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Blue sky thinking

Today is a good day.

I normally write when I’m in the depths of despair, but I figured that as much as I use this blog for therapy I should also use it for celebration. This post isn’t a chronicle of surviving another dark day, or an SOS call – it’s just acknowledging that good days happen too.

Yesterday was hard work. Mondays are difficult for most people but I think that’s because for most people Monday represents responsibility. Back to school, back to work, back to getting your head down so you can make enough money /get enough stuff done / tick enough boxes to throw caution to the wind when the weekend comes. I eradicated the horrible Sunday night feeling when I became my own boss, but Monday can still be a tricky one for me. It means back to reality, and even when your reality is a very comfortable one it is still as not much fun as Saturday nights out and lazy Sunday afternoons.

Monday was horrid but I made it through. I took time out to calm myself down, I didn’t beat myself up if I couldn’t do something and I let go. I went to sleep much calmer than I had woken, and despite  a string of horribly miserable Tuesdays I was pleasantly surprised to wake up not feeling like I had a goblin sat on my self esteem.

Blue skies help big time. I am a proud Mancunian and I think the rain can have a romantic quality about it, but it’s still hard work to keep optimistic when life seems to be going downhill and it’s the third day of torrential downpours. Today it feels like spring. It’s still cold and the trees are still bare, but the sky is such a shocking shade of blue it feels like I’ve not seen it cloudless for a long time. Sunshine is definitely medicine on days like today.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still road bumps in my day – working niggles, e-mails that need replying to, plans that need ironing out, decisions to be made. But I don’t feel like I need to hide in a cupboard, nor am I looking at one way flights to Peru and planning to leave my life behind in the dead of the night. Life is not perfect, but today still has it’s loveliness and I am acknowledging that.

I would apologise for writing something quite plain and perhaps even boring, but the feeling of freedom in my ribcage is just too nice for me to not write about. I hope wherever you are that today is treating you well, and if it’s not I hope a bit of blue sky offers some comfort.

 

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The best way to get rid of a Dementor is to write about it

It’s been one of those days, and I have retreated to my safe place of happy films and Pinterest. During an inspirational pinning session (we’ve all been there am I right) I found a quote about writing – ‘a day will come when the story inside you will want to breathe on it’s own, and that’s when you’ll start writing’. Sometimes I get so sad I feel like I’ve swallowed a black cloud and my ribcage is going to burst. Sometimes I am scared of leaving my bedroom for fear of life collapsing around my ears, and no matter how hard I try ‘life’ that day I end up lying on my side in the dark waiting for my husband to come home. There are days when I am the essence of fun-loving itself, but there are days when a text can reduce me to tears – swings and roundabouts, bloody swings and roundabouts. Today is one of those days where the Dementor is sat with me in the living room as I tap at my keyboard, so I might as well try to tap him away (much less calorific than chocolate too).

I’m incredibly lucky to have lots of wonderful people in my life – people who give me pep talks when I need them, people who are a shoulder to cry on, people who are ready to kick me in the direction of reality when I need it – but not everyone can talk about it as freely as I can. So many sources claim that 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer from depression at some point in their lives, so you’d think it would be easy to talk about, right? Not right after all. It’s getting easier, especially if you’ve stopped caring what most people think as I have done, but it’s not nearly as easy as it should be. You can chat to your friends if you’ve come down with a cold, or if your smear test came back irregular, or if you’ve been getting regular headaches – all medical problems, all illnesses – but if the illness happens to be depression then the conversation is a lot less run-of-the-mill.

These days people seem to be a lot more informed about mental health issues, even if they don’t suffer themselves or know someone close who does, but there is still a mystery there and I’m beginning to think it is down to the sufferers to fill in the gaps. I have amazing friends who have said I am the only person they know with depression, so it is up to me to explain it as best as I can – to send them into the world and every day life with a better knowledge of what it’s like to live as a normal, functioning, fun-loving human being that happens to live with the black dog every now and then. Where do you begin though?!

I read an incredible book on honeymoon called ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig. I couldn’t recommend it enough, and if I was more financially stable I’d buy every single friend of mine a copy. In the early days I read a lot of psychology books, thinking if I could identify what was physically happening inside my head I’d understand it all better. I’ve read memoirs, I’ve read articles, I’ve read every blog under the sun – clinical depression, PTSD, post-natal depression, grief, stress, bipolar, personality disorder…every single one gave me another snippet of understanding, another patch to add to the fabric of knowledge, but this book was the biggest lightbulb moment of them all. I’m a very quick reader but I absolutely devoured every page of ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’. It’s basically about a man who suddenly began having panic attacks which lead to a massive breakdown and his subsequent diagnosis of depression. He is brutally honest about the lows, some I’ve definitely not experienced myself, but every paragraph gave me that feeling I love from the best kinds of books, the feeling that someone else has felt the exact same thing as I have.

