lindsay ; positively

The personal musings of a woman learning to find her voice and herself.

Battling with Dark Mornings — November 20, 2016

Battling with Dark Mornings

Over the last few weeks, I have found my depression and anxiety worsening.  This has seemed to conveniently coincided with the onset of the shorter days, of the world still being dark when I awake up (and also when I finish work).

It may just be complete coincidence, but I started to look into Seasonal Affective Disorder as it had been suggested to me as a possible cause, and I researched some of the ways I could go about treating my symptoms.

As S.A.D can worsen already existing depression and anxiety, I decided a review of my medication was in order.  One visit to see my GP later, my dosage of Sertraline was doubled from 50mg to 100mg daily.  It can go higher than 100mg (someone commented to me on Instagram saying they take 200mg) so if needs be, there is further room to increase further.  As it is however, so far so good…I can see a marked different on 100mg.

I also looked into acquiring an alarm clock that featured a timed light up feature to simulate dawn.  In the end, I ordered myself this one:

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Find it here on Amazon

I paid just shy of £90 for this alarm, although it is currently selling at £65 in the Black Friday sale until Friday 25th November.  Even at £90 however, this was money well spent in my opinion.

Prior to using this clock, I was struggling with waking up in the mornings.  My work shift starts at 8am (I work from home), and whereas my alarm goes off at 6:45am so I have time to myself before I sit down and log on, the dark mornings and the way I’ve been feeling have both had me reaching for the snooze button again and again.

I’m barely a week into using the new alarm clock. but the difference in unbelievable. Every morning since I started, I’ve been out of bed by 7am.  My mood has improved has as well.

I call that a win!

Here’s some pictures of the lamp in situ:

 

 (Jenny decided she just *had* to get in the shot!)

I’m still struggling with sleep, waking up through the night.  Do you suffer from S.A.D?  Do you have any coping mechanisms that you’d be happy to share with me, either with getting improved sleep, or managing your mood during the darker months in general?

I am over the moon with this lamp and based off it’s performance so far, would highly recommend it to anyone who struggles with dark winter mornings.

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Stepping back into the blogging world — March 17, 2016

Stepping back into the blogging world

Laptop, chocolate and Jasmine Tea at the ready; it’s time to write.

It’s been just over a month since I last wrote here, and I finally feel ready to try and blog more frequently.  I wouldn’t say much has changed in my life over the past month, the most significant change has been within me mentally.

My phased return back to work is not complete, but it is a good way there.  This week is my first on complete full days (i.e. on my contracted hours…I have been building up slowly week by week), and day to day I am back to full duties, with the exception of external meetings and training sessions.  In the wake of my time off and extended period of heightened general anxiety, my confidence is completely ruined and this is compounded by one of the side effects of my anxiety medication; I can frequently get words audibly mixed up.  Part of my role includes giving training to groups of people and anxiety over this “word transposition” happening in the middle of a presentation is horrible.  I am blessed with an understanding boss and an employer who has heeded my doctor’s recommendation and allowed me to build up my hours and duties slowly.  Next week we will meet in person (for context, I normally work from home) to discuss a plan on how to best tackle bringing the face to face external work back into the fold, so I am 100% returned to work.

The end of February and beginning of March were sprinkled with ‘trigger dates’; things that I knew in advance would upset me.  February 24th was the anniversary of my Grandma dying last year (as well as my Mam’s birthday, who like my Dad I no longer have a direct relationship with).  March 2nd was the 4 year anniversary of the dog attack and the trigger point of so much change in my life.  March 6th was Mother’s Day here in the UK, which was hard for one who no longer has a relationship with her mother, and who grieves the passing of the woman she thought of as a second mother, my wonderful Grandma.  And finally, today is one year since I said goodbye to Grandma; one year since her funeral.  I had never seen a dead body until a year ago today.  I don’t regret seeing her in the Chapel of Rest; I had to say goodbye and would have regretted it more if I hadn’t.  But it wasn’t her anymore.  I was saying goodbye to an empty vessel.

I wasn’t sure, going into February, how I would survive these few weeks.  Part of me was slightly convinced that I might crack and end up off work again.  But I have survived.  I’m not entirely sure how, but here I am on the other side.  It’s been tough.  There have been many many tears.  Much lack of sleep, I was actually on sedatives for a while (I’m off them now).  But today feels like the end of a long, drawn out few weeks, and I’m ready to let them go.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was on a month long break from therapy.  That break ended today, which almost seems fitting.  I told my therapist that I want to stop viewing my father as the monster figure he has become in my head, and eventually I want to get to the point that if I happen across him, I don’t have a panic attack like I did the last time that happened.  My therapist was blunt with me; I need to make a conscious choice to let go of him.  I dedicate a lot of mental energy to ruminating about him, on things that have happened in the past, and to the anxiety and depression I have now  which are greatly compounded by the impact my current lack of relationship with him or my mother has on other areas of my life.  My therapist asked me outright, do I foresee ever having a relationship with him again; do I think he will ever change?  My honest answer to that is no.  So I basically have a decision to make; I go down the cognitive behaviour route of learning again how to live with things are they are, making the decision to “let him go”, or if I want to talk at length about what happened in the past, how I feel about it…I try counselling.

