Why it is OK if we can’t work due to mental illness, in fact its probably better for your health

So I just wanted to mention something that has been on my mind for a while. I wanted to make a response to this article written by Katy Mathilda Neo “Not working is crucial recovery for mental health”

https://themighty.com/2017/08/not-working-crucial-recovery-from-mental-illness/?fb_comment_id=1644790365573370_1646442592074814&comment_id=1646442592074814

Because I too firmly believe that it is OKAY if you cannot work due to mental illness; in fact in recovery I am finding more and more that the case is that not working plays a big part in my maintaining my health and well being.

I had to stop working back in 2015 when I was hospitalised and developed Psychosis. This was a really tough time and being somebody who is perfectionist and extremely conscientious and hardworking, taking on a million different tasks and working myself in to the ground leading to subsequent burn out, I have learned a lot about mental health and managing. Enough to know that when things like anxiety and depression affect us so deeply, even to the point of mental deterioration, being employed can become (if it isn’t already before this) quite the hindrance not just then, but until we are in recovery and beyond.

I spent a long time while I was ill, trying to deny that I needed help and that work and rushing back to employment was not the right choice, in fact it was nearly impossible given that I was bound to stay in an institution at the risk of doing myself harm, or to others. Mental illness become a flashing light in the distance of an almost fog-ridden highway of hell but I did not want to see it.

I have spent a long time, since that time of 2015, focusing on recovering from severe anxiety, from the psychosis. And I am doing fantastically well. This is because I have worked hard of ME. On helping myself, and accepting the help I had around me. I would say to anybody that is going through an illness like depression or psychosis, that it is not going to be easy (far from it) and it might not get easier for a while, but it does get better. You know how I know that? Because I am living proof that you can go through a personal strife, a grief, a loss, an illness or trauma and feel totally and utterly worthless, even suicidal. But this is why you will be ten times stronger for it when you do finally come through it. I want to point out that I am not trying to be some martyr for mental illness or jump on the bang-wagon of glamorising mental illness for what it is not. I’ll leave that one to the celebrities…

Mental health is not just about a period of being sick. It is a condition, which means that it affects your life and compromises your health and wellbeing so you are constantly at logger-heads all the time and it can seem as though you may never get through the day, let alone be cured. But it is not just that- mental illness completely engulfs your life and in most cases, turns it upside down from what it was or has been. This can be devastating and cause a lot of negative impact, but it absolutely cannot be a definition of YOU. You are not your illness, it should not define you and you deserve to live an enriched and fulfilled life, just as much as anybody else does.

It is when we start defining ourselves on the basis of our job or career, that the psychological issues start to worsen. My story is a fine example of this- because, being someone who is quite passionate and driven, and as I mentioned, a perfectionist in every sense of the word, I ploughed against every grain in my body which said I could no longer do it, this thing called life, let alone do a job. But it didn’t stop me working against this illness and denying that I needed rest and sanctuary and professional help which I truly did. This in the long run, may have been the problem but it has turned out to be the indicator that I now know look out for as I navigate myself to recovery. Change cannot happen overnight, and your mental health may not always be great but you can make personal gains from such adversity that will pay dividends in the life-long battle with mental  health.

The next thing I have to say is please do not beat yourself up if you are dealing with a mental illness. The worst thing I could possibly do (which I did do several times over),  was to chastise myself for something which was not my fault, which I had no control over. I beat myself up for being unwell, for being low and being depressed, for being hospitalised, for going through a trauma and when I could not return to work because things had got that bad I could no longer handle things and had to go in to what felt like a prison, both literally and metaphorically. But it was a very good thing that I took that time and realised that I could not cope at work, because then I started to see that I needed to look after ME, not my work.

You want to know something true? People like to lead themselves to the conclusion that a life with a mental illness is a life destroyed. The words that they use, the emotional and derogative language we pursue is shocking, you are ‘mad’, you are ‘committed’ to an institution, you are carted off to ‘the mad house’ and that is that, your life is ‘ruined’, finished, over finito.

