To my friends – here is the truth about my mental illness

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This week in the Year of Gratitude series, the suggested writing prompt is ‘a friend’ that you’re grateful for. Here’s my take on the subject…

It took a few minutes for me to realise that my phone was ringing. The harsh sound of it vibrating on the wooden bedside table was what finally woke me up, but I didn’t reach over to pick it up. Instead I looked at the clock. It was 2.30pm. On a Tuesday.

I pulled the sheets over my head and went back to sleep. An hour later I woke up and saw I had a text message as well as the missed call from earlier. It was my friend Kirsty explaining that her and Claire had been in the area having lunch and did I want to join them.

Obviously I had missed the opportunity because I had slept in, but I didn’t care. I had successfully avoided another human interaction and that was all good in my book. Cha-ching.

Ignoring people was a commonly used strategy for me back then, when I was unfit for work due to depression and anxiety. I’m not sure how much I let show to my friends at the time, and I’m sorry for that. I didn’t want them to see the bad parts of my life which meant I didn’t let them see much of me at all.

I’m so grateful for my friends that have stuck by me throughout my mental illness. I also don’t blame the ones who didn’t hang around. It’s been almost 5 years since I was diagnosed and I’ve been a bit of a handful to deal with. Sorry about that.

There are a few things I want them to know though and here they are, in no particular order.

mental health truth to friends

I hide it constantly

When I’m out shopping, at the gym, in a restaurant or at work – especially at work – I’m probably pretending to be OK. There’s a negative voice inside my head and sometimes it can take control of how I feel.

I’m getting better at ignoring the internal commentary – I hate myself, I’m so fat, I’m so useless, I’ve got nothing to say – but it’s always underlying and waiting to hijack me when I least expect it.

The painful part is that I’m always expecting it, and that’s exhausting in itself; always been on high alert for low moods and panic attacks. When they finally do show up I’m ready to hit the deck almost immediately.

I can’t always explain my actions

Sometimes I ignore phone calls. I read messages and then procrastinate for hours or sometimes days before responding. I know it’s rude. I know I’m being a crappy friend but sometimes I just can’t communicate with other people.

I don’t fully know why and I can’t justify my actions but believe me when I say it’s nothing personal.

I’m so grateful

I don’t always show it but I’m so grateful to have people around me who still care about me. I know I make situations difficult when I get socially awkward and shut down to everyone around me. It’s inconvenient and embarrassing for me.

The thing that gets me through is knowing that other people care. When I think I’m a total piece of shit, my friends and family are still there. They’re knocking on my door when I don’t answer the phone to make sure I’m OK, and that is something I’ll always be grateful for.

 

 

 

 

10 random acts of kindness you can do today

random acts of kindness

February 12th sees the start of Random Acts of Kindness Week. I don’t care much for these types of campaigns – although I’ll admit National Doughnut Day has made me reconsider – but if there’s something to raise awareness about, being kind to one another does nothing but good things in my book.

From a mental health perspective, showing kindness to a stranger is incredibly powerful. You’ll never know how important a welcoming smile could be to a person with anxiety, or offering your parking ticket to someone who’s so stressed that they forgot to bring change for the meter.

As someone with depression and anxiety I also take pleasure in being kind to others. It can lift my mood, make me feel productive and worth something on days when my brain wants me to feel otherwise.

1. Give to a homeless person

Since living in Birmingham I’ve become very aware that homelessness is a real problem in this city. I pass a homeless person almost everyday on the way to work and I try and give him something to eat. If you can do this today then I know it would help.

2. Give a stranger a compliment

I work in a customer service environment so I meet hundreds of people everyday. I regularly have an inner dialogue which goes something like this, “She has a lovely smile. I love her top. She’s so friendly”. Then I go on with my day and forget all about it. The few times where I’ve actually vocalised a compliment to a stranger have always ended well. People love to receive compliments!

random acts of kindness blog mental health blogger

3. Buy someone a coffee

This is my go-to act of kindness when I’m feeling generous. Who doesn’t appreciate a free coffee? Ask your mate out for a drink and don’t let them pay or simply take a hot drink into work for someone who needs it. You won’t regret it.

