people need other people.

it’s 10pm on a wednesday night and here i am, just a while in from having dinner with someone very special and i’m sat in bed crying.

why you ask? or maybe you didn’t but either way you’re finding out.

the reason i’m crying is because i have just finished reading Bryony Gordon’s book ‘Mad Girl’. the book is Bryony sharing her story, her mental health story.

some of the parallels in our illnesses are scary but it made me realise that we, Bryony and I, are the lucky ones. we had people around us, both at home and at work, that cared. that care. that care enough to not give up on us when our demons get too much, that don’t run the other way saying ‘fuck this shit, you’re on your own’ but stand next to us, gently guiding us saying ‘you’ve got this’.

tonight when i was at dinner my friend told me about a colleague she had who had passed away recently, this colleague had struggled with his mental health (his death was unrelated to any mental health illnesses) in the past which eventually led to him leaving his position – by all accounts the management were not very supportive of the days out he needed to take.

(please note, needed is accurate. when you’re depressed you can’t simply say to depression ‘oh well today isn’t a very good day for me to be depressed, i’ve lots on. can you come back tomorrow?’ depression, in case you didn’t know, is a bit of an inconsiderate bastard).

at his funeral she learnt how much having that job meant to him. she said she never realised the impact their day to day jokes and interactions had on him, and on his life.

i’m crying because i realised that i was lucky, i was lucky that back in september i had someone who was able to notice i was poorly before i did – Momma Sophs, you recognised i was ill before i did, before anyone did. i don’t know how but thank you.

i was lucky that, when i was stood on a train platform a couple of weeks later listening to the voices in my head telling me to give up and that me dying would be for the benefit of everyone, that it would be better than the constant battle in my head, i had diane on the end of the phone telling me not to listen to the voice in my head that was telling me that. that it was lying to me.

i was lucky i had my sister to call and make the doctors appointment when i was too ill to myself.

i was lucky i had denise calling me every few hours just to check in, telling me to come to her house after work so she could feed me and let me get some of these thoughts out my head and feelings off my chest.

i had my boss – who i was super nervous to tell i was poorly because, well i was embarrassed, i was embarrassed of being ill again and of how bad it had gotten and what it might make him think of me – tell me that it was a tricky illness but that he knew i was more than capable. he understood why i text him to tell him and didn’t call and then spent time with me on the phone the next day trying to understand the illness, what it looked like for me and help me figure out what my triggers were.

now i have my new boss who was, as well, brilliant when he found out – as i’m still recovering i thought it wise to tell him and it came up very organically in conversation so i was comfortable telling him. parts of our conversation went like this…

me – i don’t run around screaming at everyone that i’m mad but it makes sense you should know.

him – you’re not mad because you’ve got depression…. you just need to make sure you tell me how you’re feeling, keep me in the loop.

(that’s what i needed to hear from him. it was a big weight off these shoulders, i tell ya. also, nb, i often tell people i’m ‘mad’ because i think i’m being funny and most people feel more comfortable when you joke about serious stuff)

i had steph, who always seems to message me at just the right time, who always makes me feel like a better human than i am.

i guess, the short version (i’ve never been very good at getting straight to the point), is that i was crying because i was grateful.

i was grateful for this year and for these people (and many more not listed here). i was grateful for the days when i thought i wouldn’t make it to the next one because, if nothing else, i’ve learnt the human spirit is made of strong bloody stuff.