But let me tell you… that is not the end of the story, far from it. It is merely the beginning and the negative impact that illness will have on a person is not the making of them, yet still people are all too quick to blame and stigmatise when it comes to the mention of mental health issues. When that person gets back up again, no matter how many times they have fallen, remember that they have been through hell and back again and may go through it again. Yet it is not what happened when we first enter therapy or hospital that defines us, ‘that person has this wrong’, doctors give diagnosis, notes are written and families go through therapy (or the door) my experiences are of being institutionalised and this is not uncommon for a lot mentally ill young people, but it is what happens once we’ve got to the other side that truly shapes a bigger meaning for those of us affected by mental health issues.

You may not like this but the truth is you will likely go away, forgetting that you ever read this (please don’t stay and read more of my blog etc!) and resign it another preachy piece on how mental health is awful. Well I’ll save you some time- I won’t lie because I know for sure, mental illness is awful. People don’t go to a shrink for fun. I am not trying to dramatise it for you have all kinds of social media platforms already doing that, what I am making the point of is that if people gave half a crap about the ways mental health and recovery can change things positively instead of denouncing and insulting those who are affected with depression or anxiety or borderline personalities and blaming them for their illnesses, then we would soon realise that the loaded and stigmatised phrases such as ‘schizophrenia’ that people chuck about may no longer hold such a place in the world we live in in 2017, where there are developments in neuroscience such as neuro-plasticity that suggest the brains make-up can be re-moulded and therefore we can influence our brain through our behaviour, along with mindfulness based on the buddhist philosophy as a way to cope with depression and anxiety.

I hope that this may have provided more of an insight in to living with mental illness and also how it is without work. I will write again soon.

 

All the best,

Jess

 

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“We need to talk about mental health”, “Okay sure, but what can we do about it?”

 

 

Mental health is everywhere these days, it’s in our newspapers, in our classrooms, on our TVs, in our communities, in our hospitals, even in our working lives. It’s fast becoming a major issue especially with our younger generation, with regards to young people with increasing pressure to take exams, ‘fit in’ amonsgt other anxieties, but what can we really do about addressing this issue in our lives?

Many who live with a mental illness- 1 in 4 of us- we often say how we feel ‘negatively impacted my mental illness, fears we are judged by others, that so many misunderstand our conditions and that we feel stigmatised.

Stigma, can be understood as looking upon something in a negative way- to judge or deem something as wrong or bad. In recent news this has been highlighted rather fittingly by celebrities such as Lady Gaga and even royalty- Prince Harry speaking out about mental health and the grief of losing his mother, Diana Princess of Wales.

Whilst this caused lots of conversation perhaps even controversy, it was fantastically positive that these people, close to the limelight and perhaps role models for young people, began an open dialogue about mental health. It is absolutely 100% called for in a time when children as young as 5 are reportedly being diagnosed with mental health conditions including anxiety and depression, in the face of increasing pressures on young people at school.

As you may have read, the figures for CAMHs or Child and Adolescent Mental Health services are shocking and yet many services are harshly underfunded and simply cannot reach the many young people experiencing mental health crisis. More action needs be taken if we are to make real changes both in education and the workplace to address the stigma attached to mental health. But, I empathese with the reader that “that’s great, but what can be done about it?”

This is a conundrum I asked myself quite often when I come across news story after news story about the crisis with our mental health services, almost 3/10 articles a week on social media!

Stigma needs to be addressed, there is no doubt about that and already there is many good works being put in place that seeks to stop stigma and new movements such as Time To Change and online efforts. There are real funding needs for people to be able to receive efficient mental health support across the board.

To give you some background, I myself have ten years or more of mental health experience. I have had very mixed experiences when it comes to support from mental health services. One thing is for sure, with mental health no one is the same, everyone’s story will be different but what matters most is that we can all do our small bit in remedying this ongoing problem.

To bolster the young person that we know is dealing with depression, who needs our help and the access of a more fully funded mental health service- after all isn’t it our right to have access to these services if something does go wrong and we become unwell? It can happen to anyone and it could be our friend, our sister, our colleague or our neighbour and often we can act (without perhaps knowing it) as that first port of call for that all important conversation…

 

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We all need help at some point in our lives and we certainly deserve it when we are going through a mental health crisis, we should not feel like we are alone or have to hide this. The associated stigma surrounding mental health can be absolutely crushing and makes it all the more difficult in seeking help when we need it most.

The prospect of becoming ill with psychosis or depression, for instance, carries a lot of weight, both the taboo of having suicidal thoughts and talking to someone about our fears are areas we all may find difficult. This is for many reasons, and I won’t be going in to them all here. I mean when I say I am not judging people so please bear with me.

