Opening Up About Mental Health

I’m not one to complain a lot and it’s not often that my cheery disposition disappears. However, I’d like to consider myself as an honest person and that’s why I must admit to myself out loud that my 2019 has so far been incredibly difficult. To say otherwise would be a lie. I really second guessed posting this piece as it’s perhaps the rawest and most real piece I’ve written to date, leaving me feeling quite vulnerable. Unfortunately life isn’t always so dreamy and light and I truly believe that it’s so important to identify and talk about these difficult periods, as well as the great moments in our lives. Despite the highlight reel we so often present to the world, life can be very tough and overwhelming; words that also describe my 2019 so far. Within these first few months of the new year, I’ve been faced with two people near to me being diagnosed with Cancer as well as a family friend whom was living with depression, sadly taking their own life. With one event happening after the other in only the space of a month, I’ve become painfully aware of how fragile life is. I’m not sure if it’s grief, the process of digesting what’s happening around me or both, but I know that this has been one of the toughest periods I’ve faced in my adult life so far. This has been externally evident too by my many mood swings; flipping between feelings of shock, despair, confusion, sadness, anger, helplessness and loss of control. Over the last few weeks I have been searching the internet hoping to find some words of comfort to ease this anxiety that I’m currently feeling during this period in my life. But somewhere between the frustration of not knowing what to google and overthinking, I now find myself here writing this piece. I find it very difficult to write in my “normal” style when I’m not in a clear headspace, (major props to those who can) so in the past I have opted for not writing at all. However this year I made a pact with myself that no matter what happens in 2019, I would not allow life’s challenges to stop me from writing, as I allowed it to do last year when my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, for fear of “bringing people down”. I know that these pieces really help me on so many levels and so I also vowed to myself that I would not just write these “real” posts, but share them with others. Mental health is just as important as our physical health and I hope that by writing my own thoughts and feelings down it will hopefully spark others to examine and speak out about their own feelings. After all, if I – a talker, am not prepared to share my thoughts and feelings, how can I hope that others experiencing similar scenarios (who may also be of an introverted personality), to do the same? I need to be the change I want to see in the world, right?

The word “Cancer” is in itself so heavily weighted and emotionally charged. When you hear the word you uncontrollably begin to imagine the worst as a wave of sadness overcomes you, let alone when it’s a family member or two you may know are battling this awful disease. To my surprise, after a few hours of hearing the news that my aunt had cervical cancer, I quickly adopted a logical mindset. I suspect that this was a coping mechanism to provide support to those around me; the human mind is clever that way. I thought to myself: What are the options? What are the facts? What do we know is certain? This would help me prepare myself and my family for what is to come as well as to be in a mentally good place to support my aunt. The next day I found out that my brother’s future mother-in-law had pancreatic cancer. I was grasping at straws, trying to find some light at the end of tunnel, the right thing to say. Meanwhile the pit in my stomach grew dull, the lump in my throat was rising as I was fighting to hold back the tears which if I let them escape in that moment, I’m not sure when they would have stopped. This was all too much and plain unfair to happen at once. The overarching sadness in the room was confirmed by my family’s silence, and if you know me and my family, silence doesn’t come naturally. I only allowed myself to really cry when it was just my boyfriend and I as this moment wasn’t only about me, there were other family members who needed my love and support more than I did in that very moment.

A month soon passed and everyone’s spirits had been slightly raised as treatment was underway for both of my respective family members. Things weren’t great but there was a glimmer that they may be ok. I was sat at my desk at work desperately trying to complete tasks off my to do list before lunch time, when I was then given the tragic news that a family friend had committed suicide. Before I knew it, my legs were carrying me out of the office. I reached for my phone to message and call my boyfriend and a couple of my best friends. Looking back now I know that I was experiencing a fight or flight response. I felt dizzy, sick and my palms clammed up. I had an insatiable need to cling onto life. I felt like running or punching a boxing bag. I imagined quitting my job on the spot so that I could go ‘live’ my life and not “waste” my time on my to do list. It wasn’t a realistic or rational thought to suddenly quit my job, where I am happy and making good progress, but in that moment I was confronted with clarity of what was important to me. At the same time I was also lost for words despite the flood of emotion I was experiencing. One of my best friends had their own history of depression and reliving that period still remains raw for me. She was one of the first people to come to my mind and I felt compelled to reach out to them on so many levels. I also felt like screaming out in anger as I was furious at the cards 2019 had dealt so far. What was the Universe trying to tell or show me? How is any of this fair? How many more things needed to happen before we could all catch a break, I wanted to yell! The strongest emotion of them all was the immense sadness that overcame me for the family friend themselves who felt that there was no way out of their black and dark hole. Who so tragically chose a permanent solution to a somewhat temporary sadness. For the family who were left behind. The only comfort I could provide for myself was the hope that he was now resting in peace and was pain-free. This news also came a few days after Mike Thalassitis a reality TV star from Love Island had also sadly taken their own life. There was so much media coverage about him and the importance of opening up about mental health. I hoped that this provided the same relief and support to my own family friends. I was saddened to learn that 12 out of 16 people every day in the UK who take their own lives are men. Suddenly my want to write and share this post became even more important, no matter how small my blog may be.