2017 is the year i realised that i didn’t have to keep all my problems to myself. it was the year i learnt who my friends really were. i learnt i don’t have to keep my cards so close to my chest. i might be a burden sometimes, but then aren’t we all? the ones that think i’m worth it will stay. for the good and bad.

i learnt people need other people.

we really do.

people need other people.

and there’s nothing wrong with that. nothing at all.

xoxo M

p.s if you want to try to understand mental health illnesses and how they make you feel and think please read Bryony’s book. she words it so well, much better than i ever could.

feeling the love

oh hey.

it’s 6am in LA. I can’t sleep. so y’all are getting a post (2 in as many days #sorrynotsorry)

so, quick background on where i’m staying and who i’m staying with.

one of my best friends from university (hey, Jade) is from LA. Her mom (Momma Sophs) dad (Wilf) and god mom (Lisa) all live together in a beautiful house (her dad did a beaut of a job on it, he’s so talented). I’m staying with / visiting them. Jade isn’t here- she lives in Finland with her fella. My Irish pal is here too, though. I know, I know… it’s complicated.

i’ve know Jade for 9 years nearly, and her folks for maybe 6/7 of those. They have all known me during my struggles with depression and anxiety, they housed me for a summer so Jade and I could road trip west coast >> east, they housed me this January  when I had my breakdown over going to Australia or not. 

they know me well.

they know not to talk to me in the morning because I’m grumpy. They know I’m pretty laid back about most things – one of the reasons Jades mom likes to travel with me. They know I can be a sarcastic little shite. They know I’m obsessed with music; if I’m not listening to it, I’m reading about it. If I’m not reading about it, I’m singing. 

when I come here to visit it feels like a home from home. I feel so relaxed, there’s no pretense, no bullshit. 

they remind me that friends really are the family we choose for ourselves. I think to myself on every trip how did I luck out and meet Jade and then gain an extra family? a family that is genuinely concerned for my wellbeing.

yesterday morning I was in the kitchen and Momma Sophs and I had this conversation 

S “Oh I’m glad you’re here by yourself, I wanted to talk to you alone”

M “ok, whats up?”

S “are you ok, sweetie? You’re not feeling anxious, your depression hasn’t come back?”

M “no, I’m ok at the moment. Maybe a bit anxious with work but I’m fine”

S ” ok good, I just wanted to check because you’ve been really quiet this whole trip and I was really worried”

DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY AND LOVED I FELT WALKING AWAY FROM THAT CONVERSATION? 

Having conversations like that with anyone that has a history of mental illness is so, SO important. 

Knowing someone is looking out for you… priceless. 

This email from the universe is true 

I’m feeling the love 

Xoxo micks 

Why I won’t stop talking about Mental Health

 

My name is Michaela.

I have depression and anxiety.

I am also extremely logical.

This means my head is pretty much a constant battleground of irrational thought vs. logic trying to win.

Some days logic wins. Some days it doesn’t.

There has been a decent amount of coverage the last week or so about various mental health issues, thanks in large part to those dapper princes HRH Prince William, HRH Princess Catherine and (my personal fave) HRH Prince Henry and the work they are doing with the mental health charity ‘Heads Together’.

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My mental health battles are something that I have been quite honest about over the last year or so. I haven’t always been so open and honest about it but, being truthful, it took me a long time to realise that it was ok for me to have depression and anxiety. It didn’t make me a bad person; it didn’t mean I was damaged any more or less than the next person. I realised that, actually, being honest was the best way to be. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t introduce myself with that as my ‘fun fact’, it is not something ALL my work colleagues know but it is something that, when asked, I will be honest about. I try very hard to not let it take over my life; I try very hard to not let it beat me.

Most days it doesn’t, some days it does.

My earliest memories of dealing with anxiety are from when I was around 8 years old. My dad used to ride his bike to work and, for whatever reason, I began to worry that he wouldn’t come home because something would happen. The hours he was gone on the days I was home to know he was gone I would be panic-stricken that I wouldn’t see my dad anymore. I would lie on the couch, eyes shut, reciting my times tables until he got home – it was my way of coping and trying to distract my mind from the worry. I always felt too nauseous to eat my dinner but I would force myself because I felt silly telling my mum and sisters what I was worrying about. I was 8.

