A Request – B’s Petition

Hi guys. 

This is a request, a pretty pretty please to my UK readers (needs a UK address!) please take a moment to look at this petition.

As some of you may know, a good friend of mine committed suicide last year. In his memory his mum has set up this petition to have pro-suicide websites banned from the Internet. 

We miss B everyday, and it would mean a huge amount to me if this little blog, that means so much to me, could do some good.

https://www.change.org/p/internet-watch-foundation-rt-hon-alistair-burt-mp-rt-hon-david-cameron-mp-remove-websites-that-suggest-and-promote-suicide-methods-from-the-world-wide-web?recruiter=70289470&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_responsive

Thank you. 
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Wednesday- Mental Health Awareness Week – Addiction

Wednesday – Mental Health Awareness Week – Addiction

Just a short one today, and not for any lack of trying, but I’ve exhausted my emotions on this one. I wrote a piece called “Drought” which is somewhere in the draughty passages of the blog, about the struggle as a friend with a housemate who had trouble with alcohol. And trouble is a huge understatement. 

I also wrote “Missing Person’s Report”, about the same friend, who I don’t have any contact with anymore. And don’t get me wrong, I miss him every day. But sometimes it’s too hard to keep trying to help someone when they’re not ready to help themselves.

The only things I can really say on the subject are the following things I’d tell my 19 year old self:
– it doesn’t matter how much he loves you, the alcohol will come first until something snaps him out of it.
-nothing you did (or didn’t do) caused this. You cannot do anything. He has to accept it.  It. Is. Not. Your. Fault.
– call for help. You’ll blame yourself for this one for years to come, call the psychiatric team, or an ambulance. Then phone his parents. Not the other way round. Do what YOU need to do, because right now it doesn’t matter what you do for him. He’s not ready to be helped.

I don’t want to end this on a sour note, because I think it’s really important to look at mental health in a  more positive light.

So here’s my favourite image of the day:

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Tuesday- Mental Health Awareness Week – Depression

Tuesday – Mental Health Awareness Week – Depression

Phewf. No pressure with this one (sarcasm).
(Before I start, I want to refer everyone to Mind, Samaritans and worst case scenario (in the UK), 999. If you feel like hurting yourself, 999 is exactly the number to call, that’s an emergency, that’s what they’re there for.)

“Eurgh this weather is so depressing”
“I can’t believe the summer’s over already, I’m so depressed”

We’ve all done it. Used the word in a place it really doesn’t matter. Like saying “it’s freezing”, instead of “it’s really cold” or “I’m boiling” instead of “I’m sweating like a beeyatch”.  Only nowhere near as harmless.
First piece of advice – stop using the word where it doesn’t apply. Unless you’re cripplingly numb, not wanting to leave your bed, hopeless or without any motivation at all, you’re not “depressed” about the weather or your holiday being over.

My boyfriend’s depression was the first experience I really had of it. After dealing with my own anxiety and a housemate with an addiction (trust me, it was a rough couple of years), my housemate (and best friend, as he was at the time) came to me, about feeling down. I don’t remember how the conversation started, but I do remember telling him to go to the doctors, and not taking no for an answer. Selfishly, he meant too much to me, after the year we’d had, for him to be in any difficult position.

The GP gave him a sheet of paper to tick off his anxiety and depression scores and go back in two weeks and see if anything was different. That annoyed me. Particularly when I read his scores.

I’ve asked him if it’s OK to talk about this on the blog. His reply “I’d rather you talk about my mental health problems than not, because it could help someone else through theirs” (what a guy, right?).

“In the last two weeks, have you had thoughts about hurting yourself, or you’d be better off dead in some way?”
“On some days”

I cried when I read that. Then I walked in to his room where he was sitting, playing on his Xbox in the big red chair, and sat on his knee and gave him a cuddle. I made him promise that next time he’d talk to me, and that under no circumstances would he hurt himself. And that piece of paper still terrifies me.

The story fortunately has a happy ending for us – he’s had a course of SSRIs, and ten week sessions of CBT. And he’s so much happier. 

People often refer to depression as like a cloud. And it’s a great metaphor – the little rain cloud that follows you, and only you, while everyone dances around in the sunshine. And you feel tired and jealous and angry that everyone else gets the sunshine while you feel…well…numb. 

I’m fortunate enough to not really suffer from depression – I say not really, my GP thinks I do, but to be honest, I think it often gets lumped together with anxiety. 

