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? 

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E-book e-xcitement

Last year, I wrote a sort of self-help book. Except that it’s not just self-help. It’s self-discovery, self-awareness, self-rambling, self-conscious and self-depricating. It’s full of memories, poetry, advice, step by step guides and how to’s. It’s full of heart and passion (well, in my opinion).

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Diaries-Suitcase-Kid-ebook/dp/B013JG8HT2/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1465575254&sr=8-9&keywords=the+suitcase+kid+ebook

It reflects my journey up until now…sporadic. Sporadically high and low. Sporadically wonderful and sporadically terrible.

I always hoped that when reading it, someone would be able to feel a connection, a sort of meeting of minds. And most of all, I hoped it would help someone.

I would love for you to give it a try. There is a rather long free sample on amazon, and it’s a great price if you like the sample, just £2.23 for all those reading from the UK.

The synopsis is as follows:

‘The Diaries of A Suitcase Kid’ is just what it says on the tin. An honest diary filled with accounts of the highs and lows of suffering with mental illness. Whilst it is a self-help book of sorts, I like to think of it as taking a whole new twist on the self-help genre. My e-book is here not to preach, and certainly not to patronise, but instead, to say the words you perhaps cannot. It speaks the truth of the ups and the downs, the worst days and the good days. Topics covered include self-harm and suicide, eating disorders, relationships, friends, loss of sexual drive and broken homes, alongside generalised musings re: mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. ‘The Diaries’, is full of honest accounts of what mental illness really feels like, through the medium of ramblings and poetry, with the aim to make you feel less alone. It truly captures the essence of my story and my journey so far, and is hopefully the first chapter in a series of Diaries. I perhaps see this as the worst chapter really but the most important, the chapter of self-awareness – the awareness that everything really was shit and something had to give!
I want you to read and to enjoy. I most of all, want you to never feel alone.

It’s my heart on my sleeve and it’s all in the name of sharing, making anyone out there suffering with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental illnesses, as well as those who have come from abusive homes and troubled pasts.

It’s all about moving forward.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please read, even if its only the sample, and comment below your thoughts and feelings and if it helped, even a tiny bit.

Thank you, as always, for all your comments.

 

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? 

Noticing a change

How do we truly know when we’ve made progress? Not when people point out to us that we’ve changed, definitely not when we are trying too hard to make a change, but actually when all is stripped away, the trying stops and transforms into just being, and we notice a change for ourselves.

It’s exam season again. That dreaded time that for some is not a worry and just a time to test themselves, but for others is a constant pressure, stress and source of worry. I’m sure there are readers of my blog who have suffered the same exam stress as I have over the years. I am now at a stage where I am studying for my degree (yes I know, exams that I have fundamentally CHOSEN to take!!) and it’s time for me to showcase what I have learned about animal anatomy, behaviour and care over the last year.

Years ago, what actually feels like many moons ago, I studied for my GCSE’s. I was 16 years of age and at a stage in my life where my anxiety was at its worst. My panic attacks were sporadic, heart-wrenching, painful, scary and overwhelming. When I look back on myself, the age that I was and how much I dealt with and the fact that I have come through it, I am immensely proud for one, but extremely shocked too. I wish there were enough words in the dictionary to explain how low, how paralysed and how defeated I was by this mental illness that just enraptured my whole self. When it came to sitting my exams themselves, I would have full blown panic attacks, palpitations, sweating, vomiting, nausea, dizziness and I would even lose control of my lips and have facial muscle spasms. It was mortifying to not be able to hide something that I had kept so secret until this point, and it was so difficult to see how I could sit an exam in this state. I would work myself up, cry, physically tremble and worry that I was going to cause myself serious injury. The fear? I’m not sure I could explain. I remember thoughts of:

What if I’m sick in the exam?

What if I lose control of my bowels?

What if people notice and stare?

What if I have a panic attack in the middle of the room?

What if I vomit?

All these what if’s would go through my mind, paralysing me with fear and focussing me on the worst case scenario. It wasn’t even the exam, or the passing or failing. It was simply the sitting in a large room, the unknown, the what if.

I simply did not know how to handle myself or my emotions, fears or feelings. Worse than that, I didn’t know how to control my body. I had no way of controlling my mind, my sheer terror, the physical symptoms or the plethora of panicked thoughts that I was overcome with.

I was unable to eat the night before or the day of my exam. Nothing could pass my lips – as a control method, as a protective shield, as a preventative measure. There would be no sleep the night before. There would be various toilet trips for various eliminations.

I never thought I could get through it.

