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

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/

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

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

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