The importance of a support network

Hello all. I am wishing you joy, contentment and good health right now.

First off, we recently have had an influx of new lovelies joining us and I wish to say welcome to an accepting place where I am honest about my experiences but also try to bring hope and positivity into the discussion. Please do join in, and I hope you settle in well.

For those who may not know, a support network is is a group of people that you are connected to, who help to support you through life. It could be family members, friends, support workers, people you can go to when you need them. For myself, my support network consists of my immediate family, a handful of friends, and my partner and that’s enough for me. It’s a group of people who I trust, who uplift me and inspire me when I’m feeling low and so much more. I have been relying extensively on my support network at the minute with everything that’s going on in my life.

They can act in small ways such as helping me with food or simply understanding that at the moment I am quite limited in what I can do, or it could be greater gestures such as taking me to appointments throughout each week which had been a fair amount at the end of last year.

Once upon a time I wouldn’t have dared to seek support in others, I thought I had to rely on myself because it felt like it would all be a misunderstanding. It could cause the greatest suffering to myself, opening up in a way that I didn’t feel comfortable with. But now, I have no qualms about seeking support because I know it will be there.

It can be hard personally because we are thought of in society that we should be individualistic.

Pulling our socks up and getting out there.

Doing what we need to do.

But I am here to challenge this notion. We only got to where we are today because of collective support, I’ll say that again, we only got to where we are today because of collective support, collective intuition, collective knowledge, collective strength and collective hope. So why is it that nowadays it is frowned upon to ask for help even in things such as our daily jobs? Why is it we who have chronic conditions be the reason to blame when we cannot pull our socks up and do what what society deems correct?

I dislike living in an individualistic society where I have to live under the court of public opinion that does not fit the narrative my life has took. I know of so many people who have tried to go it on their own and haven’t succeeded. I see it hurt them time and again, and through my previous work I learned that we cannot do it alone. It is simply impossible, there is always someone around who will help another individual, I firmly believe in that.

When I finally learned the confidence to speak out about when I needed help and what kind of help I needed, I was glad. I managed to gradually spread that to my few trusted friends, to my current partner and my family. While I can sometimes feel like a burden, I suppose this is all natural, I am grateful for all that they do for me. I feel no shame in asking for support, for encouragement, for love, for inspiration, for strength, for kindness: especially kindness. It is a basic human right to show others kindness, compassion and understanding; this is essential in a support network.

More importantly we all deserve a support network, we all deserve our little community that give us strength and clarity and hope among many other things. If you feel so isolated and like you have no one, I promise you there is someone and that someone will turn into many people who will be what they you need them to be. We cannot go through life alone otherwise what kind of life is it?

This is something I am passionate about. I am grateful for my support network and I love them all dearly. Although at times it may feel like I don’t deserve them, in reality I do, because I help them back and I won’t forever need help getting around the house. I might go through long periods where I do a lot other times a little, my life is uncertain right now now but having a support network grounds me and there are so many benefits to having us apart network. I say to you, you deserve the love and support that I have received and more.

All the loving-kindness to you,

L x

Year in review and looking ahead

Hello dear ones, how are we feeling?

I’d like to take a little moment just for you to check how you are feeling, take a deep breath and just settle in for a little read. I’d also like to thank you all, our little community, for all your support this year. I’m so thankful for those of you reading my posts, my thoughts on different topics, it’s been quite the year hasn’t it? Welcome to all the very new people too, you are most welcome here.

This is a bit of a stereotypical post I suppose but I feel like doing it anyway. This year has undoubtedly been hard, at times heart-wrenching, and chaotic, I could easily list and rhyme off countless miseries of the year. But I’m more about hope in this little space. At times it can be more powerful than sadness and fear, which a lot of people can experience at this point. A time when post festive season blues can kick in, or when it can feel daunting that another year is here. People online mocking those thinking 2021 will “magically” be better. But I say, what’s stopping it from being like that?