If you asked me how depression felt the answer would change depending on the day. When I’m happy, depression is like a rainy day – you know one is going to come by eventually, and even though you’re not looking forward to it you are comfortable in the knowledge that it won’t last forever and besides, it’s such a sunny day you can’t possibly think about a rainy one. When I’m sad, it’s like someone has literally sucked the endorphins out of me; I can look at happy photos of myself and feel like it’s someone else’s face smiling back at me – that can’t possibly be me, I can’t comprehend I was ever that happy and the thought that feeling will ever come to me again is impossible to imagine.

It’s like true love – when you feel it, you know, and explaining it succinctly to anyone else is not an easy task.

I have not had a really awful episode for quite some time now, and I am touching wood that it is quite some time until I have to endure one again. When I get a visit from the Dementors it is unpleasant and unkind, but I have to remind myself my current success rate of defeating them is 100% so I’m doing alright. I can’t explain how it feels and I can’t make it easier for people near me to understand, but the fact people are actually acknowledging that it is a struggle is a victory in itself.

To all my friends and special people who have come to notice when the black dog is visiting, who know to give me space or that there are times when I am truly not myself, my gratitude could never be as full as I wish it could be. To all my friends who still don’t quite understand, thank you for sticking with me all the same. I hope one day we will all be able to talk about the problems in our heads as easily as we can talk about the problems with our bodies. Until more money, research and resources are ploughed into mental health issues and their treatments, we’re going to have to get used to them being around. Might as well get talking.

 

 

 

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Fifty Shades of Blue

They say therapy comes in all different forms. Some people like to sit on a big couch and tell a professional all their problems; some people like to sit on a friend’s couch and tell said friend all their problems. Some people go shopping, some people pour a stiff drink and some people buy a cat. I can find therapy in all sorts of different places – it’s usually in friends or Harry Potter marathons or taking deep breaths in my garden, but sometimes the tried and tested methods don’t seem to cut the mustard. Tonight is one of those nights so I am turning to the age-old therapy of writing about it in the hope that it will help.

I don’t know how long it’s been since I last wrote. I started this blog in the hope that I’d be able to chip in regularly, but this grand idea faded quite quickly when I realised it would either become an amateur attempt at self-healing or a constant update of my temperamental changes in mood, something which is hard enough for an individual to cope with let alone people reading for fun.

I didn’t want to write only when I was in the depths of despair, nor did I want to write when I was having an on-top-of-the-world day and feeling obnoxiously optimistic. Depression can be both those feelings, but more often than not it is a spectrum – fifty shades of blue, if you will.

There is the warm glow of periwinkle when you wake up to realise all those nasty thoughts keeping you awake last night are actually untrue, and your head has allowed you to get through this day without a mean voice badgering every move. There is the deepest navy of those days where you feel like you will never see periwinkle again and the only place you deserve to be is crying in the corner of a dark room because you are worth no more. Some people might think that to have depression means only having navy, and to not have depression means everything is periwinkle all the time, but they don’t see all those shades in between where people suffering from depression spend most of their time.

When it’s a bright day my brain tells me I’m exactly where I need to be and that I deserve every success. On a pale day, it tells me I am lucky and that I should be grateful. On a dark day, it tells me no-one knows quite how I’ve held on for this long and the world will soon discover my happy life is all a mistake. How I feel about life depends on the shade of day I’m having, and it’s easy to see why depression is so exhausting.

I’m at a really busy time of my life at the moment – thankfully, I am often too busy to be concerned with what shade I am and the only option is to plough through regardless. Although this is a successful strategy for getting stuff done, it does leave me feeling knackered and more susceptible to the darker blues when I am lying in bed late at night with a tired body and a whirring brain.

Night time is the worst time, hence me writing this blog post at such an ungodly hour. No matter how busy I have been during the daytime, as soon as evening comes along I am panicking about the night and readying myself to fill it with activity to the point where my eyes are struggling to stay open and sleep is the only option. I distinctly remember dreading bedtime when I was a child and now I am 25 that fear has not gone away – I just have no adults to make me go to bed now, so my early hours are filled with work, books, jobs around the house and music until my brain is forced to succumb. It’s not ideal when a good night’s sleep is billed as the ultimate keystone for a healthy life, but anything that stops me from crying into my pillow at 4am gets my vote.