4. Listen

We all have those friends or colleagues who can talk for Britain. If like me, you tend to zone out when they speak then try and spend today really listening to what they have to say. It could be that you actually find it interesting!

random acts of kindness mental health bloggger

5. Tip your server

As a cafe worker I’m obliged to ask that you consider us who prepare your food and beverages everyday with a smile. OK I don’t smile all of the time but believe me, I’m making a huge effort not to look grumpy when we make eye contact. I can guarantee you that a generous tip does not go unnoticed to us minimum wage earners, so consider popping an extra few coins in the jar on your way out today.

6. Send someone flowers

Valentines Day may have passed, but giving someone fresh flowers never gets old. It might be an elderly neighbour who helps feed your pet or the childminder who always goes the extra mile for your little ones, but whoever it is you can be sure a surprise bouquet will put a smile on their face.

random acts of kindness mental health blogger

7. Giveaway something you don’t need

Cleaning out your closet is a great place to start if you’re looking for something to giveaway. I recently gave away a few brand new t-shirts that were too small for me and I was glad they went to someone who wanted them. You might find you have something of use which you can give to a friend, if not just fill up a box for charity.

8. Offer your services for free

If you run a business then why not run a competition where someone can win something that you would normally charge for? Or you could simply pick one of your customers at random and give them a special discount. These little freebies are also a great marketing tool that give your business the human touch.

9. Give to a charity

Instead of buying a sandwich at lunch, why not bring in a home made meal and put a fiver in the nearest charity box? You could also donate a box of unwanted clothes or household items to your local charity shop or sign up to a fundraising event like a run or walk.

random acts of kindness mental health blogger UK

10. Make the call

Remember, you don’t need to spend a penny to be kind. Promise yourself that today you’ll make that call you’ve been avoiding. It might be your mum, a sibling or an old work friend that’s gone off the radar for too long. It only takes a few minutes but it can make someone’s day.

Tweet me and let me know what random act of kindness you performed today!

What are the best hobbies for depression? Read my top 10 tips

what are the best hobbies for depression

You’ve been diagnosed with depression and your doctor has told you to get a hobby. Once you’ve restrained yourself from screaming in said doctor’s face, I advise you calmly leave the building and take yourself home for a lie down.

Being told this by your GP can feel extremely patronising. Do they think we can just knit our way out of depression? Take a photography course and all is well again? It’s not that easy and I’m 100% on your side with that one.

But there are a few hobbies that are worth trying out on those days where you can find the energy to try your hand and something different. I’d love to know if you’re willing to give some of these a go…

1. Yoga

Doctors will regularly recommend yoga for those with depression, and although it’s not for everyone I personally find it very helpful when I’m finding it hard to relax. I wrote about it in more detail last year when I started going more regularly to help ease my symptoms when I moved away from home.

2. Running

It might sound like your idea of hell, but many people claim running has been a major factor in their recovery from depression. I took up running after going to fitness classes for a year or so, looking for a new challenge to test my abilities. Although I don’t enjoy it as much as other forms of exercise I can see why many enjoy the solitude and fresh air that comes with the hobby.

3. Walking

If running seems a little too advanced then I highly recommend trying walking instead. Either alone or with a friend, the benefits of walking are well-documented and can give you a sense of achievement on days when you feel unmotivated.

4. Drawing

This is a pastime that was always encouraged when I was a child, and I can see why. It’s good at keeping you distracted without the use of TV or video games and it’s a great creative outlet.

5. Blogging

Obviously I’m biased about this one! I started blogging a few years ago when I was unfit for work and felt the urge to be creative. You don’t need to write about depression; write about whatever pleases you and do it under another name if you don’t want anyone to know it’s you.

what hobbies are good for depression

6. Journaling

If you still want to write but not necessarily hit ‘publish’ online, then journaling could be for you. Grab a notebook and just explain how you’re feeling. I know from experience that trying to explain or even experience emotions when you have depression can feel like an impossible task. There are lots of good advice posts and prompts available out there to get you started.

