To medicate or not to medicate?…that is the question

The topic of whether medication is the correct way to address depression is controversial. People seem to attach a negative stigma to seeking help through medication, as if by not tackling depression alone you are somehow weaker. This is simply not true. Whilst I agree that medication cannot be the sole treatment for any form of mental illness, there is absolute proof that it really can make a difference.

Of course, the use of medication really does need to go hand in hand with therapy, as mental illness is exactly what it says on the tin…within the mind. It is essential to get inside our own minds and really pick at what it means to be in our heads, what our flaws are, what drives us, and what needs to change in order to be positive and healthy. Whether this be in the form of meditation, CBT or simply talking and voicing your thoughts, therapy is healthy, it’s positive, and its a step towards a new mindset.

For me personally, I have done the therapies and used them to my advantage (not always, I resented talking and trying for a long time), ultimately leading me to be the person I am today. I have tried CBT, hypnotherapy, meditation, holistic therapists, healers, talkers, relationship counsellors…you name it. I’ve been helped of course by all of these individuals who have shared their advice with me, and now I am lucky enough to be in a place where I don’t feel I need to speak to anyone anymore. I do use this blog as a sort of therapist now, with freedom to express myself, my thoughts and feelings and the ability to read back on who I used to be yesterday, as I grow into the person I am supposed to be tomorrow.

Despite this, I possibly may not be here today without my medication. I do feel that there is such a negative attitude towards the use of antidepressants. The truth is, the use of a small white pill does not make you weak, it actually makes you strong. It means you stepped up and asked for help. It means you’re giving in to the fact that you can’t simply “fix” everything. It also is not a ball and chain attached to your ankle forever, it doesn’t mean that when you start you can’t stop. It’s an extra boost in your time of need.

The use of antidepressants doesn’t come without it’s negatives, and its a big decision to start taking them. Side effects, memory loss, weight gain…these are some of the negatives that people discuss in relation to these medications: Article regarding negatives of antidepressants. Will they help? Will they make things worse? The thing we need to remember, is that there are negatives in putting anything into your body – one week we’re told bananas are brilliant for you, the next they give you cancer, too much fat is bad for you, too much water can make you unwell etc etc. The other thing to remember is that the use of these medications is only appropriate when advised by your doctor, and should never be abused.

My personal experience is one of positivity. I have been on antidepressant medication since I was 15 years of age, and now being 23, I have been able to see objectively how they have changed my life over a period of time. How do I know they have made an impact? Well, I no longer want to end my life, which is a massive indication! I am less irritable, more out going, more positive, more able, I have more get up and go, I have more energy. I notice when I don’t take my meds for a few days, either through forgetting or through running out of my prescription. I become irritable, fidgety, lethargic, emotional, aware of a deep sense of sadness, lazy and uninterested. These are all the traits I used to have everyday prior to my medication. I find myself feeling more balanced on my medication and more able to face life. My antidepressants work on my mood and also my anxiety, allowing me to lead a more stress-free life, balancing me out to be a more capable individual.

Never be influenced by the stigma attached to taking medication for your mental illness. Remember it takes bravery to step up and ask for help in any form. Be brave. You are not confined by your illness, use every stepping stone available to get yourself back on track.

What are your experiences with antidepressants? Are you for or against? 

Just be an adult already!! 

Something happened over the past few years. It happened when I wasn’t looking. I was no longer a child, I was no longer bound by the rules of my parents, with nobody to answer to. I didn’t have to tell anyone where I was going, what I was doing or what time I would be back. I became an adult. 

What age does this even truly happen? Growing up, we seem to believe we’re “adults” by the time we’re 16, 18, 21. It’s a subjective theory in all honesty, something that is relative to life experience. I definitely remember feeling fairly adult at the age of 12, battling with what I saw to be “grown-up” depressive moods and thoughts, protecting myself from my aggressive step father and dealing with my ongoing internal monologue. That felt fairly adult to me. But in reality, it was a young girl, a very lost one at that, dealing with a world of adults who showcased very negative thoughts, emotions and relayed them onto my vulnerable brain. 

Now, at 23 years of age, I live in my own house with my partner, I’m studying for my degree, I’m learning to be my own person as I expect to do for the entirety of my life. I’m an enthusiast for the world, for travel, for work, for learning and for growth. I love to write. I love to walk. I am an adult. So why do I still feel as if those strings have not been cut from my childhood. I still feel like I need guidance, I still feel as if I need to answer to someone. And I still feel as if I need to cling to my childhood in order to be carefree. 

What I do that counteracts the fact that I’m an adult?

  • Everything I do I seek gratification from someone, somewhere 
  • If I have a sick day from work, I validate the fact that it is ok with a parent, my partner, or family and friends 
  • I explain every decision I make 
  • I justify myself constantly 
  • I live to please others 
  • I still feel unfulfilled, as if being a child allowed me to do more (that ironically I never seemed to take advantage of) and that adulthood results in not being able to really “live”
  • Living in a messy house – expecting someone else to clean it for me 

Why do I do this? 

  • Being an adult was always a negative thing in my younger life – adults were harsh and scary and violent and unpredictable 
  • I care what people think far too much 
  • I seek validation as I am still unsure in my own ability to decision make 
  • I have convinced myself that adult hood means working, paying bills and being unfulfilled 
  • I have a warped view of what being an independent truly means 

How could I step into my adulthood like I mean it? 

  • I need to consistently remind myself that adulthood is just a theory – it’s a concept that simply means I’m older. 
  • Remind myself that adulthood is not scary and it doesn’t mean that I have become a reflection of the adults I knew in my childhood 
  • Remember that it doesn’t change who I am – I’m still a big kid 
  • Don’t allow the concept of being grown up take away my dreams – it doesn’t mean the time frame has gone, it simply means I can choose when, where and why 
  • To learn that whilst pleasing people is ok, it shouldn’t be at the detriment of pleasing myself 
  • Remember that I don’t owe anybody anything. I’m my own person 
  • Believing in any decision that I make 
  • Keeping a tidy house in order to keep a tidy mind. 
  • Helping myself to help myself 
  • Staying in touch with my inner child and allowing myself to play and have fun 
  • Laugh more – laughing and being silly isn’t confined to being a child 
  • Working on my thoughts on what an adult is – not seeing adulthood as boring bill paying, as realistically, it changes nothing. 

