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.

Drawing strength from the past

Drawing strength from the past

 

I wrote the following blog post 12 months ago today, I am moved by what I wrote then and wish to add a little bit more……….

I find myself wondering if those that end up being committed to hospital because of their actions are actually in a better position that the rest of us? Imagine being able to turn yourself inside out and all the rage and frustration that we keep contained within was to just be allowed to be free. What it would be like to just sit in a corner and just stare for hours in silence, to scream at the top of your voice to vent. I wonder if on the inside they have calm because they can release?

We are expected to sit on a powder keg of emotion and yet present the world a normal exterior, to behave like drones. Right now I do not know what emotion is going with which problem I have, I have so many worries right now maybe they are all interrelated. All I know is that showing calm is now a separate entity to the one inside, I exist as two people and where one is cold and numb the other is crying softly in the corner of my mind. I am still very much broken and coming to realise that it is probably easier for me to crumble completely and rebuild than keep trying to patch myself up.

Am I a failure to want to press pause on life and step outside it for a while? So many people I know are battling their problems each and every day, what right do I have to cheat? Why should I just give up in the hope that by starting from scratch I can rebuild it right this time. It wouldn’t be the first time I have done so, build, destroy, rebuild, destroy, why will it be different this time? Maybe the fact that at least I have at last faced the fact that I am not well and rebuild with that in mind might help, maybe accepting that who I am is vastly different to who I was. Maybe I should sit at the table with my demons and have a meeting, see if we can come to some kind of arrangement that best suits us all.

I have moved in a direction to clear the way but I am sat surrounded by guilt and doubt wondering which way to proceed. I do not regret but I do suffer, I just know that the job is not finished yet and that I am not going to give up on life but I do need to clear away everything for a fresh start. I need to let the last bit of my old self crumble and restart. I long to find that moment of inner peace like that moment when meditating that for a second it all disappears and you are at one with yourself before you realise and smile but it goes because you have seen it. I want to be able to smile because I am smiling inside, be able to frown because I am frowning inside. I want to be able to know that what I feel is real and not the result of some other issue, to never have to lie and pretend I am someone else.

So where does it leave me? A coward for wanting to just let go and say to hell with it all and just rebuild. Or do I keep patching up each damaged bit as I put it right and hope that one fix does not create another problem? It seems such a soft option to just turn around and say look, I am not okay, I am damaged beyond what you could believe but then who would understand. Can I handle the looks of pity and being treated like a child? I can’t seem to find anymore words………………

It would be nice to sit here and continue this with many positive statements, to say that reading this has shown me how far I have come. The sad thing is that even after a year, reading this still brings a lot of pain. The most painful thing about reading this is that I seem to have lost the ability to express myself like I did back then. True, I have progressed, I have started my degree and other courses focusing on mental health. This knowledge has and continues to help me help myself. I understand myself better now, but I am still not far from the man who wrote the words above.

The scary part of learning about mental health and the ways in which it can be managed is that you have to reflect upon yourself. For several months now I have been to scared to blog, I feared that what I write would contain to much of my new insights, become a source of debate. I have learned so much about myself, so much so that I realise there is much I do not know. A year ago I was tormented by demons that I did not understand, I know now that the demons were me, and me alone.

I do, however, draw inspiration from what I wrote, the line “I am damaged beyond what you could believe but then who would understand.” is especially poignant. Through this very blog and Twitter I found a whole world of people who understood, people who even thanked me for writing what they themselves felt. The people close to me, my family and friends took time to understand, I have been moved on many occasions by the positive feedback that I have received. I still doubt myself, I worry too much that I will fail once again.

The time I feel has come though to stop hiding in the shadows. I once vowed that I would learn how to help myself and help others. That conviction stands! The road is still long and bumpy but I draw strength from the knowledge that once I had the power to share myself openly, to say the things I felt. I must find that power once more, this blog, my journal, my story.

Global community a review 12 months on

Global community a review 12 months on

I wrote the following post on the the 14th June 2015 and I do not think I can add much to it. In the past 12 months my Twitter family has grown massively and I feel so much pride and privilege in being a part of such a wonderful community. Mental health is a massive concern, it is interesting to see that in the past year it has become very prominent in the media. The sad fact still remains that those that suffer from mental health problems, from the mild to the severe are still not receiving the care and treatment that they should.

