Thursday, 31 December 2015

My Romeo Project Resolutions

The Romeo Project, a 10 month life re-design will be guided by my Ten New Year’s Resolutions.
Finding a place to start for any self-improvement project is the hardest part, so for The Romeo Project I’ve been reading around the subject of happiness and self-improvement for the past few months.

In the texts (you can check them all out so far here) there were a lot of common themes. Whether it's books about Happiness, Managing Depression, or why your Twenties matter these were the sort of themes that emerged – living with authenticity, self-belief, stop saying ‘if only’, de-clutter, don’t expect praise or appreciation, appreciate the little things, practice mindfulness…

The Ten Resolutions I've picked combine a number of the recurring themes from the self-help literature. But they also were the themes that felt relevant to me. My Ten Resolutions allow me to explore recovery as much as happiness. It was important for me to find a balance between pursuing happiness and learning to move out of the shadow of my depression, and I think these Resolutions achieve this.

The Resolutions will guide me for the year, and each month I’ll examine one resolution in depth with a series of tasks built around that resolution.

Take a look at the breakdown of my year below:

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Bibliography | The Romeo Project

My bibliography will be updated throughout the ten months of The Romeo Project. Here, you can see all the books I've been checking out as part of the project.


10% Happier - Dan Harris

100 Days of Happiness – Domonique Bertolucci

101 secrets for your twenties - Paul Angone

168 hours: You have more time than you think – Laura Vanderkam

21 Days to Matter Extreme Self Care – Cheryl Richardson

A Space of their own: The Archaeology of Nineteenth Century Lunatic Asylums - Susan Piddock

Anxiety: A Very Short Introduction – Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman

Anxiety Free: Unravel Your Fears Before They Unravel You – Robert L. Leahy

Anxiety Management - Mike Mitchell

Monday, 28 December 2015

December Favourites | Yearly Round Up

Happy New Year to you all! I cannot believe that in just a few short days we will be in 2016 - what a fabulous feeling. It's the perfect time of the year to reflect upon the previous 12 months. For me, this is especially poignant, as when I look back I can see just how far I've come in so many ways.
This time last year I was crying in my bed wishing that I didn't feel the way that I did. The first few months of the year were hard as I struggled with low self-esteem and my depression. Looking back it feels like it was much longer ago when I felt that way, rather than just 10 months. But a lot can change in a year.

Join me in ringing in the New Year with a look back at both my December Favourites and my Favourites from the Year.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Introducing The Romeo Project

I’ve been teasing the fact that I have been developing a mystery self-improvement project for some time now. Well, it’s finally here and ready for take-off!

Do you ever stop and wonder, what am I doing with my life?

Or, I wish I was less self-conscious, more confident, more ambitious?

Do you ever want to change a part of your life that just isn’t doing it for you anymore?

Do you want to build up your defences so you can take on the world prepared?

I had been asking myself these questions for a few months. But for much longer it’s been in the back of my head.

For almost 10 years now my depression has clouded everything I do. It’s affected my mood, my academic achievements, my social skills, my relationships, and in the end it showed me my passion.

Monday, 21 December 2015

How I’m Coping with Christmas

Today I’m writing a little about the holiday sadness that can accompany Christmas.
I touched on this in my media round-up on Sunday, but I want to share with you what I’ll be doing over the festive period to help my own mental health and try to prevent a breakdown like last year.

I’m susceptible to bad mental health during Christmas. The period combines a number of my triggers (lack of alone time, lack of stimulation, pressure to be happy, extreme stress, family arguments) in close proximity and, like last year, it can result in the return of feelings of extreme darkness.
I really contemplated what way to take my annual leave this year as a result. Should I take the festive period off or go to work? Will taking my holidays just lead to more free time and hence more time to feel miserable?

After last Christmas, I wasn’t sure which was the best way to deal with my mental health.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

This Week in Mental Health... 20th December 2015

A recurring theme in mental health articles this week has been the struggles many of us face when it comes to Christmas. Amidst the pressure to feel joyful and be surrounded by family, we often forget that mental illness doesn’t just disappear come December.

Last Christmas I struggled with my mental health. While surrounded by family I felt desperately alone and trapped in feelings of self-hatred, guilt and failure. It was a struggle to pick myself back up, but by mid February I finally felt recovered from the agony of feeling trapped in a cycle of depression.

You can read my post about the Christmas Blues here.

This week I’ve selected a series of articles that deal with the hell Christmas can bring. I’d be lying if I said I was frightened history might repeat itself and put me back in the position I was in last year, but these stories remind me that people can and do defeat loneliness, panic attacks and the guilt of feeling anything but cheerful at the most wonderful time of the year.

1) Shopping is hell and kindness is therapeutic – what I learned from being depressed at Christmas, Matt Haig
Writer Matt Haig discusses how Christmas isn’t full of happiness and cheer in the entertainingly honest way that only he can. A quick trip to the supermarket can be hell for a lot of people.
The Guardian, 14th December 2015;
“Christmas, I realised, could be a nightmare. It could intensify what depression already, to some extent, made you feel: that the world was having fun while you definitely weren’t. Christmas intensifies the chiaroscuro (to use the pretentious kind of art-history terms I had in my head at the time): the contrast between light and shade. The light around you seems brighter, so the dark feels darker. I should have known that the idea of Christmas as one of collective happiness wasn’t the case.”

Thursday, 10 December 2015

This Week in Mental Health...13th December 2015

This week I'm in Amsterdam! It's not covered in snow as I had hoped, but it is cold. However, despite my holidays I haven't forgotten about my blogging.

Here's a round up of the biggest mental health stories this week.

1) 11 Things People With Anxiety Want You To Know, Kirsten King; Anna Borges; Haejin Park

Haejin Park for BuzzFeed
Buzzfeed continue to do amazing work around mental health. Haejin Park’s artwork really makes this excellent awareness raising piece. I’ve included two of my favourite pieces of advice here in this snapshot, but go and check out the full article.

