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An Introduction…

Welcome to Pondering Positivity! This is one of those obligatory posts some bloggers do when starting out as an overview of what they are about, I am no exception. So here we go… You wonderful people can call me L. Pondering Positivity is primarily a place where I will post a collection of my many thoughts. Despite life, I have lived a blessed year filled with goodness, love and gratitude. I have completed what was for me a transformative course of therapy, feeling like I have evolved and grown as a person. Here is where I wish to make a safe space for my thoughts, things I have learned, concepts I find fascinating. I know, I know. Why not journal? Well the answer is simple, lovely stranger. I want to be able to share my journey, my narrative, with you. In the simplest of hopes you might be inspired, feel well or even be able to find common ground with a stranger. Every Sunday I will publish a new post on something I feel can bring positivity to our lives, can improve our well-being or just simply something I have learned and wish to share with you all. These will be topics such as book reviews, well-being ideas, habits, psychological concepts and so much more. Well that is all for now but please do comment, subscribe and message me, I would love to interact with all of you. I hope you enjoy my future posts. Happiness to you all, L x

A celebration in London

Dearest lovely readers,

It has been a while hasn’t it?

Well, I am here to talk today about little breaks away.

Following finishing university and passing my training to be a crisis volunteer I went to London to meet my partner. We spent 5 wonderful days away in London.

I have been struggling with my mental health problems quite a bit lately, so much so, it looks like a new diagnosis may be on the horizon (I will leave that to the professionals though). Even they took a break for me.

London has always been a special place for my partner and I, it’s where we first met and it’s the “middle” of where we can meet given we still live on the opposite sides of the country!

It was so relaxing, doing a spot of shopping, treating each other, visiting the aquarium. We even went for a meal out! It was so lovely to just relax and spend time one another. We enjoy London every time we go (the tube not so much I will admit).

I always say that self-care should be the basics and most simple things, but sometimes even a short break away can make all the difference. Getting to put a pause on life, even for an overnight stay can leave people feeling refreshed and rested. I think it’s an important thing to remember that we all need a break sometimes, and it’s completely okay to do so. It doesn’t have to be an expensive affair. But getting away can make all the difference to your mental health.

I feel refreshed and ready to tackle life once again, maybe it was seeing my partner but I felt safe and loved and came back home to get things on the right track again.

Have you got any little breaks away planned?

Much love,

L x

Nearing the end of a degree

Dearest lovely readers,

It’s been a while since I spoke about my personal life, and it’s been a while since I last posted. Life is just a whirlwind for me, or is it for you too?

A few weeks ago I submitted my dissertation and first ever research project focusing upon positive psychology. I got my grade back at 82%. I’m so proud of what I have accomplished. Since then I have submitted more assignments with just one left before I get a degree offer at the end of July.

I have been doing this degree since 2016, 5 long years. I think about all that I have gone through, how much has changed. I don’t think I could ever summarise this part of my life, the evolution I have gone through. For someone who thought they’d never accomplish anything, I’m getting there.

Getting a degree means the start of a life, the start of a future I love and can be proud of. It’s the start of independence for me, a sign I’m growing. I know innumerable people graduate every year, but this is something special and unique for me.

Some assignments and material was interesting and easier to get on board with, but I’ve also cried over assignments when drowning mentally and feeling like nothing would change.

There are so many options for a future career for me following getting that piece of fancy paper. I have decided on a few options. But for now, once that assignment is handed in, I will be taking a break.

My mental and physical health is still poor so I want to focus on recovering from my relapse, maybe start a new creative project, read some books. And volunteer. I have started training to be a Crisis Volunteer and hope I can go far in helping others.

Things have been a little tricky, I am always honest when I’m not okay. Some memories have been haunting me each night, things I wish I could forget. But as life goes on, so must we. I’m dealing with it better, I guess practice and exposure increases resilience.

I am starting to find joy in activities again, it’s always a slow process but we get to where we need to be. I also have some exciting trips planned as restrictions ease where I am. In just a few weeks, all being well, I shall be off to London to see my partner, we have some exciting things planned and I could not be more happy at the thought. I’m enjoying reading and finding myself to be okay in my own company again.

I guess, during these times, I want to offer a message of hope. We all have potential in our lives, and hard times come, that’s life’s nature. But we must carry on. Good things will always come back around.