Over the last week I have felt guilty for feeling so sad and frustrated at the world, considering that this isn’t directly happening to me but around me. I’ve felt that I didn’t have a right to be upset to some degree. Or at least that everyone else has a much more of a right than me and I should just ‘get on with it’. Trying to find the balance between “carrying on as normal” – the British thing to do and talking about it as much as possible with family – the European thing to do (I’m of Polish heritage if you didn’t know). Over the last month I’ve become so acutely aware and appreciative of life, that all I want to do is to live in the now, soak up every day and appreciate the small things like when it doesn’t rain, that I had a conversation with someone new today and that I am able to and want to still be here both mentally and physically. I’ve tried to continue with my routine as much as possible, whilst making allowances for some breathing and resting space. I’ve made sure that I allocate time to do things that make me happy. To spend time with those who are dear to me. To not deny myself of seeking happiness. To be vocal and honest with myself about how I’m feeling, no matter how confusing or emotionally overwhelming it has been. I am so grateful to those who have been there to just listen, even when they didn’t know what to say.

I’ve also become aware just how resilient and incredible people really can be and I admire the strength I’ve seen from others around me. Should you find yourself in one of life’s inevitable dark moments, I hope you find the strength you may need to carry you. Although life can be at times unfair, it will keep on going on no matter what you do. It doesn’t give special treatment based upon your bank balance, age or status. I hope this post encourages you check in with yourself and others around you; to open the conversation. Sometimes it really is enough just having someone to listen to you, even if they don’t have the answers and when things do get tough, remember that even in the darkest of times there is light. No matter how much you may feel it, you are never alone.

I’ve listed some charities below you may wish to read or to share with a friend. It’s time to break the stigma.

Macmillan

Mind

Samaritans

 

The Magic Statement

Autumn is the season of change and new beginnings and boy can I attest to that! For some this may mean starting University, reevaluating New Years Resolutions or for me beginning a new job. Upon my return from a Summer in the sun to a not so green grassed England, (thanks to the heatwave), I was still figuring out which direction I wanted to take my life in next… Would it be more travel? A focus on working on my career (no pun intended)? Save money to move out? The answer ideally would be all of the above, but which first??? With an overwhelming decision to make, I reflected on what I had already achieved in the last five years since I first enrolled in University.

One thing that I feel I’ve really worked on over the last few years is specifically making time for myself to do what I want… but figuring out what that may be can be daunting at times. Case and point my earlier dilemma! I wanted to share with you something I call ” The Magic Statement” which has helped me so much over the last few years to begin solving such problems.

Between the ages of 16-18 years old, I was always very busy. I was Deputy Head Girl at school and seemed to stay behind nearly every day after my classes for one activity or another. My weekends would also be jam packed as I tried to balance my social life around concentrating on my studies and I also entered the world of dating… I didn’t have much time for my new (now long term) boyfriend. Luckily he was understanding and I’m so grateful he stuck around for me! I was constantly preoccupied and somewhat obsessed with people pleasing, for fear of admitting that “I am doing too much of the things I don’t really want to be doing, but I think I should be doing” and in admitting this would make me sound spoiled, ungrateful, let people down or worse, not fulfilling my potential and facing “disappointment” from those around me. I feel like this type of thinking is responsible for causing us to supposedly “not knowing” what we want to do. When in reality, we do know but we think that we can’t or shouldn’t try what we do want until we are pushed up into a corner or facing a mid life crisis… and guess what, everyone except yourself ends up winning in this scenario!

