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

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 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?

 

 

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?

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?

 

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.

 

 

Year of gratitude week 2: Spouse

 

It time to explore the year of gratitude again, and I’m so excited to talk this week about how grateful I am to have my husband! If you like this post then check out this post from LuLu Blue on the same subject.

I don’t think you need to be in a relationship to be happy. Quite the opposite in fact; you need to be happy in yourself to develop a good relationship. I don’t talk much about my marriage online because it was my choice to start blogging – not his – and it’s not my place to start sharing our private life online. There are however a few things I want to highlight;

He has showed amazing strength throughout my mental illness

When I quit my job and soon realised I was unfit to work at all, he was incredibly supportive. He didn’t make me feel guilty about being unable to provide an income to our household and even though I often felt like I wasn’t contributing, I never felt under pressure to go back work until I was ready. I acted irrationally for many months. My social anxiety was particularly crippling but he was always by my side in those situations where I felt I might have to ‘escape’ at any moment. As soon as I needed to leave I gave him the secret nod and off we would trot, calmly without any fuss. This was an immense help to me because when I felt like a total weirdo he didn’t question it.

grwhat i'm grateful for 2017

He brought me to Birmingham

When he was offered his dream job in June 2016 and given a month to relocate, I didn’t think twice about screaming “Yes! Let’s go”. I’ll admit I had some teething issues when we first arrived – no surprise there – but I’m so happy we left Glasgow to come here. Obviously I still pine for real potato scones and Irn Bru on tap but Birmingham has given me so many opportunities with regards to blogging, work and meeting new people. I’m pretty sure I would never have ended up here (geographically and mentally) if it wasn’t for him so I’m incredibly grateful for that.

He accepts me entirely

We forget when we fall in love that things change. People’s interests and desires grow and adapt over time and this has been true for me over our 12 year relationship. When we met I was a rock-chick who slurped cider for breakfast. Now I’m a gym-addict who loves nothing more than a night in with a face mask and a bowl of soup. I’ve been a size 20 and a size 10. I’ve had a well-paid management job and now I work for minimum wage. No matter what decision I make or how I think I look to others, I know that I’ll always have the unconditional love of my husband.

What are you grateful for this week?

 

Year of gratitude week 1: Why start this challenge?

mental health blogger uk gratitude 2017 challenge

If you didn’t catch my post earlier this week, click here to find out more about the year of gratitude challenge that I’ve decided to try out on my blog.

I won’t lie. I kind of decided to do this at the last minute. I was at my in-laws house over Christmas and I was hiding in our allotted guest room whilst my husband was out with friends. I’d hit the wall with socialising and needed some time to myself. Whilst scrolling through Pinterest I came across this pin listing 52 writing prompts in relation to gratitude. Had I stumbled across this in the middle of August, it’s likely I’d have thought ‘nice idea’ and moved on. But with New Year’s Eve imminent and the thought of a new calendar of blog posts to plan, the concept seemed interesting. Here are a few specific reasons…

Weekly deadlines

When it comes to goal setting I’m a firm believer in ‘fake it until you make it’. I will set a deadline or sign up for something that seems totally unattainable, knowing deep down that the act of setting the goal is what forces me take action to make it happen. When I signed up to run a half marathon several years ago I knew that I would do it because I’d booked and paid for my place. I didn’t think about the end goal much, just the steps I had to take to get there. I announced it publicly – albeit just on Facebook – which it held me accountable; another mind trick I regularly use on myself when I’m putting off doing something. I like the idea of having a weekly schedule of ideas to write about from a blogging point of view. More importantly, I like that I will be reflecting on my life in a positive, helpful way on a regular basis. I believe this is going to set me up to have a strong, healthy outlook over the next 12 months.

My mental health

I’ve overcome some things in 2016 that I’m really proud of. I didn’t plan to do most of them but for whatever reason, I felt confident enough to try and I wasn’t disappointed. I started writing more regularly, made progress with my social anxiety, started to work through my body image problems and faced up to my issues around food. Blogging about mental health has been a cathartic process for me and for that I’m eternally grateful. I hope I always have the ability to write in some form, and committing to this challenge is a way to secure that for the next year. I know it will help me work through some negative thoughts as well as give thanks for everything that’s brought me to this point.

grateful for 2017 mental health blogger UK fiona thomas

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I make myself cringe when I read some of the crap I drone on about on here, and I’m fully aware that I sound like some self-proclaimed internet ‘life coach’ when I say you get what you give in life. I know you’ve heard it a hundred times before, but I truly believe that you receive the energy you give out. When you are constantly negative then your life becomes negative by default. I use the word ‘energy’ with no spiritual connotations; it’s merely the best word I can find to describe what I mean. I want to use this challenge as a way to send out positive energy about all the good things in life. I want to point out the small things that make my world a happy place, even when I’m not necessarily happy myself. Suffering from depression means that those days will certainly come, but I know making time to pick out the good will help me ride out the storm until it passes.

What are you grateful for today?

Why I’m making 2017 the year of gratitude

2017 mental health blogger UK gratitude

I’m always trying to be more mindful.

I’m getting better at it thanks to the odd yoga class and learning to put down my phone once in a while but of course, it’s all rather difficult.

Learning to count your blessings is difficult when you have depression. I feel empathy for complete strangers and bruise easily about causes which I don’t necessarily relate to my own life. I can feel heartbroken thinking about something I did year ago, and that inconsolable dread that accompanies my condition is sometimes hard to shake.

I’m slowly getting better though, and felt inspired when I stumbled across this post on Gurl.com and liked the idea of following the 52 weeks of gratitude challenge. Over the next year I’m aiming to write a short blog post each topic on a weekly basis as a way to document my journey of learning to be more grateful. Here’s the topic list in full if you want to join me….

52 weeks of gratitude mental health blogger UK

If you don’t blog then I think this is still a great tool to give you a writing prompt every week to reflect in your personal journal, or even just spend a few minutes peacefully reflecting on what you’re grateful for.

What do you think?