I have decided to give therapy another shot.  I can’t change what has happened, it’s done.  I can talk and talk about what happened all those years ago, the effect it’s had on me, the way I behave as I do now and why.  But that won’t change anything.  I am hoping that this time around, whatever tools I come out with will help and stick; last year I had barely been out of therapy a month when Grandma died and I started on the slow decline to where I eventually ended up at the end of the year.

If afterwards, I still struggle with my feelings about my father, I can always give counselling a go at that point I suppose.

I have decided that my therapy journey is something I want to write about here.  I didn’t blog about it the last time; I did share things on Instagram, but you are limited to how much you share there.  The blog format will allow me to say more, although I will utilise Instagram as well.  It’s been a source of so much support in the past for me.

I am next at therapy in two week’s time.  Between then and now, I have to write an imagery description of my father.  My therapist wants a clear understanding of how I see him in my head.  This piece of homework is not going to be fun.  But it is necessary.

In general, I feel a lot more like me than I have in months.  My silly side is starting to come back in abundance, I am a lot more on top of things in the house, and I’ve started to wake up naturally again at around 6:45am.  There is a long way to go yet, but I feel more positive about the ongoing journey than I have in a long time.  And that feels bloody good.

This is Lindsay, signing off for now.  It won’t be a month until my next update, I promise! ❤

Mental Health – The Stigma and My Own Continuing Journey — August 15, 2015

Mental Health – The Stigma and My Own Continuing Journey

Sometimes, life can be good.  And sometimes…sometimes not so much.  August up until a couple of days ago had been going pretty well for me, but then I’ve had a couple of harder days and that’s prompted me to write this post.

I suffer from mental health issues.  If you ask me about it, I won’t deny it.  I have no reason to, nor should anyone else.

If you follow me on Instagram (if you don’t, you totally should, I’m a delight!), you will know that I don’t just talk about my battle with self image and my body love journey; much of my content is focused around my mental health as well.  I have spent most of my adult life battling depression as a result of low self esteem, stemming from behaviours developed in my childhood.

For the longest time, I never truly understood how much of an impact my upbringing had had on my life as an adult.  I knew that my childhood wasn’t exactly great, and a lot of my unhappiness in life was as a result of it, but I channelled so much of the reasoning behind my depression into my appearance; into insecurity about my size and my asymmetrical breasts.  I bought into the reasoning that life sucked because I was some kind of freak, and because I was big, and that if only I could lose some weight, all the things that were wrong in my life would magically fix themselves.  I would be slimmer, and then I could get a boob job and be “normal”.

Of course, things wouldn’t simply be “fixed”, because weight loss and having perfect breasts isn’t the cure for my low self esteem; of growing up believing and continuing to believe that I am worthless.  Being fat and imperfect was never actually my problem at all…it was a convenient smoke screen to hide the real root cause of my self hatred.  But, my feelings about my body were a contributing factor, that cannot be denied, and something that needed to be addressed along with everything else.

The process of learning to love my body, of learning to let go of the belief that the definition of beauty is as narrow minded and precise as the beauty and diet industry would have us believe… it was one step of many in a journey I am still on.  A journey that will probably never end, but that I am completely and utterly committed to.  I owe the body positivity movement a lot in my desire to be a happier, more confident person.  I have bad body image days, sure, but I understand now that my happiness isn’t tied to a number on the scale, or the size of my jeans.

Therapy (Probably) Saved My Life

When I entered therapy last year, I was hitting bottom.  I wasn’t quite suicidal, but having been there before, I knew I was getting close.  Feelings and thoughts of wanting to run away and end it all had started to creep their way in.  I won’t go into the nitty gritty here because it’s very complicated and personal (as these things invariably are), but everything had just started to feel like it had become too much and I didn’t know how to cope any more.   I was scared of what might happen if I didn’t start to address what was going on with me.

Therapy might have just saved my life.  It was and is hard and at times, so so horrible.  I lost count of the number of occasions I sat for hours in floods of tears.  I learned all about how low self esteem develops, and what feeds into it for years.  It was a relief to get to the root cause of why I basically hated myself and never considered myself or my happiness in any decisions I made.  I mourned for the woman I could have been if only I had known it all sooner, and got angry at the girl I had been for so long; ignorant and unaware.  Sometimes I still feel this way, but mostly, I am just trying my hardest to push beyond it, because if you spend your whole life looking behind, how can you move forwards?

