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Vegetarianism | The first month and why I made the change

10 June 2017 | Post A Comment

My whole life I have loved eating meat. I am a huge fan of a roast dinner on a Sunday and steak is my favourite option when eating out. Family meals whilst growing up have always centred around meat and it's been difficult to think of any other way of eating.

But as the years have gone on I have also slowly grown an unease around eating meat. I started to feel really uncomfortable thinking about the obvious double standards our culture lives with. There was national outrage at the possibility of horse meat being found in certain burgers and yet this nation eats 2.6 million cows a year. British society is disgusted by cultures where it is normal to eat guinea pig or dog without even questioning our killing of pigs, sheep and chickens for food. Simply because we have been conditioned into thinking that some animal's lives are more important than others. 

It is not uncommon for a shocking fact to slip into the awareness of a typical meat eater through social media or a campaign on the level of cruelty to animals leading up to slaughter. We hear the reasons people chose not to eat meat and disregard them with opinions that are not researched or based on fact. We have all caught a glimpse of an animal activist film showing the real cruelty of a slaughter house in a way that is almost impossible to ignore. 

But most of us do ignore it. I ignored it. Because eating meat is easier, it's what is expected and it's really tasty. It's easier to pretend that what we are doing is fine than to open our eyes to the truth of our eating habits and make a change that benefits anything other than ourselves. 

I have not eaten meat for over a month now and the thought of eating it again already feels so wrong and immoral. Yes, I would love to taste a steak, but I don't want any part in the cruel treatment and murder of cows. It is so much simpler and easier than I thought. 

To any vegans reading this, I am very aware of the cruelty that is also involved in the production of dairy and eggs and would love to take the step to being vegan, eventually.

For me, giving up meat is a pretty drastic diet and lifestyle change. I struggle with life enough as it is with various mental illnesses and whilst this change is a positive focus it also provides some extra stress, which I find difficult. I am currently finishing meals with a heavy feeling of anxiety that there was meat in the food that I didn't know about and have had anxious dreams about accidentally eating meat. For these reasons I am going to stick with vegetarianism and give myself a little longer to adjust whilst continuing to be more aware about the dairy that I am consuming and continuing to educate myself on the dairy and eggs industries whilst working towards a vegan diet.

3 weeks ago I would have said that the following 2 things were true facts about myself.

1. I love animals
2. I eat meat 

I now realise that these two facts can't possibly exist together. It now seems delusional to me that I ever thought that they could. If you believe these two things to be true about yourself as I did, I understand how uncomfortable it is to begin to consider how your love of animals may be negated by the fact that you chose to eat them.

If you want to find out more about these industries and educate yourself on what is really happening away from the public eye I would recommend this film and this article as a starting point.

Regardless of your current diet and viewpoint on these issues I would love to hear your opinion in the comments

Your Vote Matters | The Election and it's Impact on Mental Health

31 May 2017 | Post A Comment

It shouldn't come as a surprise to you that the way in which the current Conservative government are dealing with the mental health crisis in the uk is simply terrible and individuals are seriously suffering.

Since 2010 mental health funding has been cut and the number of mental health nurses has dramatically fallen. The benefit system means it is almost impossible for those who are too unwell to work to receive any help. People with mental illnesses are dying after being 'assessed' as 'fit for work'. Many GPs don't have efficient training to deal with mental illness. The waiting list for therapy on the NHS can be over a year with no support whilst waiting. 

In this election Theresa May has made a number of promises including a 'shake up' of the mental health policy. Whilst the Conservative manifesto does a good job of highlighting the many problems with how mental health is dealt with in their government it is less convincing in how it plans to address these issues. Their are claims of increases to mental health funding but the real figures show massive cuts to the services throughout England. Last time money was put into mental health by the Conservative party, the funds to the services were cut by more than what was pledged. It doesn't look hopeful.

Currently, the Conservatives have in place 'Work Capability Assessments' that they plan to keep in place if they remain in power. The cruel system is entirely broken. A mental health charity found that 21% of their patients had experienced suicidal thoughts due to the stress of the Work Capability Assessments. 2,380 people died between 2011 and 2014 shortly after an assessment declared them able to work. You can read about my assessment here. It was awful and made my condition even worse. Although they recognised that my mental health will cause me to struggle in a workplace, I was not awarded enough points to qualify for the benefits. My only choice was job seekers allowance despite being too unwell to even search for a job. This is now also being stopped because my boyfriend has chosen to return to work. 

There is no mention to the failings of the benefit system in the Conservative Manifesto towards sufferers of mental illness. Mental illness doesn't care if you are rich or poor but the current government does. Under the Conservatives the road to recovery is a hell of a lot bumpier with less money in the bank.

