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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.

20 More Things To Do When You're 'Bored'

2 May 2017 | Post A Comment

1. Learn how to solve the Rubik's Cube
I spent many hours teaching myself how to solve a Rubik's Cube using various YouTube tutorials. I don't regret a minute. 

2. Try the cold shower challenge
If this sounds like a terrible idea, don't worry. Just read this post. I explain how I think taking a daily freezing cold shower can drastically change the way you approach struggle. It's worth it!

3. Write a stream of consciousness
Just write. Try not to think, allow the words to spill out. 

4. Try the food you didn't like when you were younger
We all have memories of hating a specific food as a child. Maybe you were forced to eat mushrooms or tricked into trying an olive after being told it was a grape. Whatever it is try it again and give it a shot. The first bite will just confirm to your brain the thoughts you have already formed towards the food so keep eating it and you might be surprised. I can now eat olives! 

5. Read outside 
It can be so relaxing reading under a blue sky with no distractions as the day passes around you. If it's cold don't miss out on getting wrapped up and finding a bench to transport you into a different world.

6. Sing along to your favourite songs 

7. Go for a walk with your camera 
It could be in your town centre, on a quiet road or the middle of the countryside, take photos of anything and everything that catches your eye.

8. Cook something on an open fire
Maybe you should look into this a little first. I'm not sure how this open fire is created, how you cook the food properly or avoid the need of a fire engine but I like the sound of it.

9. Ask someone about their childhood
I love hearing childhood stories. Ask your older relatives, your close friends. What was the most mischievous thing they did? Were they closer to their Mum or their Dad? What theories did they imagine to explain the world around them?

10. Create a weekly cleaning and household job schedule 
This sounds incredibly boring but trust me, I almost feel happy now I can see the bottom of my washing basket. 

11. Chew a whole packet of bubble gum and blow a bubble bigger than your face
Why not? Take a photo for instagram and boast about how you spend your free time.

12. Forgive someone 
You might have been holding a grudge for a while. You might have been seriously wronged or maybe you're just being a bit stubborn about something small. Or maybe you need to try to forgive yourself. 

13. Have a bed day
Watch a full series of your favourite show with your favourite snacks. Read lots of books. Be naked. Nap. Write lists. Dream. 

14. Drive somewhere 
Just get in your car and drive.

15. Listen to an audiobook
I love listening to audiobooks. It means you can read and get stuff done at the same time- the dream! Sometimes it is easier to get into and audiobook so it could be a good way to read a book you wouldn't normally read.

16. Try something from this list
If this list isn't doing anything for you or you're desperate for more, have a read through my original list of 35 things to do when you're bored. I should do this more often.

17. Watch the stars
On a clear night, go somewhere quiet, lie on your back and relax into your gaze. Think about everything, you'll feel better.

18. Learn about the stars you're seeing
Learn about the constellations and how to spot them and you'll never look at the night sky the same way again.

19. Meditate
Download the 'Calm' or 'Headspace' app for your phone and start the beginners program. There are countless benefits to meditating regularly, once you start to do it properly it can really change your life.

20. Try a new recipe 
Choose a recipe with ingredients you can't pronounce and go out searching for them. Then get into your kitchen, put your favourite playlist on loud, guess the quantities and taste as you go along. 

Go and do something off this list right now and report back in the comments. Feel free to add your own suggestions. Have a good day xxx

The Top of the Mountain

30 April 2017 | Post A Comment

Two months ago, I was stood on top of a mountain. My shaking legs were strapped into skis and my sweaty, trembling hands were tightly gripping ski poles. I thought I would never make it down that mountain. The day before, I thought I would never make it to the top of it.

I am an incredibly stubborn person, it kills me to have to say no to things. Unfortunately, I have also got pretty bad mental health, so saying 'no' is something I have had to become too comfortable with. I desperately don't want to be this person. 

When my boyfriend's family invited me to join them on a ski trip everything inside me screamed no but my gut quietly yet persistently spoke yes

There were one hundred and one things about this ski holiday that terrified me and I tried as hard as I could to block them out. I blocked the whole reality of it out. I didn't believe I was actually going until I was in the car on the way to the airport. 

