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Hello Again

29 December 2016 | Post A Comment


For a while I have been avoiding writing on here because I know anything I am going to say will be depressing. And to write anything else would be untruthful. But the longer I go without writing, the harder it is to start again, the words won't come. 

I’ve started drinking again. Now on a triple gin and tonic the words are flowing. 

I hope you have had a good Christmas. I hope you were able to enjoy some quality time with family and had lots of time to relax. I hope it wasn't too stressful and you were touched positively in some way by the season. 

Depression has created a dense fog between myself and the festive cheer and so I've just sat back and allowed it to pass by. Christmas has at least served as a kind of distraction. It breaks up the monotony of a life controlled by this horrible illness

Since coming off my medication I have found I cannot cope. Depression has fiercely returned with a massive punch in the face. I can feel it’s constant hold on me, it’s dragging me down deep.

The most difficult part of my day is getting out of bed, and I haven’t normally even been managing that. I spend my days waiting for them to be over and then I do it all again. I just want it to end. 

Since being off medication I can feel everything. At first I thought it was great but unfortunately now it’s just despair, frustration and sadness that I feel more than anything. It overpowers everything else. My head shouts and my body shakes and all I want to do is scream it all away. I hate it all. 


Alcohol helps. It numbs the terror. And it gives me hope. I can no longer comprehend why I would choose to struggle without it when it so reliantly lifts me out of my dark place.

Things You Can Do If You Want To Hurt Yourself

19 December 2016 | Post A Comment

At it's core, All Things Beautiful is not intended as a support system. But I am aware that some people may use it that way. This makes me feel some level of responsibility and pressure. (I spoke in more detail about my aims for my blog in this post.) 

A couple of days ago I published this post about scars. It was a difficult topic to write about. I wanted it to be brutally honest yet aware of the sensitivity of the topic and how it could be interpreted by others, particularly the vulnerable. Although I don't hate my scars, of course I wish I never felt the need to cause them in the first place. I don't in any way want to put a positive spin on hurting yourself. 

If you are struggling at the moment and feel the urge to cause yourself harm in anyway, these are some things that may help. I think it's really important to try and work out why you want to hurt yourself in this moment. 

Do you want to feel something real or crave feeling? Try to focus your breathing or follow a meditation video. You could also squeeze hard on an ice cube or have a freezing cold shower or bath. 

Are you angry or frustrated? Rip paper, punch pillows, smash ice cubes, scream if you need to. Run as fast as you can. Write words on your skin. 

If you feel very sad. Listen to sad music. Cry really hard. Talk to someone about how you feel. Accept the sadness and cry yourself to sleep, you will feel some relief when you wake up. 

I know this can sound too simplistic. If you simply have an overwhelming urge to hurt yourself, just try any of these things, it might really help. Remember this feeling is temporary. Whether you act on it or not, the urge will at some point lift. You can do this. 

Christmas and Mental Illness

17 December 2016 | Post A Comment

To most people, Christmas is a time of happiness where you can enjoy socialising with friends and family and eating lots of delicious food. But for those with mental health issues, Christmas can be one of the most difficult times of the year, full of dread and anxiety. 

I remember the Christmas when my depression was at it's worst. I remember the intense ache in my face from forcing myself to smile for too long. I remember the sickness of trying to eat Christmas dinner but not quite managing it and my uniform falling off me when I went back to school. I remember how my internal pain felt intensified by the happiness of everyone around me. 

Even when things aren't quite as bad, Christmas still has a way of magnifying emotions, negative or positive. Big social gatherings trigger anxiety, huge spreads of food can be terrifying for sufferers of eating disorders and the extra pressure to be having a good time makes it easy to slip into the depths of low mood and depression. 

When the hectic atmosphere that surrounds Christmas gets too much, mental struggles can feel frighteningly exaggerated and then comes the guilt. We desperately want to enjoy the festive period as much as everyone else but our mental barriers make us feel isolated and it's difficult to get past them. We feel guilty that we can't be completely present in the enjoyment of friends and family and we feel like we've ruined what could possibly have been a good time for ourselves too. 

If you are dreading Christmas because of mental health issues there are some things you can do to make it easier. I'd recommend talking to the person you feel closest to and explaining what you will find most difficult and how certain activities could be altered to make you feel more comfortable. Plan ahead of time so you feel more in control of what's happening. Lower your expectations and try to make others aware of what they can expect of you, be that leaving early from a party or missing out on a few things. Use the Christmas period to actively challenge your mental illness. Push yourself a little without going too far and try to gently extend the boundaries that your illness allows. You can also use this time to heal and relax with the people you love most. Do your best to help them understand. 