Sometimes, the hardest thing you’ll ever do in life is confront your own negative opinions and beliefs about yourself, and why you feel that way.  To understand the way your brain reacts to things, and why.  And what you can do, as hard as it might be, to try and affect positive change.

The important things in life are rarely; nay, never, easy.  Facing up to it was difficult, but surviving the continuing process keeps making me stronger.

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(gif credit)

I am still on my journey.  It doesn’t just come to an end when therapy does.  If anything, it only properly starts when therapy ends, because then you have to do it without the safety net.  And unfortunately for me, a month after my safety net was pulled away, my grandmother died, which sent me hurtling backwards.  I still have all the tools therapy gave me, and I think overall, I am still in a much more positive place than I was this time last year.  But I have referred myself back to the service.  The journey plods onwards.

The Stigma

Mental health is so important, and in this country, I don’t believe it gets the focus it so desperately needs.  When I used to sit in the waiting room at my local health centre, all the info-graphics on the table and on the wall tell you that one in four people will experience mental health problems in their lifetime.  One in Four.  That means every single one of us knows multiple people who suffer in some shape or form, be that diagnosed or not.  All of the people who are closest to me are either on medication, in therapy or face to face treatment of some description, or both.  Yet, how many of us openly discuss what we experience in the same way that we might talk about having a cold, an upset stomach or breaking a limb?  We simply don’t, because mental health still has such a stigma attached to it.  I do think it’s not as bad as it once was, but there is still a long way to go.

Provision of mental health care on the NHS here in the UK is appalling.  I do speak from experience.  Once you actually see a professional it is fine (at least, for me this was the case; I know for others this has not been…I am sure as with anything, this varies professional to professional).  My therapist was absolutely amazing and I honestly have nothing but good things to say about him.  But the journey to get to him was the complete opposite, because the provision of care is just spread thin.  Waiting lists.  Administration services that don’t know if they are coming or going.  Ridiculously strict discharge policies; more than likely the result of thin on the ground service provision.

Even if you get over the stigma having a mental illness, and try to get help, you then have to deal with a service buckling under the strain of the people already in it.

One day, hopefully it will change and services will be easier to access.  Without making this post too political, I know that this is something that always plays a part when it comes to who I vote for because it is something I feel strongly about.

I have had people on Instagram tell me that one of the reasons that they like to follow me is that I am honest.  I have good days, I have bad days, and I don’t hide the bad.  My honesty in my struggle with both my ability to love my body, and my mental health is inspiring to them in their struggle with their own issues.  In all honesty, to become an inspiration was never my goal with my Instagram account; I came across the body positivity movement and was inspired myself and simply joined in!  My account is first and foremost for me, I won’t lie about that.  It is my outlet, which is the reason why I am honest.  But, I am so amazed and humbled that other people take inspiration from it and me, and knowing that pushes me to keep sharing, and to keep being honest.

Sometimes, I feel like a fake when I comes to my depression.  I know how to smile, and have fun.  I fill my posts with selfies and smiles, outfits and games.  Tea…lots of tea; all the things that make me happy.  Sometimes, you would be hard-pressed to think that I suffer from low self esteem or depression at all.  But that’s the thing; depression doesn’t discriminate.  Your life doesn’t have to be shitty for you to be depressed.  Mental illness doesn’t pick and choose.  I always try and remember this.  Just because I have good days…even when those good days outweigh the bad, doesn’t mean I’m magically cured.  My own personal reasons for being mentally ill have come about due to behaviours and reactions deeply entrenched over YEARS.  It will take me years to break them, if I ever manage to at all.  I do everything I can to push past my depression; I am a big believer in faking it til I make it.  I do things, participate and live as full a life as possible because I want to live.  I WANT to be happy.  Sometimes, I am.  Sometimes, I’m not.  Sometimes, my depression and low self esteem get the better of me.

I promise, you and myself, I will keep talking about my mental health.  Because it is NOTHING to be ashamed of.

Don’t suffer in Silence, Please

Please, if you know do suffer from a mental illness, or if you think you might, and you don’t already have support in place…talk to someone.  Read up on it.  Do something.

I have posted some links below that might prove useful (UK based since that’s where I am).  You might think, based off what I have said above, that it’s not worth the hassle of trying to enter the system to access counselling and therapy.  Believe me, it is.  My experience may not reflect yours; every NHS Trust is different after all.  Even with the trouble I experienced, I am still glad I battled through and got the help I needed in the end.  Speak to your GP; they’ll be able to refer you, or point you in the right direction of the service in your area.

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Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk/

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/talking-about-mental-health

NHS – http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx

Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org/