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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

So, what's been happening with me?

So, this may or may not be a pitfall.


When I've had blogs on projects in the past, the minute I put up a "sorry it's been a while!!!!111" post, the downfall begins and I end up posting less and less until I give up on the whole endeavour. That's part of the reason why I decided to put out my last blog (which I'm quite proud of and would recommend you read) before this one. I wanted to show you that I'm going to post more content first, before I talk about my absence.


Blog

The New Year

My friends and I have a ritual, we practice it every New Year's Eve whether we're alone or together at midnight, and use it as a way of coming into the newest year without any negativity. We each take a piece of paper and write something on it, something that we don't want interfering with or poisoning our experiences in the new year. It can be a person's name, a physical thing like Junk Food or a metaphysical thing like Heartbreak. It can even be an essay, listing all the negative emotions and experiences you've had. Then, once midnight hits, we take these bits of paper outside and burn them! It's surprisingly cathartic, writing down everything that has just made you miserable about the year past and taking that time to reflect on how you're going to eliminate those things or change them for the better.

FIRE!!!

Writing

The burning tradition is a form of meditation actually, in the same way that journaling or list-writing is. The writing process is a period of reflection, of observing the flow of your thoughts and gleaning information that is unavailable to you in the regular, frantic nature of everyday life. Perspective, insight, and the ability to create solutions. The burning process is like opening your eyes after a meditation, or like taking one last deep breath in, and out. It's a cadence, a final release of negativity. There are so many activities like this, things that we would never consider meditation, and I wrote a piece all about this for the lovely people at Everyday Mindfulness recently. I talk about my first experiences with meditation, and about how letting go of my rigid notions of what meditation must be like made it so much more fulfilling. I'm pretty proud of that too (it's nice being proud of quite a bit of my writing for a change!) so if you would like to have a read of that it's here!


I just recently updated my blog for fiction writing a.k.a The Ink Blot. I've figured out that it's more than anything a place for me to store all my short-form pieces. Poems, songs, short stories, even collections of phrases and sentences I think are beautiful and worth noting down. If you enjoy little bits of fiction here and there, give it a once over!


Changing winds


Major Changes



A lot of things have changed for me over the Christmas/New Year period. The biggest change is that I'm now working full time, and it's...tiring. Obviously. I'm actually writing a lot of this blog from work (but you didn't hear it from me!!) as a bit of a self-care tactic. I enjoy this, work stresses me out, so in taking a bit of time to work on AAM (the full initialism for this blog would be would be TIWAAMLL, and I think that's ugly so I'm shortening it) I'm relieving stress while also being productive!



Another big change is that I'm being a little more social, a little braver in my choices. I've recently joined a group of really wonderful people that share a lot of my views. We're all about sex positivity, body positivity, love, conflict resolution, mutual support, and broadening our personal horizons by interacting with each other. It's like a giant, online hug-fest. It's had quite the effect on my personal confidence and my self-esteem and I'm eternally grateful to all the members. It's even inspiring me to  be more social and meet new people in real life too! Going to events, being the person to say hello and introduce myself, all because I'm that little bit more confident.


It's a great feeling, meeting and seeking out people you engage with (online or physically, whichever setting is most comfortable to you) so I'd encourage you all to try. Not even necessarily to seek it out, because that is often daunting, but to let yourself be open to it if the opportunity arises.


This is far too long, and I have way more stuff to talk about so I'm going to split the rest of this little self-indulgent update into topics I can riff on, keeping our whole mental health focus at the forefront.

The next post is all about list writing, and how it's basically saving my life. Watch my social media for the next update!


Twitter and Instagram: @JaxxOLantern


Tumblr: fullthroatedease.tumblr.com

Friday, 15 January 2016

The Responsibilities of Being Mentally Ill



  • This blog post is not going to be about blaming you for your depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, or any mental illness you may be struggling with. 

  • This post is not telling you to "suck it up" or "get over it" because that is useless and unhelpful advice.

  • This post is not here to minimise your struggle or make you feel weak because of something you did not choose to have.

  • In fact, this post is about allowing you to take some control back over your life and to empower you, not tear you down.






I want to talk about some of the responsibilities we have as people when we have these disorders, and the importance of not allowing ourselves to be swallowed by them. I do not ever want to have my anxiety define who I am, and there are very basic steps I can take to make sure that isn't the case.


Self-Awareness

Depression makes me selfish. It makes me selfish, irritable, lazy, frustrating for others to engage with, impenetrable, makes me refuse to see things from another perspective, makes you feel as though you're drowning and there's no way to come up for air. Anxiety makes me irritable and liable to shut down so commuicating with me is difficult, it makes me over-sensitive and easily flustered, and a generally frantic.

I know that these things are the fault of my disorder, and that is a good thing, but what is even better is being aware of how these things can affect the people around me. Better still is knowing that these aren't things I can just let happen "because depression."

It's a cause, not an excuse.

Some days you won't be able to get out of bed. Sure. However, that doesn't excuse you resposibility for missing work without calling in, for flaking out when someone is depending on you, or for refusing to go to classes. Some days you will panic and make a mistake that makes someone mad at you. It's only natural, but being anxious doesn't absolve you of responsibility. Maybe if something specific about the situation triggered a moment of panic that ca be assessed and changed for next time, but the mistake remains made, and still needs to be resolved.

You can blame the disorder as much as you like, and really it's good that you're aware it exists and it's a problem, but you also have to accept that the problems that come with it are yours to solve which includes getting treatment for your disorder. If things in your life are being seriously affected by your mental illness, and you have ways and means to treat that mental illness, it would not be unfair to call you irresponsible. Allowing yourself and others to be hurt by something you have the power to change is, in my humble opinion, irresponsible.