7. Cooking

After years of restricting my food intake and binge eating junk food, I’m learning to enjoy all types of food again for their health benefits. I feel at my best when I’m eating lots of fruit, vegetables and some sweat treats for good measure (Oreos are food for the soul) and cooking plays a big part in that. I like the satisfaction of cooking a meal from scratch, especially if I know it’s going to make me feel good.

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8. Reading

I think people who want to ‘get a hobby’ often forget about the simple joy of reading. It’s basically free (remember those places called libraries?) and most people can do it. There are a million different genres be it fiction or non-fiction, self-help or fantasy; there’s sure to be something to keep you occupied.

EXTRA BONUS TIP! When you want to read but you can’t concentrate (a common problem with depression) then listen to podcasts.My current obsessions are My Favourite Murder, Desert Island Discs, Pro Blogger, Ctrl Alt Delete, Generation Why, Unsorry and Standard Issue Magazine.

9. Gardening

The thought of tackling an overgrown garden might be a bit much, but some light weeding or planting some flowers in pots could be a good idea. This is something that you can dedicate 30 minutes to everyday and see progress over time, which should give you a sense of achievement.

10. Play an instrument

If you can already play an instrument then why not set aside some time to practise a few times a week? It’s a good way to create some focus for short periods of time and gives you a physical and creative outlet. Also find singing along to my favourite music has the same effect.

Have you found a particular hobby that has helped ease the symptoms of your depression?

10 reasons why it’s great to live Birmingham

grateful birmingham UK blogger

This week in the Gratitude Challenge it’s time to talk about the city I live in. I have to admit this made me a tad teary when I realised I had to talk about Birmingham instead of Glasgow (I moved here in July 2016) but then I remembered I have so much to be grateful for!

1. Blogging community

In Glasgow I wasn’t talking blogging seriously. There may be a blogging community back home that I just wasn’t aware of, but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing compared to what I’ve experienced down here. When I took to Twitter I found a Brum Bloggers Facebook Group, a regular Social Media Cafe Event and a weekly Brum Hour that lets local businesses meet up online.

2. Restaurants galore

I’ve not tried out nearly as many restaurants as I would like, but I’ve made a good attempt. Sunday lunch in The Fighting Cocks in Moseley is one of the best ways to see out the weekend, and I recently had some great grub in Cherry Reds. Other places I’ve enjoyed visiting include The Stable and The Cosy Club.

3. Change is good

I knew when I left Glasgow that I was so ready for a change. Although I’ve city-hopped I still feel like there’s been a substantial change in my mindset. There’s something freeing about feeling lost in the crowd of a brand new city, where no one knows you and you can be whoever you want to be. This has really shown in my newfound body acceptance and change in hair colour!

birmingham blogger

4. Career goals

I was lucky enough to find a part-time job within the first few weeks of arriving in Brum, after an initial panic of thinking no one would hire me! Although I’m more focused on improving my blogging income I’ve also had an interview for a writing job that I would never have been able to commute to if I’d lived in Scotland. There are just so many more opportunities for people with big career goals.

5. Friendly people

My social anxiety was a big concern when I moved so far away from home. I was under so much stress after recently losing my job as well as relocating our entire life in 30 days that I was sure my anxiety was going to be particularly bad. However after meeting some lovely bloggers (Bryoney, Erica, Claire, Emma, Elizabeth and Sinead) I felt so welcomed and at home.

6. The shopping is good

When I first visited the Bullring I couldn’t believe how many brands were on offer. Even six months later, I still get lost and have to visit the information point for help. I always forget where I am and have to stop for emergency coffee breaks; luckily there’s no shortage of chain and independent cafes in Brum!

