Anxiety, art, depression, mental health

Blooming into the new (old) me

I know I’m not 100%. I know that those anxiety bouts get the better of me sometimes. Over analysing and I still remain BFF’s. I know I’ll have to manage this all my life. 9 years with it feels like a lifetime, like watching anything with Piers Morgan on.

But somethings happened. Through these blogs. I’ve really got to know a lot more about myself and who I am. And how I haven’t been that person for a long time.

A close friend told me the other day. Although I’ve had a shit time, she’s already seeing me as better, funnier, more chilled out person. Isn’t it amazing what new meds and getting rid of metaphorical baggage can do! (Don’t leave your baggage unattended though, the non metaphorical kind. I did that once and my bag went to Middlesborough).

Now I might get a bit hippy and deep here. But y’know, we’ve entered spring (I know! Tell the weather that!) and I feel I’ve entered the spring of my life. Out of the cold, ice of winter and into the blooms of spring. New life.

Yes it’s going to be a constant battle with me and my thought processes, but I’m armed to fight them. The bulbs are sprouting and I can see so much light shining in. Pass me my shades.

This could well be down to therapy today. Or, it could be down to me. I’m on a journey of self- discovery (god I want to punch myself right now for writing that, next I’ll be packing a back pack and off to south East Asia to ‘find myself’ and stroke a sedated tiger).

I go back to work on Thursday and I can’t wait. Nursing is part of my identity, that I’m re-building. This time with the knowledge that I have a support system. And I know I can trust this support system.

Everything happens for a reason. I had to reach rock bottom to climb back up.

Oh and… Karma bitches ✌🏼

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Anxiety, art, depression, mental health, nursing

Why I became a nurse, and tried to hide my mental health.

Nursing wasn’t my first career choice. Well, I had expressed a wish to be a “nurth” when I was about 3. (My grandad kept a diary every day for years and these sort of things were in it, that and the cricket scores).

Unfortunately, when applying for universities at the tender age of 17, my school never highlighted nursing as an option. It didn’t seem something that was possible. It was more of a case of “pick one of your A-levels and go to that at uni.”

My A-levels were in Sport Science, Psychology and Fine Art… I flipped a coin. I had always been quite academic, and when that coin flipped and narrowed it down to Art, my mum wasn’t happy (IS SHE EVER?! I’m Sorry I broke your favourite wax melter get over it!)

Why was I going to go off and do art when I loved the challenge of learning facts and science. WELL, I was being a stubborn teen and thought I was all cool and edgy heading off to Art College with my vintage clothing and red hair.

I did the degree (hated it). Had all the confidence kicked out of me. Plodded home covered in acrylic paint and shame and took a job in an office doing graphic design (yawn).

Then my second grandad died. Suddenly and unexpectedly. And something clicked. Heart problems are in my family (yeh I’ll cut down on the saturated fats when I’m good and ready thank you) I was suffering at the time. depression, grief, a break-up. It was truly god awful.

But as I said, something clicked. I was discussing nursing with a friend and I just decided to apply for a nursing degree. I had hope, that I could finally do what I wanted.

That I could help others. That I could work with people like my grandads and make a positive difference to others. Even if I struggle to make a positive difference to my thoughts.

I took a job in a nursing home. The hours were ridiculous, the work was strenuous, the management was poor. I was bullied by my manager there – told I wasn’t capable of being a nurse. I nearly let her words win. Until…

I got the interview (why I decided to try and make jokes in my interview at MMU I’ll never know!) I didn’t have much hope, people I had spoken to had said how high quality the degree was there and how it was difficult to get in. So obviously my anxiety said “Not happening love, that cow at work is right”.

I went home, I quit my job at the nursing home. And pondered what the hell I was going to do with my life. When I got the call. MMU wanted to offer me a place on Adult Nursing, and to start the following month (March) as opposed to the September! (My jokes must have paid off). I felt truly happy, apprehensive but happy. For the first time in a long time. I was finally putting me first, doing something scary, but something I had always wanted to do. This was for me. And my grandads.

Throughout my training, I hid my mental health issues from my personal tutors. I brushed on it in lectures (honestly, go into a lecture of nursing students it’s like a therapy session!). I struggled at various points but it was my main focus. I was older now, I didn’t have the distractions of living in a big city, £1 vodka lemonades and Big Mamma’s takeaway. I lived at home or with my grandma depending on placements and uni blocks.

I hid my mental health, so wrongly believing that it could affect my ability to practice as a medical professional. That it could impact on the care I gave, that people wouldn’t want me to be a nurse.

The media has covered stories of those with mental health issues, in medicine or not, who have put others in their safety in jeopardy. In the media day and age we read it, and fear is attached to those with these health conditions. So of course, why would I want to declare it!? I’m stigmatising myself here. The Sun has a field day with it but I wouldn’t wipe my backside on that ‘newspaper’.

