Why I had to lose my career to save my mental health 

had to quit job lose career because of depression

“Do you want a sick line?” the doctor asked me, and as she did so I breathed a sigh of relief.

I had been considering speaking to a doctor for weeks at this point; repeatedly lifting the phone to my ear, dialling the number and then slamming it down in protest, adamant that I’d be laughed out of the doctor’s office and told to stop being so dramatic. I can’t remember exactly what tipped me over the edge and forced me to make the appointment, as a lot of it went by in a blur. I vaguely remember hiding in toilets at work, losing my temper with a team member over something incredibly insignificant and crying uncontrollably on the bus home every night. Not exactly the behaviour you’d expect from a manager who is overseeing 4 supervisors, 20 team members and running several retail outlets and 2 departments simultaneously.

I knew I was stressed. My workload had increased dramatically over the 6 months leading up to this and I was feeling troubled following the death of a grandparent. I knew I wasn’t coping very well. I remember looking at my ‘to-do’ list and thinking that it was too overwhelming. My brain couldn’t process the list into actions, and it was like I was trying to read hieroglyphics. There seemed like no good place to start. I didn’t want to start. I needed a break, but asking for it felt like a sign of weakness. I’d always got promoted on the basis of saying ‘Yes!’ to more work and more responsibility. For a proud career woman like me, saying I couldn’t handle it felt shameful.

When the doctor heard my symptoms she very kindly suggested I take a few weeks off to recuperate and prescribed be some beta blockers as she thought I was having some anxiety issues. Being given that ‘permission’ by an authority figure was just what I had been looking for. I felt reassured.

There was certainly no talk of depression.

I left that day happy in the knowledge that I just needed some time to relax, gather my thoughts and was certain I’d get back to my career in no time at all with the support of my boss to help ease the workload. Just a short break.

After a week, having given my mind and body the rest it had been silently screaming for I was suddenly overcome with the feeling of hopelessness. Darkness. The kind that feels like a dense, damp storm cloud enveloping your whole body to the point of suffocation. From the doctor’s waiting room I stared out at the beautiful summer sky and all I could see was my desolate, pointless existence. Nothing mattered any more. The beta blockers were quickly swapped out for something new and a fresh sick line was scribbled on to reveal the worst. Patient is suffering from depression. 

After 3 months off work I had exhausted the generous amount of sick pay allocated to me and I had to make a decision. I had tried going back to work a day here and there; the HR department were very accommodating and let me try a ‘phased return’ but doing my job seemed incomprehensible. How was I supposed to lead a team? How could I adhere to health and safety standards, deliver award-winning customer service, and control a department budget when I could barely find the energy to take a shower everyday? How could I sit in meetings and listen to company objectives when in my head I was contemplating the very worst, every moment of every day? How could I performance manage staff when I couldn’t see the point in doing my own job? I felt backed into a corner – not by my employer – but by my illness. My job required a certain level of attention that I physically was not capable of offering.

So, I quit.

I had spent 5 years in the industry; on my feet for 50+ hours a week, doing all the shitty jobs, late nights, early mornings, working for pennies, and finally I had landed the highest earning job of my career. I was in a desk job with sociable hours, stability and lifelong prospects. Then I lost it all.

Through no fault of my own, all of a sudden had no ability to do the job I had worked so hard to secure. Even now – 4 years later – I feel totally incapable when it comes to the tasks I used to complete with ease. There is an entire skill set on my CV that I may as well just delete. I have the experience, but I believe I’ve lost the capacity.

I’m not trying to encourage people to quit their jobs as soon as they’re diagnosed with depression.  Not everyone will be affected the same way that I was. A lot of people find their job is the one constant in their lives during a depressive period, and it gives them comfort to focus on something other than their own mind. I just want to be completely honest about my experience and what I personally had to do to get better. Of course I feel angry that I had to lose my career to save my mental health. I feel like I had this enormous setback in life where all my hard work had been for nothing. This stupid illness came along and it took over my life. The honest truth is that it still does. I’m almost certain it’ll control me for the rest of my life. Is this the way it should be? Should we feel forced to be unemployed, feel unable to contribute to society because of our brain chemicals? Absolutely not, but it’s the situation many of us find ourselves in.

