Pet Therapy

One thing Ive learnt about myself from the years of suffering badly with my mental health, is one thing proven to pick me up from rock bottom is animals. I am a massive believer and supporter in animal therapy. Owning a pet has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, ease loneliness, encourage playfulness alongside having many long term therapeutic benefits that improve general health. Having a pet can provide routine and meaning to your days, encourage exercise, provide sensory stress relief and companionship. Pets are well known for giving unconditional love to their owners, which in turn helps many that struggle with social interactions and also with those who feel worthless and suicidal.

So for the past few months within the COVID-19 lockdown, I’ve taken a substantial hit to my mental health. I decided that getting a pet may help and also give me something to look forward to and stay focused for, in times of suicidal thoughts. Now I know this isn’t and can’t logically be the answer for everyone. Getting a pet is a huge commitment, requiring money, time and effort. It’s not always an option for everyone, but I was lucky that a pet could fit perfectly into my life. So id like to welcome to the family my new baby kitten….Bella.

Has Bella’s arrival had any impact on my mental health? Absolutely, she’s given me reason to take time off work, time to reflect and relax, which I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Ive had a focus, i’ve got into a new routine, she’s given my days purpose. She’s given me companionship, someone to always have around. She’s my new cuddle buddy, my playtime pal and my little saviour. She’s improved my overall mental health in so many ways, and I can’t wait for this to continue. Through the sleepless nights of being a new mum, she is so worth it!

The Struggle Is Real

I could write all day about how I feel regarding the complete discriminatory views many have towards mental health however this isn’t what this blog is about. Ive been lucky that during lockdown I work in a profession that isn’t affected as greatly as some others. Ive been able to work throughout, and to be honest I think this has saved me. I am at a point of rock bottom within my bipolar again, and it sucks to be back here. I have been thinking a lot about how I describe things to my loved ones so im going to try and put how I feel into words the best I can. Not just for myself but for the understanding of others.

Recently I’ve felt emotionally exhausted. I have nothing left to give. I go about my day with no purpose. The littlest thing tips me over the edge or throws me off course. It could be something so basic that when in a better place, I wouldn’t even give it a second thought, but in a bad place, it consumes me. My head runs away with me, I can’t let go of the anxiety, negative thoughts, and I can’t lift the weight from my shoulders. It takes more energy to make people think im ok. I have one negative thought that snowballs in to tons of negative thoughts. The process continues day in day out. I feel worthless, like a bad person, not loveable, not good at anything, ugly. My self confidence hits rock bottom and I struggle to comprehend why anyone would like me. I even get it in my head my friends only talk to me because they feel they have to. I feel like im fighting a losing battle. I feel like im struggling to wake up each day with a different outlook, no matter how hard I try. I feel like any mistakes I’ve made in life are on repeat in my head, driving me insane. Like a front row seat to my life story, but I only see the bad things. Its like a constant torture I can’t escape from. I just want to run, or tear my head off. Neither are feasible. I never feel like I want to or can talk fully to anyone about this because I don’t want to be judged. And in the moment I can never find the words. So here I am writing down the bad days with bipolar disorder, hoping people can relate to this.

Its not always easy to talk, its not always as easy as talking it through, or taking up a better mindset. Trust me, I’ve tried. If someone does confide in you, don’t take that as a given they will always want to talk to you about it. Speaking from experience with bipolar, at times I find it a lot easier to talk about how I feel than others. Don’t take it personally, its just what our own heads allow. If someone does find comfort in talking to you, don’t judge, don’t patronise, in fact you don’t even have to advice, just listen. Just be present, put your phone down for 5 minutes and listen. Give that person your full attention, make them feel less alone. Make them feel like they genuinely care. The worst feeling in the world is confiding about your deepest thoughts with someone who doesn’t care or doesn’t respect your feelings. Appreciate that that person probably isn’t looking for sympathy, just someone to off load on. In world where you can be anything….be kind.

Maintaining Good Mental Health During Isolation

I apologise again about the length of time it’s taken me to write this. As a key worker, myself and my colleagues have been working our butts off to keep everyone safe, and that has over taken the majority of my time to be able to blog. But here I am….Back to some sort of normality for a few days. So I am lucky. I still have a job I go to week in, week out….but I know if I didn’t, this period in time would have a massive impact on my mental health. So lets discuss ways we can keep our mentality positive and our mental health demons at bay.