“If I had all the time in the world what would I do ?” The Magic Statement

Now don’t get me wrong, at this time I was mostly doing things I enjoyed, but the amount I took on was so tiring and I felt I missed out on some of the other things I loved.

I remember having a very honest conversation with one of my best friends, who knows me inside out, to whom I don’t ever have to justify, or feel guilty if we don’t see each other for long periods of time. I love genuine friendships like this. I confided in her how overwhelmed I was by the amount of activities and social groups I was involved in, on top of studying for my exams and more quality time with my boyfriend who I only saw for a few hours once a week. I felt overwhelmed and I lost touch with myself somewhat as I didn’t really know what my hobbies were anymore. I put so much pressure on myself and ultimately had become a people pleaser (with the only person not so pleased bring me!), feeling so overwhelmed all before even turning 18! How on earth would I cope when I one day got a job and had even more pressing responsibilities.

At the time, my friend turned to me and simply said, “If you had all the time in the world and could do anything that you wanted, what would you do?” I felt a bit emotional at this, because for a moment I didn’t know what my answer was. I felt sad as the first thing I thought, was that I just wanted a break- and that’s certainly not a hobby! Necessary perhaps but not a hobby. I sat in silence for a while as my friend waited patiently for me to answer. After some time I answered that I would want to read more, I would want to write creatively because as a child I used to enjoy this so much! I also wanted to run again- I was good at it as a kid, and it refreshed my mind. That conversation really stuck with me and if you asked me now what are some of my hobbies, you can guess what they are!

It’s strange looking back on this now as not only do I deal with stress better but I am able to say no to tasks or activities that overwhelm me or just don’t interest me. Of course the workplace may require you doing some of these things now and again within reason. However being able to identify these areas and speak up will actually lead you to the career that you’re suited to.

I have had an echo of this conversation many times with myself, my close friends and family since – reframing it slightly to fit my situation, “If I could go anywhere where would I go?”, “If I could have any job what job would I want?”, “If I could try anything I wanted, what would I try?”. It has allowed me to eliminate the barriers that I have put up for myself, to be more goal orientated, to find some direction and believe that all these things can be possible… at least one day and one dream at a time.

My advice to you would be, whatever it is you’re contemplating or whatever the situation is that is causing you to feel lost, confide in friends and as you grow as a person throughout the many stages of your life, don’t hold yourself back and finish the magic statement,

“If I could do anything, I would…” and dedicate the time and effort necessary to achieve it. Honestly your life is so worth this! Slowly you may find you’re making progress without you even realising it.

How can you use the Magic Statement in your life? Let me know I would love to hear from you!

If you enjoyed this post you should subscribe and read:

The California Travel Diaries: Sonoma and Napa

Lessons I Learned In My First Real Job

The California Travel Diaries: San Francisco, Day 3

Graduating, Working and Discovering New Passions

Golden Globes 2018: A Year to Remember

Yesterday the Golden Globes was held, which kicked off the award season for recognizing talent in this year’s movie industry. I am a big fan of all things acting, theatre, TV series and movie related. This includes seeing the fashion choices on the red carpet to interviews with actors about the challenge of preparing for their roles and the influence of the film on our generation. I am sure you have a film, an actor or a memorable quote from a film that has impacted your life somehow. Whether it was for a minute changing how you see things or a film line you carry with you (I definitely find myself relating daily life to similar scenarios in a film or quoting a character to fit my mood).  However today the world woke up to so much more than just the standard  headlines of which celebrity wore which designer, what celebrity feuds had occurred and who was snubbed of an award. Instead the carpet was politically charged with a sea of black, where Hollywood’s greatest Actors and Actresses came together at the Golden Globes to recognize talent and symbolize the #Me Too movement.

2017 saw allegations against some of Hollywood’s biggest moguls who have the power to make or break one’s career. The Me Too movement recognizes that change is needed and change is happening. Throughout the entertainment industry in 2017 sexual harassment of women was a prominent discussion in the media. However this is an issue faced by both men and women who are subject to sexual harassment in all communities, cultures, workplaces and across the world. Both have felt emotions such as distress, shame, guilt and anger for being subjects to sexual misconduct. Both men and women know people who have experienced this at same level or at the very least can recognize that sexual harassment is a problem in our society. Whether it is acts of sexual abuse, wolf whistling or derogatory comments made, the issue exists. The Golden Globes recognized in particular the abuse suffered by women in an industry that has predominantly a patriarchal influence and dominance. A key factor of this movement is the message that “Time’s Up” emphasizing that now is the time to overcome sexual misconduct throughout Hollywood and many other industries, at the abuse of the hands of powerful men.

