Tag Archives: Mental Health

Learning to be in tune with ourselves…

It’s a challenging one, isn’t it? At least it can be. We have ideas of how we’d like our lives to be, we see images of that ideal we think we should be working toward. And yet…sometimes we really are just muddling through and trying to deal with each daily challenge as it comes to us. Maybe you’ve experienced burn out. And if you have, maybe you’re more conscious of the need for self care and learning to look after yourself and being attentive not only to the needs of others but also to your own, even if this way of thinking takes some getting used to.

But even if you’re someone who never has and maybe fortunately you never will experience burnout as such, you are still faced with that ‘low level’ just beneath the surface feeling that things are running away from you, getting out of order, are not quite right. And in this case I’m not talking about when something major is happening in your life, but when things are mostly fine, ‘normal’, moving along as they should in the ordinary ways of life. 

But maybe you notice that you’re not feeling just ‘quite right’. It’s not that you feel bad, it’s just that you don’t feel so good. Tiredness creeps up, you’re managing the expectations of others, your boss rewards your efforts for a job well done by piling up even more work on your desk because afterall, you’re the one who will do it well and without much fuss. You offered to do a favour for someone in need, but they maybe seem to take it for granted, and while you would normally love to be a ‘cheerful giver’ with the expectations of nothing in return, you notice that you begin to get frustrated, your attitude isn’t quite what it should be, and your energy levels are low. There are demands on your time, you seem to be saying yes to everyone else which means saying no to yourself as you just don’t have the time, energy or emotional capacity to manage everything. 

Most of us just push on through. But if we’re not careful, things begin to build up within us, and we know we’re not quite ok, but we don’t know how to ‘shake off’ those feelings. Sometimes just stopping and acknowledging that we need to check in with ourselves as we would with a friend, or even a child, to make sure they’re ok, is the best place to start even if we don’t actually know ‘what’s wrong’ or how to resolve things. 

Slowing down, learning to tune in to our own hearts and minds, and committing to strengthening and encouraging ourselves before we take on the next commitment that is about to be given to us whether we are ready for it or not, is so important. 

Maybe we don’t know what the next step to feeling more like our best self should be but stopping for a moment to be still awhile, is a good place to start…

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“Why am I single?” …

Do you ever ask yourself, “Why am I single?”. I’m sure it’s not an uncommon question for those of us who are, and I imagine for most single people, it is followed with thoughts such as “What’s wrong with me?” “Am I not good enough?”, and similar feelings of self doubt. 

But what if we were to ask ourselves that question with a positive frame of mind? Ask “Why am I single?” not to explore your self doubt or worry over what you think are your flaws and shortcomings, but to identify and discover and live out your PURPOSE. 

I know it’s not easy, because our thoughts directly impact our emotional wellbeing and can in turn lead to negative physical effects. A negative thought seldom appears alone, and after a string of negative thoughts about ourselves, we might end up feeling sad, lonely, dejected and even depressed. Which is why it is so important that we learn to reframe our thought processes, especially in a society that has limited views of success, that don’t always include celebrating the lives, kindness and accomplishments of single people. 

So, think about it this way. Why are you single? Why are you set apart (not set aside) for this season of your life, and what positive difference does the world and do the people around you need you to make, that only you alone can make?

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Please Help this Night Owl become a Morning Lark (or at least be able to fit in a bit more with society’s ‘timetable’)!

‘Life as it happens to me’ has me at a point where I am attempting to climb a proverbial mountain. I am by nature a ‘night owl’. I love the idea of being a morning person, and the few times I have been able to have a good stretch of time in the morning has been really good. I know that there is research about people’s circadian rhythms that mean some people are more inclined to being either ‘larks’ or ‘owls’, and it’s hard to fight against it. Hard perhaps, but maybe not impossible…I’m sure it has been done. I am also a very creative person, and so it is not easy for me to turn my thoughts and ideas off and have a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to go in the morning. 

The thing is, for me, there are extra dimensions to this ‘problem’. I went through a period of time when I was not able to have a full night’s undisturbed sleep for three years. It was exhausting, frightening and just a horrible time for me.

Additionally, I have anxiety, panic attacks and complex post traumatic stress which means night time can be difficult and if I get to sleep early I might still have nightmares, be unable to settle into a good sleep and wake up at various points during the night. So in the morning, I am not able to get up with my early alarm, and added to that I have the anxiety of getting ready and out the door, and am very rarely on time for things because of these added challenges to my  body and brain. However, I have overcome so many other things in my life and this although I have tried time and time before is on my list. And friends, I need help!