Now, I’ve pretty much kept you all up to date on what I have been going through but I thought it’d be great to just have a little summary post of things I have enjoyed, little moments, small wins and what I’m so looking forward to now in this new year.

I think one of my all time favourite moments of 2020 was when I was down at my partner’s and we spent a hot, sunny day on the beachfront, sat on a bench and watching innumerous dogs pass by. It was just such a wonderful time, where I felt carefree and I was with my favourite person. We were just sat there for over an hour, and I loved it. Christmas was also so, so wonderful and I got to take plenty of Polaroids to put in a new scrapbook, very retro. Much earlier in the year I got to present and do a bit of motivational speaking for the first time, rather than purely speaking my experiences. It was so much fun!

I am proud of a few accomplishments of 2020 including passing another year of university with flying colours, starting my final year. I have, this festive season, tried two new foods and really enjoyed them. Earlier in 2020 I also found I could watch certain foods cook without being so averse to it. These are huge wins on their own.

I have learned the true value of gratitude and been so appreciative of my aspects of my life. My strength truly has been tested like never before and I’m still coming out winning. As my dissociation got worse, I became so afraid, but with the help of others and through my own self-determination I’m getting back on track. Again, I’m very grateful for this.

So what’s ahead? Well, a lot. This will be the year I finally graduate, I am hoping to do my Master’s Degree if not finding a job in mental health. I will be moving out, across the country. I hope to do more volunteering. I will be continuing this blog. I will get answers about what is causing all my physical pain, I will be trying to get my body stronger. I hope to finally be able to have savings.

It’s definitely sounding like a lot for that. But for now, my goals for the first quarter are to focus on assignments, get a little workout regime sorted and eat a little better, have a small emergency savings fund, focus on deepening my connection to Buddhism and finding a new volunteering placement. Little actions with little steps are the key here. Of course, I will also hopefully create some good content for you here as this section of the internet has been so wonderful for me. I hope that is reciprocated.

I hope you are able to find some wins in 2020, and I hope you all have a magical year ahead filled with such joy, goodness and happiness.

Be gentle with yourself and take care,

L x

Post-Christmas

Hello all.

I apologise for the lack of posting last week, I was a bit unwell and burned out after a very difficult Friday, but I am now well-ish and back.

This week has gone well, I feel very appreciative of my mood being better. As the world knows, Friday was Christmas. I had doubts a few months back about what Christmas would look like and whether there would be joy. I was very glad to be proven wrong, this Christmas season has been utterly wonderful. My partner who is still here for a little while got to celebrate Christmas with my family.

Simply put, there was good food and very good company. I got some very thougthful presents and there was much joy to be had and some good entertainment. I ended the day rather relaxed. Boxing day yesterday, was a bit busy doing a few jobs that needed doing but we have more than relaxed today.

I am not going to list or show all the presents I got, that was a reason why I came off of social media, I don’t see the point. It was actually so wonderful to simply be in the moment, taking the odd polaroid picture to capture the day and be with those closest to me. I sent the occasional text to friends, it was bliss.

I dressed up a bit for the day, which I haven’t done in so long and felt nice. By 4pm I was in loungewear I won’t lie. I also managed to stay sober despite the temptations which is a massive win. I have also found two new foods I like this festive season. I am so proud of myself!

I have nothing but praise and thanks for this year’s Christmas; I am ever more thankful each year that passes.

How was your Christmas?

Love,

L x

Reflections on November

Hello all my lovelies,

If you read my posts you know I love a good reflection. So I thought, why not reflect on a tumultuous month such as November?

I will be honest, November is a month I am struggling to remember giving that my mental state is not at a decent capacity. There were definitely some atrocious days but I can’t say it was all entirely bad and these words have such strange meanings, I guess the correct version would be it was a hard-hitting month.

So I have a couple of topics in mind, let’s take it that way. I think rounding up with all the things that cause stress would just make this a very depressing post. While I’m not for toxic positivity I do think I need to be realistic.