The clock is pushing 2.30am now and I feel like I’ve dragged this night out as long as I can. In past posts I have managed to wrap everything up on a positive note, but perhaps this post is about being comfortable with how things are going whatever shade you are feeling. It has turned into the first day of a new month, and it’s a month which marks the start of a very busy, meaningful and exciting time in my life. I know happy times don’t guarantee a happy mood, and that a difficult patch doesn’t mean constant dark days, but I am learning to make the most of the light in every day no matter how dim it can seem.

Morning will be here soon in more ways than one, and if there’s one thing I can be sure of it’s that I always feel better in the morning.

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Fortune favours the brave

Brave is something I aspire to be whole-heartedly. I have friends who have travelled half way around the world on their own, started new lives in different countries, pursued their dream careers without compromising, started families of their own – all these things are brave beyond belief through my eyes. To have an idea and commit to it no matter how hard it can get or what is going on around you, that is bravery to me.

The bravest thing I’ve ever done is stood up in front of a large audience and said something out loud. To some people that is the scariest thing going, but because it doesn’t bother me to do such a thing I can’t imagine it on the bravery scale in between rescuing kittens from trees and eloping.

I have a wild imagination for adventure and exciting things, but in real life I am the kind of person who plots brave actions in her head for so long that by the time I’ve decided to do something the opportunity has long passed. I am Myroslava and I overthink too much to be brave.

So how do I become brave? I sometimes think life is like a cold swimming pool on holiday. If you want to get in and enjoy it, the best thing to do is stop dilly-dallying on the edge and just jump straight in. Your landing might not be perfect, people might laugh at your attempt to get into the water and it might be a lot colder than you expected, but goddamnit you’re in there at last.

Asking someone for a date or their hand in marriage, applying for a job way out of your league, chopping your hair off, moving to India…it’s all just jumping into that cold swimming pool in the hope it will be lovely when you’re there.

I have always been a dilly-dallyer round the pool of life. I see other people enjoying being in the water, and put every fibre of my being into wishing myself there instead of actually bloody jumping. I hope and wish and dream and imagine, but rarely turn it into action. I worry that people will look at me and think I can’t do it. I worry they will be waiting to laugh if my jump is not perfect or if I don’t land where I expected. I worry that it won’t be as good as I imagined and I will wish I’d never jumped at all.

I’ve spent all of my life being the worrier on the side of the swimming pool, but at the grand age of 25 I have finally built myself up to make a leap and jump into the water.

When I left university I had all kinds of big plans for my life, but one thing and another (the recession and the fact I fell head over heels for a boy from the Midlands) stopped my dreams in their tracks. To accommodate the parts of my life which I loved, I put other parts on the back burner till I’d come up with a Plan B – my career being one of them.

I started working part time for a car dealership to make some money and bide some time until a lightbulb popped up over my head and my dream job became apparent. I’ve always been academic so there were a few raised eyebrows when I answered the dreaded career question with ‘admin’ as opposed to neuro-surgeon, but plenty of my friends have had to take a compromise in the path to career success.

A year passed, and another. My friends were moving to big cities and foreign countries, and I was still sat behind a desk wearing a regulation scarf. Quiet shifts lead me to start day-dreaming and doodling all over anything I could get my hands on, and when a colleague made a comment that I should start selling my drawings a little seed was planted.

I started small, selling my wares at local events and working from recommendation to recommendation. I cringe when I look back to the way I used to do certain things, and I have nothing but love for all the people who followed my business from it’s shaky inception to what it is today. For now, almost three years later, I have finally made the jump into that big cold swimming pool of life.

When I handed in my notice, I had the usual nerves and panic but never once a feeling that I was doing the wrong thing. When my sensible and level-headed mother agreed that I should give myself a fighting chance despite the fears of failing, I knew I was on the right track. In a few days time, I will hand my regulation scarf and regular pay checks back to the Man and start a new chapter of my life as my own boss.

When I first made this crazy decision to spend my life trying to do what I love, I was met with the standard reactions. Good, bad, concerned, elated, every person’s eyebrows were raised for one reason or another but whatever their sentiments, the word ‘brave’ came up a lot. Now I equate brave with jumping off a cliff or applying for GBBO, but when I think about it saying no to the norm and taking your own path is actually quite a brave thing to do.

Doing a brave thing does not make me a brave person. I am fully aware that I am going to face some very difficult days ahead. There are days when I will doubt my work and my talents and my own sense of self. There will be days where I wish I’d never jumped, I’m sure. But waking up every morning and knowing you get to do what you love, to do something you are good at? To know that you are fully in charge of your success? I don’t think that’s an opportunity I can pass up on.