There were countless things about the travelling alone that utterly terrified me. The packing completely overwhelmed me. My mum had to drive the 90 minute journey from her house to make sure I had everything. I was worried about taking valium again and getting the dose just right, at the right time. I was so anxious about the transport from the carpark, luggage weight, checking in, security, queues, not being in control, people, the toilets, before flight drinks, waiting times, delays, alarms, overwhelming smells in duty free, losing something, getting lost, being trapped... 

To me, there can't be much worse than being trapped in a building full of people waiting to be trapped on an enclosed metal tube full of people in the air. 

The unknown of where I was going was too overwhelming to think about. My fear of becoming ill and food poisoning was constantly on my mind, I was convinced that everything I would eat would make me ill. The anxiety of being in an alcohol fuelled environment made me incredibly worried. Being so far away from my family made me feel sick with anxiety. Being in a group of people that I barely knew was so intimidating. Embarrassing myself in front of these people with a full scale panic attack made me feel sick. I didn't want to be separated from Rob for even a second yet I was so conscious of wanting to make sure that he could enjoy a holiday where he wasn't completely burdened by the inconvenience of me. The list continued and was likely endless. I was filled with fear that the stress and anxiety would cause my grasp on reality to snap, like it has before. Nothing about the experience excited me. I didn't want to go. I didn't think I could do it.

But two months ago, I was stood on top of a mountain. My shaking legs were strapped into skis and my sweaty, trembling hands were tightly gripping ski poles. I thought I would never make it down that mountain. The day before, I thought I would never make it to the top of it.

But I did it. One breath at a time. 

The night before we were due to leave for Manchester Airport my anxiety leaked in floods of tears. Rob asked me countlessly, "why are you going if you are this upset?". It was difficult to come up with an answer until it finally came to me. 

"Because there is a chance that going will result in something positive. Nothing positive can come of staying." 

It was suddenly simple. There was more chance that I would get something positive out of going than not going. I am in a constant state of Depression. Sometimes it's bearable, often it's not. Stepping so far out of my destructive comfort zone held more chance of something good coming out of it than staying inside it and I had nothing to lose. 

That was enough.

Things I have been told in the past week

16 February 2017 | Post A Comment

"I think you probably just have a problem with motivation"

"You're very sensitive, very fragile"

"Just don't let yourself panic"

"Have you ever thought about going on a walk?"

"You look really good, are you feeling a lot better?"

"You have let anxiety stop you your entire life"

"You are so rude"

"I'm not sure if you are strong enough"

The Surprising Symptoms of Depression

13 February 2017 | Post A Comment

Most people are aware of the most common, most talked about symptoms of depression; the feelings of guilt, worthlessness and pessimism; sleeping problems; loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable; over or under eating and fatigue are among the most well known. 

Some of the most difficult symptoms of my depression that impact my daily life are among the less known. Trouble with decision making is a big one for me. The simplest decisions can seem huge and be impossible to make. If I can't decide what to eat, I will probably not eat, if I can't decide what to wear, I will likely not put on any clothes. Being asked to make a decisions about what to do with the day is infuriating, I usually fail to see any positives in any possible option and my depression is just magnified.

Being unable to cry. I really hate this one. When most people think of suffering with depression they imagine a lot of tears. Sometimes I feel at my worst when I have days of not crying, because it feels impossible to cry, I feel too numb. This can easily lead to self destructive behaviours with the intention of being able to feel something, that releases the tears that have built up. Just because someone isn't crying, it doesn't mean they are not broken inside.

Another big one for me is irritability and frustration. I will get frustrated and annoyed twice as fast as I would normally and the frustration effects me more than it should. I take things more personally, and might assume that something was done purposely to annoy me. 

Everything takes so long to do. Once I have decided to get out of bed in the morning it will normally take hours to gather the mental energy to actually make a move. I will often get stuck sat down at points in the day for hours at a time, feeling no motivation to move or do anything. If I decide to have a shower it will usually take hours between making the decision and getting in the shower and then I won't be able to motivate myself to dry off and at least half of my day is gone.

Another surprisingly common, yet less known symptom of depression is unexplained aches and pains. This is down to a couple of reasons that I could go into in more detail in a separate post. It can actually hurt a lot. Neck pain, back pain and headaches are my depression's favourites. It makes getting out of bed even harder when the mental pain spreads to the rest of my body. 

With depression, the presenting symptoms can vary greatly. No one person experiences it the same as another which can make sympathising, understanding and diagnosis extremely difficult. Awareness of how the illness can effect someone and gaining more insight into personal stories of depression is how we can move forward and continue to fight the stigma. So please share this post and share your stories with others or in the comments.