Today, I have no confidence in my ability as a manager. I’ve worked in middle management roles during my recovery (which is ongoing, by the way) and although I can do it, I seem to have a finite amount of energy for jobs involving leadership. It eventually takes its toll on me and I either have to quit, reduce my hours or hand over some responsibility to others. So unfortunately at the moment, I only feel capable of doing a job which as no responsibility and pays minimum wage. Some people would find this humiliating, and I did too at first. The alternative is to earn more money and compromise my future and I’m just not willing to go down that road again. Its simply not an option.

There’s a certain freedom that comes with working in a less pressured work environment. My job no longer defines who I am, but that’s a good thing. I’ve learned that it’s OK not to have the career I thought I once deserved. What I actually deserve is a healthy, happy, fulfilled existence. My career did give me that for a while, but I couldn’t continue. Now I’m on the road to discover what else I can do, what else I can create, experience and give to others in order to get some sort of satisfaction whilst maintaining a balanced head. Having a less stressful job has given me the thirst to explore the creative talents that I always thought I would pursue after university, but never did.

Creating content for my blog is one thing that I really look forward to doing. This thing came to exist because of me. Does it pay the bills? No. But I’ve learned stimulating my brain is incredibly important to my own well being; so if waitressing everyday allows me the opportunity to share my thoughts on here the rest of the time, then I think their are worse things I could be doing, don’t you?

Turning 30 and I still don’t want kids – what’s wrong with me? 

turning 30 dont want kids

Now is the perfect time for me to get pregnant.

I’ve been with my partner for almost 12 years, we got married in 2015, we just moved to a new city where he’s got a good job and I work part time. Apart from owning our own house, we are in a good state of affairs at the moment. I’m turning 30 in December. If I haven’t got a bun in the oven in the next six months then when will I? That’s the burning question on everyone’s lips.

OK the truth is, no one actually cares that I haven’t had a baby yet. None of my friends have mentioned it, my parents are silent on the matter and my husband – like me – is more or less certain (never say never, right?) that he doesn’t want kids either. I don’t want a baby. So why do I feel obliged to have one? I can’t stop thinking that I should want one. Am I crazy?

I was brought up as the middle child and only girl in a happy family. Looking back I’m certain I was a normal kid. Nothing unusual happened that I could possibly blame for my strange fear of having babies. I played with dolls, wrapped them up in blankets and soothed their cries. I stroked their shiny little heads and held them tight to keep them warm. As I got older I cut my Barbie’s hair, changed her outfit and sent her off on her first date with Ken in the hope of starting a family in their wooden doll house that resided at the end of my bed. The notion of a family is something I am 100% comfortable with. I love having siblings, I’m close to my parents and I understand the importance of having a loving support network. But for as long as I can remember, whenever anyone asked me about having children I’ve always been confident in my answer. Thanks, but no thanks.

Throughout my life everyone has told me in a very patronising manner that I will change my mind. I’ve never really questioned myself on the subject, it’s always been something I’ve been so certain about. But in the past year or so, I’ve been starting to wonder. Every other female on the planet seems to have this motherly urge bursting out of them but I can’t seem to identify it within myself no matter how hard I try. There’s no denying that my age is playing a part in this ‘pressure’ that I’ve started to put on myself. In fact it’s not even really pressure. I just feel so acutely aware that my body is primed to do this thing, and if I don’t do it soon I might miss my chance. I’m turning 30 at the end of the year and although I’ve always been adamant that I don’t want to have any children, I suppose I always knew I could try if I ever changed my mind. Assuming I’m able to physically have children, then I’ve always known I could do it if my heart desired. When you’re young you forget that there is a bit of a time limit on the task though. You think you have all this time to decide, but I feel like the window is getting smaller. I know there are plenty of women over 30 experiencing happy pregnancies and giving birth to healthy babies but for me, now is the time where I need to start thinking seriously about what I want and planning for the future. What do I really want?

I find as a woman I’m generally expected to do one of two things; have a career or have a baby. Since I’ve concluded quite firmly (kind of) that I don’t want a baby then I should be focusing on my career, right? Well, how about no. If I don’t need a baby to complete me then I certainly don’t need a job to do the same. I’ve spent too many years wasting my life on jobs that drain me to continue down that road. My mental health has suffered so for now, I’m focusing on living a fulfilled and balanced life. In fact, my mental state is another reason why I don’t feel great about having a sprog.

