Every Decision to Try is an Accomplishment

Hi everyone, welcome to a shiny new post from Howay Man Get Happy! Let me catch you up with where I am right now. I admittedly haven’t been in a good place recently, and I have been having a lot of negative thoughts and my self-esteem has been virtually non-existent. Despite this being a difficult time for me I finally feel like I’ve got the boot up the arse I needed to sort my life out. Although it’s completely okay to feel bad every now and again, I feel like I had got into some very unhealthy habits of staying in bed all day, cutting myself off from all of my friends, drinking to excess, and essentially allowing a mental illness to take over my life. There is one important truth you have to know about mental illness and that is: when it comes to recovery, ultimately it’s up to you. It’s kind of like being cornered in the playground by a school bully, and you’ve got two options. One: you can choose to go full throttle; fly-kicking* and clawing your way to wellness – despite the fact that you might get a few knocks along the way. Or, two: you can choose to cower in the corner and let them beat you down into a sort of human paper maché. I have decided I’ve been in paper maché-mode for too long now, slopping about and feeling sorry for myself, and now it is time for me to get better.

Over the past week I’ve been trying to change my life in ways that will promote mental wellness so in this post I’ve decided to list the six different things I am trying to do to get well. I would like to add that on top of this list I am still taking my meds and pursuing over-the-phone counseling sessions but I thought it might be helpful to share these things with you guys as I believe everyone could benefit from these activities to promote their own mental wellbeing.

  1. Unplug

The first thing I did was unplug. I have decided to limit my time on social media so I got rid of all social media apps on my phone to make it more effort for me to access these sites. I tried deactivating Facebook but it wasn’t feasible because I do a lot of my work for various charities and keep in touch with potential collaborators through that medium. I also am limiting my time on Netflix as I find I use it as a form of escapism and whilst this is not a bad thing in itself it was distracting me from doing things that would be a more productive use of my time. I try to only watch TV when I’m with someone like my partner or a friend – that way it becomes a more social activity and stops the urge to binge-watch!

  1. No More Naps

This was a hard one – it’s no secret that depression drains you of all energy, and I have gotten a little too used to going to bed in the middle of the afternoon of late. Whilst you may feel tired, sleeping too much is only going to make you worse. I also found when I napped I was often left feeling groggy, drained and unhappy. Sleeping too much can be a symptom of depression, and around 80% of people with diagnosed depression have sleep problems of some kind. So sorting out that sleeping pattern is a must!

  1. Get Active

Now for anyone that knows me, it is no secret that I am the least sporty person on this earth. But for me this really works – a couple of years ago I joined a gym for my mental wellbeing and it was great but I ended up cancelling my subscription to save a bit of money. However, the gym may be expensive but it is just one of the many ways to get fit. I have decided to walk more instead of getting the bus and I go for runs around the block (although they are pathetically short at the moment because I’m still really unfit but at least I’m giving it a go!) I have also got a hold of a cheesy old work-out DVD which is actually a lot of fun to do and I’ve even managed to rope my partner into doing it with me once which resulted in a lot of laughs which was also a great mood boost. I’d totally recommend doing this with a friend if you don’t mind them seeing you getting a sweat on.

  1. Get Creative

When I was younger I used to quite enjoy painting and to be honest it was something I never really pursued after finishing my Art GCSE. I’m lucky enough to have an amazing Mam who is simultaneously a brilliant artist who kindly let me pinch all of
her acrylic paints. I’m not the best painter in the world but it is good to have a creative outlet for my feelings and generally just a great way to take my mind off anything that might be causing me stress. Maybe in that way being a shit artist is a blessing because I have to concentrate so hard on staying in the linIMG_3507.JPGes that there is no time to dwell on negative thoughts! I have also started making wool pom-poms, which is a great way to keep my hands busy. What I’m really loving about getting creative is that everything I do is my own unique creation, made from my own designs. When I finish a piece, whether its taken me two hours or two days, I get a great sense of accomplishment and that really helps with my self-esteem. I will also be endeavouring to do a lot more writing on my blog so keep your eyes peeled!

