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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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….

Our Future Minds. 

Today I was told; ” I don’t think you should share about your mental illness, your not ‘fixed’ anyway”
…So instead I’m going to tell you I may never be ‘fixed’ but I’m not going to hide behind it. You should be happy, by sharing my story it takes away some of my illness’ power. It gives a purpose to the daily battle when things people take for granted l sometimes find almost impossible to complete.

You wouldn’t hide me away if I had a broken arm or leg. Instead your adding to the stigma…but I’m breaking it faster. 

✅Prince Harry – successful

✅Demi Lovato – successful

✅Charles Darwin – successful

✅Angelina Jolie – successful

All of these are sufferers of Mental Illness. Does this make them any less successful? Should they be hidden away and told not to share there story. SIMPLY the answer is NO. 

Ony a few weeks ago I was given the amazing oppurtunity to go to the ‘Our Future Minds’ conference in London with five others from around my local area and my CAMHS participation worker. 

The day was amazing, people from all over the country came down to meet and discuss what the future mental health work force should look like and how we can improve this in education. There was a selfie competition, plenty of pizza, social media streaming, Art and lots of disussions. 

I was shocked at the number of people that came from all different stories, backgrounds and parts of the country. Everyones had willingness to speak openly, knowing it was to benefit others and overall we all believed things still need to be improved. 

Its amazing how the way mental health is treated and educated across the country is so contrasting. With some stopped from attending sixth form, others who had fallen off radar completely when it comes to any education ( despite education being a human right) compared to others that had been welcomed with plenty of support? 

A postcode lottery where odds need to be changed in favour of ‘everyone’…and with almost all of us attending the conference wanting to pursue a carreer in the heathcare sector I hope this is something we can go on to do!

People ask me “do you wish you never had a mental illness?” my answer is always NO – with days like this adding to my many reasons. I mean its unpredicatble, the bad days are terrible and something I would never wish upon my worst enemy. But as cliche as it sounds its made me who I am today and the oppurtunities I have been given one of the things that keeps me going… 

Maybe the positives, the courage, and the fight needed to survive mental illness has helped to empower me further?… who knows? But whatever happens I am never hiding away, I will stand strong against stigma!