7. Christmas Markets

The German Markets that set up shop in Birmingham every Christmas attract millions of visitor, which I thought would be pretty terrifying to witness. We ended up joining the crowds every weekend in December and even took a brave turn on the big wheel. The atmosphere was certainly exciting, and it gave the already busy city even more to offer tourists.

8. It’s full of creative people

Blogging has led me to lots of like-minded people in Birmingham. I’ve met lots of people who are successfully pursuing their passions in the creative industries and just as many who are happy to do it in evenings and weekends as a hobby. One of the best things is that I’ve found a local WordPress trainer who has helped me polish up my tech skills in order for me to redesign my blog.

best things about birmingham

9. Canals

People are always telling me that Birmingham as more canals than Venice. While admittedly it doesn’t have quite the same amount of sunshine, it definitely has its fair share of canals. I’m lucky enough to live just a minute away from Brindley Place where I can walk along the short canal walk to the Mailbox. It’s a great scenic trot into town!

10. Close to London

Although we haven’t ventured to London yet, it’s kind of exciting to know we’re just an hour or so away from the capital city. I wouldn’t normally be able to attend blogging events or training days in London, but now that scenario is totally do-able; an enticing thought as I broaden my horizon and explore more creative ventures.

What’s your favourite thing about the city you live in?

 

 

20 simple ways to boost your mood when you’re feeling depressed

boost your mood mental health blogger UK

Sometimes when your stuck for inspiration it helps to have a go-to list of activities that boost your mood. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I know that I have mentally taken note of what has eased my pain over the years. Here is a bunch of ideas to get you started if you’re not sure what to do when you’re experiencing low moods. Please bear in mind that these are not a substitute for medical help, merely a few tools which have helped me along the way in conjunction with medication and therapy.

1.Take a bath – there’s nothing more relaxing that a soak in a hot bath. I also like to take this time to leave my phone in another room and be more mindful of what’s going on in my head, or read a book.

2.Paint your nails – I hardly ever paint my nails because I work with food for my day-job. When I do take the time to give myself a manicure I always feel myself admiring my nails and feeling a little bit fancy.

dying blonde hair red

3.Get a haircut – I know not everyone can afford to get a new do that often, but when I’m feeling a bit yuck a trim at the hairdressers always makes me feel refreshed. I think getting a haircut really does make you feel lighter and give you an energy boost.

4.Take yourself to the movies – this is a great way to disconnect from social media because you have to turn your phone of and concentrate on the film you’re watching. Sometimes when I’m anxious a trip to the cinema is a bit difficult for me, but it’s often good when I’m just in need of a distraction from negative thoughts.

5.Walk on the beach – I don’t know any facts about the calming nature of being near the sea, but I know it has a profound effect on me personally. Starting out at the ocean from a beach is so hypnotic, and it often gives you perspective on whatever is on your mind.

boost your mood mental health blogger UK

6.Book a massage – I know I certainly can’t afford to do this as much as I’d like, but it’s something to bear in mind for a special occasion or a time when you know you’ll be under pressure. I organised to have one the day before my wedding and it was such a great way to shake the tension out of my body before the bid day.

7.Try out some new make up – My current budget favourites are the Garnier BB cream, the Sleek Contour & Blush Palette and the Freedom Brow Pomade.

8.Buy some new pyjamas – I don’t know about you but a trip to Primark isn’t complete without a snazzy new pair of PJs thrown in for good measure! I like to get a new pair for a pamper evening, just to make me feel a little more special.

boost your mood mental health blogger UK

9.Put fresh sheets on your bed – The act of washing and changing your sheets is quite possibly THE most annoying household chore around. It feels like you only did it yesterday and all of a sudden it’s time to do it again. We all know nothing beats the feeling of freshly laundered sheets though, it’s the best!

10.Cook your favourite meal – This might be something healthy like a stirfry or a treat like macaroni cheese. Whatever you feel like, take the time to enjoy the cooking process and savour every last bite of your favourite food.

11.Read a book – My pile of books is growing everyday, and I feel like I never have time to read. Put your phone on silent for an hour, get a hot drink and settle into some reading for a while. It’s a great way to escape negative thoughts and relax.