I did it though. I went through all of that 10 times. AND…I came out with brilliant grades that I was proud of. Something seemed to takeover once I sat down and immersed myself in the paper, and allowed myself to be distracted. My symptoms would be forgotten and my brain would be focussed on showcasing my knowledge. It’s just a shame that nothing could distract me during the panic attack before hand!

This week, I have sat my end of first year exams for my degree in Veterinary Nursing. This week, I know I’m a changed person. I’ve not felt anxious. If I’ve felt nervous, it’s healthy nerves that are more centred on apprehension. I have slept like a baby the night before, I have surrendered myself from the what if’s and accepted the letting go process of “I have done enough. I can only do my best”.

And today…I EVEN ATE BEFORE AN EXAM!! I have never done this in my life. I gave up the controlling, conscious thoughts that I am not allowed food or water in my belly before an exam in case something happens. I gave up the thoughts that it was too risky to eat. I gave up needing to control anything. I let go. I let the knowledge that I had worked hard, I was ok, and I have my own back take over. And it worked.

It’s not come without hard work. This is a reward for the work I have put into myself, finding myself, putting myself first, healing and being comfortable in my own skin. As a result of doing this, my depression and anxiety have waned, and I deserve that.

Whether my results are the best yet or not, whether I supersede my expectations or whether I am disappointed, I will never forget the euphoria of being absolutely ok with being me, exam or not. I was not threatened, or scared, nor on the verge of a panic attack. I was centred and content and ready for any eventuality.

And that, is how I know I have changed. Not just a little, but a lot. And I am proud.

To everybody that has exams this month and next, and is dreading them as much as the old me used to, let me first say that I wish you the best of luck. Secondly, it’s easy to say from where I’m sitting now, but anxiety and panic attacks didn’t get me anywhere, nor did they help my examinations in any way. Try your best to relax, to breathe, to look after yourself and to put yourself first. Remember you are safe in your own body. And you can only ever do your best.

 

5 days of positivity…day 5 

On the last day of my positivity challenge, which has not been the consecutive challenge I had hoped it to be, I wish to share with you my most recent triumph. My one week relaxing holiday. And when I say relaxing, I may sound as if I am bragging, but in fact, quite the contrary. 

I have never been on a holiday upon which I have truly relaxed and this is the closest I have been. Lingering anxiety, unresolved panic and a fast heart rate still made appearances, but Greece was an adventure that all in all was all I could have wished for. 


If I can face my fears, so can anyone. Never let your fears become who you are and determine what you do. Life is too short. And memories aren’t made behind a closed door. 

5 days of positivity…day 4 

Too much energy is put into the thought that for a day to be positive, or to have been worthwhile, something monumental, or moving, or something to write home about, or something catastrophic, or brilliant, or surprising, or romantic (I could continue but you catch my drift) must have happened. 

Today, I open up to the idea that to be positive, you simply just have to be. And for nothing to happen is actually a blessing. To just wake up, be healthy and have an embracing attitude towards a new day, that’s positive in itself right?! So we don’t need to celebrate every large, monumental experience in our everyday lives. And we don’t need to feel that just because there has been nothing momentous happen in our day that it has been wasted…but instead we simply need to celebrate each quiet, tranquil moment just as much. In the knowledge that these are the moments that carry us through. 

5 days of positivity…day 3

Again a little late on the consecutive days of positivity. However this doesn’t mean I’ve been slacking on my new mentality. I’ve been practicing seeing the good in all situations and celebrating positive situations that arise in my life. 

What has been positive in my third day of change? 

I have had a fantastic couple of days at work, which has really given me the boost I need that I will make a great veterinary nurse. Of late k have been feeling a little lost, as if I am losing the energy and enthusiasm for my course and as result this has been reflected in my attitude towards going to work. However, this week I have consciously changed my attitude and put myself out there to learn. As a result, I have carried out 4 general anaesthetics on animals during their surgery. This to me had been the biggest cause of anxiety and worry about my chosen career, however my change in attitude has in turn changed my anxiety into positive energy. 

I have been able to ask questions, to learn and to open my mind to new things which I have even started to enjoy. As a result, I have had many comments on how well I am progressing and how brilliant my attitude is. 

I’ve not even been anxious! 

A simple, quick chat to myself to attempt to alter my behaviour and thought patterns has led to teams of positivity in my career. And this means the world to me. I’m proud of myself and all that I am achieving. It really appears that changing my thought processes can really change my life. 

Another day…Another step forward. 

5 days of positivity…day 2 

You may have noticed that my aim to post 5 consecutive days of positivity hasn’t really gone to plan. Life threw me a massive curveball, so I wasn’t feeling too positive at all over the last couple of days. But now, I’ve turned the situation around and can resume my positivity spell. 