I worry that I may not succeed, and I worry that everyone will be on the sidelines to watch said failure with popcorn and those little theatre binoculars. I worry that I am being frivolous thinking I can make a life from something I enjoy, when I watch others around me struggle through the working week. I worry that someone is watching me thinking that living your dreams is a possibility and that I am going to let them down. But what does worrying do?! It does nothing but fill my head with nonsense that snowballs into the very thoughts that kept me on the side of the swimming pool for so long.

No more. No more dilly-dallying, or tears of panic. Well, maybe just more minimal amounts of both. It is time to take a deep breath, close my eyes and make the leap. If the water isn’t how I imagined, I would much rather confirm that for myself instead of spending a life in wonder. I’ve never done anything brave in my life and I’ve gone from dipping my toe cautiously into the shallow end to throwing myself off the highest diving board.

Normal me would clam up at the thought of that, but brave me isn’t going to put up with all this waiting around any more. ‘Tis better to say ‘oh well’ than ‘what if’…time to jump my friends.

Resolutions

I am a sucker for making resolutions – I don’t need 1st January to whip out a list of good intentions, just give me a Monday morning or the day after a particularly heavy night out and I’m signing myself up to all sorts.

But it’s a new year that is the real king of fresh starts. It’s a chance for us to take everything that happened in the past 365 days and condense it into one tidy box, easily kept on the good shelf in our memory marked ‘ones to remember’ or else shifted into a dark spot with the other ‘ones to forget’. We sum it up in a photo montage of gratitude to our loved ones, or we pack it into a shrug of the shoulders and a wish for better things in the months ahead – whichever the outcome, 1st January arrives and we’re all there with a list of all the ways this year will be our time to shine.

Trainers are dusted off, books are bought, promises are made. The status updates and photos of fresh smoothies and early morning runs come in a flurry, until they die down to infrequent splutters like Manchester snow. And then we’re back on the takeaways and all out of free time to go to yoga, promising ourselves it will all change with the clocks.

I am one of the biggest culprits for resolution making and breaking. Like everyone else, I relish those first few weeks of a full diary and positive vibes. Like everyone else, I lose motivation not long after and convince myself I couldn’t have done it anyway.

I remain unhappy with myself, with how little quality time I spend with my loved ones, how little I push myself to do things – but fresh journals and fitness apps and books of inspirational quotes will only get us so far. Unless the end result is something we truly desire and believe in, no resolution list on a post-it is going to get us there.

My past years of bright intentions and pale failures are prominent in my mind every January, but this year I have decided that if I am to change, my resolutions are going to have to change with me. This year I have condensed years of wishes to better myself into one goal, and that is to cultivate positivity.

Quite a feat for someone who suffers from depression and has a tendency to be over-emotional, and a hell of a lot harder than pursuing a new hobby in pom-pom making, but something I feel is the root of living a full and happy life.

As someone famous once said and I once saw on a Pinterest quotes board, happiness is a choice that requires effort at times. Just like it can be hard to pull on those trainers when it’s cold and dark outside, it is not always easy to choose looking on the bright side. It can feel quite normal for me to be all sunshine and rainbows but that’s a hard state to maintain when you’re walking through rain clouds.

My first step in cultivating positivity is to get to grips with my depression. Although last year was a blissfully happy one for me, there were still dark days where I wanted to do nothing but lock myself at home with a bucket of happy pills and books that couldn’t hurt my feelings like people do.

I know that these dark days are never going to go away, but this year I will learn to spot the signs that pave their path towards me and if I find myself still swept up in the storm I will give myself time to ride it out and recover afterwards. I will let those who I love look after me when I need to be looked after, and shake me up when I need that too.

It’s easy to say that we should cut out all negativity from our lives, but reality is not Pinterest. There are responsibilites we have, things we need to do and people we don’t necessarily gel with that are all part of our lives and impossible to remove. I cannot control these situations but I can control how I respond to them – I will try to come to terms with the fact that negativity will still be around, but that I can choose not to let it take over (this is the point where being happy seems like a bloody pain and I wish I picked pom-pom making as my resolution instead).

Finally, and most importantly for me, I will have no shame in this journey to having a happier life.

I may come across as a confident person who is assured in her path, but all it takes is the seeing a snigger out of the corner of my eye to knock the wind out of my sails. Countless times have friends told me to stop giving people such a hold over how I feel, but as with everything in this happiness malarky it can be easier said than done. Well, this is the year I try to get it done.

How many times have you had a wonderful day or a brilliant response to something you’ve done, and spent all your time afterwards pondering on the negative response of one individual? How many times have you absorbed the criticism of a few over the good vibes of many? How many times have you worried about someone you just don’t seem to gel with when you could be concentrating on your friends and the people who would do anything for you?

