Tag Archives: mental health

Grief or guilt?

When my great aunt died, it was a massive shock, as I had said in my last blog. I was not something I was at all prepared for. Not that I didn’t realise that she has been unwell, or that she was old, but that I had managed to convince myself that she was just always going to be there.

I am going to assume that this is a fairly normal reaction – that you just can’t see a time when someone isn’t around. That they are just so, present, that life without them just doesn’t seem right?

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I have been grieving for over 2 months. It took almost all that time to stop crying at the drop of a hat. That even thinking about Tante Hilde would mean that I would either expend a lot of energy forcing the tears back, or running and hiding.

The thing, for me, when I reflect on my feelings and consider what I am going though. It is guilt. Like I said in my last blog, I have managed to escape dealing with grief for most of my life so this has hit me hard, I just don’t have the coping skills, or frankly the emotional support network.

Why was I guilty? Was it the fact I couldn’t remember whether I had sent anything at Christmas? Or that I had ignored her phone calls last year – she had left voicemails on my mobile because although I have a landline, I didn’t had an actual phone plugged in. And if I had, no doubt I would have spoken to her. But you know how quickly time passes, you just … forget. days turn into weeks and into months, then you realise that she had last called you to wish you a happy birthday. Last July.

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Or was the guilt over not having been to see her? I recall her comments coming up to her 90th Birthday, that she kept saying that she wasn’t going to see my before she died. And boy, if I thought that cut deep at the time? Nothing compared to how I feel writing that. Realising that although she was saying it to get a reaction, her was making a prophecy.

She was supposed to be alive for longer, she was supposed to at least wait until I got to see her in August. Until I had made my prodigal return to the home I had not seen in over 2 decades. The home I loved and selfishly assumed would just continue to be there. Patiently waiting for my return at a time that suits me.

Guilt because times waits for no man. Time doesn’t give us a reprieve, it doesn’t slow because we are juggling too many things and just need an extra moment. Time just marches on and we are left holding the pieces after everything comes crashing down. That is it, isn’t it? Guilt is for the survivors, the ones that were left behind. The ones that are still here, still working through memories. Wondering what they could or should have done differently.

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It is more than clear to me, that I shouldn’t have kept putting off getting my passport, that a ticket to Germany isn’t all that expensive and staying with my aunt would have been at minimal cost and would have made both of us happy. And because I could only think of myself, because I expected the world to wait until I was ready, she lost out on seeing me and I lost out on precious memories with my great aunt. My grandmother, my hero.

That is the thing, she isn’t close just because I would spend summers with her, Christmas holidays, evening visiting on my own. It wasn’t a relationship of convenience. I really loved her and looked up to her and understood some of her quirks and shared similarities. She was stubborn, headstrong, independent and fierce. I look over her old photos, and I see her smile, her love for animals, I see her climbing trees and I see some of myself in her. I may just be finding things because I want them to be there, I want a small part of her to be reflected in me.

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Because I am guilty that I didn’t spend more time with her. Not that I didn’t have more time with her, I didn’t spend the time I could have had, with her. That was my choice. I could wax lyrical about how obtaining a German passport is a massive ball ache, how the Brits are staunch in their refusal and dragged my heels over an Irish passport.

See? How easy did those excused slip out? Because that is what they are. I am an inherently self absorbed and self centred person. Over the last 3 months I have had reason to reevaluate some of the things I have done, how through laziness (no better word) I had allowed things to happen. And how to build relationships. And while I type this I realise that it has been 2 days since I last spoke to my mother and am going to cut this short to go call her….

 

A conversation of masculinity

So, it is something I have mentioned, and blogged about before. But it is something that deserved a wider conversation. Men, and the idea of masculinity what that means.

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We are almost through ‘Movember’ which is an effort to get men involved in both charity, but also to help raise awareness. The tag line is ‘stopping men dying too young’ and initially started as an idea in Australia. It was initially created to raise awareness of testicular cancer but has now grown to include prostrate cancer and mental health/suicide prevention. Because something we don’t talk about is men’s health.