While it is not true that people who become mentally ill are more likely to act violently (this is an absolute myth), it is a point that when people are in psychotic states or suicidal their behaviour can be unpredictable and it may cause people to be worried or scared for that person which is difficult to know how to deal with, whether you are going through this yourself or watching from the sidelines.

I truly believe, however, that is in our greatest interest for us to actively try to understand, and do our best to listen without judgement. How often do we actually just sit down with someone, and listen when someone is experiencing depression, for instance? I am not blaming people for being afraid, it is in some ways a natural response to make judgements for instance so we can protect ourselves, but how helpful is this kind of behaviour?

I myself, have at points struggled with suicidal thoughts and have experienced friends becoming suicidal and losing them and to break down the taboo- there is a lot more to it than just this horror story as is often falsely portrayed by our media, that person ending their lives jumping off a cliff. Beyond that silence is absolutely vulnerability. Human vulnerability and we are all human and it is that vulnerability that renders us naked and afraid.

When I became psychotic back in 2014, and there are often many different phrases used to describe this illness, I had in my words- ‘lost my sense of reality’, and my whole world had changed rapidly over a period of days. I was no longer who I was, I was ‘no longer Jess’. This was echoed in the chaotic ways I was interacting with the world and the people in it- others had picked this up and deemed me as ‘dangerous’ and ‘unpredictable’ which may seem like the wrong adjectives to use, but quite honestly, this is how I was. At one point I was taken home after police had found me confused and speaking to people I did not know.

Paranoia and false beliefs are quite common in Psychosis, but I don’t want to focus on this- these are just symptoms of a complex illness and no one person will experience the same things as someone else, in fact a list of symptoms can actually be quite limiting in helping someone to get to grips with their condition. I want to make it completely clear- that everyone who experiences psychosis will have different things happen. Nobody is the same.

What can we actually do when someone appears to be ‘in a crisis’ or their behaviour seems strange- how we can help- and, is there anything we can do to prevent people reaching an acute stage of mental illness? This is not a straightforward answer, what might be a better question is, what are the useless unhelpful things that we do that actually make it harder for people? Perhaps if we got to know these more, we could both directly and indirectly benefit someone going through a crisis.

As mentioned, behaviour can be unpredictable with lots of suspicion and paranoia and it bears mentioning that if you are going through a psychotic episode it can be the case you have not slept for hours, even days! So the person is literally losing their mind. I am not an expert, but I can honestly say this happened to me and I had extreme sleep deprivation.

Perhaps, we may feel it is not our place to ask or interfere if someone is unwell, perhaps we are scared of the consequences, that we will seem rude to be ‘assuming things’ so we stay silent and don’t say a word. Or, may be we are ourselves recovering for mental illness and don’t know what the best thing is to do because we don’t want to jeopardise our own mental health again….

Well, talking about mental health is not rocket science- it could start with a simple ‘Hello, how are you doing these days?” It is ironic that often the global precipitating factor with mental illness such as depression is severe loneliness, that we live in towns or cities filled with places to go and people to see, yet we are supposedly the loneliest people in the world this way? Insanity used to be depicted through stories of sailors, the archetypal ‘loner’ away at sea for months or even years and this became to be associated with them being alone and mental illness. Well, how about breaking the negative cycle and talking to a lonely neighbour up the street? How about we take that first step to get that person to open/connect again, even if briefly… you may underestimating quite what a difference that conversation might mean to the other person.

We may have a long way to go with recognising mental health and enacting change, but if we can adopt an open and positive attitude as individuals when it comes to conversations about mental health and recognising this is as vital as physical health, perhaps this makes a great stepping stone to real progress.

 

Jessie Saul

The letter I wish I could send to my depressed self…

With next week being Mental health awareness week, I wanted to highlight something that has affected me before and will continue to do- my experience of depression.

I had a long think about it, and decided the best way I could really open up this issue was to have a  honest conversation with my depressed self. So, I have written this letter to show how depression affected me… back in 2013

I have done this partly as a creative exercise for myself, but my ultimate hope is that it will help shed some light on depression and that by sharing my experience this might offer some hope for others who experience mental health issues on a daily basis and encourage others to speak out as well. I would love to hear your feedback and please share with your friends!