  • Establish a routine – even if you aren’t working, structure your days. It gives your days purpose and gives you a drive to get out of bed.
  • Keep connected with people – give friends or family a call or message. Don’t isolate yourself away from everyone, keep your support system at hand.
  • Try to keep active – I know we are being informed to stay indoors, but get outside for a walk away from others, go for a run, a bike ride, skip in the garden. Whatever is on offer, try and exercise daily.
  • Get as much fresh air, natural light and nature as you can – this can help with anxiety and ease depression. Its also healthy for your body.
  • Keep your mind stimulated – take on a new online course, build something, do some arts and crafts, redecorate, find a new hobby….anything that you would find interesting and keeps your brain working.
  • Read a book – allow your mind to escape to a different world in a good book.
  • Find time to relax – listen to your body, if you feel tired or stressed, find time to relax without doing anything, or have a nap. Afternoon naps are ok!
  • If you’re struggling, ask for help – as always if you are struggling with your mental health during these times, always ask for help. Find support, whether that be calling samaritans or a mental health line, speaking to a doctor or a mental health professional. Always seek the help you need, even in these uncertain times there is help available.
  • Support each other – if you know a friend or a family member that may be struggling, reach out to them, offer whatever support you can, it may make a huge difference to someones life.

Stay safe everyone, look after each other…….together we can get through this. Just remember, it won’t last forever.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

Sorry its been a while, I am in the process of changing jobs and that has been my full focus for a few weeks. In the madness that is the world at the moment, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on all those people still having to work, day in, day out. Those people that are so passionate about their jobs they put their lives on the line everyday to help others. I can totally emphasise with people being made to stay in right now, I remember over the years when i’ve been in and out of hospital, what it feels like to be a caged bird. It’s hard. It’s hard for your mental health, it’s hard for your physical health, it’s just generally frustrating. But let’s all just take a moment to pay attention to those who are working extra hours, extra hard to keep this world revolving. All the lorry drivers delivering food, all the stock assistants restocking the shelves of our local shops to make sure we can all have food. All the police men and women working extra hard at this time, to enforce the governments new advice. All the paramedics attending call after call, putting their lives at risk to look after those with symptoms of the corona virus. All the doctors and nurses working tirelessly in the hospitals, with patients confirmed to have corona virus, to ensure they are given every chance of a full recovery. And many more workers within different industries that continue to work hard. We all thank you. We all appreciate you, you are all heroes.

Working in the care industry has taught me one thing. Carers are amongst some of the most amazing, caring, talented, passionate people I have ever met. My work colleagues are exceptional, day in, day out. Whether they are going through personal problems, whether they aren’t feeling 100%, whether they are scared of going home to their family after work incases they are cross contaminating……they turn up and work their butts off every day with a smile on their face. I think carers go so far under the radar when it comes to the people we think of thanking. Carers still work, they look after your vulnerable family members or friends when you have to isolate. So id like to take this opportunity to thank all the carers who are currently working themselves too exhaustion to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their clients and residents. You are far from unskilled workers, you are the most amazing individuals I know. Thank you for keeping everyone within your care safe. So if you know any key workers, or any carers, please don’t keep complaining about being home all day, yes its hard, but some of these people would love to have a day off. Let’s continue to help each other, support each other, better times are coming. Keep safe everyone, thank you for everything you do!

What we are learning from COVID-19

In a time when the world is in meltdown, when many jobs have been lost and hundreds of thousands have been isolated, what have we learnt about the world we live in? At a time when loo roll is a rare find, and people are stock piling more pasta than they could possibly get through in a year, what have we learnt about each other?

Well lets start with the elderly. Over 70’s are now meant to be self-isolating for 3 months according to the government. Well today, i’ve seen endless elderly people wandering out and about. Many carrying shopping bags. The thing I have learnt from this is that not everybody has someone. Not ever elderly person has family locally they can rely on when they run out of milk or vital medication. Some people are forced to go out due to lack of support from our community. Some people who should be self-isolating are having to make necessary journeys to the shops to be able to live. Why are we not spreading the love and offering help to all those we know locally who may be struggling in times like these?

We have noticed that, everyone goes crazy at the thought of having to stay home for 14 days. This constitutes needing 1000 toilet rolls, 26 bags of pasta, 12 loaves of bread, 6 bags of sugar….the list goes on. This has a knock on affect on EVERYONE! Its funny how we have gone from be kind, think of others, to selfish bastards overnight isn’t it?! A handful of people stocking up more than needed, results in everyone else having the fear of needing to do the same. Because 30 people decide to buy numerous amounts of one item, other people feel they should as there may not be any available next time they get to a shop. When does the madness stop?! How do we not realise that the world doesn’t revolve around greed. By buying an unnecessary amount of nappies due to your anxiety around the news, one baby had to go without! By buying all the toilet roll in the aisle, meant one elderly person had to walk further for miles trying to find some!