Why is that? In this weeks show we did try and explore this – I will apologise for repeatedly suggesting that men ‘woman up’ – taken out of context I sound heartless. But I really only mean that the idea of ‘man flu’ is frustrating to most of the population. But that is detracting from the real issue here.

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Men are dying young. Young men are the highest statistic for suicides. Men still dying, dying young, from entirely preventable situations. At the end of the day, it is because we are not talking. Because men still need to prove something, they are still held responsible for being the strong one, the one that doesn’t give up or give in. In the next blog in my #Fighting Fight series looks at ways that this personality archetype can manifest.

Men, men are suffering. It can be as simple as the ideals that are put upon them in the working world, and expectations of even what they were to work and the double standards – I explored this in a previous blog Addressing Equality. Of course this may sound vain and shallow but it is merely a symptom of a larger problem.

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Men have not be allowed to change, evolve, roll with the punches. As women, as a feminist – I, we shout for equality. We shout to be heard. We want visibility. But men, men’s roles remain unchanged. How often are men looked at with a queer eye if they work with children, are the nurse and not the doctor, stay at home to look after the children. Men are expected to be strong, to provide, to protect. 

And another quirk is that men also do not like to be easily, goaded into things… nagging I think is the colloquial term. Never a truer quote – you can lead a horse to water. I am not going to change any minds with this blog. I don’t even know if anyone will read this blog. But I just want to get this out there. Men are important. Men’s health both physical and mental is important. 

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Men get stressed, work can be hard, challenging, men can have as much trouble, work loads, time pressure, colleagues, bullying, commutes, poor relationships with coworkers, financial worries, not having much time to relax, to wind down, not sleeping well. Stress. And not talking, not talking because they don’t know who to talk to, don’t want to be a burden, would rather brush it away because talking doesn’t help. Does it. Does talking help, or is it better to come to a logical conclusion to the problem. Because that is the practical solution. 

Does it sound like I have gone around in circles from ‘we aren’t talking’ and then suggesting men don’t want to talk. Well the thing is, men also have a lot of pressure on them. They feel that they need hold themselves up to impossible standards – although who is setting those standards will be a difficult thing to untangle. 

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We all need to make sure that men feel that they are in and have an environment that they can open up. That if something is troubling them, be it mental health or physical health, they know where to get the information and they know where to go to get help. They need to know that it is okay to not be perfect, that the macho ideal is anything but. That men can let their guard down.

With that, there are some numbers that you might want to use yourself or play forward in case someone you know has a need for them at some stage : 

doesn’t appear on phone bills : http://www.samaritans.org/news/samaritans-launches-new-free-helpline-number-uk

Mind UK with links for support and urgent care : http://www.mind.org.uk/

And CALM which is a charity dedicated to reducing suicide in young men who are the largest single group in the UK at risk : https://www.thecalmzone.net/about-calm/contact-us/

Jumping Blind

Backstory, always with the back story! As ways there is a reason for this, I have many times countered the comments and suggestion that being ‘two-faced’ is a bad thing. It isn’t, it keeps you sane. When I am at work, no matter which job, I am going to have a positive outlook at attitude. When I am at home, that is where I allow the shadows to creep up on me. So it might look to an outsider that I have my shit together, that I am always happy. That I might swear a little but it is all good, vent and done.