So, let’s start with relationships. Relationships are often a foundation of how we cope, they are apart of us. Having at least someone to back us up can make all the difference. I can happily say I have had no problems with support and positive relationships during November. My family may not have understood what I was going through, but they checkeup on me and helped where they could. Whether that’s taking up additional chores from myself or feeding my wonderful guinea pigs: and they gave me respect. My partner was fantastic, he was essentially my sounding board and while I tried to be a good partner to him, he was very respectful when I couldn’t give 110 percent all the time. So no complaints here!

I guess health would be the more contentious issue. I will be straight up honest and say that my GP he was of no use during this time, I understand that there are many stresses going on behind the closed doors (I’ve seen what happens as a GP receptionist). But I have come to find out that when I asked for my antipsychotic back and he made no mention of my circumstances to the psychiatrist it essentially was “can L have her antipsychotic back?”, so I’m glad I took it upon myself to write a letter about my mental capacity when I was more lucid. I would like to let you know that I have since gone it back until my telephone assessment with the mental health team in a couple weeks time. They were shocked at how I have deteriorated and quite unsure as to why my GP did actually take me off it. So I am happy to say I have been sleeping for the first time in many weeks.

With physical health, I’m not further forward until I have MRIs and the next rheumatology appointment but I have since purchased a support to help me sit properly, knee braces and a cane to walk better. They do help so that is also a bonus and I haven’t gotten physically worse which I really count as a win.

University! What a bonus. It’s been a really positive one, because I got back my first assignment results for my final year at 72% and 78% which I am quite happy with. I have feedback that is constructive and can use in the next assignment to hopefully improve upon. My tutor who will be helping me on the research project in particular has been so supportive and understanding which is really just refreshing so I know, should I falter infuture they will be there to ensure that I take care of myself.

November felt truly terrible in the moment but this is why reflection is important. You gauge the true impact of each moment and my reflection has shown me that yes it was awful but I had a pretty successful November, that’s my takeaway and I think it really puts things into perspective.

Wishing you all my love,

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

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

Affirmations; the clouds are floating away.

Ahoy, ahoy my fellow lovelies!

Well isn’t this day just lovely and sunny? At least it is for me as I travel on a wobbly train.

Today’s order of business is I shall talk a little bit about what has been going on in my life, my mind, and tell you a little bit about this wonderful weekend I just had. Then, I think a little piece on affirmations would be good in this time of positivity.

As you are all aware, I have been unwell since the beginning of December, I think that is changing now, you perfect strangers. I feel like I was being dragged down to the murky depths of the ocean for so long but over the last week i have been feeling more myself every day, the heavy, burdensome clouds are dissipating. talking with my partner has certainly helped to reflect and come up with some theories.

Now, I have theorised to have SAD but, as I have never been diagnosed I would never want to say that explicitly. As I was so well last year I was not expecting to fall down so quickly. But as the lighter nights have started again I feel lighter. It appears (although I will never have official confirmation) that my mental health is severely impacted by the dark nights of winter. I wasn’t able to notice this in the years prior as I was in a constant state of illness. I was completely blindsided and this explanation feels right to my instincts, going forward I will be prepared and plan for the coming Autumn/Winter time.

What also made it worse was my smoking cessation treatment. I looked back at my timelines maybe a week or so ago and having the full dose correlates to my worsening mental health: how I move forward yet is to be looked at, I have reduced the dosage currently as I have almost finished the programme and am feeling better for it… This experience is mine alone of course and not representative of any other person’s experience.

So this weekend has been truly lovely. I am currently into my fourth year volunteering for a large, global social movement which aims to reduce stigma and discrimination around mental health which I am, of course, so passionate about. Side note: it is actually how I met the most wonderful man in my universe (real cute story to tell people). This weekend was a celebration for current volunteers, I am considered alumni.

