I am Thriving

Hey!

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…

  1. I have come so far in just a year. In fact, I make significant progress as a person every month
  2. I’m not in crisis. Especially when it comes to psychosis, this is amazing and is a marked improvement in my mental health
  3. Despite my own depression and suicidal urges I still experience, I know I do not want to die
  4. 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
  5. I’m doing the things I love as my work
  6. I set monthly goals and am meeting them. Achieving things always make me feel awesome, no matter how small those goals
  7. My support system is strong
  8. I have a positive and hopeful attitude towards my life and my future

Thank you very much for reading, see you tomorrow

Liam πŸ™‚

Daily Posts

Hey!!

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

And more!

See you tomorrow

Liam πŸ™‚

Books

Hello,

I’ve recognised a sense of avoiding my blog recently. I think that because I have talked about my struggle with mental illness in the moment it is happening, it has made me feel quite vulnerable. I think that the new vulnerability and honesty is a good thing but I need to take a step back and post something I really enjoy talking about… books!

I have always been a book worm, I know I was reading books throughout my childhood, despite me not rememebering a lot due to dissociation. In the more recent years I haven’t been able to read much at all. My concentration has been at an all time low these past 2-3 years because of psychosis mainly, (let me tell you, hearing voices 24/7 makes so many simple tasks near impossible!) but guess what?!! I made it my 1 year goal to read a book. With the help of coloured acetate, glasses and stable medication I read my first book in years within a few days of setting the goal!!! Now I have read 4 books in 3 months and am just starting a 5th! 

I want to share with you the books I have been reading and letting myself get absorbed into, just like I did as a child. Below each book is a mini review πŸ™‚ 

The ABCs of LGBT by Ashley Mardell (Now Ash Hardell)

A very thought provoking and well laid out book. I enjoyed the analysing of different identities and terms such as bi erasure from the point of view of those affected by it, along with colourful illustrations and lots of reflective suggestions. I would recommend it to every person as an easily accessible information point for all things LGBT+, and I’d recommend it as a reading book to people with an already general knowledge of LGBT+, whether you are an ally, are questioning or are comfortable within your identity and what that is.

 The Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager by Andy Cope, Andy Whitaker, Darrell Woodman and Amy Bradley

A very easy read that I gained a lot of insight on how to be a positive and an all round brilliant person. I’d recommend every person to read just the first few pages, from that you will work out if you are bothered enough to make changes to yourself to have a better quality life or are fine being ordinary. For those that choose to read on you will be satisfied by all the colourful quotes and anecdotes and genuine suggestions on how to be a better person and get more out of yourself and life. Not just limited to teenagers, also people on either side of the age bracket and parents of teenagers too.

 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

An amazing and beautiful story told from the point of a young boy going through the trauma of watching his mother battle cancer. A monster starts to call round his house each night and tells 3 stories, with the deal being the boy tells his story after. This is an incredibly well written book with realistic characters, vivid imagery and a gripping plot. I would recommend this to adults as much as I would to children, especially to those who have been through some kind of trauma. I found I related hugely to the young boy and liked how it was told from his own in denial perspective.

 BZRK by Michael Grant

A complex science fiction novel that takes a lot of patience and concentration to understand but is very worth it. It has a lot of interesting characters with room for so much further development I hope to read in the next books. The concept of BZRK and having the world split into nano and macro sounds scientifically believable and is talked about so vividly it’s like you are taking a step into their world. I love the focus on death or madness, and all twitchers (people who enter the nano world) are named after mad people like Vincent Van Gogh and Sylvia Plath. A unique read that I’d recommend to anyone with the capacity to constantly be working things out, perhaps a minimum age of 12 though as it is very dark at times. 

Currently reading: Stealing Snow

Future reads: Doing it!, BZRK Reloaded, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Being Jazz

Thank you for reading. I’ll see you in my next post,

Liam πŸ™‚

January Goals

Hello!

