I’m not broken, I’m just a little bent.

Its been a whole year today since I first published a post on The Mighty telling people about my mental illness (which you can read here) and in that time I’ve realised a number of things. One of those is how incredibly hard I have been, and still continue to be on myself and how little self esteem I have.

When I was initially diagnosed with my mental illness, I convinced myself that I was broken. It is a feeling that hasn’t quite gone away and it is a feeling that seems to fluctuate at various times, depending on my head space, what else is going on in my life and what kind of medication I’m on.

Most of the time, I’m still convinced that since my brain isn’t quite as functional everyone else, that makes me different.

Fractured. Fragmented. Not quite right.

And yet everyday I’m trying to come to the terms with the idea that I’m not broken, I’m just a little bent.

I may have scars from where I tried to cut out all the pain and sew myself back together but that doesn’t make me broken.

I may take medication daily to increase my levels of ‘happy hormones’ but that doesn’t make me broken.

There may be an intense and overwhelmingly constant battle in my head between the depression and the anxiety but that doesn’t make me broken.

There may be days where I am incredibly hard on myself because I’m so incredibly unhappy but that doesn’t make me broken.

There may be times where I lack control and feel numb and have panic attacks that I can’t stop but that doesn’t make me broken.

There may be times when it feels like the pressure I put on myself is breaking me but it won’t. It will never break me.

Thinking of myself as broken makes me feel like I’m a piece of china that can’t ever be put back together quite right or used in the same way again. That’s not true – I will eventually be okay. Eventually my brain won’t work against me everyday. This may mean taking medication everyday for the rest of my life or making a regular time to check in with myself but that’s alright.

Sometimes I just really need to remind myself to be gentle. I am ill. I am hurting. I may be a little bent, but I am in no way broken. And I am recovering. I may always be bent, but I will never be broken.

I may not bend back into the shape I once was but that’s also okay. I don’t want to be who I was. I want to be strong and brave and happy which are some of the things my mental illness took away from me. And yet, at the same time, it is all the things recovering forces me to be.

So if you’re suffering from a mental health issue, or heartbreak, or grief – this is a reminder you are not broken, you’re just a little bent. And this pressure is making you stronger than you have ever been before. After all, diamonds are made under the weight of mountains.

-M x

Advertisements

On the bookshelf: April.

Another month, another piles of books on my bookshelf. This month’s focus – young adult novels and a self help book.

Keep scrolling for more.

Saint Anything – Sarah Dessen.
I am a pretty big fan of Sarah Dessen’s work. I’ve actually only read one of her books before – The Truth About Forever. I honestly just really enjoy Dessen’s writing style and the ease in which she delivers the story line and characters. Saint Anything definitely reinforced the love that I have for Dessen’s novels. The book is about a girl called Sydney and how her life changes after her older brother Peyton goes to jail for a drink driving offence. In an effort to remove herself from the unwanted attention at her school caused by Peyton’s sentence, Sydney moves to a new school where she meets the Chatham family described as “a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis.”
And its here she meets Mac Chatham. Gorgeous, caring and protective Mac.

The novel really talks about a lot of things like forgiveness, feeling invisible, family, friendship, creepy weird men and how hard it might be to find your place in the world. Yeah sure, there is the focus on the love story, but doesn’t every YA have that focus? What is more important here is the beautiful friendship that Sydney forms with the Chatham family. Things like that were the reason I really enjoyed this book. Coming from a place where I do feel rather lost and rather invisible I definitely resonated with it. If you are in a similar space, or want a decent read, definitely pick up Saint Anything. 

*

We’re All Mad Here: The No-Nonsense Guide to Living with Social Anxiety – Claire Eastham.
A little plug about a self help book here and I am not even for one second ashamed. As I mentioned in my last post, I am really focusing on my own recovery at the moment and reading books and articles about my conditions are really helping me accept my illnesses and start to develop my own methods to recover – such as writing. Anyway, this book is basically a guide to anxiety. It uses the authors own experience and coping mechanisms to create this amazingly relatable book that honestly sums up some of my own experiences so well. I loved this book so bloody much I dedicated an entire blog post to it, which you can read more here (do it!!!)

 *

What Happened to Goodbye – Sarah Dessen
So it’s pretty clear that this month I had a little bit of an obsession with Sarah Dessen. It is definitely not my fault and I’m checking myself into author rehab as you read this… (Lol just joking). But back on track now. This book is definitely not as good as Saint Anything, in fact I enjoyed it a lot less. I think it took a long time to actually get into the story line and then really, there wasn’t too much story line there at all. It follows the story of Mclean, a teenager who has jumped from town to town with her Dad since her parents divorce.