We have come to the realisation that carers are not “unskilled workers”. Carers go to work everyday regardless of virus’s or infections they may become susceptible to. Carers have close contact and care for those who may have symptoms of the corona virus. They do this with no fear, no selfishness. They go to work everyday whilst others get to work from home. They are among the front line staff to deal with the prevention of outbreaks. I want to take this opportunity to thank you, not only every NHS worker who works incredibly hard all year round, but care staff too, who do everything to care for and protect their residents. Yet these staff finish a 12 hour shift, pop to the shops, which have been emptied by idiots! Leaving them with nothing to eat after a busy day of saving and maintaining lives. please can we be more mindful of those around us!

Positive news however…….Community spirit has started to kick in, with many writing notes offering help to the vulnerable, and those self-isolating. What an amazing way to show unity amongst these difficult times. Please continue to offer support to those in need, no matter how big or small your contribution. Please remember to stay indoors unless completely necessary….you may not have symptoms yet but you may be carrying the virus. You may have 2 weeks of feeling unwell before gradually feeling fine again. However the virus you are carrying may be passed on to Mrs Smith, aged 82, with asthma, who may have just taken her last breath due to your unnecessary trip out.

Lets all help each other, lets all educate one another….lets get through these tough times, and get in those beer gardens for the summer!

Blogging

So I have been overwhelmed with the amount of comments and likes on my website so far. I used to run another website for similar reasons…..to be able to express how I was feeling in a healthier format, without it taking me falling off the rails to understand how I felt. Well as time went on and I struggled to keep my audience engaged, I lost my sense of purpose and it was the beginning of the end of my previous website. I forgot the basis of why I started the site. I began to think my words didn’t matter and that I was just putting myself in a vulnerable position for the world to know me. Well 2020 is a whole new decade and a whole new way of thinking for myself. I blog for a number of reasons:

  1. When sometimes the words can’t be vocalised about how i’m feeling, my friends and family get the chance to read my blog, this helps them understand me more and how my emotions are effecting me. (Hi mum!)
  2. Ive learnt that actually if this blog has an affect on just one person, it’ll be one person I wouldn’t have ever helped if I didn’t write this! From feedback I have had, blogging can make others feel less alone, and help improve understanding around mental health issues.
  3. Why should we be ashamed to be who we are? Why should we have to stay quiet at the fear of being judged by those around you, and by those who don’t know you?! I have mental health problems, that doesn’t deserve to be judged by anyone. My previous blog was anonymous because I feared the judgement and stigma, but I’m not a coward anymore. I want to show everyone the real me! That doesn’t make me a bad person, and that doesn’t make me a label.
  4. There is something very therapeutic about typing what you’re thinking. I sometimes struggle with what to talk about, so I start with what’s in my head. That opens up a whole can of worms, trust me! But planning some spare time each week to be able to sit down, focus and type….it feels like a weight is lifted off my shoulders.
  5. Im proud of who I am today, I’ve struggled to get here! So I want to be able to look back at my bad days and see how I got through them. And where better to put those memories….than all over the internet!
  6. Its so empowering to think someone who you have never met could be reading this right now. I feel a part of a community wanting to change the stigma behind mental health problems, even if only a tiny clog in the system. The world can be a scary place, and not feeling free to talk openly about mental health is creating further and further problems. With suicide rates on the up, let’s learn to talk! Lets learn to support each other!

This is me……Im not scared to admit who I am. So lets get talking…….

Let It Be….

Research has shown that music releases dopamine, the feel good chemical in our brains. I enjoy singing. When i’m feeling low, I find singing and music very therapeutic and a way of releasing my emotions and changing my mindset. It gives me a focus and a means of expressing myself. I know many people who have a love for music, many due to the way certain songs can be so relatable and drown out the intrinsic voices and thoughts. So what else does music offer us?

  • Music can improve your cognitive performance
  • Music can reduce stress, anxiety and depression
  • Music can help people sleep better
  • Music can improve motivation and endurance
  • Music can improve your mood

It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing, or you can’t dance. Put some feel good music on, dance around like no-one is watching and sing at the top of your lungs. Get so lost in music that the reality of life pauses. Many people find one song that explains exactly how they are feeling, which they listen to when they are struggling. Do you have that song?

