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

Self care tips – the non cutesy kind.

When you go through a shitty time the first thing anyone will tell you is that you need to take care of yourself.

But what does self care really mean? I think people sometimes think that self care just means lighting some candles, having a long bath, drinking a glass of wine or going to a day spa (all of which are very nice) but for the people that are really struggling self care can mean so much more.

Sometimes I think we need to dig a little deeper than a Pinterest quote or a Lush bath bomb.

So if your feeling down, or if you’ve just had your heartbroken, or you are grieving here are some non cutesy self care tips. I hope they help.

Talk it out or write it down.
Tell someone about how you feel. Tell them you feel overwhelmed or depressed or anxious. Tell someone you trust. Call Lifeline or beyondblue. There is always someone to listen no matter how small or insignificant the issue seems.
Sometimes it is hard to talk about something going on in our lives. We may feel like there is no one to talk too, that no one will understand or maybe you just don’t want to talk about it right now. In this case it always helps to write down your thoughts. Get a blank piece of paper and just VENT. Write it all down. Who cares if it doesn’t make sense? As long as it is therapeutic for you.

Breathe.
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Slow. Deep. 4 breaths in, 4 breaths out. If you’re into meditation, meditate. Just do it. Taking a few deep breaths will calm your heartbeat and make you feel more calm overall.

Vitamin D.
Go outside and get some sunshine! If you can’t will yourself to go outside, even opening the curtains on a dark room will help improve your mood. Only 15 minutes of sunshine can increase our serotonin levels thus improving our mood.

Water.
Have a big class of water. Use it to regenerate yourself. It may seem like a small thing, but it always helps me feel so much better when I’m feeling crap. I also find having a mug of green or chamomile tea helpful. Both just make me feel so calm.
Your skin will also thank you for it!

Hygiene.
When was the last time you showered? Have you brushed your teeth today?  When was the last time you put on a fresh pair of underwear? The first thing that tends to slip when we’re feeling low is our hygiene. So have a shower. Brush your teeth. Get into a fresh pair of clothes. Then get back into bed.

Eat a healthy meal.
Put aside the family block of chocolate and prepare a healthy meal. You know the one, full of protein and greens and all the good things. I can guarantee you that junk food is not going to make you feel better. The action of preparing food will also make you feel more put together (it’s the act of achieving something!) You can always eat the chocolate later.

Say no.
I know, I know. This isn’t as easy as it sounds but sometimes the main reason that you are feeling so down and depressed is because you’re feeling overwhelmed. In this instance you really need to start saying no to things you really can’t deal with. Can’t bring yourself to go out with friends? Say no if you think it will help.

Do something you enjoy.
Take a day to do the things you love to do. It doesn’t matter if you do it alone or with someone just makes sure it’s things you love. Personally, I like to go for a long walk, read a book I’ve been putting off, visit a museum or art gallery and take myself out for a meal.

Switch off.
Take some time to log off social media. The constant comparisons, the light of the screen and the mindless scrolling is not good for your mental health. Don’t completely switch off from social media (unless you really want), just delete the app for a few hours or limit yourself to checking your phone a few times a day.

Get active.
This can come into the Vitamin D point or even in the Do something you enjoy point but I also think it deserves its own. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is go do some exercise. This might mean a walk, a run, yoga or a Kayla Itsines workout (whatever floats your boat!) Just 30 minutes of exercise can release so many good hormones and leave you feeling so much better.

De-clutter.
When I get stressed I clean, it helps calm me down and focus on something other than the anxiety rising in my chest. But when I’m feeling low, cleaning is the first thing I stop doing. For me, decluttering or cleaning an area in my house is one of the MOST therapeutic things I can do. So take a moment to tidy up a space. It could mean doing the dishes and wiping down the benches. It could mean putting away your floordrobe. It might just be sorting out the pile of mess gathering on the kitchen table.

Please remember these things may not work for everyone – they are what works for me. You may need to find your own ways of coping. You might be the kind of person who does find that watching netflix all day in bed is good for your self care (I am so jealous!) Self care is all about what works for you. 

-M xo

What things do you do when you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed? Tell me in the comments below. 

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.

Throwing out depression “stereotypes” one day at a time.

Source: Pinterest
“The wars inside my head don’t define me” – Pinterest

“It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling  —  that really hollowed out feeling. That’s what dementors are.”  — J.K Rowling.

If you’ve read “Harry Potter,” you’ll understand Rowling’s reference. If not, let me describe a dementor. They are faceless, black-cloaked things that feed off happiness and suck the good out of people, leaving nothing more than a lifeless, cold shell. 

Those who suffer depression may understand the feeling Rowling describes in her novels. Those who don’t may shrug off the reference. For someone who doesn’t suffer from the terrible illness, depression is hard to describe. This difficulty has led to a social stigma of depressed people, subjecting the sufferers to embarrassment, fear and even more loneliness than they already feel. The stigma further extends to talking about any type of mental health issue. People have this fixed idea of what mentally ill people should be like.

They think mentally ill people are ones who have suffered great loss, or had a hard upbringing, or did something to bring it on themselves. Many believe there needs to be some kind of specific, heart-wrenching trigger. For some people with depression, this couldn’t be anymore wrong. 

I have depression. But I don’t fit the stereotype of a depressed person.

I didn’t have a rough upbringing. I was a happy child. I always had food in my stomach, clothes on my back and I was surrounded by love. I had good friends.

I am intelligent, I got good grades all through school. The only negative thing about my school reports was my constant chatter and socializing during class, which is hardly a warning sign for depression. 

I get along with my brothers. My parents love me. There is no violence at home. I am doing well at university. I have loving friends and an amazing boyfriend who supports and loves me unconditionally.

And I still suffer a depressive anxiety disorder. 

For someone who has never experienced a mental illness, it’s difficult to describe. 

For me it is the days I cannot physically get out of bed. It is the days where staring at the roof is easier than dealing with happy, “normal” people. It is not having enough strength to cry, let alone strip myself of the clothes I’d been wearing for the last week and shower. 

For me it is the days where I cannot eat, or I overeat to try and make myself feel better.

For me it is the days where my mood swings are so violent I’m scared my boyfriend is going to leave because there is no way he was prepared to deal with this. 

For me it is the panic attacks in the middle of the night and the middle of the day that come from nowhere. 

For me it is the inability to concentrate on school work or on my job. It is the sickening feeling of letting people down every time you unsuccessfully try to complete something else.

For me it was cleaning up blood and sobbing on the shower floor then trying hard to hide the scars so no one thought I was “crazy. “

For me it is the days where I feel nothing at all. I feel hollow, alone, empty. 

For me it is the years I struggled with the secret because I was too scared and embarrassed to get help.

Even with the help of a psychologist and medication I still feel unstable most of the time. I do not have 100 percent good days, but does anyone? I find some comfort in knowing the number of good days outweighs the bad. 

The reason I am writing this is not for the attention. I don’t want the sympathy. What I want is to give some kind of insight in a hope that people will begin to understand and continue to work towards breaking the stigma. I want people to understand that the most beneficial thing you can do to help a mentally ill person is just to be there and not judge them for what they are going through.

Let them talk if they need to talk. Let them cry on you. Let them get angry, but make an effort to calm them down. Never tell them it’s just a faze or that their just sad. 

Depression is not sadness. Depression is the numb feeling that can develop from being sad. It is a thing someone lives with daily — a thing they are trying to battle on their own. Do not make it harder; try your hardest to make things easier.