As I previously discussed, things had gotten pretty bad last year, to a point I really was struggling. And it was my main job that was a big cause of all of this. I have held off putting this down as I needed some distance and I needed time. It wasn’t the job as such, you see, I worked for the NHS for several years, 4 jobs over 2 trusts. And I don’t know that it would be fair to put the blame entirely at the feet of the NHS. There are many contributing factors at play. for example, it was my first proper job when I first moved here. I have no big support network, no close friends. I struggled when I first moved here with people I met, I just wanted to have friends. And most of my life, I have had male friends so the idea of female friends, and the social interaction was new to me. There were losses, and they have been hard no matter how I might suggest otherwise if asked. I was at my wits end when I left my first job and started my next. I was within the same trust, and there were teething problems, like my former manager signing me off from the trust. A slight oversight which I found (find) implausible as I had asked her to drop off my Occupational Health forms. And that meant I didn’t get paid my first months wages. (In my first job for the NHS I didn’t get paid for 3 months). The job wasn’t what I expected, and I have to be honest, it wasn’t made any easier by the environment.

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During this time, if you have caught my other blogs, you will know that I injured myself. I will just side bar a moment. One thing that my first job for the NHS did, was give me the opportunity to dance, I went Salsa dancing and Belly dancing – both of which I really enjoyed and it helped me lose weight. I was going to the gym, I lost weight, I was happy – exercise makes you happy! It does, dancing especially so. But I also managed to in injure both feet (separately) which has meant that dancing isn’t the best idea. Of course this has had a knock on effect, finding that people I would spend a lot of time drifting out of my life, not going out as much.. I won’t go on, you get the picture. But this is why blaming just my employer, job, place of work, isn’t justified.

Now back onto the job situation, I, as I am sure many, find looking for a new job difficult, when you can’t get out of work easily, and in my case don’t drive. This causes additional problems in time management. So when I found another job within the same hospital albeit another trust, I jumped at the chance. I have to be honest, shortest time in a job for a long time, I started just over a year ago, and was role switched at Christmas. I was bits by December, tears were shed at home, at work. It wasn’t pretty. So I started 2016 in a new role, new department, smaller. I thought it would be better, that it would be more comfortable. Small enough that you get to know everyone, not so small you spend your days dodging bullets. But no, it was a nasty place, in so many little ways that it took a long time to fully understand.

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BUT! STOP THE PRESS!

I DID THE THING! 

I left my job (the main, day job, paying one) and honestly… as terrifying as it was… it is done and as it was a couple of months ago, I can’t begin to properly explain what a difference it is. It is a massive adjustment and of course, money is tight. I was always wary when people would say, if you don’t like something, just change it. I always laughed it off as something that people with money could say. That giving up your job, when you have responsibilities is not something you should just do. That part of being an adult is dealing with things head on and not just running away. But I can say, a couple of months later, that it was the best decision that I have made. I took ownership at a time when I felt I was drowning. You see, we all work to live, that is a simple statement of fact. But we shouldn’t live to work. The moment that you realise that you are just your job, and nothing else, that you become a shadow of your former self, that your mental and or physical health is effected? That is when you need to take a moment to evaluate. 

I don’t want to be one of those people, who have a cushion to fall back on, and gasp at how easy taking a career break it, or finding a new direction. It isn’t. It isn’t easy and if you are starting over you may end up starting at the bottom again. You may have less money. You may need to rethink what you can afford. But really, your health genuinely is more important. You may even find that you aren’t needing to spend money on things to help you feel better. And having spoken to a couple of people, this is not isolated, and my leaping into oblivion is not all that unusual as much as I might have been met with shocked glances on giving my notice in at work. It is important to take a step back occasionally to evaluate where you are, what you are doing and if you are happy. And if needed, make a change. Remember, it is your life, and you need to make sure that within reason, you are able to be happy in it.

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Detri – mental health ?

So I have previously discussed my mental health on my blog, it is not something I talk about openly. I mostly use my social media platforms for photoshare, promotion, pictures of cats… it is almost as if, to a degree I have compartmentalised them all… which is something I have discussed previously. My habit (ability?) to compartmentalise. I am not sure if this is a skill that was learnt through necessity, or just something I have done naturally. Visible mental health is the post I have previously discussed my personal mental health. I guess you might be wondering why I put it in a blog and not anywhere else. Well, yes, I could mention it on facebook, but you see, facebook is a community, although I know many of the people on my friends list and call them friends… facebook has this ability to break down barriers. I may never meet many of these people. Others I know only socially, or through work. Some are networking, so you see, many people on my friends list won’t care. Or I should say, I would be unduly burdening them. And I compartmentalise! I can show whichever side I chose on there, on twitter I can vent, on IG I can share selfies.