I qualified, I was so proud. I had done it all off my own back. I got a great degree. I got a job in the field I wanted… and again I hid it. Until it all got out of control. Admitting to the mental pain I was in, as a nurse, in the hospital I worked in was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

And you know what… I’m glad I did. It’s actually common in medicine. We see a lot of heartbreaking things day to day. We put up with verbal and physical abuse. But all we want to do is help you. That takes its toll on anyone, even if your heart is made of Stone! Or another strong item… even steel, that’s really hard. I digress again.

What I’m saying is finally opening up in my profession opened floodgates of support. My management and my colleagues have been amazing. I couldn’t thank them enough. Yes the NHS is under funded – especially mental health. I’m still on waiting lists. But those who work in it are a support system themselves and I love the NHS for that.

I might still feel the stigma, I might still feel I have to hide it sometimes. But it’s only because I really, really care. I LOVE my job. I’m such a nerd about it. I will look at all your veins when we converse and think where I would cannulate you. Possibly think of care plans I’d need to put in place for you.

I may have let my care for myself slip but it will always be there for the public.

I go back to work next week and I can’t wait. Of course I’m scared. But I know I have so much support.

As the NMC has said, there is NO evidence mental health will detriment the care a nurse provides. I stick to the 6 C’s, I work within my code of conduct. And I’m in my dream job. If that’s not something to smile about. I don’t know what is.

I’m a nurse with mental health issues. But you’re always going to come first patients of Britain.

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Anxiety, art, depression, mental health, Uncategorized

Insomnia – and other sleep beefs

This isn’t a post about the bangin’ tune by Faithless. There are no glow sticks or amphetamines involved here. (I don’t know what goes on at places that would play that song, can you tell?).

In fact, it’s a new phenomenon to me. Anyone who knows me, will know, I LOVE SLEEP. It’s great. It’s warm in bed, it’s cosy, I starfish. In fact I tend to sleep with my arms up in the air like I’m celebrating a great achievement.

A lot of mental health issues can severely impact on sleeping patterns. It can also be an endless cycle. The charity MIND describe it pretty well. In the fact that, poor mental health can lead to poor sleep, poor sleep then affects your mental health. So Round and round we go on the magic roundabout of sleep difficulties.

I’ve either been at one drastic end of the spectrum, or the other. Mental health issues can often cause sufferers to sleep far too much, or just not enough at all.

In the past I’ve slept as a way of ignoring the day ahead of me. Sleeping for 14 hours easy peasy. However, I’ve also had the times when I’m sleeping 4 hours a night at most.

I’m at the insomnia phase right now. I’m tired, believe me, knackered! But I can’t drift off. Unusual, quick, fleeting thoughts racing in my head. Out of nowhere, thoughts totally unrelated to any situation I am actually in in my present day to day life.

Sometimes it’s just them pesky butterflies refusing to leave. The physical anxiety symptoms, of what I often can’t figure out the cause. I shake myself back and forth (that’s not weird in the slightest is it? Chain me up and stick me in a padded cell eh).

I’ve tried all the advice, exercise, routine etc… have you even tried to have a routine when you work 13 hour shifts?! (Even though I’m off work at the moment). Routine isn’t common in my line of work. Seriously I don’t have a clue what day it is sometimes! That’s shifts!

I do know I’m so looking forward to getting back to work. To a slight routine, even if it is a skew wiff one.

GP’s are reluctant to hand out sleeping tablets as you can become highly reliant on them. Which I understand. But I’d love to drop some diazepam right now and get me a good 8 hours (oh the DREAM).

I don’t really have a routine at the moment. I’m frequenting the gym…sometimes having a chamomile tea in attempt at ‘relaxing’ before bed. That stuffs nasty. Hand me a Yorkshire tea any day!

To sum up. I’m worrying I’m not sleeping. So I stay awake because I’m worried…. you see where this is going.

JUST SING ME A LULLABY SOMEBODY.

Or if you, like me, are vocally challenged. Offer me up some tips.

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Anxiety, art, depression, mental health, Uncategorized

Dear Friends

I’m sorry I lied to you. Im sorry I put on a front and never really said how bad it was at the time. I’m sorry I pushed you away. I cut myself off, I hurt you.

I spent so much time trying to maintain a ‘not going anywhere’ relationship, that I neglected you. And myself.

You’d think I’d learn (I learn the most ridiculous facts why can’t I learn my own bloody patterns!) But I didn’t and I’ve been here before.

I’ve pushed a group of friends away in the past. When the dark, scummy well pulled me in and replaced my usual self with anger and self-destructive behaviour.