My partner and I arrived Friday with such ease it was almost unbelievable. We had a lovely evening walking around, I bought many things I am struggling to lug about on this journey home. I was a bit like a pinball machine with my emotions Friday, presumably because I was presenting a small activity on the day. The event went wonderfully, I officially started my career as a motivational speaker and it was so, so wonderful to see fellow alumni who just consistently inspire with their strength and passion. However, I did become a bit low on the afternoon, I feel I made the most of the day despite this. My partner and I spent the night in the hotel, ordered takeaway and read. It was deeply nourishing,

So I am currently on the train home and want to share the activity I did with the volunteers.

As many know, affirmations are often used in the wellness world almost as a buzzword. The exercises are also often used in therapeutic settings. I am unashamed to admit I love affirmations. I find them to be a much needed source of strength and positivity, especially written down as a physical reminder, to have when the dark days rumble in. They are known to be a way of increasing positive mental states and self-esteem. Essentially, when taking care of our self-esteem we are doing so as an act of love. We all know I love self-love.

Affirmations can be general self-boosting phrases, or they could be used for a specific issue. One I have fallen in love with is: regardless of whether I win or lose, succeed or fail, the truth always remains that I am enough (Science of self-love). I will make an additional post in the next couple of days with a list of my affirmations for you to hopefully help inspire you to write more of your own.

A couple of topics I would always encourage affirmations is in success and growth. Thanks to how connected to others we are through social media now it is so easy to compare ourselves to others and feel less than them. But if my volunteering over the last few years has taught me anything, is that we have our own timelines and our own success. Our values can help to define what we view as success and we all have a different definition. For me, success is knowing when to celebrate, know when to show myself additional kindness and always, always act in accordance with my values as best I can to have complete congruency of my selves.

So what do success and growth look like to you? How do you measure it? What does it feel like?

That is all for today, folks.

Much happiness to you,

L x

PS I am aware I need to add my signposting page and will be doing so in the next week.

Gratitude

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. Oprah Winfrey
Gratitude is a word, a concept, a feeling, that we all know and understand. But so many of us do not truly know the power of it. Simply put, gratitude is an overwhelming sense of being thankful, a need to return kindness or show appreciation to another. To actively practice gratitude is a must-do for well-being and increasing positivity in your life. Many do not do this and today, I would like to take this opportunity to share why I now love practicing gratitude. Gratitude is so vital for positivity and happiness as feeling thankful allows you to feel joy, it can, literally, bring happiness. There is also increasing evidence showing that grateful people are more enthusiastic, interested and optimistic than those who aren’t. Having this kind of disposition means you are less likely to be anxious or depressed and within psychology, gratitude is often highly associated with life satisfaction. Even more than that, gratitude is also related to your ‘sense of coherence’, helping you to feel like life is more manageable, comprehensible and meaningful. (Salutogenesis, Antonovsky, 1979) Many people do struggle with being thankful. It is so easy for us to fall into the trap of focusing on our burdens and remaining in a negative mind state rather than seeing the abundance of goodness in our lives. But practicing gratitude regularly can condition your mind to see things in a more positive light, to be able to reframe experiences. Whilst life inevitably gets in the way of positive emotions, your energy is better spent on finding solutions to your problems rather than wondering what will go wrong next. One of the most common ways to practice is to keep a gratitude journal, whether that is a good old paper and pen version, or electronically in this modern age. Whilst many recommend writing every day, I myself found that it quickly became a chore, an alternative is spending just 15 minutes at the end of the week, writing down everything you are grateful for that week. It does not have to be major accomplishments it could be as simple as being grateful you took a water bottle on a run when you started to feel dehydrated. As months go by you will hopefully notice that you will start looking at life more positively and feel better in yourself being able to look back at the positive moments happening in your life. If you wish to do it every day, feel free to do so, even thinking of a couple of positive moments from earlier that day can boost your mood. Another simple exercise, from Professor Martin Seligman, is known as ‘what went well’. For this exercise, you first think of three things that went well that day and then you describe why it went well. This has been a tested and proven way to increase happiness and gratitude. Every day I find myself thankful for something and it reminds me of how much goodness I have in my life, despite anything negative also occurring. In those moments I feel lightened and happier and I hope you can feel the same. Happiness to you, L x