I hope you have had a positive start to the year and are happy and healthy. I’ve had a shaky start, hence the lack of posts, but I am back with lots of ideas for upcoming blog posts. 

Going back to Christmas time (when I last posted) I got through it the best I have done in so many years! I was able to celebrate the festivity and not be constantly distracted by mental illness. I haven’t been in crisis and that has been so relaxing in comparison to the last few years.

In December I mentioned how January is historically a very bad month. Although it has been very difficult and I am struggling with psychotic symptoms, I am managing. There is little paranoia which I am so glad about and I’m managing to branch out from my isolated bubble.

Generally I don’t think the whole ‘new year new me’ thing is that great but if it reminds people to reflect on themselves then it can’t be a bad thing. Instead of setting ‘New Years resolutions’, I set 4 January goals. These are:

  • See my care-coordinator every week. With no other professional support in a difficult month this has been important and I have achieved it so far. It’s helped me stay on track and feel better in general.
  • Start the search for a therapist. My psychologist left quite suddenly in December and I’ve been on the lookout for someone since. I made a huge amount of progress with her and haven’t wanted to stop that momentum. During the month I’ve met 2 new therapists but they haven’t seemed all that great. It has helped me realise what I need in a therapist (someone to challenge me safely, not just listen) and that I can actually cope without one.
  • Start yoga. This was to help combat physical pain, so far I’ve been to my first session which was great and I’m excited to be going weekly from now on.
  • Read a book. I have actually finished reading a book!!!!!!! In case you’re interested it was ‘Ths ABCs of LGBT+’ by Ashley Mardell. 

I will end this post with some good news…

I got a letter from Tavistock (NHS gender identity clinic for under 18s) and should have an appointment within 3-4 months! I’m so happy about it!

I hope everyone has a good week, I’ll see you soon in another post.

Liam πŸ™‚

Check-in

I find checking in with myself is important. It keeps me connected and in touch with my mind and means I can notice issues so I can take action. Right now, although I’m not in crisis I’m at a low point and this is the stage checking in helps me the most.

I’m incredibly worried about the most vulnerable time of year coming up, and also that I’m without a psychologist or psychiatrist. I’m hoping it won’t be for long but I have to wait and I have no idea how long. It’s made me realise how lucky I am to have had a secure care team for so long which I am grateful for. I saw my psychologist for the last time earlier this week and her leaving has been quite sudden and badly timed. Pretty much all therapeutic input has come from her so now I’m left with near to nothing. Although, looking on the positive side I’ve learnt so so much with her help, about how dissociation works as a coping mechanism for my head and it’s relation to trauma. It means I have more coping mechanisms when I’m struggling like this.

January is the month I have severe psychotic episodes that have consistently got worse each year. I live with psychosis every day but these episodes take months to recover from and are centered around a strong delusion. 

As I deteriorate I isolate myself which I am doing now. I’m trying my best to have contact with people regularly and will hopefully find it easier with the return of college routine. I’m also making sure I am looking after myself physically, and managing that. 

I have many positive influences that will help me more. I am at college doing what I love, I have a stable routine, there are lots of changes of scene involved in my routine, I have learnt how to acknowledge emotions so will hopefully be less dissociated, and I have coping mechanisms to help this. I’m aware I sound really formal but that’s because I’m struggling to connect with the reality of how bad I feel. I will make it though. This check in has been helpful. Well done me!

Liam πŸ™‚ 

Recovery apps

Technology (specifically social media) has a lot of positive and negative effects on mental illness recovery; on one hand it offers a great way to find others going through similar things so coping strategies can be shared, however it is also very public and can impact others including young children as boundaries on the internet are not rigid.

I think I have worked out a good balance between technology and real life for myself. There are some apps that I use and find helpful, as well as real life hobbies and friends that create a good support system around me. I’m going to share 9 apps that help me in my recovery. I originally rambled about all of these but have now given the post some structure.

