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….

“They can’t be depressed they smile, laugh and seem to have life all planned out”

“They can’t be depressed they smile, laugh and seem to have life all planned out” – Or so it may seem.
Depression, it’s the source of much contradiction and a topic I have shyly avoided revealing. So here I go…

I HAVE DEPRESSION

“But how can you be depressed?” they’d ask. I imagine the words stabbing me in the chest. I suppose the question is valid – I seem to have confidence, I smile and am surrounded by so many people who love and care about me.

What more could anyone want?

It’s like you can’t possibly be sad, unless your life is basically falling apart at your fingertips. But strangely enough that’s not how depression works.

See, I felt ashamed of the way I felt with even just the word ‘depression’ giving me an uncomfortable feeling. It was like I had a life out there ready to enjoy but it was no longer in my reach.

A chemical imbalance that alters your emotions leaving you drowning and believing you’re a burden to everyone around. It feels like you’re the sink of all happiness, drowning all hope. The things that could normally be brushed off now tear chunks out of your sanity..

With depression I always imagined someone miserable who would lay in bed and cry all day. But thats NOT ALWAYS the case. For me it’s hit differently every time, a feeling so numb that even tears where to much to feel, a smile painted perfect, till alone washed away…

I’ve learnt from myself Depression has so many different faces and forms and what’s on the surface is not always so. It could affect one of your closest friends or the man round the local shop.

Depression DOES NOT discriminate.

Yes at times all you can do at the end of a long day is lie down and shut your eyes. But ground yourself – notice your heart, it’s still beating, still fighting. You made it to here and that’s what matters right now. You have a 100% track record of surviving even the worst day’s which shows the strength to overcome.

International Peace Day -“Blowing out someone else’s candle will NOT make yours shine brighter”

So this post is a bit different from my usual topics but I chose today to address the subject of “peace” as the 21st of September marks the international day of peace. The day was established by the United Nations and in 2001 the general assembly voted that on this day it would be a period non-violence and ceasefire. Instead of focusing on some of the bigger issues such as war, government and religious conflicts I have chosen to focus on some of the daily problems that go on in modern-day society…

Nowadays I would say there is a lot more equality around issues such as religion, sexuality, disability, mental health etc… but this does not mean everything is perfect because people daily experience direct attacks regarding what they believe or who they are. People of all ages are called names, laughed at, victimized and even bullied due to their individuality.

This is in no way right.

Not only can words be hurtful in the moment but they can also create a long-term impact on people’s lives. I personally have seen how comments can single-handedly destroy a person’s self-esteem, self-worth and send them into a downward path of self-destruction. It’s not nice and for what some of the people involved see as funny at the time, never seem to consider the damage they can be doing.

In the last year alone I can think of multiple events which have contributed to the worsening of my own mental health…. For example: When I first became ill someone who I thought was a close friend began to reject me from my friendship group, excluded me from any events they organised and ignored me when I tried to be apart of the group.

I tried my hardest to strengthen our friendship but the more I tried the more hurt I became. As someone already suffering from poor mental health, these events led me to completely withdraw from socializing, become anxious around the school environment and at the time I thought I was the direct problem – which contributed to my self-destruction.

It wasn’t a pretty time of my school life, but in no way do I blame the individual for what has happened to me over the last year. Yes, I still don’t understand how someone could do or say such hurtful things but at the same time I don’t believe they understood how much words can hurt a person who is already struggling.  

What happened to me no longer has any significance in my life but I have learnt something from the person’s mistakes which I now follow with the aim of preventing a similar situation happening to anyone else, as “everyone you meet is fighting a battle you could know nothing about, so we should always be kind, always!”

The only emotion I now feel over what happened is an anger that someone could be so hurtful to my previous self, but instead of causing any conflict I have decided to channel this emotion into preventing similar events happening to others by writing this post and following my own advice…

I feel sorry that a person could spread hurtful comments about someone who was fighting for their life in hospital and I feel sad for the same person who clearly has underlying issues that they haven’t been addressed properly…

“Blowing out someone else’s candle will NOT make yours shine brighter”

For anyone out their directly involved in creating conflict, please stop before you say or do something to someone because you don’t know what they might be going through and the impact it could have on their life. Think to yourself “would I want the same to happen to me?”,” is there a better way to solve the issue?” and even “what is going on personally that could be triggering you to feel this way towards someone else?”.

If you are a victim of hurtful comments, actions or even bullying remember there is always someone out there to help…whether it be a teacher, parent, carer, friend or even an online support group/help line. Just keep in mind “some people won’t be happy until they have pushed you into the ground. What you have to do is have the courage to stand your ground and not give them the time of day. Hold on to your courage and never give it away because those who are true friends stick around and are there not only when they need you, but when you need them!”

Things can get better, they have for me, I am now so much more confident at school back socialising more than ever, I have many different circles of friends and have people in my life so much valuable than ever before.

I no longer feel like what people say to me has as big effect on the way I feel about myself because I am now a lot stronger person…. From this day forward I will only choose to listen to the positive comments I get, as those are the ones coming from the people who are actually important in my life…