I never dreamed I could feel so real 

Yesterday was a personal best for me emotionally and mentally.

To cut a long story short we had to take our biggest turtle, Penny, to the only vet in the Maldives which was about a 2 hour speed boat journey away. The boat was brilliant fun and I got to see some awesome wildlife like flying fish, dolphins and baby sharks!

The vet was based in a beautiful resort which houses the Olive Ridley project. Olive Ridley’s are the Maldives’ smallest species of turtle so are the most commonly injured. Having said that, our 40 year old Penny is still pretty big! 


I was just so happy at seeing the recovering turtles which lifted my heart and soul. Then during the middle of the day it struck me that everything felt really real..

I felt connected to every part of my body.

I felt grounded.

I felt like my old self.

It’s hard to explain how much this meant to me to someone who has never had derealisation. But almost every single damn day there is a two-dimensional or flat quality to everything I see which makes my life feel nearly, but not quite, how reality should and I feel floaty or dizzy inside my own body.

But not yesterday and no anxiety either!

I haven’t felt so like myself and so grounded in myself since I was 17 years old and I new it wouldn’t last long but it gave me the most precious gift: hope.

Why? I always thought that for the rest of my life PTSD would have a grip on me, it’s such a bleak outlook to know that I will have derealisation and anxiety until the day I die and it scares the hell out of me. But this gave me a beautiful little light at the end of a long long tunnel which made me believe that someday I might be free for maybe up to days at a time.

I can hardly put the wash of emotions I feel in writing but it makes me cry my eyes out with happiness and means the absolute whole world to me. It’s as though years of prayers have been answered even if it was just for a few hours. There are no words, just tears and an elated feeling inside my chest. 

I knew it wouldn’t last forever and sadly the PTSD symptoms I loathe have crept back like the curse that they are but I will treasure yesterday forever as the day that made me believe in myself again. I can’t stop crying every time I think of those few hours and I’m gutted the feeling has gone. But I hope over my travels I’ll have more days like yesterday.

What a breakthrough for me! A moment of inner peace. 

I’ve got lots of lovely pictures on themindfulplanet Instagram of the day.

Please follow me for more, my next post will be trying to explain the sensation of anxiety to those who haven’t experienced it before. If you’ve had/ have anxiety I’d love to hear from you to understand the different ways it can effect different people. 

Oh yeah, I forgot testicles prevent mental illness …

Was my (sarcastic) response to this tweet:

In case you guys didn’t know it’s mental health awareness week so we should all be doing our part by discussing mental health with honesty and openness.

It’s bad enough in that we don’t talk about mental health as much as physical health. We shouldn’t need to have a mental health awareness week, we don’t have a physical health awareness week do we?

But one of the most important topics to me is addressing why mental illness is judged as weakness, especially in men. Attitudes like those above do nothing but discourage some men from speaking out when they need help and almost shames them for it. Being a male doesn’t protect you from mental health issues, in fact:

*One in four people experience a mental health issue every year and up to one in six people report a mental health problem every week in England.

*There has been a 34% rise of male mental health patients since 2006.

*Shockingly, the rise of suicide in men has increased 90% since 2006 for ages 45-54 years, now the most likely age group for men to commit suicide. 

*Three times as many men committed suicide than women in 2014 (the male rate was 16.8 suicides per 100,000 people, versus 5.2 female deaths) despite women having typically higher rates of mental illness.

Chart from Office if National Statistics and The Telegraph


Why is this happening?



There are many different theories attempting to explain the startling number of male suicides but no one really knows for sure.

I think there is still a lot of pressure for men in general to fill out the masculine husband role, to bring financial stability for the family, to be a strong shoulder to cry on. Yet studies show that men who experience a divorce or unemployment/financial difficulties (which often happen in midlife) are more likely to commit suicide than women. 

Expressing your emotions and getting help with a mental illness is tough as it is but the truth is that a lot men who do so are are at risk of being viewed as weaker, more feminine and need to “man up” as Piers put it.


What does it lead to?

 

There is a huge gap in society’s view of a man as he should be compared with a man in crisis. I think because of that often men are more likely to bottle up their emotions until it gets to breaking point where they see no other option but to take their own life. 

It’s hardly surprising that it seems to be more difficult for a male to reach out for help considering that most societies would think it embarrassing just for a man to cry.


How to help?



I can’t give a solution to suicide in men or women so can only speak from my experience. Had I not gotten the help I needed when I needed it I would’ve been one of the statistics above without a shadow of doubt. I know how it feels to be afraid to talk about what is really going on inside your head.

But I also know that getting through and talking about the worst of my mental illness has made me stronger and given me a lot of pride in myself. 