You see, when you’re not coping, as I wasn’t over the last year. My old pals D&A (I’ve abbreviated them now to be cool, and because we are so acquainted 🤞) cloud up my own judgements and I refuse to see what I’m doing. Trying to explain how these pals of mine tend to affect me is like telling a fat kid he can’t have seconds at an all you can eat buffet. It’s just so difficult!

It does seem weird to people that it can manifest into resentment. But, I’m afraid it does. And I get snappy and shitty with my friends. And sometimes the dog, but she’s a bloody idiot!

It’s taken a really shit time. And some discussions with psych liaison, initial therapy appointments and an old time friend (who is conveniently a therapist) to acknowledge how low I have truly been. And how now, I can be me again.

But a me who will not cut off, who will be open with when I’m anxious, upset, angry.

It’s time to be honest with you rather than subduing it and making things worse.

I have to end on a sassy note (of course I do, it’s me). And that note is:

Yes, I live with mental health issues. Yes it’s hard to get your head round sometimes. No I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just want to be the best me I can. And that comes with my chemically unbalanced brain. Take me or leave me. It’s part of me.

Also part of me is my massive cheeks but I can’t take anything to make them smaller. I’ve looked into it.

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Anxiety, art, depression, mental health, Uncategorized

Inadequacy

When Googled, inadequate is defined as:

Lacking the quality or quantity required; insufficient for a purpose.

(Of a person)

Unable to deal with a situation or with life.

This is an on and off friend of mine. At the height of anxious and depressed periods, we’re best pals. We spend nights in together, snacking, watching films. We go out together, hit the Town up. Me and my ol’ pal inadequacy.

But he’s also, usually there in the background.

Lurching, to re-build our friendship when I’ve climbed back in the anxiety and depression boat.

It comes down to the fact I’ve never felt I’m good enough. For most things, instead of pushing myself I reach a wall and I hear the sweet whisper of anxiety chime in “you’re not good enough for this anyway. Just give up.”

And that’s what I’ve done in the past.

The weird thing is, I can be a perfectionist, I’m competitive (honestly I’ve had blazing rows over trivial pursuit and the logo quiz game). And if I know I’m not the actual best – even if it’s MY best, and enjoy what I’m doing. I can’t be proud – I’m just not good enough so there’s no point carrying on.

It was the reason I gave up Athletics. And I was good, I’m a fast little thing. I was a coach too (but most of the kids were taller than me, I coached under 11’s).

It’s why I stopped caring half way through my art degree, everyone else seemed so much better so why should I have bothered. It’s why I’ve LET myself be treated badly and disrespected by men. Because I’m inadequate. I’m not the best so I don’t deserve the best…

I know I don’t deal with situations others may soldier on with. I’m overwhelmed by what some would see as daft inconveniences.

I’m overwhelmed when there are two people in-front of me in a queue, when the dog ate my favourite plastic spoon (yeh I know, mortifying. It was he best spoon to eat yoghurts with).

I’m inadequate at dealing with minor stresses. And little things like this, build to make me think.. can I actually deal with anything

I’ll never be promoted, I’ll never get a mortgage (not entirely easy for anyone that started their career at 24 in this financial climate! Bloody house prices and Tory government!).

I so easily forget that, no, sod off feeling of anxious inadequacy. I’ve achieved so much! I live independently, I own my own car, I got a first class degree in Nursing. I manage well through the most ridiculously stressful shifts and staff shortages (Again, bloody tories).

One day, when I learn to face these feelings head on. And overcome them. I can progress in my career, I will have a house, I won’t settle for being second best to someone. I won’t let knowing I’m not the best at everything, make me think I’m not the best at being me. And respecting myself.

I can’t say I’m not still going in and out of fight or flight. But I can say I want to embrace positivity – engage with treatment and learn to be me. The new me. Because the only way out of this well is up. Chuck us that ladder. But also pass me the beta-blockers because I’m tachycardic and panicking. Cheers.

I may feel inadequate. But I’m not, I’m more than adequate. I’m the best me ever, granted, I need some work doing (extensive and pricey work on the foundations) but I’ll get there…however…

Easier said than done when the anxiety parrot is on your shoulder, pecking, screeching. Making you want to hide and bury yourself under a pile of lies he tells you.

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Anxiety, art, depression, mental health

I wasn’t happy.

Hindsight is a great thing. And if I learnt anything from my nurse training, so is the power of reflection (Gibbs knows what I mean).

Reflection is the process of analysing your own behaviours, decisions, mistakes and questioning why they may have happened. And most importantly, how you can learn from a positive or negative experience going forward in your life.

I’ve reflected on a lot of things professionally (we all slip up, we’re only human, but I promise I can get that catheter in the right hole ok!).