I definitely didn’t enjoy this one as much as much as Saint Anything. I think it seemed to drag on a little too much and just seemed quite… immature to me. I really seemed like a Young Adult novel to me, which Dessen’s books don’t really seem to do. There were a few good themes though in particular identity and family which I did enjoy a lot. Not a bad book but nothing to rave about. Dessen’s writing and the themes within the novel really where the saving grace.

*

Vanishing Girls – Lauren Oliver
I didn’t love this book but I didn’t reallllly hate it either. I think the one saving grace is that I LOVE Oliver’s writing style. She tends to use other elements – in this case the blog posts, the newspaper articles and the ‘social media’ element – to create her story. This, combined with her genius writing style, generally make her books a good read. But this one… I just didn’t really love. I mean it hooked me in when I read the blurb – a story about two sisters who have an inseparable bond until an undisclosed accident occurs leaving the two girls estranged. Then Dara, one of the girls, goes missing on her birthday. Her sister Nick believes it is linked to the disappearance of another young girl, 9 year-old Madeleine Snow and Nick begins the mission to find her sister. But I think that the blurb was more enthralling than the actual story.. It set up the idea of a plot that wasn’t actually in the book which was really annoying!

I think this novel is an okay read, particularly if you enjoy Oliver’s writing, but I wouldn’t rush out to buy the book.

-M x

What books have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear your recommendations. 

Best of the web: April.

Welcome to another version of ‘best of the web’ – a round up of the things I have read, watched, consumed and LOVED online this month.

The Newsletter: To Her Door by Mia Abrahams & Grace Jennings-Edquist.
I found this newsletter after they’d already sent out three issues so luckily I got to binge read a few issues before I had to wait a whole week for a new issue. As described on their website – “Inspired by the women of Australia, To Her Door brings creativity, feminism, politics, and current events right to your inbox. We’re dedicated to telling you stories that matter — and that you actually want to read.” The newsletter is the creation of the amazing Mia Abrahams & Grace Jennings-Edquist, who met in the 90’s. The two women have been in the media industry for a number of years and told media site Mumberella, they started To Her Door as they “wanted to create an inclusive space where Australian women could tell stories, discuss issues, ask questions, and pass the microphone around all the wonderful people who care about each other and the world around them.”
Click here to get all the goodness of To Her Door straight to your inbox.

The Music: Meg Mac’s new song, Low Blows.
Ah Meg Mac you absolute musical genius you. Meg is back with this absolute winner of a single after success of song like Never Be, Roll Up Your Sleeves, Grandma’s Hands & her cover of Bridges by Broods. The vibes are similar to her previous songs with her raw and emotional vocals really shining through. She explained to Triple j’s Ben and Liam this new song was all “about standing up for yourself”.
All in all it is a ripper song and I can’t wait to hear the whole album which is out 14th July. Listen to Low Blows yourself by watching the video below.

 

The Netflix Show: Thirteen Reasons Why.
*Caution for those who haven’t finished – contains spoilers.*
Okay so I am well aware that there is A LOT of controversy around this show but I enjoyed it. Sure it was bloody confronting in some parts and I skipped through all the rape scenes because they really upset me and the suicide scene made me really unsettled but aside from that I think it is great. It’s started a conversation around suicide that really needed to happen. I disagree with critics saying that it ‘glorifies and romanticises suicide’ because if you can watch that suicide scene and say it is anything but traumatic and violent there is something wrong with you. I do however agree that the show doesn’t offer the viewer any ways to get help except to commit suicide which I think is pretty unhealthy. I’m also not sure about the blame factor within the show. However as someone who suffers mental illness and has thought about suicide more than once, I think that this is something most people should watch and talk about. The people I’ve talked to about the show also agree and a few of these people also suffer depression. But don’t just take my opinion – maybe watch it and make up your own mind.
PS – this show also has an ace soundtrack. Check it out on YouTube or Spotify.


The YouTube Video: A Ted Talk called ‘How to get stuff done when you are depressed’.
Jessica Gimeno is an absolute QUEEN. She is 28 years old and deals with FIVE chronic illnesses. She is a health activist, writer and speaker and I have a teeny girl crush on her. She did a Ted Talk in 2015 all about her health issues and some tips for getting stuff done when you are depressed. It is excellent and everyone with a mental illness should watch it. I’ve included the the video below so you can watch it if you are interested. (Just watch it anyway).