Our society needs some adjustments towards all mental health for both sexes. I really think that starting with the basics of recovery such as asking for help, talking to family and trusted friends and expressing emotion then applying them to a realistic view of what a man should be it will become more acceptable for men to do so and prevent a tragedy down the line. 
And most importantly we should never victim blame. We should never say “oh, well he could’ve just asked for help” or “what was happening to him/her wasn’t even that bad” and so pointing the finger when in reality cannot judge if we haven’t been there ourselves. 

We need to create a culture of helping men and women! 

I would really love to hear other people’s opinion on this complex topic, please comment/ message me with your thoughts! 

Speaking out – 3 ways it has affected me so far 

Before I boarded my first flight I did a quick post on Facebook to introduce all my connections to this blog. It wasn’t an easy decision which I had been chewing over for more than a week before deciding to go for it. 

I must have typed and retyped it up in my notes about a zillion times, and the more I did it, the more I doubted whether this really was a good idea. 

But this journey I’m on is all about pushing myself so I pressed “post”, turned off my phone and forgot about it for a while.

Flight between Maldivian Islands

It’s been a few days since then and I’ve since been through an emotional rollercoaster which has affected me in many ways but these are the dominant three feelings:

1. Overwhelmed. 

The response to the post was immensely positive, I’ve had lots of messages from a range of people with kind words and some even opening up to me about their mental health. I feel so happy that already I have touched some people and given them comfort. On the down side I got too overwhelmed because all of a sudden everyone I’ve ever met now knows something about me which I have held a secret for so long. Telling people about my illness is an amazing step forward but terrifying because I can’t hide from it anymore which is extremely unnerving for me. 

2. Sadness. 

One of the things I hate about PTSD is the grief it causes inside of me and I hate to offload that pain on to other people that I care about so because of that I don’t talk about my issues in much detail, if at all. Once I finally got wifi in Male, Maldives and read some of the messages I had received from my extended family and other connections it completely broke my heart to see how sad they were that I have been going through so much alone which lead to me sobbing away for hours until I fell asleep. Having said that knowing I have their love and support means the world to me and is a wonderful feeling.

3. Relief. 

Mental illness has a poor reputation so I was expecting some sarcastic or rude comments from people who don’t take it seriously. But I’m so relieved I haven’t had a single bit of negativity from anyone which makes me wonder if I had made a bit of a mountain out of a mole hill of the situation. At the end of the day I know my blog and illness is very personal to me but it shouldn’t have to be this hard to talk about.



Considering all of the above and add that I’m alone in a new country and was exhausted from traveling with a whirlwind of emotions it all resulted in me feeling like I had lost all control of myself and my surroundings. I felt completely overwhelmed and had so much anxiety then became so so dizzy that eventually I had one of the worst breakdowns I’ve had in a long while and it really, really scared me. 

After my lovely Mum calmed me down I reflected on the last few days and I really have had some wonderful experiences already! And at some points of the day when I forgot about everything I felt so peaceful and entranced by my beautiful surroundings that I know I have to keep going for a little while longer. 

I hope once I’ve settled in I can get a grip on my surroundings and really throw myself into living a little bit! 

First day volunteering at a turtle sanctuary
Writing these blogs is proving tough but rewarding, please give me a follow if you find them helpful or share to spread more awareness about mental health. 

Ready, set… travel 

I leave tonight to travel for three months solo. 

I’ve always dreamt of going traveling and was hoping to go after college, I even had a huge world map covering one of my bedroom walls for inspiration! 

But PTSD took such a hold on me that my plans faded into the background. Instead I finished my A-Levels then got a full time job and have been working ever since. I’ve been getting better everyday with a few bumps in the road and It’s been a slow process but now I feel mostly secure in myself.
Around 7 weeks ago I was sick of my job and was looking for a change when my boyfriend suggested that, since I had some savings and was planning on moving on from my current employer, it was the perfect opportunity to fulfil my dream of travelling. 
After umming and ahhhing a bit I decided he was right and booked my trip that weekend and resigned a week later!
Now the big day is here… I can’t lie, I’m terrified. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding for the past few days. Knowing I will be leaving alone has given me masses of anxiety which I’m hoping will go away before I get on the plane!

My biggest worry is that derealisation will come on strong or I’ll get too anxious and have a breakdown in the middle of Asia by myself…
I also worry that I might see something else traumatic which will trigger a relapse. And who will I turn to for help? 
Having said that I have a little buzz of excitement inside me because I secretly hope I’ll find some peace in myself over the next three months. I hope it will be a great experience which will teach me a lot about myself and I’ll return even more independent and stronger with amazing stories to tell!
For my trip I will be flying out to the Maldives for the first three weeks working as a volunteer in a turtle sanctuary.