I’ve got some great things to work on this summer! 

How do you live authentically in the concept of being an adult? 

3 days of demons: day 3

Sorry for the delay in my 3rd post. There has been two major reasons for said delay:

1) I’ve been ridiculously busy with uni, assignments, working 7 days a week, organising a fundraising event and trying to have some sort of social life

2) this post has been the hardest to write about

Day 3 of my demons is all about my struggles to form long lasting and meaningful relationships. Welcome to my darkest demon, running deep into the pit of who I am, and through my veins. Welcome to something I never talk about, and something I would still rather keep to myself. But welcome, to my healing.

I have had problems with forming relationships with people for years, namely since my abusive stepfather came into my life when I was 8 years old. As a result of his volatile nature, manic depression, anger and alcoholism, I was forced to believe that relationships with men were something that should be feared. Hard wired into my childlike brain (subconsciously I might add) was that men were dangerous, and had the potential to destroy me. I truly had a fear of interaction with men on any level.

  • Growing up, I had many male friends and I enjoyed their company but it never went beyond that, neither did I ever socialise beyond the school gates.
  • I was too anxious and couldn’t meet up with any males outside of school
  • Social fears around groups with males within them prevented me from getting involved in many parties, gatherings and events.

Why do I have fears of men?

  • Fear of their strength
  • Fear of their power
  • Fear of the past repeating itself

When you have had a negative male figure in your life who has used their strength and power for abuse, it is so hard to then let that image of men be positive in your mind, and to remember that not every man will use the strength that they have.

Is it just men that I struggle to trust? No. My fears in relationships also, to a lesser extent, related to friendships, family interactions and professional ties. This shows itself in that I:

  • Am too giving in friendships
  • Am too eager to be liked
  • Managed to attract negative people – those who didn’t really value my friendship
  • Fear being talked about in a negative way
  • I do not like to let people too close to me – to see the cracks within myself
  • I do not like to be analysed
  • I like to be given space and to be alone.

I have a problem with presenting myself whole heartedly to anyone in the world, I guess I don’t want them to see me for who I really am. I guess I’m scared of judgement, of failure, and of learning of the negatives about myself.

I have grown in many ways in my relationships, however there are still things that hold me back. Ostensibly, I have anxieties and fears in creating relationships and friendships alike, and this all stems from my abusive past, fear of being judged or hurt, a lack of self belief, and needing to feel accepted at all times. Most importantly, I have a severe fear of intimacy.

I need to attack each issue one by one.

First…anxiety within my intimate relationships. I read an article on anxiety in relationships that I would like to share with you:

How to Deal with Relationship Anxiety

Taken from pyschalive.org

relationship anxietyRelationships can be one of the most pleasurable things on the planet… but they can also be a breeding ground for anxious thoughts and feelings. Relationship anxiety can arise at pretty much any stage of courtship. For many single people, just the thought of being in a relationship can stir up stress. If and when people do start dating, the early stages can present them with endless worries: “Does he/she really like me?” “Will this work out?” “How serious is this?” Unfortunately, these worries don’t tend to subside in the later stages of a romantic union. In fact, as things get closer between a couple, anxiety can get even more intense. Thoughts come flooding in like: “Can this last?” “Do I really like him/her?” “Should we slow down?” “Am I really ready for this kind of commitment?” “Is he/she losing interest?”

All this worrying about our relationships can make us feel pretty alone. It can lead us to create distance between ourselves and our partner. At its worst, our anxiety can even push us to give up on love altogether. Learning more about the causes and effects of relationship anxiety can help us to identify the negative thinking and actions that can sabotage our love lives. How can we keep our anxiety in check and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to someone we love?

What Causes Relationship Anxiety?

Put simply, falling in love challenges us in numerous ways we don’t expect. The more we value someone else, the more we stand to lose. On many levels, both conscious and unconscious, we become scared of being hurt. To a certain degree, we all possess a fear of intimacy. Ironically, this fear often arises when we are getting exactly what we want, when we’re experiencing love as we never have or being treated in ways that are unfamiliar.

As we get into a relationship, it isn’t just the things that go on between us and our partner that make us anxious.; it’s the things we tell ourselves about what’s going on. The “critical inner voice” is a term used to describe the mean coach we all have in our heads that criticizes us, feeds us bad advice and fuels our fear of intimacy. It’s the one that tells us:

“You’re too ugly/fat/boring to keep his/her interest.”

“You’ll never meet anyone, so why even try?”

“You can’t trust him. He’s looking for someone better.”

“She doesn’t really love you. Get out before you get hurt.”

This critical inner voice makes us turn against ourselves and the people close to us. It can promote hostile, paranoid and suspicious thinking that lowers our self-esteem and drives unhealthy levels of distrust, defensiveness, jealousy and anxiety. Basically, it feeds us a consistent stream of thoughts that undermine our happiness and make us worry about our relationship, rather than just enjoying it.

When we get in our heads, focusing on these worried thoughts, we become incredibly distracted from real relating with our partner. We may start to act out in destructive ways, making nasty comments or becoming childish or parental toward our significant other. For example, imagine your partner stays at work late one night. Sitting home alone, your inner critic starts telling you, “Where is she? Can you really believe her? She probably prefers being away from you. She’s trying to avoid you. She doesn’t even love you anymore.” These thoughts can snowball in your mind until, by the time your partner gets home, you’re feeling insecure, furious or paranoid. You may act angry or cold, which then sets your partner off to feel frustrated and defensive. Pretty soon, you’ve completely shifted the dynamic between you. Instead of enjoying the time you have together, you may waste an entire night feeling withdrawn and upset with each other. You’ve now effectively forced the distance you initially feared. The culprit behind this self-fulfilling prophecy isn’t the situation itself. It’s that critical inner voice that colored your thinking, distorted your perceptions, and ultimately, led you down a destructive path.

When it comes to all of the things we worry ourselves about in relationships, we are much more resilient than we think. In truth, we can handle the hurts and rejections that we so fear. We can experience pain, and eventually, heal. However, our critical inner voice tends to terrorize and catastrophize reality. It can rouse serious spells of anxiety about dynamics that don’t exist and threats that aren’t even tangible. Even when there are real things going on, someone breaks up with us or feels an interest in someone else, our critical inner voice will tear us apart in ways we don’t deserve. It will completely distort reality and undermine our own strength and resilience. It’s that cynical roommate that always gives bad advice. “You can’t survive this. Just put your guard up and never be vulnerable to anyone else.”