 Fast forward to when I was about 12, my anxious self was petrified of power cuts. Lord knows why, I just was. We were all watching Titanic on the telly box and suddenly there was a power cut. I didn’t watch Titanic for almost 10 years because I convinced myself that there would be a power cut at the same part of the movie that there was when I was 12. I also developed distaste for cheese on toast because of power cuts – as we had a gas cooker my mum would always do us some cheese on toast by candlelight. To this day I can’t stomach cheese on toast.

 When I was in my final year at university I was living in a house my friend Steph nicknamed the Big Brother house because there was always something going on. There were various incidents that happened over the course of that year. I had so much anxiety being in that house – it was quite a toxic environment. Not the best place for anyone to be let alone someone who has depression and anxiety. That house and the events that took place there took its toll on all of us, I think. Back to the point… towards the end of that year I finally went back to the house after a few days away – I hadn’t been able to face being there – I borrowed Father of the Bride (banging film) from my pal, housemate, best thing to come out of that house – Mark and fell asleep watching it. I then watched it at bedtime everyday for a month, if not longer, because that first night I watched it nothing bad happened. That meant if I watched it on day 2, 3, 4 etc. that nothing bad would happen. It was only when Mark came in to my room and asked me how much I’d watched it that I realised it was a problem.

Welcome to my obsessive, anxious mind.

Back to the summer of 2010 – I was just back from falling in love with everything that life had to offer in Valencia. I was walking on cloud nine for those few months. Then back to earth with a bump. A dark cloud followed me for the rest of that year, a dark cloud called Depression. Hello, friend.

I had days where I would wake up, cry the whole day, and then fall into an exhausted sleep. I had days where I would sit in my bed, having not showered for days, just staring out the window. Being a student it was easy to hide – people almost expect you to be a big slob. They expect you to sleep lots, be lazy, eat poorly. Living away from home it was easy to hide. My sister’s knew something was up – to quote my eldest sister “I thought you’d gone mad”. My mum said I’d lost my sparkle. My best pal Dalbs knew I had to get out of the hole myself because I was too goddamn stubborn to accept help. The whole time she was my silent cheerleader.

I got there though. In my own time – I’ve never been one to be rushed.

Depression came a knocking again at the end of 2013. This time the symptoms were very different – I had a FT job so I couldn’t spend my days lying in bed and crying. I had to get up and go live because it was what was expected of me. Inside I remember feeling very numb though, I was existing. Not living. I didn’t care for most anyone or anything. For this reason I didn’t recognise I’d fallen back down the same hole I’d climbed out of just 3 years prior. I thought depression only had one face. It doesn’t.

A visit to my doctor in 2014 gave me the reassurance I needed that I wasn’t crazy and that it was simply an illness that I had. The sentence “it’s no different from a chest infection. You’d take medicine for a chest infection, why wouldn’t you for an illness in your brain?” was all it took for me to finally see things a bit clearer and to see that it wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. It was what it was.

Making the decision to get help and take antidepressants (or happy pills as I much prefer to call them) was one of the very best decisions I have ever made. In those first three months there was such a change in myself – I stopped hating the world, I stopped blaming it for everything that I thought was wrong. My ridiculous mood swings stopped. Sure I still get grumpy but hey, I’m only human. I was no longer going calm to crazy in the blink of an eye – now it takes at least two blinks.

Once I started to feel better, started to talk more and accept it, I started to open up about it. I realised that I am definitely not alone. Two of my very best friends in the world have also struggled with depression and anxiety; one of my Nan’s had it, one of my cousins. I am not naming them individually as I feel it is not my place to talk about their experiences but it just shows you that it affects so many people, from all over.

 I eventually got to a place where I felt strong enough to write about it. I was really frickin nervous posting it because the fear of being judged was so real. Some people see the words ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ and immediately paint a picture in their head of how they think you are, there are those that think we do it for attention, we imagine it all. Then there are those that don’t believe you because you ‘don’t seem the type to have that’ or ‘but you’re always smiling when I see you’… say hello to the person that has highly functioning depression.