I am so uneducated on the subject that didn’t even know until recently that if I was to get pregnant I would have to stop taking my anti-depressants. This is not something I’m ready to do yet. I tried about a year ago and I failed miserably, so I’m really not in a place to go through that at the same time as having my womb inhabited by a new human being. If that wasn’t enough, I’ve actually read some posts from health professionals advising that us ladies with depression should seriously consider our decision to have a baby. The reason being that we are statistically more likely to suffer further mental health issues during and post pregnancy. I can’t imagine feeling strong enough to put myself in such a vulnerable position. I admire any woman who does – and to be honest mental health issues are so common that it seems unrealistic to give out this advice to everyone – I just don’t feel like I’m quite stable enough yet to take that risk.

So what now? Maybe I’m destined to be the quirky aunt or the weird godmother that every kid needs. Maybe if we get too old to have babies we’ll adopt. Maybe I’ll not be 100% sure until it’s already happened. Maybe I need to worry a little less….

10 awesome ways to improve your social media

make social media better get followers

 

If you follow me on Snapchat you’ll already know about this exciting blog post I’ve been working on! I spent the whole day on Monday at Social Day where I was treated to a wonderful array of speakers who all specialise in social media. As you can imagine there was a lot of Twitter talk, marketing mantras and Facebook philosophies. There was a hell of a lot of information on offer too. There were 12 speakers in total so it was really good value for money and would highly recommend catching an event in your area. But now for the good stuff; I’ve skimmed through my notes and I’m going to share some of the best tips I learned from the day

1. Create video

This was the most prevalent but also the most daunting tip from the day. I love watching girls on You Tube who chat away to the camera whilst doing their make up, but the thought of doing something similar just seems terrifying. What if no one watches? What if I have nothing to say? The indisputable truth is that video is our preferred way to receive information online so if you haven’t considered dabbling then you need to think about it. It’s what people want. Chances are if you have a following on Twitter and Instagram then people are generally interested in what you have to say, so just go for it. The experts recommended Periscope, but I’ve been using Snapchat to begin with as it’s broken into short chunks which seems more

2. Be kind

This might seem like a strange tip if you’re aim is to grow your business and make more money, but being ruthless on social media is a big mistake. One speaker gave a great example about how she went out of her way to help a client, and months later was offered to use her holiday home as a way of saying thank you. Although this was obviously a friendly gesture, you never know when a person online with specific skills might come in handy and save your bacon when it comes to your business.

3. People like recognition

Online it’s really exciting when you start to get new followers and comments online, but be sure to remember to personally thank those who go out of their way to follow you or share your content with others. It’s a quick and easy way to show your appreciation to all of the people who are helping you grow your presence online.

4. Creating helpful content is essential

You can write the funniest blog post about your trip to Blackpool, but if it doesn’t help anyone then it’s probably not going to get noticed. Simply changing a title from “A windy weekend in Blackpool” to “How to entertain young children when the weather is bad in Blackpool” will change your content from OK to totally shareable.

5. Use your own voice

One key piece of knowledge I took away from the day was the importance of speaking in a personal voice on social media. This means being sympathetic to others, using colloquial terms, offering support and using your own personality when you Tweet or create a status update. Even as part of a large company, signing off with your own name creates a more intimate relationship with the customer and gives your brand the human touch.

6. Remember that people buy people

Following on from the last point, you should focus on creating a likeable brand online before you start flooding your followers with links to your website. Get to know them, talk to them, offer tips, share helpful information and then when they need your service, they’ll already trust you and want to connect with you.

7. Create an Ebook

If you really want to win over your followers before you sell them anything, you should be offering them helpful content completely free of charge. Creating an Ebook is actually incredibly simple; the most basic ones are made in Microsoft Word and can be put together in less than a day if you have most of the information collated already. Simply offering a free document that contains valuable information is enough to obtain your potential customer’s email address which is helpful later when you need to target people interested in your product.

8. Use LinkedIn

I’m still working on this one. I’ve never used the website but apparently it’s a great tool especially for building good business to business relationships.