Buzzfeed, 6th December 2015;
“Anxiety is an invisible illness that may not be seen, but is certainly felt. When you deal with anxiety, there’s no separating yourself from the symptoms. You carry the misery in your thoughts, your choices, your relationships, yourself. And sometimes, that weight is so heavy that it feels physical.”
“Having anxiety can mean anything from questioning if your friend actually wants you to go to the movies, to wondering if you’re really loved. So reminding us that we’re important to you might seem like it’s obvious…but it’s super important.”

2) Don’t be Sad: how to beat seasonal affective disorder, Norman E Rosenthal

From the man who first describer seasonal affective disorder, this article offers tips on overcoming the mood affects of the dark, dim winter days. Rosenthal is an engaging writer and his research in the 1980s has changed the way people view mood disorders.

The Guardian, 7th December 2015;
“Ever since my colleagues and I first described seasonal affective disorder (Sad) at America’s National Institute of Mental Health in the mid-1980s, it was obvious that we were not dealing with an all-or-nothing phenomenon, but with a spectrum of emotional and behavioural problems linked to the seasons. At one extreme are people with Sad, who struggle during the short dark days of winter, sometimes to a disabling degree. At the other are those who wake up cheerfully, rain or shine. In between are those with the winter blues. They manage with difficulty during the dark days but are less joyful, productive and creative than usual.”

3) Mental health services suspended in Co Donegal, Paul Cullen

For the past three months, older people in Donegal cannot be referred on for mental health services. The system cannot cope with the number of patients it has to see. Little thought however has been given to those who may be unable to cope without these supports.  As June Shannon pointed out on Twitter, if this was a physical illness there’d be outrage.

Irish Times, 8th December 2015;
“The HSE says it is making every effort to resume full mental health services for older people in Co Donegal, which have been suspended for new referrals since September. It says the curtailment of services is “of a temporary nature” due to a staffing shortage, but recruitment of a consultant will start early in 2016. Donegal GPs were told mental health services for older people were being temporarily closed in a letter sent on September 7th. The closure was caused by difficulties filling in for a member of staff on sick leave.”

4) I dreaded the thought of antidepressants not working – but they did, Anonymous

Medication and mental health have been making grounds this week and finally we are starting to see a positive representation of anti-depressants in the media.

The Guardian, 9th December 2015;
“It did work. I thank God I live in an age where effective psychiatric medications exist – and you should too. I cannot credit those stories that tell us they’re barely better than placebo. My experience, and those of millions of others, is that they can work, powerfully, to restore your equilibrium, your sanity. There are side effects of course. And some illnesses are better served than others. Finding the right fit, the right dosage, may be a struggle.”

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Medication and Me | Recovery and Anti-Depressants

I hate admitting to people that, almost 5 years on, I continue to take anti-depressants daily.

It’s this whole notion of recovery. The ‘No more down days, No more pills’ recovery. Rarely in articles about mental illness is medication mentioned. I often feel that medication remains one of the most stigmatised areas of mental health.

More often than not this is to do with misunderstandings around the anti-depressant industry (see That Age-Old Anti-Depressant Argument).

But there’s also a holistic approach favoured by the media. You see it all the time that you probably don’t even notice how one sided it is. Running for sanity. Eat your mind better. Cure mental illness with mindfulness. How Yoga changed my life.

Recovery is portrayed as ditching the medication in favour of lifestyle changes. Very few who speak out publicly will do so while on medication. And recovery is often defined as the point in which you ditch the pills.

But that’s not my story.
I’m sick of hearing about recovery from an anti-medication perspective. Why can’t they go hand-in-hand? They have for me.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

This Week in Mental Health... 6th December 2015

I have 5 articles for you from around the web this week. Many recognisable faces have been speaking out when it comes to mental health this week. It follows a public cry for help from Irish singer Sinead O'Connor last week. Sinead has publicly battled against her own mental illness for years. She has bravely spoken out about the reality of living with a mental illness and the lack of services in this country. But that's not enough to make the media sensitive to her breakdown. Strangely enough, Sinead O'Connor is my earliest memory of what mental health is. I used to read The Mirror every day after school, and like many a tabloid it loved sensationalist headlines. I remember reading about this 'crazy' and 'unhinged' individual. She was portrayed as incapable of being a mother, of being committed to hospital, of being a danger to herself and possibly her children. As a young teenager that was my knowledge of what mental illness was. Is it any wonder I was terrified of speaking up about my own feelings?

1) Parents – talk to your kids about mental health. Even if it's awkward - Hannah Jane Parkinson
One of the biggest problems in addressing mental health issues is the silence that exists around it. For some reason there is a fear of even discussing the topic. Parkinson addresses the point well in her article.

The Guardian, 1st December 2015;
“When the stigma that surrounds mental illness is still so prevalent in society, it’s no wonder so many parents feel uncomfortable discussing the topic. They might have had their own struggles, adding to their unease. But mental health shouldn’t be a taboo subject, and the sooner children learn this the better. It is much better to raise the topic of mental health before an episode occurs, since talking or accepting help can be especially hard when you’re in the grip of illness. You can feel ashamed, or burdensome, or worthless.”

2) Maurice Shanahan opens up on darkest hour in battle with depression
We're very privileged in Ireland to have so many well known male sports personalities opening up about their mental health experiences. Hurling star Maurice Shanahan openly discussed his past suicide attempts on local radio on Monday.

Irish Examiner, 1st December 2015;
“It got really bad Kevin, people probably know that I tried to commit suicide. That’s not an easy thing to say but it was just something that came over me that I wanted to end my life. Anyone that does commit suicide, they don’t do it to escape. When I went to do my part, I actually thought I was doing my parents and my family a favour. I certainly wasn’t doing that but at the time, I thought I was.”

3) Rural dwellers are ‘susceptible to isolation’, claims study
Living in isolation is affecting the mental health of those in rural areas of Ireland. I'm always interested in findings like this as I come from quite a secluded rural area myself.

