World Mental Health Day

hi everyone,

i wasn’t going to post today. i wasn’t going to write. i was going to let the day pass and share this another time, perhaps when i was better. however, having seen so many of my friends (both real life and online), family and even celebrities, post about World Mental Health Day i feel like it would be insincere of me not to post.

as many of you know, mental health is something that is very close to my heart (and head). i posted before about my mental health battles, about dealing with anxiety and depression. i have been very vocal about not being ashamed of my sometimes chaotic mind. So, with that in mind, i have something to tell you.

i, michaela, am battling depression once again. third times the charm, ay.

when did I know it had come back, when did i suspect something was wrong again? that i needed help? well, it hit me like a sack of shit last week but the symptoms had been there for a while; i just ignored them, or rather blamed them on exhaustion from having worked continuously since may with no break, pulling at least 50hr work weeks.

so what finally made me admit that i wasn’t well and that i need a helping hand? it was number of things and they all came to head last week. i’ll tell you.

this next part some people may find difficult to read and so i apologise in advance if you makes you feel uncomfortable.

september 23rd. i was in montrose, ca visiting friends.  i took the following picture and uploaded it to my socials

21762075_10213514924657460_1677022517823307179_n

nothing weird about that, most people enjoy a quick selfie. the difference is, most people don’t follow posting a selfie on facebook with thoughts of “if i jumped off the balcony would it be high enough to kill me?” i pondered that for a good 5 minutes. then my friend Mark came along and distracted me enough for that thought to leave my mind. i slept more than normal on that holiday too – which is common sign of depression – but again i blamed it on exhaustion, all those long hours i’d done were catching up with me. or were they? Mark and my friends fed me up good and proper the whole holiday – i’d been going days without eating properly (eating too much/ loss of appetite – another sign of depression) before – but again i was just too busy to eat. i mean, a bag of popcorn and a breakfast bar is a normal amount of food to eat in a 48 hour period, right?

when i got home i was still exhausted, but blamed it on jetlag. getting up in the morning was harder than ever and i was extremely emotional but, hey, i had my period so it must have been that.

tuesday i was off. i shared my worries with one of my oldest friends, denise. i spent a couple of hours with her, her little one and the dog. it’ll do me good to get out the house, i thought. i thought i’d been ok but, turns out, i hadn’t. she told me on friday that she could tell i “wasn’t right”.

i was starting late on wednesday, it took me an hour to get out of bed. the negative thoughts had crept back in but again, i brushed it off. it took all the strength i had to get in the shower, i managed through and got out the shower but that’s where my energy left me. my sister had to pick me up off the floor. she had to help me get dressed. she had to dry my hair for me, all whilst i sat there in a daze. dentist happened and then i was away to work. i got to the train station and stood crying on the platform. i knew there was something wrong with me, i could barely keep my head up. my thoughts were along these lines… how long would i feel the pain if i stepped in the path of a train? do people ever survive being hit by a train? it would be over in seconds, i’m sure. the aim was not to die, the aim was to end the confusion. the aim was to clear the fog that had clouded my mind. the aim was peace.

i realise that this may seem dramatic to you. hell, it does to me. but it’s my truth and i won’t lie about it. i can’t sugar coat anything because to do that would be pointless.

clearly, as i am sat here writing this, i did not step in front of a train. i had a set of people around me that listened, that knew me well enough to make me get help. i shared that train thought with one of my best friends because, through all the fog, i had a small moment of clarity, i knew telling someone would help. and it did. once i had told her, the fog cleared slightly.

whilst this was happening my sisters had been talking, and my eldest sister called me and told me she was booking me doctors appointment – she got me one for the next day.

i went to the doctor. i’m getting help. this time around i have opted for no anti depressants, although i have some waiting for me if i change my mind. this time around i am trying counselling. i need to understand my triggers.

i had to cancel my trip to india to get better which broke my heart. my doctor deemed me too ‘high risk’ to travel so far with no treatment, so soon after diagnosis, “it’s definitely not advisable, michaela. india will always be there”.

i never thought i would be back at a point where i was having to tell people i was ill in this way again.  all i can ask at this time from those that are closest to me is their patience, please be patient with me. some days i will be ok. others i won’t. today was a good day – for the first time in 4 days i found the energy to get out of bed and shower (depression is not glamorous), it took everything out of me – my hair was knot city so that was a chore in itself. i also ask you to not edit yourselves around me – make jokes, talk to me like normal; i don’t need special treatment. i’m still me!!

i also need to say thank you. thank you to my sisters for looking out for me, my parents. thank you to diane who talked me down from that moment on the platform, who messaged me each morning and night to make sure i was safe. to denise, for checking in on me each day, for giving me an evening of distraction on friday – i felt normal for an evening, for putting food in front of me (even if i only ate half a plate), to my little sophia for being honest and saying that you didn’t know what to say but that you just wanted me better. to steph, you always know what to say, even when i don’t believe the nice things you say to me, you still say them. to the taylors, yesterday was a bad day but you took the time to find images and youtube videos of my favourite things to make me smile. it worked. rachel, for reminding me that it is all temporary, that there is no right or wrong way to live life and that i will get there eventually. byng, mark, ken, tom, rhirhi, mariana, emma, katie… anyone who has taken 5 minutes to just see how i am recently. thank you. i even have to shout out my boss because he was amazing when i told him – i’m very lucky to have a boss that doesn’t think less of me because of it – i know from other friends that this is, unfortunately, very rare.

i know you don’t all understand it, i don’t either sometimes but i am trying.

i’m learning to understand it. i’m learning how to keep trying. i’m learning to remind myself that i have survived 100% of my worse times and that no matter how many moments seem unbearable the darkness is temporary. i’m not afraid to put the work in to get better.

because that’s all i want.

to be better.

xoxo micks

 

p.s if anyone, no matter how well i know you, ever needs someone to talk to, if you ever feel this way, know you are not alone. i am here.