The defenses we form and critical voices we hear are based on our own unique experiences and adaptations. When we feel anxious or insecure, some of us have a tendency to become clingy and desperate in our actions. We may feel possessive or controlling toward our partner in response. Conversely, some of us will feel easily intruded on in our relationships. We may retreat from our partners, detach from our feelings of desire. We may act out by being aloof, distant or guarded. These patterns of relating can come from our early attachment styles. Our attachment pattern is established in our childhood attachments and continues to function as a working model for relationships in adulthood. It influences how each of us reacts to our needs and how we go about getting them met. Different attachment styles can lead us to experience different levels of relationship anxiety.

What Thoughts Perpetuate Relationship Anxiety?

The specific critical inner voices we have about ourselves, our partner and relationships are formed out of early attitudes we were exposed to in our family or in society at large. Sexual stereotypes as well as attitudes that our influential caretakers had toward themselves and others can infiltrate our point of view and shade our current perceptions. While, everyone’s inner critic is different, some common critical inner voices include:

Critical Inner Voices about the Relationship

  • People just wind up getting hurt.
  • Relationships never work out.

Voices about Your Partner

  • Men are so insensitive, unreliable, selfish.
  • Women are so fragile, needy, indirect.
  • He only cares about being with his friends.
  • Why get so excited? What’s so great about her anyway?
  • He’s probably cheating on you.
  • You can’t trust her.
  • He just can’t get anything right.

Voices about Yourself

  • You’re never going to find another person who understands you.
  • Don’t get too hooked on her.
  • He doesn’t really care about you.
  • She is too good for you.
  • You’ve got to keep him interested.
  • You’re better off on your own.
  • As soon as she gets to know you, she will reject you.
  • You’ve got to be in control.
  • It’s your fault if he gets upset.
  • Don’t be too vulnerable or you’ll just wind up getting hurt.

How Does Relationship Anxiety Affect Us?

As we shed light into our past, we quickly realize there are many early influences that have shaped our attachment pattern, our psychological defenses and our critical inner voice. All of these factors contribute to our relationship anxiety and can lead us to sabotage our love lives in many ways. Listening to our inner critic and giving in to this anxiety can result in the following actions:

  • Cling – When we feel anxious, our tendency may be to act desperate toward our partner. We may stop feeling like the independent, strong people we were when we entered the relationship. As a result, we may find ourselves falling apart easily, acting jealous or insecure or no longer engaging in independent activities.
  • Control – When we feel threatened, we may attempt to dominate or control our partner. We may set rules about what they can and can’t do just to alleviate our own feelings of insecurity or anxiousness. This behavior can alienate our partner and breed resentment.
  • Reject – If we feel worried about our relationship, one defense we may turn to is aloofness. We may become cold or rejecting to protect ourselves or to beat our partner to the punch. These actions can be subtle or overt, yet it is almost always a sure way to force distance or to stir up insecurity in our partner.
  • Withhold – Sometimes, as opposed to explicit rejection, we tend to withhold from our partner when we feel anxious or afraid. Perhaps things have gotten close, and we feel stirred up, so we retreat. We hold back little affections or give up on some aspect of our relationship altogether. Withholding may seem like a passive act, but it is one of the quietest killers of passion and attraction in a relationship.
  • Punish – Sometimes, our response to our anxiety is more aggressive, and we actually punish, taking our feelings out on our partner. We may yell and scream or give our partner the cold shoulder. It’s important to pay attention to how much our actions are a response to our partner and how much are they a response to our critical inner voice.
  • Retreat – When we feel scared in a relationship, we may give up real acts of love and intimacy and retreat into a “fantasy bond.” A fantasy bond is an illusion of connection that replaces real acts of love. In this state of fantasy, we focus on form over substance. We may stay in the relationship to feel secure but give up on the vital parts of relating. In a fantasy bond, we often engage in many of the destructive behaviors mentioned above as a means to create distance and defend ourselves against the anxiety that naturally comes with feeling free and in love. Learn more about the fantasy bond here.

How Can I Overcome Relationship Anxiety?

In order to overcome, relationship anxiety, we must shift our focus inward. We have to look at what’s going on inside us, separate from our partner or the relationship. What critical inner voices are exacerbating our fears? What defenses do we possess that could be creating distance? This process of self-discovery can be a vital step in understanding the feelings that drive our behavior, and ultimately, shape our relationship. By looking into our past, we can gain better insight into where these feelings come from. What caused us to feel insecure or turned on ourselves in relation to love?

In my intimate relationship, I also manifest my lack of self esteem. My hatred for my physical self inevitably affects every part of this relationship. I need to learn to love myself, practice my loving exercises, eat healthily and exercise, and learn to be truly grateful for the skin I am in. I must not fear men – their strength is a positive, and will never be used against me. Most of all, I need to remember that I will never let myself be surrounded by anyone who remotely resembles my step dad ever again. I will not relive my past. And I must move beyond it now.

Friendships: Although I have yet to figure out how to truly tackle problems friendships, trust and self esteem issues for good, I am on the way to improving them. I have long-standing friendships, I let people go when they no longer add positivity to my life.

I need to remember that:

  • Other people’s opinion and judgements of me are not reflective of who I really am, nor do they take anything away from me
  • If I don’t like something that someone has analysed about me, I need to consider whether it is true, and whether it is something I am proud of – if not, I need to change it
  • I need to choose people in my life who are positive and easy going and do not give me anxiety
  • I need to be surrounded by supportive people
  • I do actually enjoy the company of others, bouncing off of them and learning about them
  • Appreciate all those already in my life
  • I need to let go of the reigns more, breathe and stop panicking
  • I need to allow myself to just enjoy the company of others

These are my personal aims at the moment – working and building upon healthy, happy relationships on all levels with great, happy, positive people. Have you had any similar experiences? Please share them with me, I would love to have your advice.

