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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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!
 

Dear Anorexia,

Dear Anorexia,
You came into my life and stole my happiness.

I guess you had been hiding in the shadows for a while, following me around, watching my every move. You crept up on me slowly stepping closer only when I was most vulnerable. I was convinced you where a friend.

Oh how I was wrong.

At first I noticed you at school sat at the back of the classroom. You noted every flaw. Natalies spinal surgery; you whispered advice. Mums cancer; you stood by my side. Grandads heart attack you took my hand. Everywhere I turned you where there always in the back of my mind.

Your voice grew louder as I grew older. You started commanding me to do things. STARVE, EXERCISE, PURGE. I followed your commands believing you would help. Every time I listened you gave me a sense of control. But then you snatched in from me and I realised I never had it all along. I became weaker as you grew stronger.

You stole those closes from me pushing them into the shadows. You took over my soul and stole my laughter. Family and friends became an inconvenience to you as I sat back helplessly frightened of your power. You starved my hope and purged my dreams.

Nothing was left.

The day came when I was constantly cold and plagued with fatigue. My hair began falling at my feet, as death blackened my sunken eyes. I was screaming for help but you never let them hear. You left them hurt, raw and crying at my hospital bed.

I was never good enough for you.

But now I’m stronger and things are different. You made me miss out on so much so now I’m fighting back. One day at a time I will fight your lies, releasing your grip. See, you have lied to me and I will never forgive or surrender to you.

From now on I am stronger.

No matter how many times I fall down, I will always pick myself up because I am no longer living a life with you. With living a synonym for barely existing in a world suffocated by the war you created, I am regaining my strength and continuing the battle.

I WILL live my life. I WILL follow my dreams and no matter what is thrown at me I WILL beat you.
It might take until my dying breath but this is a promise – you will never win…

New Years Resolutions…more harm than good?

Well Hello 2017,                                                                                                                         page 1 of 365

As I shut the chapter of 2016 I find myself reflecting on this year as a whole. Its been filled with plenty of highs and lows, successes and learning points but introspectively I have certainly discovered a lot about both myself and indeed others.

You see we are all in a state of constant growth, be it physical, mental or spiritual. And with yet another NEW YEAR setting in it brings yet more opportunities. In this post I thought I’d focus with a strong topic of conversation at the moment… New Years Resolutions.

As many attempt these today some will find they will last till February whereas others only all of a few days. I mean setting a goal too last a whole year, yet hasn’t been achieved in the previous is pretty hard going…. And leaves me questioning is it really worth it?

Personally, I have not made a New Years resolution this year because in the past I hated how they made me feel when I “couldn’t” live up-to my own high standards. I mean for starters, they were always unbelievably unrealistic and sometimes even became obsessively unhealthy.

It has taken me many years to reach this conclusion and realise that these ‘resolutions’ have actually caused me more problems than help. This is why instead I have decided this year I will devise three alternative promises to myself.

1) “I promise to Love Myself no matter what.”

We cannot truly enjoy happiness if we are not at peace with ourself. Our relationship with ourself is the most important one we’ll ever have, and is the one which allows us to be there for others and be appreciated as the person we truly are.

2) “I promise to Let Go of any and all negativity IN me and around me.”

To let go of negativity means to let go of all that is holding you back from emerging into your truest self. You must let go of past pain through realising it has only made you stronger. You must let go of toxic relationships that are preventing you from being who you are. You must let go of fear by facing personal challenges. You must let go of limiting beliefs by opening your mind to learning. You must let go of bad habits by replacing them with positive alternative. You must let go of self judgement by loving yourself. You must let go of sadness by adding a conscious dash of happiness in your life. You must let go of all that doesn’t nourish your heart and soul.

3) “I promise to make everyday my best day yet.”

To fulfill this promise you must make sure that you live everyday like it was your last. You don’t live with regrets and “should’ves”. Instead you seize every moment and cherish the memories.

Make yourself these three promises and your future self will thank you, for like those above, your heart will tune in and create pathways you never thought possible. All those tiny resolutions will fall into place effortlessly if you just make space for it by letting go and loving yourself.

 

“Failure should not be feared because it is necessary to learn and grow”

So I admit I’m a perfectionist

I have always been complimented for my perfectionism, being told I have the right attitude towards achieving the highest possible. I felt proud of my status… with title “perfectionist” and in a way this fed into my need to please people.

But what happens when perfect isn’t quite good enough….

Recently having started back at sixth form it has brought back a reminder of how hard it is to achieve the high expectations people have of me, and mostly the expectations I put on myself. It can be hard to explain because, on the outside, to many, it looks like I should have nothing to worry about, but inside I can feel the pressue building.

Having not been in education for almost a year and not sitting any exams this summer, I am retaking year 12. Firstly I’d like to point out that the thing I find the most difficult is feeling that people who do not know I’ve been in hospital think I was just lazy last year or failed all my exams. It’s hard because although I know A level is really difficult and many struggle. I feel like I’m looked down upon because of it.

I admit last year wasn’t great for me, when I did attend school I was barely able to concentrate due to Anorexia’s strong influence, I did not complete work or sometimes even turn up to lessons… the hardest thing for me to admit is that this was not because “i didn’t want to go” or “couldn’t be bothered” but actually down to such a strong hate I had towards myself.

I’ll explain…. During my time in sixth form my mental health began to deteriorate to a point I felt I didn’t deserve to do well or have any future. Unfortunately, for me this impacted on my education because I felt that by withdrawing from sixth form it would stop me ever being able to achieve my dream job as a doctor or gave any chance at a decent career

I would walk to school then disappear for hours pacing round the streets, I would lie to my parents that I had been to school, and on days I wouldn’t go at all because I would be so faint and exhausted I’d feel scared to leave the house, I would further push myself to exercise excessively at home.  

