the mental health plague

Do you want to know why we don’t tell a soul?

Do you want to know why it is kept under lock?

Do you want to know why we scuttle through shadows,

Licking our wounds and patching up gashes,

With dirty, torn rags and useless, worn plasters?

It’s because we’re ashamed and it’s all down to you,

Making us feel like we’re meant for the corner

With the rats and the vermin,

The creatures that nobody wishes to see.

Because you are worried that we may infect,

That our weakness will claw at your shell that is cracking.

And once the disease is inside the body,

There’s no fighting the symptoms with rainbows and smiles

And all of the things you suggest all day long.

Better to turn a blind eye to the darkness,

Or maybe just shout at it, bully it out?

Because you are respectable and can’t have our kind

Clouding your doorways and draining your bank.

You are rich and above all this death and disease,

But herbs and spices stuffed in your nose cone

Will do nothing to help when the fear comes a-knocking.

It knows not the difference between master and slave.

So you’d better be kind while you still have the chance.

To take part in this deathly and gruesome last dance.

There is a lot of shame involve in telling your boss that you have a mental illness and many people choose to not divulge that information. Unfortunately a lot of people have had bad experiences and it is really sad that this means that they are then scared to get the support they need in the future.

I’m guessing that the reason some bosses are so unsupportive is because they don’t understand mental illness. They think that because somebody has anxiety or depression, they may be taking time off constantly and costing the business as a result. But many people who suffer are really hard and conscientious workers and it’s just cruel to treat them in a way that’s so disrespectful.

When I see managers treating their staff poorly because they have a mental illness, it makes me think of the illness as being a bit like the black death. I imagine these people being frightened of getting infected themselves and shunning the sufferers. I imagine them tucked away in their ivory towers thinking that they’re safe because they have money and power and status.

But the truth is that we are all vulnerable and it only takes one traumatic experience or a bad run of luck for a few weeks and we can all find ourselves on that slippery slope downwards. So if you are in a management position, show some compassion. Don’t just try and bully out the weakest link, because sometimes that ‘weakest link’ can be the one that is brimming with the best ideas if you just give them a chance and a bit of support when times are hard.

And if you are struggling at the hands of someone who is bullying you at work because they know you are weak, stay strong. You have nothing to be ashamed of and you never deserve to be put in the corner if you are feeling sad or anxious. I’ll say a little prayer for you today and I hope that some of that positivity reaches you in some way, shape or form.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

On being a single parent; don’t become the victim (a poem)

A poem about the feelings that go along with becoming a single parent. It’s painful and heartbreaking but everybody comes back from it. You have no choice.

The father left quite early on,

One day he’s there, the next he’s gone.

It caused a huge amount of pain,

And the feelings took so long to wane.

He packed his bags and left so quick,

It felt like just a heartless trick.

But he was not to come back home,

He felt that he was free to roam.

To play the field and sow his seed,

To live a life of selfish greed.

And into darkness I would fall,

I lost the battle to stand tall.

Depressing thoughts were all I knew,

And happy days were far and few.

But soon I found I needed light,

And so I put up quite the fight.

I had to do it for my child,

I couldn’t be so meek and mild.

I got a job and found some friends,

And to my heart I made amends.

I learnt to love myself once more,

And what my life was really for.

I mustn’t dwell on all the bad,

And spend my time so glum and sad.

I have a child I must adore,

And goals to set and to explore.

My life is worth more than that guy,

And now I’m ready to go and fly.

I became a single parent when my son was just nine months old and I was absolutely crushed. I loved my husband and I was devastated when I found out about the affair. But I had to pick myself up and carry on. I limped along as an alcoholic for a decade and only recently have I started to sort my life out. I hope that this poem can give you a little bit of hope if you are going through the same thing. Don’t go down the same path that I did. Life is a gift and you mustn’t waste it. The little ones grow so quickly and you don’t know when it could all come to an end. So find something that you’re passionate about and make every day count.

Much Love

Rachel xx

Drunk Dial (a poem)

When I was in active alcoholism, the drunk dial was the bane of my life. I would wake up in the early hours of the morning feeling like I’d licked a carpet and having to reach for my phone immediately. My first thought was always about how terrified I was that I had texted a guy or emailed my boss. It was a humiliating and scary time.

But these days I am free of that and I’m really keen to help others who are struggling with the same issues that I did. It is a big part of the reason why I started this blog and I hope that it will also motivate me to stay on the straight and narrow. It’s a serious illness and it needs to be treated like one.

However, the drunk dial does have some comedy value and I think that everybody needs some fun in their lives so this is my take on a subject that used to bring me out in cold sweats.