3 Days of Demons: Day 1

Happy Tuesday everybody. I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, with 14 days work and university making me feel extremely tired and out of touch with everyone in my life. With things that have been going on, I feel like I’m learning more about myself everyday, and I have decided to do another series of posts, much like my “5 ways” posts a few months ago.
Over the next 3 posts I will be opening up my scrutiny of myself and my behaviours and trying to get to grips with what is going on in my subconscious. In my “3 days of demons” posts, I will be choosing a different behaviour or thought process everyday, as I try and decipher why I behave in certain ways and how I can potentially grow to change them.
It’s, in my experience, vital to be able to accept and understand your subconscious behaviours and thought processes if you stand any chance of changing them and growing. And that’s what I want to do.

I no longer want to be stuck in old patterns and to be confined by the walls of my past. And this is my attempt to do so.
So welcome to my 3 days of demons posts, and welcome inside my brain.

I would love to hear back from you all, and to try and help you understand your demons and thought processes that you would like to change.

3 days of demons day 1: My own worst enemy.

I am my own worst enemy.

How do I know this?

  • I set ridiculously high expectations for myself, and then proceed to beat myself up and punish myself when I don’t reach them. For example, in my current degree, I want to achieve 100% on every piece of work I submit. Now for a degree, with a broad range of subjects covered and assignments that are open to interpretation, this is not always attainable. With every piece of work I submit I do work my hardest, I set aside a lot of time to complete them and I really do strive for the best. In one of my most recent pieces based on the anatomy and physiology of a dog, I got 68%. This is a pass..but not a distinction (It is 2% away in fact). And in my mind I had failed. I felt really disappointed in myself, and like a failure as I had set an expectation that I can be gaining the best of the best all the time.
  • I compare myself to others far too often – why don’t I go on as many holidays as they do? Why don’t I look like that? Why can’t I be good at that? Why can’t I have those clothes? Again, at university recently we had to sit an exam. When I got my results back I was thrilled to gain 94%…until I heard that someone else in the group got 99%. I was really upset with myself. At what stage is it acceptable to be upset with 94%??
  • I get irritable and frustrated and become aware that I need to be alone to wait it out…but I still surround myself with people I love and end up snapping at them.
  • I have far too much belief and hope that others will behave the way I would, and look to myself as the reason why they are not. I punish myself and question my own morals when people let me down. I don’t believe in who I am.
  • I often convince myself I am ugly, unattractive, over weight and that I hate my body – yet I do nothing to fix this.
  • I am often in fear of fear itself. I can be more than confident about going to an event, or doing something with my family etc, until I remember that I’m not a normal person in a normal brain. That negative voice in my head steps to centre stage and reminds me what a panic attack feels like, and I live in fear of having another one.

These are just a few examples of how I am, or can be, my own worst enemy. Particularly the events related to my degree have recently made me question why I beat myself up so often and am so quick to punish myself for not fulfilling the vision of perfection that I seem to want to be.

How can I fix this?

I definitely need to understand why I seek perfection all the time, perhaps due to the fact that I wanted attention from my parents at a younger age and as I was never sporty I needed to gain their acceptance through my grades and being perfectly behaved. I need to remind myself that others cannot be controlled and I am not responsible for their behaviour – if somebody upsets me or acts in a negative way towards me, this does not take away from me as a person, and it doesn’t change that I am a good person. I need to continually appreciate what I have in my own life, instead of looking at the things that others have, and wanting the things that I don’t need or that aren’t good for me, in the face of needing to be this perfect vision again. I need to learn that “stuff” does not define me. What others have does not mean they are happy. I do not need to be like anyone else, I just need to be me!

I need to reassure myself when I look in the mirror that I am beautiful, because I am me. And I shouldn’t need anyone else to tell me that in order for me to believe it. I shouldn’t seek acceptance for the way I look from anyone else other than the mirror. I should be happy that I have a body that works and functions, as many people don’t. I also need to remind myself that 9.5 stone is not overweight. Whilst I am bigger than I’ve ever been before, that is because I am in a good place with my eating disorders and manage to eat in 9.9 out of 10 situations now. My eating habits are better because I am happier and surely thats more important than a few extra pounds around the stomach?! And if I really want to make a change, I need to stop making excuses and get in the gym, get out in the fresh air or on my bike and get that weight off me!!

I need to spend more time reaffirming the positive voice in my head, and being able to quieten the negative one, before she takes her place in the drivers seat. I need to continue to choose to live a life of happiness and not slip back into old habits because they feel like comfortable old clothes, because the thing is they are not beneficial to me, and they lead me to unhappiness.I need to allow myself to be alone, and to take a breath before I snap at those around me who just want to show me love. I need to remember that at the end of the day, there is only me, I am the only person I can truly rely on, and therefore that person should be the best that she can be, not perfect, not a vision of a billboard or a perfectionist society, but the truest form of “me” that I can be, and someone who is truly happy in their own skin. That’s all I need. I need to support myself, congratulate myself on my successes and appreciate that a success is not defined by 100% perfectionism, but instead it is continuing to try, to use resources, to test yourself and to be better than the person I was yesterday.

As of today, I am my own best friend. Goodbye to enemies.

 

How to love someone who has depression 

“How to love someone who has depression” – There are a lot of posts going around about how to love someone who has depression and the allowances you have to make; the understanding you have to show, the hardships you have to go through etc. I have read some wonderful posts about how to be kind, how to be patient and how to cope when you love someone who possibly can’t show you love back.

Whilst I fully support that those who love us need some pep-talking sometimes about how to deal with the highs and the lows, I have’t read many posts about the real way to love someone who has depression. You. Yourself. You need to love yourself through your depression and all it throws at you. It’s about how you get to letting someone love you through your depression. You can’t let anyone in if you don’t love yourself, and if you’re consumed with your depression. And you can’t love anyone else properly if you don’t love number one. So this post isn’t about loving anyone else with depression. It’s about how to make it easier for yourself to love, and for others to love you: by taking care of number one.

It is so easy to punish yourself throughout depression and mental illness. Your brain is in a space that you don’t want it to be, you feel negative, you feel trapped and this opens itself up to self loathing. When you have no respect or love for yourself, you cannot let anyone else in, whether family, friends or all other loving relationships. When I was at my lowest point, I pushed away all those people who loved me. I wanted to be alone, I wanted to wallow, I didn’t feel worthy of being around them.

