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 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.