The only real time I felt it kicking in, combined with the anxiety, was when my mum was in hospital. I’ve talked about that episode in a previous entry – The All Clear – and the feelings that came from that. They hadn’t really gone away when a good friend committed suicide, and from then I couldn’t quite trust my feelings. I wasn’t quite drowning, but I was only just managing to swim. That’s when my meds were upped again, and acted like the life jacket to keep my head above the waves when I got a bit tired of fighting the current. (Great metaphor, right?) 

So we’ve talked about what depression means. But what about what it doesn’t mean? Depression can mean feelings of suicide and self harm. But it doesn’t always. Symptoms of depression range from mild to severe – what’s most important is to catch it early. 

Realistically, how many people have never had a day where you didn’t want to get out of bed? I bet the numbers are tiny. How many of us haven’t wanted to get out of bed, not because we were tired, but because we didn’t see the point.
A huge majority. But when that teeny tiny occasion becomes a regular occurrence, it gets more serious. 

What I’m trying to say (and I have no idea how successful i am in managing it), is that any one of us can become depressed. We all start out the same, and depression comes from a range of sources, but often boils down to two: genetics and circumstances. A balance of both. It can be any of us.

(There’s a great little cartoon that does the rounds on Facebook occasionally, of a friend not wanting to get out of bed, so the other friend joining them and making a pillow fort.)

It’s common sense really – look for changes in your friends – mood, temper, energy, they’re all fairly big indicators. Withdrawing from socialising, attitude changes etc. and if you’re concerned, talk to them. Gently of course, there’s no need for confrontation. Not immediately anyway.

Most importantly, if you think a friend is in any danger of harming themselves, call 999. 

Mental Health Awareness Week – Monday – Anxiety

Mental Health Awareness Week – Monday – Anxiety

Mental Health Awareness Week is hugely important, because, even in this day and age, people aren’t aware enough. When I thought I was having panic attacks – before I was diagnosed- my dad said “how do you know?”. Not in a mean way, he just didn’t see any reason I’d be having them. I was a happy (slightly rebellious), teenager, what on earth would I have anxiety about?

And so the attitude continues. I quite often find it’s the older generation who have more of an issue looking at anxiety. My gran’s reaction to my taking anti-depressants was “do you feel like you’re off the planet?” She meant, was I feeling spaced out – but my dad got very defensive and protective. Which was cute, considering his earlier comments. 

What I’m trying to say, is we all need to be more sensitive to the people around us. Trolling (Internet bullying/judgement) is just another way to bitch about each other, when we know nothing about the situation. And I really hope Mental Health Awareness Week can spread a little insight into some of the big issues in mental health.

So this week, I’m going to be posting every day on different areas of mental health, and my experiences of them, both as a sufferer and a bystander.

Monday, we’re starting with anxiety. 

This is the one that started the big spiral down for me. In my childhood, I suffered mildly with anxiety, but it was always passed off as me being squeamish. I had a huge phobia of people being sick, or bleeding. I remember in year 4 (eight years old) my teacher had a migraine and was sitting on a chair feeling faint. I was terrified of her throwing up. All of a sudden I felt faint, and had to sit down. I pretended I felt poorly in order to be allowed to leave the room. Everyone thought I was trying to get out of PE, which was less embarrassing than being “scared” of sick.

That same year, my friend and I went to see a play that the older children from our drama group were in. One of the main characters very dramatically coughed up blood in their death scene. I felt faint, I felt sick, I felt shaky. I pretended to my friend’s mum I had a very bad headache so that we could go home – to where I felt safe.

I always hated house parties as I got older, with the fear of teenagers going crazy on alcopops and me having to face vomiting and out of control friends. So I avoided them.

I was on a school trip when I was sixteen, abroad and sharing a room with four other girls. One of the girls got really drunk and threw up in our bathroom. I freaked. I was in a different room but I was told and I flipped. I thought I was going to be sick, I was too hot, we opened the window in the room wide and my closest friends sat me down on the bed as I shook uncontrollably, white as a sheet, and crying my eyes out at what was happening to me. Everyone in that room (fortunately) handled it really well. And afterwards, the guy I was really into, pulled me into his bed for a cuddle, to calm me down and make me see it was all ok.