This is the year it stops my friends. I will take the little rocks of negativity that people surreptitiously throw at me and with them I will build the foundation of a happy life where people like that have no place. I will listen to the opinions, and criticisms, of those who love me and care about me. I will champion those that do, and I will commit way less time and worry to those that don’t.

I don’t predict that this will be an easy journey, and I definitely know it will take longer than 365 days, but one thing I am sure of is that I will be a better person for at least trying.

For all those of you who read these ramblings and also suffer from depression or anxiety or low self esteem, I encourage you to come along on the journey with me. Take the small steps to looking after yourself and trying to spring clean your head of all the negativity and jibes and memories of mean people that you can. Fill the space with positive thoughts, your real hopes and dreams, the love of your special ones. Commit your time to reciprocating that love instead of wasting time on negative individuals.

Take a moment to absorb how far you’ve come instead of panicking how far there still is to go. Add up everything that is good in your life and tuck it into a special place to be looked at on those dark days when the dementors can’t be kept at bay.

Life is short and if there’s one thing we deserve to try and be, it’s as happy as we possibly can. Let’s make 2015 the year we start eh?

Here’s to friends (and good medication)

Today is World Mental Health Day, and according to the Mental Health Foundation about a quarter of the British public will suffer with some form of mental health problem within the course of a year, mild anxiety and depression being the most common.

It makes me sad that in a world where we have become so (rightly) concious about our physical health and wellbeing, it is still a difficult act to admit out loud that you suffer from mental health issues, and to get the support you need.

When I first went to the GP as a worried and teary 19 year old, she hardly blinked before prescribing me with anti-depressants and I didn’t think twice about taking them. Depression is a big black cloud to a young person, the kind of thing experienced by people who go through trauma and difficult situations; not reasonably chirpy teenagers. It would take six months before I could be slotted in to speak for 45 minutes with a professional psychologist, but those little tablets could be in my hands within the half an hour it took the pharmacist to dispense them.

I have seen with my own eyes how important medication can be to those who suffer with mental health issues on any point of the spectrum – friends who have suffered severely have had their lives turned around by the right tablets, giving them the chance to live a normal life with a clearer mind. It has given them the power to be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do without fear of their condition standing in the way. It has given their nearest and dearest peace of mind and faith in a future that is bright and not littered with the worry of hospitals and breakdowns.

For me, medication planted the foundations for my ‘good place’ – after a year or two of taking regular tablets, I found myself to be in a comfortable enough position to stop taking anything and work on maintaining my good place with other methods. I found a routine, I worked on improving my sleeping patterns, I concentrated on getting healthier and all the way through I was and still am surrounded by my network of lovely supporters.

Stephen Fry once said that it’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do – as happens with most things this glorious man says, I completely agree with him.

I am lucky enough to have a unit of nearest and dearest who have seen me in the brightest of light and the darkest of shade. They have handled my excessive excitement when I am having a good day, bubbling over into annoying territory most probably. They have helped me when I am sad and quiet with no particular reason to be. They have coped with irrational thoughts, and mini breakdowns, and floods of tears, and texts at ridiculous o’clock. And yet they remain. It is definitely hard for them, but they are definitely the kindest and noblest people I know.

For some people medication is something that is imperative for them to lead a normal life. For others, medication is a safety net to be used when someone needs to be brought back to a healthy place before they can take on the rest of the journey themselves.

Whoever it is and whatever their relationship with tablets, I can guarantee that having supportive people around is the best supplementary therapy there is. Being supportive isn’t always sunshine and rainbows – there are days when you need a rational voice to cut through all the gibberish messing with your head, and sometimes that voice needs to say things you don’t want to hear. It is hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but as harsh as that voice can sound there will come a day when you can look back and see that that voice did good.

It makes me sad to know that there are lovely, bright and beautiful people in my own circle of friends and accquaintances who cannot speak about their depression. It makes me sad to think of all those people who suffer completely in silence. Statistically we will all know someone who suffers with a mental health issue, and whether it’s severe or mild or there is medication involved or not, someone who cares can be the best therapy there is.

The more we talk to our friends and family and the more open we are about mental health issues, the easier it gets to admit when there is a problem and the easier it is to get the right help. There don’t need to be fanfares or blogs written or t-shirts emblazoned with ‘I’M CHEMICALLY IMBALANCED’, but even the thought that support is out there should you need it can be all you need to keep going.

On this World Mental Health Day I would like to say thank you to everyone who keeps me going through the peaks and troughs of my own journey with depression – from the 1am call answerers to the people I’ve never met who are reading this blog right now, thank you. In your own way you are a friend to someone who is depressed and although it is hard, it makes you kind and noble.