Now all of that took a lot longer than I intended. I am so sorry, and thank you if you have managed to stick with me thus far! So what I wanted to say is that, mental health, can actually cause physical symptoms, I am sure that you have come accross this before? But it isn’t simply ‘my brain is hurt, so my body follows suit’. It is more complicated, but again not really.

I have high blood sugar, I have done for many years, and generally speaking I manage it well. It is one of those things that, well you can’t see it? It doesn’t really effect me in a way that makes anyone notice. But it is there and has some serious side effects as well. And of course, the longer I manage it well, the more complacent I can become. Like I said, I have had it for years. It comes down to diet, and I will freely admit mine is pretty bad. But I manage it and take queues from my body as to what it is and isn’t happy processing.

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A few years ago, while working in my first NHS job, I developed mild ME – this had for me, similar symptoms to the blood sugar issue when it was first diagnosed. I was always tired, but no matter how I slept, even if I felt I slept well. I would have severe lethargy, I would fall asleep at a moments notice – including trying to do floorwork/yoga, there were more symptoms but generally speaking it left me incredibly frustrated. More recently, in the last couple of years, I had a couple of episodes of stomach flu. Which for someone who doesn’t drink because her aversion to throwing up is so strong, is … challenging. And this escalated in this last year to pain in my lower back/kidneys, keeping me away, also throwing up and all that you would find involved with this. I won’t go into it, but it involved seeing a practise nurse, a misdiagnosis (I will stop and say, giving a  good medical history is KEY to a diagnosis. So when a medical professional refuses to listen. Stop. Stop everything and demand that they listen.) and resulted in the conclusion that my kidneys were not happy.

Now, often when you already feel that you are drowning, a little reflection and introspection is the last thing you will do, or think of doing. To keep going, I would treat myself, I would have that cocktail, that ice cream, I would use sugary drinks to keep me going (I can’t tolerate caffeine) during the day. I never sleep especially well and when your job is already taking a lot of energy you need that little boost. Picking up take away on the way home because it is quicker, rewarding yourself on Friday night because you managed to make it to the end of the week, eating snacks, biscuits, sweets that are lying around at work, that patient’s bought it, eating the cake from a birthday/leaving celebration. So frequently during the day, you forget to take a break because you aren’t hungry, and by the time you are hungry, you pick up another biscuit. Or when you are working overtime with such frequency, that you manage to make it home 2 hours after dinner. You end up picking up something entirely inappropriate and have another sugary drink, because it doesn’t matter how close it is to bedtime, you have only just got in and dammit if you aren’t going to enjoy your evening.

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And that, that is the problem – my physical health was being made worse by symptoms of my mental health. It is not a simple thing to separate these two things. When people say, hey go to the gym, it will make you feel better. Or stop eating all those cakes, you will feel better, or pick up a hobby, it will make you feel better…. yes, I entirely agree that it will make you feel better. You will feel great, eventually. But the problem is, again that the physical and the mental health symptoms are inherently intertwined and you can’t just tackle one. You need to look at both. You need to understand how one is effecting the other. And yes, while you are drowning it is extremely difficult to be able to do this. So I just want to say, you need to find someone to help work you through it. Speak to your GP surgery to see if there are GP specialists that would be more suited to your situation (most GPs do have a speciality) and see if you can book a double appointment with them. There are resources out there, but they aren’t always immediately accessible or clear. And you have to remember that most of the time you will be talking to people who are not medically trained or specialists. 