Irish Examiner, 1st December 2015;
““There is a clear link between loneliness and depression and this can lead to more people experiencing anxieties or feeling depressed,” Mr Kelly said. “Loneliness and isolation can also exacerbate feelings of fear and this is all the more concerning due to the fact that rural crime is on the increase.” Mr Kelly advised people living in rural areas to call around to their neighbour’s house, especially in the evenings, to check if they needed help with small chores. He also advised calling friends and family members in rural areas regularly to stay in contact which, he said, would help people feel connected and not as fearful.”

4) Jo Brand: newspapers reinforce ignorance over mental health, Jane Martinson

The comedian is also a former mental health nurse, and speaks eloquently on the dangers of media reporting on suicide and mental health issues.

The Guardian, 1st December 2015;
“I know tabloids are the opposite of complex, but I don’t think that should allow them to get away with making big sweeping statements which actually aren’t the reality,” she told the Guardian before giving a speech on the subject. “It’s not one thing that batters you and makes you kill yourself. It’s a very subtle mix of events and what’s going on inside you, and trying to make it look like it’s one thing is a terrible thing to do. And for someone’s family too, it’s a terrible thing to do.  “It’s misinformation. Lots of people read those papers, hundreds of thousands, and it means their ignorance is reinforced. And secondly, for all those people who do suffer, it’s a punch in the stomach to their dignity.”

5) We Should Talk About Mental Health With Respect, Janine Francolini

Janine Francolini founded the Flawless Foundation and looks at the language we use when it comes to mental health. In this Huffington Blog Post she examines Sinead O'Connor's cry for help through a public Facebook post last weekend.

The Huffington Post, 2nd December 2015;
"A fierce advocate for mental health rights, O'Connor has dealt with depression for many years. She has, herself, spoken out against the way the media characterizes mental health issues, condemning the use of the word "crazy," and shaming paparazzi for trying to make a "buffoonery and mockery" of young, female celebrities with mental health disorders. It is therefore especially disturbing to see many similar tactics being used by media outlets to make a "buffoonery and mockery" of Ms. O'Connor, after she wrote a worrying new post on Facebook, detailing her recent thoughts and feelings."

Monday, 30 November 2015

November Favourites

Another month is over, and we're only 24 days away from Christmas and I can't wait! November flew by quickly, and I have SO much to look forward to. I'm off on a girls weekend to Clare, I have my school Christmas dinner, 4 days in Amsterdam, and then my glorious 2 week holiday. I cannot wait.
But first, here's what got me through November.

I love a good hat. November has been dreadful in Ireland. Wet, windy and freezing. Often all at once. But it's been a good opportunity to get my hat on and cover my bad hair days in style.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

This Week in Mental Health... 29th November 2015

Here we go again!! Hard to believe the weeks go by so quickly. I've been completely snowed under (and sadly not in the literal winter-y way). Work's been busy, but I have some great weeks ahead to look forward to. Here's what I've been reading this week... 

1) Guardian research suggests mental health crisis among aid workers, Holly Young
Working in overseas aid often puts you on the frontline of natural disaster, war and disease. But the aid workers are suffering mentally as a result.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Self Care for Christmas and Giveaway

As wonderfully festive as Christmas is, it can also be really difficult for a lot of people. There's the pressure to be and feel happy. The expectation that everyone has someone to spend it with. The difficulties that often come with having people to spend it with. It's totally normal for your mental health to take a real knock come this time of year.

This Christmas, encourage self care when it comes to buying gifts. Whether it's a treat, a mindfulness trend, or a way of nourishing your body, there are many present ideas that can boost your mental health.
And stay tuned for my self care giveaway at the bottom of the post.

Here's my gift suggestions for yourself or someone you know who needs a little pick-me-up;

Gratitude Journal
The simplicity of writing down why you should be grateful can be so rewarding. In 2014 I kept a Gratitude Journal where I would try to find something, no matter how big or small, to be thankful for at the end of every day. It didn't matter how bad my day was, I was to find something. Looking back through makes me laugh, and appreciate the small joys of being alive.

Hot Water Bottle
Not just for Christmas, a hot bottle provides relief from the cold, stomach aches, period pains, headaches. They're warm and cosy, and you can win your own exclusive hot water bottle in my giveaway at the end of this post.

Sad Ghost Club
The Sad Ghost Club have a huge range of selection for those who are feeling down, whether it's comics, t-shirts, badges or posters. All products feature a range of affirmations that can inspire and help anyone to feel less alone.

Colouring Book
Colouring for mindfulness has been all the rage this month. Encourage someone to take it up with any of the books from the huge ranges of selection in book stores. My favourite store, The Book Depository has loads of offer for reasonable prices!

Hot chocolate in a mug
There's not much more comforting than a warm mug of chocolate and milk. Buy a festive mug and gift it alongside your favourite brand of hot chocolate.

Bathing Gift Set
Don't underestimate the power of a good soak! Whether it's from The Body Shop, Lush or Boots, gift someone the power of relaxation.

Hot water bottle Giveaway with Alflorex

Alflorex has created an exclusive winter giveaway of a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind hot water bottle and a three month supply of Alflorex PrecisionBiotic® food supplements for one of my readers this winter. Each hot water bottle cover has a unique design and is made from super soft lambs wool sourced from traditional Irish woolen mills.
To enter the giveaway (ROI only) fill out the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 22 November 2015

This Week in Mental Health.. 22nd November

It's another week, another round-up! This week there's mental health news from the Irish Independent's #MindYourself campaign, International Men's Day and blog posts from fellow mental health bloggers. Take a look at my favourites below.

1) Doctors' lack of knowledge about psychological therapies revealed, Eilish O’Regan

GPs are often the first port of call for someone experiencing mental health difficulties. However, this research suggests that they are reluctant to refer patients on to talking therapy.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Things people have REALLY said about my mental health

I didn’t really know what stigma was until I started volunteering for See Change, the national organisation for stigma reduction. Up until that point I would have told you that my mental health was accepted, I was lucky and I hadn’t experienced any stigma.  But we grow up in a society where the word ‘crazy’ is thrown about to describe reckless behaviour, emotional exes, and celebrity breakdowns. We can easily grow accustomed to behaviours of stigma as they’ve become so commonplace.
And little did I know, but I was oblivious to the stigma I had faced for years.