But what I’ve done over the last day, is reflect on the last 6 months of my life. The relationship I was in, my actions and my beliefs. It’s a hard thing to do, it’s difficult to take off those rose tinted glasses of the past. It is even more difficult to reflect on mistakes you know you have made.

I’ve stood in front of that mirror now. I’ve embraced and acknowledged my reflection physically and mentally (physically I get angry at cellulite, but what you gonna do? I don’t have the Kardashian’s bank balance).

I haven’t been happy for a while. I lost myself in trying to maintain something that was falling apart. Polyfilla couldn’t bridge those cracks. I let myself be treated as a second rate citizen in the hope of keeping someone who wouldn’t fight my corner. Put it simply. He was just not that into me.

My main reflection from this whole situation. Is that I truly deserve to be supported. And most of all, to trust my gut instincts. Be braver. Have the courage to walk when I feel it’s time. I wanted to walk 4 months ago. I wasn’t getting what I deserved from a partner. I wasn’t me, albeit I was unwell then, I knew, I knew deep down that this couldn’t go on anymore. If you’re not encouraged and assisted to be the best version of you. Then you need to be your own cheerleader.

But I was consumed by my anxiety. I wasn’t brave enough to walk. Instead I cried to my mum that I just didn’t feel the same about that person anymore – but pushed anyway to try. When I should have been brave.

I was disrespected. I was put second. I put more into things. That’s not how it should work. Now is the time to put me first. Do what I want to do, engage in my health and well-being (I had a personal training session today and my legs won’t work. Send a wheelchair.)

I’ve smiled a lot today – part of me feels guilty for that. Wary, worried that I don’t deserve to smile. Not with how I’ve felt for numerous months. The butterflies of fear have been sky high on and off today, I put this down to the fear of the unknown. But I deserve to smile. I’m I am me. I’m finding myself again, and that will involve smiles (and probably prosecco).

You might have noticed today’s post has a colourful drawing. I felt colourful today, slightly. And you’re probably in shock about this positivity. Well, it does happen – even to the ones with the chemically imbalanced brains.

We had more in common than I thought we did. You were my priority. You were your priority. – Kate McGahan

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Anxiety, art, depression, mental health

It’s time to talk about self-harm.

I know. No one really wants to broach it. Or hear about it, and definitely don’t want to see it. But it happens. Everyday, all over the world. People are using self harm as a coping mechanism.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1 in 10 people self harm. This can be through cutting, taking tablets, burning, piercing, or even swallowing objects.

My chosen method has always been cutting. Yep, I’ve been a self-harmer. For years, on and off.

I’ve had to answer the awkward questions about the scars (rooky mistake as a 17 year old, doing it in obvious places, what an idiot eh). I’ve honestly come up with the most stupid excuses, and I know people know exactly what they are, so why do you even ask?!

Some of the best excuses for the scars have been;

“Oh my cat did it, she had really sharp claws when she was younger.”

“I was moving a fence panel with me mum and chunks of the wood splintered and cut me.” – why oh why did I ever use this one.

“It’s from when a mirror smashed and fell on me as a kid.” -this actually happened but the scar from that is on my hand.

Sometimes I have simply just said “it was a long time ago.” Because I know you know what they are.

So I moved on to my thighs, I’ve never got them out. Unless I’m on holiday sunning myself up, or if you’re a lucky enough person to see.

A common misconception I have come across in my years of slicing and dicing, is that people think these scars are from a suicide attempt. Let me clarify, I, and many others do not self-harm to die.

For me, it’s to get a sense of control when I have none. No control over my racing thoughts, panic, fear, hopelessness. I’m in so much pain mentally, I want to feel something physically. And for a short amount of time I’m feeling something else. Physical pain. The mental pain is still there, but I can focus on the stinging.

I was taught distraction techniques as a teen.

Like putting an elastic band around my wrist and pinging it when I want to cut – didn’t make a blind bit of difference. Just aggravated me having a laccy band on my wrist.

It upsets and angers my family and friends. They tell me not to do it. Or to talk to them when I get the urge – if it was as simple as that I wouldn’t have scars all over my thighs. Sorry guys, I can’t stop myself when I get the urge. When I’m that hopeless and out of control. That’s what I want, and need to do.

I’m sensible about it (which is odd for what I’m sure a lot of people won’t see as a sensible choice). I obviously use clean sharps, I care for the wounds, I know signs of symptoms of infection to look out for. I’m my own patient post cutting.

The closest people in my life have resented me for it. I’m not trying to hurt you. In fact, I’ve hidden it so well a lot of the time, not to hurt you.

Basically (after all this rambling). What I’m trying to say is. If you see someone with scars, don’t point, don’t ask. Support, keep that extra eye on them. They’re fighting a painful battle. But not from the pain of their injuries, from the pain that caused them to injure.

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