After I posted it I had 3 people message me privately from my Facebook friends confessing that they had felt very low and were worried it was depression but were scared to go to the doctor. They didn’t want the doctor to think they were overreacting because they were stressed/ going through a break up etc. I told them if they were worried enough to reach out then go and talk to a medical professional – I am not one and would never diagnose someone but I can empathise with the symptoms that come with them.

All three of those people got back in touch to say they’d gotten help and were on the road to recovery. All because I’d taken the time to share my story and listen to theirs when they reached out.

I can’t tell you the pride I felt. I can’t tell you how, much more importantly, I was pleased they were going to get better. That’s why I won’t stop talking about mental health, and the importance of getting help if you feel it’s too much.

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I was recently out for a friend’s birthday and got talking to someone about my tattoos and they noticed my semi colon –which is a symbol of the mental health movement. It then came out that this person also had depression – having been off my happy pills since August last year I was able to sit there and tell her that it does get better. I’m living proof of that. All the fears of that any happiness you feel whilst taking the tablets is artificial is just that, a fear. Sometimes you just need a helping hand. I was so honoured that person felt they could talk to be about their experiences and that they were reassured about the future, if only for a moment, because of me.

Hope is always there. When you have anxiety and depression there are days when it is really hard to see, sometimes you believe it’s gone completely. Having people around you to not just tell you but also show you that hope is not gone; that it gets better is why I won’t stop talking about mental health.

There’s too much to lose if I do, if we do.

To anyone that is suffering, or thinks they might be. Know this, you are not alone. Help is out there. Hope is real. You matter. The world needs you.

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Some cool websites to check out if you want to learn more about mental illness of if you are struggling and need help –

To Write Love On Her Arms

“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road-trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs but people more than anything else. You will need other people, and you will need to be the other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe in better things” – Jamie Tworkowski

 

Jamie Tworkowski is not a name that many people know. I think it is a name that more people should know. He is the founder of a non-profit organisation, or charity if you will, based out of Melbourne, Florida, that focuses on giving hope and getting help for those struggling with issues such as depression and self-harm.

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source: twloha.com

 

 

The charity was founded in 2006, the name is a direct reference to the first person the organisation ever helped. A young addict who self-harmed – she wrote the word ‘fuck up’ on her arm with a razor blade. Jamie wrote an article hoping to help her get cleaned up and write ‘LOVE’ on her arms instead.

I first came across TWLOHA in, probably, 2010 around the first time I had depression. Back then, I thought it was a sign of weakness, I was in denial for a long time. I finally was diagnosed, and then – after refusing any help from the doctors – I started to look on the interweb for things that could support me and help me get better. TWLOHA came into my life then, and I have followed their journey ever since. September 2011 I was officially not depressed anymore but I still followed them because I believed in their work and what they were doing and trying to achieve. January 2014 came and I hit a downward spiral, and I was diagnosed with depression again. 2 years later I’m still on medication for it, this time around I am not ashamed to admit it, because TWLOHA have shown me that I am not alone; that there are millions of people the world over that struggle with it too. I am one of the lucky ones who got help in time, who got help before it got too bad.

 

Of course, being non-profit means they have to fundraise which they do in various ways such as by selling merch on their website; some of which you may have seen your favourite singer or celeb wearing because a lot of public names have recognised the incredible work they do and shown support for the organisation. They gain exposure through public talks, events, social media, they go on the road every year for the Vans Warped Tour in the states, and they really are helping people. There are countless people online who talk about how TWLOHA has helped them through personal struggles.

