Looking into the mirror and reflecting

I woke up this morning not unlike any other day. But the realisation of today’s date hit me.

15 years ago. I woke up in the middle of my summer holidays after finishing my GCSEs and ecperienced the worst day of my life. One that has shaped my personality, character, values and self ever since. That was the day i lost my dad. 15 years old. 5 days before my 16th birthday.

The 13th of August has plagued me ever since. Like a grim reminder of life’s cruel twists. For me, this event has no doubt been the trigger for the crippling depression i have battled for half of my life. From the dizzy highs to rock bottom. There is a cause. 

But in recent years, i found myself infinitely more reflect about the hand life has dealt me so far.

So this morning. I took a long hard look in the mirror and refused to allow this date to ruin my day and weekend. I stood. Quietly taking stock of what was looking back at me. Sure the greys are coming through thicker by the week. And I’m not in the best of shape. But all of those external things i am very aware of.

It’s time that shown me my internal struggles. Through several, and i mean several, therapists, i am now at a much reflective point in my life that allows me to look in the mirror and not hate myself. And not cry. And not despair.

Yes. I would took give a limb to have my dad back by my side. But i am quickly turning into him. And I’m ok with that. His influence on the person (some would say man but i still feel like a kid) i have become. I utilise humour. All the time. I love food and cooking. I love my family, and being a good dad is key to me. The list could go on but my hand is getting tired.

So, where do we go from here? I would usually raise a glass to my dad, but I’m taking a break from alcohol. So I’m going to put on some old punk, and look in the mirror. Grateful for those who have made me who i am.

Semi-Mental/Senti-Mental

So here in my mental health lab, I have been making some small adjustments following what i wouldn’t quite call a relapse but a bad day.

I have been nicely settled on my antidepressants for a little while now, nothing really of note happening mentally but almost ignoring the physical side of things.

Here’s where the lab comes in. What does a good lab do? Tests. So i did some research. 

The type of antidepressants i take MAY increase estrogen and decrease testosterone which may account for my weight gain. Whuch started me thinking about testosterone and its affect on my memtal health.

Some interesting stuff out there. The first thing i did after whinging about my weight was to change the type of pants i wear. Keeping everything snug can decrease testosterone which may have been the root of some of physical issues. 

I’ve also cut put alcohol completely. 2 weeks sober and counting. My aim is to get near to 100 days to see if i feel a benefit. I’ve also had a bit of a word with my diet.

So 2 weeks in, and have all the test tubes and bunsen burners been worth it? Well. Yes. But. What’s caused the change? Cleaner living? Looser pants? Medication actually working withput being suppressed by alcohol?

Who knows. But I’m happier than I’ve been in a while. Do i change my pills? Do i just keep up everything im doing? Somewhere in between? I definitely feel better. And that’s what it’s about really. 

Am i getting sentimental about my illness or am i actually recovering to a level of semi mental?

My demons had put on weight. It was time to exorcise them

So. We all have memories associated with different things, places, smells, objects, tastes, songs, films – the list is endless but for me, one song in particular has always, well, I suppose, had a hold over me emotionally.

When I was younger, I’d walked out of bars and parties because it had been played. Fighting back tears because of the memories. But the old cliche says time is a great healer.

So a couple of weeks ago, I went away on stag weekend with a few friends to Liverpool – my old stomping ground, memories galore. The weekend itself was incredible but that’s a tale for another day. One of our evenings culminated in a karaoke bar – where unbeknownst to me, that song came back to haunt me.

The song was played at my late father’s funeral, and i genuinely thought I would never be able to listen to again – for obvious reasons. But in a room full of friends with a belly full of alcohol, one friend belted out said song and it blew away 15 years worth of demons. Just like that. Friends. Laughter. Time. Change the setting and context and i was able to relive a very difficult situation with new eyes and ears.

It’s odd. Because since then, my mood seems to have levelled out. I really think i have put something to rest within myself. Something has shifted within me, and I like it. Nay. I love it. I never thought such a life altering experience would or could happen on a stag weekend.

Here is the song. Please enjoy it. Hug each other. Smile. Be kind to people. Smile. Laugh. 

Aerosmith – I don’t wanna miss a thing

World Mental Health Day 2016

So another World Mental Health Day has almost passed us by but it’s so positive to see this day receiving the attention that it does.

Traditionally, Mental health is ignored or at best avoided in the public eye, with only scaremongering stories finding our front pages. But there appears to have been a cultural shift in recent years – and this I think is largely to Celebrity culture.

