Breaking stigma after a negative press release…

Things happen that challenge everything we do, make us feel like our effort has been wasted and sometimes even leave us questioning our own intentions in life.

We go through every day with a perfect track record of getting through, a smile on our face and a hand to help others.

But sometimes life throws us a curve ball, it’s horrible but somewhat unavoidable. We are then left with 3 choices…

1: We can stand there and let it hit us straight in the face, knocking us backwards with little sight of what we’ve tried so hard to do.

2: We can dodge it, hide from the fear. No visible bruise from the hit but whilst letting it destroy us inside.

Or

3: We face it head on, we knock it out the way of our path and carry on regardless. Not choosing to throw it back at the perpetrator but instead using it as a way to propel our self forward in the direction we where heading.

this happened to Ben from ELFTs NHS Break the Stigma Campaign when he had a very negative experience with a local paper a few weeks ago. Doing what he does best and bravely sharing his own experiences and what he has been through to help raise awareness on suicide prevention day.

Unknown to him this interview turned out to be his worst experience since opening up about about his battle with my mental health problems and running the Break The Stigma campaign.

“I knew the article was going out in the paper on the Sunday, but I thought I would check to see if the article was online the night before, it was online, but as I started to read the article my heart sank, it was the most awful thing I had read, full of quotes I hadn’t said, things written about me that were absolutely not true, my deeply personal problems all garbled up making no sense to what I had actually been through, then having my mental health problems being described as me self destructing, not the fact that I was very unwell.

I was horrified that this awful piece about me was online, then I realised……this article full of things I hadn’t said with a picture of me was going to be delivered through thousands of peoples doors the next day. I can’t put into words how that made me feel, just that I became very unsettled very quickly, I had a horrendous night, but all my coping strategies kicked in when I needed them most and I knew I needed help, the motto I have always used with this campaign is “It’s OK to talk, it’s OK to need help” I needed that so much, so that is what I did, I went to the Samaritans drop in service as soon as they opened and spent 2 and half hours there, the support and kindness I received was incredible. I then went to my GP the following day and that helped loads too, she reminded me how far I have come these last few years, It then sunk in if this had happened a few years ago I would not have dealt with the situation as I did and asked for help so quickly.”

Ben did the best thing anyone could do in this situation and took choice number 3.

Seeing his post on Facebook after only seeing him in passing just last week broke my heart. How can such an amazing guy be subject of such a harsh act. Nobody has the right to change his past into an article it never was.

But guess what?!! He didn’t react in the way the stigma expected him too. Instead he used his willpower, positive coping strategies and support circle of people around him to get through. He not only showed himself how far he has come but also has shown others just how strong he really is… something only to be admired.

They say the strongest soldiers are sent to fight the hardest battles… and he is proof of this. I am so proud Ben can tell his story, I am proud of his campaign but mostly I am proud of who he is as a person!!!
Break the Stigma

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Dream Big: DISNEY

They call it the happiest place on earth, a place where dreams come true no matter who you are or how old… 

Disney World

This last week I have spent at Disney has certainly created some magical memories. Up at the crack of dawn and super excited to explore the park – I didn’t know what to expect. 

For once in my life I’m speechless, no words can sum up the experience I’ve had here. A place where my inner child has been set free, where I am able to dance around the park, sing in my loudest voice (poorly I should add but…) with no worries in the world. 

I have finally felt able to appreciate how hard I’ve worked on balancing my mood and how I am able to enjoy my surroundings without the worry of my next “low”.

I think for so long I feared this holiday, I feared depression drowning the excitement so much that I never even appreciated the opportunity of going.  

But the reality of months waiting to get an appointment felt so distant in these moments. So distant that for the first time in months my family and I have had the chance to take a much needed break.

I think it is so important to get both your surroundings as well as yourself into a positive state, be with those you feel comfortable with no fear of criticism. For me this has been key to discovering myself and also realising that everybody has their own struggles.

So to all other dreamers out there, don’t ever stop to let the world’s negativity or your current situation dishearten your spirit. Work hard, dream BIG! 

America here we come!!

With less than 4 hours before we leave for America I can hardly believe we’ve made it this far…. Never in the three years of us planning and cancelling this trip did I ever think we’d ever get this close to flying. Our holiday we dreamed of – Disney Orlando Florida.

From mums many cancer ops/ procedures, Natalie’s spinal surgery, my Grandads heart attack and to top it all off my eating disorder, it has been a tough few years for everyone. We’ve faced a lot together and that’s not been easy, many tears have been shed, hands held and fingers crossed…. we’ve laughed, cried, screamed and been left feeling empty.!

