Telling your mum you’re not well

As my mum has just created her very own blog over at Proud Mumma Bear, I thought I would write a post which I’ve been meaning to do for some time: how to tell your mum, dad, brother, sister, other half, friend – anyone – that you’re not well.

I get so many comments, tweets and emails discussing how open I am with my mum about all the issues that I have. I get messages like ‘How do you do it?‘ and ‘I wish I could be that open‘ all the time.

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I haven’t always been that way, but I love that I am now. I had a lot of problems as a teenager and if I could disguise them and ‘put on a brave face’, that’s what I did. I felt like I was being silly and I thought it was easier to just get on with it on my own.

These days of course I don’t really have a choice but to tell her about my agoraphobia, because it’s hard to fake leaving the house when I spend a weekend with her, but I do  tell her the rest as well. I tell her about the highs, the lows, the risks I’ve taken and then regretted, and all the other messy bits to my mental health, or lack there of it. I do this because for me, it’s nice to have someone unconditionally on my side.

But parents seem to be the one limitation that a lot of you have when it comes to sharing your own mental health experiences. So often I hear bloggers say that they have to remain anonymous because the fear of their parents seeing what they’ve written is too much, and even those that do have faces are often anxious at the idea of mum or dad discovering their writing.

I’m not here to say whether or not that’s right or wrong. If keeping your problems away from some of the people you love – for their sake or yours – is the best thing to do, then carry on. You know yourself and what is good for you better than anyone else. I also appreciate that not everyone’s mum is like my mum, and some people feel misunderstood and stigmatised in their own homes, making it much harder to be open.

Additionally on the flip side, it can also be damaging towards the parent. I know that my mum loses sleep over me and my problems constantly. She’s always stressed and worried because she wants me to be as happy and healthy as humanly possible, and none of us want to be a ‘burden’, which is another reason we often downplay our troubles.

But what I will say is that if you have a strong desire to tell someone what’s going on in your life – do it and just trust that they care about you as much you do them.

And this doesn’t mean you have to go into vast detail if you don’t want to. I don’t necessarily explain how bad some situations are to my mum. I might say ‘I’m feeling depressed at the moment‘, but that doesn’t mean I have to go into anymore detail than that. What it does mean though, is that I know she’s there, ready to come and rescue me if I need her.

If you want to tell somebody, find a way no matter how hard that is. There is always something you can do to make it easier for you; you just have to figure out what it is.

For me, when I’m sad or scared I find it incredibly hard to speak. When I’m face to face with someone my mind goes completely blank and no words come out. So whenever it has come to telling my mum something important in the past, I have left her a note or a letter.

Sometimes these have been rather amusing in hindsight, like telling her that my boyfriend when I was fifteen had a three-year old child, or that the boyfriend before that was in a youth offenders prison, but I have also told her about family abuse and deep depressions I’ve suffered through letters.

It may not work for everyone, but it works for us.

I love how open we are. It makes my life so much easier to be able to share with my mum. And sure, sometimes I feel guilty because I know it upsets her, but I know she’d be more upset if she knew I didn’t feel like I could come to her.

If you need someone to share your battle with, then take the first step and make it happen!

Tools (2015)

If we let them, our troubles will wrap us up and destroy us; parts of us will break and fly away. But there are always tools – even if they’re not right in front of us – to cut the bad out of our lives.

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Tools (26th July 2015) Watercolour & Ink. ©

7/7

Today it’s been ten years since the 7/7 London bombings in 2005.

Thousands of people set off on their commute to work as they did every day; only for many to be left dead, hundreds injured and everyone a little bit changed by what unfolded that day.

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“I remember walking past a bus. Fifteen seconds later, that bus exploded” – Buzzfeed

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“My mum was on the tube behind the one that blew up. She missed that tube because she bought a croissant and a tea. She then went to the bus station but realised she’d just missed the bus she needed to get, so she decided to walk.Then she heard that the bus had blown up. She went and sat in a beer garden with her colleagues, all of them worried about leaving to go home” – Buzzfeed

I remember it well.

I was only thirteen but the massive shock and fear that the country felt makes it one of those days you never forget. I was at school and someone had caught wind of what had happened just before lunch time. The lack of internet access through our mobile phones at the time meant that we all gathered in the school’s printing room where they had a radio; listening for hours. I just remember all of us standing in a line getting in a lot of trouble for not telling the teachers where we were, having had missed two of our lessons that afternoon.