Much love,

L x

Book review: The Sober Girl Society Handbook

Dearest lovely readers,

As a final post on alcohol awareness, I wanted to share a very little review of my favourite ‘quit lit’. I have been a fan of the blog Sober Girl Society formed by Millie Gooch for a little while. When I saw this book I pre-ordered!

The Sober Girl Society Handbook is a guide on how to quit alcohol, offering tips and advice as well as Gooch sharing her own experiences. The book immediately starts with experiences Gooch had been in, and immediately, it is relatable. She harnesses the power of humour to guide through “breaking up with booze” to “reaping the rewards” and “navigating the new normal”.

There’s a whole host of resources in the back of the book, sources of information and support.

The book contains a lot of information, but it is easy to digest and accessible to read, the chapters pace in a steady manner ending with summaries of “sober girl gains”. There are so many topics from alcohol and the body to the mind and wellness. It also covers relationships and how to cope as a sober person, and the option of being sober curious.

This book normalises sobriety, dispelling the myths. I honestly love it. So if you are curious at all, I recommend this book!

Much love,

L x

Considering alcohol

Dearest lovely readers,

As mentioned in my previous post I would write a word on alcohol in our society. Now, I would like to note this is not representative of everyone’s view on alcohol. These are just some things I have noticed and felt that alcohol can be an impactful factor on well-being.

There is something important I have learned on my journey through sobriety, and that is the varying forms alcoholism. Being an “alcoholic” or someone who misuses alcohol is definitely not always what we see on TV.

We use alcohol not only to socialise, but for special occasions, celebrations, we give it as gifts, meals, to relax, to taste, to binge on, to let off steam, it’s on banners and cards to give others. You can go into stores and there is always a selection of wines, ciders, ales, beers, spirits, then mixers and alcopops. The SGS Handbook makes a poignant question: if all alcohol was packaged as cigarettes currently are, all the same and bland, would it be as popular?

We so often forget that alcohol is a drug, a depressant which can slow down brain functions whilst also inducing lesser inhibition (1).

Alcohol can easily and quickly become addictive, or used as a crutch regularly. The reduction on inhibition can lead to impulsive and dangerous situations much like other substances. I myself have ended up in unsavoury situations and positions. Often having episodes of anything bad happened. Alcohol can also leave you feeling low for days on end as a come down because of its depressant activity.

Alcoholism is related to 5% of worldwide deaths and is the fourth most preventable disease in the world (2). The result of alcoholism is a weakened immune system, poor health (both mental and physical), poorer relationships. Alcohol works as stereotypical illegal drugs in gaining tolerance and having to drink more and more to get the same feeling, and it can start from the first drink for people.

The NHS details many more risks and long term complications around alcohol use and helps to give help if needed (3).

Can alcohol be enjoyable? Absolutely. But should it be as celebrated as it is? To me, knowing what I know now, not really.

I am proud of being sober, and as someone who was told by a GP on their 21st birthday that they’d die if they kept up the drinking of alcohol, I wish I had learned sobriety long ago.

Much love,

L x

(1) https://www.addictioncenter.com/community/is-alcohol-a-drug/

(2) https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/alcohol-abuse/

(3) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-misuse/

Celebrating sobriety

Dearest lovely readers,

I DID IT.

One year sober today.

It’s been strange, I feel strange about it, almost like it hasn’t been so long. I know that many others are years and years ahead, but we all must start somewhere.

It’s been a difficult journey. After my final, negative experience I knew it was best to turn my head and walk away from something that has caused me so much trouble. Psychotic episodes, behaviours I no longer wanted. It took an awful lot for me to finally realise I needed to stop drinking.

At first, it was quite easy, alcohol immediately smelled horrible and appeared as unappealing. So the first few weeks were easier. But as I got unwell, it became harder, I would crave. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I wanted a drink when I was low, or desperate for an out of what I was feeling.

I used to love the partying lifestyle, never mind the drama it would bring. I used to think I’d never give it up.

But it brought damaging situations, I’d often be suicidal after drinking, I dread thinking of all the episodes I had that my mother had to deal with.

I’m baring all as an honest account that drinking has a dark side. During my journey on this path, I read a lot about alcohol, read a bit of quit lit (Sober Girl Society is great!) and it’s been eye opening just how ingrained alcohol is in our society. But that’s a discussion for another day.

I am proud of how far I’ve come, alcohol was ingrained in my life. Whilst some nights out brought great memories, there were just too many bad risks associated in my life. I saw myself ending up broken if I kept up drinking. So I made the choice to stop. To end a cycle.