Theresa May's stance on the issue is clear from her voting history- 'Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits', 'Generally voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability', 'Generally voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits'. 

Thankfully the Labour party not only recognises the cruelty of the Work Capability assessments but presents a plan for an alternative.

"[We will] Scrap the Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic assessment process that provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers."

This could make a massive difference to so many people. 

There is also a real focus on supporting children with mental health issues. They highlight the fact that a shocking 8% of mental health funding goes to services for children and young people despite half of adults with mental health problems presenting symptoms as children. A Labour Government wants to give mental health the same priority as physical health. 

No politician or political party is perfect. But it is clear that change needs to happen.

If the Conservatives stay in power, nothing is going to change. 

If the Conservatives stay in power, people's conditions will continue to suffer and people will continue to die. 

The Labour party offers some hope. 

If you care about your mental health and those that suffer, please, use your vote to make a difference. 

How To Feel Better Than Your Bad Days

6 May 2017 | Post A Comment

This week I have operated on a slightly more functional level than is usual for me.

Depression, Anxiety and other related illnesses aren't always a constant stream of bad days, even if it feels that way. The days when I lie in bed unable to move, eat or talk, are my 'bad days'. This means I can choose to classify the days that don't fall into this 'bad day' category as 'good days'. Going by this distinction, I have been having more good days recently. 

There are some things that make me feel better than those bad days. I thought I would share them here. 

Therapy. I have finally got to the top of the NHS waiting list after having to finish with my private therapist due to costs. It's been quite refreshing working with a new person with different ideas and approaches. It gives me something to think about through the week and it's comforting to know I have some more consistent professional support behind me. 

Meditating. With my new therapist I have to do 45 minutes meditation every day. This intimidated me at first but I am really coming round to understanding the benefits. Once I get a little more comfortable with it I will talk more about how mindfulness meditating works. At the moment it's feeling really positive setting aside 45 minutes of time dedicated to recovery for myself.

Eating healthier. I'm trying to really think more about what I put into my body and if it's going to make me feel better or worse. I'm making an effort to eat food that I enjoy so I am not bored by boiled vegetables or apples.

Having plans. This usually helps, but not always. It might only be a doctor appointment but if it forces me out of bed I am more likely to be in a slightly more positive head space for the rest of the day.

Cleaning. I can't cope when my house is a mess. After a day of thoroughly cleaning, organising and tidying I will always feel a bit better waking up the next morning. 

Listening to podcasts/youtube and reading. If I am feeling detached and can feel my dissociation coming on and catch it early, podcasts and youtube are great for bringing me back to reality before my mind spirals. I also love to get lost in a good book and working through my goodreads challenge is really motivating. 

Trying harder. This isn't to say that everyone with mental illness should just try a bit harder and everything will be better. Sometimes I don't have the mental or physical energy to try any harder than staying in bed looking at a wall and fighting off the urges to hurt myself. But sometimes I am capable of doing a little more. Fighting mental illness is incredibly difficult, and unfortunately feeling a little better requires a hell of a lot of trying. 

What helps you feel better than your bad days? I would love it if you could share in the comments.

Comfort Zones

4 May 2017 | Post A Comment

If you have read my previous post The Top of the Mountain you will know that I recently went on a trip that was way outside of my comfort zone. Everything about it scared me. 

If you suffer with mental health issues in any way or no way, there are things that are outside your comfort zone. Your comfort zone may easily house a multitude of experiences that live way past the boundaries of other's. It might be so small that going to the local shop on your own is way outside it.

You might feel relatively accustomed to stepping outside of your own personal comfort zone and to you, I ask you to take a leap. If you never peek outside of yours, I ask you to take just a step. It will be ok.

Venturing outside comfort zones has this magic ability to stretch the boundaries, allowing you to experience and achieve more and more. If only you persist. The walls won't expand on their own. 

How do you do it? 

Accept the dread and the anxiety. Let it come and allow it to pass in it's own time. Learn not to fear the physical symptoms of anxiety. I think of excitement as the sister to anxiety. Channel the beating heart into feelings of excitement and exhilaration. It's not easy, it's incredibly difficult. But if you begin to really listen, the two emotions aren't too dissimilar. 

Keep a constant stream of positive self talk flowing through your thoughts. 

I can do this. There will come a time when this will be in the past. I am strong. I am brave. Something good will come of this. 

Breathe. Breathe through it all. When things get too much, focus on the breath, with all your being. Just one breath at a time, you'll make it to the other side, where amazing things can happen.