12.Go out for a coffee – Whether it’s coffee, tea or a milkshake I recommend getting out of the house and sitting in your local cafe for a while. I love to watch the world go by or stick my headphones in and listen to a podcast whilst I enjoy a few moments of mindfulness.

mood boosting activites mental health blogger UK

13.Practise mindfulness – I’m sure you’ve heard people talking about mindfulness and thought that it would be way too difficult to do yourself. The secret is that it takes lots of practise! My favourite app is Calm, but you can also find lost of guided meditation videos on You Tube that talk you through the process to make it easier. It’s a great one to try if you feel anxious or overwhelmed.

14.Stretch – You don’t have to go to visit the gym or find your nearest Pilates class (although they are two viable options too) to enjoy the benefits of stretching. Simply do the stretches that you know you enjoy take your time. I love this Blogilates video which only takes 12 minutes and is perfect for beginners.

15.Burn your favourite candle – It’s become a habit for me to light candles every evening, as I find it really lifts my spirits and helps me wind down. Try dimming the lights and have a few candles burning whilst you meditate or do some stretches. I love Yankee Candles, Little Tulip London and Jo Malone.

16.Brush your teeth – When depression takes over the thought of getting showered and dressed is often too much to bear. If you only do one thing then consider brushing your teeth. I also like to wash my face with my favourite cleanser just to make me feel a little more alive.

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17.Listen to your favourite music – I have a few playlists that are full of feel-good songs to help cheer me up when I’m feeling low. Be careful not to listen to any music that might trigger any bad memories.

18.Look at your favourite quotes – I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to positive quotes, and nothing pleases me more than adding more to the list! If you’re feeling demotivated then I would highly recommend pinning for an hour or so, it’s strangely therapeutic.

19.Clean your make up brushes – On those days where you have a long to-do list that feels totally overwhelming, sometimes it’s easier to tackle one small task that gives you instant gratification. Cleaning your make up brushes or ever just reorganising your make up storage can be an easy job that only takes around 30 minutes.

20.Re-organise your wardrobe – If you’re feeling brave enough to take on a bigger challenge then why not take on your wardrobe? If you’re anything like me then you’ll be hoarding ill-fitting clothing which hasn’t been worn for several years and could do with throwing out.

I’d love to know what your favourite mood boosting activities are, please feel free to leave them in the comments below or tweet me.

 

Reasons why I’m grateful for the best gift I’ve ever been given

year of gratitude mental health blogger UK

This week in the Year of Gratitude challenge the task is to talk about something someone gave me. I tried to find something heartfelt and sentimental that’s been in my possession since I was a child, Perhaps a handmade blanket or a worn out old teddy bear?

I couldn’t think of anything quite as beautiful as that because my most coveted gift is something incredibly materialistic and expensive. Don’t judge me. My MacBook Air is by far the best gift I’ve ever received.

My husband treated me to this just before Christmas after I started to become a bit obsessed with blogging everyday. It means I can do freelance work as the drop of a hat and also do my own writing, photo editing and blog images on the go wherever I am.

It comes with me everywhere

I long for the extended train journey back to Scotland where I can take out my laptop and get stuck into some writing. I often take it to work with me so that I can stop off at a cafe on the way home and do some work. It also means I can do work when I’m visiting in Scotland and really utilise any spare time I have.

It’s so fast

I’ve never had a laptop – or any device really – that turns on with the push of a button. Like, INSTANTLY. It means I can do those little five-minute blog related admin tasks like scheduling tweets, updating links or correcting spelling mistakes without needing an additional ten minutes to load up the computer.

It makes blogging easier

The portability and speed of my laptop are two of the main reasons that blogging has become so easy for me. I can also access all the photos on my phone, use the free software – like Pages – without having to purchase Microsoft Word and use iMovie to edit when I start creating video content. I’ve not always been an Apple fangirl but I must say, I’m absolutely obsessed!

Would it be exaggerating to say that this one gift has changed my life?