I have always been passionate about doing more than just talking about mental health, and to some extent I feel guilty that I have not spoken out more. I still pursue the dream of finding a way to offer help to those in need, even if it is just simple skills training and a support network. Despite my own problems, I will continue to work hard towards this end, in fact I have a renewed drive to do so.

All that is left to say is a massive thank you to all those who have supported me this past year, all my followers on Twitter (and the few who follow me on Facebook lol). The wonderful people who read this blog and take the time to comment and pass it on. You are all amazing and I often wonder where I would be without you.

Thank you

David

Finding support to help you is critical in facing your mental health problems. While the poor NHS is stretched to breaking point,it is up to us sufferers and those who care to help and encourage each other. It is amazing how much support I have got from messages from family, friends and colleges. But the truly amazing thing is the support I have from people I have never met from all corners of the globe. Social media has helped build me a brilliant support community and has given me the opportunity to support and encourage others in return. I feel truly honoured to be a part of this community and hope that it continues to grow, bringing others into the fold to offer them our support and for them to feel the great sense of value that comes from supporting others.

I am also grateful to all the wonderful charities and forums out there that provide help, support and information to sufferers. Without these, many of us would be much more alone and ill-informed. They campaign for us, increasing awareness of mental illness and most of all be there when we need them. Finally I would like to thank all those professional therapists, doctors and other medical professionals who are active on social media offering support and help in their own time. The biggest cause of stigma in mental health is the fear within sufferers to admit they have a problem, I have experienced no stigma since I have opened up about my problems. Some people have admitted they have no idea what it means or even that they can’t imagine how it feels but they have all shown support.

So I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to every one of you, and ask that you spread the word far and wide because on each of your friends lists you would be surprised have many people are suffering in silence. So tell them to find me @davesoapbox on Twitter, Davesoapbox on Facebook, tumblr and Pinterest and I will add them and let them see that there is a world full of understanding, empathy and compassion just waiting for them.

Reflection on the past “Cat kindness”

Reflection on the past “Cat kindness”

I wrote this post “Cat kindness” one year ago, at a time when I was in a very bad place. It has taken a lot for me to pluck up the courage to even open this blog, never mind decide to read what I wrote back then. I guess I am lucky, I picked a relatively easy post to reflect upon. I did not choose it, other than by date, although I realise writing this that I am a day out, but in my head it is still the 13th so we shall have to live with it lol.

First of all I would like to say that my relationship with my cat remains strong, in fact we now live together. Having separated from my partner not long after the original post was written I was lucky to keep the cat. She has become a very important part of my life, although it has been pointed out to me that I am more of a butler to her than an owner.

It is surprising how she is probably the best ‘person’ to be able to gauge my mood, she seems to know when I am feeling down, she has  listened to more of my problems than anyone else, although she is very Freudian in that she just lets me talk and never replies.

As to the change in my personal character I still try to maintain the more relaxed easy-going attitude and up until recently this has been quite easy. I have enjoyed being a more open and (hopefully) considerate person, however where I thought that one year on I would be able to feel more positive about myself, I have to admit that I do not. Maybe I have allowed my mind to dwell too much on the past, maybe I should have faced what I wrote earlier. Or maybe I have been a fool and actually had my head buried in the sand this last year? Anyway, I will change one thing that I wrote back then.

Whilst I must accept that medication did have an effect on my emotions back then, and I suppose they still do as I am still taking them.I also believe that I have made a lot of effort into managing my emotions better. I still struggle with the stronger emotions but I have learned and developed coping skills to enable me to be much less reliant on medication and more on my own ability to deal with intense emotional situations. I know that medication is not for everyone, I also know that I am very lucky to have such a good GP. In my experience the medication has helped, but I know that the medication is just the baseline. I have had to learn a lot about dealing with my thoughts and emotions, I now rely on my own ability to be my own ‘therapist’ and dampen down problem thoughts and emotions by using skills other than medication.