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Last year Jamie announced he would be releasing a book called “If You Feel Too Much; Thoughts on things found and lost and hoped for”; it would be a collection of his writings and blogs across the years. It was released in May but I never got around to buying it. I bought it just after Christmas. I have been slowly getting through it on my journeys to and from work and each day, Jamie gives me food for thought, makes me feel less alone and gives me hope. I would say I wished I bought it sooner, but I’m just glad I’ve got it now. I’m just over half way through now and I wanted to share some of the thoughts and things that have struck a chord with me the most in his writings, so here they are…

 

“…for love is a choice more than it is magic”

 

“I am less and less impressed by “impressive” things or people who are presented as having things figured out. I am impressed by people who are honest and kind. I am inspired by moments of vulnerability, moments of confession and compassion, moments where someone makes it clear that they are a person in need of other people and someone else makes it clear that the first person is not alone”

 

“…love is a choice as much as it is magic. Magic comes in moments, but choices stretch out over time. We make them each morning”

 

“After my first winter in NY, I learned that spring makes sense only because of winter. You notice the warm sun on your face because it hasn’t been there”

 

“I’ve become embarrassed by most things “Christian”, but I still believe in a God who loves people”

 

Be loved. Be known. Love people and know people. Be so brave as to raise a hand for help when you need it. Make friends and make sure they know they matter. Be loyal to them and fight for them. Remind them what’s true and invite them to do the same when you forget. If you do some losing or you walk with someone else in their defeat, live with dignity and grace. It is a middle finger to the darkness.

In the event that we live to be old, I doubt our last days will find us aching for success or achievements. I doubt we’ll ask for bigger names or internet followers or virtual friends. If influence comes, then let it come, but it was never the point of the story. We will look back and smile on the moments that were real, the people who knew us and the people we knew, the relationships and conversations, the days we walked together, the story that we told. We will consider the moments when we were embraced by people who loved us even at our worst. And they simply loved us not for any sort of fame but simply because our stories had joined somehow and that miracle of friendship had taken place.”

 

“…There is a car in their driveway. There is a TWLOHA sticker on the back of that car.

We don’t know whose car it is or how the sticker got there.

But we know what that sticker means.

It means that millions of people struggle with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. It means that the majority of those people never get the help they need and deserve. It means that what we do with our pain – how we respond to it – matters. It’s one of the biggest questions we get to answer in this life.

We believe it’s possible to change. We hear from people taking brave steps towards hope and help and healing. We hear from people sitting across from a counselor for the first time, people stepping into treatment and people picking up the phone to call a crisis hotline. We hear from people pursuing sobriety and stability. We believe that great help exists and we know the first step is often the hardest one to take.

If you’re struggling, please talk to someone. Its okay to ask for help. People need other people. If someone you care about is hurting, talk to them. We know it’s not always easy, but it could be the thing that changes everything.”

 

“I feel sad more than I feel happy.

I feel stuck more than I feel free.

I feel defeated more than I feel accomplished.

I feel I should have found love by now…

…so do not despair for there is more than what we feel.

There are things missing in every single room, but there is even more not missing.

So don’t be blinded by ghosts. Don’t let them glow brighter than your friends. Don’t let them glow brighter than your family. Be present. Fight to be present. Don’t live only in your head. It’s lonely and it’s dangerous.

Put your phone down for a few hours every day.

Talk to people. Look someone in the eyes and be honest and invite them to do the same.

Read a good book and watch a great film and put a song on repeat and remember who you are. Keep dreaming all your dreams. and perhaps as well some new ones.

Go to counseling if you need to go to counseling.

Take your own advice.

Take care of yourself.

Take care of the people you love.

Tell them that you love them.

 

There is much to be thankful for.”

 

 

I am thankful for Jamie. For TWLOHA. For all my family and friends that have never given up on me and that see me as I really am but love me and support me anyway. Someone who is not perfect, who struggles and stumbles through life day-to-day, who – on most days – doesn’t see the girl they think she is, who is learning to be happy in her own skin, who lives in her head more than she should, who overthinks, takes things to heart but can appear emotionally disconnected (although sometimes they do peak out from behind the wall that’s there). The girl who has no clue what she’s doing or where she’s going in life, but who is trying to have some fun along the way.

 

Lastly, if you’re struggling know that hope is real and help is real. You’re stronger than your demons; they are a part of you but they don’t define you. You’re not alone.

 

Xoxo

 

Micks