It is a really good bit of self care too. Even a wash is good. And you’ll be surprised how much better you feel.

9. Do the little things

Finally, while it’s hot it can be hard to get the motivation to do things but if we can keep doing the little things like taking our medication then that is what’s important. Break down tasks into smaller bits to make them more manageable. Little steps lead to bigger things.

Those are just a few ideas for summer self care. If you have your own feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

1000 Days Of Self Care

As many of you know, especially if you follow me on Twitter, I have been doing the #365daysofselfcare challenge created by The Blurt Foundation. This involves trying to do some form of self care each day. Recently I managed to reach 1000 days. Therefore I thought I’d reflect a little and discuss self care again.

First of all let’s totally go over the point that self care isn’t selfish. It is the act of looking after and treating yourself with respect. People may interpret it as looking out for number one but really it’s bigger than that. By treating yourself with kindness you are helping those that you care about too. In order to be the most effective friend, parent, son, daughter, carer or partner you need to be in a fit state yourself. Self care is important.

Why did I take up the challenge?

The reason I started #365daysofselfcare was because I knew things needed to change. Mentally and physically I was a mess and I had no respect for myself. I felt worthless. Then I saw that The Blurt Foundation had started this challenge. I’d never really considered self care before; why would I when I felt so rubbish about myself? I decided to read about it and discovered it didn’t have to be big gestures but instead could be simple things that meant I was looking after myself. I thought I’d give it a go, after all what harm could it do?

What do I do for self care?

As I’ve already said self care isn’t all about spa days or trips to the cinema (although they obviously do count as self care and are great if you can do them). Sometimes self care is a nap, getting dressed, having a shower, clean pyjamas or just eating and drinking. It might sound boring but self care doesn’t have to be exciting. It’s just important that you are looking after you.

What’s been tough?

Doing some form of self care every day is not always easy. To begin with it was really strange deliberately doing something each day to look after myself. It was a totally alien concept and I felt like I didn’t deserve to look after myself (and quite often I still feel this way). There were many days where I didn’t feel I had done anything that constituted self care. I learnt though through talking to others that I was actually engaging in self care without realising it. Doing it as part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge actually made it easier, especially at the beginning, as I felt I was doing it for other people rather than me which spurred me on when I felt worthless. Also having the support of The Blurt Foundation team, as well as other people taking part, made things easier too.

Overall I would highly recommend trying to incorporate some form of self care into each day. It helps me be a little more respectful of myself. It makes it easier for me to be there for others and feel less of a hypocrite when telling others to look after themselves. Even if you just start small it is just as important as the big things, maybe more so.

If you want more info on self care you can check out my blogs on the subject here or check out this information from The Blurt Foundation. A very big thank you to Jayne Hardy and the whole The Blurt Foundation team. If you want to follow me on the #365daysofselfcare challenge then head over to my Twitter. You can also keep connected on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks to Jayne Hardy and The Blurt team for the pin.

Family

Family is complicated at the best of times but when you have a mental illness it can feel like a complex puzzle you have to solve. It seems family can go one of two ways; supporting you unconditionally or being more of a hindrance.

My family is the same. Some have been amazing and supportive but others look down their nose at me and act like I’m less of a person because I have a mental illness that makes it hard for me to work, have a relationship and live on my own. I feel like a second class citizen, the black sheep of the family.

I have had snide remarks made to my parents by other family members because I am not capable of doing things most 29 year olds are doing. I’m not getting married, having babies or buying a house. I’m an only child and so my parents are the only ones out of their siblings that are not grandparents. This has resulted in comments to them that they “don’t understand what it’s like to have grandchildren”. These comments hit me hard. I feel I’m depriving my parents of this experience.

When I see family I always feel embarrassed that I’m not working. It makes me feel less of a person when I hear of my cousins working in jobs that I just can’t do. I hate myself for not being good enough and an embarrassment to my parents.

Family is complicated like I’ve already said. If you have a family member who has a mental illness there are some things you can do to help them feel supported and less of an embarrassment.

1. Don’t ask awkward questions

Asking someone when they think they are going to have a baby or when they are going to get married is really not helpful. It can make people with a mental illness feel more of a failure than they already do if they are struggling with these aspects of their life.

2. Ask how they are feeling

It’s quite simple. Just an interest in how they are feeling can make all the difference. They will probably feel less alone and less of an outsider.

3. Don’t force them into things

If they don’t want to engage in a conversation or an activity try not to force them. They may just need some quiet time or to just listen. It may be that they are anxious about the situation.

That’s just a few tips for how you can help a family member in a social situation. If you have any other ideas feel free to use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas eve and I’m struggling so I thought I’d just write a quick post for anyone else who is struggling to let you know you’re not alone. Mental illness doesn’t take a break for Christmas. In fact with all that’s going on it can be tougher.

The busyness of the season means self care can take a backseat but it’s important to still try and fit some in as without it everything will feel tougher. You are worth looking after, however much you feel you’re not. I know how hard it is to believe though. I feel that way too.

If you need time out from others then the toilet is your friend. It may not be easy to find a place to escape but no one can tell you that you don’t need the toilet. It’s a place it’s acceptable to be alone in. I spend a lot of time in the loo when visitors are over as I find it highly anxiety provoking. You have no reason to feel guilty for needing time out.

I also struggle with gift giving and receiving. It feels like a lot of pressure. I’m terrified I’m going to give the wrong thing and even more scared I’ll offend someone who is giving me a gift. I have no solution to it but you’re not alone if you feel the same.

Going out for a walk is always good if you find your self feeling trapped. Whatever the weather getting outside helps me a lot and getting a dog has improved my excuse for getting out.

Whatever you’re feeling over the holiday period, know that it’s OK not to be OK. You can’t help what you feel. And what you feel is valid.

Now this is my view. It helps just sitting and watching some TV.

If you need to talk the Samaritans are available at all times or see the crisis numbers page in the menu. To connect with me you can use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Festive Feels.

This is a personal piece. Please be aware some of the content may be triggering.

It’s that time of year again. The decorations are up, joyful music is playing in all the shops and everyone is bustling about in the cold. Yes it’s the festive season. And it can suck.

This year I’m feeling less than festive. My December started with a suicide attempt as well as an advent calendar. My mood has been so changeable recently and I don’t know what is up or down. In all honesty I dont know what I feel at the moment. I’m struggling more than ever to decipher my emotions.

With the festive season comes a lot of change to my routine. Not only am I finishing therapy but no doubt there will be others off work and I won’t be able to do my normal routine. This leads to me feeling anxious and on edge. It normally effects my mood and I feel low throughout the festive season.

Also with the festive season comes seeing family and more social interaction. This is something I struggle with normally and do my best to avoid but at Christmas this isn’t so easy and it’s one social interaction after another. Now some social interactions are OK. One in one meetings with friends I can manage but when we have lots of family over it becomes overwhelming.

Another thing about the festive season that people seem to forget that mental illnesses don’t take a holiday and can actually be worse at this time of year. I know that for me it is particularly difficult with some anniversaries that trigger me. This means I don’t feel like taking part in festivities but there is a lot of pressure to. I tend to try and hide my illness which results in self harm and suicidal thoughts. It’s not the best way to cope.

So that’s why I find Christmas difficult. You may have other reasons why the festive period is hard. If you are looking for ways to cope you can click here to see my advice. Feel free to add your own ways of coping in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest