If I was your mental health mentor, what would I discuss with you first?

If I was your mental health mentor, what would I discuss with you first?

Session one

How much do you believe in yourself?

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being totally self-assured, and 1 being a feeling of complete worthlessness, where would you place yourself?

I would guess your somewhere in the 1-5 bracket, otherwise you would not need help. As this is kind of a one-sided conversation, I would ask you to make yourself comfortable. As you are sat reading this, maybe just thinking about yourself might have raised some anxiety, or even some sadness. Take a second now to relax, is your jaw tense? how about your neck and shoulders? Take a moment now to just take 5 deep regular breathes and allow your body to relax (NB don’t relax so much you fall off the chair).

  1. As you breath out relax the jaw
  2. As you breath out relax your neck and shoulders
  3. As you breath out smile a little
  4. As you breath out relax even more
  5. As you breath out enjoy the feeling of being relaxed.

I hope that now you are a little more relaxed than you were before. I find that simple exercise to be so beneficial when I am anxious or upset. It is surprising just how much tension we hold in the jaw, I have been told it is hard to think negatively when you relax your jaw. is it true for you?

You may be wondering what this little exercise has to do with believing in yourself. Well, hopefully you managed to relax a little, maybe I should put some emphasis on the YOU managed to relax a little. I did not make you relax, you chose to try the exercise, you managed to change your state of mind, even if it was only a little. When I use this exercise it is normally because I need to take back some control, I need to stop whatever is going on in my head at that moment, I need to confirm my belief that I am able to control me, even if it is only a little. With this in mind try the exercise again, this time;

  1. As you breath out think I am relaxing my jaw
  2. As you breath out think I am relaxing my neck and shoulders
  3. As you breath out think I want to smile
  4. As you breath out think I want to relax even more
  5. As you breath out think I am in control

How did that work for you?

I sincerely hope that this simple exercise work in some way for you, just as it does for me. For me the biggest fear of my illness is losing control of myself. I know that nobody else can change me, only I can change myself. When I am manic, my mind is going at a thousand thoughts per minute (estimated), From the outside I may even look motivated, yet inside I am in turmoil, just waiting for my mind to overload and send me spinning off into intense anxiety. When I am depressed, I can go to some very dark places, mentally I beat myself until I am curled in a ball, desperately wishing I could cry and wail.

In these times all the psychobabble I know, all the brilliant therapies, it all goes, the only thing I know that might save me, is the simple exercise above. Over and over again, until I get that foot in the door of self control, then, right then, I believe in myself. For me believing in yourself, myself, when you have a mental health problem, finding that point where you say to yourself “I’m in a bad place here”, and you manage to get that sliver of control, that is where you can believe in yourself.

It takes a tremendous amount of strength to ride out these bad times, we have been through them before, we know the pain, mentally and physically, but we know they will end at some point. Me personally, those five deep breaths, they do not make the mania or depression instantly disappear, not by a long shot. What they do for me is to remind me that I must believe in myself. We live everyday with this, and we move forward, each new day, not knowing how we are going to feel, So if you put your belief in yourself in the 1-5 range, think again, I hope that I have in some way allowed you to believe in yourself a bit more, there is only you, and I think you are amazing.

I wish you peace and love, if you look you can find it everywhere

David

The Daily Post
Is there a witty side to mental illness

Is there a witty side to mental illness

I have found a rather interesting site which provides a daily prompt for blog posts. If you are a blogger like myself, a ‘fits and starts’ type, it might be useful. The site is called The Daily Post , check it out and see what you think.

Anyway, I have decided to take up their challenge of both writing a post every day, and also writting a post ‘inspired’ by the daily prompt. The word today is witty. Now as I write mainly about my personal experience with mental illness, and occasionally my views on mental illness, trying to formulate a blog post around the word witty is interesting.

Here.  I have to be careful, putting witty and mental health could get me in trouble. Some people could take it that I am saying mental illness is funny, I am not, though I do laugh at myself. This I think is my first point, the ability to laugh at yourself. I do stupid things, I spend money when I know full well that I don’t really have it to spend. Until recently I drank (see my post ‘The trouble with alcohol and mental health’), and other things that made my life just that bit more difficult.

Now I used to get angry at myself for doing these things, fuelled the self loathing, gave myself more to mentally beat myself up, now I try to laugh them off. Logically I know what I have done and what the results of my actions will be, I now accept that it cannot be undone, so it is ‘counter productive?’ For me beat myself up. I try to say to myself “oh well, thats another fuck up” and move on. I do talk to myself a lot, often out loud when alone, I try to keep a positive mindset by joking with myself.

This leads nicely into my second point, what some call ‘military humour’, though I believe it is shared by many front line services. When you see a lot of bad things often the way to accept it, is to joke about it. Now I feel I am coming close to the line, but fuck it I will say it anyway, “why the hell can we not joke about mental health”. I know someone who had a heart attack last week, I seen him today laughing and joking about it. My own mum passed away as a result of cancer just a few months ago (another time) and right up until the end she kept her sense of humour.

Try to make light of mental health and run the risk of scorn and damnation. Is mental illness funny, no it is not, but neither are heart disease and cancer. Is the use of wit when explaining your condition wrong? This depends in my view, I am very open about my illness, I do take it very serious. However trying to explain my illness involves going into some rather heavy stuff, to those of casual acquaintance who enquire I simply say “oh I had a crap electrician wire my brain”, or “I am fit and healthy from the neck down”.

I think you get the picture, sometimes people enquire out of courtesy, they neither want, or, probably fully understand the clinical “I have <insert label here>”. My daughter read my last blog post and nearly cried, she hugged me tightly and said “daddy, it’s so sad”. Now compared to some of my past posts it was very matter of fact, at least that is what I thought. It got me thinking, do I write depressing posts?, and more so, is that the reason people read them, I really hope not.

I know that there is still a massive amount of stigma attached to mental illness, I actively support the education of the masses to the serious plight people face with mental health issues, but are we making a problem with a solution. As most mental illness involves some form of anxiety and/or depression, by stamping our feet so hard to get the masses to take us seriously do we not run a risk of further reinforcing  negative beliefs? Just a thought. Now I may have crossed the line with this post, and I do actively encourage debate (though just calling me a dumb asshole is neither constructive but possibly true….anyway) but I have said what I feel.

No person should take a characteristic of another and use it to cause them discomfort. That being said, within the confines of a social circle, you will often find banter, sarcastic wit and repartee the binding ingredient. I wonder if it is possible to use the power of social media to create such a place. I have just set up a Twitter group called The MHB Club which is open to anyone. There is a Facebook group called The MHB Club which you can ask to join.

So, before I get stoned (with metaphorical rocks not weed) please think, join the groups, spread the work, and let us use our wit to help each other, who knows it might actually work.

Love and peace to you all,

David

NB The picture for those that do not recognise it is the stoning scene from Monty Python, The life of Brian. If you have never seen it shame on you. Yes this is my.  Type of humour.

Isolation the curse of current humanity

Isolation the curse of current humanity

In my mind at the moment is the desire to say bollocks to all social media, and yet, hypocritically I am using social media to express my distaste. I am not saying social media is bad, this is a personal feeling and not one I intend to impose on others. At one time I was very active via social media promoting the injustice of the mental health problem faced not only in the UK but also across the world.

Did I give up? It is hard to say. Did I lose faith, what is faith? I think I just lost control, I became so self-absorbed in my own battle with mental illness that I lost touch with my focus on helping others. I am sure I have written before about how I desire to help others cope with the dark shadow that is mental illness. I am not doctor, I am just an ordinary man who has spent a lifetime destroying my life.

I am at that stage in my cycle where I need to be alone, and yet I can’t shake the feeling that what I am doing is wrong. These words I fire into the dark are futile I know. Who the hell would want to listen to advice from someone probably more fucked up than they are. I just wish I could find something to champion, some way of creating a unified group of people who would become the core of a progressive system to help others.

I find personal contact difficult, when ever I meet people, even those close to me, I feel like an outcast, yet social media gives me the opportunity to have a voice. Here you can spot my dilemma, I am lost in the social media world, maybe its my age. I therefore ask anyone who reads this to help me re-engage with the cyber community . I look for not only those who need help, but also those that have positive input.

If you do read this, I thank you, please share my ramblings in the hope that somewhere out there are like-minded individuals who desire to share their voice, their story, their ways of using social media in a productive manner… This whisper in the dark is, I hope the start of something greater.

One year on

One year on

It is now 11:20 on the morning of the 18th of May 2016, I am writing this on a bus to London, a long journey but I must admit I enjoy it. I have time to think, to work, even to sleep, but it is not as long as the journey I have taken in the past twelve months. This time last year I was sat on the floor, facing a wall, staring at a picture of my daughter. I was in the office of a member of the local community mental health team, a man was trying to reach me. I was broken, when I spoke it was the language of hysteria. That day, I was no longer a person, I was not a father, son, lover, friend, human. I was a shell, it was not so much that I wanted to kill myself, I just could not face living.

I, today, accept my actions that day, and the days, weeks, months that followed. The guilt I have carried, the embarrassment and the shame, today, I lay them to rest. I know now that my actions that day, were the actions of self preservation, the last act of a desperate mind. I do not think that even now, a year later, I could describe how much mental damage I felt. I can only say that I knew nothing, felt nothing, I was no longer a person, I was a ghost.

I have always been able to lie, both verbally and physically. On that day there was no lies, I laid my soul out for all to see, and it was not a pretty sight. Today, I sit on the bus, wanting to write about how much I have achieved in the past year, wanting to share my fight back against mental illness. The sad truth is, I don’t think I can. There is still so much of me that is mending, others fragile, to fragile to even try to fix in fear of it breaking again. Few people will understand, unless they have been there. Looking healthy, happy and content, does not mean that I am, it means I have started to rebuild from the outside inwards.

My challenge now is how to move forward. I am training to be a therapist, yet I am still broken, who would accept help from someone who is possibly as damaged as they are?. I desperately want to strive forth into the world. Big and bold, look at me, I can help you, I want to help you. The desire is growing every day, I want it so very much, but there is a part of me that is holding me back. The part of me that fears the worst, the part of me that still sees the damage being repaired. It tells me “not yet, you are not strong enough”, “you will break yourself again, and next time you might not…….” (NB I can not even finish that sentence in writing).

Despite my conflict, I have found peace. I am mindful of the value of time, how much beauty and wonder I can find in a second. What started as a way to control my anxiety, has now become my happy place. Maybe it is because I have found this place that I am scared to move forward, what if I lose it. I have found ‘my plot’, I now need a way to bring the life that I want to me, to my ‘plot’. I can no longer afford to chase dreams, I must listen to that part of me that protects me. I must never forget what can happen if I become complacent. Every step I take from today will be towards the future that I have started to shape this past year. I will strive forth, I am ready, I think…………..

Opinions are like A**holes

Opinions are like A**holes

There is a great saying “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and most are full of shit”. I like it, and being a very opinionated person (although nowhere near as bad as I used to be) it does me well to remember, am I being full of shit?. You see I, like many others, easily fall into the trap of thinking that what the other person wants to hear is my thoughts on the subject, often not the case. It is a fine line though, and it also depends on the circumstances. Let me give you two examples.

I have a friend, let us call him Mark. Mark, like many of us is travelling the road back from the dark place to more pleasant surroundings. Now Mark has found help in the form of a well-known self-help therapy that is on tv etc. Now Mark, likes it, feels it, and what is more is feeling the benefits from it. When I found out my first reaction was……. well to poo poo the idea. Yes, gasp you may, I, the person training to be a hypnotherapist, casting scorn upon another form of therapy. Okay, well here I stand, hand up, YES I AM A BLOODY HYPOCRITE. I do actually feel shamed, not just because I poo poo’d another form of therapy, but more so, that I practically rubbished it to the friend it was helping.

So that is my little example of why opinions can often be full of shit. Sometimes, (and I hope I have learned this lesson) it is best if we keep our thoughts to ourselves and not be too quick to judge. Especially when it comes to things that people find that ‘help’ them. Okay, I know what your thinking, “what if they are actually being a bit daft?”, well, I guess my answer to that is, “make sure you are there for them if it does not work out”. FYI saying “I was going to tell you but didn’t”, probably will not go down well, keep it to yourself.

My second example is slightly more serious, talking someone down. We have all, in our lives had that phonecall from a friend when the shit has hit the fan and they have had enough. Probably spent hours on the phone, talking, listening, consoling and agreeing that, yes, Tom, is a complete cockwomble and needs to be beaten with a horse whip (NB Tom is a fictional character and horse whipping is not to be condoned). The issue I want to raise is the one where, the person is not a friend, in fact, the person is someone you know next to nothing about, but, through the magic of the internet, has found you to be the one (or one of ones) to unload on.

The beauty of the internet is the anonymity that it provides. People can find it much easier to tell a complete stranger their troubles than a person they see every day. The trouble comes when those troubles are of such a magnitude, how do you cope? Take Mary for example, same as Mark, been down the road and back again so is no stranger to the darker aspects of life. Mary got talking to someone, someone who was in a bad way and like a good person, Mary tried to help. The long and the short of it being, that Mary actually felt bad for doing so. Now Mary went above and beyond to help. In my humble (and yes I am still humble from paragraph two) ‘opinion’, Mary was amazing. Mary however did not see this, she felt that possibly she had done too much, she actually felt embarrassed!

So I guess what I am trying to say, in my usual long-winded way, is that sometimes to help people you have to keep your mouth shut and just be ready if a person needs you down the line. Other times, you can never do too much, what you do might just be the thing that stops someone going the last step down the wrong road. Those that know, will know who they are, I just wish that again to one I can say I am sorry and to the other I am very proud, and that both of you are amazing.

The groundhog day of mental illness

The groundhog day of mental illness

It’s morning,

Early again,

I think I have had five hours sleep,

But hey, it’s a new day, time to start it all over again.

Get up, step on scales, tell scales to go fcuk themselves, go pee, wash hands, go grab phone, man bag and e cig, head downstairs. Glass of water, check, grind the coffee beans, check, boil the kettle, check. Same start to every day.