While the vast majority of people have been supportive and kind, it's the harsh words and dismissive comments that often stay with us for longer.

Here’s a look at some of the things people have really said to me when I tried to talk to them about my mental health;

'We all feel like that from time to time, it will pass'
The context: I told someone I was feeling suicidal.
Why it’s wrong: This response refuses to acknowledge the very serious thoughts of suicidal ideation. It’s like saying my feelings and my urge to die was not important. It is so dangerous to ignore or shrug off any suicidal thoughts.

You’re okay. You’ll be fine.’
The context: I was scared and crying down the phone to a friend.
Why it’s wrong: Did I sound okay? I felt so far away from ‘fine’ at that point in time, and their shut down made me refuse to talk to anyone else about my low mood for weeks. If someone tries to start a conversation to you about their mental health, listen to them.

‘Were you an emo as a teenager?’
The context: I said I felt lonely, and that no one ever wanted to hang out with me.
Why it’s wrong: Where do I start? There is a terrible presumption that teenagers who look a certain way must be depressed. It’s horrible and offensive. I never would have identified myself as ‘emo’, but here I was being told I must have been if I was feeling lonely.

‘You’re attention seeking.’
The context: I said I was worried I might have Bipolar Personality Disorder.
Why it’s wrong: Any attempt by someone to reach out for help and question their mental health should be encouraged and supported. Mental illness isn’t fashionable, and those who try to self diagnose should be encouraged to seek professional help, not made to feel as if they made it up to gain notoriety.

‘Stop feeling sorry for yourself.’
The context: Honestly, I think I was just skulking around the place as I generally do.
Why it’s wrong: If there was a magic button to press so I would stop looking miserable, then don’t you think I’d press it? Faking a smile doesn’t come easy to me; so when I’m down I can’t really hide it. But depression is about so much more than feeling sorry for yourself.

‘You’re imagining it.’
The context: I thought somebody hated me; in fact I was sure I’d heard them call me ‘crazy’.
Why it’s wrong: Paranoia often accompanies a lot of different mental health issues. I remember thinking that people who looked at me when I was walking down the street hated me. I thought people knew I was worthless just by my presence, or lack thereof. But the other side of this is stigma. Stigma is alive and well, and I do still believe that I was called crazy because I remember distinctly hearing it!

‘Things could be worse.’
The context: I get this one a lot, in fact, I know I’ve also said it a few times too.
Why it’s wrong: No shit Sherlock. I actually spend most of my time worrying about what could go wrong and how much worse things could be. That comes with generalized anxiety. But knowing this doesn’t make my immediate feelings anymore muted. For a long time I felt so selfish for being depressed as I knew there were people who had it worse than I did. My mind continued to torture me irregardless.

Please think twice before dismissing someone's mental health. It takes a lot of courage for someone to begin the conversation and seek help. Don't be so quick to dismiss them.

And think before you speak. You can't take it back. Your words can be more damaging than you can ever imagine.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

This Week in Mental Health... 15th November

This week I've been reading all sorts of articles from the world of mental health. And as usual, I am sharing the best of these with you all. Seeing the issues surrounding mental illness making headlines not only in national papers, but the growing number of people opening up and sharing the realities of mental health is inspirational. Hopefully some of these stories will inspire and educate you too.

1) Talking about mental health, Aine Hennessy

David Kerr very bravely opens about his experiences of living with depression in the farming community. Farmers in rural Ireland often find themselves isolated often both physically and emotionally, living in communities that lack resources and without support. It’s been difficult in the past number of years for charities and organisations to find voices from the farming sector to speak out about the issue, even while conversations were starting in other areas.

The Farmer’s Journal, 9th November 2015;
““Every farming family in the country has been touched by depression, either directly or indirectly,” says David Kerr.  David tells the story of his own battle with depression and says that the farming sector is “behind the curve” when it comes to talking about mental health. The dairy farmer from Co Laois spoke publicly about his illness earlier this year at the Irish Farmers Journal dairy meeting, hoping to encourage other farmers to do the same.  “Very few farmers have spoken out about depression, it’s still a stigma. It needs to be normalised like other illnesses. “Mental health is a big topic everywhere now, but nobody wants to talk in the farming sector, we’re still a little bit behind the curve,” he says.”

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Post Mortem

I'm feeling a little broken.

Don't ask me why or who or what. Just know that for some reason, I'm feeling slightly morbid and hurt.

I catch myself wallowing. And I catch myself fuelling it.

I spent an hour reading reports from the Coroner's Court.
It's where the Coroner discusses why or how someone died. The post mortem is on full display.

The Court is filled with cases of suicides.
Investigations into causes of death. Assessing whether someone was suicidal. About the knife, the rope. How they were found. And the why. Why? Why? Why?

I feel I’m being intrusive. As if these are stories I shouldn't know.
It’s how I felt reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Intrusive but persistent in my quest for knowledge. I had to know. Someone has to know that this is happening.

But between these moments of solitary intruding I'm balanced with sparks of joy.
True smiles.
The ability to converse with work colleagues and shop assistants that I often lack. The world is not all doom and gloom. I can see both sides, and I’m surviving in both sides.

I’m balancing.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

This Week in Mental Health... 8th November

Aaaand another week is over! Next thing we know November will be over... It pains me to even think towards December and Christmas already.
This week I've been reading a lot of articles about mindfulness, the work of helpline Niteline, and Miriam Dowling's excellent take on mental health in the workplace (Number 9 in this week's articles) amongst many others.

1) The pressure to be thin is the main reason vulnerable young girls contemplate suicide – expert, Claire McCormack

Pieta House were putting emphasis on one of the main reasons young girls take their own lives - body issues. Although most associated with females, male body issues are also on the rise.