Christmas is a difficult time for lots of people for a variety of different reasons. If Christmas is full of joy and excitement for you, that's really great but be aware that this isn't the same for everyone. Make an effort this Christmas to be more open minded and sensitive to other's needs. Be kinder than is necessary, it can make the world of a difference. 

My Relationship with Scars

15 December 2016 | Post A Comment

With mental illness doubt is often a dominating emotion. You doubt yourself, your worth and your feelings, you doubt what others think of you and you doubt the experiences you have been through. 

A couple of years ago I was left with bad bruises on the inside of my arms and the backs of my hands from blood tests after my traumatic experience in hospital (you can read about it here). They were my only visable physical reminders of what I had been through. To me, these bruises validated my trauma. I was in a bad place and my unwell mind took various stages to process what had happened. When the bruises faded I was devastated, my personal validation had gone. 

When I was younger I was very aware that adults seemed to be obsessed with the scars that I left on my body. Therapists constantly reminded about how the scars would make me feel when I was older. My mum made me apply bio oil regularly to encourage them to disappear. I thought everyone wanted to remove my only evidence of the pain I was going through. Teachers wrote reports about how they were worried about me because of the cuts and scars on my hands.

I felt like they all missed the point. Mental illness is so isolating and invisible. If I could display on the outside how I felt on the inside, I would, and it would look like viscous scars. 

My body is littered with evidence of self hatred, anxiety and despair. I can look at each scar and remember clearly the moment it was inflicted. They remind me of what I have been through and what I have survived. 

Sometimes a particular scar will catch my eye and the memory associated with it will come flooding back. Sometimes I look at the oldest, most faded scars that only I can see and feel sadness remembering the emotions that drove that young girl to cause herself harm. Although I don't necessarily agree, I am now able to understand what the adults in my life were trying to say. The scars tie me to that sadness and distress and the permanence can sometimes be upsetting. But I am not ashamed or embarrassed. 

We all started life with nearly an almost blank canvas. Scars are proof that we have lived. The scar on your right foot when you fell off your bike, the chicken pox scar on your back that you can only see in a mirror and the acne scars on your face from a hormone fuelled adolescence. 

Scars are the story of a life lived, on the body that lived it. And I think that's beautiful.

Phobias

10 December 2016 | Post A Comment

The way phobias are presented in media and society really pisses me off. On I’m A Celeb, every ‘celebrity’ is asked what their phobias are and most of them respond with a list. I can not possibly imagine what it must be like to have multiple, true phobias. One is more than enough for me. 

I have had a phobia of swans for as long as I can remember. It was definitely a true phobia for at least 10 years and now I would say it is probably borderline after lots of therapy. 

For most of my life I have avoided going near bodies of water where swans might be. I have countless stories of how I have run away screaming from various situations involving swans.

You probably don’t think swans are all that common but once you have developed a deep fear for something, you will notice that thing everywhere.

It wasn’t just real swans in person that terrified me. Swans on television, photos of swans, models of swans, mentioning swans could all bring on extreme panic attacks. There were times I couldn't watch television with anyone other than my family for fear a swan would come on and I would start hyperventilating. I had a list of films and tv programs that I could not watch (The Notebook, Hot Fuzz, You’ve Been Framed, nature programs, anything involving canals or lakes) and places I couldn’t go. My high school had to take down all artwork of swans off the walls after one time I didn’t quite manage to keep it together and ended up a screaming hyperventilating mess on ‘swan corridor’.  

It was just another thing that ruined my life that felt like I had no control over. 

I tried to learn everything I could about swans. I thought this would give me the superior edge over them. Did you know a swan will mate for life? You might think this is quite nice but it’s only an evil plan to maximise it’s potential offspring. Swans can fly as fast as 60 miles an hour and if you ask me that’s just way too fast. If you have a phobia of something, every aspect of that thing is terrifying. The fear of the thing overpowers everything else and defies all reasoning. It is completely irrational and extreme. It is not a simple fear. 

Therapy was exhausting. I had to start by reading books about swans until my anxiety calmed to a manageable level. I then worked up to sitting in a car in a car park near a lake. Weeks later I stood within eye sight of the swans until the panic peaked and then faded. Through this exposure therapy I am so much better than I was. Phobias are relatively simple to treat compared to other mental illnesses but that doesn't mean it's easy. It's terrifyingly difficult. 

Please, stop saying you have a phobia if you don't. It leaves us truly terrified phobics feeling even more isolated in our irrationality than we already do.