This holiday has been our motive, the light at the end, the goal or maybe even the beginning of better times? 

It’s finally here. 

I haven’t let myself feel the reality that yes THIS IS HAPPENING, I suppose I’ve blocked it out filling my time with anything but planning. I’ve avoided packing until made to and had minimal input in deciding how to spend our days.

I’m desperately trying to remain positive but still fear its going to be ripped from our grip… 

But my family are my anchor in rough waters – and maybe we weren’t supposed to have it easy. Maybe it was this way because we’re some of the rare few who can handle these tough times and still carry on regardless. Maybe rock bottom will be the foundations in which we rebuild our life. 

Maybe this will be the holiday of a lifetime…
AMERICA HERE WE COME!
 

Body Confidence – Why it’s not all about change…

Raise your hand if you’ve ever looked in the mirror and been left feeling utterly deflated. Believe me you’re not alone, I have both hands raised too! Thinking about it I don’t really know anyone who is completely satisfied with their body, it’s either too big, too small, to short. Blotches, pimples, wrinkles and hair in the wrong places.

We are surrounded by a society where body shaming yourself is more socially acceptable than saying “wow I look amazing!” without being seen as boastful or arrogant. Walk into any news agents and you will see a shelf filled with magazines continuing to perpetuate highly unrealistic expectations of both men and women, despite years of controversy.

From the fashion industry to the workplace, we are constantly facing backwards representations of ‘ideals’ which continue to influence our daily life style. If I think about my average morning I probably spend 75% of my time focused on covering up my imperfections with makeup, thin hair with extensions and recycling my outfit millions of times before I go out still feeling dissatisfied.

For someone who is recovering from Anorexia body image is something I battle with frequently. Having had to gain weight in a 6 month hospitalization last year just to restore my physical health managing this drastic change still affects me daily. I find looking in full length mirrors incredibly difficult and knowing it can ruin my day or even set back my progress by weeks – I try to avoid them at all costs.

This avoidance isn’t healthy the same way compulsively body checking isn’t either and it’s questionable why I’d give a sheet of glass such power over me… Recently in therapy we covered the topic of perception being the mental representation one creates. Naturally, I was sceptical – believing it was a hoax just to make me feel better.

But then my therapist said this to me…..

“Look at the wall, it’s just a wall, right?….Now notice that tiny grey scuff and quickly turn away”

I did just that, wondering what an earth he was on about.

“OK now turn back and try to look at the wall as a whole without noticing the mark”  

I couldn’t.

See, this is what we do to our bodies, we scan over them viewing each perceived flaw until this is all that is left. Scrutinising the size of our forehead, nose, thighs or stomach until we are internally labelling ourselves “one big mess’’.

But surely this could be easily changed with surgery or a simple diet?…

WRONG in fact this fuels the obsession itself.

In my experience I have spent years trying to change certain aspects of my shape and body. I devoted so much time, becoming so miserable, yet never once despite all the weight loss did I ever look in the mirror and see anything other than what I wanted to change. It’s a toxic cycle that no amount of surgery, dieting or covering up will ever permanently fix. It’s like trying to make a Bull Dog look like a whippet – inhumane and certainly impossible.

What we need to do instead is to learn acceptance, find out the route of what is making us reflect badly. Is that image subject to distortions from a lack of self-confidence, overwhelming emotions, attitudes influenced in childhood or maybe just that overdue assignment. We should tackle this first because how you feel on the inside is what truly reflects in your eyes.

Body confidence for me has never come from trying to achieve the “perfect”. It’s more of a combination of self-love, compassion and embracing the reasons you were given it… Now that I understand living is more that just existing in physical form, I am dedicating my time to believing it and slowly gaining back what I lost to my illness!

…Apologise to your body and let the healing begin….

Head Meds?!

Recently, I have been hit straight in the face by my old friend depression, out of the blue and almost from nowhere – it’s back again. The same fog I cleared only 2 months ago has appeared once again in a different form…

Whilst scrolling through facebook the other day – up popped this picture of a beautiful field and the caption “ this is an antidepressant…”

It made my think how yes, going outside for fresh air is a fantastic alternative to being inside for days on end – but then again how it is not always that simple for everyone.

I started taking medication for my mental health just over a year ago now after accepting I couldn’t ‘fix this’ without an extra added boost. 

See, Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It isn’t your typical sadness but simply, dopamine is your drive in life, your ambitions; excitement and enthusiasm whilst serotonin is in charge of happiness regardless of your actual achievements. 

Basically, without the right amount of these chemicals no matter how much love, support, money or family you have around you it is very difficult to feel ‘ok’.

