The joy of handwritten letters

Hello all, are you ready to get writing?

I’ll get straight into it, for quite some time now I have loved writing letters to people, to friends and other loved ones. I even have a pen pal who lives in Oklahoma and I’ve written letters since I was young starting with my late step-grandfather. Really there’s just something so wonderful about writing letters.

With all of this modern technology; of instant messaging, texts, calls, emails (even though that seems a bit 90s unless you work in an environment that requires emails), writing letters is seen as such an old-fashioned pastime by many people and I want to dispel the myths about this.

Let’s start with one of the main reasons why I encourage you to write a letter to someone, whether it is your future self, even a friend in the same time that you live in or your parents. It calls on connection. When you write a letter you can speak your truth in utter privacy you can ‘talk’ for as long as you want: that letter has no limits. It can be any subject of your choice and it’s your automatic thoughts and feelings on paper that allows for someone to really see how you are feeling and who you are; it doesn’t have to be reduced to characters or a few words on a status.

The recipient of a letter gets the span just a few minutes away from their lives and feeling a part of yours and I think that’s something really special. I saw the addictive and unfortunately bad side of social media but I’m not the one to discourage people from texts and emails, I still use them as a method of communication. I will not judge anyone who prefers that method I’m not anti-technology – I just love sometimes being able to escape away from my laptop, and my phone, and my Kindle, away from all the screens around me and just have this fresh sheet of paper to write whatever comes to mind. Whatever comes from the heart without embarrassment of feeling like I’m sharing too much. I feel like I can surprise someone with small gesture of openness to say, “hello, how are you, what is going on in life, take this moment to connect with me”.

Writing letters has been studied so much in regards to well-being, various mental health charities have shared their findings that writing letters and having penpals can actually reduce loneliness. Loneliness currently is an epidemic that needs to be expelled and there are such a simple tools and writing letters one of them. Writing letters is also known to help your cognition and executive function so that you have a better ability. It also improves the creativity because you are just writing and writing almost as if it was a free writing exercise.

Sometimes I feel I have so much to say but I don’t know who to say it to or how to express it and sometimes a letter can help. Or a little note to say “hey I’m thinking of you” and straying away from just letting someone see words on a screen. Not believe me, I know the power of the word and the power of the internet and I can sound hypocritical because I am writing to you on an internet blog. I have no qualms about technology, either way we interact online as long as it’s safe and enjoyable. But sometimes it can be addictive, and it can feel like you’re not really connecting to someone, and I think sometimes we have to revert to simple methods. There’s just something wonderful knowing that a bit of positive post, something a bit out of the ordinary, a little surprise comes in the mail box alongside all the bills and it can brighten someone’s day, at least that’s been my experience.

What are your thoughts on this? Because I’d love to hear other people’s opinions and I’m also up for having more penpals it means I get to buy cute letter writing sets, let me know.

All my love and happiness to you,

L x

My life with Time to Change

Good morning to you, how are you?

There has been a change within my life, one that will be causing a transition in the coming months. Since September 2016 I have volunteered with social movement Time to Change as a Young Champion and alumni which has been in operation under Rethink Mental Illness and Mind for over a decade. As of March 2021, Time to Change will no longer be running as funding will no longer be available. Time to Change focused on reducing mental health stigma and discrimination and changing attitudes around mental health. They have interventions in the general public, employment and eventually in schools etc. for children and young people: which is where I was involved.

I remember Time to Change from the Stand-Up Kid days and knew that one day I’d get to talk about my experiences, at 16 I personally felt I had a lot to learn first. So at 21, I saw applications were open and sent mine on that day. I started out still loving the drink, unaware of who I was, still shy and filled with self-stigma. I will finish my time as a confident, outspoken, ambitious and knowledgeable woman. A woman who yes, has mental illness, but that is just one facet of my identity. I found a deep passion for mental health problems and it’s place in society.

I was trained to speak to others across the nation, speak my story of stigma and my experiences with EUPD among other illnesses, what hasn’t been effective and what could help in future. I spoke to my MP at the time and allowed for TTC the opportunity to speak in Parliament. I attended the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit and attended a reception at Downing Street. I have done a lot.