Sunday Independent, 01st November 2015;
“Pressure to be thin is the main reason vulnerable teenage girls contemplate suicide, a leading adolescent psychotherapist says. Over the last two years, Pieta House - the suicide and self-harm crisis centre - has witnessed a marked increase in the number of 13- to 17-year-old girls presenting with suicidal ideation. The most consistent issue they are presenting with is their struggle to obtain "the perfect body"... "It's about looking thin. Teenage girls are comparing themselves a lot to their peers. They're at a stage of development where confidence is quite low and in order to be acceptable to the group, they believe they need this 'ideal body'," said Ms Kiely.”

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

November Mental Health Update

I wouldn’t say that October was either a great month for my mental health, or a bad month. I guess it was somewhere in between, but verging slightly more on the positive side.

The truth is, I haven’t had a chance to sit and reflect on how I’ve been feeling. There’s been so much to be done over the last month with work, teaching classes, party planning, booking appointments and the blog. I’ve been knackered, rather than feeling anything specific.

I’m feeling tired and a little lazy. I could blame this on SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but I haven’t ever been diagnosed with it, so that seems unfair. I do blame it on my bad habits however. I am inclined to eat a lot of bad snack food when it’s cold and dark. Some nights I watch TV in bed until almost 1am. No wonder my mood has suffered.

I’ve been taking Vitamin D supplements for the past few days and they have had a positive, if only placebo, affect on my mood. And I am trying to stop watching so much TV late into the night in favour of retiring with a book in hand to my bed instead. It’s early days, but I do seem to sleep a lot better when I do that.

I have so much to get done for Christmas; presents, holidays, shopping for Amsterdam, booking time off work etc,, that I’m starting to get a little bit stressed. I love to-do lists, and lots and lots of organisational planning. But there are times when I’m feeling overwhelmed. There’s the things I need to do, the things I force myself to do, and then there’s the things I’d love to get done in an ideal world where I have ample free time. I don’t get to do the things I love enough; like this great craft idea I had early last month. The supplies are just sitting on a shelf waiting on a free evening so I can get cracking on it.

But there is one thing I have decided for the better with my mental health. Inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I want to start a project of my own that will work towards continuously improving my mental health and building up my defense mechanisms against the bad days. The as-of-yet-untitled project is on my list of things I’d love to get done in an ideal world, and hasn’t been given the thought the time it really needs for it to be a success yet. Hopefully this month I can start putting my bits of research and thoughts together into something goal-oriented and achievable. It should stand to me in the long run and improve my overall mental health.

At least that’s my hope.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

This Week in Mental Health... 1st November 2015

Welcome back to another round-up of mental health related stories! To read this week's Halloween special, click here. This week people have been writing about Professor Green's documentary on suicide, how a physical disability impacts your mental health, and the impact foster care can have on your depression.
Check them out:

1) Can Professor Green teach men to talk about suicide?, NicolaSlawson
Seven years ago, Stephen Manderson aka Professor Green, lost his father. He and his grandmother never discussed it until now, and only after letting the cameras in to raise awareness about the lead killer in men under 45 in the UK – suicide. Prior to the documentary airing, Slawson examines whether Manderson can spark a change in conversation around mental health.

The Guardian, 27th October 2015;
“In a heartbreaking documentary for BBC3, Manderson, who was raised by his grandmother in the London borough of Hackney, let the cameras in as he delved into his father’s past in an attempt to work out what led him, like so many others, to suicide. A common thread in his research is how many relatives and friends of men who have taken their own lives did not see it coming. Despite the devastating impact this has on the people left behind, families often brush suicide under the carpet. “The documentary was actually the first time me and my grandmother talked about it,” says Manderson. “It is difficult. It’s not something even family like to talk about. It’s really hard”...
Have any of Manderson’s fans been in contact since the publicity for the documentary started? Manderson’s voice shakes as he responds: “Yesterday, someone told me I had saved his life.””
**The documentary aired on BBC Three on Tuesday 27th October**

2) 17 Things Only People With Mental Health Issues Know, Jordan Davidson

Amy Sefton / BuzzFeed
I love the coverage Buzzfeed gives to mental illness. As one of the most popular online news websites, especially among the younger generation, their focus on mental health is encouraging conversations and helping many young people feel less alone. Not to mention how damn relatable their posts are!

Buzzfeed 27th October 2015;
““Psycho.” “Crazy.” “Insane.”
We’ve all heard someone use one of those terms to describe another person’s behavior, or even said it ourselves. As harmless as the words seem, they carry a lot of weight, especially for people living with a mental health condition — around 1 in 5 Americans, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. 
BuzzFeed Life reached out to 17 people living with mental health conditions to learn more about the challenges and stigma they face....
11. It can strip you of your personality.
“Depression has stripped me of many of the qualities and quirks that make me, me. What’s left is a husk of a person — someone I don’t particularly like, so how can I expect others to like me?”

2) Suicide rate by girls here is highest in the EU, John Brennan

We talk about male suicide rates a lot – and with good reason. The number of men taking their own lives is rising, and is substantially higher than the number of females doing the same. But Ireland’s rate of female suicide is also alarmingly high. Not to mention the disproportionate number of LGBT suicides. But as awareness grows, and more and more young people try to seek help, our health system has become overburdened; with 3,000 children on waiting lists for mental health services in May 2015. A couple of hundred waiting over a year for help. Perhaps we need more action to go along with all of these facts?

Irish Independent 28th October 2015;
“Ireland had the highest rate of female youth suicides, and the second highest rate of male youth suicides in the EU between 2009 and 2011, the Children's Rights Alliance report found. It said it was a "stark reality" that one-third of LGBT young people have "seriously thought about ending their lives" and 20pc have attempted suicide. The report reiterated concern about teenage suicide, particularly among boys, and the apparent link between underage substance abuse and the suicide rate.
The report also found that there were over 3,000 children on waiting lists to access mental health services across the country in May of this year. This equated to an increase in referrals of 49pc between June 2014 and May 2015. Of these, over 1,700 were on waiting lists for more than three months - while some 383 had been on waiting lists for over a year.”