9. Create a call to action

This is actually quite a common tip, especially for bloggers. I always sign off my blogs with a question, inviting readers to share their opinions or experiences on whatever I happen to be talking about. But I’ve never really considered doing the same on other forms of social media. Once you decide what your aim is, it’s pretty simple. For example, my aim is normally to get people to visit my blog so in my Snapchat videos I’ve started giving sneak previews about my topics to get people to check it out, or I’ll ask them to go follow me on Twitter for regular updates.

10. Own a hashtag

I’m not sure exactly how I would go about this myself, but it’s a great idea for local businesses who want to connect with customers or other small businesses. Essentially, you just create your own hashtag and encourage other people on Twitter to use it as away to find information and users. The example Samantha Kelly used was a solicitors firm in Belfast who created the hashtag #BelfastHour. They now host their own Twitter chat every week and bring together a community of potential customers and other businesses in a way that is helpful, friendly and they don’t have to openly “sell” their services, the hashtag has pretty much done that for them.

So there it is; my top 10 tips to get you started on improving your social media. Which ones will you be

Add me on Snapchat for more info!

 

 

 

 

 

Going from blonde to red at James Bushell Birmingham

blonde red hair colour new james bushell

Moving to a new city comes with so much excitement. There are new restaurants and bars to visit, sites to see, friends to make and hidden gems to seek out. But finding a new hairdresser? Nah mate. I’m not up for it. I don’t need to tell you that the relationship between a woman and her hairdresser is a sacred one. They have the power to make you feel revived, rejuvenated and ready to take on the world. The best hairdressers will listen, give you advice and tell you what you need to hear – all part of the free therapy session that comes with the best haircut.

So, with that in mind I did my research to try and find a good quality salon in my new local area. Living in Birmingham means I have endless options. With so many to choose from it seemed wrong to simply choose the one that was most convenient for me (close to where I work) but true to form, I went with the lazy option and did it anyway. James Bushell has two salons and the branch I visited is located just outside of the city centre, on Calthorpe Road. It has a huge glass front meaning if you have anxiety like me, you can walk past awkwardly several times and look at the layout before you pluck up the courage to actually walk in.

I knew I was onto a winner as soon as I made my appointment, because within minutes I was in the chair with Advanced Colour Technician Allan who gave me a free consultation to discuss my colour. Planning to go from blonde to red, I knew I might be met with some hesitation as I know it can be hard to get the colour to stick to bleached hair. However he explained to me that dying it orange first would solve this problem and then he spent time helping me pick the exact shade of red I wanted. I’m no colour expert, so having someone suggest which colour might look best along with using celebrity examples for reference was super helpful and put me at ease with my final decision. He quickly did a patch test and I booked my appointment for the following week.

As soon as I sat in the chair I was offered a cup of tea, and Allan went through the colour chart again to make 100% sure I was happy with my choice. This was great because after a week I honestly had forgotten which one I’d picked. He warned me that the first shade of orange would be close to neon (it truly was magnificent) but not to worry, it would be dyed over with the right colour straight after. Everything he said was true, and the final colour was exactly what I’d asked for – a warm copper that looked like it was my natural hair. Even if my colour had turned out a disaster, having my hair washed whilst sitting in a vibrating massage chair would have been worth the hassle. No joke.

I opted for a simple trim and my stylist Kim was happy to oblige. She could tell my hair was thick and heavy and took little off the length but loads of weight out of the ends – just what the doctor ordered. Whilst she got to cutting my new ginger mop I took in the atmosphere in the salon. Juniors were busy cleaning, sweeping up and helping stylists with odd jobs. Every client was tended to with either a cuppa, a glass of wine or some much-needed relationship advice. An elderly lady with dementia was having her colour done and I heard the staff dealing with her needs with with decorum of a family member. Another lady was feeling faint and two stylists sat with her on the front step until she was ready to come back in. The place was buzzing with activity, but I still felt like I was taken care of intently from start to finish. No customer was ignored, but in the same breath no staff member seemed stressed or spread too thin. After my cut my final colour was reviewed by Allan; another personal touch that really made me feel valued as a client.

The prices are really reasonable considering the standard of service that you’re guaranteed to receive. I can’t recommend these guys highly enough and can’t wait to go back for my next visit. Now for the important bit – before and after shots:

dying blonde hair red

 

dying blonde hair red

Have you ever been to James Bushell ?