At first, I was so nervous in what I was doing, while I’m a good public speaker this was all very new. After a few long term dips in my mental health, and the team’s overwhelming support I started to feel so much more confident, I ended up wanting to take more on. I enjoyed doing the events, I was even able to join my partner on his events and it was always so wonderful to be able to watch him speak.

The team themselves are visibly passionate about what they do, they all have such vibrant personalities and each bring something unique to TTC. Their own skills and knowledge astound me, I feel I have found good friends in some of them.

But what I will take from my time with this amazing initiative is finding my family, in friends, in my partner whom I met there (I fell for him in the initial training weekend), in the sense of belonging and being allowed to explore what my mental health meant to me, finding great people at the centre of the cause. I will take knowledge of other people’s experiences, of learning what real boundaries represent, a new confidence and being able to challenge injustice. And so much more.

I think TTC represented so much good in this world, and I will be sad when it ends. But I know my activism will continue, I have a few big ideas churning.

All my love,

L x

Lessons I have learned from anger

Good day to you lovelies. Are you all settled in?

I thought today would be a good time to finish my lessons learned for now. Today’s topic is, I would say, a bit contentious to those of us with EUPD. Mainstream media would paint us as aggressive, quick to anger, and act on blind rage. Whilst I have had moments where rage and anger take over, this is simply because for myself I do have difficulty in dealing healthily with anger. It is one of the most potent emotions I experience, an ever-consuming fire. But it would always be contained, in the past I did not handle it well at all and it turned into suffering.

I want to preface this by saying I have never acted on my rage and hurt others physically, nor do I condone this in any way.

Like all emotions, anger has its place in our emotional repertoire and experiencing anger in the way I have, and reflecting on this in therapy has taught me a couple of things.

When boundaries have been crossed
Now, we all have boundaries within ourselves that safeguard our well-being, whether we are aware of them or not. Some are instilled in our conditioning as we grow, others we explicitly form ourselves. It is common for anger to rise in me when my own boundaries have been crossed, whether through words or actions. I have learned now more about the boundaries I have, and when I need to put some in place temporarily to protect my well-being and reduce the chances of me having to experience anger. Though I have healthy outlets, it certainly does not lessen the intensity of the experience.

Anger signals when I view, hear or experience things that go against my values/moral compass
Much like boundaries, we all have our own values as humans that guide our morality and ethical compasses. Oftentimes, I have become angry when my values have been crossed, when I witness something that goes against who I am as a human being. For example, injustice, or reports of hatred in the news. There have been times when my anger has gone to extremes, I will not lie. But each time I become angered now, I ask myself why, what is it in particular that has caused this experience, what can I learn from it?

Not to hide emotions
This is a big one. For so many years, I was used to putting on a mask of sanity, if you will, hiding anything and everything for the sake of others. To lessen the stigma and annoyance by other people. Yet in reality, it made things so much worse, not only for myself but to others around me, they would think I was fine and that was not the true picture. In order to properly process my feelings and emotions, they need to be fully experienced, fully shown, appropriately expressed and then dealt with.

What has anger taught you?

Wish you joy and happiness,

L x

A ramble on my health

How are we all? I sincerely hope you’re all well as the nights get earlier.

So I haven’t done a ramble in a while and I know it was liked a while back. So I thought I’d do a little update on health. I find with both my physical health and mental health, each will dip one after the other.

In August, I had a day being bedridden and thought, “I’ll heal up quickly, my arthritis has spread to my knees but I’ll be fine”. Let me tell you, it definitely was not fine. After a few blood tests, medication changes and many calls with GPs I was finally referred to a rheumatologist. I now spend most days in bed, I have almost fallen a few times because my knees have given way. Just the other day I spent 7 hours in A&E due to my ribs burning and having shortness of breath. I am rather immobile. On top of this, my mental health became disastrous at the same time which has been very rare. I had an awful episode the other week.