Now, I love being in the company of others. I love to laugh and I love to create memories. I can tell however, when I am in a darker place, or have dipped in terms of my mood and mental state, as I just want to be alone again. I want to spend time with myself, thinking or just being quiet. Don’t get me wrong, me time is great, however constant alone time and pushing away those that love you the most is not great. It is damaging to all involved. And this is why I felt it important to share my thoughts on how to love yourself through depression, as this is what builds the foundations for a positive relationship with not only yourself, but with others as well, in whatever calibre.

The common reasons why you don’t love yourself when you have depression… 

* You feel worthless

* You have low self esteem

* You don’t feel deserving

* You don’t see your own success

* You feel low

* You feel sad

* Your world has turned upside down

 

Reasons you should love yourself through your depression…

* If you broke your leg you wouldn’t hate yourself, you would nurse yourself, rest and make sure you were well rested. Depression is no less real than a broken bone….

* Self love improves your self esteem which can improve your mood

* Knowing you have your own back can increase your feeling of positivity and reduce anxiety

* You will feel more confident

* You are worth it

* You are enough, never believe anything different

* Being happy feels so much better

* Depression is horrendous and draining and evil and poisonous, give yourself a break and respect how much you’re dealing with. This can give you self respect and self love. You’re amazing.

* Look how much you cope with everyday

* Look at all your successes

* There are people who love you and need you

* You have skills that are unique to the world

 

Ways you can show self love through your depression…

* Going to therapy

*Write a list of all the things you love about yourself

*Believe in yourself

*Write a list of goals you want to achieve

* Reading a book

* You time

* Relaxation

* Writing a diary

* Allowing yourself to feel whatever it is you need to feel, and then let go

* Meditation

* Exercise

* Spending time with friends

* Breathing

I have comprised a list of 10 things to remember to do when loving YOURSELF through your depression.

  1. Remember to let go – When you feel sad, lonely, emotional, tearful, angry, or any other plethora of emotions, let yourself feel them. And I mean really feel them. If you want to scream, go to the top of a rooftop or a cliff and scream, or scream into your pillow. If you want to cry, let it all go until there are no tears left. The important thing is to let go of things that are holding you back. Don’t bear grudges, don’t hold on to resentment and don’t wallow in your emotions. If you let them go you can move on, and the weight of your shoulders will feel make you feel 10 times lighter.
  2. Remember to give yourself a break -You’re fighting a battle every minute of every day which uses up reserves in your body that you didn’t even know were there. you’re arguing with yourself in your head with every decision you make.You’re going to therapy and laying yourself bare. You’re crying onto the shoulder of a loved on. Whatever state you’re in, you’re fighting. And that deserves a pat on the back. Give yourself a break…you’re trying your best and every positive step is a step further from the person you used to be.
  3. Remember it’s ok not to be ok – Jessie J said it herself. We are all human, we are all trying to find our way. We won’t always get it right. We won’t always know which way to turn. And this is ok. It doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you just like the rest of us.
  4. Remember to be thankful for the good things – When I’m feeling particularly down, and trying to think of reasons why I am still fighting and trying not to lose my cool, I write a list, or comprise a mental note, of all the good things in my life. This is a constant reminder that not everything is negative, and not everything is bad. There are things worth fighting for.
  5. Remember to be patient with yourself – you’re learning new ways to grow and change and heal everyday. Be patient with yourself as you find out which ones work for you. There will be some days where its 2 steps forward and 3 steps back – but breathe in and out, and be patient for the days where it’s only forward. They will come. Nobody expects you to be “fixed” in a record time.
  6. Remember to talk about how you’re feeling – whether with a therapist, a friend, your mother, a boyfriend, it is so important to talk through what is going through your head. I cannot express how much talking through things and getting an insight into how others reason with themselves, as well as analysing how I behave together, has taught me to be a better person. Sometimes I have heard things I really haven’t wanted to hear – although that probably only means that it is true! It’s really helped me to grow and heal and get better, by simply getting my feelings out there. You know what they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.
  7. Remember that there is a community of people waiting to support, advise and listen to you – Throughout my younger days of dealing with depression, I wish I had known that there were communities of people who would understand me, listen to me moan and cry, share their stories with me, and generally make me feel more human and less like a monster in my own brain. For me, today, this community is my wordpress community, or family. I love reading blogs that inspire me, often I feel that some of you have taken the words right out of my mouth. When I feel down, this is the place I come to feel less alone. It is wonderful to be able to share, to not be judged and to have advice and understanding from those people who are dealing with their demons right alongside you.
  8. Remember to get outside into the fresh air – fresh air and exercise of some sort releases endorphins, makes you feel good, gives you space to breathe, gives you silence, gives you clarity. Fresh air can help you to breathe in positivity and breathe out negativity.
  9. Remember to focus on self-care – Focus on yourself, focus on taking care of your mind, body and spirit. Remember to meditate, to exercise, to pamper yourself. Often, I have found when I have been at my lowest of low, my personal hygiene has gone down the pan (disgusting I know), and I have been less likely to shower everyday, less likely to wash my makeup off or wash my hair, less likely to bother with looking presentable or dressing up to make myself feel good. If you pamper yourself, and feel good on the outside, it will help to make those low days feel that bit better. And then when you are feeling good on the inside, it will resonate even louder all the way out for all to see. Self care is of great importance, it includes me time, relaxing, reading a book, taking a candle lit bath, meditating, and doing whatever it is that you love.
  10. Remember to set yourself realistic goals and celebrate when you meet them – at my lowest, my goals included just making it out of the house for 5 minutes, or calling the doctor, or getting out of bed. Now, my goals include exercising, going on holiday, writing, coming up with new ideas etc. Creating goals and having something to look forward to and celebrate is something that really keeps me going. Keeping a diary of all the little goals you set yourself, whether thats a to-do list that you tick off, or an extensive list of little things you achieve in a day or a week, from grocery shopping to climbing a mountain, can help you to see all the things that you are achieving, and to help you feel great about yourself.

I would love to hear your ideas on how to promote self-love and how to love yourself even through the hardest of days.

Its beginning to look a lot like…the time for social anxiety

Christmas is wonderful. And I genuinely mean that. I love the cosy nights in, the mulled wine, the snuggles under the tree, the shopping, the lights, the laughter, the family time, the wintery walks, the trips to see santa with my god daughter…I just love it all.

What I don’t love, is the social anxiety that comes with the season.

The invites to parties, the work christmas do, the drinks at friends houses, all of the festive outings. It can all get a bit overwhelming. Two days before my first proper work christmas party, I’m starting to get those butterflies that I know are telling me I’m anxious. And I really hope I can overcome it.