I would like to highlight that the movement is not disregarding the abuse suffered by men also, and that casting blame onto men is certainly far from the point of this post (and potentially what many may think). I want to be very clear as I state that I believe in the equality of all people, men and women and that is the same for the Hollywood. However some men in very powerful positions in Hollywood have exploited their status, and Hollywood is no longer turning a blind eye to it. Male actors, directors, screenwriters you name it, are listening to these stories and acknowledging and reacting to them. This is a very important message and stance taken by Hollywood’s most well known faces, one that I hope everyone can agree that “Time is up”.

So when people criticize or ask “What has Hollywood achieved by them all dressing in black? What change has this actually brought about?” I would answer that it has encouraged discussion and is actively working towards fighting sexual misconduct . If you’re reading this blog the #Me Too movement’s affects are loud and clear.

I must admit that I felt some hesitancy in writing about this topic and even was second guessing posting this. Not wanting to be controversial or say the wrong thing, coming across ill informed or offending anyone. However I did not want to shy away from the topic, as so many do. So for now I would encourage you to watch Oprah Winfrey’s speech that she gave as she received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contribution to the world of entertainment. I will leave you with some parting words that Oprah so eloquently communicated on the topic:

For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up… When that new day finally dawns it will be because of a lot of magnificent women… and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that… nobody has to say ‘me too’ again”.

 I truly hope that 2018 is a brighter year and we see positive change throughout our society.

So far in 2018…

Happy Sunday everyone! It has officially been 2018 for 7 days and what a week it’s been. Donald Trump is in the news again for more altercations with ‘losers’ and just about everything that seems to be irrelevant to the political affairs of America. The UK has been battling stormy weather, Hollywood is getting ready for the Golden Globes, Crypto currencies are on the rise and gaining more media attention and our worst fears were confirmed. Game of Thrones will officially not be aired until 2019.

With all this noise in the world, I feel like Sunday is a good time to check in with myself and see how I am getting on with the little things. I can take comfort in that it is less dramatic than Trump’s “fictitious book” by that fraud.

This week I have managed to drink more water- carrying a 1.5 litre of water definitely helps. I have read my book nearly every day- something which really has helped me to wind down before I go to sleep.  I have also blogged daily which I am super happy about. Overall since 29th December I have posted 10 days in a row. Even more satisfying! To you, these may be small and insignificant achievements, but for me this is the creation of healthier habits. So what did I do differently? I decided to A) Put some effort in! B) Manage my time better.

I have been watching TV less, trying not to procrastinate and make both a mental and physical list of what I want to achieve today. To tell you the truth, it’s quite hard to be consistent. There I said it. Life makes it difficult enough to set out completing the tasks we want to do, both at work or at home due to natural daily disruptions, deadlines, social meetings, kids, health problems, travel- the list continues! So I am trying to improve the things I do have control of.

I feel that it’s important to reflect upon the last week. Whether that is a quiet reflection to yourself, talking about it with friends, complaining to family or writing in a diary. Whatever it is, evaluating what we did this last week we can get a potential representative of how this year could pan out. For example let’s say that I really wanted to reach my 10,000 steps daily but every day this week I stayed slumped at my desk in my lunch hour, to then drive to my car, to then sit on my sofa. If I am being honest with myself I can see that I won’t be changing my habits at all next week, if I carry on doing what I did this week of course. Then before you know it, it’s November and I’m thinking, maybe next year I will move more. You following me? So as I try to form new habits, I will reflect weekly on what I did do and learn from it. I often look at people I admire and think how on earth do they do it all? It must be that unless you have a team and your own PA you probably can’t. But realistically we all have 24 hours in the day and in some ways you can achieve just as much as Beyoncé, Joe Bloggs or Princess Consuela Banana Hammock. CAUTION: Just don’t try shaking your booty like Beyoncé you may throw your back out.

