A week or 2 ago it was mental health awareness week. I like to think I played my part by going to the Walking Out of Darkness event and sharing it on social media. I still wear the top I got from there, in fact I’m wearing it right now. Last year I did a blog post on spreading awareness which outlined lots of different ways you can spread awareness, mostly using social media. I’m proud of myself to still be blogging a year on from then, and hope to be making a similar post with even more insight a year on from now.
So, mental health week came and went, but the phrase they focused on is still on my mind. Am I surviving or thriving? I was lucky enough to hear directly from the CEO of the mental health foundation that only 1 in 5 of us answer thriving.
Determining whether you are surviving or thriving depends on your personal view. Many things are taken into consideration, like how you are doing in comparison to your past, your overall emotional wellbeing, what limits you feel you have and how far in accepting yourself you are. However, I think the question in itself is very subjective, so to objectify it, let’s look at the definitions of the word.
- Surviving – continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship.
- Thriving – prosperous and growing; flourishing.
I’m going to throw it out there, I see myself as thriving. Or more specifically, surviving whilst thriving. That may not be what some expect, I battle mental illness every day and I do have a lot of bad days, however there are some more things I think are more important…
- I have come so far in just a year. In fact, I make significant progress as a person every month
- I’m not in crisis. Especially when it comes to psychosis, this is amazing and is a marked improvement in my mental health
- Despite my own depression and suicidal urges I still experience, I know I do not want to die
- I feel content with myself. There are always things I’m going to want to change, however if I stayed like this forever I would be content
- I’m doing the things I love as my work
- I set monthly goals and am meeting them. Achieving things always make me feel awesome, no matter how small those goals
- My support system is strong
- I have a positive and hopeful attitude towards my life and my future
Thank you very much for reading, see you tomorrow
At long last I have returned, ready to bash out 5 more posts before this month ends. My mental health has been suffering this past week. The worst I’ve been with dissociation and trauma memories and psychosis in a while. The voices are back, and even visual hallucinations because I’m gradually lowering my antipsychotic/mood stabiliser. Things are levelling out now but more of that in a new post. This one I am going to focus on the joys of my transness and the fun I’m having with Gender identity clinics. Almost like a trans mini series. I posted GIC referral in September, so here is the update since.
In September I was referred on, but it turned out I was accidentally referred to the adult services so the letter came back and I had to be referred again to Tavistock. My referral was received and then accepted in December, and the following January I was sent a letter much to my delight saying my first appointment would be 18 weeks from when my referral was accepted, which I worked out was mid April. I was hopeful in March and expecting a letter because I knew they notified you at least a month before your appointment. March came and went, April came and went, and here we are in May.
I chased it up and I will be got back to in August. It’s not even a definite you will hear by this point. So clearly something drastic changed from January when I was told there was now no delay and now suddenly there’s 4 months.
Emotionally I’m struggling hugely with dysphoria. I’m limited in almost everything I do, including basic hygiene. Hopefully in a couple months time things will be better and easier to cope with when the future is a few steps closer.
I went to a mental health awareness walk on Saturday called Walking Out of Darkness run by the charity Clasp. There were several talkers including a several people suffering with mental illness themselves, the CEO of the Mental Health Foundation, and a woman who had lost her daughter to suicide 2 years ago. All amazing people with real stories. Then I recognised the people from Mind over Marathon come on which is the first mental health documentary shown on BBC 1.
Having seen one excerpt from the documentary, I knew I wanted to talk to Poppy. I didn’t even know what I wanted to say I just wanted to say something. I was scared though. Usually I’d be able to push that fear aside because I’m quite good with meeting new people but now looking back I know there must have been a reason I couldn’t or didn’t. I think it was that I knew what I was going to say and what we would inevitably talk about – mental illness – which is actually really hard. It’s reminded me that I still have a long way to go about speaking out. I may have this blog, and an Instagram account but they’re private to some extent and are mainly seem by people whose judgements can’t affect me in my day to day life. Admittedly, I do a lot less in real life. I fear judgement and rejection as a result of people finding out about my mental illness so I hide it. The thing is by doing that I perpetuate the stigma and reinforce it. There is still stigma within myself.
How do I go about breaking that? Well social media is a megaphone but I need to focus on those around me before I go screaming from the roof tops. I need to do more in real life and I think I know exactly how. Recently I have been deemed uncapable to look after children by a college teacher because they saw me wondering around very dissociated. I kept myself safe, did nothing wrong or dangerous yet still this is the second time they are questioning my abilities because of a mental illness they do not understand. I talked it through with Poppy and have now decided with the help of my mum what we will do. We are going to compare the accusations based on my mental illness with the equivalent accusation for a physical illness.
I will report back with what happens. I’ll be posting much more frequently from now onwards to the end of May. See you soon,
For all of my teenage years so far I have been within the depths of severe mental illness. This means that now, at aged 17, I am not very independent and rely on my mum or others for way too many things. Now that I’m getting better and have started college and come out of crisis, I am desperate to gain some of that independence I never got to have. This is important to me because then I can be grown up and self sufficient and won’t need to depend on others, because it limits me and also the people I depend on.