A rough patch

The universe dictates that what goes up must come down, and after the brilliant few months I’ve had recently I was expecting a crash in the happiness index at some point.

I’ve not written much recently purely for the reason that my mind has been at peace and I have been too busy to notice if the peachiness of life has decreased a little at any point.

The Dementors strike without warning though, and this week my seemingly innocent Monday blues turned into a week of being thoroughly down in the dumps – and I tried everything to get rid. Dancing, which is a perfect activity to let off steam through pointed toes and tapping feet; my favourite comfort books and television programmes; planning a busy social calendar over the next few weeks with plenty to look forward to; spending time with people I love…

To not much avail. My sleep went from a reasonable 7-8 hours a night after a little light reading to a broken 5, littered with waking up, bad dreams and the obligatory tossing and turning. In my eyes sleep is the key to feeling happy and healthy, so when you’re already miserable and not meeting your five-a-day quota the removal of decent sleep is paramount to disaster.

When I have a rough patch I try to give it a time limit – if I wake up feeling rubbish on a Monday morning, I tell myself by the time Tuesday comes I will have done everything possible to try and wake up happy again. I try and keep busy to distract myself from feeling blue; I make lists to compact what’s fizzing around my head into colour-coordinated bullet points in the hope they will alleviate the weight on my mind; I try to combat what I’m going through with action, but sometimes even good intentions and a pack of highlighters can’t help. You just need to ride it out.

I feel after five days of struggling to get up in the mornings, sporadic teary moments and endless list making, I am finally on my way out of the little black hole my chemical imbalance has dragged me into this week.

I have learnt on this occassion that making myself super busy might take my mind off the blues temporarily but I am left running on empty. I have learnt that my time is precious and should be spent on the people who bring out the best in me, and not the stress in me – I shouldn’t be worrying about negative people in my life when there are so many wonderful individuals who want what is best for me, because they are where my attention and reciprocation should be going to.

I have learnt that sometimes you just have to mope around a little bit before you feel ready to grab yourself by the collar and shake some good stuff back into life. It’s okay to take a bit of time out and it’s okay to not be doing jazz hands twenty four seven.

I wanted to write this little piece because it can be frustrating and disheartening to have a rough patch – everything is good but for a week you turn everything over in your mind so much that a lovely life can manifest itself into a list of problems and issues that keep you awake all night long and bring you to tears.

Whether you’ve got the Monday blues, or it’s been a bad week, or a rough month, it’s going to be okay. Take time to get your body and mind back to full energy levels; concentrate on the good people in your life and don’t invest so much thought in those bringing you down; eat ice cream and watch Harry Potter if it helps, and it probably will. I am taking a weekend away from my usual life to recharge my batteries and I shall hopefully return with my chirpiness in tact, ready to get back to life.

There will always be storms and although it’s a great skill to be able to dance in the rain, sometimes it’s fine to just wait for it to pass.

Your mind is a dangerous neighbourhood, and you shouldn’t go in there alone at night.

I have always had a vivid imagination and although I am sure I’ll be grateful for that when my children ask for bedtime stories off the cuff, the stronger your imagination the more you can manipulate your mind into believing anything and everything – the more you can convince yourself a molehill is Everest, and that you just won’t be able to stand the climb.

My brain can be so powerful at times that it is simple to go from ‘That deadline is really getting to me, I don’t know if I’m going to make it in time’ to ‘I’m going to lose my job/run my business into the ground/push all my loved ones away and die alone’ in about twenty minutes flat. Or five hours of tossing and turning in bed if my brain is feeling particularly devious, because night time is when the Dementors thrive.

I have never been a good sleeper since I was a little girl, but the year I was diagnosed with depression things started to get out of hand. The normal person’s midnight felt like my 7pm start-of-the-evening, and I got to know 4am very well as a bedtime during those years. I know many people that struggle with sleeping, and the problem is that night time is a very lonely place.

I have friends who, as good friends do, say ‘call me at any time, day or night, and I’ll be there’, but if I were to take them up every time I needed help they’d be getting a phone call at about 3am every morning and I doubt the practicality of that. I know they love me, and I know they’d help if they could, but unfortunately night time battles often need to be fought alone.

Coping with over-thinking and the intensity of your thoughts can be easier in the day when distraction is everywhere – you have things to do, places to be and people to see, and even if you haven’t got any of those it is much easier to busy yourself in daylight hours. It is safer to go for a walk in the park to clear your head, it is more practical to be proactive in taking your mind off things and it is much easier to find people to call for a chat when it’s not gone midnight.