Mental Health and Benefits, My Assessment

11 February 2017 | Post A Comment

The more pressure I put on myself to try and write, the more anxious and stressed it makes me. It's a cycle I am so strongly trying to fight out of. I know that writing on here gives me a release and a focus and I desperately need that at the moment. So I am giving myself a shake and going to blindly write down letters until they form sentences and submerse myself in a web of my own words. 

I think I have been unemployed for almost 6 months now. Wouldn't it be nice if in that time to 'relax' I had seen some improvements? There has been none. A big reason it hasn't been a time relax is because of the constant stream of demanding benefit letters and novel length forms to fill out and send back at short notice. A bit like having a job really.

I attended my benefit assessment today. I had been dreading it and hated every second of it. It took every ounce of determination to not run out and attempt to keep it together through the barrage of probing questions. 

"Do you have panic attacks?" 

"Yes" I said, staring at the closed door in a room I felt trapped in, very aware that it was located down a long corridor. 

"What causes these panic attacks?" 

A number of things, but I could only manage to spit out "feeling trapped" through my silent tears, keeping a deathly stare on the door handle and feeling the panic rise in my chest as the woman's apathetic eyes burned into the side of my face. 

"What happens when you have one of these panic attacks?" 

At this point I break down and I feel so defeated at being reduced to a sobbing mess when I was trying so hard to keep it together. She dismissively hands me the tissues and waits for an answer, between gasps and gritted teeth I manage to answer "the normal things that happen during a panic attack". If I listed my symptoms I was trying to fight I know they would have come to life in front of her and I also know that I would become unable to answer any further questions. The flow of tears increased when I realised that watching me hyperventilate and scream in her office may have been the best convincing argument that I am unfit for work. 

She types for a while as Rob comforts me and I try to calm myself. I imagine the words leaking from her fingers, 'unable to correctly explain the symptoms of a panic attack'... She then noticeably glances at the scratches I have made to my hands in times of extreme anxiety and asks very politely yet bluntly, "do you burn yourself?", the list of questions continued.

The benefit system in the UK deeply angers and frustrates me. It so heavily favours visible illnesses. The harsh scrutiny genuine cases suffer is simply humiliating especially as we are all aware of the ingenuine cases that manage to slip through. 

It will take up to a month to receive a letter of the result of this assessment. I am almost certain that my benefits will be affected in some way but I can only wait with increased anxiety and stress until that letter arrives and try to distract myself in the best ways I can in the mean time. I hope that involves a lot of writing on All Things Beautiful if my infuriating mind allows. We'll see.

My 2016

3 January 2017 | Post A Comment

2016 was the worst year of my life, again. I am tired of hoping that the next year will be better, I'm just going to take 2017 as it comes with my expectations low.

The year started off on a high. I felt more positive about the coming year than I had in a long time. I was relishing in my new found freedom I had carved and I had a desperate urge to find myself but I just kept getting more lost. I was drinking heavily and whilst I felt invincible I did find myself, on the downward spiral into alcoholism.  For the first quarter of the year I was living out of my car and spending as little time at home as I could. A close family relationship broke down in a heartbreaking way just before my parents and sister moved 90 minutes away and life felt extremely volatile.

I have never felt more alone. My safety blanket of a family home was ripped out from under my feet and I fell hard. I was working as a full-time nanny and moved into a flat on my own. My depression came back, I lost my job and was put on anti-depressants that made me ill. 

The past 12 months have challenged me immensely and thinking back on the year as a whole just feels like pain. But I must remember it wasn't all bad. I went sober for 6 months. At times, it felt like hell but I proved that I was stronger than my dependancy that was trying to control me. After living on my own turned out to be a disaster, I moved into a lovely little house with my boyfriend and his everyday support makes life so much easier than being on my own. A big highlight of the past year was the relaunch of this blog. It has given me a focus and an outlet and I am so grateful for everyone who reads my ramblings. 

Although there has times this year where I have undoubtedly been stupid and irresponsible  I have allowed myself to feel highs I didn't think I had the capacity to feel. There's nothing quite like that infinite drunken 1am with the person you love, feeling like the rest of the world doesn't exist. I listened to good music and I read good books. It could have been worse.