A few days ago my landlord called me and told me she needed my partner and I to move out of our lovely home ASAP in order for her to sell the property. Moving house is stressful at any time, especially when you haven’t been the one to make the decision of change. Anxiety doesn’t much like change either…And as many readers will know I am currently studying for my degree in veterinary nursing. This awkward timing falls right in the midst of my final assignment deadlines and is creeping ever closer to my important end of year exams and revision period. 

My initial reaction was none other than our old faithful friend, PANIC! 

It took me a couple of days to stop the panic, halt the anxiety and talk myself round into another positive day, which I have now managed to do. 

My initial thoughts were ones of worry about money, if I would be able to cope with the stress, if it would be a positive move, and if I would find somewhere to live that is quite as lovely as where we live now. What if, what if, what if. This is the negative mindset that anxiety forced upon us. Worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet and may never happen is a waste of time and I just couldn’t see this for the first few days. When I took a step back, I realised that this was an opportunity for healthy change and perhaps a push I needed into a non stagnant place. Further to this, the place I currently live doesn’t have a garden or any outdoor space…so what an opportunity to find a space to lay a bbq! 

My message over the past couple of days has been clear: there is always good in any bad. There’s always a positive to be made out of a negative and you can always, always change your mindset if you feel strongly enough about it. 

It’s a new chapter in my life, a chance for another fresh start…and there’s not much negative in that! What’s your positive been today? 

5 days of positivity: day 1 

Today, I woke up and decided that I would be in a good mental place. I wanted to enjoy my day before I start a night shift this evening, and I really wanted to make sure I was in a positive mind set and make a start to eradicate the negativity of the last few weeks. 

So, I got up early and I wrote a list of things that I was grateful for: 

  • The roof over my head
  • My lovely dog and cats who always make me smile
  • My comfy bed 
  • The brilliant sleep id just had
  • My ability to get up and choose what I wanted to do 
  • My car to take me wherever I wanted to go 
  • My ability to choose to be happy 

I then took myself off to the beach, initially just with Millie, relaxing, thinking, walking and taking in the world. The fresh air helped to cleanse my brain and rejuvenate me, making me feel wonderful and healthy. I then met up with my best friend and my god daughter and splashed in puddles, built sand castles and chatted nonsense. Being a big kid puts me in touch with a happy, true version of myself and I laughed uncontrollably at my 3 year old god daughter who chatted for hours about a selection of topics. 
   
When coming home and getting ready for work after this wonderful, refreshing, positive morning, I realised something…

I realised that my brain is a wonderful thing. A stern talking to and I managed to positively set myself up for a day of happiness, laughter and light (and sunshine which helped). I may not be totally out of my dark place, but today was a step in the right direction towards the light, and that’s the direction I want to keep heading in to. I’ve been positive, thoughtful, in the moment and free on anxiety so far today and oh how wonderful it has felt. 

My mantra today is this: 

  
Day 1 of positivity down and I’m ready to face the next 4 head on, with a healthy, happy mindset because I can and I will. 

Happiness shouldn’t be hard

It seems, in my down days at the moment, that I have become aware of a new foible of mine: I spend far too much time thinking about what is wrong, and not nearly enough time thinking about what is right. 

Why is it easier to moan about what is wrong in our lives than it is to celebrate what is good? 

I have caught myself talking entirely negatively about my university course, my job, myself, my home life, my family…and painting a picture of entire negativity when actually, things are going very well in my life. Is it the case that I’m just not happy with anything? Or is it that old habits die hard? 

We are surrounded by negativity in the media, by others and in our own heads and when this is the whole encompassing image around us, it’s not easy to break the mould and be positive. 

Someone once told me that you have in excess of 60,000 thoughts a day…how many of mine are negative, destructive and self deprecating? Currently, well over half. This is simply not conducive to a healthy mind and it is most certainly not going to make me feel better about my life. 

Some of the thoughts I have been having recently include: am I doing the right course; am I following the right path; am I living life to the full; am I proud of myself; I feel ugly; I feel fat; I’m always lethargic; am I better than this? 

I can see simply from writing those few thoughts down how unhealthy this is. It simply cannot go on, as I’m never going to keep myself in a happy place if I play out old habits that feed my depression. These thoughts feed my anxiety and my low self worth and spur on anxiety attacks, as well as regret and unhappiness. I don’t want to go back to the person I once was, and I have fought so hard not to go back there.

Instead of 60,000 negative thoughts, I’m going to try my best to see the best in everything, or if not the best, then to consider what is the positive, what the lesson is, and how I can overcome any issues. 

Over the next 5 days I’m going to be trialling my new positivity on my blog, along with you guys, and I would love to hear your negative habits that you’re trying to break out of. 

Everything in life starts with a thought, and mine are going to be positive. How about yours?