There wasn’t anything magical for me when I stopped must admit.

But given the statistics of addiction and borderline personality disorder, I knew the risk. So I made the decision to make sure I did not end up as another statistic.

So today I’m celebrating how far I’ve come, and I’m looking forward to more years of sobriety. It was a great decision for my physical AND mental health.

Over the next couple of weeks, I shall bring some reviews on quit lit and a little bit of information on alcohol.

Sobriety is a difficult decision, and a difficult journey, but relying on things as vices is never healthy. I sometimes feel great about my choice, other times not so much, but it’s all about one day at a time.

Much, much love,

L x

The joy of reading

Dearest lovely readers,

How are we all faring on this windy day?

I have just been for my third walk of the week which is the first time since last summer, this is a huge win for me. I feel, strangely enough, more alive I will be writing in future on simple activities that can bring joy for people. For today, I thought I would write about the joy of reading.

It is an activity that has gone on for ages with fantastic fantasy to imaginative, sci-fi to thrillers and endless topics of non-fiction. There is something for everyone. It seems that in these times less people have been picking up books, at least until last year. I think people are rediscovering the wonder of books. It can come in many forms from hidden meanings and messages within books to social commentary on things we face as humans today and it’s impactful.

I used to love reading as a child my level was “advanced”. I devoured every book that I could get my hands on, the books were a bit simpler but I still enjoyed being able to challenge myself.

One of the main reasons why there is so much joy in reading is because of the versatility, I feel. You can get books from chain retailers, independent bookshops, the libraries, as ebooks or hard copies, there’s always something out there. Then you have the endless choice of genre from horror to thriller to crime and drama, romance, and that’s just fiction. In non-fiction you have environment, science, well-being, culture, sexuality, gender, socio-political issues, written by experts, or people with experience. Voices of people who are less heard are being plastered as best sellers. It’s excellent and fascinating.

Reading is accessible as well. You have “normal” books, you even have graphic novels and manga. You can get it in large print, in braille, as audiobooks. So no one is denied the right to enjoy a world within some pages.

By having a joy of reading you reap the benefits of better well-being. It is found in countless studies that reading reduces levels of stress and depression. It can increase feelings of relaxation, book clubs can reduce loneliness, having books to be read as a family can increase connectedness and canincrease the awareness of oneself. People can explore their own identities and other people’s identities by having more voices heard in fiction and non-fiction alike (Reading Agency). I can only speak from experience in saying that this is accurate for myself and others around me. I find my well-being does benefit when reading at the moment. I am enjoying non-fiction and I’m currently reading The Gene by Siddartha Mukherjee. Next I’m going to read Pride and Prejudice.

This just shows the flexibility of reading and how simple it can be to find something you connect with and I think that’s the important thing: the connection. Throughout the day we are so busy going from one job to the next with a multitude of commitments but reading gives us that chance to find a connection with something that isn’t involving technology or humans. Because that can wear us out. It’s about being present in the moment focusing on something miraculous really.

if you want to get into reading,look at the Reading Agency, they have many programmes, hit libraries when they open. Make it a personal affair, a family affair, make it a friend affair, make it a community affair.

Much love, as always

L x

Living with others who have mental illness

*CW: mention of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts*

Dearest lovely readers,

Today’s topic was suggested by my own mother and so I hope my experiences may be of use to you today.

As you are aware, I am mentally ill, but I am not the only one who has mental illness in my household. Every other member does too, my mother, my step-father and my young sibling. They each have anxiety and/or depression. As you can imagine, this can be really difficult for everyone involved at times. It certainly has made an impact in recent years.

To be honest, there were points that each day someone fell ‘under the weather’ and then traded someone else the day after. It was just a loop of “who is ill today?”. There have also been longer periods where one of us needed a lot more support for a longer term due to breakdowns or episodes, if you will. The most obvious being myself, I usually have a couple months stability then all of a sudden my mother starts worrying about what I might do in the night.

It is tough, because mental illness isn’t the only thing we as humans have to deal with, life still goes on no matter whether we are struggling or not. It really is a fine balancing act. For me, when someone in this house is struggling, I am instantly in panic mode, constantly asking what I can do to help and thus stress and become unwell more myself. It truly is a very, very fine balancing act. My mother is in a constant state of worry for her children who have been struggling rather chronically, I cannot speak for her experience, but I imagine it does impact her. And it impacts my stepfather.

