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.”

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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 

Why not to Post transformation Pictures during Eating Disorder awareness week!

Next week is EDAW: Eating Disorder Awareness week (27th February -5th March) with this year’s theme being Early Intervention. During this week I am going to be involved with a talk in my local CAMHS to parents and those personally affected by Eating Disorders. I am very happy to be involved in this.

EDAW is recognised on an international scale, with the aim to break the stigma, fight the misconceptions and let people know they don’t have to suffer alone. However, it is also where more misconceptions can be made. A quick search of #EDAW brings up a news feed filled with pictures of malnourished bodies, NG tubes, transformations and numbers (weight, BMI, calories)

As much as I appreciate when this is to show a positive improvement of how far someone has come – it fuels the illness itself. See, although sufferers do not always like to admit, eating disorders are very competitive. It sounds strange when you think about it but naturally with a distorted view and disordered thoughts the illness wants you to become as sick as possible. When unwell people will look at these photos believing they don’t look like that – bringing about the belief they are not sick  enough to recover.

I think the hardest thing with an Eating Disorder is you will never reach its strict criteria; you could be in hospital on the verge of death but still this is not good enough for your ED. So before this week begins, I wanted to enforce that – there is no “sickest” because each eating disorder is equally as harmful and no matter the physical state of someone the sickness is in the mind. you cannot always tell just by a glance.

Instead during this week people should speak about how their ED affected daily life, the opportunities it stole, the out of control feeling or the fact food was nothing more than painful numbers.

Recovery for me is much  more than eating and weight gain, its the mental recovery which takes longer. Don’t wait to see physical evidence of a mental problem, because usually that’s too late…

From CAMHS to AMHS – “Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can…”

In the last few months having turned 18, I have been through the transition from CAMHS to Adult mental health services. When I first knew this was happening I looked online to see how others found transition, but for some reason I could not find anything. So here I am to fill the internet gap and hopefully enlighten someone in the same position I was.
At first, when it was mentioned, I was reluctant; with the idea of being trapped in the ‘system’, having to start therapy again with new people and the fear of mental illness dictating my life.

However, after much anxiety I came to terms with the idea and realised I could not fight this on my own without support from services…. A meeting was then set up with my CAMHS team and someone from the Adult Eating Disorder service. It was strange knowing someone I had never met before would soon be helping me with some of my most personal struggles..

For me I was lucky my transition was quite smooth. I had a few meetings with CAMHS and the new Adult Eating Disorder Service and then one with my new psychologist in a familiar setting (CAMHS). I thought the idea of meeting in a ‘familiar setting’ was pointless but when it actually come to going to the new place for my first appointment I missed my first appointment because I was consumed by overwhelming anxiety.

I felt bad for wasting his time, but luckily for me my new psychologist was very understanding and after a phone call we agreed a way to make it easier. I think this was a turning point for me and the moment I realised he just wanted to help.

Having now been under the Adult Eating disorder service for almost a month (without Camhs aswell) I am finally beginning to feel more comfortable to open up and some things are already starting to improve. I suppose in contrast from a year ago I have come a long way – with not revealing what was under the surface to family/ friends/ or professionals I had known for a while – to now opening up to someone completely new.

I think the most valuable part of my recovery so far is learning to connect with my backlog of emotions, which on some days feels impossible. Things aren’t exactly smooth but opening up about what’s truly going on has allowed me to access the right help. I bottled things up for years but now I am beginning to face the reality.

I’m learning to focus on the small accomplishments. Getting up, having breakfast, going to school. These small victories stop me from denying credit of accomplishing things. Because no matter how insignificant things might seem at the time recovery is all about the small steps.
“Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can…”

Christmas Wishes…

Christmas, a time filled with family, friends, hope and laughter…I love the seasons undeniable beauty, with light brightening the streets, decorations filling the fireplace and of course the warmth of sitting by the fire with those I love.

But also as a sufferer of mental illness there is the added pressure associatiated with this special day. There is no “off switch” for Anorexia, Depression Anxiety or any other Mental Illness so just like any other day it is unpredictable how much it will effect you.

Recovering from an Eating Disorder at Christmas can be difficult but this year unlike the previous 10 years I’m going to try to not let food become the focus. Instead i will think about positives and be mindful to other activities that are important.

This applies to every one – that if you feel anxious or concerned around ANY situation in the day try not to let them become the negative focus. Sometimes it can be helpful to distract yourself from negative thoughts and in my experience I have found that taking a walk with a family member or friend helps to keep your mind of things, particularly if I’m feeling guilty or panicked. Some other alternatives some people have used is playing a board game, calling a friend or relative, listening to music or focusing on light conversation as positive alternatives.