I have suffered with social anxiety for years and years. This used to manifest itself so terribly that I was physically ill (vomiting, stomach ache, dizzy etc) and tended to just shut myself behind my bedroom door and miss all the fun, in fear of the fear itself. I used to let down the people that I love the most, unable to get the courage to just push myself that little bit further.

I have grown a lot since then, and I have achieved many things socially that tell me I can do anything I want to do now. So why is that niggling fear still at the back of my brain? And why does it persist even now? Why does social anxiety stick around long after you think you’ve gotten over it?

In my opinion, old habits die hard. I lived 22 years within my 99% anxiety focussed brain. And 1 year outside of that percentage has been wonderful yes, but my habitual brain at times directs me to those old habits, wanting me to fall back into patterns of anxiety and seclusion.

How can I avoid that this year?

  • Remind myself how much I want to socialise – I don’t want to miss out, I want to have fun, I want to laugh with my friends and make memories and form strong bonds with people.
  • Be authentically myself – the real me, the truest presentation of myself, is fun-loving, silly, constantly giggling, confident, funny and happy. And this is the person I need to channel.
  • Be present – I need to stop myself from thinking about what could happen, what used to happen, and what I used to be afraid of.
  • Remember how far I’ve come – I must remember that I am not the person I once was
  • Believe in myself
  • Think about all the great things I have accomplished that were much bigger than a Christmas social occasion – who would have ever thought that little old me would have been on 2 holidays this year! I have been living outside my bubble of anxiety, and living the life I want to, I will not go backwards!
  • Remember that anxiety has no hold over me
  • Enjoy myself – allow myself to just have fun and let my hair down
  • Ignore my unhelpful thoughts – “you can’t do this”, “what if you’re sick”, “what if people notice”…these are all old voices in my head that have no control over me now, and have no place in my new life. I will not succumb to these evils anymore.
  • Remember that in my own company and in my own body I am safe – I have got my own back, I will protect myself
  • Act my age – I am 23 years of age and I should be out having fun, I don’t need to spend anymore of my life locked behind a door in fear of fear itself.
  • Allow myself to be happy

I am determined to make this Christmas season my best and most social yet, and not be bound by the fears of my past. I have written a list of all the things I want to do this Christmas, and that includes lots of socialising, fun and laughs with friends, family and my loved ones.

Wishing you all the best, bravest Christmas season to date x

Italian Adventures

One of the biggest things that has happened in my life since my blogging absence, and one of the biggest things I have achieved in many years, is that I went on a city hopper trip to Italy with a friend.

At the beginning of November, I (yes me, that homebird, scaredy cat, at times agoraphobic, anxiety fuelled and change hating individual) hopped on a plane, and saw the beautiful, idyllic sites of 4 major italian cities all in a week!

My friend and I flew from London into Venice, then went on to Florence and Pisa, and ended our journey in Rome.

If you would have asked me a year, or even 6 months ago if I could have achieved this, I would have said no way? What would I have been scared of? Flying, change, being somewhere different, being away from family, the fear of a panic attack, the worry if I could cope, wanting to come home, fear of fear itself, doubting myself, public transport, eating problems…the list is endless. One year ago I simply wouldn’t have put myself in a scenario like this.

This year however, as I step into the life that I have always wanted, I wanted to challenge myself beyond anything I have ever done before.

Here are some snaps of my wonderful time.

Despite having a wonderful time, I found some old demons coming out to play. On a few occasions I found myself feeling very emotional, missing home and mostly, my dog. I reasoned with myself that this was allowed seeing as my dog is coming off her medication and I wanted to be close to her. I think its greatly important to recognise why you’re feeling sad,analyse it, let yourself feel it and then let it go. I allowed myself to feel sad as I knew it was for a justified reason. What really made me feel down in the dumps, was my anxieties around eating seemed to rear they’re ugly head every night. I didn’t eat much in the day, telling myself it was because we were too busy to eat, but actually, if I am really honest with myself, it was me trying to control the one thing I could in a environment that was all new to me. I know this oh too well. And I’ve certainly been there before. So all that beautiful Italian pasta, pizza and ice cream? I barely saw any of it. I practically starved myself for a week. And I’m really disappointed in myself. I wanted to just step outside the norm and really allow myself a good time. After all I’ve been through I wanted to just let go, and yet I still had an old demon lurking in the shadows. Now that I’m home I also seem to have binged a little, and that has upset me too. I’ve put on weight, and I’ve become more unhealthy. I seem to be making up for not eating in Italy that’s for sure. I was starkly reminded that I do still have a problem surrounding food, and one that I really do want to fix as soon as possible. I want to be able to enjoy food, and have a positive relationship with food.

On a positive note, why was I proud of myself?

  • I didn’t have a panic attack
  • I laughed lots
  • I went on lots of public transport and didn’t have a freak out – to be precise, I went on at least 20 buses, 6 trains, 2 metros and 2 planes. As someone who spent my teenage years having panic attacks at the thought of public transport, I was so proud of myself for remaining calm and actually quite enjoying the experience
  • I was able to let go and allow myself to enjoy something for once
  • I’ve started to live life the way I want to, and to do the things that I want to do
  • I surprised myself with how eager I was to see as much and do as much as I could
  • I believed in myself
  • I didn’t make myself sick with nerves
  • I didn’t have a panic attack before flying
  • I made lovely memories, learned a lot of historic information and truly soaked everything in, taking it all in my stride
  • I felt great pride in myself, something I have yet to get used to. I was proud of myself for reaching out of my comfort zone and having the balls to do it!!

All in all, although my trip was only a short one, and only a holiday, it taught me a lot. It taught me I can actually do anything I put my mind to, and I can even enjoy it. I learned that not everything outside my comfort zone has to be laborious and strenuous, that actually, if I let myself go, I can learn, experience, laugh and really get a lot out of a situation. I learned that I have my own back, and on my own I can achieve whatever I want to. I learned that I can overcome my fears. Perhaps most of all, I learned that life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, and I really don’t want life to continue passing me by as I sit on my arse and panic about what could have, would have and should have been. I’m going to be a go-getter, not a fretter!! And I’d say, for just one short week, that was quite a few important lessons for little old me.