Remember, no body deserves to go through depression and anxiety alone. If you are suffering and need help then please try and speak to someone, like a friend or mental health professional or if you are in distress call Samaritans free 116 123, equally if you are concerned about a friend you can use minds online mental health guide to find out what to do to help. Find that info here  https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helping-someone-else/

 

 

Dear Jessie,

You are probably going to tell me I need not bother. Perhaps, you won’t even be able to read this. That is how the illness has taken you, how depression has sunk you down to the pits of barely existing to such a point that it has you on the absolute brink of break down. I can’t promise to make things immediately better, but you NEED to try and hear this.

First thing you need to know is, you are not to blame for this illness, nor what it is doing to you and how it has manifested itself. I will give you some free advice, which is plainly this- you absolutely need to stop telling yourself this is your own fault, RIGHT NOW. Of course you will say, “who else could possibly be to blame? “I have put this on myself ” but you, are not the reason you cannot get up in the morning, that you cannot do the university work that has taken over your life the last few months, that you cannot eat, that you barely sleep and every thing seem like it is gradually falling apart.

Depression, as this journey will show you is a cruel master and will take and take and take from you every last ounce of energy and still expect you to keep giving despite the deficit in energy. Anxiety will be those nagging voices in your head, the fears, the sorrows, to the inner demon spewing out that it is not going to get easier, but what you need to know ABOVE ALL is that YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN and as much as these toxic thoughts storm blaze your head, and your body aches from the exhaustion of trying to hold it all together, is that IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. We have grown up to be conditioned to think it is wrong to ask for help, to ask for help is weak but the opposite is true, it is OKAY to ask for help, in fact it is vital and right now you need it more than ever.

I will try to illustrate this better with this example. If you go to the doctors (which has been more than the once in the last months) and tell them you have got sore throat and cold and feel awful, they will examine you and tell you this is likely to be an infection which is a physical condition, so then you must take lots rest and antibiotics! They may even be sympathetic to you! So you take antibiotics and hope it goes away quickly. Well it is slightly different dealing with mental illness, because it is the mind that is diseased this is not a physical thing (even though mental illness can manifest itself through physical symptoms such as tiredness and lethargy), it is not easy to treat or find out what is wrong or to find a cure and when your doctor tells you to rest, you think to yourself “whats the point if can’t even sleep any more because I am anxious and stressed”, I am just barely existing. You will probably feel useless and hopeless? If only we would give ourselves half the kindness we deserve when we are fighting depression that we usually reserve for physical illness then we might start to feel slightly better. Regardless, what matters above all is this, it is simply not your fault!

You will tell me there is nothing you can do, that life is worthless and over and you are an absolute failure. You are so drawn out from the nervous exhaustion and the insomnia and the endless anxious thoughts whirring about your fragile mind, so stressed by your workload, defeated by the darkness, that if I told you you would be sitting where you are today, head held high, proud and smiling, and be free from depression, that this abominable winter of your life will pass, that your suicidal feelings would not win and would subside, that the smart young passionate woman who will have to go through hell and back will rise up again and again from the dust and debris, well you would probably tell me “get lost”, but it is absolutely true.

I have news for you…you are going to go through this hard time to say the least, and the proverbial light at the end of tunnel is going to be switched on, better still it will be glowing, once you are on the other side. All the chaos of your mind is like a nightmare car crash taking over an orderly junction, you will start to lose your sense of what is real and what is not, the blurred lines of depression will malaise you, the black dog will still hang around. But you must know that to get through what you are going to, you are a WARRIOR and you are a SURVIVOR. You will battle to get through where you need to be, and I am living proof as I am writing this now.

Secondly, you have lots of worries and fears that you “are not doing enough” and “not trying hard enough” and this anxiety forces you in to a vicious cycle of worry and despair. It has got past the point of the pot reaching boiling point, that it has overflown. You think you are a burden to friends, a failure for not being able to manage in daily life or at college. Depression makes you find smallest of things feel impossible to do, it makes things so much harder, but most harsh, it makes you believe that you are weak for it. But the absolute opposite it true, your strength is great, as is your power to help others who you have known you. You must forgive yourself and not blame yourself or feel guilty because your illness will chip away more than enough, but it can never take YOU away, nor what you have to achieve. It has and will change your life. What you have been denying yourself is love and acceptance because that is how depression works- it literally sucks the life out of us- that your family adore you, and your friends love you to. You are not weak for experiencing depression- your life is not over- far from it!