How to deal with negative people and feeling drained

dealing with negative people what to say feeling drained

I ran a poll on Twitter asking how to deal with negative people. Overwhelmingly the response was ‘avoid them’. Pretty harsh don’t you think? Everyone’s allowed a good old moan once in a while; in fact I think it’s healthy to get your grievances out in the open. Letting them fester and grind you down only breeds resentment and unhappiness, so I think we should all feel free to talk about what’s pissing us off without fear of being deemed ‘the negative one’. But when you’re faced with someone who is so continually unhappy, when every word that comes out their mouth is a ‘poor me’ sob story – how should you deal with it? I know that it can personally leave me feeling drained, lifeless and in need of an energy boost. Here’s my advice on how to stay happy whilst dealing with this…

Establish if it’s a one off

You should first of all, go into the situation completely open minded. It’s easy to presume you know what someone is going to say before they’ve even opened their mouth, but try and ignore how they may have overreacted in the past and listen carefully to what they are complaining about. Is this something that they complain about regularly? If not then maybe it’s just a one off. If that’s the case then they should be allowed to get it of their chest, be a good mate and listen. You never know when you might need them to listen to you whinge about losing your bus pass on the way home. Whatever is bothering them might not seem important to you but it clearly is to them.

Let them vent

This can be hard. When someone wants to highlight everything bad that has ever happened to them from primary school to present day, it will test your patience. However, it is helpful to let them vent. Shutting them down or trying to change the subject will only make them feel insignificant, giving them more reason to feel sorry for themselves. Take time to let them get it all out of their system and then you can offer and advice or pearls of wisdom you have hidden up your sleeve.

Have a moan as well

Fuck it. Screw positivity and seeing the silver lining on every cloud. Sometimes we all need to wallow in our own unhappiness for a few hours whilst eating peanut butter straight out of the jar. If you’re friend is complaining about something that you identify with -or something that you simply can’t seem to comfort them about – get stuck in there too and bitch about life.

Be active

If you know you’re going round to a friend’s house and they’re destined to be in a stinker of a mood, try and entice them into doing something to take their mind of it. Using up nervous energy is great way to release your natural endorphins too so exercise is a great option! You could suggest swimming, yoga or even a walk around the shops to help act as a distraction. I would also recommend getting them to try something out of their comfort zone as the feeling of satisfaction you get after doing something you’ve always avoided is exhilarating. Even something as simple as baking a cake together can lift someone’s mood. This will also help keep your mood elevated if you’re starting to feel the weight of acting as agony aunt 24/7.

Don’t let it affect your mood

OK, granted this is easier said than done but try your best to not take on other people’s baggage as your own. You can be a wonderful friend just by being available and lending a shoulder to cry on, you don’t have to solve anyone else’s problems for them. Take it all in and afterwards try to forget about it as much as possible. This might seem insensitive but it’s important to keep your own head straight. Practising mindfulness is a great way to do this as it forces all thoughts out of your brain, leaving you with nothing but empty space and time to breath, relax and feel ready to create your own happiness.

 

10 helpful things to say to someone with depression

what to say to someone with depression make them feel better

I recently posted about my Self-care tips for when you’re depressed and whilst writing it I realised that it’s always with the help of my other half that I feel better. I’m not saying that you need a partner to feel good – not at all – but over the years he has managed to figure out through trial and error how to handle me when I’m at my lowest. There are no magic words that will make someone feel better when they are depressed, but it can be terrifying and somewhat lonely for friends and families to talk to people suffering – so much so that they might avoid talking to them altogether. Avoiding the subject is the worst tactic in my opinion. It breeds guilt within the sufferer and makes them feel like an outsider, like they are making things difficult and can end up pushing them further away.

This is by no means a completed list of what to say – it’s just a few things that have worked for me. When I feel helpless and upset for no reason it’s important that I feel comforted, even when I can’t explain what exactly the problem is. I hope that if you know someone who deals with depression that you take the time to ask them if they are OK, and tell them that you’re there for them. Even these few simple words can make them feel less alone.

Have you comforted someone with depression? I’d love to read your comments below.