Singing in groups can help people recover from mental illness, making them feel valued and increasing their confidence, according to research. Now I know singing isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for a new way to release how you are feeling…why not give it a try? Music has been my savour several times when I’ve reached rock bottom. Heres one song I recorded recently to share with you all. Thank you 🙂

Being brutally honest…..

So before I started this blog, I really struggled with knowing how to express myself, especially when I was down. So I started writing my feelings. Now at the moment I’m transferring from depressive to the mania phase within my bipolar disorder so I feel a lot stronger to post this. Not too long ago, I hit rock bottom, I wrote a brief note of my thoughts, and I’m now wanting to share that with you.

“Hello rock bottom….. we meet again!”

“The past few weeks have been hard. Not just difficult but breathtakingly, exhaustingly hard. I spend around 4 hours of my day pretending to be ok and the other 20 hours crying, anxiety ridden, in pain, alone, stressed and debating whether life is for me. Ive had a solid week of rock bottom, and Im not sure I see the mist clearing anytime soon. Some see me as strong, but in reality, I’m a coward. Im a coward for not seeking help. Im a coward for not realising how my behaviour and emotions have an impact on my family and friends. Im a coward for looking for the easy way out. When my bipolar takes me to this place, I usually stay busy, but due to recently health problems, I can’t. Im stuck at home not knowing where to turn, not knowing what to do and not sure how to keep going. I have some of the most amazing people around me, yet I don’t even have the energy to express how I’m feeling to them healthily. I could write a book of all the thoughts and feeling flying through my head, so why can’t I vocalise it to get help?! I spend time googling how many tablets I would need to take for it to be fatal. But it’s just information I don’t need, I do want to live. I need to get out of this battle. I need to escape. I NEED HELP! “

So why am I posting this now? Well now I’m on the up again I think its important to share my moments of despair. I rode out the storm this time, and writing it down really really helped me. It helped me understand how I was feeling and what I needed, which I established myself….I needed help. I am currently on a mission to share others stories regarding their own battles with mental health. Blogging is a format that can be totally anonymous and totally raw and true. I love blogging. I find it expressive, motivating, encouraging, mindful and I love that writing how I feel can make others feel less alone. So here’s my feelings at rock bottom. My unadjusted, completely true and honest reality. Please if anyone would like to share their story with us contact us, either on social media or through emailing us at contactmindovermatterblog@gmail.com. Together we can make a stand against the stigma of mental health, and educate those around us. Be kind.

A Family Story

My nan has always said to me that everyone who knows her past has repeatedly told her to write a book and said to her it would be a best seller! Well I don’t have the patience to write a book, but I do have the ability to write a post. This afternoon I spent some time with my nan delving into her upbringing. I had already heard stories previously but I wanted to learn more about where my family history leads. And I managed to unlock a story that will break many hearts. Here is Barbara’s story and the impact its had on her life so far.

Barbara Mary Cook born 26th July 1931, better known to me as nan. My nan was born into a loving family, living with her mother, father, older brother and soon to be little sister. Her whole world changed with the death of her mother who was only 24 years old at the time, when Barbara was just 2 years old. 6 weeks later, her older brother Cyril tragically died at the age of 5, with some speculation he died of a broken heart after being unable to cope with the loss of their mother. Barbara then spent 6 years living with her father and his new wife. Barbara’s step mother would violently beat her, hitting her round the head with saucepans. She spent those years taking beating after beating from her step mother until sadly her father fell ill. Barbaras father was diagnosed with meningitis. He became so ill that he would end up sadly passing away in hospital at the age of 36, whilst Barbara was just 8 years old. Whilst being taken to hospital, her father tried to fight his way out of the stretcher so he could protect Barbara as he knew what her life would be should she be left with her Step-mother, sadly there was nothing he could do.

The day that Barbara’s father lost his battle with meningitis, she very luckily was taken in by her Aunty and Uncle, of which she had never really knew or met previously. Her step-mother didn’t want her and her other relatives were thankful that she would be out of her abusive world. On arrival at her Aunts house, she was advised to have a bath, which she had never had before. Her Aunty then burnt her clothes and on getting out the tub, Barbara was presented with a load of brand new clothes, again something she had never had as she was used to wear old, ripped, dirty clothes. She knew things would be different now. She was formally adopted by her Aunty and Uncle at the age of 16. She had two brothers who she was very close to. Barbara’s real sister was adopted outside of the family and sadly they lost touch for many years.