When I was young and first met my stepdad, things were okay, I was excited. But that quickly spiralled as became unwell, truly unwell, and had delusions that acted against him. He saved my life once when I was about to attempt suicide. He has helped me through so much of my life and I have never known how to thank him.

My mam loves her alone time on a night, a chance for her to rest, but the door is always open at any time of night. When I was a party girl I often had alcohol-induced episodes, I don’t remember the vast majority of them but those I do remember, she would cuddle me, stay in bed with me, made me sure I was safe. And while we have had our disagreements (especially where my alcohol intake was concerned) as any family would, she has been there for me despite her down days.

When I was beginning to falter last year, my young sibling started to struggle more, yet they would come see me, and I would calm them and chat and make sure they were safe, I have even tried to teach them a few coping skills and worked around their needs. I worry about them, but I know they understand that no matter what I may be going through, I am there for them.

See this is the thing, yes we cannot pour from an empty cup, but family are meant to be a support, and our family work like clockwork now. We all understand each other’s needs, if something crops up we rally around and try to help and support in any way we can. Last year was ridiculously difficult, yet out of it came better communication between the family. We connected when there was no where else to go. They say this lockdown has been harder, but we are supporting each other well. We recognise when someone is not on their A-game, we act accordingly. We share more, we are more open.

I am struggling right now, in a depth I cannot recognise, yet I am still trying my very utter best to be present, likewise with the family. Supporting other who are mentally ill in the same household, can seem impossible at times, because we all just want better well-being, we all want to cope and we can pour too much out at times. There is never a perfect recipe for this. But by being aware of what we are capable of each day allows for us to be better for ourselves and for the others. Love truly is a wonderful thing.

All my love,

L x

Taking a break in life

Dearest lovely readers,

Welcome back, I hope you have had a wonderful week. Welcome to the new people joining this week, it is great to have you đź’–

Life is full isn’t it? It can be so hard juggling not only the multiple factors of well-being for yourself, but also for those around you, without adding every other aspect of life like appointments, work, hobbies… I could go on.

I think there is solidarity with all people across the world in sometimes feeling like we need a break from life, to just press pause and take a break, catch ourselves up, regroup, rejuvenate. It’s ridiculously hard trying to do that, we may feel we don’t have the energy, or time, or resources. In some cultures, resting is frowned upon, I would say this includes the UK in some sectors.

We must always be doing something. If we are unemployed, we must be lazy. We need hobbies, and nights out socialising, long hours of work, volunteering, taking care of our families, and I could go on. But I want to start breaking this stereotype of life down.

Being “on” all the time isn’t possible, we aren’t machines, we are human. And humanity needs a rest sometimes. Just to clear our heads maybe, so we would with a meditation or prayer, or a lovely bath. Or we may need something longer term like time off, traveling somewhere, or just resting in bed for a few days.

No one truly knows what we need but ourselves, and maybe someone very close to us within our support network. I’m going to be honest, it’s a reminder I need right now.

I have been so focused on getting ahead with university and my dissertation, finding a new place to volunteer, keeping in very close contact with friends, cutting down cigarettes and pop intake, meditating more, doing hobbies more, trying to walk more, cleaning my room more than I should, battling pain, battling cravings for alcohol, battling incessant paranoia and tearful night times.

While some of this sounds very positive, it’s too much. My head hurts and my heart aches. So I need to take a break. I need to hit pause, reconfigure my priorities and move with a solid plan for myself. This includes possibly being less consistent with our space that we have created. I love what we are doing here, I love our moments to connect. But I am needing to take a huge step back on everything and looking at how to keep myself in a safe place without overdoing everything. So I may post on a different day or not for a week, just for a little while.

However, do message me or comment your preferred days for reading in this space. Because it matters.

If you need a break, I hear you.

All my love,

L x

My social media story

*CW: mention self-harm/suicide*

Dearest lovely readers,

We have, over the years, been inundated about the dangers of social media, others arguing “it’s not so bad”. We have seen the arguments rage on since it’s invention. Let me tell you, a bit of my story – this is not the whole story as one part from my young, naĂŻve is difficult to share.

Like most my age, I started on social media very young, maybe around 11 years old. It was fun. I became bewildered at how easily I could make my own website, how easily I could change things and it started an obsession. As I grew older I was able to talk to my friends any time I wanted, I could share ‘fun things’, I followed “deep” pages sharing in my teenaged angst. I felt understood. I was obsessed with a game call YoVille on Facebook when I was around 13 years old. That game caused some real danger and I learned of the dark side very young, but without the true understanding of how the world works.