Easy healthy food hacks for when you can’t be bothered cooking

healthy food hacks lazy easy no cooking

Since relocating my entire life to Birmingham my healthy eating game has been below average. I’ve indulged in several celebratory meals, family takeaways, and midnight stress eating sessions – involving a jar of peanut butter- and to be honest it’s been fantastic. For the past few weeks though, I’ve been trying to get more micronutrients in because I’m feeling sluggish, my skin is horrendous and I know I normally feel more upbeat and motivated. Like most people, I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day and when it comes to cooking I can’t really be f****d at the moment. I have managed to step it up though and eat more fruit and vegetables with a few super basic hacks.

favourite healthy snacks what I eat in a day

Get stocked up 

My first secret to staying on track is to always be fully stocked with ‘grab and go’ style food, or at least that require minimum preparation. I always have carrots, peppers and cherry tomatoes in the fridge as they can be chopped up and eaten raw – great for when you want to mindlessly munch on something in front of the TV. That’s a mini-hack right there too; if you can eat it raw then do it, and collect 100 lazy points from me. For breakfast, porridge sachets are a great cupboard staple. I always opt for the plain oats and add fruit and honey to sweeten. For dinner put some pre-cooked rice sachets, pre-chopped veg, fresh spinach, cooked prawns and chicken in your trolley as well as a jar of Lazy Garlic or Lazy Chilli for flavour. My fruit bowl is always full of bananas, satsumas, apples and grapes for an easy sweat treat. Oh and I even created a free shopping list for you to use which you can see here.

favourite easy healthy snacks lazy no cooking

Get snacking

I’m all about snacking in between meals, it keeps me happy, satisfied and means my main meals are normally smaller (and less time consuming) to prepare. When I start work at 7.30am I normally have lunch around 11.15am (I work in a deli so it’s impossible to take a break at a regular lunch time) but then I don’t eat dinner until my husband gets home at 6pm. Naturally, a snack needs to be had in between these meals otherwise I get cranky AF. It’s always tempting to reach for cereal bars and chocolate especially after a full day at work, but I try to wait until I get home and make a plate of chopped veggies, salad, fruit and some humous. I love the cute little mini pots of humous as they stay fresh longer and can be taken to work without making a mess. I also love that Pip & Nut have invented these handy little sachets of their nut butters which I like to have with fresh apple. It means I don’t need to use any will power to stop eating the entire jar and again, they can be popped in my bag for work or travel. Other ready to eat snacks I rely on are sugar-snap peas, boiled eggs and greek yoghurt. Coconut yoghurt is great too if you can source it, and of course Nakd bars are a regular choice for a quick nibble on the go.

easy food for no cooking healthy

Cook once a week

My ultimate life hack for those who hate to cook is to do it all at once. I know it sounds horrible, right? But honestly, if you just set aside 2 hours on a Sunday you can batch cook a few chicken breasts and a one-pot meal and I promise you’ll only have to use the microwave for the rest of the week. I normally cook about 8 chicken breasts and make a large pot of chilli, and chop up some carrots and peppers ready for that ‘grab & go’ meal as required. You can also prep ahead overnight oats or boil some eggs for breakfast, both will keep for about 3 days refrigerated in an airtight container. This should get you set up for most of the week then at the weekend you can get back to eating leftover takeaways for breakfast and cereal for dinner. Or is that just me?

Don’t forget to check out my free shopping list

Blogging for introverts: heaven or hell? 

blogging for introverts anxiety mental health socializing

I was going to name this Tips for introvert bloggers! But then I realised I don’t actually have any tips, and I haven’t yet figured out if the whole world of blogging is actually a good thing or a bad thing for introverts. Is it heaven or hell?

Well first of all, no one ever though to tell me that I was an introvert. Annoying really, because since I figured it out myself a few months ago it’s made me so much more aware of my behaviour, and has offered a somewhat reasonable explanation for why I act so weirdly unsociable at times. I’m one of those people that can’t do too much in one day. My idea of hell is going on holiday with someone who uses an itinerary. Get out. I need down time, and lots of it thank you very much. I’m more than happy to climb up the Eiffel Tower with you but don’t expect a conversation all the way to the top, and at least reward me with a pain au chocolat break at the bottom. I need pit stops even in Paris.

In my day to day life, this means time to recharge between working and socialising with friends. It means leaving all the washing to pile up for a few days whilst I focus on sleeping more. It means going to the gym when I really should be making dinner. I need designated me time and a lot more than the average person.