3) When I’m Depressed, The Homeless Poet

It’s short and sweet, but poetically beautiful. Take a minute and give it a read.

RhymeNRevolt, 27th October 2015;
"When I’m depressed I’m incapable of making choices
Because my head is split between numerous voices
When I’m depressed I can’t get out of bed
Unable to act on any of the thoughts in my head"

4) The link between physical disability and mental health, Kate Eveleigh

One of my favourite blogs is Hayley’s Pull Yourself Together. I love how she’s so passionate about mental health and continues to write open and engaging topics around the subject.  This week she invited a fellow blogger, Kate Eveleigh, onto the blog to write about what impact her physical disability has had on her mental health. Kate normally blogs at

Pull Yourself Together, 28th October;

“I have Cerebral Palsy, a neurological disability I have had since birth, which alters the command pathways in the brain and causes muscle tension and involuntary spasms. I use a wheelchair and require support from a Personal Assistant to do most daily tasks, such as using the toilet and shower, and preparing food. I also have depression and anxiety, which was formally diagnosed about 9 years ago, although in reality, my symptoms began much earlier. I also have a history of self harm... I was determined that I wouldn’t be defined by my disability, and for a long time, I treated my physical disability and my mental health as separate entities, refusing to admit that the two were connected. When I attended counselling, I’d focus on “micro” issues, such as arguments with my parents and exam stress. These were important to me, but they were part of a much deeper issue – my difficulty in coming to terms with my disability and its implications on my life.”

5) Spark in the darkness, Stephanie Trzyna 

Stephanie is a foster carer who has been living with depression for over 20 years. In this post she reflects on what it can feel like to take in a child for only a short amount of time before you have let them go and move on to another home.

S Paige Depression, 29th October 2015;
“I now continue to suffer daily from a Depression so soul sucking that after going on holiday for a few months, it decided to move back into that empty spot in my head and not only reside, but take over.  It brings constant images of T back then, Sophia back then, Jimmy back then and the horror of myself from back then... a year ago.  It causes me to hate myself, to think of myself as worthless and undeserving of love... undeserving of my husband and my daughter.  It brought back that guilt I felt because it was me who had the anxiety and panic that caused T to leave us.  It brought back the blame game... the blame that I feel toward myself because I am the one who is Mentally Ill.  It brought back the anxiety attacks, the crying fits, the desire to want to remain in my bed and not move.  I am immersed in it.  I fear the next few months but hope my new therapy will make it somewhat bearable.”

6) "Suicidal Teen" Now the Most Common Halloween Costume in Ireland
Ireland's version of The Onion strikes again using cutting satire to highlight Ireland's problem with discussing mental health. Their shock tactics may not appeal to everyone, but it sure is relevant and one way to highlight our high rate of suicide.

Waterford Whispers, 30th October 2015;
"DESPITE the rise in popularity of Minions costumes and the continuing appeal of “sexy” variations on classic outfits, the most common Halloween costume among teenagers in Ireland remains that of someone pretending they’re absolutely fine despite struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide. The costume, which is suitable for both boys and girls, consists of an outward appearance of everything being alright despite the wearer struggling to cope with anxiety, depression and a feeling of helplessness. Many people have been known to wear the costume at all times throughout the year, not just at Halloween. In some instances, friends of people wearing the costume may not actually be aware the smiling face and cheerful demeanour is in fact nothing more than a mask in which the wearer has spent years crafting. In other cases, teenagers are well aware of the outfit, but don’t want to talk about it. “There’s a bunch of us going out this Friday dressed like zombie Spice Girls, ” said one teenager we interviewed."

See you again next week for another update,

Thursday, 29 October 2015

This Week in Mental Health... Halloween Edition

It's time for my weekly round-up of mental health stories again! This post is a special 'This Week in Mental Health...' full of Halloween related stories. Don't get me wrong; I love Halloween. I love vampires, and scariness, and pumpkins - but when it comes to mental health, Halloween often messes up. Unfortunately, Halloween and it's focus on terror and horror brings with it a lot of stigma around mental illness. 

I mean take a look at this film Netflix added just last week:
The description; "What goes on in this asylum could drive people crazy." The so-called 'crazy' people take over an asylum and lock the medical staff up, only to enact the same horrific treatments on them. The mentally ill are homicidal, torturers, assaulters. Madness in horror, rarely depicts the reality of mental illness. ECT is a favourite trope of movie depictions of mental illness. Despite there being many arguments in favour of the treatment, it is shown as a barbaric torture inflicted against the patient's will in Stonehearst Asylum. I didn't watch past this point. I know only too well that mental illness has become fair game when it comes to getting your terror kicks. 
But the use of asylums and the mentally ill when it comes to the horror genre, or just Halloween in general, has proven itself widely popular. Heck, I keep watching the films because they do exactly what is written on the tin; they terrify me. You see had I been alive 50 years or even longer ago, I probably would have ended up in one. And that, more than the practices or the patients terrifies me. 
Is there a balance between realistically depicting mental health and recognising that asylums were places that struck fear into everyday people's lives? Is it ever okay to host a horrors of the asylum event? Or to dress up as a mentally ill escapee?

Here's how mental health and Halloween have been making headlines this week;

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Living in the Dark: My tips for surviving the time change

You're probably (hopefully) aware that the clocks went back on 25th October and we gained an hour. I hope you enjoyed it, because your days might be about to get a whole lot harder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mood disorder, occurs during winter; the darker part of the year. It affects more people than you might think; up to 10% of the population in some parts of America.* Studies also show a correlation between vitamin D/sunshine and mental health. Basically, things get a lot harder for a lot of people in the dark.

I know I struggle come the end of Autumn every year; especially after the time change. I've been fatigued and moody the past two weeks; finding it difficult to wake up in the morning, and feeling exhausted all day.
I turned my alarm off in my sleep and slept in last week for an extra HALF AN HOUR and only had 15 minutes to get ready before I had to leave for work. It was probably the reality check I needed to finally do something productive about it.