But please understand that while it might seem that you are being weighed down by so many little things, that it feels as if it is insurmountable, that you can’t see the stars… things are often linked. In most aspects of life, there is be a common cause, a thread that once you can untangle will help make sense of things. The best thing to do is keep a diary – if you noticed something is different, write it down. It might be that when you are called on to explain, it won’t be easily recalled. But keeping notes will help you figure out patterns of behaviour or when symptoms are worse. I am only using personal experience to try and help others. I understand that everyone has different experiences but one thing that is important, we need to break down the stigma, we need to talk. 

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Visible mental health

I know, what am I even talking about! Mental health isn’t visible… isn’t that the problem? Or when it is something you notice… do you understand what the symptoms are, what the ticks, clues are. How to help or react? Is is something you worry about in yourself or a family member.

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I was tasked with looking at whether social media is good for mental health as my feature in this weeks radio show. I normally do a shout out for people’s comments or stories for the show amongst my friends .. but I stopped. This was one subject I just didn’t feel comfortable asking of people. And yet I am a campaigner for visibility in mental health. Why then would I not want to offer people a platform to discuss their own experiences.

Because often the reason I know that someone else even has a mental health condition who isn’t already pretty close to me, is because it is being discussed in a closed group, in a safe environment. I want to normalise mental health discussions and I want to help people talk about it. And being able to discuss it in a safe group is the first step. I have writen a blog with my own struggles, but I am also secure in the knowledge that many of you don’t know me. And that you won’t bring it up with me. Because frankly when someone tells you they suffer with a mental health condition you want to know how to treat them. Are they telling you because they need to share it with someone or because you have been treating them in a way that isn’t cohesive with their condition and they want to help you understand so you can change how your interact with them ? Do you know anything about the condition, are you going to research it. Do you ask questions?

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One thing I do continuously find myself battling with personally, is what do you share with people, I mean at what point to you stop being a little ‘weird’ or ‘quirky’ and start becoming a liability. When do people start looking at you with other eyes, when do they stop mentioning things, inviting you to things, at what point to you drop to the bottom of the list because you have ‘issues’.

Social media is a wonderful thing in this respect, because it stops you feeling so isolated, you can join groups, you can find people who understand, who have been on similar paths, who have words of wisdom or advice, somewhere free of judgement, or at least if there is, it isn’t from someone you need to interact with again. It can even just be a place to vent away from prying ears. Social media is fantastic as it has broken barriers, it has opened doors, it has meant that geography is just numbers on a map, that you don’t have to go out to talk to someone, that you have potentially people to talk to at a moments notice, if needed.

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I love social media for these reasons, but on the other hand, it is incredibly isolating, not only for you, but for those around you. While you are emotionally investing in your new friends, who may live thousands of miles away, you are increasing the distance with your friends and family, co workers, peers, who are in close proximity but feel as if they are in a different galaxy. And conversely, may be able to share some of those same fears, and hopes that you are pouring into your virtual friendships.

Now, I am the first to say that the internet is not evil, it is a great tool, and does good things, but it can’t and won’t replace being able to pick up a phone, and invite someone out for a coffee. There is nothing really that will replace that social interaction and sometimes you genuinely need that human contact. If you are feeling isolated, or have moved to a new area, friends have moved into different phases of their life and don’t have time to meet, social media can be a great tool to meet new people. There has long been jokes about it being a dating site. Have a search on local groups, activities, see if there is anything you can join, be it a hobby you already have, an exercise class, or new skills. Being on social media often means people involved can start communicating and then it feels a little less daunting when you actually go to the group. You make new friends and learn new skills, or pick something up you didn’t do before. 

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So what I am trying to say, is that talking about mental illness is great, the only way to ‘normalise’ it in our society is to ensure that talking about it no no longer something we avoid, or find odd, difficult, or other. When we don’t talk about it, we never learn about it. Shutting it away makes it seem like a bad thing, something that should be covered up. And the internet is not only a powerful tool allowing you to seek advice, and find people who are empathise with you, to make connections. It is also a tool for people to educate themselves on mental health. We literally have all the information at our finger tips. We can and should educate ourselves. Be positive in all things.