I have had to face some quite challenging things especially since christmas. The epilepsy I suffered in my 20’s that caused me a lot of mental problems for many years just from one instance has returned. I have now had four seizures since christmas, one of which happened when I was alone in the middle of London. I have had to surrender my driving license and now have a car I have barely driven ready for sale. I may never have always had a car but this is the first time since the 90s that I have not had a license. This has obviously put a bit more pressure on my life, especially as I live in a rural area, but that is not the worst part of it.

Thankfully I have now been put on medication (more pills) that seems to be controlling things, but I still can’t escape the feeling that it might still happen again? I have had to cancel two holidays because my GP has advised that I do not fly until I have seen a neurologist but the waiting list for emergency epilepsy appointments is 28 weeks. The worst though is that I keep reminding myself that just because it isn’t happening, does not mean that it will not happen. If you can imagine how someone who has spent time learning how to handle anxiety and depression (BPD but I will never get a formal diagnosis because the MHT decided that a diagnosis was best left to my GP) and now has to handle this whole new anxiety is feeling, that’s me.

The hardest part of the previous post to read is the last part, even writing about it has slowed to single key strokes;

At the moment I live each day trying to keep myself together, seeing through different eyes hour by hour. I haven’t even got a clue who I am and more so scared stiff that once the medication stops I will return to my previous self and I don’t even know if I liked that person, never mind where I went to. You see my cat likes me, she even seems to sense when I need her and I want that to continue. I want everyone to be like my cat and I just need to know how.

I hope having read what I have written now and then reading what I wrote 12 months ago will give you an idea of why I still struggle to see positive change. I still spend every day trying to keep myself together, I still do not know who I am. I am still scared stiff and very alone. However I do still have my cat, so while people say “you have done so much”, “you have come such a long way”. The truth is that whilst I may have learned to manage my mental health a bit better, I am still far from well and still need people like my cat.

Let Phase One Commence

Let Phase One Commence

Well I have gone and done it, no more talk let’s have some action. I have decided that as so many people seemed to think the idea of a portal site for mental health information, support etc was a good one I have today set up www.MHPathway.org. So not only will my blog post today be a bit short it will also be aimed at getting people to send me any links to good sites that support those with mental health issues IN THE UK. Sorry to those not in the UK but I am still trying to work out how I can make the site global, however I am open to suggestions.

So please get your thinking caps on and send me any info to forums, blogs, information site, groups, charities and don’t think well there is no point in telling him about Mind or Twitter because overlooking the obvious is so easily done. Remember I am doing this for our community, I like you have been alone, without a clue, in the darkness. My dream is that in future nobody else has to feel they are alone even if @pinkbunnyfluff is the one holding their cyber hand.

I do not intend doing it alone and if anyone has good blog skills, good ideas and a good background feel free to have a chat. “Help others, Help ourselves” that’s what it is about, as they say in Lilo and Stitch ” Ohana means family, nobody gets left behind or forgotten”. (kids movie, google it, it’s very good).

Anyway I am off to stare at a different WordPress screen and quietly sob to myself wondering how I am actually going to make this work, whilst you all laugh at me, then take pity on me by sending suggestions via email to dave@mhpathway.org or via Twitter either @Davesoapbox or even better go and follow @MHPathway and leave your message there.

So thanks for all your support in the past month and I hope you will continue to support me and the MHPathway.org going forward, I love you guys David

Erm go and add on twitter…….

Ideas, stop biting your toenails and email ideas……..

Look, yes you, stop thinking your idea is stupid and send it 🙂

Wellmind App review

Wellmind App review

I normally do my app review on a Wednesday but sometimes I have other blogs that need to be freed from my brain before they leave me alone. Anyway this App is a MUST HAVE and you will see why below but I think it is really helpful especially for those who are ‘new’ to mental illness and need some handy advice.

So the app is called Wellmind and was created for Dudley & Walsall NHS Mental Health Partnership, why it is not a national NHS app I don’t know but a big thanks to D&W for creating it and giving it away free. Usual disclaimer applies, I have this on iPhone so I do not know how well it works on other platforms.

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Okay let’s get started, From the home screen you have a number of options so I will start with My Wellbeing. This section allows you to choose your mood, write something you are looking forward too, what you have achieved and what you are grateful for. Once entered you can save this to your calendar. Now this can only be done once, if you change your mood for example and save this will overwrite your previous entry. So best used as a last thing at night to help track your days.