 

Give yourself a break

The thing with mental illness? It makes us our own worst enemy. We start to punish ourselves for the thoughts in our head, the fact that we’re not ‘normal’, the things we miss out on, the things we make ourselves do. The list is endless.

The question is, why do we do this? Seeing as we’re going through such turmoil, I don’t understand why we punish ourselves further! We make our lives difficult, and pick holes in everything we say and do. We lower our view of ourselves, and we feed self-hatred.

The more I read this, the more I realise how damaging we are being to ourselves.

Being inside your own head, when your brain purges your every thought, turns your every positive into a negative, and is your own worst enemy, is exhausting.

Give yourself a break. Recognise how hard your brain is fighting, day in day out, to keep you alive. Realise how far you’ve come. Write down all your achievements. Acknowledge how many obstacles you’ve overcome. Allow yourself to smile, or laugh. Do what you love. Be with family. Spend some time with friends. Rest. Sleep. Read. Eat well.

Silence your mind. And try to learn to be your own best friend, because really, you don’t deserve to be punished. You deserve to celebrate the good you’re doing, and the progress you continue to make.

How would you treat a friend who told you they were going through what you’re going through? How would you look at them? How would you speak to them? What would you say? Try treating yourself like that – with some kindness. And try it now! Without hesitation.

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How to build your self-esteem

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the status of my self esteem. Am I truly comfortable in my own skin? Or do I just tell myself that I am, and push it to the back of my mind, hoping that nothing comes to fruition that proves me wrong?

What do I think self-esteem is? I believe self-esteem to be the alliance between loving yourself, appreciating yourself and respecting yourself. I see self-esteem as being comfortable in your own skin, being able to tackle anything that life throws at you, and feeling strong and in control. I see those with good self-esteem as being proud to be who they are, strong in their beliefs, and content with themselves and those around them.

What is it really? What is it’s definition? The dictionary definition of self-esteem: selfesteem reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self.

How do I show good self-esteem? I think I know my own mind, I can be very self-aware, and as my blog shows, I am learning to be congratulatory of my successes and focus less on my weaknesses or mistakes. I am beginning to feel just as worthy of all the good in the world as every body else. I am learning each and every day to feel more confident in my own skin – to wear what I like, to be able to leave the house without being plastered in makeup, and to be content with the person I am on the inside, which is kind, caring and loyal.

How do I show I lack it? At times, I still struggle to be the confident, self-loving person that I so truly want to be. I can sometimes feel inferior in the company of outgoing, loud people and this can sometimes make me retreat into my shell. I sometimes notice that others are more comfortable in their own skin than I am, and this makes me envious. I can be too quick to point out my flaws and not my successes with much more focus on the negative. My mind can continually beat itself up over genuine and unintentional mistakes.

What do I think caused my self-esteem issues? I believe that the majority of my negative behavioural patterns, including my battle with self-esteem, stems from my childhood. I wasn’t shown enough love and affection and attention from my parents, I saw things that a child shouldn’t have to see, I wasn’t complete, I didn’t know myself or how to conduct myself, and this relayed into adulthood. I was thrust from counsellor to counsellor, none of which actually helped me – which led me to the belief that nobody could help me because I didn’t deserve it. My depression spiralled my low self-esteem deeper and deeper into a pit of self-loathing, which ultimately led to suicidal thoughts and self harm. I had no respect for my body, or my mind. And no sense of worthiness or deservingness. I had no sense of control over myself, and simply was lost in my own little bubble. Every step I took in the wrong direction worsened my self-belief, or lack thereof.

My experiences with low self-esteem: We’ve all been there, we’ve all felt lower than low, hating our appearance, our lives our jobs, our hair, amongst all the other things there is for us to dislike about ourselves. I have felt, even now in my current training position, not good enough to be doing a job, not clever enough, not worthy enough, not physically fit enough, just not enough.  And feeling not enough for something or someone is a miserable place to be. It turns into self-hatred, self-loathing and deep seated anger with yourself. I have struggled to build my self-esteem since I was a young girl, bullied at school, struggling with anxiety, depression and eating disorders, and trying to work out who I was. I have felt unable to cope, broken and unworthy of being fixed. Even in my counselling life, I have had some turbulence with my self-esteem and I share with you one memory of a particularly bad experience. I remember one particularly low point in my life when I was seeing a counsellor who specifically dealt with relationships – with family, with friends and with lovers – to try and break down this cocoon of so-called “safety” I had wrapped myself in that involved no trust, lots of aggression and fear and ultimately, to conquer these issues and become more positive and trusting in all relationships in my life. This was my goal anyway.  I went in to the therapy room which is, as I’m sure any of you who have experienced therapy, really quite daunting.  I sat down with a clear intention, and a good level of self-esteem and self-belief, in the mindset that I was here, I was proud of myself for taking the step, and I could overcome these issues I was facing.  When I began to explain my life story, this woman made me feel small. She made me feel small using her body language, her words, and her mannerisms. My self esteem immediately had been sucked out of me. This woman told me, in her own words, that I would never find love, and I would never find happiness and get rid of my anger. At this point I felt I had nowhere to turn – even the professionals were telling me I was no good, I was broken! I felt totally unworthy – someone else was confirming my worst fears, someone with a qualification! It took around 2 years for my self-esteem and self-belief to start building up after that, after seeing a new counsellor.

How has low self-esteem affected my life? Due to low self-esteem I have avoided social situations, lived a life of total exclusion and seclusion whereby I have not had any exciting experiences or made memories. Low self-esteem has assisted my eating disorders – my view of my body and hatred of it making me feel I had to starve myself or make myself sick. I have been to the depths of depression and self-hatred, and ultimately, it has aided my self-harm and suicidal thoughts too.

I no longer want low self-esteem to be an issue in my life. I want to be able to feel comfortable in my own skin, and for it to be clear in the way I conduct myself that I am confident, content and comfortable. 

By doing a little research, and gathering information from the internet and also from my experience in life and seeing different counsellors, I have begun to write a list entitled ‘How can I build my self-esteem?’