I think they were just desperately trying to avoid a panic amongst a thousand kids. We only lived around two hours away from the capital in Ipswich so a lot of people had friends and family that lived there and took the public transport in London during rush hour everyday. Only today did I realise that my new home in Leeds is just a five minute walk from where the bombs were supposedly made.

It was so frightening. It was really the first time everyone became aware and scared of terrorist activity in this country. 9/11 had only happened four years previous so the horror of that was still very fresh in people’s minds as the bombs struck; with everyone knowing and remembering the devastating effects that had left behind.

The four explosions in London in the underground and on a bus killed 52 civilians, injured over 700 and I’m sure had a massive effect on thousands more of friends, family and complete strangers on-looking across the country.

“My wife, daughter and myself were staying in a hotel at Russell Square. We heard the explosion. As a soldier, I knew what a bomb sounded like” – Buzzfeed

Memorial in Hyde Park. Each of the 52 steel pillars represents one life lost in the 7/7 attacks.

Memorial in Hyde Park. Each of the 52 steel pillars represents one life lost in the 7/7 attacks.

Being that the ten-year anniversary is amongst us, there have been a lot of news articles recently focusing on the lasting psychological effects of that day. To date, the NHS trauma response team has been able to screen 516 survivors, to which 34% of them were offered further psychological help.

It is estimated that between 25-30% of people involved in a Criterion A event can go on to develop full PTSD; which if correct, would imply that over one thousand people have developed the disorder from the London bombings.

“I walked to meet my husband from work with my daughter as he didn’t work far from home and I encountered literally hundreds of people walking down the road making their way home from work by foot as the buses and tubes weren’t running. It was surreal – no one was chatting or laughing. Everyone looked a bit grim and shell-shocked. When the buses got back to normal a few days later, I kept glancing at the number 30 top deck and noticing no one would sit up there. It was always empty. One afternoon I was with a few of my female relatives and we saw someone sitting on the top deck of the 30 bus (alone) and my relatives started clapping and cheering him” – Buzzfeed

But what about the people who weren’t there? Could it have affected them too?

Now I have never been a fan of the London underground regardless of this incident; I don’t like the feeling of being trapped and closed in. Living outside of the city I’d only ever used the service a handful of times up until a year or so ago, and so it wasn’t something I was used to or comfortable with at all.

But are people who were never afraid of the service before, afraid of it now because of the association with terrorist attack? I don’t know a statistical or researched answer to this question  as all of the research I can find focuses on the survivors and people directly affected by the event, but surely there must be thousands of people who now feel uncomfortable and afraid of the underground because of it.

“For the first time, I realised I was mixed race and had an Islamic last name” – Buzzfeed

For people that had lived in London and had taken those same trains every single day for years before 7/7, I’m sure the majority of people would recognise the bombings as an isolated attack which is so incredibly unlikely to happen again. But if you’ve only ever been on the underground three times before in your life, is this the first thing you think of when you’re told you need to get the tube? Do you instantly get anxious and uncomfortable because of the fear of what might happen? I have friends that would light-heartedly mention ‘I hope I don’t get blown up!’ when they know they’ll be travelling on the service; but definitely with a nervous undertone.

Let’s face it, the tube doesn’t have the most friendly atmosphere at the best of times.

The truth is we’ll never know how many people that day has affected, from sadness and loss, to full blown post traumatic disorders, to specific phobias and nervousness – but it’s  undoubtedly beyond imaginable the amount of people we’re talking about.

If anything positive can be taken at all from 7/7, it’s how amazing and strong as a country we are. #WalkTogether

“People who aren’t British don’t seem to get it. But to me, the fact that by Monday we were back to beating people out of the way for a seat on the tube shows the enduring blitz spirit this city has” – Buzzfeed

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“10 years on, this is one of those days where everybody remembers exactly where they were when they heard the news, and it’s a day when we recall the incredibly resolve and resolution of Londoners and the United Kingdom; a day where we remember the threat that we still face, but above all its a day where we think of the grace and the dignity of the victim’s families for all they’ve been through and we honour the memory of those victims and all those that were lost ten years ago today” – David Cameron

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Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Imam Qari Asim, 7/7 survivor Gill Hicks and Rev Bertrand Olivier on Monday at an event at King’s Cross station to promote religious unity.

The quotes used in this post were from a fantastic article from Buzzfeed where people share their experiences on the 7/7 attacks. The article can be found by clicking here.

