Words and Ideas can Change the World

I am a person of few words so it feels odd to want to start a blog. However, I feel there is something that needs to be talked about by more people in order for it to be socially acceptable:

I have been suffering from depression intermittently since I was a teenager. Nearly half the UK population have had a mental illness at some point in their lifetime, I feel this is a secret society that no one acknowledges.

Firstly I want to define it. Rather than go to the bog standard definition. Here’s mine;
“being stuck in a dark room knowing that there’s light outside but you just can’t seem to get to the door. You can’t get comfortable, it’s hard to find distraction from your own thoughts, and you’re left clawing for the way out”…it is possible though.

I see it in other people. Sometimes when my mask slips, my friends closest to me see the desperate look in my eyes. In the past I haven’t had the courage to say anything to help anyone else. Now I feel the first step (like with everything) is to admit; that I (as well as society) has a problem.

To actually say these words to a person; “I have depression/anxiety/social phobia” makes my palms sweat, and my stutter come back. I am met with 3 options in sharing my illness:

1. Continue to put on the mask.
2. Down play it, hoping the person will read into your subtle signals.
3. Go balls out and say it loud and proud.

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Today I’m going with option 3.

After all, it takes people to speak out to change perceptions in society. Mental illness, is a chemical imbalance in the brain, which can be set off by traumatic events, or just be left dormant waiting for a trigger. Mental illness is an illness. Therefore should be treated with the same respect as a physical illness. The attn.com link below depicts this perfectly:

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There have been times in work (and to my friends) I have lied about getting help. As there is this stigma attached to mental health. I really… really regret this.

Why should there be shame associated to depression/anxiety? Or shame with getting help for this. This allows us to make better decisions in work, show trust and grow in our relationships.

Give Up

I feel that society feeds off telling you that you don’t have enough of one, or the other of these two things:

  1. Money
  2. Looks

Money… Well… More money more problems? We can all go for the rat race, piss off Brenda who sends a few too many “as per my last email” messages, and get that promotion. At the end of the day, that anxiety of ensuring you are heard in every meeting… There is a ceiling to that self actualisation. Or you can just go full gold digger. But let’s facing… always letting the other person win in a fight. That’s going to be demanding!

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Society will tell you, that you need to cover those spots. You can’t wear that old t shirt that you love. You can’t wear anything too outside the box (God forbid we stand out from our preformed tribes). We can’t have tattoos and shave our heads… Or can we? I’ve lost track of what is cool and what isn’t now. This endless checking leaves me feeling breathless. I can almost feel the anxiety of being on the podium of social stardom. Waiting to get knocked off by the next fashion blogger who thinks pink fluffy socks are the next big thing.

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If we feel that we don’t have the looks, then we sacrifice parts of ourselves until we are on par with the person with good looks. I’ve walked on that balance beam, given away my pride, my dignity and my safety. Until I felt like I wasn’t myself anymore. I had to ctrl-alt-delete after that. It almost felt like tetris. I’d won but I’d lost a line of myself. It took a lot of lost walks and long drives to find myself again. But I did, and now when I get up to that moment, my body freezes (like a spinning wheel on a computer). I just breath and reboot.

 

Bunny in a Bunny Suit

Something happened to me today. I remembered a ghost that haunted me as it was/is a true reflection of me. This woman’s face had a poker smile that would fool most, and when she thought no one was looking it fell, and I could see her true feelings of despair, loss and pain. When I saw it, it hit me so hard. My emotions were sailing on tranquil waters, no one warned me of this huge iceberg tearing my insides apart. I had an overwhelming sense to help, and the feeling of wanting to wallow that pain with her. When your wallowing in that indescribable pain, its like wallowing in shit. The small things like what clothes your wearing, when that works due, don’t matter anymore.

You see, after you’ve been through this, you start to give less of a crap about perception. As you know things aren’t always as they seem.

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In these times relationships matter more and more. They are your anchor into reality. At first I didn’t want that anchor, I just wanted to disappear. So my thoughts would disappear too. I don’t mean about every single person you come across. Those relationships that matter, and that bring out intensity around your emotions. The people that you immediately think about in the face of adversity.

The most important is taking that time out to be by yourself. I don’t mean finding the perfect wall light from Wayfair to go by your bed. I mean finding that time to put your phone down and learning to quiet your mind. I fought this quiet time, because I feared it unleashed pandora’s box. I feared it wasn’t the answer, and if it wasn’t then what was?Each time I go outside and sit in simplicity I feel more alive. This place brings breath, and light. If we all came to this place more often then what a world it would be.

The Past Don’t Ever Quit

They should sell my feelings to an anaesthetist, because I can feel numb for days. Nevertheless I continue to drive round in circles on ring roads. Some days I run into people who so wild they cannot be tamed. Their emotions tear out of them so hard that they have to drop the mask other people hold up. These people keep me, themselves and others around them alive.

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My parents told me I should be ready for greatness, and I was ready to go toe to toe with anyone to take that away from me. I would scream and lash out like a baby whose had candy taken from it. Slowly I realised this rat race of the job, the marriage the house isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. People walk around in this numb facade asking what car you have, where you live. Soon enough I realised I wanted out of this coma.

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Now whenever I’m upset about losing something materialistic (a job/an item) I think about these questions (A New Earth)

  • “Do you realise you will have to let go of x at some point?
  • How much more time do you need before you can let go of it?
  • Will you become less when you let go of it?
  • Has you who are become demonised by the loss?”

More often than not, if whatever it is doesn’t matter in 5 years, then it doesn’t matter at all. We cling onto old birthday cards, valentines cards, awful memories and make room for them in our minds. Note they are there before you do a spring cleaning of your mind.

Literally: “what was I thinking”?

Where is my mind?

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Perfection is something that I have battled with for a long time. Whether that’s people pleasing, or finding the absolute perfect life solution to some life road block. This always leads to listening to that static in my head. The noise is incessant and never ending, it follows me like my shadow through meetings, and into my bed at night. I tuck myself in and hear the whispers of: “well you should have done it this way…you could be missing out on this”. The static after a while becomes deafening.

I’ve taken an extract from ‘The Wisdom of Sunday’s’ to illustrate the mind:

“The mind is like an ocean. (Sometimes it’s calm, and sometimes it’s like a tsunami.) To try and befriend it at the top of its waves is like trying to put a plate on water. Instead you must drop down underneath your anxiety/anger. You will then find awareness that understands this anxiety. Compassion arises out of this that will understand the interconnectedness. After all we aren’t out of our minds, we are out of our awareness.”

Our static is the top of the waves, and we all converse with them every day. In the end a gentle awareness and understanding of the static can help lessen it. For example, my static would say “this guy left you because you’re too boring”. However, if I drop down underneath I can see that this is just anxiety trying to draw me in. Like a bubble to be popped I acknowledge it stops (after a lot of practice).

One great way to check that you aren’t in the static is to check:

“The next time you are in the shower… Are you really in the shower?” (A Wisdom of Sundays).

When you are showering, are you thinking about a great punchline of an argument you had last week? Or how your workday will go that day? If you are in the shower, learn to be there… Feel the water on you, watch the water flow around the plug hole, wrap yourself up in a nice fluffy towel afterwards. Learn to just be.

The one big realisation I have had is that no one is making me feel a certain way. I choose to let that be a part of my static. So the only person standing in my way of getting away from these thoughts… is me.

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Take Time & Find

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This quote always sits with me as it:

  • Drives me to question my pain
  • Drives me to question people’s intentions
  • Drives me to question my intentions
  • Drives me to question what is true here
  • Takes away my fortune teller mindset

I don’t believe in a man that sits above in the clouds and watches over me. But I do believe in fate. As I was writing this blog, and struggling for a good week of what to say (I was also at a low for a while). I stumbled across this passage from Michael A Singer and it put it all in perspective for me.

“Imagine if you have a thorn that directly touches a nerve. So much so, that anything that comes near it causes a disturbance. You have two choices:

  1. Avoid anything that touches that thorn
  2. Take it out”

Michael A Singer

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We all try to build our lives around our thorns. Whether that’s relationships, social lives, working lives. If anyone goes near our sore spot, we do what we normally do in pain. We lash out, or we run away. Fight or flight. Our thorns then become someone else’s thorns. Our lashings out then become someone else’s bad memory (or their thorn). It’s like the least fun game of Chinese whispers.

If you feel that someone has touched a thorn, relax and lean away from it. Give your body space to push it out itself. Try not to get involved with your brains “you aren’t good enough” chatter. That isn’t you talking. That is your fear. Soon your brain will have a moment of clarity around that thorn. That moment in peace… It’s so hard to describe… It’s like I finally feel connected even though I’m the only one there to experience it.

I Guess this is Growing Up

If I could go back and tell myself something then I would definitely retell this from Sarah Blondin:

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  • Put down the fashion blogs, and hours wondering about your physical flaws. Look inward. True value is not from someone else thinking you’re fit, it’s from you, and you alone.
  • Sit down and breath.
  • True riches are not from, cars and houses. It’s from patience, grace, kindness, and wisdom.
  • Take a moment to stop and appreciate your health, your quiet time, your bed, it’s not being so bloody hot all the time!
  • I found that when I was younger I had no direction or support. I was actually longing to meet my true self. All I ever want and need, is within me. There in the quiet of myself is where I would find my answers.
  • Sometimes my mind creates noise, like a wasps nest. I point fingers, I choose everything over my true self. I didn’t believe in my own ability to give myself what I needed. All I need to get there is to have patience and to remember to breathe. I would then meet the only person who could carry me through the darkest nights, and the only person who could truly love me.

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  • Phrases such as “other half”, make us feel that we aren’t complete unless we meet someone else. We are somehow inadequate unless we are married off, or have a bf/gf. At the end of the day the best relationship you will have is the one with yourself.
  • Bad Times come with the good. Do not despair. Breathe. Ground yourself. You are strong enough to make this life so beautiful.

 

Context over Content

Every day we follow near enough the same routine. Get up, go to work, go the gym, eat dinner etc. That’s our content.

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Our context is how we view that situation, maybe we are in love. Or you are viewing the situation differently due to gratitude (thankful for your health, a good nights sleep, flowers in your garden). This switch in the context of a situation can instantly take away stress and improve your mood.

Changing content is always hard, you can’t just magic up a new house or new job. However, you can learn to appreciate what you have, or reframe it in a new way.  I can say that I went through a cancer scare a few years ago, and I am thankful for my health every day. Yes work sucks, and relationships end but we are so lucky to be alive.

Help I’m Alive

We got taught when we were younger that there are two spectrums of emotions. Happiness and sadness, or if you like…

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As aptly as Donnie Darko put it. I quickly realised that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. Other social aspects that seemed alien to me at one point soon became more part of life.

For instance, how can a person hurt themselves on purpose? It feels like a taboo subject still. Yet, it happens all the time. Trust me…

People think that you take the pain out on your body so that they can see that it’s killing you, bit by bit. For me, and for a lot of people that couldn’t be further from the truth. The pure emotion that circles round, and round in my brain makes me forget the time. Forget who I am. Forget my purpose of living. I just want something else to focus on so badly. I want to see that pain in front of me. I want to watch it heal in front of my eyes. Sometimes it’s a tattoo that bookmarks a story of my past, or a piercing that I can focus on for a few weeks.

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What I have learnt (am still learning) is to accept my own flaws, and that I’m good enough. I don’t have to be perfect, and I don’t have to punish myself when I’m not. I live with the ambivalence of myself. In the words of Esther Perel: it has grown/will grow on me slowly, physically, emotionally through the years.

 

Darkness that’s Flooded in Light

I’m here to talk about what people don’t talk about.

Suicide Ideation. 