 

The Article: Why Self-Stigma is the Most Dangerous Pitfall when Battling Mental Illness by Noha Medhat
I think I feel a theme in the last three recommendations – they’re all related in someway to mental health. This may be because this month I’ve started being a little more proactive with my recovery. Anyway, this article by Noha Medhat is incredibly interesting. It is about the dangers of self stigma when dealing with mental illness, and often how self stigma goes unnoticed – much like the mental illnesses we face. It is thought provoking, wonderful and a decent read. Here is one of my favourite lines from the article, “The essence of stigma is viewing mental illness differently from physical illness because of its nonphysical nature. And that’s a trap I subconsciously fell into for a very long time, with unfortunate consequences.”
Read Noha’s article here.

-M x

 

What have you enjoyed this month? Let me know in the comments below.

On the bookshelf: a book review.

Now I’m not generally one to want to write a whole blog post about just one book but when you find one that you love so much I think it is necessary to sing praise from the rooftops.

So what is this amazing book you may ask? It’s called We’re All Mad Here: The No-Nonsense Guide to Living with Social Anxiety by the OUTSTANDING Claire Eastham.

*For all of those who don’t want to read about me rave about a book all about social anxiety feel free to tune out now. Good, you’re gone? Back to my post*

Alright so I know this isn’t the kind of book that will appeal to everyone but since almost 11 per cent of Australians experience social anxiety in their lifetime, chances are you know someone going through it and therefore this book is relevant to you. In fact, the book has a whole section dedicated to loved ones so even if you don’t suffer from this mental illness you’ll still be able to get something out of it.

Basically We’re All Mad Here is a guide to dealing with social anxiety and is broken down into easy to read sections. The sections discuss a lot of things like: what social anxiety actually is, treatment options, how to deal with it at school/university, how to deal with it at work, how to deal with it in other triggering situations (like on social media, on dates and at parties) and a section for loved ones. It mixes Claire’s (the author) own experience through childhood, early adulthood, breakdown and subsequent diagnosis and coping mechanisms with a few great exercises and tips.

Claire is honestly hilarious. I read the first page and wanted to be her best friend. It also felt like someone was actually talking directly to me like I was their friend rather than a book filled with lots of boring science mumbo-jumbo. I really want to praise her for making the book incredibly relatable and easy to read with her humour.

As well as some excellent advice like, JUST ACCEPT YOU HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS, the book also contains some really great quotes, great research and great resources.

Now lets cover the two teeny tiny negative parts (that aren’t really all that negative). Basically, this book is a beginners guide to dealing with social anxiety. Inside Claire writes that when she was first diagnosed ALL she wanted was a book like this that offered up a simple explanation of social anxiety as well as achievable coping mechanisms. So yeah, it’s basic and if you’ve already gone through your own diagnosis then you probably know a lot of the details in the book.

BUT WHO REALLY CARES.

It isn’t necessarily a book for someone who knows all about their condition and has their own coping mechanisms. It is a great book for someone who thinks they may have social anxiety or who has just been diagnosed or even for a loved one of someone suffering. Also I’ve known about my social anxiety for a while and I still found it relevant, relatable, funny, interesting and helpful.

The other teeny negative is that it has coping mechanisms that work for Claire but may not work for every Tom, Dick and Harry. However this is something that Claire makes clear at the start of book so I believe it counteracts the negative aspect.

And honestly, those are the only negative parts and I actually explained why they aren’t negatives at all so really it is a book full of amazing and heartfelt advice. I could not praise this book anymore. I would literally marry this book if I could (maybe that’s a little far, but you get how much I love it).

So in summary… Buy this book!!

Get it for yourself, a friend, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a parent, a sibling, WHOEVER. I can guarantee it will help someone in your life and if it doesn’t they will just laugh along because Claire is a bloody fabulous and relatable author.

Seriously, I honestly cannot recommend this book more. The advice is so practical and easy to understand its like social anxiety for dummies. By including her own personal experiences, Claire makes you feel like you aren’t in a battle that is honestly pretty terrifying. She also talks a lot about acceptance which I think is one of the most important things about recovering from a mental illness. So anyway, enough ranting from me and just buy the damn book.

-M x

PS – I also HIGHLY recommend Claire’s blog, for which the link is below. It just kept my love for her and her writing going. There are so many excellent and personal posts and more advice about mental illness. For Claire’s website ‘We’re All Mad Here’ click here. 

Have you also read this book? Or do you just have a book recommendation for me? Comment below! 🙂 

The best of the web: March.

I spend a lot of time online. As a Millennial, I’ve had access to the web since the early teenage years. A lot has changed since the days of racing home from school to jump onto MSN or Bebo (or Myspace if that floated your boat).