My route in white

Then I’ll fly to Bangkok and make my way down Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore before flying to Indonesia!

I’ll be blogging about how my illness will affect everyday activities differently than it would for a ‘normal person’ so I can give an insight to how life can change in so many ways because of mental illness. 

Pictures and blog posts to come! Please give me a follow for more 

Therapy – No stigmas attached

 

There’s so much stigma attached to the concept of therapy that I shy away from talking about it, even though it’s done me the world of good.

Let’s say I’ve just come from therapy and I bump into someone I know, in my head I feel I should have no fear in telling them where I have been just like I wouldn’t think twice if I had come from the GP. However, the reality is very different. Worrying about the judgement from others would lead me to hide my therapy because people associated with it are often seen as weak or crazy.

I know I am not alone when I feel this way and unfortunately the result is that many people prefer not to pursue therapy or counseling despite feeling a significant amount of mental, physical or emotional distress.

I undertook Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which taught me coping mechanisms for some of the worst effects of PTSD such as:

  • Derealisation – no doubt the problem that caused me the most grief, it was at the core of my anxiety, depression, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. For anyone unfamiliar with Derealisation it can come in many forms but affected me by seeing objects change in shape, size and color and I was also seeing the world as two-dimensional and feeling disconnected from it. It still affects me and I don’t think there will be a time when I’ll live without it but knowing how to control what I see without becoming overwhelmed is the best outcome therapy could’ve given me.
  • Anxiety and Depression – I am very proud to say that I’ve overcome depression and have not been on medication for almost two years (YAY!). Medication was very helpful in the short-term but shouldn’t be relied on but therapy teaches you how to manage your condition long-term. Anxiety is still a pain and has a number of triggers but I now know what to avoid and how it should be managed so it lasts a couple of hours rather than a few days (which would usually result in a breakdown).
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I learnt that mental illness is not just in my imagination

But one of the best things therapy did was to educate me! It allowed me to understand PTSD by putting the changes I was going through into a way that I could understand and in turn, I was able to recognize when they were taking a hold on me.

I hope by talking about my own experiences that anyone who may have been holding back from getting the help they deserve will see there is no shame in going to therapy.

It is tough mentally, emotionally and physically and should be respected as a form of treatment no different from going to your GP or having physiotherapy for an injury. We should be able to talk about it openly without feeling judgement!

No doubt I will be going to therapy again in the future but without it there is no way even six month ago that I would’ve had the confidence to book my travels alone and I’m so proud of myself to see how far I’ve come.

If you found this helpful please give me a follow and share to spread the awareness!

5 ways opening up to your nearest and dearest can benefit You

If you’re anything like me you’ll understand how daunting it can be to talk about your mental health to anybody, especially being honest with your family for the first time.

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My Brother and I

I didn’t want to tell my parents at all. I was worried about how they would react, though not because I was scared what they might think. I didn’t want to be a burden and in turn make them feel sad or depressed too.

My friend made my parents first aware that something was wrong (at this point just two friends knew). I used to have terrible panic attacks lasting up to a full-blown four hours, I was at my friend’s house one evening when I had one, meaning I couldn’t go home. My mum – obviously worried – called him to see where I was and in turn she asked me what was going on. I still didn’t want to say anything but I couldn’t think of a credible explanation other than the truth!

Talking to my parents was definitely the first step in the right direction, sparking a catalyst of positivity:

  1. When I first got PTSD I didn’t know what was happening to me and I could only hope that it would just get better by itself. Unfortunately, it just got worse and I felt like hiding in my room and holding back the tears was the best option, so no one would hear. But telling my Mum and Dad meant I could relax in my own home, immediately a huge strain was lifted and for some magical reason I never had a panic attack again!
  2. My parents set about getting me some proffessional help. My friend made me go to the councillor at college but she wasn’t qualified to dig deep enough to help me. My parents both knew more about mental health than I did and got me straight to my GP and to a Therapist/Psychiatrist who diagnosed me with PTSD which set me on the road to recovery.
  3. My Mum encouraged me to explain to my little (but not so little) brothers what was
    going on which was no doubt the most heart-wrenching thing I ever had to do and it still gives me a lump in my throat now. However, it meant when my parents weren’t home I could get a hug from my bros.
  4. They convinced me to tell a close group of my trusted friends which widened my support network, so I always had someone whether at college or out socialising. They were all shocked because I’d hidden it so well but all told me how proud of me they were.
  5. My family and I are even closer now than ever before, especially with my Dad. He’s not a man of many words but I always feel he is there for me. No matter what I put my parents through they always stayed strong for me.

When I leave on my travels next week I will miss them a lot. But reflecting on the rollercoaster we’ve had I know I would not be the independent person I am now if it hadn’t been for my support at home.

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