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’.

 Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 21.39.33

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.

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 21.46.52.png

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.

 cropped-fullsizerender-5.jpg

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

Suicide Prevention Month

I am going to start this post by sharing some very news… I HAVE JUST TAKEN MY LAST CRAZY PILL (or as normal people call them ,anti-depressant).

 

Yep, after 2 and a half years I am finally in a good enough place to feel confident enough to come off of them. It is a bit scary because, you know, part of me feels that they are the only reason I got over my depression this time, but mostly I’m proud. I’m proud I’ve got to a place that I feel strong enough to come off them and try life on my own for a while.

 

Depression can be a debilitating illness and it can be a hard thing for those that haven’t experienced to understand. When I went on to my anti-depressants a couple of years ago I was very lucky that my boss (wassup, Dennis) was someone I could be completely truthful with and we had a very honest conversation about how I was feeling after my diagnosis. In that conversation Den was also honest in that, having never suffered herself, it wasn’t something she understood and she did (and does) her best to ask questions to try and at least sympathise with what I was going through even if she couldn’t empathise. I was very lucky to have such an understanding boss and friend in her. I know friends that have not been so lucky with their line managers.

 

One of the more known commonly known symptoms of depression is having suicidal feelings / thoughts. Suicidal thoughts can completely consume you and it can feel like you have no control over anything. You get into the black hole and it can be hard to climb back out, especially without the right help. Suicide is something that has affected my family and my friends so Suicide Prevention is something that has always been close to my heart.

 

September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.

 

The latest statistics from The Samaritans show that suicide is still a very big problem in the UK. Female suicides are at their highest rate in the UK since 2011, in England since 2005. Female suicides have increased (by 8.3%) whilst Male suicides have decreased (by 5.6%). Having said that the highest suicide rate was still found in Men – those aged between 45 and 49.

 

These latest figures published are figures from 2014. It shows that, in the UK alone, 6581 people committed suicide. In my opinion, that is 6581 too many.

 

There is no overnight cure for depression and suicidal thoughts will not disappear overnight. It is important for anyone suffering to get help, there are various places you can get help, it can be anonymously too if that is what you’d rather.

 

There are various factors that will contribute to someone having these types of thoughts and, as I say, they won’t disappear overnight but we can all make small differences to people without realising, often through the little things.

This month I have pledged to actively do one ‘nice’ thing a day, to make a strangers day a little brighter and my contribution to the world a little better.

I would like to suggest you do the same, below are my suggestions for a doily dose of niceness. One thing for each day of September.

 

  1. Smile at a stranger
  2. Hold the door open for someone
  3. Help someone carrying a lot of things
  4. Pay for the person behind you at the drive thru
  5. Buy a suspended coffee
  6. Pay someone a compliment
  7. Give away clothes that you don’t need
  8. Donate items to a homeless shelter
  9. Tell someone why you love them
  10. Take some treats into work for your colleagues to share
  11. Let someone go in front of you in a queue
  12. Let someone overtake you in traffic
  13. Offer someone your seat on the tube/bus/train
  14. Leave an encouraging note for a stranger to find
  15. Call your best friend/ family member just to chat
  16. Buy someone flowers, just ‘cause
  17. Leave a used book in a café for someone else to enjoy
  18. Put £1 in the next charity pot you see
  19. Make someone a tea / coffee
  20. Feedback when you receive GOOD customer service
  21. Mail someone a letter – we all like post that isn’t bills, don’t we?
  22. Share an inspiring ‘thought of the day’
  23. Listen to someone going through a hard time
  24. Exercise patience
  25. Buy a homeless person lunch
  26. Leave behind a coupon that you are not going to use next to the product that it is for
  27. Donate your time/ money to a local cause
  28. Pick up some litter – it can just be one piece!
  29. Give someone a hug.
  30. Be the first to apologise

 

 

I am going to try to do these! One a day for September – as it is now the 6th clearly I have some catching up to do!

 

You can also show your support for Suicide Prevention by wearing something orange on 10th September and/or donate to a charity that works to provide support to those suffering suicidal thoughts and to survivors too. The work they do is so important in making sure that these people get well again.

 

Let me know your suggestions for your acts of niceness!

 

#ANDSOIKEPTLIVING

 

xoxo

 

Micks

 

 

UK charities

www.mind.org.uk

www.samaritans.org

 

These two charities provide support in the UK if you need it, or if you want to donate you can do so by clicking the links and following the instructions.

 

Other useful websites

 

www.twloha.com (featured image from their WSD campaign)

https://www.iasp.info/wspd

www.suicidepreventionapp.com