You can trust that, from the place of doom you find yourself at now, you will move on to a place of stability and emotional wellness that will render you bullet proof from what you will go through. It will not be an easy ride, you will go to emotional turmoil but you will rise up and fight that, I can promise you. It is not the end, merely the beginning.

Oh and finally, before I go, there are some golden nuggets of wisdom you will discover as you are on your path to recovery and that is…. that you will learn to LOVE YOURSELF, and accept yourself for WHO YOU ARE, in spite of what any one else shouts or your inner critique, which is what you have been focusing on for the last few years or so. That you will free yourself of this inner critic that it does not serve you and instead, be investing whole-heartedly in your health and well being. After all, do we not deserve to give ourselves love and acceptance after such suffering? And I quote your favourite quote here “how can one love another person, if one does not love himself in the first place?”

Let go of it all,

Your future self.

 

 

My top 10 tips for managing mental health

  1. Reduce stress and anxiety as much as you can breathing exercises can help with this as well as frequent and regular relaxation: using meditation CDs and mindfulness are proven to effectively to manage poor mental health conditions anxiety or depression and even alter brain chemistry. Whats more there are even apps like headspace that you can download and do guided meditation exercises, so with all these positives why not give it a go?
  2. Talk to others in general not only when you are struggling, family or friends or doctors and mental health workers, who is there for you? Equally can you be there for friends who may be dealing with a lot at the moment? If you would rather not speak to someone you know or face to face there are a few platforms online including 7 cups of tea, an innovative new counselling app that means you can log on and chat anonymously, there is no judgement! https://www.7cups.com/
  3. Take up a hobby or join a club or group this can be an excellent way to combat the mental health issues you have been experiencing and also just feel better about yourself, you may feel stuck in a vicious cycle or be anxious and need something to ‘keep you going’. May be you feel stuck in life and need some thing different to make you feel better, keep yourself busy or just meet new people and boost your confidence again.
  4. Keep active– take up an exercise like walking, cycling, swimming or yoga, don’t be afraid to try something new it may just be the medicine you need if you’ve been struggling with depression or social anxiety! You could try gentle exercise such as tai chi (i practise tai chi and can highly recommend it!) at home if you can’t leave the house much or struggle to get about.
  5. Try to eat healthily– if you find it hard to do this you could start with small steps trying to make it fun- researching different foods or diet plans, there is plenty of nutritious ingredients out there in the shops and restaurants which I appreciate can be overwhelming but it may be easier if you just try one ‘new thing’ once a week ? This could work best before you go on to make further changes. Remember you are investing in yourself with every thing that you do to pave the way for better health!
  6. Pacing yourself, with your illness and recovery. We have all heard the saying- “if you break your leg and end up in hospital you would not jump up and start walking on it, would you?” The same goes for our mental health- although these often ‘invisible illnesses’ are tossed aside due to stigma, we need to learn to treat ourselves more gently especially in fragile states. One step at a time, and it is important to praise yourself every new step forward that we take!Give yourself a break (both emotionally and physically)
  7. Use aromatherapy or herbs to enhance your health and wellbeing, you could try using essential oil- start with just one- lavender is an excellent one highly therapeutic, calms down nerves promotes sleep and is stress reliving it is also antiseptic and anti-viral. A couple of drops in a hot bath (which is another excellent way to unwind) or on your pillow at night can be super relaxing! May be this kind of thing is not for you but you seek something that will help you with a chronic illness or suffer with ongoing aches and pains – you could look in to alternative medicine and go and see a herbalist or alexander technique practitioner who will be able to treat these symptoms. Check out this site to find out where your local therapists are based and for further information on complimentary therapies: http://www.cnhc.org.uk/c87e694685518dacd3a9279da834e103
  8. Write yourself a W.R.A.P plan (Wellness Recovery Action Plan)– simply a couple of clear statements you write down (can be with a community psychiatric nurse/care coordinator or with a friend or on your own) that outlines what you have in place to keep you well and coping with your mental illness. It can be a good way to log what helps you. It can be changed and often will when you work with a CPN or social worker but what matters is that it is for you and your support network to be clear on mental health matters
  9.  Inform yourself about your condition, about medication or treatment you may need, it is frightening to be dealing with this on your own at first and you may already feel let down or not heard by those around you, even by professionals and feel left alone. It is simply a myth that you should be left alone, you deserve to be told the most accurate and helpful information and advice for you to make informed choices. Anyone experiencing mental health illness should be treated fairly and with dignity it is unacceptable this is increasingly not the case for so many 18-25s, older people and even young children. I will just mention for anyone seriously struggling right now that need help can contact Samaritans (UK) on 116-123. Taking thing in to your own hands is vital – there are plenty of useful and reputable organisations online who provide information about mental health disorders for young people and everything mental health related. I have put some links below to sites which I have found to be useful myself and would recommend to a friend who wants to know more but does not know where to go:  https://youngminds.org.uk/what-we-do/our-projects/headmeds/  http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/a-z-mental-health/ https://www.rethink.org/services-groups/service-types/support-groups
  10. Do not give up! You are battling with your mental illness every day and every day will bring new challenges with it. It may seem at some points that there may be no way out, no ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and you may feel already defeated by this nightmare. You are not alone, it take time to come to terms with a condition and it can affect your whole life so don’t be hard on yourself. Thank you self for doing whatever it is you have done today to push through, no matter how small!