And then the big one kicked it off. My (ex) boyfriend (the guy I’d been really into on the school trip) and I were on a train back from a university open day. I’d just met his grandparents, and we were in first class. I should have been over the moon. Then someone jumped in front of the train in front of ours, and our train was stuck between stations. It was a really hot day, and immediately I was thirsty. I was trapped, I was hot, I was shaking. I was out of control. I couldn’t get out. Words. Became. Short. I. Couldn’t. Think. I. Just. Needed. To. Leave. Why. Couldn’t. Anyone. Help. Me. 

This went on for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of the world swimming around and my boyfriend trying to give me as much space and air as possible. And the people around me staring at the nutter who was having a panic attack. Hyperventilating. Crying. What a mess.

That was the first big panic attack. The one I remember as starting it all – at least, the one that made life difficult. Before then, I’d avoided things like nightclubs, or bars or house parties to avoid panic attacks. From then, I avoided spaces where I couldn’t get out. Crowds. Events. Busy train carriages. 

It went on and on. I went to a festival in Hyde park with my friends – it was hell. Don’t get me wrong, I have some of the best memories from it, but I had at least five panic attacks, from being stuck in crowds or the manic transport after.

My first year of uni I didn’t go to the student nightclub until May. And even then I refused to get the “drunk bus”. I had trouble sitting in lectures that were more than an hour long – and I had to sit at the end of a row. 

Life was hell.

Until the Citalopram. It’s a wonder drug. I’d advise anyone facing their problems to get on the SSRIs while you wait for therapy – it becomes a lot easier to face everything. I had the best summer of my life after going on Citalopram – I was outdoorsy, confident, and I learned how to get drunk.
Does that sound trivial? Probably. But for someone who needed control in every element of their life, it was such a relief to finally be able to let go. 

And now I’m having CBT. It took a long time to get to here – it’s four and a half years since that panic attack on the train, and two years since I started the Citalopram. 

So here’s a little bit of advice:
– admit it to yourself. Needing help doesn’t make you weak. Chances are you’ll be stronger than you ever knew you could be, with people by your side to help you. But they can only help you once you tell them. And you can only tell them once you’ve told yourself.
– your friends will handle it incredibly well. I haven’t lost a single friend from telling them I have Anxiety. At the same time, don’t hide it. You don’t need to hide it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Tell the world you have Anxiety, because one day it won’t be a big deal.
– this one is for friends and family. You have to be supportive. Drop a text saying “are you okay?” And actually listening. Not a Facebook post – they’re tacky and also humiliating for the other person, who might not want everyone to know. (They’re also really disappointing when the rest of us read them and the person replies with “I’ll do you”). Give hugs, frequently. Don’t panic when they panic – the worst thing for me is people fussing around me. I need someone to stop me freaking, or just leave me alone. I’m so used to dealing with it that it doesn’t alienate me anymore, I just need a bit of quiet time to stop the thoughts that buzz round my head like wasps.
– finally, just be kind. Be a good friend. 

Your choice. Your voice. Your vote.

Tomorrow I’m voting for the first time. It’s the first General Election I’ve been eligible to vote in, and I intend to make the most of my voice.

I’ve always made the most of my voice. From singing, and shouting, to chanting and gossiping with the girls, I’ve never been one to keep my mouth closed (even when I probably should).
I use my voice every day in my job, to talk to clients and try and hit my targets.
I use my voice to defend my friends – I’ll have their back no matter what they’ve done.
I use my voice to sing, and have done since I was seven years old. Singing to me is freedom.

Being able to sing, shout (let it all out, eh Britney?) is freedom. There are so many societies who literally die to vote, to have a say in their country.

I’m fortunate to live in a democracy that allows me to be heard. And if you don’t vote tomorrow, for whatever reason, your voice is ignored.

Is your voice less important than mine? Of course not.

Do your passions mean less than the person next door’s? Of course not.

Use your voice. Exploit your freedom. Change the game tomorrow and cast a vote. Make your day matter.

Your choice. Your voice. Your vote.

Missing Person’s Report

Missing Person’s Report.

Missing. Boy (I can’t call you a man). Tall. Skinny. Dark brown hair. Grey blue eyes. A grin of someone who couldn’t possibly be insecure in their own skin. The swagger of someone who knows they’re loved and wanted. And needed.

Missing. The laugh that was so often mocking, so often manic, but on just a few occasions, kind. The guitar playing of someone who was no expert, but could keep a tune. The sessions in the kitchen, sitting on the table, feet on the chairs, singing along like we were the coolest band in town.

Missing. The church-going, parent pleasing person who put a roam at ease. The poet who knew it, who’s “pencil shavings” are among my fondest of memories.