Creativity and Mental Health

For me, creativity is a massive part of expressing my feelings when it comes to my mental health. Creating abstract representations of my disorders or how I feel allows me to release the negative thoughts and create something interesting in the process.

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Hope (2015) 

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Mental Health Awareness Designs (2014)

I draw, paint, write – anything and everything! It’s the most therapeutic thing in the world; I can sit in complete silence and not have one thought pass through my head for hours when I have a paintbrush in my hand.

Does anybody else have any methods to relieve stress and negative feelings?

Mental Health Art

Just under a year ago in June 2014, I created this series of art work. The six images were each designed to depict a different mental illness or the symptoms associated with it; and they also mock some of the negative stigma that go hand-in-hand with suffering from these disorders.

I designed the series in black and red because for me, they’re the two boldest colours that there are. The black represents the illness, isolation, secrets and negativity that we face from the rest of the world; whilst the areas of red represent the glimpse of hope, which no matter how small is brighter and more predominant than the illness.

We need to stop shaking our heads and silently being at war with the uneducated comments we hear; we need to stop making peace with the idea that mental health issues aren’t as high priority as physical illness, and instead – we need to actively stand strong and fight for better.

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I hope you like them, to view the rest of my art portfolio, click here.

Reality

Tonight I watched the film, Still Alice. I don’t wish to spoil the plot for those of you that would like to see it, but the basic premise is about a woman who is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, and it’s a realistic and harrowing portrayal of what it’s like to live with the disease. As you all know, I don’t suffer from Alzheimer’s myself – and I’m under no illusions that I have any idea what it’s like to live with it – but somehow this film struck a chord with me.

It was the lack of control the character had over her brain. The way in which she so desperately wanted things to be better and normal but her mind wouldn’t allow those desires to become a reality.The constant and every day struggle and fight that was happening in her head. The helpless looks on everybody’s faces around her as they had no concept of what to do to help. The way it consumed her and stopped her from doing the things she loved the most.

And so now I lie here, in complete darkness, trying so hard to get to sleep and stop these thoughts racing through my mind. I can close my eyes for a matter of seconds before they’re wide open again, thinking about my own life and the similarities we all have to each other no matter our condition.

At one point in the film, the character bluntly states, ‘I wish I had cancer’ – a difficult sentence to comprehend to the average person. I actually watched the film with my mum, and at this point she almost laughed. I don’t know if it was shock or a nervous reflex, I didn’t ask, but I’m sure most people’s first reaction would be: how could somebody say that? How could somebody say that they want a disease that kills millions? How can somebody be that lost within themselves that that’s a thought that even passes through them?

But right now I’m not going to sit here and edit my thoughts before I write them down. I’m not going to lie or say what I’m supposed to say. Instead I’m going to say that I get it. I didn’t feel shocked or nervous when this line was read out. I felt understanding and almost comforted by the commonality between us. I know it’s a controversial thing to say; I’ve lost and am currently losing family members at the moment to the disease, and one of my best friends lost her mum to cancer just last year. It’s an awful, agonising, painful and traumatic thing to have, or to watch someone else have. I am in no way trying to belittle that and I do not at all wish that I had cancer. But I do get it. I get what she meant.

I understand what it’s like to have your illness belittled over and over again. I understand what it’s like to be made to feel ashamed of it because it’s an illness of the brain and not something ‘real’ like what cancer is. I understand what it’s like to want to die; to end it all because being here is just too damn hard, and surely cancer would just be quicker and less painful – because nothing can be as painful as this.

I can’t watch suicides/attempted suicides in films or TV programmes, and I don’t like talking about them fiction or otherwise. Everyone knows that I’m unbearably squeamish and so most of the time people assume this is why. But that’s not really it. Suicide scares me to watch or hear about or think about in any real capacity because it’s a reality for me. It’s something that I can sympathise with and although have never got to the point where I have ever carried out any suicidal thoughts, I do understand what it’s like to be in that head space. I feel it. It’s hard to explain in words but it makes me panic and my heart beats at a million miles per hour. It’s like watching someone else die a painful death due to a disease that you have yourself.

Still Alice may be about a person living with Alzheimer’s and the harsh reality that that brings, but I think that anybody suffering with any type of mental illness would find similarities between the character and themselves. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Hopefully now that these thoughts are laid out here, I can finally get some sleep! Have a great day/night – depending where you are in the world!