Night time comes and I often get anxious about the kind of night I am going to have, which inevitably makes my worrying worse. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve gone through the whole ritual in the hope that tonight I will sleep – hot bath, cool bedroom, no phone, writing my worries down on paper to supposedly get them out of my head, lavender on the pillow, a bit of controlled breathing…but it never seems to do the trick.

I’m sure making myself comfortable and relaxed helps, but I can’t be the only one that feels it’s easier when I am busy and stressed because I don’t have a minute to contemplate just how busy and stressed I am, and having a minute to think leads me to panic that everything is ten times worse, and then I am crying and it seems that the sheer exhaustion from getting upset is what knackers me out enough to send me to sleep. And I do not want to rely on tears to make sure I am getting my 8 hours a night.

Things have got better since I moved in with my boyfriend and a routine was established. I make an effort to go to bed at the same time, sometimes as early as 10.30pm which would horrify my 19 year-old self. It takes a truly exhausting day to send me to sleep straight away, but I find the hours spent staring at the ceiling until the sky goes light outside have reduced.

It can be the loneliest thing in the world to be lying next to someone you love very much and feeling horrendous, but I try to keep in mind that no matter how awful I convince myself that life is at 3am, there is at least one person that has decided to stick with me through it. This tiny glow of a nice thought encourages me to look at my phone and scroll through a few photos of happy times or lovely messages from friends (we all have a little collection somewhere!) and it’s like a Patronus working it’s magic.

For another night the Dementors have been silenced in their tracks, and I drift off to sleep maybe not feeling ecstatic with the state of the world but at least feeling content that I am doing my best, and that is enough. My Granny was right when she said things are always better in the morning, and there is a glint of relief when you wake up to that light sky and can say you made it through another night.

I know there will be many of you who are reading this and nodding, and it gives me comfort to know once again that I am not alone in my troubles. If you should find yourself lying there with eyes wide open and a brain trying it’s best to shatter your hopes and dreams from within, just remember that the darkest hour is the hour before it starts to get light.

You will eventually fall asleep, you will eventually wake again and you will be able to fight another day and another night again. I know they say your mind is a dangerous neighbourhood and you shouldn’t go in there alone, but you are not alone, you never have been, and you never will be, no matter how it may feel.

Comparison is the thief of joy

You’re in a restaurant and after much deliberation of the menu, you place your order. You tell yourself you made the right choice and begin to look forward to it. The kitchen door swings open and a plate of awesomeness is carried through the room to another table – you set your eyes on it and boom, your mind starts to change. We had the same menu, why didn’t I think of choosing that!? Mine’s going to be rubbish compared to that – should I change my order? No, I’ll just sit here and try and convince myself my food will be fine. But it won’t, because I want that. Why do I never choose the good thing…

Sound familiar? I feel I am a major victim of envy in restaurants and bars and life. They say that envy is counting other peoples’ blessings instead of counting your own, and although we all know what it entails that doesn’t mean it’s easy to stop.

I find the beginning of the week a place for envy to get stuck in. The weekend is over, and social media comes alive with statuses and pictures documenting everyone having so much fun! Drinks! Dancing! Looking glamourous! Going to exotic locations! So much good stuff that you weren’t involved in and that’s your problem!

Maybe you were skint and couldn’t stretch to a night on the tiles. Maybe you weren’t feeling too hot and didn’t want to leave the house. Maybe you had promised to visit your relatives or actually stay at home and do stuff that needs doing for once. Maybe you missed the memo for all the good times and are left worrying that you’re not fun enough to keep up with the party people any more. Maybe you’re not fun at all. Damn you social media.

See how the snowball of over-thinking works? Your thoughts can be your worst enemy when you have depression, and it has taken me years and a lot of effort to turn these negative snowballs into logical thoughts and steer myself into a happy place that doesn’t leave me reading Harry Potter till 4am to ensure I go to bed happy.

The grass always seems greener on the other side, especially when you have a dark cloud over your field that doesn’t seem to be going away. Why don’t you look like your gorgeous best friend? Why don’t you know what you want to do with your life and pursue it? Why aren’t you in a relationship and settled down?

When the seed of doubt is planted and the weeds are obscuring whatever self confidence was there to start with, it’s hard to look into your soul and see what you really, really want.

Is it really a size eight body? Is it really moving to London to follow the dream? Is it really getting married in the next two years? Is it really jacking it all in and buying a ticket around the world?

If these thoughts are so constant and recurring then maybe it is what you want, and you should channel all the negative energy into positive and take the steps towards your goal. If you happen to have these life epiphanies while you’re scrolling down Facebook on a Sunday night in your pyjamas, maybe you need to take a step back and assess the condition of your own grass.