  1. Instagram – This is a social media platform you are likely to have heard of if not be on. I have had a recovery account on there for a year now and it helps me document my recovery and communicate with friends and other people also struggling with mental illness. I would recommend this if you’d like to be part of a community. It’d be worth reading my post about things I’ve learnt here if you are considering joining as there are lots of pros and cons.
  2. Pacifica – This is an app where you can track your mood, health habits, analyse thought patterns and set goals. There are also meditations to do and a small community where you can join chats. I use it as a diary card to keep track of things like my sleep, taking medication, social time etc. I also find working through the negative thought patterns really useful and has helped calm me down and rationalise in difficult moments.
  3. The Mighty – A website that shares blog posts written by people dealing with mental illness, chronic illness, rare illness, autism and other things in one way or another. I have found it a very accessible website and have seen some amazing writing. The way that the Mighty seeks to give these people a voice is amazing and something I love.
  4. Booster buddy – This is the first app I used to help me with my mental health. I’m not currently using it but you should definitely have a go with this app. The concept is you have a buddy who you have to help wake up each day by completing 3 tasks. It asks you questions at the beginning about what you struggle with so the tasks can be relevant. It’s really child friendly and also a lot of fun which is especially nice to start your day with. What I loved about this app was the reminders for medication you could add and also the collection of coping strategies that involved psychosis help and used lots of DBT methods!
  5. Breathe – This is a mediation app and the best one I have found so far. There’s a wide range of meditations to choose from and when you check in the most relevant ones are suggested. There is also a sticker and streak system which encourages you to meditate frequently, no matter how short a time. The length ranges from 3-20mins and you can by sets of extra meditations if you like.
  6. Flowy – This is a really clever app that is a game to help you slow your breathing. It’s helped me with panic attacks before and I would definitely recommend it to anyone struggling with anxiety.
  7. Fluidity – This is a visual app that has liquid you interact with when you touch it. I find this helps me with grounding and also when I get overwhelmed with sensory overload, this will help me calm down.
  8. What’s up? – This is an app who’s functions I haven’t been able to fully explore but it’s already clear it’s very helpful and good to use. There’s a selection of ‘in the moment’ activities which I find incredibly helpful with grounding myself.
  9. Relax melodies

I’ll talk again tomorrow, I hope you are inspired to look at your balance between technology and real life and maybe check out a few of these apps.

Liam πŸ™‚

Physical and Mental Health

It’s no mystery that physical health and mental health are linked. There are endless scholarly articles and health websites that back this, one of them being the mental health foundation. This is what they say about the relation between physical and mental health…

“A clear distinction is often made between ‘Β€Β˜mind’€™ and ‘Β€Β˜body’Β™. But when considering mental health and physical health, the two should not be thought of as separate.

Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.” 
-The Mental Health Foundation

This article goes on to talk about the effect mental illness can have on physical health and the links between long term health conditions and mental illness.

My physical health is suffering at the moment, and I think the main cause is my mental illnesses. 

I get shaky and dizzy often because I don’t feel hunger due to dissociation. I’m not aware of my body wanting food because I’m so out of touch and it’s a really big problem that means my body is exhausted and not getting fuelled.

I have constant bad back pain which is probably stress related because of my anxiety. When I discussed this with my psychologist we agreed the reason for the pain probably wasn’t physical and could be dissociation. I now need to figure out what to do about it.

My body is very unfit so I pull muscles easily and frequently. I hold back from exercising because I obsess over that type of thing and I worry I’ll slip back into ED behaviours. Also opportunities like the gym are usually too challenging because of anxiety.

Physical health issues that are normal like infections are ignored because going to the GP seems like more self care than I deserve, despite me knowing that absolutely isnt true because everyone deserves care, including me!

I want to take action. I want to do something about this so I can feel healthy. In my recovery journal I’m going to list the issues I’ve got and the changes I will be making. I struggle hugely with looking after myself and this is the type of self care I am striving towards. Both my mental AND physical health are my priority.

I will post about this again at a future date.

Liam πŸ™‚