#MHAW2015 LET’S TALK MINDFULNESS: PART 3

Now that you all know what Mindfulness is and were it comes from, I guess the next thing you should know is who Mindfulness is for?

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Would it be useful four your mum, your daughter, your friend or your neighbour? Would it be useful for you?

There is a very simple and quick answer to this question – yes. I mean look at the pointing finger.

On the whole, Mindfulness is used to treat people that suffer from depression-based mental health conditions, and the breathing exercises that a person will adopt when learning the practice is also fantastic for people with anxiety issues.

So this covers depression, generalised anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder – and so much more.

Really though, it can be used to treat anybody – mentally healthy or otherwise. I think everybody could do with a little less stress in their lives, right? And the best thing is, Mindfulness can be used on anybody of any age, which could dramatically improve the services that young people receive. Doctors are quite rightly reluctant to give out medication to children, and you’re stuck in between adult and child services when you’re a teenager – which in my case meant that at fifteen years old my counsellor had me looking at drawings of dinosaurs to help me understand anxiety – it wasn’t fantastic, let me tell you.

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Whether or not Mindfulness would work for you is a completely different and more complex question though. Firstly, do you like the sound of it? Is it something you’re open to or does it just sound like nonsense? And secondly, can you do it? Mindfulness takes a lot of practise and dedication, do you have a strong enough desire to give it all the time and attention that it takes?

Whilst it could be useful to you, if the answer to these questions is ‘It sounds like rubbish and I have no time anyway’ – It isn’t for you. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of things out there that are.

If you’re still on board so far and want to find out more, come back tomorrow for more info on how Mindfulness actually helps.

Thursday: What Mindfulness does to help you
Friday: Does Mindfulness actually work? Pros and Cons
Saturday: Success stories
Sunday: My experiences with Mindfulness

love lauren x

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10 years on

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Today was never going to be plain sailing for me. It’s a milestone in something bad – something which you could say started all of this.

But I’m not going to sit around and be sad, today is the day to start again. My boyfriend and I have taken the day off work/uni together and we’re going to have some fun.

We’re going to create some new memories. 10 years is long enough for bad ones.

I hope you all have a fantastic May 1st too!

Stigma of mental illness

Mental illness and the issues surrounding it have been in the news a lot recently following the Germanwings plane crash. I’m not going to focus on it too much, but I think it’s worth reading this article by The Guardian – one individual, isolated, unpredictable and tragic event does not mean the world’s opinion on mental illness should change; and unfortunately some of the comments following recent articles about the incident would suggest it has.

Anybody that has been deemed fit to work should be able to do so no matter their illness, disability – or whatever else. Don’t quote this statistic because it’s entirely made up, but I’m guessing at least 99.999999999% of people with a history of mental illness don’t mass murder. If not more.

Every single day I get comments on my posts and numerous emails from people explaining their illnesses and asking for advice, coping mechanisms or just a general chat because let’s face it – living with this crap inside our heads is almost impossible. I have spoken to hundreds of people who suffer with some form of mental health problem – depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, anxiety, PTSD, BPD, OCD… and they all have as much of a right to be ‘normal’ as the next person. They all have as much of a right to work.

And yes, not every job has as much responsibility over so many people as does the job of a pilot, but realistically in every walk of life somebody who is deemed mentally ill (or not, in fact!) could end your life. All we can do is hope that we’re not in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It’s no doubt a massive tragedy, and my thoughts go out to every single victim on and off that plane (and yes, this includes Lubitz’s family who must be mortified and inconsolable by learning the truth of what happened mid-grief) – but we’ve come to far and evolved too much to go back to thinking that the mentally ill are dangerous and unsuitable for work.

We’ve come too far to listen to idiotic, insensitive and downright wrong comments such as this one from Katie Hopkins yesterday; who as per usual is still purposely trying to gage a reaction to hold onto her ever-so fragile career.

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Stigma is not OK.

1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health illness. By my calculations of what Google deems the world population to be – that’s one billion, seven hundred and fifty million people who suffer around the world. One isolated case should not be enough to change your opinion.

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This is what depression really looks like

This article, written by Laura Silver for Buzzfeed, is the perfect example on how we shouldn’t judge people by appearances. Just because you can’t see someone suffering, doesn’t mean that they’re not.

Be kind – and be wary that sometimes the person with the biggest smile in the room, is the one feeling most broken inside.

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Anna Popsky – found on Buzzfeed article: ‘This is What Depression Really Looks Like’

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