Missing. Putting up with my favourite film (Bridget Jones for those who care) for the sake of repeating it word for word, just to cheer me up. Knowing you’d answer the phone as soon as you saw my name and answering “Babbitty?”.

Missing. The second to last time I saw you, and we cuddled in your room while I cried my eyes out because I didn’t want you to go. I think I knew we wouldn’t keep in touch. One day you’d just give up.

Missing. The person who’d buy the Chateau Neuf Du Pape, and mix the gin while I cooked the dinner in some twisted game of House. The Daddy Bear to my Mummy Bear in the Halls of Residence family.

Not missing. The bloated, staggering shadow of whoever you pretended to be.  The jeering through the door and the silence. The storming through the kitchen looking for a spare key and the slamming of the furniture as I cowered in my room above.
The notes left for me when I didn’t have the strength to speak to you, as you left in another attempt to get sober and stable. “When all is gone, love remains.”
Did that mean you loved me? Disastrous way of showing me.

Not missing. The last time we watched Bridget Jones, before you locked yourself in the bathroom and collapsed. When I had to go home to my parents because I couldn’t be around you a minute longer. The time we tried to keep in touch and I went to visit you. You could keep it together when everyone else went. But you lost it for me. A stranger answered the phone and you were drunk. 

Not missing. The one who couldn’t play along any more, because he couldn’t come out of his room all day.  The one who couldn’t mix the gin, because he’d drank the bottle. A red wine wouldn’t last to be put in a glass because every drop would be gone.

Missing you, my old friend, who I could rely on. Who’d call me from your psychiatric hospital room and buy me perfume because I was upset. Not missing you, my old enemy, who’d be severely ill before stopping with the alcohol.

And I miss talking to you. But I’m too scared to find the you I don’t want to see again.

CBT Session 3

Eurghhh.

Today was horrible.

I’ve had a rough weekend (mum’s news, I got incredibly drunk, then the hangover, then the hangover shame!).  In the midst of it all, I lost my phone on Friday night (I have it back now), so I wasn’t able to talk to my mum about it all – or anyone apart from the boyfriend for that matter – so this morning came and I was a mess.

If you read my post The All Clear you’ll understand that I have a few issues regarding the whole time around my mum’s haemorrhage, so the idea of it coming back terrifies me.

So, I turned up fifteen mins early for my appointment (after a night of broken sleep when I worried my Kindle wouldn’t wake me up in my place of my alarm).  I sat and waited, twiddling my thumbs – unable to browse Twitter as usual – and thought about the last week.

I’d done really well.  I’d managed to hit a few of my goals – I’ve been getting on the first train, no matter how busy, unless there’s physically no room – and I’ve not been reaching for my water bottle.  I haven’t got round to the lack of music yet, but for the first week I’ve done really well.

I filled in the questionnaire as normal, with my hopelessness score higher than usual – yesterday was a very bad day – and my therapist asked me about it.

So I told him.

We talked about my mum, my issues and how it all felt.  Why I’d chosen to get drunk, was it normal behaviour, catastrophizing etc.  But as soon as I was talking about my mum, I started to clam up.  We moved on to talking about the other issues, dealt with other things.

But finally we came back to the drinking thing.  I don’t have a problem – trust me, read Drought and you’ll know I know what a problem looks like.  I just drank because I felt so out of control, I wanted to be actually out of control.

I figured that catastrophizing means I work out all the bad scenarios, and then things can only be better.  That’s what I need to control, to stop bad surprises happening.  Then my therapist said something:

“But think about this for a second.  A lot of things we don’t have control over happen, with no disasters.  The earth spins.  The sun comes up and down.  Our bodies have lots of complex processes that they need to do that we don’t need to worry about and can carry on our lives with…”

It was a great sentiment, right up until he started talking about health.  I wanted to scream.  “MY MUM’S BRAIN DOESN’T NEED A HAEMORRHAGE.”

Instead I muttered it under my breath and couldn’t stop a tear seeping down my cheek.

I sat in silence for a couple of minutes before calling an end to the session.

I probably should have gone on from there, but I really couldn’t face it.  It’s unpleasant, digging around my head.  This is one event that CBT can’t control.  That I can’t control.  And that makes me feel useless.

I don’t want people to read this and think “CBT sounds terrifying, I don’t know if I can do it” – because it’s helpful.  But it’s really hard work.  It’s really difficult, and I’m being asked difficult questions.  I just couldn’t face the probing this morning.

Thanks for reading x