I didn’t mean to grab the phone,

I heard the sound of that ominous tone,

But I won’t recall this when I wake,

I’ll forget the mess that I can make,

After one too many pints of beer,

When life’s all rosy and full of cheer.

I won’t remember that awful text,

Or the old flame that I rang next.

I’ll see it there upon the screen,

The words I wrote that were so mean.

The dawn will bring an awful pain,

And towards myself I’ll feel disdain.

I’ll wish that I could take it back,

And I know that I will get some flack,

For what I said when I’d had some wine,

and thought that texting would be fine.

How to worry less in social situations (particularly when you’re an introvert)

Because let’s face it, introverts do spend about 90% of their time worrying about stuff. It stems from the fact that being around people drains us and with lack of energy comes that nagging self doubt that tends to plague us wherever we go. Did I just say the wrong thing? Is that person looking at me funny? Does everyone in the room hate me? Did I pick the wrong colour socks to wear this morning? It goes on and on and on. BUT, there are several really easy steps you can take to help yourself calm down and remember how flipping fabulous you really are.

So here are five of the first things that I go to when I can feel the panic beginning to set in.

Breathing

Taking deep breaths seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but when you are starting to panic it is the first thing that goes out of the window. It will help to fill the body with oxygen and clear the mind of the racing thoughts that go along with being anxious.

Smokers do get most of their relief in anxiety filled situations from the nicotine in their cigarettes, but they also calm down because of the style of breathing that is involved with inhaling and exhaling the smoke. It is absolutely ideal for calming the nerves. Now I’m not telling you to run out and buy a packet of cigarettes, but try and picture the way a smoker holds in their breath when you are next feeling the nerves. A good rule of thumb is to breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. Repeat this for a couple of minutes and you will normally see a difference.

It’s sometimes good to do this before you even go to an event that’s likely to stress you out. It’s like meditating in order to prevent the panic attack before it even happens. If not, it’s quite OK to just quietly excuse yourself and wander off to a quiet corner of the room, or to the bathroom to do this technique.

Removing yourself from the situation

That leads me nicely onto this point, and that is that it is perfectly OK to leave. If you are about to pass out with anxiety, nobody in their right mind would expect you to stay put. And you can either leave for a few minutes to practice that breath work, or you can disappear completely!

The ideal would be to train yourself to get to a point where you can talk yourself down and not let anxiety get you to the point where you have to leave any event, but in the meantime, leaving an event is not a crime.

Remembering that you are not bad

My problems always started with something small and by the time I reached the thought that I was evil and everything bad in my life was as a result of that, it was game over. It took a lot of therapy to understand where those feelings came from and now that I am more aware, it is far easier to stop those thoughts in their tracks. However, even if you don’t know where they come from, the chances are that they are a load of bull crap.

Repeat the mantra ‘I am a good person’ if you have to. Because you are. Even if you’ve done bad things in the past (I mean, come on, who hasn’t?) you can always turn over a new leaf and start afresh any day of your life. You deserve an amazing life and it’s awful to think that you might hold yourself back because of a lie that only you believe.

People just aren’t thinking about you all that much

One of the things that I have to regularly remind myself of when I’m anxious is the fact that everybody else has all their own crap to deal with, and actually, I don’t rate too high on their list of important things to worry about. We are each the centre of our own universe and it’s easy to think that people care but sadly (or gladly as the case may be) they don’t. In a way this is bad, because it means that we all have massive egos and a lot of people are willing to step all over you to get to where they want to go. But on the other hand, it’s very freeing to know that that stupid thing you did one Monday back in 2009 is all but forgotten about by 99.9% of people. Hooray for that!!

So really this one is all about looking at it from a different perspective. Worry can magnify everything intensely and distort the truth, so try telling yourself that a lot of it is just lies that you are telling yourself and you should start to notice that people really aren’t looking at you at all.

Stop trying to be perfect

Nobody is perfect and nobody really expects it. Not really. We may pretend that we’re perfect and that that’s what we want but none of it is real. The Instagram and Facebook accounts with thousands of perfectly filtered pictures are hiding the blazing rows with husbands and the kids that are disrespectful and throw regular tantrums. The old school friend who you recently found out has a CEO position in the city goes home to an empty flat and cries herself to sleep. Everything is an illusion to a certain extent. The trick is to focus on the good bits that you have in your life and stop trying to aim for what the next person has.

Trying to be perfect also puts a huge amount of pressure on you in your day to day life. Even if you just want to do everything in your crappy, low paid job absolutely perfectly, you are still heaping a load of unnecessary pressure onto yourself. And guess what? You’ll probably make yourself even more worried and make even more mistakes than you would if you just relaxed and accepted that sometimes you’re going to do things wrong.