  1. Dry Up

I have decided to try and kick the booze, at least for a little while. Whenever I go out for a drink I always end up drinking far too much, especially if I’m not very mentally healthy at the time. After some serious self-reflection I realize I sometimes use alcohol as form of escapism and yet wake up in the morning feeling more depressed than I was the day before. The bottom line is that alcohol is a depressant and using it to make yourself feel happier is not only foolish but could also end up with serious consequences. Not to mention it’s bad for your physical health too and in most cases (certainly in mine) it turns you into a complete knob-head.

  1. Stay in Touch

Communication and connection with other people is a fundamental human need. I have been trying to keep in touch more with people who I find are a positive influence on me. I have been setting aside more time to spend with my partner, and I have been seeing a lot more of my parents and grandparents which I find really helps me with my mood. I am also doing a lot more volunteer work, which gets me out talking to people, and also gives me a greater sense of self-worth. I have lots of exciting new projects coming up so watch this space!

I hope you found this post helpful and maybe through reading this you’ve managed to identify some unhealthy habits in your own life that you’d like to change for the better. I’m not sure how long these changes will last for me, but by making this list I am being mindful of the things in my life that are may be distracting from my recovery and that in itself is an important step. Finally I’d like to say as a bit of advice to both myself, and my readers, let’s stop beating ourselves up about every little thing we do wrong. Yes we might drink a lot, or we might be crap at staying in touch with our friends or maybe we even forgot to feed our pet fish the other day (sorry Nicholi!) but we are all human and we are going to make mistakes. Just because we may fall into unhealthy habits or if we don’t handle things as well as other people do, that doesn’t mean we are bad people. There are no good people and bad people in the world – ultimately everyone makes mistakes and it is whether or not you decide to try to do better, get better and be better that makes all the difference. There is a common phrase often seen written over some scenic mountains, shared on a middle-aged woman’s Facebook page (usually called Susan), that says “every accomplishment begins with the decision to try”. And whilst may be true for many people I’d like to amend the quote slightly and say instead: “Every Decision to Try is an Accomplishment”. So keep on fighting!

*DISCLAIMER – Please do not try fly-kicking your enemies. Kids – if you are being bullied tell a grown-up.

Wishing you all good mental health!

A

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The Human Christmas Cracker

It’s that time of year again, Christmas is just around the corner and whilst there are so many things I love about this holiday – seeing friends and family, giving and receiving (especially receiving) presents and the exceptional selection of festive cheeses – a lot of the time I find this time of year extremely difficult and I spend most of the season feeling like I’m about to snap like a human Christmas cracker. There is a strong social expectation to be happy and jovial throughout the holiday season. The words ‘jolly’, ‘merry’, and ‘happy’ are plastered on every card, every advertisement, pasted on the walls of every corner and when you aren’t feeling happy within yourself it’s tough not to feel like everyone is rubbing their jollity in your stupid, miserable face. At this time of year I feel a whole surge of emotions and questions surfacing, I feel jealous that everyone else seems to be having a good time – why aren’t I? Is there something wrong with me? Then I start to feel guilty for feeling this way – Christmas is a great time of year and I am so fortunate to get to spend it surrounded by family and friends, with cupboards full of delicious treats and heaps of presents. So why do I still feel so sad? Am I ungrateful? Then I just begin to feel broken, like there must be something so fundamentally wrong with me, that my brain must be so utterly fucked that the apparently simple objective of happiness seems completely unattainable.

Christmas also brings with it a whole load of fun social events, work Christmas dos, meeting up with old friends, visiting family – and whilst I do want to do all of these things I find it can be really anxiety inducing. In social situations I often feel nervous and insecure and overthink everything, worrying if I have said the wrong thing, or done something stupid. Naturally, many of these social occasions involve alcohol and lots of it. Alcohol and I have a somewhat rocky relationship beginning from when my mental health was at its worst, I used to drink a lot of alcohol and although I was not dependent on it, I used it as a kind of self-medication to help me escape my own thoughts. Whenever I drink now I think subconsciously I associate the feeling with that time in my life and those thoughts come back to me. Usually when I am drunk I feel good and almost euphoric; like I can do anything, but the next day my mood plunges dramatically. I feel guilt and shame. My hangovers are usually rife with tears and very dark, harmful thoughts. I know my relationship with alcohol is an issue that needs addressing, but I think that’s one for another post.