Around 15 I was on another site, WeHeartIt, which I liked because no one else I knew was on it, I could find pictures I loved. Unfortunately, safe guards around self-harm and suicide weren’t there and I saw many pictures which affected me.

I grew an affinity to ‘liking’ people’s things as a way of showing affection, or telling people, “yes, this is good content” and I didn’t really even realise it. But by the time I was 18, I started lessening what I reacted to, putting up less and less statuses. But yet, I would endlessly scroll, and scroll, and scroll. This was my life until a few years ago, I learned that I was part of (one of) the big Facebook scandal in which millions of people’s data had been took for the 2016 election. That was when I did my research. Whilst I still kept on scrolling, I started to see through the façade, I started to see more content that was harming my mental health.

I became one of those who would compare themselves, and felt inferior. I then started seeing a lot of media content that would enrage me but had no choice in whether I could see it or not. And so I quit Facebook. But then I still had Instagram. The exact same cycle happened.

I became addicted to seeing these that would embroil me in emotions and I just couldn’t stop.

Overall, yes I enjoyed posting things and connecting with friends to see what they were up to and yes, even getting the few likes I got. But yes, I also felt disheartened when I didn’t get many likes, I felt anger at seeing people’s views that didn’t match my own, I also felt pity for myself seeing how “far ahead” others got in life. Social media made me critical of myself and others. And that just does not par up to who I am. So I quit.

And I feel free, I relinquished those chains.

Ultimately, it is how we use social media that matters and when it starts to feel awful, that is the time to quit.

Much love,

L x

Seeking help in a crisis state

*CW: Discussion on suicide and suicidal thoughts*

Dearest lovely readers,

Things have been hard lately. I have had somewhat of an unstable week where suicidal thoughts and ideation have been prevalent. Now, suicide prevention has always been something important to myself because of my experiences, at the moment I am hoping to campaign in my community on this.

But this week I did something new.

This is difficult to say because suicide has become such a taboo and triggering topic, but how are we meant to reverse and normalised these kinds of conversations if no one feels they can speak out, I suppose it’s my turn.

I went on a very exhausting emotional rollercoaster within the space of an hour I experienced a good 3 emotional phases and this drains me quite a lot so much. It meant I spent nearly the entirety of the next day sleeping because of the exhaustion. My mind became serious but there was a tiny part that told me to hold on. I wanted to drink, I wanted to binge, I wanted to cause self-injury. Instead I turned on my laptop and waited my turn to speak to someone on a web chat crisis helpline.

Whilst I waited to speak with someone I was anxious and nervous with thoughts like ‘was I really so bad that I needed this kind of help?’, ‘Do I really deserve this?’

I then spent the next hour unravelling everything going on in my mind and my heart and by the end of the session I felt a sense of unity within myself, a warmth of an imaginary blanket wrapped around me to keep me safe.

I lasted the night.

I’m so glad that I reached out because these people truly heard me. It showed that kindness is in the world. That it’s ok and acceptable and I didn’t need to struggle alone late at night. The person on the helpline helped guide me to safer feelings and gave me strength. I know I can go back to them should I ever need to and this time more readily.

I have historical experience with suicidal thoughts but I never reached out to these helplines because I didn’t feel I was “ill enough”. I would downplay it to myself. Seeking help from a stranger online can feel so scary but it’s something paramount to be able to deal with your mind. I wish I had done something like this other times so that I was not alone and dealing with the thoughts and feelings that scare me most.

These kinds of charities, such as CALM and their helplines are vital in order to save lives, truly save lives, to show that suicide is not the answer. Their work is vital given hundreds of people give up their lives each week. This kind of conversation needs to be normalised in order to reduce the people we love becoming just another statistic in the eyes of others.

We need to be able to say suicide is not the answer, we need to be able to see people as they are and give them safety, that is paramount. We need to rid of the archaic stigma that suicide is self, that we have to be “ill enough” to seek out support. Let’s start today, because there is hope and light to move forward.

Much love,

L x

If you are feeling suicidal I hear you, please, please contact someone whether your local crisis team, Samaritans on 116 123, contacting Papyrus, texting shout to 85258, or using CALM’s helplines at thecalmzone.net