Now my social media consumption tends to take up most of my day. I wake up and check my notifications. I browse Facebook or Instagram while I eat breakfast. I read the news online when I get to work. I am constantly refreshing my email, my Facebook feed, my Twitter or my Instagram feed while I listen to podcasts or Spotify playlists – in between working in marketing I never seem to switch off from the great unknown we call the Internet.

So I thought… Why not do a round up of my favourite parts of the web each month? Here is an overview of what I loved consuming online in March!

Monique Bowley’s Newsletter, Monz Out Louder.
I have had an absolute obsession with Monz since I met her at last years Business Chicks 9 to Thrive event. She is funny, smart, beautiful, witty and my ultimate #girlcrush (as well as Zoe Foster Blake). Her weekly newsletter is a collection of her thoughts, her favourite podcasts, and some much genuine humour I find myself LOLing every time the newsletter it comes into my inbox. In last weeks issue (after Cyclone Debbie) she talked about the potential banana shortage and her love of bananas. So. Much. LOL.
Subscribe here. You WILL NOT regret it.

Big Scary on Triple J’s Like a Version.
I have been a Like a Version fan for as long as I can remember (my Dad is a Triple J listener from way back) and have found the songs featured this year to be somewhat… Lacklustre. And then Big Scary came into the studio. I loved the original AND the cover and I recommend that you listen and love it just as much as I did.
Listen to the original here and the cover here.

A blog post about honesty on Instagram from blogger Whiskey Tango Flat White.
I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and have been considering taking a ‘detox’ for quite a while now, mainly for my own mental health, but I still just can’t bring myself to do it. Then I read this post and really considered it again. The author of the blog, also named Maddie, really delves into some good points about how much of our ‘real life’ is shown on social media and how much of it is just the highlight reel. Now I am not saying there is anything wrong with just showing the highlights and nor is this article. It’s more about questioning how to curate a social media presence that is authentic to ourselves and not just what other people want to see. Anyway if you are interested you can read the post here. 

Ed Sheeran’s new album, Divide.
I will admit this is a little bit of my own bias presenting here because I am slightly in love with Ed Sheeran but shhhh it’s my blog and I get to be biased. I have struggled to fault ANY of Ed’s previous albums and this one is no different. It’s honestly that great. There is a perfect mix of styles on the album from acoustic Ed through to kinda rappy Ed (yes I know rappy is not a word but I don’t know how else to explain it). There are the songs that make you want to cry like Happier and Perfect and then songs that make are so incredibly catchy like Shape of You and New Man.
Do yourself a favour and listen to it.

Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People podcast episode, Up All Night
My obsession with podcasts began midway through last year and now I am constantly on the hunt for new podcasts to listen to. I found this one after it was recommended in a blog post (I think this is right but I cannot for the life of me remember what blog it was on). The show is hosted by American comedian Chris Gethard and the concept of it is an anonymous 1 hour  phone call between Chris and the caller. There are no rules except that Chris cannot hang up (no matter the topic) and each call only goes for one hour.
I’ve listed to a few episodes so far and Up All Night is my favourite so far. It’s a conversation with a nurse who has just come off her shift and has been awake for 24 hours. I think I liked it so much because it is so raw and so honest and honestly, quite amusing considering some of the darker topics discussed.
Listen to the episode here. 

An article on Man Repeller about making friends as an adult.
This is an excellent article about friendships when you’re younger versus friendships as an adult, and how sad that difference truly is. Long story short it talks about how much easier and carefree friendships are in school and university (especially if you lived on a residence at uni like me). You are seeing your friends every single day, whereas when you reach adulthood its so much easier for friendships to slip. You have work, you have other commitments and honestly it is friendships that seem to go first. I think the reason I really resonated with this article so much is because I am at the stage of my life where I am finding it so much harder to keep up with friendship. It doesn’t help being 3 – 6 hours away from most my friends either, but I think most people will be able to find this article relevant. Read the article here.

-M xo

What have you been consuming online lately? Tell me in the comments below, I would love some recommendations! 

So, what’s it like living with social anxiety?

Did you know that 1 in 4 people will experience anxiety throughout their lifetime? Specifically, anxiety will affect 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men.

There are a number of different types of anxiety – generalised anxiety, social phobia, specific phobias, OCD, panic disorders and post traumatic stress disorders. The reasons that people experience anxiety are endless – family history, personality, traumatic events, ongoing stressful situations.. The list goes on.

So, what is it like living with anxiety? Or more specifically, social anxiety? Well I can’t speak for everyone with an anxiety disorder but this is how it’s like for me.