Firstly the “trigger”, it happens. Something crashes down on your life so hard you don’t even have a chance to look round before your sent into a pit of depression. All those “What if” scenarios, well they have happened. For me, people aren’t a logic that I can follow. They aren’t an x + y statement that should always go together. It leads my brain to chew on it for months, and the only part of the equation that I have power over is me. I pick at myself until there was nothing left. Without an answer I felt alone, I felt no meaning.

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Without any answers I felt there was no “purpose”. I felt like I was going through the motion of the 9-5 days. Working, going to the gym, making small talk and going home. I still am “withdrawn” from the “real world”. The small talk, the socialising. For that I feel bad.

Back then I didn’t feel bad. I felt numb. When someone said “See you Monday”. Part of me thought, “You probably won’t”. In a way it was liberating. It allowed me to not care about the petty arguments of work, as I had bigger things to worry about at home.

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Feeling numb was my brains final security blanket. These days don’t feel like mine, they are owned by this fog in my head. I would sit on the bathroom floor for hours with my mind going round and round in circles. I just wanted to feel something again, something real. “To reset” I told the woman from the Samaritans. I thought taking a lot of pills would ironically make me feel more alive again.

I had reasoned myself into “reckless” thought but I couldn’t see it right away.

Thankfully, with an amazing GP and therapist I made it through. As there are days I sit staring lost in my own thought and someone asks (as they always do), “Are you ok?” and I actually mean my answer of: “I’m fine, I’m just fine”.

I am grateful that I am here, and I can feel my cat crawl on my back in the morning. I can sit in my garden at the end of a day and feel the grass between my fingers. It’s the little things that make me feel alive.

 

If you are worried about someone watch out for the signs below, and check out your life counts

“IS PATH WARM”

I  – Ideation (suicidal thoughts)

S – Substance Abuse

P – Purposelessness

A – Anxiety

T – Trapped

H – Hopelessness/Helplessness

W – Withdrawal

A – Anger

R – Recklessness

M – Mood changes

Also give this great blog about the Signs of Suicide a read by The Bipolar Writer

 

No Room for Doubt

As I come back from my holiday I got thinking about baggage. We all carry it around with us, some in neatly packed cases, and some dragging behind waiting to be measured out for our social norm limit. We argue with the airline, “you don’t understand what I need to get through these next couple weeks”. They respond: “Sorry, it’s just standard”. I’m sorry but, standard or “normal” is just fucking boring in my book. Tell me something true, something that makes your cases bust open with experience.

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We watch these people desperately scramble trying to throw out their baggage that they don’t need. (Knowing it’s just going to mount up again.) I can see the 3 brothers of stigma in their cases:

  1. “Shame
  2. Guilt
  3. Embarrassment”

“We are ashamed of our naked bodies and naked emotions. We spend all of our time thinking about this shame. However, we don’t spend proportionally the same amount of time being ashamed of environmental or social impacts we have on each other.”

Stephen Fry – Happy Place Podcast

I don’t know much about the new people I meet, but I like people who show their emotion. Who are “true blue”. People that are fearless to break social norms, and carry around their baggage like its a badge of honor.

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At the end of the day we all have crap to deal with, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we shared each others baggage once in a while? I’m not exactly a light packer, but I’d like to think I can lighten someones load once in a while.

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Toothpaste Kisses

“We need to become aware of how many messages we internalise” – Krista Tippett

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How many times do we think to ourselves:

  • Play it cool
  • It’s just a play for control
  • Don’t let him know that you like him
  • Don’t text back straight away

It’s exhausting to internalise this monologue, and appear totally perfect on the outside. It feels like some sort of magic trick. I’m astonished at those that manage to make it through unscathed. Some fail to pull a rabbit out of a hat, with everyone watching. Pity and self deprecation looks on. “If only I ….” follows.

After all, it’s easy to get those first few kisses. The pinnacle moment is reaching those tooth paste kisses. Knowing something real, something true. Those interactions with people are what I live for. I’d unwittingly follow someone into the dark for.

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Until someone loves you to the point that you deserve. Then you should love yourself even more to make up for it. Go be that fucking awesome girl boss, go be that artist, blogger, runner, coach because that will fill you more than anyone who doesn’t treat you the way they should.

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