I have read things, watched videos and sought advice on how to overcome this aspect of my life, but it is not something I have ever been able to sustain despite my efforts. Some aspects of healing of my conditions take time, but I am determined to get on top of things but it can get discouraging. 

I need help to keep me accountable, to help me get on track in the first place, then stay on track, and although I’ve probably heard most of it all before, I need advice and helpful tips and tricks. I wish there was a switch that could just make things work, but there isn’t and society has its framework geared towards ‘morning people’. Any help, advice or stories from your own experience if your natural rhythm is more nocturnal would be so welcomed. I share a lot of advice on other life issues, but this is one I have no expertise on, so please help this frustrated little owl! 🙂 Thanks friends. xx

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Celebrating two years…

 

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I received a lovely notification from WordPress today, wishing me a ‘Happy Anniversary’: it’s my 2 year WordPress blog-anniversary, and I’m delighted to be able to share it with you. I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all for being part of my journey over the past two years, or for however long you have been following along, even if you have only just joined me. I appreciate each and every one of you, for after all the art of blogging is as much in the reading as it is in the writing, and you all make it worthwhile.
It may be a modest achievement to have reached this stage, but I also want to encourage each and every one of you to recognise your own achievements without comparison to those seemingly ‘greater’ achievements of those around you.
For me blogging is not about numbers of ‘likes’ or followers, although it gives me a boost each time I see your lovely comments and contributions. It is about making a difference and putting something of worth back into the world so that I might help or encourage even one person, because each of you are so valuable in and of yourselves. For me, in a sense, my humble blog is quite an accomplishment, because I started it at a time when I was struggling massively with my health and in particular complex-PTSD, depression and anxiety…I wrote and threw myself into creative pursuits, partly because creativity is essential to who I am, but also as a way to help conquer my health battles.
Blogging has also given me a creative outlet and has provided me with insights into some of your wonderful worlds. Isn’t it amazing to be able to catch a glimpse of real lives unfolding in other parts of the world in a variety of cultures, and yet lives that share the same deep and common thread of humanity? Thank you.
As I have continued on this journey, I feel I have found not only an outlet for myself, but the gift of being able to form connections and deepen my understanding of myself in this world, to use my painful experiences hopefully to help someone else and in doing so to feel more purposeful through life, to share with you the joys, and simple wonders of life as it happens to be, and of course, to express my Gratitude and to share my faith.
So, ‘don’t despise the day of small beginnings’ if you are starting something new, or if something you are putting your heart into seems to be taking time. Things will blossom in their time.
For now, thank you dear readers / blogging friends, and thank you WordPress for the many doors you open to make life online a little more wonderful. xx

Coming your way soon…

Hello dear readers,

I have been encouraged lately to see some new names join me, and many of my existing blog companions like and comment on my posts, in this, my little humble blog. The reason this means a lot to me is because the nature of my most recent posts have been in relation to mental health, and the struggles many of us face. It is so encouraging to me to know that in someway, writing about my experiences means that the things I have suffered may help someone among you feel less alone, be encouraged, or inspired to take the next step in your recovery or to help with that of a loved one. Years ago I knew I wanted to use my experiences to help others, but it is a long and ongoing journey and I had to fight through the tough times to find my own strength. So just know that each and every one of you is so valued here, and I appreciate you taking the time to read my posts. 

That being said, it is important for me to take note of the fact that although like I said, this is just a small blog with a modest following, there has been more interest lately in my posts on mental health (I blog about many other topics as you will see if you visit my home page and see the tabs listed). It says to me that there are probably many amongst us looking for encouragement or even to compare experiences against. Although we can’t see each other, know that this can be a safe place for you to come, find encouragement and maybe even link with others in similar situations, and know that anyone commenting is prayed for as I do believe in your healing journey and that things can change for the better for you. 

So, thank you. And know that I have taken notice of this interest, and am currently working on my next blog post focusing on anxiety in the workplace and what you can do about it. I’m still writing it, but it’s coming soon. If there are any particular topics you’d like me to explore further then let me know in the comments and I will look into it. 