When it comes to blogging, this need to be alone and reflect is actually a great thing. One of the things that helps me recharge is letting all my thoughts and feelings out in a blog post which I then share on the Internet! A little unorthodox but strangely therapeutic, you should try it. I’ve started writing everyday and I find it really helps me get things off my chest, allows me to relax without being lazy and gives me a sense of accomplishment without needing to be overactive or (heaven forbid) talk to others.

On the other hand, what comes along with blogging is the social aspect. Yes, the social aspect is mostly online; responding to comments, talking on Twitter, reading and complimenting other blogs – easy peasy. But realistically, I want to grow my audience and improve my content so there are a few instances that require, dare I say it, human interaction. I don’t have to go out and meet fellow bloggers, and the nature of my work means I can talk to them all online, but I’m scared that if I stop meeting new people I’ll somehow forget how to do it completely. I’ve written about how blogging has improved my mental health but I don’t think it’s a substitute for talking face to face with people, and improving on my social skills for when they’re required. There’s no shortage of bloggers and You Tubers who are plagued with anxiety and depression; in fact you’d be forgiven for thinking it was included in the job description. Many of us claim blogging has given us a rewarding creative outlet and a way to talk to like-minded people, but the truth is it also gives us an excuse to hide behind a laptop, to tap away on our phones and avoid going out for the most part.

My advice? Enjoy the benefits. Enjoy the alone time that comes with blogging, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone because on the other side of fear lives success. To prove I’m not a total hypocrite I’ve even booked a place on my first bout of social media training, the Social Day in Birmingham, and I’ve joined all my local blogging chats to stay in the loop about the next meet up I can attend. I’ll keep you all updated and report back, I know I’ll survive and the positive outcomes will be worth every struggle.

How writing has improved my mental health 

what can i do to express myself mentally anxiety depression
I’ve not realised until recently how important writing is to me. I’ve started doing it everyday, it’s definitely become a habit but an enjoyable and healthy one at that. I still have ongoing mental health issues and probably always will, but finding a hobby I enjoy has been really helpful for me, here’s why…

It gives me structure 

I currently work part time at my day job and use the rest of my time to do some paid freelance work as well as my own blog. The need to write everyday has given me a more structured day which is really important for keeping me on a somewhat even keel. I don’t cope with change well, so establishing a healthy routine everyday is cruical to helping me feel in control of my life. I know I can’t really blog in the evenings because I want to spend time with my husband, so this forces me to set loose working hours during the day that fit around my day job. I normally write in the afternoons when I finish work, edit pictures and share posts on social media. The next morning I will do a final read through of that day’s post or project and publish it or send it off via email. Then I spend the rest of the day replying to comments, talking on Twitter and planning my next post to write that afternoon. This helps me keep busy in between meals, stopping me from fixating on food and also stops me from taking naps at random times in the day. Since I started writing everyday I also don’t watch any TV until after dinner, so that’s a good thing!

I can organise & communicate my thoughts

As an introvert I naturally shy away from too many social engagements and this is only agravated by my anxiety around people. Holding a conversation with someone is quite taxing for me, and I find polite chit chat incredibly hard to mainain for extended periods of time. It’s like I can feel the life draining from me as I try to stay alert and focused. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, more that I just can’t find the confidence to say it. With writing I can grab a pen and my journal and just take note of whatever I’m thinking at that moment, without fear of having it come out wrong, offend someone or be made fun of for it. I can get my feelings out of my head and onto paper where I can read them again, analyse what’s going on and then form it into a blog post if I think it’s of any interest. Although this might seem completely anti-social, for me it’s like having a practise conservation with myself before releasing it to the world for comment. The blogging community has led me to use Twitter a lot more which is a great way for me to meet like minded people, especially as I’ve just moved to a new city where I don’t know many people. Once my blog post goes live I can share it, talk to other people about it online and read other posts on similar topics. 

It’s a creative outlet 

I have always been mildly creative in my life. I say mildly because I don’t ever recall feeling compelled to draw. I just did it because I was bored. I wasn’t obsessed with writing music but I did it now and again, and went through phases of being in a band and playing a few instruments. I didn’t wake up and write poems everyday but I really enjoyed penning creative stories when the teacher asked for them. I studied Music for three years at university and after realising it wasn’t for me I just naturally stopped being creative.