I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety in 2015. It wasn’t until I found a decent psychologist that it was actually found to be social anxiety – an anxiety disorder that specifically relates to a fear of most social situations. According to the psychologist I’ve had anxiety and depression for a number of years, dating back to when I started high school.

For me the anxiety developed as a result of a few things.

1. My personality and family history – I am a complete perfectionist. I always have been. I never really saw it as an issue until it was explained to me how closely linked it was with my anxiety.

2. Other mental health issues – my anxiety goes hand in hand with depression. Which, if you happen to experience either one or even both, is a bloody huge struggle.

3. Prolonged stressful environments – hello relationship breakdowns, being cheated on and simultaneous trust issues, having your parents move state. There is tonnes more things I could mention here, but that’d be a whole other blog post.

Back to the point of this post – what is it like living with social anxiety?

For me, this changes day to day. Sometimes my anxiety levels are so bad that I attempt to avoid every single social situation I can. This makes things like going to work, going to the supermarket or even talking to my housemate extremely difficult. And sometimes the anxiety is barely there.

My anxiety has definitely been tested at the moment. I’ve just moved to a new town, started a new job and had to learn what it’s like to be away from your main support network. It’s hard, especially when you are terrified of most social situations.

There can be bad days.

On the bad days I can have as many as 10 panic attacks in a day. This may not seem like a huge number, but for someone with anxiety it is pretty scary.

On the bad days my heart rate sits at an increased rate. I sweat a lot. I constantly fidget. I find it hard to concentrate on anything else except the negative thoughts going on in my head – things like: “don’t ask that question, they’ll think you are dumb,” or “why are people staring at me? Did I do something wrong?”

On the bad days I second guess everything. I worry about needing to get my work done but procrastinate because I can’t start anything as I’m terrified it will be wrong. I’m scared to ask questions to my managers or colleagues because I fear I’ll be judged.

On the bad days I can text love ones multiple times if they don’t reply. I need the constant reassurance from my boyfriend that he loves me and needs me. My mind races if the response to a text or an email is not instantaneous.

“Has something happened?”
“Why won’t they reply?”
“What did I do wrong?”

I essentially shut down and yet from the outside I seem fine. Unless you notice the fidgeting, the inability to sit still, the need to be doing something with my hands at all times. Despite the fear inside there is constantly a smile on the outside.

But then there can be good days.

The good days are managing to go have brunch with friends, go out for drinks. It is being able to socialise in general.

The good days are the days without panic attacks, sweaty hands, a heart that beats too quickly. It is the smile that I can believe. Being able to concentrate on work and not having an underlying fear that I am going to muck things up.

The good days are not second guessing everything or everyone. They are the days without the nagging voice inside my head, the questions going over and over again.

I definitely wouldn’t say that at the moment my weeks are an equal split between the good days and bad days – it is definitely more 70% bad, 30% good. But what I am trying to say is that it is possible to have both. People who have these debilitating mental illnesses can struggle to see out the other side (and I can say this honestly because I have been there). With the correct treatments and help there is the chance to get better and to somewhat function day to day.

The correct treatment for me may be different from someone else who deals with these challenges. I personally rely on both my amazing psychologist and antidepressants. I also have a strong support network, I journal, I exercise and I meditate. I have tried to find balance.

I think if you are someone who also experiences a mental illness it is important to remember it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes it is a messy and scary storm. What helps is putting one foot in front of another and having tactics to deal with the bad day.

If you were troubled by this post or experiencing a personal crisis, you can call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636 or visit lifeline.org.au or beyondblue.com.au

The Self Love Club.

Self love.
Noun.
Regard for ones own well-being and happiness.

For someone that has struggled with depression and anxiety for a number of years, the concept of ‘self love’ is something that is seemingly unknown to me. Self loathing on the other hand, I am well aware of the term. It is something I deal with every single day.

The negative thoughts. The negative self talk. Self harm.

Self loathing is something I am good at. Self love, not so much. But I’m trying.
Every single day I make such an effort to be positive. To talk positively to myself. To remind myself that I am worth it. To remind myself that tomorrow is another day and that things do get better.

But sometimes it isn’t that easy to drown out the self loathing. Sometimes it is easier to fall into that deep, dark black hole that is depression. Today was definitely one of those days. It was the kind of day where everything felt like too much of an effort. Everything hurt. Everything felt dark.

But even on the bad days I am still trying so hard to practice self love. Even when I don’t want to I make the effort to shower. I make the effort to drink water. I make the effort to try.

I think the purpose of this post was more of a vent than anything else. A reassurance to all the other people that are struggling that it is okay to struggle through the bad days as long as you keep trying. Just keep trying to love yourself and look after yourself, no matter how hard it may seem.