Today I asked my nan about her upbringing and what she can remember about how she felt. She expressed that she can remember most of it, and some of the abuse she would never share. She remembers having a very happy life once in the care of her Aunty and Uncle and speaks very highly of them. She remembers the sense of although being lucky and within a happy home, always having the feeling that a piece of her was missing from not having or knowing her real mother. She spoke about how she feels you can never replace your mother but wishes her father would have done more to keep her safe. Nan said that throughout her life she lived with anxiety and stages of depression. She lived with the fear of dying young like most of her family. Im happy to say she stands here today a 88 year old lady with many a story to tell!

So why am I telling you my nan’s story? Well I wanted to gain a better understanding of the way loss of a parent or in this case, both parents at a young age impacts on a persons life. With my nan she said she will always feel the loss of both her parents and her brother at such a young age. That the saddest part for her is not ever knowing her mum, not remembering what she was like, whether she is similar to her or not, and also not knowing the cause of her death. My nan lost contact with her younger sister for many years, but 30 years later they managed to find each other and now are best of friends. From my perspective, my nan is a strong lady, she’s overcome so much and has a massive need to keep her independence, even though she does struggle more now with certain things. She values family a lot and holds her close ones near. I also wanted to share this story because I do think its so important to talk to our family members whilst we can. Learn some family stories, give them an outlet to be able to tell you where they came from. Never take your loved ones for granted. Remember, always be kind. You never know what anyone is going through, or has gone through. Huge thank you to my nan for bravely letting me share her story.

Mental Health And Eating Disorders

So over the past few days I’ve been reaching out to others with the opportunity to share their stories anonymously to give people an insight into mental health from different perspectives and different angles. Ive been very lucky to be contacted by one of our visitors who wanted to share their story. It’s a story that truly should remind us all of the importance of being kind. You have no idea what your words could be doing to someone.

“Don’t wait for the storm to pass, learn to dance in the rain.” I love this quote and its in my opinion the best way to live. I have always struggled with my mental health throughout my life. Growing up, mental health wasn’t something I knew about or that was discussed where I was from. The struggle with my mental health started with my self-esteem because I was bigger girl and I was very conscious about my weight. My close family made comments like “you would be so pretty if you were thin” or “it’s a shame you are fat, you have such a pretty face” I absolutely hated high school, it was during this time that my weight became an issue to me. Constantly getting bullied, from little comments, to having milkshakes thrown over me and being called “piggie”. I became so self conscious from a young age I started wearing Spanx and skin tight shorts to try and cover and suck in my fat. I wouldn’t change my clothes in front of anyone and I started isolating myself from friends and family.

In year 10 I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food. I started making myself sick after I had eaten, it had gotten so bad it was after every meal I had. I didn’t eat food in front of anyone because where it had become such a habit I couldn’t contain my nausea after eating anything. I hated my body so much I started to cut the parts I wish wasn’t there. Due to my focus being on what I looked like and being undiagnosed as dyslexic my grades started to slip.

After high school, I started working 2 jobs and I threw myself into work as much as possible. As a result of not looking after myself, the bulimia had turned to anorexia. I wouldn’t eat for days at a time and I used to track every single calorie intake and replaced food with caffeine. I felt like a burden and an embarrassment to everyone. At this point I didn’t realise I had anxiety and depression and I didn’t know how to ask for help. I had become someone I wasn’t and I didn’t know how to get me back. My eating habits had gotten so bad that when I went and seen family that hadn’t seen me for a while, they didn’t recognise me.

Thankfully I’m now in recovery. I still don’t like the way I look but I have the feeling of disgust regarding what I have done to my body, every time I look at myself. I am so grateful for the people around me now, they have saved me and I honestly think if I didn’t meet the people I have now, I wouldn’t be here today.

When I was sent this, I was speechless. Firstly for the incredible bravery of this person to be happy to share this story with the world, to help others and to make people feel less alone. Secondly, because doesn’t this story just prove how words spoken can never be taken back and they could affect someone’s whole life.

Please be aware there is a national bullying website http://www.nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk It offers advice for those being bullied and for parents if they believe their child might be being bullied.

Please also know there is help and advice out there for those with eating disorders. NHS website and websites like http://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk are among some of the pages with guidance and support for dealing with such disorder.

Don’t forget you can contact the samaritans if you feel you really need to talk to someone or you are suffering with your mental health by calling 116123.

In a world where you can be anything, please…..be kind.