Hope this helps a bit folks, feel free to leave comments on this page and spread my article to your friends on FB. Have a good day!

Yoga and my battle with depression

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I want to tell you a story. It is the story of how after feeling nothing, my spiralling downward into depression and suicidal thoughts, I actually came to use yoga to lift myself through and overcome my mental illness.

It was back in 2014 that I had suffered a nervous breakdown and everything I thought I knew of my life broke down completely. This would be the first of 2 episodes to have happened to me in a short period of a couple years. I was studying at university, reaching the end of 2013 and about to ‘crash’.

I won’t tidy it up for you. The truth is, life was really becoming too much to cope with as I broke off a serious relationship that was long distance due to my moving to uni and I suppose things had just caught up and engulfed me. I was anxious to the point of extreme in that first term, with a stressful workload and deadlines for christmas holidays and on top of this I just constantly ‘trying to keep going’ when I could not. Soon I would be leaving uni returning home and gradually sink in to the worst depression of my life…

Yoga came at a later point- about 6 months or so after i was hospitalised. It was something that I just started doing. After returning home and seeing a community nurse every week or so, I was really struggling to ‘get back to life/myself’. We worked out setting small, achievable goals week 1- go for walks once a day 2- meet a friend for walk 3- go with a friend/friends to a cafe to socialise. It was hard work, I was living with depression and crippling anxiety would curb me and leave me ‘stuck at home’ and afraid of what people would say/do if I went out and worried.

The depression would leave me spending most of my days staying in, but gradually I would make steady improvements, going out more reguarly, getting exercise, planning my bedtime routine and socialising again life would begin to take shape again, a healthier and stronger me was coming through.

I am not too sure how it was that I came to use yoga but I recall just ‘giving it a go’. I knew that it would be something active, and having been spending a lot of time indoors, some times feeling low and hopeless, not even feeling I could do much more than read (and even that was hard with depressive symptoms!) so I gave yoga a go.

I watched yoga videos on youtube, I slotted in yoga in to my daily routine and after a few weeks, I was doing almost every day! Like most therapies and activities it can take time for you to really feel the benefits, however with yoga after the first exercise you could definitely notice quite physical changes, stretching and moving the body is so good for you, and you might notice it promoting sleep as well. Not everyone is going to experience the same benefits, and it may not work for everyone. I was lucky at that time that I found something that I could apply to my life that would keep me going, make me feel life was worth it again and to reach wellness and go on maintaining my health and well being.

There is no magic cure when someone gets depression. At first it will be hard to muster even the smallest amount of energy that make the push for ourselves to do anything. I knew that yoga was allowing me to be stronger, to improve at a steady pace and I was healing through my own conscious energy. You have to keep trying for what will work for you. That may be talking therapy, it may be having a pet and investing your time and energy in to that or it may be something completely different. Experiencing depression and managing anxiety on a daily basis has taught me that I must keep trying even when I feel like giving up, that I am a warrior of my own destiny and by making small steps forward and accepting myself especially when I experience set backs. They will happen but I should not be so hard on myself about that.