If you make the teas for all the people in an office and you worry excessively about getting somebody’s order wrong, the chances are you will get an order wrong. The nerves will get the better of you and you’ll put two sugars in Gary’s coffee instead of one. But, if you relax and have a laugh with Gary he’ll remember you as the funny one who makes his tea rather than the one who got it wrong.

I hope that some of these can be of use to you. I find myself using them all of the time and although I’ve also had therapy for a couple of years, they really do help. I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any others that could be useful too.

Reframing: overcoming blogging issues (and any other problem in life)

So I’m not the most technically minded person in the world and to be a really good blogger I have found that being a bit computer savvy is definitely advantageous. I’m also writing this blog because of my sensitivity and I want people who are like me to feel that the world is a little bit safer and easier to navigate. But sensitivity and computer problems don’t go together very well. In fact, they are probably the worst mix in the world because just a minor hitch in my plans can make me feel like my whole world is ending!

Therefore, the point of this post is to explore how people can make scary or crappy situations seem just a little bit more manageable. It is not just sensitive people that will struggle with this, but I do often wonder how some people seem to make everything look like it’s water off a duck’s back.

One of the best ways that I have found over the past few years of working on myself, is to reframe the problem, and I am pretty sure this is what all those really resilient people are doing even if they are doing it subconsciously.

What this involves is taking the problem (in this case it was my flipping computer not working) and reframing it so that it is less huge or just different in some way. Here I just had to look at it on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being my life being in danger and 1 being a minor annoyance. When you look at it in this way you suddenly see that it’s only about a 2 at the very most and it immediately diminishes the level of anxiety. This is because life is all about survival and when you see where you are on the scale of survival needs, everything can be put into better perspective.

The other way of reframing is to just look at something differently. I’m having a lot of problems with my mother at the moment. She is being very difficult and the situation was becoming overwhelming. With the help of a therapist, what I have been doing is looking at the problem as though it is a puzzle. I love doing books of sudoku and so likening it to solving a puzzle or just moving on to the next has just made it all feel a little more trivial. The problem is still there and it’s still serious, but I’ve given my brain some relief from the stress that’s been flooding it. This means that I can get on with other things in my life and have some moments to actually enjoy life.

Now I’m not a counsellor or psychiatrist so I’m just telling you these techniques because they have helped me. If you have any serious issues that are causing you distress I can’t urge you enough to go and seek help. There are resources out there that you can use and a lot of them are completely free. Your GP is a good starting place.

I hope that this can help one or two people and together we can make the world just a little bit happier, more patient and more kind.

Much Love

Rachel xx

The secret to controlling your fears

Fear is just the worst emotion of them all, because what exactly does it achieve? If you were being chased by a rhino or found yourself in the middle of a battlefield then yes, I can understand how a bit of fear would be useful. But in our everyday, western lifestyle? Not so much.

And yet, it is an emotion that absolutely paralyses us and stops us from even trying to go after so many of our dreams. So how do we overcome this emotion that is sometimes strong enough to make the anxious ones of us physically sick?

There are several steps that you can take to reduce the fears that you have and start working towards the things that we really want. And we can do it in a way that is kind to ourselves and those around us. The last thing I would want is for us all to turn into a bunch of ball breakers who stomp on other people to get what they want.

So how do we do it? Is there a magic button that we can push to make it all go away? Do we have to fork out for expensive therapy? Is there a book that we can read that will reveal all? The answer to those questions are all no.

Really the only way to get over fear is simple trial and error. Runners can only get better at running by going out and doing it every day. Champion chess players can only win tournaments by playing chess every day. And your fear of a particular thing will only go away if you start doing it over and over again.

Fear becomes debilitating when you stop and think for too long. I have anxiety so I know that once I let something lodge in my mind, my brain runs with it. For example, if my boss gives me a sucky rota for a couple of weeks running, the sensible thing to do would be to go and speak to him about it the moment I’m feeling uncomfortable. However, for people like me, I tend to sit on it and then I start to worry that he’s giving me these terrible shifts because he hates me and then I start to reason that he hates me because I’m evil. The whole thing quickly spirals and before I know it I am terrified and have no control. It would be scary to speak to him but it’s far scary to go down that rabbit hole that I have just described.