It was hard, tiring and time-consuming!

I felt like a slave to something external which was pushing me to my limits. I was no longer myself, I would never lie to my parents or even skip school. I was ashamed of what I had become but this just pushed me further into the depths of my eating disorder.

With this self hate being something I have only just mentioned in therapy I still find it hard to hear out loud. In a way I’m embarrassed of how things have got the better of me at times – but i suppose nobody’s perfect, right?

I would like to hopee that those who know me perceive me as an accepting person who see’s the best in people, despite any flaws. Knowing I have such strict guidelines for how I think I should be but when it comes to others I am very open to anything – I need to try to find a balance with myself also.

Us perfectionists need to aim for a middle ground between the polar of “perfectionism” and “not caring”. Having the motivation to aim high and achieve the best possible is a good trait but it also needs to be put into perspective to see whether it is taking over our lives.

I find taking a step back from the situation and viewing it as if it’s happening to someone else really helps me rationalise what’s going on. Yes, even when I realise it’s not rational it’s still very hard to change how I’m emotionally feeling, but by viewing both sides it can sometimes minimise things.

I still have a lot of work to do on this aspect of my recovery, but I believe I am now becoming more aware that my perfectionism will never make me feel perfect and understand that…”failure should not be feared because it is necessary to learn and grow”

Doubt kills more dreams than Failure ever will!

Self doubt.

For some its having aspirations they believe are impossible, tests they are certain they have already failed or a worry that they have done or said something wrong. It can be frustrating and appear at the most inconvenient times but we have no way  of stopping what we think right?

Well kinda…. yes we get these thoughts without asking for them but we can also re-condition them into something positive.

But how? You may ask….well it’s possible and I will tell you how, not easy, but definitely within your potential if you take these steps…

  • Recognise your self-doubt…

The first step sounds ridiculous and I always thought it was too when I was first told. But only now do I realise we do not always notice when we are doubting ourselves because we honestly believe it! So instead question yourself this, would you say these things to someone else? Would it be hurtful? Well if you realise that what you would be saying would be criticising, belittling and putting them down then you need to ask yourself why would you treat yourself this way if you wouldn’t hurt others like this?

  • Stop comparing yourself to others

Firstly I would like to point something out, when we compare ourselves it cannot possibly be a true reflection. This is because we are immediately picking apart all our faults and the other persons best qualities so the comparison creates low self-esteem against ‘yourself’.

Secondly would you compare a grey hound to a bull-dog?… of course you wouldn’t because they are so unique it is not possible. Well this is the same with humans, we too come in all shapes, sizes, races, religions, genders etc.. and most importantly we have individual personalities with no two people exactly the same!!  

  • Surround yourself with positive people

Yes, negative people can have some influence on you too and just because the things they might mention might not necessarily be accurate, it can still have a personal impact.

Ask yourself whether this person makes you feel upset, exhausted or in any way demoralised. If the answer is yes then in the best way possible confront the issue or distance yourself from it.

  • Break it down

Make small and achievable goals that will help you achieve the ultimate. I have always found writing lists helps me and sometimes just writing it down can make the work load, jobs or things to do more manageable. Then once you start working your way through the smaller goals it is easy to see things progressing and finally coming together. The list doesn’t have to take long and as long as it breaks things down enough, so it makes sense to you, it is perfect.

  • Believe it is possible

Yes this old saying, but it’s true, if you believe in yourself anything is possible…

”A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of a branch breaking, because its trust is not on the branch but on its very own wings!”

Yes I confess…. I am also a self doubter who will be convinced I have failed before I have even taken the test, who believes that what I do is never good enough and someone who has to ask others for reassurance that everything is OK. But I too have used these steps to help me in the past.

I took my practical driving test yesterday and did not take these steps into consideration. I have indeed now learnt a valuable lesson and will quickly get back on track….

Before I arrived at the test centre i had already told my parents and instructor that I would fail…some would say this was for effect but to me i believed it. Yes I admit before I continue that I am that frustrating person who has come out of a GCSE physics exam crying convinced ‘I have failed’ only to go and get 98% correct. Annoying yes, and many believe I must be quietly confident…..but hell NO I think the complete opposite!

I started the driving test poorly letting nerves get the better of me, I stuttered when asked questions about the car, did the right demonstration of checking brakes whilst explaining something completely different and mind blanked whilst trying to drive off with the hand break up. Not the best start from me and within the first few seconds ‘I new I had failed’ and was close to just getting out. 

Anyway I carried on regardless giving the test my best shot.

When returning to the test centre I gave my driving instructor the ‘I’ve messed up big time’ glance through the window as she wandered over to find out my feedback and results….By this point I had destroyed myself mentally before I had any evidence of failing and suffered as a consequence and after all the build up I found out I PASSED!

When I first found this out I didn’t believe it and for a second thought it was a joke. But it wasnt! After all the stress and pressure I put myself under, iI asked myself  “was not worth it?”. My self-doubt got me nowhere, all it did was make the experience a lot less enjoyable.

I hope from this experience both you and I realise that we are more capable than we believe and yes we all mess up from time to time, get things wrong but self-doubt only worsens the situation. I learnt something valuable from my experience today and will now focus on preventing a similar situation to ever occur again.

Remember this:

“Although things don’t always follow the perfect route they can still reach the same destination… and from this day forward you and I should both remind ourselves not to let self-doubt jeopardise our capabilities‘’

Take care you beautiful people and don’t forget to Embrace Authenticity xx