Take care, stay strong, you’re not alone, and you have a warm and supportive community of friends here. xx

 

 

 

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Trauma is not linear, but you are making progress…

I want to encourage those of you who have been trying so hard, but are struggling to ‘make progress’ in your recovery from trauma. Trauma is a complex issue, and although I am not a medical professional, I am a sufferer and survivor, and working on being a victor of severe complex post traumatic stress….or C-PTSD, but I personally don’t find the ‘D’ for ‘disorder’ a particularly helpful term. 

Trauma can be the result of a one off event, or it could be caused by cumulative traumas and stresses which result in ‘complex’ trauma. No matter how seemingly ‘big’ or ‘small’ the trauma seems to someone on the outside, the impact is how it affects you individually and how it triggers your threat responses of fight / flight / freeze, and the anxiety, panic, fear and heightened emotions that result. When you are overpowered, shocked or in danger this can have a significant impact on your nervous system, and particularly when trauma occurs in childhood, especially if it is repeated and severe, the effects can be devastating and last well into adult life. What might not affect one person could have a huge impact on another, so it is not our place to judge whether someone should be ‘better’ yet. 

However, often the biggest judgements come from ourselves. We feel that we have been trying *so* hard for *so* long that we surely *ought* to be better by now. Can you relate to this frustration and self blame?

The thing is, it is not so simple a situation of cause and effect that if one does A + B + C then after X amount of time, one will be ‘fixed’ or at least able to function on a ‘normal’ level. It just doesn’t work that way. Traumatic experiences cause our brains, nervous systems, emotions and bodies to react in a self protective way. Sometimes, especially in childhood, we ‘dissociate’ to block out and try to manage the pain, we’re ‘not really there’, but as we grow into adulthood, this survival mechanism becomes a maladaptive coping mechanism when we find it encroaching into daily life. Whether your trauma was a natural disaster, bereavement, childhood bullying, abuse, or a car accident, or ……you fill in the blanks….or a cumulative result of various stressors, your brain simply did not have the chance to process what happened, and so parts of you may remain ‘stuck’ in the trauma. I was in this situation for several years, and only recently have felt like I have been coming out of it and able to use my overwhelming experiences to help other people, rather than merely try to hold on and get through life somehow. 

If you are in a place of feeling like the same cycle keeps repeating itself, the same flashbacks, memories, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia, fear, agoraphobia, dizziness, dissociation, suicidal ideation (sometimes the brain’s way of trying to escape a situation we can’t cope with – there is always help, suicide is never the answer) feeling trapped between past and present, as if living in a waking nightmare where you are not in control of what seems to be ‘exploding’ in your mind, no matter how much work you put in, then please, please be gentle with yourself. 

There is no set or objective time limit on recovery. The tangle within you may seem to be going nowhere and you may just keep feeling ‘stuck’….that is because your experiences remain unprocessed, and that is ok, it is normal, and it is not your fault….if only I had someone to tell me that earlier then I would have been saved from a lot of distress and self blame as to why I couldn’t simply ‘leave the past behind’ and get better already. The trauma gets ‘stored’ as it were not only in our brains but our bodies and nervous systems too.

So what should you do? I would encourage you that if you feel you are going through something like PTSD or trauma of any sort and can’t integrate past and present memories and experiences such that they are significantly interfering with your ability to cope with every day life, to get help as soon as possible….and know that it is never too late. I didn’t get help for trauma and was undiagnosed for over two decades, but I am making good progress now, even though the process was frightening and very tough….there is hope my friend. 

Please don’t feel like you have to ‘tough it out’ on your own….it just doesn’t work that way….it isn’t a case of not being strong enough….I thought I should just be able to persevere through it, but my system was falling apart and I was pretty much malfunctioning and in constant heightened distress….that’s no way to live my friend, and if I can help someone to not have to go through what I did then I am blessed in that. 

Please ask for help from a medical professional, and tell your friends what you are going through. Even if you’re not sure if you are traumatised, at least ask for an assessment, check up or diagnosis….there are plenty of treatments available out there. You need to feel safe and calm, so if you are not in danger then you can try working on various coping techniques. If you are in danger, please contact someone for emergency help whether that is the Police or a support service or call a helpline. 

If you are physically safe, then here are some things you can think about doing.