With this is mind here are five actionable tips that you can put into practice when something starts to frighten you:

  • Go ahead and do it anyone. Unless it’s going to put you or anyone else in danger, what’s the worst that could happen.
  • Remain kind and loving towards other people. If you know that you have kept your side of the street clean then you have nothing to be ashamed about. A lot of people feel shame at being frightened and this is another strong emotion that is avoidable and useless. Just don’t lash out at people because you’re afraid and they are far more likely to help you out.
  • Retreat from the situation and take stock if you have to. I don’t advise you do this all the time as it can give you the opportunity to give up altogether. But sometimes a quick breather before you go charging in can be really helpful and stop you from doing any of the lashing out mentioned in the above tip.
  • Watch other people do the things that scare us. Quite often we are scared because we didn’t have good role models in that area when we were growing up. My mother was a great at caring for me but terrified of anything career orientated and so this was something I struggled with throughout my twenties. Now I’m learning from others and I’m coming on leaps and bounds.
  • Pray. Just turn to God and ask for love and guidance. I often find that spending some time in prayer or reading the bible just gives me that feeling of being wrapped up in a blanket so that I can’t get hurt. It helps me feel like I can go into battle and come out the other side intact. I often come out of this time of reflection just knowing what the answer is. It’s the not knowing the outcome that is the scary part but if you know that you are safe and that you are loved, these fears tend to melt away.

So go and tackle that thing that you were worrying about. If you’re worried about it you’ve probably already had the time to breathe and retreat so get out there and have a go.

I often try to imagine diving into my fears in much the same way as getting into cold water during my swimming days. I could either edge in bit by bit and drag out the inevitable moment when I would have to just start swimming. Or I could just dive in head first and get it out of the way. It’s far easier to just take that deep breath and leap in!

Too scared to start and 3 ways to overcome that fear

It was Oprah who once said that nervousness is actually a selfish emotion. When I first heard this I thought she was having a laugh. As someone who has been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder I get nervous about lots of situations and I thought it was a bit rich of her to say that made me selfish. But when I read her reasoning behind this statement it made me start to at least try and change my mind set when tackling new and scary things.

When Oprah made this statement she wasn’t trying to say that us anxious types were horrible people; what she was saying was that a safe amount of anxiety is no reason to deny the world of your idea. Saying that you’re too scared and then not carrying through with it because of that fear could stop something really great from being released into the world. And who are you to say that nobody can experience that thing you dreamt up? What would have happened if Fleming had decided he was too scared to tell the world that he had discovered penicillin in case something went wrong and everyone laughed at him? Or if Mandela hadn’t fought for the end of apartheid because he knew that he was going to get resistance? The world could have been a very different place, and don’t go thinking that your small idea couldn’t make the biggest of waves.

If you’ve read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert then you may be familiar with the idea that any inspiration that comes flying into your head is a gift and it should be treated as such. If somebody gave you a gift of a million pounds and told you to spread it between your favourite charities you wouldn’t then put it in your bank and keep it to yourself. Surely this should be the same with gifts that are given to us from God? Use them and help to make the people around you happy.

So yeah, I totally get what Oprah meant when she said that it’s a selfish emotion. She meant that we need to push through our own feelings so that we can make the world a better place. If you’re struggling to get past this first step towards success because you’re feeling frightened then keep these things in mind:

Number One- Most people will be secretly impressed that you’re trying.

Because, news flash! Everyone else is scared too! If people are standing in the wings waiting for you to fail then it’s because it backs up their own theory that they shouldn’t try. If the people around you are real friends then they will support you no matter what you try and it won’t matter whether you succeed or fail.

Number Two – What’s the worst that could happen?

Even if things do go really badly you can still turn it around again. Most of the super successful people in the world have had some pretty serious setbacks. Some very famous billionaires have filed for bankruptcy several times. Hopefully you won’t be at the point where you are doing that, but this is proof that it can still not necessarily mean game over.

If you’re scared of people’s opinions then the worst that could happen is that those people fall out of your life. And would you really want those people in your life?

On the other hand, there’s always the possibility that things could go well, and then what? That business could take off or the book could get published and then you’ll be left wondering what you were ever wondering about in the first place.

Number Three – Try to see these risks like a book of puzzles

If I buy a book of Sudoku puzzles, I normally expect that I can get one or two wrong. But there are normally a hundred or so other puzzles in the book that I can have a go at. There are an infinite number of challenges out there in the world and I can have a go at them even if I’ve already failed at something else.

Keeping with the same analogy, there is nothing stopping me doing a puzzle in pencil so that I can rub it out and have a go at the same one a second time. I had this experience when I first started ultra running. I had a go at a 100 mile race and got to 54 miles before I bombed out. I could have said ‘screw that, I’m not doing that again!’ But I didn’t. I dusted myself off and started training again and it took me another three years, but eventually I did it.

So when you’re scared of taking that first step remember what you could be depriving the world of and keep in mind that even if you do fail miserably, failure is the way that you refine your skills, learn and become the very best you can be at something. So take a deep breath and have a go!