The problem with depression and anxiety is that often you are bombarded with people asking “How do you feel?” and “What are you thinking? The truth is that sometimes it’s impossible to describe. It’s a sense of being that’s so overwhelming it’s hard I even spend time delving in for a closer look. It’s too much. Then once in a while I’ll hear a lyric or even just a melody, maybe one single note played on the piano that effortlessly sums up every thought in my head and every fibre of my being. I personally feel a great benefit from having a creative outlet, not just in the form of writing but in coming up with my blog images, layout and even my Instagram. There is nothing groundbreaking about my content. But the feeling of creating something that only exists because I chose to make it, is a wonderful feeling and a form of expression that should be celebrated. 

Have you found a hobby that helps improve your mental health?

Why do we love giving advice but never take it ourselves?

why do we love giving advice but never take it ourselves?

I’ve spent all weekend procrastinating. I’ve consulted my list of blog topics which grows everyday and normally never fails to inspire me. I’ve read other blogs, spent hours on Twitter talking to strangers, been to see not one but two movies at the cinema and watched about another five on Netflix to try and muster up some creativity to write today’s blog post. To be honest I’ve been going through a low point with my depression. There has been a lot of mindless sobbing and questioning the point of it all; not exactly what I had planned this weekend but when you deal with mental illness you don’t always get to choose what you do with your life – it controls you. I realised as my husband was comforting me that all the things he tells me are things that I myself have told to others. On Friday I even posted a blog about Self-care tips for when you’re depressed but I could barely bring myself to read it in my state never mind carry out some of the steps I suggested. So when it came to writing a blog today I though, why do we love giving advice but never take it ourselves?

Many of my blog posts on here take the form of advice. I try not to sound like a know-it-all (I certainly don’t know much) and purely draw on my own experiences in the hope that maybe some of it is transferable to my readers. As a sufferer of anxiety and depression I benefit from the symptom of over-thinking absolutely everything, questioning my own behaviours and looking for unhealthy patterns in my life. I believe the introspective life I lead can be detrimental to my happiness a lot of the time, as I scrutinize every decision I’ve ever made and see the worst in every situation, but it has also led me to notice some progress made in the long run – which led me to write many of the advice posts I’ve shared on here.

I find sharing my thoughts and advice therapeutic I suppose. Maybe we all do – that’s why they say talking is the best therapy, right? I get to offload all of my baggage, toss it into a blog post, organise and edit it just so, to make enough sense and maybe offer a lesson learned. I click ‘publish’ and for a brief few hours my mind is clear. My clustered musings are set free to the world, awaiting a response. When I get comments from readers saying that they identify with what I’ve written, I don’t feel at all qualified to have given them tips on how to ‘become a better person’, or ‘how to improve your body image’. I just feel content in the knowledge that someone out there is questioning themselves and their abilities too. I think I like giving advice because it reminds me that everyone needs advice. I’m not alone in feeling like I don’t have any of this shit figured out – but at least I’m trying.

When it comes to taking my own advice, well….

When I am feeling as much self-loathing as I’ve felt towards myself these past few days, why on earth would I read my own words with any confidence? When I wrote those words on self-care I was feeling empowered. I felt like I was over the hump of my last depressive period and I was ready yet again, to stand on my self-appointed soap box and preach to my listeners. My blog had the most traffic last month it’s ever had, I was full of confidence that my words had value and my little nook on the internet was worth fighting for. Cut to 24 hours later and I’m considering deleting all of my recent posts and putting a stop to all mental health chat on my blog because I have no right to speak a word online until I sort myself out. My own advice looks false, made up and as though it was written by someone else entirely. The person I am today would never have the strength to think that positively.

But I think that’s the point. I can’t take my own advice because when I really need it is when I’m doubting myself the most. We never praise ourselves. We never highlight our best parts when we look in the mirror. When we score 80% on a test we always focus on the 20% we didn’t get right. I’m human and I’ve been trained to put myself down. So when it comes to taking advice, when I need it most I am weak. I’m too deflated to look within myself and that’s normal. When I’m strong again I’ll be there for everyone else who’s struggling but until then I’ll settle for anyone’s advice but my own.