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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