As I am writing this I still have alcohol in my system from last night so I’m feeling pretty crappy. I am noticing a lot of bad thoughts creeping into my head and I have a pretty much non-existent sense of self-worth. I am sorry this post has been a bit of a downer so I’m going to try my best to end on a positive note. Christmas is a great time of year to show your loved ones you care about them, and for that reason I think it can be a very good thing for your mental health. Although this expectation to be happy around Christmas can be damaging, it also provides a platform on which we can take the opportunity to open up conversations about mental health – ask your loved ones how they really are, tell people how you feel and talk to each other. It is so easy to feel alone when you suffer in silence, so if you are having a hard time please talk about it and if you are not please try and give your loved ones plenty of opportunities to open up. There really is a lot of truth in the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.

 

Wishing you all good mental health!

A

Howay man, get happy!

Hello everyone and welcome to my brand new blog: Howay Man Get Happy!

Happiness is a rather abstract term, it is difficult for me to pin down exactly what it means. For many people happiness is circumstantial, it is determined by having close friends and a family that loves you, being successful and in a good financial situation – I think we can all agree that these are things that most of us desire in life. However, I find myself at a point where I have amazing and supportive friends, a family that loves me, an incredible partner who is simultaneously my best friend, I have enough money for luxuries and a roof over my head and yet I am still not ‘happy’. As you can imagine this can be frustrating to say the least, and at times it takes all of my willpower not to throw myself down on the floor, like a bratty child in Asda who has just been denied sweets by a health-conscious parent, and shout “IT’S NOT FAIR, IT’S NOT FAIR!” So in this respect the title of my blog ‘Howay Man Get Happy’ is meant ironically – because for some people it’s just not that simple. Now I have come to a time in life where I understand my illness better: like it or not it is a part of me. I accept that it is there and that’s okay – but I will not let it control me or define who I am.

I have been mulling over the idea of starting a blog about my experiences with mental health for a few years now and I thought it was about time I bite the bullet and begin writing. I have suffered from a depressive disorder since childhood, to put it simply that means sometimes I get sad for no reason and I often suffer from long episodes of depression where I find it difficult to be happy. I believe there is a chemical imbalance in my brain that makes it difficult for me to feel happiness. I am sensitive and some things affect me emotionally more than they might affect other people. However, this doesn’t mean I can’t be happy. I am a cheerful person in my natural state and on my good days I am a complete optimist – although this can sometimes be clouded by my illness. Earlier this year I found my mental health deteriorating once again, which I admit has been pretty scary, and with the introduction to my new friends Mr. Panic Attack and Mrs. Generalised Anxiety the road to recovery has been as difficult as ever. I am hoping that through writing this blog I will be able to connect more with my own emotions and share the ups and downs of my quest to mental wellness. I am going to try and be as frank and honest about my experiences as I can be, so things might get a bit gritty at times but I’d love for you all to stick around for the ride.

My illness comes with no physical symptoms – I have no disfigured limbs, no facial swelling, no overbearing putrid odor – so people don’t always notice when I am not well. This is perhaps one of the reasons mental health problems are often swept under the rug. The shame and stigma attached to mental health can be detrimental to the recovery of individuals and destructive in our society. 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health problem every year and yet the majority of us know nothing about it. It is not taught in schools, it is not regularly monitored in young people and it is not talked about openly among friends and colleagues. The more we talk about mental health, the less we will regard it as a taboo subject and the less scary it will seem. The more we talk the more people will feel comfortable seeking help for their problems at earlier stages. The more we talk the more we will prevent mental illnesses from escalating to become a major risk to people’s mental and physical wellbeing. So that is the other main reason for me starting this blog – I want to be one of the many people who are starting conversations about mental health, breaking down the taboos and smashing the stigma to smithereens.

Wishing you all good mental health!

A