Yet I’m still here.

I’ll be honest, the fatigue is getting to me, I really am feeling like everything is out of control. I started November 1st utterly depressed, then manic, making lots of goals and plans to improve my fitness and mental health. Yet it was not to be after this week. And I have accepted that. I guess the fear of what is going on in the world got to me. And that is okay too.

People often say we have to help ourselves and have this notion that we can just fix ourselves when really, chronic conditions are usually pretty much here to stay.

So what have I done to help myself? I have followed basic self-care and fought to be referred to rheumatology, my appointment is next week and while I will definitely struggle to get there, I will be there. I have took up private therapy to work through everything. I am taking new medication for my mental health, having been taken off my antipsychotic and adjusting to that. I have accepted that all of this is a process that could months, but I’m prepared to see it through. But for now, I shall have to do what feels right for my body and mind, even if it’s not the way I want to be.

I have found that in these times when everything seems wrong, we must especially have hope, find the strength to keep on and keep going forward, otherwise what was the point of starting the journey to fight? I will not lose the joy and wonder of life. I will keep writing, reading, studying for uni, studying Buddhism. I will keep myself going and fill life with what I love as much as I can.

I shall also use the wonderful Black Dog Institute mood tracker to keep an eye on things and see where I’m at with myself, my 2012 style.

It is times like these where I really see the inder-dependency of both mental health and physical health and the impact of each other and how they link. When I feel so limited in my body, my mood utterly drops. When my mood is low I don’t try to do much with my body which hurts it. Times like these are why I’m so grateful for when I am well. Yet, I’m strangely grateful for these times too when I think about it and reflect. I know that doesn’t make sense. But nothing is permanent, and I learn what I can from these points and I’m reminded of my unadulterated strength of being able to get through this.

Keep going lovelies, we got this.

Much love,

L x

My new routine

Hi all!

Today is just a little update on my routines, I thought a little ramble and a small, easy-going topic might be appreciated amongst everything going on in the world.

So a few weeks ago, I became unwell, quite badly. But after a day embroiled amongst my emotions I knew I had to take control. So I re-started my routines, in order to give my days structure. Using the behavioural activation techniques I learned at the start of therapy I formed an outline of how my days would look. For example, when I would study and which module/topic, when I would need to do things such as budgeting and housework or laundry. I also set time for reading which has become my main hobby.

This instantly boosted my mood, having a framework to plan against lessened the decision fatigue. I also have a firm reminder in my head it can change if needs be, depending upon my state of mind, or how my body is (currently in a 3 months long flare up of something, currently awaiting to see a rheumatologist).

It looks like so (Monday to Thursday):

Around 8am – awaken, read dharma texts, get ready, sort piggies, meditate, housework and other jobs I need to do
Around 10am – study
Around 12pm – see to bun-bun, have lunch
Around 1.20pm – study
Around 3pm – tidy away, change clothes, meditate
4pm onwards – read, dinner, read, watch a bit of TV online
6pm – journal, take meds, prepare to rest in bed

I know it sounds silly going to bed so early, but I have found I do need more sleep at the moment, I will fall asleep around 9pm to awaken at 7, which I spend again, relaxing in bed.

This routine works for me, I feel like I am making the most of the day I can, I will reiterate that this is but a brief guide for me, if I have appointments or seeing friends I move my schedule around, simple as that.

Have anyone else got a daily routine and amongst morning/night routines? Anything you’d like me to try?

Sending loving-kindness your way,

L x

Lessons learned from mood swings

Good morning one and all. How are you today, have you had enough rest, plenty of water?

Let us get straight into this as I think it may get a little interesting. One of the facets that make EUPD so complex is the mood swings. For me personally, my mood could change in second and minutes, there would rarely be a day that passed where I was only facing one or two moods. It was an endless torrent of waves in a crashing storm. Once upon a time, I had little I could do except let the waves of emotions batter me about in a broken dingy.

I wish I could say I have learned many valuable things from my mood swings, much like depression and mania have taught me. I suppose in reflection I have learned some of the vital lessons in life but little in way of useful advice for you all.