I am going to track my indendence regularly in my recovery book, however I want to write something on my blog to reflect on it and make me more accountable, just like I did with the January goals. Maybe I will do an update in a couple of months time, we will see.
I’ve created 3 areas I’m going to work on and have imagined what 10/10 would look like. Then I am acknowledging where I am on that scale, and setting the goal to reach the next step on the ladder of independence.
Transport- This looks like getting my driving licence, feeling comfortable travelling on public transport alone – including buses and trains on both long and short journeys. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate myself a 3 because I’m learning to drive and can use a bus or train with a friend and without adults. My next step is to use a bus or train by myself on a short journey.
Self care- This looks like being able to cook myself a few different hot meals, achieveing a basic level of hygiene at all times and taking my medication by myself 100% of the time. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate myself a 6 because I can take my medication by myself and keep up hygiene, as well as cooking 1 hot meal for my family. My next step is to cook another hot meal and eat it myself.
Emotional- This looks like keeping myself safe at all times, being able to pick myself up after a struggle and reach out for help when I need it. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate myself a 7 because I can distract myself and cope with problems, as well as ask for help from professionals when I recognise signs of a psychotic episode. My next step is to always keep myself safe because sometimes I head bang or pull out my hair, and I need to cope with those urges like I do with everything else.
Thank you for reading and see you tomorrow.
I started yoga in January of this year to try and improve my back pain and keep myself active in some kind of way. Initially I was afraid my mental health would effect my ability to do things like it seems to do with every single thing I attempt. Also, there’s the question of being accepted as a transgender person, I wondered if people would ‘work out’ my biological sex.
My experience wasn’t pariticularly life changing in the first few weeks. I got frustrated my body couldn’t do what other people’s could and the ‘mindfulness’ periods at the beginning and end of the session were a breeding ground for voices. Everyone viewed me as male and didn’t question it but they started to try to work out why my younger brother was so much further along male puberty than I am. Also, I couldn’t see or feel any differences in my physical health, even regarding pain.
It took time to get used to listening to the voices, but then for whatever reason they stopped interrupting my mind so the relaxing periods became pleasant. I’ve stopped noticing how often I’m in pain, which hints that it’s getting better. And I can feel my body getting stronger and progressing each week which is something I can be proud of.
I hope I carry on for a long time and can reflect back on a year of yoga. It’s the best type of physical exercise I can do without tempting anorexia back into my life and maybe that will help me keep moving forwards. It isn’t just something I know helps my health, but I also enjoy it there and appreciate the woman who runs it. She is always reminding us of the link between physical and mental health, the effects of stress and the balance of what yoga you attempt to do or not do. Yoga really is for everyone, from wheelchair users to Olympic sports people to your average lazy person. I’ve learnt that I mustn’t compare myself to others because everyone’s body’s are different, and all you need to do to prevent injuries is listen to your body. That simple fact is so important.
See you tomorrow
I’ve been reflecting on this past year and how I have taken a lot of small steps that have added up to be huge leaps forward, and I am now a significantly different person than I was even a few months ago. A lot of this is up to my mental illness and how my recovery has become more and more stable, to the point that one of my small steps is coming off one of my medications I’ve been on for over a year! The changes being made are small but very challenging for me.
The medication in question is an antipsychotic and mood stabiliser that helps to reduce my psychotic symptoms of visual hallucinations, paranoia and the intensity of hearing voices, as well as managing my anxiety and obsessive behaviours to some extent. The dose was reduced by 25mg, a small fraction of the full dose but had a quick effect. I had several panic attacks for the first 2 weeks, but it calmed down after that. The voices got gradually worse but haven’t got any worse recently. I’m managing and they aren’t controlling me at this point so the decision has been made to put it down another 25mg. I’m going to be tracking my symptoms but I’m feeling really hopeful and positive about this change.
Another big change that has happened recently is I am now independent in taking my medication myself. One of the reasons for this is that I have stayed out of crisis for so long, making me more trusted not to overdose during a bad moment. Along with this, my alarm I set helps me remember and means I consistently take it on time!
Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow.
I’m going to be attempting near enough daily posts this month. We’re going to see how it goes, but I will definitely be posting a minimum of 10 over the period of this month so please follow if you’d like to read them. On average I post 3 a month but I really enjoyed doing blogmas in December and was really happy with the things I wrote about, so I will be trying again. I go to college full time so I am busy but I’ve got lots of ideas for posts and will be trying my best to create posts I am happy with regardless of their length. Quality not quantity!
Over this month I will be writing about mental health as per usual but other topics too like…
- Being transgender – how my referral to Tavistock is going and how I’m coping being pre-t
- Spirituality and my recent interest in chakras
- Yoga – following up from my January goals
- Books – reviewing Doing it! By Hannah Witton
See you tomorrow