As someone who struggles with my mental health come Winter, here are my tips for surviving the time change and the dark:

Be cosy - staying warm is one of the most important things you can do this season. There is nothing worse than shivering at your office desk or getting a cold. Wrap up, and carry your hat and gloves in your handbag just in case the change in temperature catches you out.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

This week in mental health... 25th October 2015

It feels like only yesterday that I wrote last week's 'This week in...' post, but alas, a whole seven days have somehow past! And what a week it's been. I've been high and low, but mainly somewhere in-between. But I've always found that reading brings me comfort.
Below are some of the news stories that really struck a cord with me this week... 

Despite 1% of the American population experiencing schizophrenia there have no major advancements in treatments. When Tamara’s brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, she sought answers. Why do treatments for mental illness differ so much between countries? How come early intervention in psychiatry is only now becoming a method of treatment?

Huffington Post 18th October 2015;

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Overcoming my lack of confidence | A Guest Post by Amy Mia Goldsmith

I’m really pleased to offer something different a little different this week! The very lovely Amy Mia Goldsmith from Australia is sharing her story of overcoming her lack of confidence and self-belief and becoming a beauty blogger. As I still struggle with issues of confidence I asked Amy to talk about her tips for learning to love yourself. It’s something I think we can all learn from.

Life can get tough sometimes, especially if you're a sensitive person and a dreamer like myself. In high school I fought against depression and serious lack of confidence. I became withdrawn and alienated, and for years I was living in my own "wonderland", reading books and listening to gothic music. But, eventually, I realized I cannot spend my whole life alone. Me time is good, but people are meant to socialize, and not everyone is mean. I was fortunate to meet people in college who cared enough to help me through tough times helped me and overcome my insecurity issues. For this, I mostly have to thank my husband. I never believed I would meet someone so special, but he came when I least expected and brought me back to life.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Happiness Project

Last week I finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben. Finding herself with a full life built around her, a job, a marriage and two kids, Gretchen realised she wasn't actually happy with her life. The title is cheesy, even the concept of trying to make yourself happier is cheesy, but it's actually a project that hundreds of thousands of people have found helpful.
What happens when you have it all and yet you still aren't happy?

Gretchen decided to actively find ways to improve her happiness. She set up Commandments and Virtues, like Benjamin Franklin's Thirteen Virtues, that would guide her happiness. These included the ever vague, but also inspiring, 'Be Gretchen'.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

This week in Mental Health... 18th October 2015

Today I'm introducing a new feature on the blog. I look out for, read and often share on social media mental health related stories every day. So why not incorporate them into my blog?

Every Sunday I'll be posting a list of some of the biggest and best articles and blog posts on mental illness, recovery, self harm and positive mental health.

Check out this week's selection below:

1) Brandon Marshall, “The Way People Talk About Mental Health Is Crazy”
Gun violence in America is often attributed to mental illness. Brandon Marshall refutes this, and points out that the public discourse on mental illness is seriously damaging.

Huffington Post 12th October
“Between 2001-10, there were close to 120,000 gun-related homicides. The facts surrounding these tragedies are clear: mental illness is not the cause. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only about 4 percent of violence in the U.S. can be attributed to people with a mental disorder. In a recent study, the American Psychological Association concluded that the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses; conversely, the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent.”

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Perfection is a skill, Darlings

I’m a perfectionist. It’s become especially evident to me since I wrote about my fear of and reaction to mistakes post earlier this week.

You see, I define perfection as me never making mistakes. Or at least, never making mistakes that other people notice. And don’t admit publicly that you made a mistake. God, that would be embarrassing. 

I expect perfection from myself. Be it in my appearance, my work, my crafting, my blog.
Mistakes are not an option for me.
I judge myself harshly for failure.
And I am my own worst critic when I don’t achieve my high standards.  

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Autumn Reading List

I'm a read-aholic. It's something I've noticed lately. I race from one book to the next often forgetting to contemplate what has happened in the book I just finished. I also have the compulsion to finish every book I start; even when it's awful (like Miranda Hart's 'Is it just me?' I mentioned in my Summer Reading List). 
However, I am yet to finish Miranda Hart's bio, it remains on my shelf for when my current book supply runs out. In the meantime, here's what I've been hooked on this season:

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
I feel like this book has been around for ages because I've been seeing it and wanting it for so long. Although I am always skeptical of really popular fiction books - as if they may not be worth the hype; Boy was I wrong to be skeptical with this one. Told from three points of view the story is immediately gripping, because it could be about any of us and the day-to-day lives we witness and play a part in. It's intense and thrilling. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Just another mistake

 I don’t deal with mistakes well. I remember back last year when I realised I’d taken the wrong job; it wasn’t what I thought it was, the pay was awful, the boss even more so. I felt like a failure.

The night I realised the mistake I’d made I sat in bed and wailed. I didn’t cry – it was far more dramatic than that. I tossed and turned and tugged at my hair and hit my mattress with tears soaking through my top. It was dramatic but that’s how I felt – like my life was one big soap opera swinging from one life changing mistake to another.

Needless to say, I didn’t take another work related mistake this week very well.

I’ve spent the last day feeling physically sick, wracked with guilt at my screw up (because in my head, I am not allowed to ever make a mistake), and struggled to hold back the tears.

I used to experience this in college too. In fact, for my whole life. I didn’t take criticism from teachers well. I’d always end up on the verge of tears if my name was even mentioned in class. It became more profound in college with my diagnosis. Having depression made me feel like a failure as it was. I couldn’t even have healthy mental health. I couldn’t even be a ‘normal’ student. I’d failed to have the traditional college experience. I was weak and prone to mistakes because of my illness. My illness made me one big mistake. 

At least, that is how it felt.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Autumn Mental Health Update

Today is World Mental Health Day, and the theme of the day is dignity. It's a perfect time to reflect on my mental health during the last month and a half.