The reason I became well and recovered depression was because I  invested in myself and in nourishing my inner self. This is something us busy people take for granted and something we leave for the last moment, often when we are suffering a lot. Yoga allowed me a space to do that and uniquely, I could reap the benefits of it both physically, emotionally, and spiritually as it began to add more meaning to my life. I can say the same goes for my creative pursuits (these form a incremental part of my emotional freedom nowadays). I started to go to a yoga class those years ago and benefited meeting with others who wanted to actively take part in their self care and wellness, which is all the more empowering because we are engrossing ourselves in that powerful activity!

It may be useful for me to say at this point that it is not when we are on top of our situations, of our lives that we start to know what we are doing and how we can do it, it is only when we lose our grip of it all and are haunted by the impossibilities of sanity that we can truly begin to grasp what we need, for ourselves in our lives and begin to rebuild.

Yoga was a stepping stone along a pathway I marked for myself, and it has served and supported me in recovery and becoming well again. It will not be for everybody and you will probably be best to consult your doctor/nurses of health workers on whether this could be a helpful for you but if you are genuinely interested and want to try it then I would highly recommend you go for it! Starting with some chair yoga (sitting exercises) and gentle/ restorative yoga might be a good place to begin, the internet is a life saver too you could save yourself going to a community class if you prefer to ‘do it yourself’. Check out Adrienne on youtube she is a great yogi and motivator https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene

Good luck and I hope this helps you/provides some support for your road from illness through recovery. Remember always that you are enough!

Jessie

The ‘5 ways of wellbeing’: What they are, and how you can apply them to your mental health

Image result for the 5 ways of wellbeing

About two years ago, back in 2015, I was just starting to get better after a breakdown in my mental health had led me to spend 3 months hospitalised with psychosis. In those early days anxiety had taken a whole grip over my everyday life and although I was making good steps forward, I still struggled with social life, getting ‘back’ to living life normally, or whatever that meant.

At the time the real issues were still quite raw for me, I would suffer panic attacks and anxiety. Luckily for me I had my mum and my family and close ones who were there to support me and help me through this difficult time but actually living my life, moving forward at times still felt tough, I must say now that having the conversations that I did have, telling people how I felt and being honest to myself and to others about my mental health and my needs was invaluable!

It is for this reason that I would like to make you aware of some thing a friend brought to my attention during those early days of recovery that I found more recently to be a nugget of wisedom. There is something called ‘the 5 ways of wellbeing’

The gov.uk website states them as following:

  • Connect
  • Be active
  • Take notice
  • Keep learning
  • Give

What is this, you asked? To break it down simply, the 5 ways of wellbeing is a series of ways of coping that can (and have been proven even) to enhance our health and wellbeing (please read the following study by Oxford Univeristy) https://theambitionist.com/2017/01/08/evening-classes-can-improve-physical-and-mental-health/  I am telling you about them because I know that they are something that proved useful to me- sort of like a key- to help along the way to wellness and wellbeing when I felt isolated and frustrated. How brilliant then, to have a tool to figure out what we need along the way?

MIND, the mental health charity go in to more specifics about the 5 ways here… http://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-yourself/five-ways-to-wellbeing/

Obviously it will vary from person to person in terms of how useful this guide can be, alas putting things in to perspective this can be helpful for people who may have feel they have lost some thing in themselves, things have been difficult with mental health for a period of time and they just feel a bit stuck in life. Reconnecting socially, giving back to the community and being open to new things or taking up a new hobbie can all be useful ways for us however I will say that this is depending your state of mental health. In this instance, you may find it hard to apply especially in the very early stages of mental illness or when experiencing a crisis it would be probably be inappropriate but on the whole, it can prove helpful.

Being aware of what is out there and available to us can help us make inform decisions, and allow us to make steps positive forward with our mental health, so the 5 ways can be a powerful tool for us to wield during times of stress, mental conflict and in trying to prevent further mental health issues. I would recommend using the gov initiative as a guide, in combination with other recovery tools such as mindfulness, affirmations or therapies so it can be an addition to your steadily growing arsenal of mental health tools and coping strategies,

I hope this will be useful to you and if it is or you have any questions or comments then please leave them below, good luck along navigating your MH pathway.

One step at a time!

Jessie