Allow me to explain. Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax to name but 2 huge advocates for mental health issues have talked openly about their difficulties and the challenges they continue to face. The modern public is enthralled by celebrity, and in this case is a great thing. It has helped find a level of acceptance and understanding, people are seemingly more open to discussion now.

We’ve come a long way but there is still plenty of ground to be broken. If we all open ourselves up to the idea that we can all struggle at times. What may seem minor to one person can be a huge issue for the next. But the worry is – “what do i say?” 

What do you say? You listen. You be there. In that moment for your friend or loved one. Just being there, is the start if acceptance. Having a mental health problem is not a sign of weakness, its often the curse of being too strong for too long. Please. I beg you. If you struggle, speak out. Take that 1st step. I believe in you.

I’ve had my fair share of issues over the last 15 years or so but I’m on the mend, though that would suggest i am/was broken. I have managed to build myself up to a place where i feel confident enough to say when things are getting tough. But when the going getting tough, the tough ask for help.

Please. Speak out. Reach out. Don’t act out. Be there. Smile, hug and love one another

Give me Therapy

So. I’ve been thinking about how Americans talk about seeing their therapist or psychiatrist as openly as we talk about going for a pint. Feel this is another stigma I want to chat about.

After a tough couple of months, I’ve started seeing a new therapist. I think i’m now in double figures for them so I get a feeling for how useful it will be. 

After years of battling, beating and re-battling depression I have developed anxiety. I didn’t even notice. I began worrying that I had nothing to worry about. So rather than let my own mental health drag me down again, I sought help at the first possible juncture.

Anxiety is new to me. From my first session I felt immediately better. Knowing I needed to open myself up to the process. For this I needed to be honest and open. It felt good to let all this worry out. 

With the combination of medication and 3 sessions in I can feel a palpable change. It feels easy to talk about being back in therapy, but why won’t people talk about it? Is it still too British to admit defeat? To say we are struggling? 

It’s time to change. Talk. Have a cup of tea with an old friend. Be there. Be present. Be strong.

Drip Drop…

Ever heard the analogy about stress and beer? Well if not, it goes something like this – imagine your store of a stress is an empty beer barrel. The more stress we experience, it drips into our barrel and unless we let some stress out then it spills out everywhere – and no one likes spilt beer.

With this in mind recently i’ve been going through a fair amount of stress like many people do on a daily basis but ive been imagining that beer barrel getting pretty full this past few weeks. Dripping away like a leaking tap.

The awareness is key here. Knowing that im getting stressed and not enjoying that feeling – i know some people who say they never get stressed, well i envy you.

Having an outlet, being able to pour some beer out before it over flows and causes a health and safety issue is paramount. But what can you do? How do you prevent things from reaching crisis point where theres beer everywhere?

Some turn to alcohol. Which is a depressant, which can make you feel worse. But whatever works for you works for you. There is no prescription for what you can do. I personally love video games. I like to immerse myself in another world for a little while and calm my over active brain down.

I also depend on my family. They are everything to me. I have a daughter. A little tiny (sort of) one that depends on me. I can have a terrible day. The worst. Stressed up to 11. Within 5 minutes its forgotten.

image

There are so many things that have helped me on my journey through depression, relapse and recovery. Expressing myself through doodling and art helps.

Take some time for yourself. Tell people your struggling. Speak out. This week marks the start of Mental Health Awareness week. Be aware. Have conversations. Break down stigma. Stigma’s most powerful weapon is itself. If we no longer fear talking about depression and mental health wecare taking huge steps as a society.

Its time to change. Check out this link and be part of something incredible.

Time to Change

The Drugs Don’t Work – Or do they?

So.

For various reasons I stopped my medication a few weeks ago and I could almost feel the serotonin dropping put of my system.

Ive been on and off various medications for my moods over the years with varying degrees of success and side effects – some bearable, some completely unbearable.

So, I’ve recently re-started my anti-depressants and had what is known as a rebound effect – not as fun as it sounds. Basically my mood has dropped significantly to the point where wearing the “normal me” mask is exhausting. I find myself either wanting to sleep or stay up all night, starve or eat everything, laugh or more likely cry.

But things are beginning to feel normal again, so the medication must do something. It keeps me on a relatively even keel even when the stresses of life get to me. But its my friends and family that keep me, me.

I’m hearing so many more conversations about mental health now which also encourages me. I know I’m not alone in my struggle and I would welcome anyone who needs to talk to have a coffee (or tea) with a loved one and talk. Failing that, drop me a line and let’s talk.

You are stronger than your depression, and by sharing the burden, you make it weaker and easier to beat.

We can do this.