Before you all think I am mad because you know that it is human nature to sometimes plainly not be bothered to go for that walk, cook that vegan recipe, go to the gym, wake up earlier etc. I will level with you as I am sure that will happen inevitability this year. What did help me to dedicate more time to my blog, was when I had my time off from work over Christmas. Before you think I am implying that you need time off to make some changes, my week off was far from plain sailing and sleeping in every day (you can read about what happened in my post  What’s Been Going On) ; the only thing that really changed  was my mindset. Okay, I was less physically tired having not been at work all day, but I was inspired to make the most of my time and get out of my own way! Maybe it was a small almost quarter life crisis, (just less dramatic or pronounced). But a lightbulb switched on where I was like, “I am going to start actually trying to do the things I always say I want to do”. Simple as that- the tricky part is putting it into practice.

Now I am back at work I am in the swing of it and am definitely trying to make new habits. Rather than being lazy and ‘relaxing’ with mindless TV* I am putting more effort into my hobbies which will benefit me. (* I will try to save it for the weekends or on sick days!) So this week , I am going to add another challenge… To incorporate some exercise into my weekly routine. Challenge? That’s not a challenge you say! It is the mental motivation of actually getting on with the 5k or the swim at the gym consistently is the hardest part and this week I shall try to jump over this hurdle. Let’s see how it goes.

To finish today’s post and musings I am going to try to preemptively beat the Monday blues with this thought that I saw on fitness mogul Kayla Itsines Instagram:

 

Have a good week everyone!

 

Hi January, Nice to Meet You

Today it is 2nd January and another blog post is up. Honestly, I am quite proud of myself that I have managed to write a blog post consecutively the last 5 days. Although I am still very new at this blogging malarkey, I do appreciate the effort that goes into it all. It has definitely helped that I was lucky enough to have the last week off work for Christmas and I really needed it. Not only has the break allowed me to find more time to write, but it has helped me to recharge, find the willingness and wanting to write. Ultimately these last few days I have had a shift in my perspective. A change which I hope to put into practice throughout January and 2018. In my last few posts I touched upon how busy things have been even over the Christmas period; not great when this is combined with my tendency to procrastinate on the things I actually need and want to do. Like most, I always start the week with good intentions to be productive, but I am pretty much screwed come Friday when I am still stuck in the mindset of saying I will do that really important thing tomorrow.

I hope that this month my burst of motivation and drive continues. I am going to try stop making excuses as to why I didn’t complete my to-do list and adjust my priorities. (You will be the judge of that. I may be eating my words next month). Examples of said items on my to-do list over December & January have included:

  • Clean my car √
  • Do some form of exercise √
  • Catch up with an old friend √
  • Cook something new – still working on this one!
  • Sit down and write regularly √

So be prepared to see an influx of motivational quotes and posts on topics that are inspiring me (and maybe will inspire you too?) I am a very visual person and very psychological. By psychological I don’t mean that as a pun (I have a Psychology degree), instead I mean that if I tell myself I am feeling a bit under the weather, lo and behold I am playing my small violin wanting sympathy and hugs, as I sniffle into my mountain of tissues. However, this attitude can also have it’s benefits.  The power of the psyche also means I can be very driven. That being said, studies support that if you write down your goals, they are more likely to happen. If you envision and imagine your goals, the chances again increase of achieving them. Maybe that’s why I like sharing quotes so much. It makes me that little bit closer and hopeful of overcoming a challenge, learning a new hobby, reaching a new milestone etc. If you’re cringing just at the thought of this, then let this be a warning as to what January has in store for you.

Realistically, I know that this motivation will be challenged in the coming months, well let’s face it – days, when work is back in full swing and life goes back to 100mph. However 2 days in I am still feeling quite positive about 2018. “Still?!” I hear you say. Yes, still- the reason I say this is that it is so easy and common to lose this drive. However sometimes all we need is a gentle reminder that we can only achieve so much in 24 hours in the day. The trick is to be consistent and make the goal attainable. So the fact that I am still feeling positive day 2 of 2018, I am pretty pleased with.

Whether it is a task oriented goal (go to the gym more, stop eating so much sugar) or an aspirational goal (get a better job) you wish to achieve this year, if you are going to take away anything from today’s blog post, then let it be this: Start somewhere. I know I am trying to. Let’s see how it goes.