Activity:

Reflect on moments in recent weeks or months in which you've responded to a tough situation with anger, avoidance, fatalism, anxious predictions, or another negative response. Put that side by side with what you think is the ultimate correct response. Ask yourself: how do I get to that place. Write it down rather than just thinking so it doesn't get stuck in your head and turn into pressure.

Loving and being loved

It's also very important to be aware of the way you may treat people because of your disorder. From the most common example of blowing up at someone in a moment of being overwhelmed, to wilfully taking advantage of people's kindness, making people feel low along with you, or generally being cruel and unthinking. Like I said earlier, depression makes me selfish, but I still need to apologise for hurting or taking advantage of the people around me if and when I do, because I don't want to be a cause of suffering for the people I love.

When you're dealing with something as stressful and world-changing as a mental illness one of the most important things you can have to help you cope and heal is a strong support system. However, these are all people who also have to look after their metal health and personal wellness. If you allow yourself to become a source of conflict, pain, or a drain on energy people will have trouble continuing to support you, will have trouble wanting to be around you, unless you are actively trying to improve or manage your condition.
What I'm saying is, depression can very easily lead to you treating people badly. You always have a choice though, and so your negative behaviour is not suddenly excused. Being able to apologise when you know you've done something wrong is a wonderful trait, and even better still is being able to ask for perspective and clarity when you aren't sure what was done wrong. Remember, however, in each situation to behave with tact and to know that the feelings of your loved ones are just as valid as yours.


Activity:

I strongly recommend the Befriending Meditation from Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Have a read of the blog post I did during that week (here) and give this exercise in extending compassion to those around you a go. I'm particularly fond of the mantra it uses:

May I be free from suffering
May I be as happy and healthy as it is possible for me to be
May I have ease of being

Self-care, self-care, self-care!

Again, we have to hold mental illness at a parity of esteem with physical illness. If you have an illness that you refuse to treat and refuse to acknowledge, and force other people to deal with the repercussions when treatment options are readily available...that is irresponsible behaviour.

It is your job to look out for yourself! Take breaks when you need it, don't overwork yourself, and do things that make you happy in your free time! You might see it as un productive, as I often do, or take your need for rest as some sign of weakness. However, think of it this way:





You don't stop. You work or study tirelessly day in and day out, at your peak of productivity. As this progresses, stress also builds as a product of and counterweight to your productivity. As stress builds, the scale tips in favour of it and works against your productivity. It slows your ability to work until, affects your performance so you end up having to spend even more time fixing mistakes, or have colleagues become frustrated with you.


Not only that, but the stress building up begins to affect your moods, you notice that your compulsive habits are becoming more frequent and pronounced, for example. Maybe you start to dissociate or space out more often, become easily, prone to tears, or quick to shut down emotionally. You find yourself being nasty to people or taking things far more personally, perhaps


Further than that is the potential for a severe panic attack or breakdown and the risk of being unable to work at all.








Before any of these things can happen, it is an important and responsible action to assess your workload vs. your mental state. This does not mean excusing yourself from working full stop, or allowing you to skive off duties you aren't fond of, this just means being realistic about your ability to perform a task, and knowing what help you may need (if any) in order to complete it. Taking breaks, doing things you love, and treating yourself with kindness are ways of keeping the balance of stress and productivity in check. This results, ultimately, in a more positive version of you with a better perspective and sharper mental tools with which to work.

Activity:

What makes you happy? What things in your life relieve stress and make you more able to get up in the morning. Play around with your schedule and see if you can fit more of those things in. Set dates so you have wonderful things to look forward to. I personally have incorporated a few things that just make me happy into my daily routine, which I will talk more about in a future post.








I want to reiterate before I go that this blog post is not about shaming. It's not about telling you that your emotions aren't valid, because they are, but asking you to reflect on those emotions and grow from them. One of the scariest things about struggling with mental health is this fear that everything around you is constantly slipping through your fingers, like you have a lack of control on one of the most fundamental parts of yourself (i.e.: your mind.). Exercises in self-reflection and accepting responsibility are a way of regaining some of that control.









Friday, 1 January 2016

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES!





This post on my blog will be regularly updated as I read more, find more and learn more about mental health. I would also ask those of you who read my page and see something I may have missed, to comment below any resources that someone may find helpful. Not just on anxiety too, on any and every mental health issue you can think of.


BOOKS

  • "Anxiety: A very short introduction" by Daniel Freeman & Jason Freeman
  • "Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World" by Dr. Danny Penman (his blog here)
  • "Mindfulness on the go: Peace in Your Pocket" by Padraig O'Moran
  • "My Age of Anxiety" by Scott Stossel
  • "Sane New World" by Ruby Wax
  • "Mindfulness Made Easy" by Martha Langley
  • Also, visit your local library for way more books than this, as well as information about mental health services local to you! (Says the Library Assistant)


WEBSITES

YOUTUBE VIDEOS/CHANNELS

I have a playlist below! What else should I add?






PODCASTS

HASHTAGS

  • #HighFiveForAnxiety
  • #IAmStigmaFree
  • #MentalHealthAwareness
  • #WSPD15
  • #NSPW15
  • #MHAW16

APPS



EMERGENCY NUMBERS

  • 111 - NHS emergency but non-life threatening number
  • 08457 90 90 90 - The Samaritans 24 hour helpline
  • 0800 1111/0808 800 5000 - NSPCC child/adult lines 24 hour
  • 0808 808 8000 - Lifeline
  • 0300 304 7000 - SANE Line 6pm - 11pm
  • 999 - UK emergency services number