How talking on the internet helped me overcome social anxiety disorder

social media mental health recovery uk blogger

Did you know that February 2nd is Time to Talk Day? It’s a great opportunity to start conversations about mental health all over the UK, from schools to homes to workplaces.

About Time to Talk Day

Sadly, many people who suffer from mental illness feel ashamed to talk about how they feel and this just simply shouldn’t be the case. It only takes one small step to ask for help, and just a quick chat with someone who understands can have a huge impact.

time to talk

If you know someone who might be suffering, or if you have a mental health issue yourself; I urge you to use today as a chance to open up about the real issues surrounding mental illness and help end the stigma surrounding the subject. With that in mind, I wanted to share my own personal story today.

Many of you already know my history with depression and anxiety, but what you may not know is how social media has helped me overcome social anxiety in the past few months. Don’t get me wrong; it took me years of therapy and medication to get to this place, but every piece of social interaction online added up to help me along the way too.

Snapchat

If you follow me on Snapchat then you’ll know what I’m about to say. I LOVE TO TALK. Not to other human beings of course – that would be way too much interaction – but to myself on my mobile phone.

When I moved away from Glasgow I realised Snapchat stories was a great way to keep my friends updated with what I was up to everyday, as we now live hundreds of miles apart.

Whilst everyone else is pouting whilst using the puppy dog filter (OK, I do my fair share of that too) I’m giving my viewers the low-down on my mental state as it changes. Sometimes I’m laughing about haggis in an American drawl and other times I’m just talking about my low self-esteem.

It’s a great form of talking therapy, and lots of people have told me they find it helpful to see that other people are going through mental health issues too. It’s made me more open to talking about these subjects in social settings and basically owning my mental health problems instead of pretending they don’t exist.

twitter logo mental health blogger UK

Twitter

Tweeting was not something that came naturally to me. I’m not quick-witted enough to construct jokes that fit into the strict character limitations and my spelling has let me down on more than one occasion.

In 2016 I started using it to promote my blog, and before long had been sucked into various communities (mental health, blogging and Birmingham) and was having conversations with total strangers on a daily basis.

I’ve used it to find new friends, decent WordPress training and a local social media seminar that I would otherwise never have known about. It’s made me go out and make real-life connections with people I’m met online, and without that initial meeting online I honestly don’t think it would have been possible.

I’ve also created my own chat on Twitter where we talk all about body positivity. Plucking up the courage to do all of these things has been a total revelation for me after several years of avoiding social outings and talking to new people.

Instagram

I spent a lot of time taking photos of my food before I realised it’s not really the best use of my Instagram account. I have a history of disordered eating and was obsessed with food for about two years whilst I ate a very restricted diet to lose weight.

I still love food and taking pretty pictures of my salads (I’m a blogger, it’s basically compulsory) but I’ve loved using my Instagram as a way to showcase random thoughts and emotions that happen throughout my day. I’ve tried to spread positivity through my account and that’s had a knock on affect on my mood, meaning I’m generally a little happier thanks to the interactions I make online.

I’ve conquered my fear of talking to camera thanks to Instagram stories and I even did a live stream a few weeks ago. This has made me more confident about talking about mental health in public and I genuinely think I could talk to anyone about it now!

social media for anxiety mental health blogger UK

Blogging

The most powerful tool in my quest to shake the shackles of social anxiety has ironically been the thing that I do all on my lonesome. I sit quietly in bed, at my desk or in my local coffee shop and tap away on the keys of my laptop writing for no one but myself.

During this time I feel free to say what I want. I can explain in detail how I feel about the world, how depression has affected me and how painful yet important my journey has been.

I can do all this from the comfort of my own space; without worrying about how I sound to others, stumbling over my words or trying to maintain eye contact whilst I divulge my deepest and darkest thoughts. I can express myself on my own terms and although it may seem like a one-side affair, it’s really not.

I regularly receive comments and private messages from women who understand exactly how I feel. It’s a wonderful, comforting feeling to know that we are all struggling in our own way and that we’re not alone.