  1. Let someone or a few people you know and trust know what you are going through, and how serious you feel it is. Don’t worry about whether or not they will understand, they may not, but please reach out for help, and if you don’t have anyone, or don’t feel confident to tell someone you know then reach out whether that be to an organisation, a helpline or a professional.
  2. Seek professional and medical help. This is so important because really we can’t   cope with this on our own. This may be a huge step for you as it was for me, but please know that this is totally normal just as if you had a broken leg you wouldn’t hesitate to get help, please don’t see this as any different. It can help to have someone there for support so if you have a friend or family member who can be there with you don’t feel like you have to go it alone.

3.      Write it down. It can be so difficult to try to articulate what we are experiencing, and writing things down can help on many levels from being able to communicate to others the level of distress we are going through, and what the specific symptoms are, to being able to offload and try to begin to process things for ourselves. Your notebooks like mine may be splattered with tears, but it could just be that important part of the healing process in telling your story rather than keeping all that pain buried which will just keep resurfacing or manifesting itself in some way or another.

4. Create a self-care ‘toolbox’. That is to say, be aware of what makes you feel better in a healthy way, and prepare in advance to have something at hand for when you are not doing ok.

-It could be practicing breathing exercises to calm your nervous system and reduce the ‘fight / flight / freeze’ reaction,

-having positive affirmations  to encourage yourself throughout the day,

-exercising when you can and getting fresh air and eating healthily,

-having a list of emergency contact numbers ready so that when things are overwhelming and you just don’t know what to do you already have something prepared and ready. Have a few key ‘go to’ people, people who know your situation and are available when you are feeling distressed to talk on the phone or visit you if you feel in harm or danger. If you don’t feel you have anyone, note down some helplines on your emergency contact list.

-Have something comforting and tactile, whether it be a blanket, or a smooth stone or object in your hand to help keep you ‘grounded’ and present.

-Make a list of healthy distractions for those tough times when your thoughts get the better of you whether that be some safe and happy comedy programmes that won’t ‘trigger’ you, some craft or creative thing to do with your hands that will take your concentration away from your intrusive thoughts, a sweet you can keep in your mouth and concentrate on the texture and taste.

-Work on your 5 senses and noticing things around you to bring you into the present.

-Have a routine as much as possible and write down even the simplest things you need to do to keep your mind focussed even if it is as simple as eat something, brush teeth, etc. Sometimes our brains need that extra little prompt.

-Think of healthy wholesome things that make you feel good, so that you can build up those positive neural connections, and be aware of your triggers that lead to a slippery slope of rumination, negative thinking and heightened distress. Have something calming to listen to whether that be classical or instrumental music, nature sounds such as waves or birdsong, or whatever you find helpful…remember to keep it calm, and preferably without too much talking or lyrics so that your mind can relax.

-Practice muscle relaxation by clenching and gradually releasing one part of your body at a time, from your feet working up to your head, noticing your sensations as you do.

5. Be kind and gentle with yourself. While you are working through things, or awaiting professional help, or working with a professional trauma specialist things can and likely will get tough. This is why you need to exercise self-compassion and create a positive narrative and framework for how you see yourself and your experiences. Use your imagination, explore and create…it can be tough, but it also can be overcome. Things I did to try to make sense of overwhelming experiences were to think of what I would tell a young child going through what I did, what if it was another adult experiencing trauma what would I tell them, or a friend or loved one….show yourself no less compassion and be kind. I also imagined how I might feel towards a puppy that had been hurt or was in distress and looking broken and bruised and not very ‘loveable’ – how would I treat it to help it to gradually see how special it is, and to encourage it to get well and accept love and care – find your helpful ways of thinking of your situation and yourself so that you don’t have to also contend with those self-condemning thoughts that something is ‘wrong’ with you somehow to be going through all of this.

And lastly, know that you are not alone…you are never alone….even if it has felt that way for a very long time. There are stories of inspirational people who have gone through incredibly difficult things and are now doing well and even helping others….don’t feel like you’re not ok if you haven’t got there yet, but be inspired that it is possible, the human spirit can endure great hardships and overcome much and find meaning and purpose. This is not the end of your story or mine…in many ways it is just beginning so stay strong, reach out for help, and keep taking that next step….like athletes we need to stay in training and that includes our minds as well. xx

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Mental Health Awareness Week 13th – 19th May 2019

This week in the United Kingdom is Mental Health Awareness Week. Although this particular Awareness Week for 2019 ends tomorrow, the need to be aware of mental health is so important each and every day for a myriad of reasons, personally and societally. 

Mental Health affects everybody, just as physical health does. And we each find ourselves somewhere on the scale between mental wellness and mental illness just as our bodies at different points in our lives can be well or ill. Similarly, we may each be prone to various physical or mental conditions that affect our health and wellbeing. 