It can be very easy to become completely enveloped during Christmas, which can magnify the inwards feeling your thoughts can give you and leave you feeling excluded from your surroundings. This year make sure you maintain contact with the outside world and don’t get too drawn into a vortex!

Fight your fears head on and have the magical Christmas you all deserve…

“The blessings of peace, the beauty of hope, the spirit of love, the comfort of faith… may this be your gifts this christmas”

I’M FINALLY BACK!!!

Well, I’m finally back after nearly three whole months without a blog update… 

And if I’m honest I wish I had a good explanation for my absence but it’s down to poor time management and making the most of every opportunity.

So what have I been up to?

  • Well as of friday I have been discharged from CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health service) and transitioned to the Adult eating disorder team and CMHT (community mental health team)- which I will talk about in a later post.
  • I’ve been on the interview panel for CAMHS
  • Celebrated my 18th birthday by going out with my family, seeing bastille in the o2 thanks to my sister, having a house PARTY (which I never imagined would happen earlier this year) and just spending it with those closest to me.
  • I’ve been on my first night out, which after a lot of previous anxiety around situations involving any type of socialising or alcohol I can well an truely say I have fought through the worst of it and am now ACTUALLY ENJOYING MYSELF.
  • I have bought myself a little red car, ran the battery flat, had to be jump started at school and nearly drove down the motorway the wrong way. (pretty successful in my eyes)
  • Visited my Best Friend at Uni and stayed with her in Birmingham.
  • I’ve done a week of work experience at the Hospital in the cardiology department, watched a operation, and visited the children’s ward I was once on.
  • And now I have completed my first term of school, missing zero days and so far achieving my goal of making this year count. I have helped out in a place for students to go who struggle with the playground at break and lunch – which I really enjoy because it gives me the chance to use some of my experiences to help others.

The last few months have been filled with a lot of wonderful moments and considering I have significantly struggled with some aspects of my mental health recently I can well and truly say despite of it I have tried my best to keep going and participate in everything I possibly could.

“I think suffering from mental health has made me realise that good days give you happiness, bad days give you experience and the worst days give you a reason to get better”

Suicide Prevention Day 10th September

So today is suicide prevention day and I thought I would help contribute by writing this post. Having been in both general and an eating disorder hospital I was shocked when finding that a vast number of patients where either admitted for taking overdoses, suicidal thoughts or had a history of attempts.

It was an eye opener!

Being brought up in a society that sometimes does not takes illnesses such as depression seriously, it really concerned me that people where obviously unable to access the right support. Depression is a serious mental illness that like any other illness can come with different severities, symptoms and of course different treatment will be needed for each individual.

The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year and in a short term figure that’s one person every 40 seconds. For such a common issue people need to be made aware that being there for someone even when they appear disconnected or uniterested could be a life saving action.

There is a lot of stigma around suicide, Depression and other mental ilnesses with some viewing it as attention seeking, a sign of weakness or sefishness. This is just not true! Sufferers usually have battled with these thoughts for a while looking for a way to end the pain. They may feel the option of taking their life is the best thing for others or the last resort to stop the pain.

Some people may have no one to turn to as they feel too ashamed to admit they are struggling due to the stigmatization. By breaking this stigma we could help contribute to the reduction of attempts as people may feel more comfortable to reach out for help..

“But what could  do I’m no psychologist…?”

  • Listen – sometimes just sharing an issue can give a release to the sufferer. It will allow them to express their feelings and hopefully by talking about it, it might actually help them find another way to cope with the underlying issue.
  • Be trustworthy – there’s nothing worse than opening up to someone only to see your conversation on social media or shared round the local neighbourhood. Being able to trust someone enough that they do not have the added pressure of worrying about who will be told is highly important in reducing stress levels. But don’t keep information that could possibly leave the person at danger to themselves because that also would also be unhelpful.
  • Give the person space – dont pressure them into revealing anything they feel uncomfortable to do so. If they want to tell you something give them time to build up their courage without pressuring them into doing so.
  • Get help – ask professionals what the best thing to do in the situation and if intervention is needed then that is probably best for the sufferer.

There are many help lines that are open to people both suffering from suicidal thoughts and those around them that are also affected. Many are open 24 hours with someone available at almost any time you need them. Below I have listed a few of the most popular…

  • Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.
  • Childline (0800 1111) runs a help line for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
  • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
  • Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn’t have a help line, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information.
  • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
  • Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.

If you would rather speak to someone you already know or trust here are a few other options

  • Family member
  • Friend
  • Teacher
  • GP
  • Mental healthcare professional
  • Healthcare professional
  • Religious / faith leader

For anyone struggling or affected by the loss of someone it is important you reach out and find the right support….

”Suicide doesnt end the chance of life getting worse it eliminates the possibilities of it ever getting better with the pain passed on to those left behind…keep fighting the battle and you will eventually move through it”