The process of exposing myself online has given me the fearlessness to say many of the things I write about on here in real life. I can now introduce myself as a mental health blogger without the fear of ridicule, because I’ve successfully created a community of supportive people online who I know resonate with what I write about.

The chances are that many of the people I meet in real life will also understand so now I can proudly state who I am and what I stand for, and that is a wonderful privilege.

Have you found an unusual way to overcome social anxiety? Head over to Twitter and use Time to Talk Day as a way to share your story with me!

Why I’m grateful for my mum

gratitude mum mental health blogger

 

This week in the Year of Gratitude Challenge the topic of conversation is my mum. I don’t want to bang on about it too long because let’s face it; we all love our mums. I’m sure you can identify when I say she’s been there for me no matter what, looked after me when I’m ill and washed all of my cider-stained clothing throughout my university years. So let me keep this light-hearted, simple and to the point. Check out fellow blogger LuLu’s posts on gratitude too.

She spoils me

As much as I like to think of myself as a strong, self-sufficient girl boss (not quite a Beyonce but I’ve definitely got a Kelly Rowland vibe going on) there are still times when I need my mum to bail me out. Not in any serious sense like paying my rent (OK maybe that has happened) or credit card debt, but more in a “I’ve ran out of clothes” kind of way. Recently she treated me to a selection of Marks and Spencer underwear (that’s some fancy shit as far as I’m concerned) and I was on cloud nine for a good few weeks. She is also exceptionally good at keeping me fully stocked with my Liz Earle favourites which to be honest makes life more bearable on so many levels.

She has no expectations

Yes, I am grateful for the fact that my own mother has never had any expectations of what I should become. I’m sure she’s always had hopes and dreams, but never once has she led me to believe that I should do something in particular to please her. Never once has she scoffed at a failed essay, an ignored hobby or a poor outfit choice (remember when satin shirts were in?) and for that she’s the best. When I left university without Honours she was totally cool with it, and looking back it was such a gift to feel free enough to do that without any guilt. She also agreed that quitting my job was the best thing to do for my mental health.

She gives me space

It’s hard to explain to people what I mean when I say I need space. What I really mean most of the time is that I need to be alone. Often for days at a time. I have a small amount of energy to deal with stressful situations (which for me are busy places, socialising with people, being away from home) and when that energy is used up I need to recharge. Being such a stereotypical introvert means that I regularly need to be left alone with only myself for company. I know to others that might sound selfish, but luckily my mum can tell when I need that time and she lets me take as long as I need.

What are you grateful for this week?

 

10 things you should stop doing just to please other people

mental health blogger UK stop pleasing other people

When I was 17 I grabbed a box of the brightest red hair dye I could afford and went from blonde to copper one Friday afternoon in my parents’ bathroom. It was the first time I’d thought ‘fuck it’ and done something on a whim. I kept it that way for a few years, but as my career progressed I returned to my natural shade of blonde in the hope that I would appear more ‘professional’ and ’employable’.

Since turning 30 have had a few more ‘fuck it’ moments; including going back to that copper shade I was when I was 17. I’ve decided it’s time to stop doing what other people expect of you. Here are a few examples…

  1. Playing it safe with your hair colour

If you like to experiment with your hair then good for you. Pink and blue hair is kind of trendy right now, but if you want it that colour until you’re 60 then rock on. Some people think bright coloured hair looks unprofessional but nothing says, “I get shit done” like a mermaid inspired bouffant, in my opinion.

2. Settling for a job you hate

For years I climbed the corporate ladder in an industry I hated. I didn’t have any other skills (or so I thought) after doing the same type of work since I was 17. I spent years getting promoted, taking on extra responsibility and earning reasonably good money for what I did. I had an office and my own department and it looked like I had it all together. Really I was terribly unhappy and it took a mental breakdown to realise my career wasn’t making me happy. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough to try something different.