Easy Ways To Make Your Life Easier

6 December 2016 | Post A Comment

Stop making excuses

Care less about what others think of you

Be kinder than is necessary

Have a routine

Do more of what makes you happy

Spend less time on social media

Delete your social media

Remove negative people from your life

Eat what you want to eat

Quit complaining

Listen to more music

Take up hibernation 

Talk about ideas, not people 

Learn to accept yourself and your problems

Don't spend all your money

Get help

Sleep more

Keep things simple

Medication

4 December 2016 | Post A Comment

For the past couple of months I have been on Mirtazipine, a class of anti-depressant helpfully labelled as 'other'. If you have read this post, you will know why the doctors thought I'd be better off staying away from SSRI's, the most common form of anti-deppressant. I can tell you how SSRI's work, but I couldn't tell you how Mirtazipine works. A quick look on 'drugs.com' says "the way this medication works is still not fully understood", a deeper look into it on google makes me feel incredibly dizzy and anxious. It seems to mess around with all sorts of chemical reactions that are going on in my brain that I'd rather not know about, especially as no one else seems to understand what they're doing either. 

The first couple of weeks were awful. I nearly used the word 'horrific' but I'll leave that as the word to describe my experience on Citalopram. The first weeks on Mirtazipine were not quite as bad as that. I did end up having to go to hospital after blacking out in the shower with horrific stomach pains and had fainting and dizzy episodes for weeks after. I have felt sick almost constantly since I started taking them, which is only starting to get better now and I have had a general feeling of drowsiness and lethargy which rarely lifts. I've had blisters on my tongue and have experienced significant weight gain and a ridiculously high appetite. I have to time when I take my tablets well as I am effectively 'knocked out' about an hour after taking them for around 12 hours. Yes, I sleep well, but it's a horrible feeling of loss of control. And I have to constantly plan my mornings and evenings around them.

I hate taking them. They make me feel ill and they cast a foggy haze over my entire life. I have decided to come off them.

This is easier said than done. 

I have been reducing them for around 3 weeks now. At first I felt so bad all I could do was stay in bed, feeling utterly depressed. I couldn't engage in life at all. This makes me want to come off them more. I don't think I should be on anything that can make me feel this bad. 

My mind is beginning to feel 'lighter' and I am enjoying depending less on medication. But I know that by coming off the medication, symptoms of depression and other difficulties will be harder to deal with. 

I can continue with the medication and put up with the negative side effects or try again at a life without them.

I really don't know which I would hate least. And that's sad.

Writing

2 December 2016 | Post A Comment

One of my favourite aspects about relaunching All Things Beautiful has been rediscovering my love of writing. School nearly ruined it for me. I remember writing exams were completely focused on writing to a formula. Creativity and passion were forgotten about and even discouraged if you wanted to score well. 

I feel like a real passion for writing is hard to come by. And the education system has made it that way. I used to read a massive number of blogs daily. This has now gone down to just a couple as I get so frustrated by the carelessness of the writing. I no longer want to waste my time reading words that contain no life or soul.

With this relaunch I didn't want my writing to go unnoticed. I want it to be a priority, I want it to get noticed, I want it to matter. 

Writing is a form of communication. We can use words to motivate, heal and empower. We can use words to tell stories. The words we choose and the order we leave them on the page is our power. We can all learn how to enhance this power, how to make it more effective. I now want to dedicate as much time as I can to writing and expressing what I want to say in the most effecting way possible.

I've put together some tips for how I write. They are just advice from what I personally do and some of them are geared more towards writing for an audience. Break them all if you want, that's the fun of it. 

1. Write without thinking, let your thoughts spill out onto a page. This is your beautifully imperfect first draft. Now go back and edit, edit, edit. 

2. Re-write every sentence until you cannot find any further faults.

3. Read your writing out loud.

4. When you don't know what to write, just write exactly what you feel.

5. Write what you need to write. 

6. Write what you need to read.

7. Take it seriously, but not too seriously.

8. Write in different styles, tenses and formats to different effects. (For example, I wanted to address my alcoholism in a post but didn't know the best way to do it. So I wrote it in the form of a letter, addressed to alcohol. Read it here. I also used present tense to write a post about what a 'good day' looks like for me here.)

9. Replace multiple words with one word that says the same thing.

10. Write controversially, break rules.

11. Think about what you are trying to say, then say that. 

12. Use a thesaurus constantly. Every time you go to use the 'very' or 'really', lookup the word that follows and use a stronger synonym for that instead when it is more effective. 

13. Read a lot.

14. People are lazy. Don't make them read long sentences or paragraphs- because they won't.

15. Get rid of words that you don't need. 

16. Avoid repetition, unless it is for effect (I love using intentional repetition)

17. Exploit negative space. Write short sentences, write short paragraphs to emphasise points. 

18. Think hard about how you end your post, this is what will be remembered. 

19. Do things differently. Finish a list on 19.