Probably no different to any other person on the planet, I guess a lot of people have routines that they go through. Mine is likely no different to any other knuckle dragging male who lives on his own, (it’s okay I am clothed). Anyway, beans ready…………….

Okay next up the ‘am I still alive checks’, first blood pressure….. 117/78 pulse 62, little low but then I am beyond a ‘resting’ BP lol. Next up smarties, SSRIs, anti-seizure meds and vits and bits yummy. Next first blood sugar test, 4.8mmol not bad for first thing and finally nasal spray, god, I feel like Charlie Sheen………

Okay next we plug all this into various apps on my phone, Actual time slept 5 hours 11 minutes, weight 12 st 7.1 lbs (+5.0lbs), then we tick off all these things as done….. and then check the list of things to do;

Make bed

Breakfast

zero inbox  – Overdue – (my never ending task to get on top of my emails)

Track my budget – Overdue – (that should be fun)

Eat some fruit – Overdue – (coffee beans are from plants)

Vacuum – Overdue – (yay I get to fight with the hoover)

Gardening – Overdue – (must add reminder to get dad to bring his mower over)

Yoga – Overdue – (definitely, not doing with my daughter in house #humiliation)

Write blog post – Overdue – ( finally, something being achieved)

OU Study – Overdue – (okay, assignment due in five days #panicstations)

CBH Study – Overdue – (above takes priority)

Tidy the house – Overdue – (but I’m always tidying the bloody place)

Sort laundry – Overdue – (bedroom chair should class as wardrobe)

Ironing – Overdue – (yay, get to fight with hoover and iron)

and these are just the things that are overdue….. Okay, fight the temptation to have another coffee, and move on to social media……

Facebook, open, scroll, close, wipe hands

Twitter (my medium of choice ( @davesoapbox if your interested)) This may take a while

Check through, re-tweet, those that know me will know that I use twitter a lot so it takes a while. I really must set up lists, my timeline always seems to end up full of people pulling bugs from their skin or T&A pictures, (I should vet who I add more closely)…….. anyway skip forward a bit and know that both accounts are checked ( @MHPathway )

And I could go on and on, my day defined, ruled by apps on my phone to constantly remind me to do the things that most people just do. Today, like the past few, I have been riding the wave of positive mindset. Adjustment to medication times seems to have worked, no recent (past week) manic moments, no depressive moments, in the zone for now. However I am constantly walking the tightrope, always aware that the slightest thing and I could fall one way or the other.

Every morning proving to myself that I am physically healthy, medication taken and all information recorded. Spending my days making sure that I stay on track, watching myself all the time, judging each emotional reaction to each situation, was that a negative thought?, was I right to feel that way?, am I slipping?, stressing?, what if I have another seizure?,Spot the trends, find the balance and I will do exactly the same again tomorrow…….

 

Thank you global social community

Thank you global social community

Hello and welcome, how are you today?

I am on an up day (well it is only 9am) and I am smiling!, I am smiling because I have learned that every second of feeling okay is special. So much has been happening in my little life these past few months that keeping myself steady has been a challenge, I have had some tough things to process.

The details probably deserve a separate post, this post is more to do with this moment, and moments like it. I woke this morning feeling positive, now lets not read that as ‘I leapt out of bed, ran 5k and saved small kittens from trees’ but more like I sloth like crawled out of bed, made my ritualistic bucket of coffee, fed the cat, took my meds and checked Twitter.

I have a lot of studying to catch up on, which is the plan for today, so cat and myself will probably spend the day in the study developing new and interesting way of procrastinating, most likely with five minute checks of social media. So aside from the cat, I doubt I will see another living being today. So to the point, due to physical location (I live in a rural area), lack of easy transport (not allowed to drive) and the lifestyle of a hermit I depend on social media for social interaction. Some may say this is sad, but I get to talk to people all across the world, I have ‘met’ some amazing people and to me it is important.

I struggle to balance both my mental and physical health, it is a pain but I do it. However just keeping both of those within the parameters of ‘stable’ is not enough. I am human (have a certificate to prove it), I NEED social interaction, to feel a part of the community. I have found a global community to supplement my small (yet very good) family group and this helps me stay balanced.

I strongly believe that social health is as important as mental and physical health. It is the third corner of the ‘wellbeing’ triangle. Just as poor physical health can affect your mental health and your social life, poor mental health can likewise affect you physically and socially. Poor social interaction can affect you mentally and physically. So while my social life might just be words on a screen, those words are written by people, most of which I will never meet, but those words connect us.

So today I have found balance, and that balance is helped by people all around the world who take five minutes out of their day to connect. To them it might seem nothing more than a quick tweet, post, update, but to someone like me it can change my day. Thank you global social community, I love you all.