3. Eating something you know makes you feel shit

Sometimes only Oreos will do. I get it. But when you’re sat in a restaurant and you know that eating dessert is going to make you feel overly-full and bloated then don’t do it. You don’t have to order burgers and fries when you know you’d rather have salad (those days DO exist, I promise). You don’t have to keep up appearances for fear of looking like you’re a stick in the mud – eat what makes you feel good.

Fiona mental health blogger UK

4. Drinking alcohol

A glass of bubbly to cheers to someone’s new job or 30th birthday is often seen as obligatory. Just because someone hands you a free glass of cheap cava doesn’t mean you have to drink it! If, like me you know that alcohol brings out the worst in you; why bother?

5. Going for the healthy option

Similarly, it’s easy to feel like you have to eat what people expect you to eat. So you told people at work you’re on a diet and the next day you want a cheeseburger. You probably don’t want to eat it in front of those same people in case they comment on how you’re diet didn’t last long, or they talk about you behind your back. I felt like this for a long time and I would regularly eat ‘healthily’ in front of others and binge on junk food in secret. This often meant that I would overeat when I was alone because I felt so panicked and ashamed of what I was doing. Eat that goddamn cheeseburger.

6. Wearing something conservative

I spent my life trying to dress appropriately according to my peers. Hearing the dreaded phrase “What’s everyone wearing?” before a night out used to put me on edge. I probably already had an idea of what I wanted to wear and if not, I didn’t need a panel of gorgeous ladies giving me suggestions. Wear what’s comfortable. Wear what makes you feel fierce. Wear whatever is clean that day cause it’s not really that important.

7. Agreeing with someone’s politics

I’m the ultimate ‘nod and agree’ person in any social situation. I hate confrontation (who the hell doesn’t?) so I tend to just go along with whatever the general consensus is on a topical subject and hope that we get back to talking about the weather before it gets too complicated. I’ve realised though, that my opinion is just as important as anyone else’s. If I hear someone saying something that I think is racist, sexist or morally wrong then I think I have a responsibility to question it. If they can see my side of the argument that’s great; if not then at least I can say I tried.

What do you do to please other people? Are you willing to try and stop?

 

 

Why I’m grateful for my family

gratitude mental health blogger UK

It’s that time again where I want to set my other work aside and practice gratitude. This is a task I’m taking great pleasure in if I’m honest, and I didn’t realise just how much I have to be grateful for until I started this challenge. I’m also joined by Lu Lu Blue who is doing this challenge too.

I won’t talk about my husband today as he got an entire blog post dedicated to him last week, instead I want to talk about my close family. I come from a small family. It’s just my parents and my two brothers and I. We are a quiet bunch of folks and we get on pretty well.

Here are a few specific things I’m grateful for and why:

My parents always encouraged extra-curricular activities. My younger brother Colin played football and my older brother Stuart has been a drummer in a band since he was a teenager. I was in a drama club, played piano and loved drawing and writing as a kid. We were always expected to try our best in school, but as long as we could promise mum and dad that we ‘tried our best’ we were never judged for our grades. This helped build our social skills and let us express ourselves creatively in a way which has made us who we are today.

We’ve all done stupid stuff. Thank god that we’ve stuck by each other through it all. No one holds a grudge in my family and we all remember the good – and embarrassing – times more than anything else. When we get together we generally have a laugh about stupid shit we’ve done and enjoy it. There’s no judgement.

We live apart but it’s not too bad. One of my brothers now lives in Australia, and although it’s hard not to see him at family events I’m grateful that he’s found a partner and settled down in an exciting new place. I’ve moved away from Scotland too (only to Birmingham, so not quite so far) and I’m grateful that my parents still make the effort to come and visit me as much as possible. I’m also grateful that they forgive me when I get busy and forget to call them for a few weeks. I need to work on that one!

Above all, I’m grateful for the unconditional love I receive from all of my family members. As someone with depression and anxiety it’s easy for me to feel like I’ve become a burden to others when I’m going through a particularly bad period. I know I have family I can rely on and I can ask them for anything. That’s what I’m most grateful for.