  • Being kind to myself and forgiving all my misgivings, mistakes and allowing myself to see that I am only human.
  • By not pretending to be anyone else, I can build myself up to be who I want to be, instead of basing my confidence on the confidence of someone else. I need to be self-confident in my own right and in my own skin, as me.
  • Whilst not pretending or trying to be anyone else, I can pick up hints and behavioural patterns from those around me, and those who make me feel comfortable in their presence and who exude self-confidence and contentment. Sometimes we learn a lot from observing behaviours we do and do not want for ourselves, and applying them to our own lives.
  • Learning to say yes when I want to say yes, and no when I want to say no. Becoming more assertive can mean that I am expressing what I want to do and what I don’t and therefore having some control over myself.
  • Challenging myself and putting myself out of my comfort zone in order to have new experiences and live the life I have always wanted to but perhaps haven’t believed I could – for example, I have booked to go to Europe to visit a friend alone next January. This is something I never would have believed I could achieve a year, or even 6 months ago. Now, I believe I can, so I will.
  • Looking at myself in the mirror more, and appreciating what I see and making an effort to feel good in my own skin.
  • Taking good care of my body by eating healthily, drinking lots of water and exercising
  • Repeating positive mantras such as “I can do this”, “I am strong enough” and “I am worthy and deserving”, to really drill into my brain that I can do whatever I set my heart on.
  • Challenging old beliefs. What do I believe about this? What made me feel this way? Is this true? What about if I thought about it differently? Which leads me to…
  • Creating new beliefs about things that I have previously held negativity around. For example my beliefs about marriage have been entirely negative: dangerous, emotional, hard work and confrontation (to name but a few). By writing down a new belief system, beliefs that I want to invest in, and training my mind to see what I want to see, I can begin to live this way. This can be done for friendships, love, jobs, parents etc.
  • Doing things you enjoy – having a job that is fulfilling and challenges you in the right areas, before coming home and having a fulfilling personal life, full of great friends, stimulating conversation, hobbies, reading, exercising, and love.
  • A good personal hygiene regiment. This sounds silly, but when you feel low and lacking in self-esteem, you tend to (without realising it) let go of your personal hygiene routine. Keeping yourself clean, washing your face, brushing your teeth, applying a face mask or a hair mask, going for a massage or a facial etc will make you feel much more positive and ready to face the day.
  • Trying to be open – to give and receive advice, love, compliments etc
  • Sleeping better is one of the linking factors that can help all mental illness and negative thought patterns. A good sleep hygiene routine can make you feel more equipped to face the day and truly refreshed.
  • Focus on the good things about myself, for example writing a list of qualities I love about myself – kind, caring, intelligent, inquisitive, loyal, honest, feisty, funny, hopeful, passionate (even writing that short list made me feel good!!)
  • Creating a scrap book of positivity is something I’m working on right now too. Something that I can go to that contains my list of positive things and things I love about myself, positive affirmations, my hopes and dreams, my loves and hobbies, ways I have made myself proud etc. This is something I can look back on when I’m feeling a bit low, and realise my accomplishments.
  • Spend your time with loving, uplifting, supportive, honest and caring people who want to see you happy and build you up.
  • Getting into the habit of saying more positive things, thinking more positive thoughts, smiling more, keeping note of the good things no matter how little, and trying to shift the balance to 90:10 to positivity!

There is a fine line between being confident in yourself and being self-loving, and being arrogant and cocky. The latter is not an attractive quality, nor is it truly conducive to a healthy and happy person. It is so important to be comfortable with yourself, to love who you are and to believe in yourself, as at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, ourself is all we really have, and if we’re happy with that person, it’s all we need.

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Death and all his friends

So this week I have been working a lot, at the Veterinary Practice where I am carrying out my placement for my degree at a Veterinary Nurse. Now if you’ve kept up with my story so far, you will know that I have a passion for animals, that is probably harbouring on an obsession, and quite honestly, I have a greater respect and love for all animals than humans. I therefore love my job, and have been so excited to have just begun my course, ready to learn about how to help out suffering animals in any which way that I can.

Veterinary nursing is a tough job for many reasons: it is physical, exhausting, draining mentally and emotionally and quite frankly at times is heartbreaking. This being said, it is also very rewarding, loving and caring, and I am never happier than seeing a wagging tail walk out of the door back into the arms of their loving owner.

This being said, I’ve struggled this week. Death has been a prominent theme, and his “friends” include tears, frustration, lack of self-belief, worry and pure exhaustion.

I’ve been struggling to get a grip on my emotions, crying uncontrollably at home for hours after a busy day of being unable to save certain patients, and watching owners sob as they say their last goodbyes. I have been drained physically and mentally, and this, hand in hand with the tears and the sensitivity (not helped of course with it being “that time” – I’m sure you girls appreciate!) has led me to feel a lack of self confidence and self belief that this is the job for me. Deep down, I know it is, but on the surface this week, I have felt weak and vulnerable. I have wondered if I can do it, if I can subject this upon myself physically and mentally. If it will make my depression return with a vengeance. If I can muster up the strength to be brave and go home every night in the knowledge that I am helping – and that is more than I have ever done before, and more than some people do in a lifetime.

It is a difficult place to be in at the moment – working and trying to help as best I can without the knowledge and qualifications to really help as much as I potentially could. At times then, I feel as if I’m letting myself and the animal down, by not knowing what I could do to help. I’m frustrated. I’m also frustrated in myself for allowing it to get to me quite so much. A life is important to me, and I know that the day I feel nothing, is the day I hand in my uniform and say goodbye to the job. However I cannot, for myself, be this emotionally drained at the end of every week. I cannot cry myself to sleep for a life I did not save. I cannot worry myself stupid about how I will feel when it’s my own pet’s turn – a cruel trick my brain seems to keep doing.

I wanted to know if any of my followers or readers had any advice for hardening up and becoming and little more thick skinned? I wondered if you’ve ever had a job, or are in a job which calls for you to be strong? Perhaps stronger than you ever thought you could be? Is there any help you can suggest for not allowing my energies to deplete after every battle I could not win? I’m open to all suggestions.

I cannot cry any more, and I’ve told myself this.I need to find an inner strength and courage that is in there somewhere, I just need to unlock it. I need to balance caring and loving and nurturing, with acceptance. I know I need to fine tune the balance and also take the pressure off myself – I cannot save lives if I have yet to learn anything on my course. And even then, I’m not a Veterinary Surgeon. And even then, we’re only human. And even despite that, it’s the circle of life…it moves us on, Elton taught us that. So why can’t I seem to accept it?

Yours,

A crumbling wreck x