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

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

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

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

Book review: the self-care revolution

Good morning, good morning sunshine!

I thought I would do something a little bit different today and give a little review on a book I have recently read. Naturally, it is well in keeping with positivity, it is called The Self-Care Revolution by Suzy Reading. I have to say, I really did like this book.

Blurb/About: The Self-Care Revolution is designed to help and restore your day-to-day energy reserves so that, rather than running on empty, you will have the strength and spirit to excel with whatever life brings. Discover the Vitality Wheel – a complete body and mind Self-Care Toolkit that will boost your health, happiness and resourcefulness.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

In general, this book is wonderfully organised with a bright and easy to follow design and some beautiful, relaxing imagery. As Reading is a Chartered Psychologist, she has definitely evidenced her knowledge of self-care and well-being. She follows through on giving guidance around the essentials of self-care with some added extras of yoga for each topic.

Reading has created a vitality wheel which encompasses every part of self-care as follows:

  1. Sleep, rest, relaxation and breathing
  2. Movement and nutrition
  3. Coping skills
  4. Physical environment
  5. Social connection
  6. Mood boosters
  7. Goal-setting and accomplishment
  8. Values and purpose

Reading starts off each chapter describing her personal experience of each of the above categories, goes on to talk about the benefits and what each section involves as well as tips and advice on how to implement healthy strategies, she has ‘little gems’ as a useful summary and concludes with yoga poses that can aid in implementing the right energy for each section. You do not have to read the book in the sequence given, you can skip back and forth as you need which I found to be really accessible. I love her style of writing and enjoyed the personal touch of her experiences.

I learned some new things and am definitely keeping this book handy as a reminder. The yoga is also useful for first thing in a morning and I enjoyed completing some of the poses.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you are unsure of where to start your well-being journey.

Love to all,

L x

Arthritis, physical and mental health

Good, good afternoon everyone, how are you doing?

Come on in and let’s have a little chat – I am afraid that this post may not be as positive as usual and there is a content warning for this post: I speak around depression. But current circumstances are something I want to talk about.

Essentially, I have had problems with my back since I was in year 7 (12 years old), I slipped on ice and tore the muscles in my lower back. Every so often, I would have a flare up that resulted in some quite severe pain. I would go to the doctors and, like clockwork, be prescribed some pain relief and onwards I would go. In December 2017/January 2018, it was really bad. I ended up needing an MRI because of the sensations I was having down my legs; numbness, burning, pins and needles. The A&E stated it was muscular and that the MRI would show nothing. It turned out I have a couple disc protrusions and arthritis in the lower half of my back.

As you can imagine, I wasn’t pleased. But I went on with the pain and taking medication as needed. It eventually started in my hips over the next year and I ended up (and now) taking pain medication daily just to keep on top of the arthritis. Recently, my knees have now given way and the bad flare ups can last for a few weeks. But the toll it has taken on my mental health is something that needs to be discussed. I hope by sharing this, I can help someone else reach out if needed.

Most of the time, I can quite happily continue on with life, make light of my situation and just do things as best I can within my ability. But these last few weeks, with my knees being swollen and having odd sensations, I can barely walk for 15 minutes. I have had to rely on family to drive me to the shop, or to the vets for little Brenda. It is not a great feeling, I will grant you that. But each time a flare up occurs, it seems to feel worse. I hit a very low point, fuelled by frustration and panic. One thought that has recently stuck with me is: “if this is me at just 24, what am I going to be like when I turn 30, or 40?!”

It is quite scary how much I am impacted, because I worry about my physical independence, I have always hated relying on others, feeling like I should always depend on myself only. To me it is a very real possibility that I just will not be as mobile in just a few years or decades. It fuels my anxiety to an extreme. Most people will say not to think like that, but if I live in complete ignorance, then the shock of what may come will hit harder. That expectation does not get me low despite the anxiety, it feels realistic.

But when I have flare ups, yes, my emotions run high. This is because I suddenly feel so limited, unlike with mental health, I don’t have any warning signs, I wake up and am stuck in bed. If the pain is beyond control, I do become upset, I can become someone who feels like everything is meaningless – near nihilistic. I am like this for the first few days, just wanting to cry and do nothing else. When I become used to my “limited” capabilities, I adapt, so I can study in bed, have a little more assistance with the guinea pigs or getting somewhere I need to be. I am thankful I have such a great support network.

At the moment, I am struggling a little bit with adapting, I am unsure how many weeks this flare up has been going on for to be honest. It feels like a long time. But that is what happens with a chronic condition. The ways in which I cope I feel are healthy, I use the spoon theory to delegate my time well, I have found ways of adapting so things I need to do are still done without much impact on my body or mind and I have a support network to help keep my spirits up.

One thing I am truly thankful for is that I never feel worthless, I don’t feel as devalued because I cannot do as much. I remind myself, the pain is temporary, this is just a temporary new normal. If you suffer with chronic pain, I hope you know you are still as worthy as any other human, you are absolutely brilliant and I see you. I applaud your bravery for fighting every day and continuing on as the fabulous human you are. Because it is hard, at least in my experience. The impact on mental health is no laughing matter, and if you need help I hope you seek it.

Keep on going,

L x

Having a well-being toolbox

Welcome back.

Got a cuppa and ready for a light read?

I have been reflecting more and more recently about general things in life, a life I am currently in love with, with its humbled and ordinary nature. One thing I have finally realised is that I have a very full well-being toolbox.

If you have had a similar experience to myself at all, in mental health services I was often asked what I did to keep well, or when I was unwell and it was a very small list – sleep or listen to music. In essence, a well-being toolbox is every activity that you can use to maintain or improve your well-being and mental health and I have come to my conclusion that I am now in a place to maintain my recovery with many tools are my disposal.

Each person’s toolbox should be as tailored as possible, and having activities that really work to maintain recovery. Some people may have more activities than others but this really is a case for quality over quantity.

I’m quite pleased that my list of two activities has expanded. For me, I have activities I do on a regular basis to maintain recovery and those that are there for when needed. For example, in maintenance I meditate every day, journal every day (I have streamlined the way I journal and will be sharing this in another post), plan the next day, have my routines. Each week I will have basic jobs such as laundry or cleaning out the piggies as well as budgeting my money, I also read quite a lot as it is a restful activity. I do also like to walk when I can, this is proving difficult in the last few weeks due to terrible weather and arthritis flare up but I hope to get back into it soon. Then for the days I need a little extra boost I know I have yoga, creative writing, origami, a long bath, power naps, my DOG days, baking and scrapbooking. 

This obviously paints quite the picture of who I am as a person, I am very much a beginner in a lot of these activities but that basic level is enough to bring me to my baseline and that’s brilliant for me. But these activities are mindful and can give me purpose just for that little bit of time. I love having that time of peace and my own calm. Others may need something more physical like rock climbing, gorge walking, cycling, DIY or renovating, painting, the list is endless.

What’s in your toolbox? 

Much happiness to you,

L x