How to fight
When I say how to fight, I most certainly do not mean violent acts. That is never the answer, which anger taught me (more on that another week). I mean in the sense of keeping on going, to ride the waves. To not let my emotions stop me from living life. I guess I only, truly, really learned on reflection when mood swings are at a minimum now. I was so sick of constantly changing, I cannot imagine the stress my brain was under, flurrying chemicals to chemicals and nerves and parts of the signal, an endless barrage. I guess I got so sick I wanted to show my brain what was what by keeping on. Never ceasing. Drinking and partying, college, work, relationships, episode after episode. I still kept on. That is how I learned to fight initially, just see the next day through.

Then 2018 happened. I had to find another way. And so I did. In seeking and demanding support. In defying misconceptions held by the mental health services, which is ironic I know. I wanted to start seeing the good, I tried to deny the villain-esque thoughts but that just made things worse. So I went further and fought for therapy. I went head on with whom I now call Medusa (borderline me). I showed Medusa her new cage and have carried on with life, with minimal interruption bar winter.

Life is messy
I have not had the most conventional life I will admit. But dang, if mental illness has not prepared me for the messiness that is life, then it has not taught me much. Life will never be a ‘happily ever after’ and I have made peace with that: I am just glad to have peace sometimes. There are always going to be setbacks, and instability and hard times, heart-wrenching times. But I have learned, with a healthy support network, a good partner by your side, and a determination like no other, then life’s messiness won’t always mean going back to square one.

We do not have to go back to square one, we could even go to square one and a half, we may take a couple of steps back, but we will always go forward. And I hope you take this as a sign, that if things are tough right now, there is a way forward. One thing that helps me sometimes (when I can do it physically), take the words from House of Pain “Jump Around”.

Much love,

L xx

A good day

Credit to chibird.

I love a good day, don’t you?

But what does a good day mean to you? Much like the adorable picture above, I imagine we all have a very different picture in comparison to one another. There is so much variation that makes a good day, and having these days are worth living for

For me, a good day lets me have that happy feeling at the end, where I am refresh feeling refreshed and light hearted but knowing I had accomplished something that day. No matter how big or small, such as being able to do some housework, even sending an email.

The beauty of a good day is in its uniqueness. You could accomplish so much, hit some personal targets, or good do what you needed and rested. I think the most important part is feeling happy at the end of the day: feeling good.

What constitutes a good day is up to you, whether it is filling up the day with hobbies, or what needs to be done; the brightest way to see if the day has been good and joyful is through reflection. A way to do this is through the classic ‘what went well’ exercise used in positive psychology. By listing things that went well, no matter how small, much like gratitude, and then writing down why it went well, how it went well, you will find the good in almost every day.

We need to fill our heart with happiness at this time, in all our accomplishments, no matter how minor they may seem. Because we not always have good days, but there is bound to be some goodness in all days.

I wish you all happiness right now,

L x

Why we shouldn’t avoid the negative

*Content warning: mention depression and suicide*

Welcome back, are we settled in?

Now, talking about the negative I don’t mean the news. Avoid that all you want if it worsens your well-being. I am talking about our negative experiences, our emotions today.

I have long been fascinated by the scope in which humans feel, the array of emotions and moods we face. I have also been fascinated by why we try to avoid feeling anything resembling ‘negative’. I thought today, I would share some of my thoughts on this, and this is purely my opinion and experience of emotions and pain and is not representative of other people’s experiences.

Having experience of mental illness has obviously meant that I have seen all emotions, both highs and lows in the most intense way due to my personality disorder. Looking back, it feels like since I was 15 I lived in nothing but emotional turmoil, always wanting to die. I always wanted to escape the pain, I would try and fight it and lock it away in a heavy safe to chuck in to the ocean. I despised my own experiences, understandably. However, since having therapy I have learned a thing or two about the purpose of what we view as negative emotions and suffering and the purpose.