Imagine a bottle filled with the most glorious, colourful, magical concoction, it sparkles and fizzes, it has a light of its own, when you drink it you are in love — let’s call it ‘joy’; now imagine a great selfish, hulking beast comes out of nowhere, it stamps and shakes the ground, roars, snatches the bottle with terrifying hands, and tips out all the joy, because if it can’t drink it nobody can. Depression turns you into that bottle, empty, held in the shadow of a beast; strewn on the shore, wishing for the tide to wash you away.

I can’t take away the effect of nature and healthy living, I mean going for a bike ride can be the best escape for me some days! And it has such a positive impact on my mental health. 

Despite not yet finding the right meds for myself I still have some positives from them which without I wouldn’t be able to enjoy. A flash of inspiration as I walk through my favourite field, have coffee with a friend or sit in the sun with a perfect breeze. Deep down inside in them moments I feel a relief that things will be ok.

So please detach the image of people with depression being selfish and the stereotype that taking antidepressants is somehow a sign of weakness… because personally without my meds I am more likely to hurl myself towards a tree than go for the ideological stroll this circulating photo portrays.

“A breath of fresh air is a perfect aid for recovery – but for some this can never be a replacement of these life saving pills.”

As if I won Elft’s NHS Young Person of the Year!!! 

I still cannot believe what’s happened to me this week. Not only did I have the pleasure of going to London for the Elft NHS participation awards but I actually won my category – Young Person of the Year!

For someone who masks low self esteem and confidence daily, never in a million years would I have ever believed I would be standing in front of all those people accepting an award. 

Shocked and so overwhelmed

I am an advocate for Mental Health for no other reason than to help not only people struggling but to also bring better understanding to families, friends and the wider community to help ‘Break the STIGMA’. So to win an award for doing something I love is just so unbelievable.

People should be free to feel emotion and speak proudly about it. I want people to feel comfortable enough to express their truth, to let their walls down and actually live a little. 

I have spent my whole life trying to be someone else because I cannot stand the feeling of my own skin. I have treated myself in ways that I would never treat anyone else – judging every part of my personality.

I have never learned how to feel or process emotions. The way I’ve moved through my feelings is to never let them surface in the first place, replacing them with my eating disorder and other unhealthy coping strategies.

But moments like this outshine some of my darkest days.  Moments that keep me going, reminding me theres always something to look forward to, moments when I’m distracted and at peace, moments spent with amazing people…

Thank you to everyone making this possible. I have been given so many opportunities to meet and work with some incredibly life changing people. I have made so many new friends, spoke to hundreds of people and built my confidence to try new things. I feel deeply honored to receive this Award.

Thank you 

Exams – my own interpretations of impossible…

I did it!! I completed my AS levels and today sat my final Maths exam. Yes it didn’t go great but I’ve never walked in or out of that exam room any different – something I must learn to accept in order to move on.

 
 Regardless of how terrible I thought it may have went, the tears that came with it – I’ve achieved my biggest goal of this year “to complete my AS levels and sit all my exams”
It has finally sunk in, I’ve done what I didn’t manage last year, I’ve completed my goal and every single day despite of how hard it’s been I have got myself into school. 

And yes I will say (a rarity)… I AM SO PROUD OF ME 

SO many of us, myself included, go into exams knowing what they want to get…for some this may be high expectations and others just not to fail. 

There is a huge tendency to focus on the worse case scenario and what we DON’T want, and do you know what happens when we do this?

We continue to get the same thing, we continue to be stuck in the same vicious cycle over and over and over again…

What we focus on expands, replaying like a broken record over and over “I want to pass, I’m going to fail, I need an C, B or even an A”. 

What starts as an aim becomes an obsession that actually ends up a detriment of our study. We focus on something, we just keep attracting and creating the very thing that we don’t want in our lives… 

I’m guilty. I’ve psyched my self up for this date – the 7th of June – my final exam but unlike most who are happy it’s over I’ve dwelled on it like it’s the key to my life, happiness and possibility of any future.

I have worn myself down with emotions, nerves and fear and successfully made myself so unwell that I’m writing this from the bed I’ve crashed in with exhaustion. 

Unfortunately I’ve let the pressure effect me tremendously and now I’m sat here wondering was it really worth making myself unwell. Why didn’t I believe that yes it’s just a Wednesday. That fundamentally no exam can change the person I’ve become, no date any more or less significant. No grade can erase my current achievements or even change what those around me think.

I have learnt a valuable lesson that I hope will never affect me again.  I have achieved my own interpretation of Impossible just by sitting in that exam room today.  I hope you realise something too, for as long as you are alive it is always possible…

Take care lovelies ☺️