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Next I have chosen the ‘Help with stress” icon now there are also ones for Anxiety and Depression but I will just go through the stress one as an example. From the main menu you are given 4 options although one is the My Wellness which I covered above. First you have ‘Advice on stress’ this gives you some simple straightforward information on stress, what it is, how do you know and what to do etc. It also give some useful links and a link to a very informative booklet about stress. The next section is ‘body map’ this shows the parts of the body that can be effected by stress and by clicking on each one it gives more information. Finally there is a ‘5 steps to help’ section which gives good advice on how to reduce stress. So lots of helpful information and very easy to understand. This format applies to both the Anxiety and depression options as well.

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The next section from the home screen is the ‘Help in a Crisis’ section This offers firstly the contact information for the Samaritans, Saneline and Mind help line, which I’m know for a fact ringing those numbers have saved me several times in the past so very handy to know. I also has some information on what a mental health crisis is and how to stay safe. I personally think that having just this information alone available to you on your phone if you are at risk is well worth it.

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At the bottom there are two other brilliant features, the first is a game. Now I don’t know if Nokia still put snake on phones these days but I can assure you that for old duffers like me snake was probably the reason Nokia had such a massive market share in the early days of mobile phones. If you have never played it you simply guide the snake around the screen to eat the dots, every time you eat a dot the snake gets longer and faster. Now a slight downside is that every so often a ‘Tip’ window will open which whilst helpful advise does disturb your game (I like snake) but other than that it’s a good game to de stress.

The other cool feature is three relaxation recordings of varying length that are very good and well, relaxing. I have listened to all three and must say the quality is very good and the way they are done is very professional. I definitely think they round off a very well thought out application. Finally on the home menu there is a link to the Dudley & Walsall Mental Health NHS, where you can find out more about the trust, become a member, leave feedback and also follow them on Twitter.

So that’s the app and I honestly think it is one of the best I have seen. Clear and simple with lots of advice but not enough to overload you and probably a benefit to all mental health sufferers in some way. The only thing I would add is a Personal Details page where if you do find yourself in a situation where you need to let people know your illness, medication or Doctors details you could just show them the page. I will of course let them know I have reviewed the app and suggest it to them. Hope you like it as much as I do.

App Review #3 – Balanced

App Review #3 – Balanced

Time for my weekly App review, I asked around for a mood monitoring app and whilst I was looking at those suggested I found a nice little app called Balanced.

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Okay usual disclaimer applies, I have only tried this on iPhone so other systems might not have it. The reason I like this little app is that apart from being useful, it also is simple to use and also offers enough feature that you can get a good feel for it. You can pay to upgrade this app I believe 2.99 but the free version is what I am reviewing. The whole purpose of the app is to let you set little motivational goals.

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Your Tasks
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Activities
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Tasks

So as you can see from the first image above I have entered four ‘tasks’ already. Under each task it will let you know how long you have left t complete the task, but in a rather nice way. To enter a new task (you get five with the free version) you simply swipe the screen down and it will take you to the activities screen. From here you can choose from some preset activities or even write your own. If you select one of the presets it will then offer you a selection of motivational activities or tasks for you to do.

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Preset Tasks
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Set Timescale
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New Task Added

As an example I have gone into the Discovery preset and chosen the Watch a TED talk. You will then be presented with a screen where you can set how often you are to undertake the activity/task. you can go from six times a day to once a year so lots of scope, I went for once a week. It offers a large variety of icons and will also selects a suitable one for you, but you can change it if you wish. Click done and that’s it set.

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So it’s all set up now time to use it, when things are due to be done you will get a notification (optional). Open the app and you will see that it is telling me that I should meditate and go outside, maybe I’ll meditate outside. Once you have done your tasks or activity all you need to do is to swipe right on the task and it will drop to the bottom of the list. Of course sometimes you may not have the time or opportunity to do it so simply swipe left and it will skip and drop to the bottom of the list. Simple, useful and most of all free. If you wish to upgrade I believe you can have unlimited tasks/activities and more options, if I get tempted I will update you.