I am writing this as I feel in a position to feel okay talking about it, if you must know, I am feeling very cosy right now wrapped in a fluffy blanket with fluffy socks on a very grey day…

I feel like there is this notion within society that to be a perfect human, everything in life must be perfect and happy and all sunshine and rainbows. Nothing less. It is also one of the worst lies I have ever witnessed. For life to be real to us, we as humans will experience the very depths emotionality and experience have to offer. No filtered façade. We experience things like anger or rage and worry and sadness for very real purposes.

Anger teaches us when our values or boundaries have been crossed. Worry tells us when something is wrong or we may feel guilty because we know we have done something wrong. Sadness teaches us the meaning of loss or change from what we knew. I feel we learn a lot more about ourselves during these harder times than we ever would as someone constantly seemingly happy. I say seemingly on purpose. Because no everyday person goes on in life without experiencing these emotions.

We learn our strengths. Our resilience. Our meaning and values. Maybe even our purpose.

I recently learned that to overcome problems, we must make friends with the problems (so our emotions, our thoughts…) almost as a “self-antidote”, there we will be able to travel the road much more easily. Shying away or putting our head in the sand, or distracting ourselves won’t help. It may temporarily ease our minds and our hearts but the problems will only get bigger.

Feel what you need to feel, but accept this and don’t fight, then, you may find a resolution just that little bit more easily. You then learn more about yourself.

I have definitely fought within myself countless times, from thoughts to feelings to actions I have done. I just wanted it all to go away. But it never goes away until it is dealt with, a tale as old as time. I understand the pain and wishing it all away on a lonely night, but trust me, put that fighting energy to good use, and find that resolution, seek out the light.

Much happiness to you,

L x

The power of journaling

Hey all!

So I have spoken a bit in the past about journaling and thought this week would be a good time to discuss it. As we come to Autumn in a few weeks and many people start to take stock of the year ending and year beginning. I find I am quite reflective as I cosy down in blanket nests, certainly.

So journaling, at its core essence, is writing your thoughts and feelings, privately for you. It has become quite a popular technique in therapeutic settings in recent years as well as in the wellness industry. Journaling has also become popular through a technique known as Bullet Journaling which can be made into art for many people, but I will not be discussing that. There are an endless amount of ways to journal, depending upon your needs and is a versatile activity.

Journaling for you mental health can be a brilliant tool and is recommended by a lot of clinicians, it has the benefits of reducing worry and stress, improving the ability to rationalise and improving mood. Using journaling can help you organise and priorities thoughts, reflect on behaviours, track moods and symptoms also.

I used to journal quite a lot when I was younger, often writing page after page after page my thoughts and feelings. However, by the time I started therapy, I realised I could turn this into a more effective strategy for me. This is because I did not really feel much better and when journaling can help us reflect, I cringed at what I read which should most definitely not be the case. I started a new method for a therapy journal last year using a key for what I had learned in the session, a part for my homework and a part for reflections.

For my birthday, my best friend gifted me a wonderful journal to track sleep and my mood, noting a cause of the mood but with only space for a couple of sentences. I loved this because it really made me consider my mood and be able to learn from what was going on. I learned just how sensitive I was to lack of sleep, or lack of food. I was still doing my rambles in another journal, but when I became really low I found that I just did not want to write anything, which lessened the impact of this well-being tool.

Now that journal has been filled up, I have created my own in a basic red notebook. Underneath the date I list the rough time I fell asleep, woke up and how many hours I had to sleep, then comment on the quality or if I had woken up. I then reflect on how I am feeling at the end of the day and briefly state why. I go on to create a ‘highlight reel’ of things I have done that day, no matter how repetitive or mundane it may seem, this helps me when I have an off day to see how much I did actually accomplish. Finally, I list a minimum of two things I am grateful for.

I have seen a greater increase in my own engagement with this streamlined journaling method, I can easily reflect on what I am doing well and where I feel I could make improvements upon my own life and spot patterns in my behaviour. I certainly think my method will change in the years to come but for the time being I am happy with what I am doing.

Do you have a particular journaling method, let me know!

Kindness to you all,

L x