Peace.

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This shit got serious

ooO get me being all sweary from the outset! Well this blog post is personal. I just really want to put this out there.

Mental health. We are all encouraged to talk about it, but many of us don’t know how much about it, be it our own or a friend/relatives. And no one wants to be the one to ask a question.

I was writing this blog in my head on the way home this evening, bought on by things that have happened recently, and I guess I just want to put it all down. To try and help people, as a cathartic exercise, and well, you know what it is my blog and if I want to write about me, I will 🙂

So many of my friends suffer from mental illness in one form or another, stress, anxiety, panic attacks, personality disorders, manic episodes, depression, PTSD – I could, but won’t go on. You get the picture, and because one of my stronger personality traits is laziness, you can do your own research on the matter – and draw your own conclusions.

You know the Robin William’s quote, those saddest on the inside try hardest to stay positive on the outside.. it is true for me. I have recently started a new job, which an insane workload, and a massive about of pressure. It has been commented on that I manage to stay upbeat and am not showing signs of stress. Yeah, you guessed it. I am one of those people who internalise. Everything. I don’t like to let the side down, or appear unable, or give people an extra problems. There is often a maelstrom of conflicting emotions rushing around, be it stress, a manic episode, sadness – the emotions are always extreme but  i try and project a positive vibe. Of course I can do that, yes that is amazing, no I don’t mind doing that for you, no, of course you pushing me out of the way isn’t a problem. Smile, and the world smiles with you.

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Like many people, I suffer from social anxiety, but am a people pleaser, I want to say yes to everything. I want to remain positive. I don’t want to let people down. But 2015 was an odd year, where there were plenty of good things, toward the end of the year, I found myself floundering, and had a massive anxiety attack and had to take some time out – my partner was away, and I pretty much locked myself away for 4 days. I didn’t mention it to anyone, I frankly lied about what had happened to everyone. I didn’t actually seek any help, I am sliding along a tightrope hoping that I can stay on top of it.

I haven’t admitted what happened really, to more that 3 people. Even my partner isn’t really aware of how bad it has got. Because, I don’t like admitting to weakness, and certainly when I am not sure how to deal with it. I am a logical person, and a problem solver. But where i can’t really see an end to the situation, and don’t feel talking will really help…. I have never in my life wanted to stay at home so badly. I even admitted nothing would make me happier than staying at home and looking after the cat. A stay at home cat mother is a thing, isn’t it? I sound glib, I don’t mean to be, something in side me was telling me to remove myself from a situation and someone in the grey matter, this was the solution.

I told 3 friends, together in an email – we are all close and it just … popped out in an email conversation. We don’t see each other as much as we used to – and it had gone from my constant organising and pulling together, planning to retreating a little and being unwilling – I don’t know if they noticed and I won’t ask. Cans of worms are not always made to be opened. I felt really bad when I blurted out my problems to the girls, because it is my burden, why should others have to deal with it. I ended up with private emails from all three, and I was crying – or trying not to cry because they are so supportive.

2015 was not a good year for my group of aforementioned friends, all 4 of us have gone through something. This isn’t my legitimising MH. Your mental health is important – it is important to realise when your are being stretched, when you need to take a break. Listen to your body, to your mind. Talk to people, you will find that people will be able to offer more support, advice, and experience.

I do think that we need to talk about it more. Not so everyone gets more worried about what they can and can’t say to their friends and family. I think that being more honest is healthier – it means that we can all be more understanding of our extended family, of people we meet. We all go through shit, we don’t always know how to deal with it. But having people who we can vent to, talk to, who we can admit defeat to. And something else before I sign off as I have realised how long this blog has gotten – this does not make you a weaker person. That is what it comes down to with me. I am always the first to offer help and support and the last to ask/accept. But admitting you aren’t coping, or need help, or just a break. It doesn’t detract from you as a whole. It really doesn’t.

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