A while ago, I had a little life panic about the greeness of my grass. My nearest and dearest friends were at an exciting crossroads in their lives – new careers, opportunities to travel, blossoming relationships, all this adventure happening around me while I was at home.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is wonderful – I have found someone I love dearly, we have a home, I have a small business that is growing and a steady part-time job that keeps me going in the quiet months, and a busy social life with lots of lovely people around me. Sounds great right? And yet it can all be reduced to very little when I am faced with pictures and stories of friends and accquaintances on adventures. Sounds stupid right?

Comparison is definitely the thief of joy, and I find when I am wishing I was living the dreams of strangers on the internet I look back at photos of my lovely life to reaffirm it is indeed lovely, and I have nothing to worry about. I should know this as a given, but that’s something I am working on.

A wonderful friend of mine gave me a little piece of advice which helps me when the green-eyed envy monster comes along, and I think it is so useful I would like to share it with you.

Everyone is on their own adventure, and whether yours is on a beach in South East Asia or in a high-powered job or in your living room, you are right where you need to be. We all get to different parts of the adventure at different times, and the trick is to enjoy your stay. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift – that’s why they call it the present. Are you enjoying yours?

Homemade Therapy

There are many tools out there for coping with depression, from the NHS approved to the homeopathic to the stuff people’s Grans swear by. Pills, potions, hypnosis, counselling, diet, exercise, crystals, pets…I for one have read many books, tried many oils and eaten some unusual fruit combinations in the pursuit of a clear head. The more positive changes you make to your lifestyle the better, but sometimes the blues hit you on a Wednesday night and no two week plan is going to save you at that point.

That’s where a little homemade therapy comes in. Here is a dinky list of things I think can help when the Dementors pay you a visit, and unlike most guides which give you great ideas for banishing the blues if they conveniently hit in the middle of the day when you happen to have time to spare and money to burn, hopefully some of these can help during those dark moments when the rest of the world is asleep.

Don’t panic – like a hangover, this unpleasantness will eventually pass and you just have to make yourself as comfortable as possible for the duration.

Have something to watch or read or listen to that is guaranteed to take you to a bit of a happy place. Something you’ve watched so many times you know all the words, songs that remind you of times you’ve been deliriously happy, a book that takes you back to being a kid. Countless times I have been saved in the middle of the night by Harry Potter and Jonathon Creek, thank you chaps.

Move. I always think being out of breath makes you feel alive, and those endorphins are like your Patronus. If you’re a runner (I applaud you) get out and feel the wind in your hair. If you’re not, take a walk and stamp out the bad thoughts with every footstep – concentrate on your breathing, lengthen your strides and make sure your heart is beating, the Dementors won’t be eradicated with a casual stroll. Put on some music and dance in your bedroom, smack a pillow until your fist gets tired, do some press ups. Be out of breath, sweat, feel stronger.

Write it down. It’s incredibly easy to say ‘call a friend, speak to someone’ but depression is a lonely disease – acknowledging your problems are worth sorting out is a hard enough step, talking about them is another hurdle all together. When people said write it down I was always dubious because putting them out there physically as words on a page felt like I was making them real. It has taken me a few years to realise they are much more dangerous piling up in your head, so get them out. Scribble a list on paper, type them out as fast as you can without editing, write them as a text on your phone. Write, read, acknowledge, delete in style (rip up the paper, have a five second bonfire or just press the backspace button super hard).

Have a long hot shower – I know it’s tempting to let everything go to pot but you do feel better when your hair is washed, you have removed that beard and you’re wearing clothes that smell like fabric softener – I don’t know why but you just do.

Don’t raid the drinks cabinet. It’s easy to find solace in a bottle but imagine how bad you feel now and add a hangover, it’s not worth it.

Read something inspirational. Some motivational quotes, an article about some good being done in the world…there’s a video knocking about of corgis running in slow motion for 6 minutes and I can vouch for that if everything else fails.

REST. Perhaps the hardest of all tasks for someone with depression is to relax – your thoughts come everywhere with you and being on your own in peace and quiet can see like the worst idea in the world, but your brain and body need a break. Beating yourself up and feeling crap is tiring, and is not weak to admit when you need to take some time out for yourself.

Sometimes all it takes is one from the list to ease the blues and sometimes you need to keep trying different things until you find one that works. Whether it’s buying yourself flowers, spending half an hour with a punch bag or listening to bad music, if it takes your mind off the Dementors then it’s a good thing to do.

No matter how dark it seems, the sun will always come out again – we just have to embrace those moments in the shade.