Somehow though it has become easier and more acceptable to talk about an injured limb, organ or other physical condition than to talk about an injured mind or brain. Thankfully, the societal and personal stigmas surrounding mental wellbeing and mental illness are gradually being addressed and it seems that we are slowly beginning to accept that these things aren’t shameful, just as it isn’t shameful to have broken one’s arm, and that it is incredibly important to dissolve unnecessary stigmas and talk and raise awareness about such a vital part of human life. We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. On a personal note, I had to confront my own stigmas and challenge those of people close to me and listen to the advice of those friends who saw me at a particularly low point and told me that I needed to get help. Years of childhood and adult stress, a chronic situation that our bodies and brains aren’t supposed to be under, resulted in me experiencing full blown symptoms of complex post traumatic stress, severe clinical depression and severe generalised anxiety disorder. I didn’t, however know or understand what was happening to me, and it was very, very frightening. I blamed myself and felt ‘responsible’ for my mind, without realising that these kind of injuries can’t simply be ‘thought better’ and were not one being ‘weak minded’ as for me anyway, they were a result of my body and brain’s ‘default’ being to exist in fight / flight mode, imbalances in chemical regulation physiologically including with the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and the chemical sertraline. I have two first class degrees, and additional awards, and hold down a full time professional job within an organisation that focuses on helping the society and community and individuals facing difficulties on many levels, so having worked so hard to overcome the damage that a severe period of bullying in childhood and adult stress had done to me, and working in a profession that helped ‘really’ traumatised people with actual severe life situations, I felt and thought that I ‘ought to be’ able to function normally. And yet, the reactions my body, brain and mind were experiencing were in fact very normal reactions to difficult life events…and I had in fact done so well to have come so very far, and still be helping society on some level, even while I was experiencing frightening flash backs, severe low mood, fear, anxiety, chronic pain, intrusive thoughts, disorientation, dizziness, dissociation, insomnia, nightmares and severe depression. I had to fight hard to do simple things like even wash a cup or make a meal or walk across the room. I felt like my brain was exploding and there was no off switch or mute button or way to turn it down to get relief. So out of absolute helplessness and necessity for my survival I reached out and went to the doctor (something I was frightened to do, and something I was also advised against in case it affected my career – it didn’t – in fact I have since been very supported at work), and with the encouragement of some friends I finally took that brave step a few years ago and I am so glad that I did. Despite waiting lists, the help from the NHS I have been given both in terms of medicine and psychological support has been incredibly beneficial. Don’t get me wrong, there was no ‘quick fix’ – it has taken several years of commitment, showing up, doing the hard work to be in a place where I can manage my symptoms rather than them ruining my life. And I realise that I have a ‘toolkit’ to be able to get stronger and stronger and help other people too, so this blog post is a real victory, and I thank God for that. 

I want to encourage you if you yourself are struggling….with anything…or know a friend, family member or colleague who you think might be struggling with their mental wellbeing to be brave and take that first step to reach out. I do believe you will be listened to and supported. I know it can be daunting, but there are so many resources out there, and there are professionals who understand what is happening to you even if they don’t necessarily know or understand your individual life experiences, and it could just change or save your or somebody else’s life. 

I don’t know what the best resources are in other countries, but in the UK, here are some very helpful, caring, professional sources that you can reach out to – even if you don’t have any issues as such but just want to learn more whether that be to grow in awareness of mental health issues, or to gain understanding of someone you know, then these are a great place to start.

Please do leave a comment if there are any particular things you’d like to raise awareness of as I would like to write more about mental health and learn from you too as this is so important and might be just what somebody out there needs to hear.

I’ve also linked to a YouTube channel of a licensed mental health professional who is very relatable, so that’s something anyone can access which is good if you’re based in another country.

Love to you all and thanks for reading, and for being you. Never be afraid to reach out and ask for help – that’s what it’s there for, and everyone is important and valuable. Also, if you know of any helpful resources in your country leave a comment in case someone else is looking for help where you are. Thanks. xx

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/

MIND: https://www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/mental-health-awareness-week-2019/

Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org/scotland/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/

Breathing Space: https://breathingspace.scot/

The Blurt Foundation: https://www.blurtitout.org/

YouTube Kati Morton Licensed Therapist: https://www.youtube.com/user/KatiMorton

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