Back in early September, I made and shared with you all an Autumn to-do list! My history with ‘lists of things I want to do’ isn’t very good. In the Summer I misplaced and failed to complete a ‘How to Summer’ list. I felt like a failure and it took some time to get over.

However, my significantly shorted Autumn to-do list focused on attainable and achievable goals. From embracing the Pumpkin Spice Latte to baking, I was quick to get my tasks ticked off.
The season had me kept busy with my work commitments, but the list reminded me to take time out and do some things for me.

The result is a huge feeling of achievement. I look at that list and the silly things I could tick off (the Pumpkin Spice Latte) and the parts that required effort and commitment, like crafting and painting my tights, and I feel pride.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Pesky gNATs: CBT for Kids

One of the big moves in the world of mental health lately, has been the focus of improving mindfulness skills and mental health awareness in children. Schools in the UK and Ireland are now looking at reflection exercises as a way of teaching students to look after and understand their minds.

But one of the most complicated treatments for mental illness is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and it's something psychiatrists have struggled to adapt for children. CBT is a form of psychotherapy which focuses on changing your unhelpful thoughts and behaviours.

In early September I was invited out to UCD and given the opportunity to try out a kid-friendly CBT therapy tool, Pesky gNATs.

Pesky gNATs ( is a computer game and associated app created to aid counsellors in their work with children. Designed for those aged 9+, it’s an accessible technology for young people in counselling to help them learn about CBT.

They describe their vision as this:
Pesky gNATs is a computer supported CBT intervention for young people. It combines gaming and mobile technology with the highest quality psychological content to support evidence-based interventions with young people aged 9-17.

Creator Gary O’Reilly told me it is a way of 'keeping the therapist in therapy technology' in a world that’s turning more and more to online technology to aid with mental health work.

Friday, 2 October 2015

September Favourites

Hello! It's the end of another month. Or, to be more specific, two days after the end of the month. And it's rather exciting. September was the start of Autumn, and boy do I love this season.

Every month I reflect back on the little things that brought me joy; the good bits. These, are my September favourites.

Pumpkin Spice Latte
Yes, I know Pumpkin Spice Latte’s are an overpriced trend. And yes, I know that Starbuck coffee is not seen as acceptable by coffee lovers. But I freaking love the Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s delicious. It has vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and a little caffeine. It’s my go-to Autumn drink.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the return of the PSL since the end of August, and getting to finally treat myself with one made me unbelievably happy. So unbelievably happy that I’ve turned them into my weekly treat. ‘Cos I deserve the PSL.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Is there such a thing as Recovery?

Recovery as a word has been getting to me for a couple of months now. It’s something other mental health bloggers, ambassadors and enthusiasts seem to harp on about, and it’s something that people I know insist upon. Recovery from mental illness is the end goal. It’s why we get diagnosed. It’s why we go to therapy, practice mindfulness and CBT. It’s we are prescribed anti-depressants.

In terms of mental health, I’ve been hoping for a recovery from this illness since I was diagnosed too. Of course I have. Wouldn’t it be great to say ‘I’ve recovered from my unfortunate depression of the past 5 years.’

But how do we actually define ‘recovery’ when it comes to mental health?

 I’ve spent the last year watching as many of my friends say they're now 'better’. People wean themselves off their medication (advisably with a doctor’s guidance).  They talk about how exercise ‘cured’ them. How they’re healthy again.

But I've been asking myself - why does my mental illness look so much different to everyone elses?
I've been on anti-depressants for over 4 years at this stage. And they've been great, I’ll agree. I have discussed coming off them with different doctors over the years. The general consensus has been that if they’re working, why change a good thing?
But I don't want to be on them forever if other people don’t have to be. I want to say ‘I’m better’ too.

As there remains so much stigma in and around mental health, it becomes customary to compare your journey with that of other peoples. Sharing stories and tips to deal with your mental illness are part of the process. If I hadn’t read a ‘mental health memoir’ (Shoot the Damn Dog by Sally Brampton) three years ago, I wouldn’t have understood or recognised some of symptoms and behaviours that can be common with depression in myself.

But mental illness is also unique to the person. It’s an individualised illness with a myriad of symptoms only connected by a few generally common ones. Effective courses of treatment also differ substantially from one case to the next. So vast and unknown is the mind...
When someone asks me for advice, I can only tell them what works for me, and warn them that it might not work for them.

So lately I’ve found myself wondering‘What am I doing that's wrong?’ and ‘How come I haven't been able to 'recover'?’

We have to accept that ‘recovery’ is part of the mental health experience, as so many people do get the ‘all clear’ so to speak.

But maybe some people don't recover. Maybe they can't. Which can be a scary and often overwhelming thought.

Or maybe recovery is different for everyone. But because we like to compare our mental health with others so often, that can be a hard thing to accept...

I cannot answer all of the questions I’ve raised in this post. Not only do I not know the answers, but science also struggles in the field to give any clear and definitive guidance.

But I did end up addressing my own ‘recovery’ accidentally this week. I guess you could call it a moment of epiphany. And I don’t even know what train of thought lead me to this conclusion, but here it goes:

I will always have depression. I just won't always be depressed.

There will be days of joy and happiness. These days are more common than they used to be. And the days of feeling down and numb and hopeless are less frequent. Sometimes so infrequent that I expect they’ll never come again. However, they can come back with ferocity, but I have spent the last 4 years learning how to fight back. I understand my illness better; I can identify triggers and I have resources at hand to stop the bad days hurting so much.

And if that isn’t recovery, I don’t know what is.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Bressie; Me and My Mate Jeffrey

I was lucky enough to win a copy of Niall Breslin's book 'Me and My Mate Jeffrey' from the charity MyMind on Twitter.

Niall, or Bressie as he's better known around the country, has openly spoken about his battles with anxiety and depression over the last few years. He's played a huge role in helping create the change in mental health discourse in Ireland that's slowly been breaking down some of the stigma around the issue.

The book is Bressie's way to tell his whole story; from a kid moving to Israel to his decision to set up My 1000 hours. In a 10 minute interview, or a 30 minute speech, it can prove difficult to get the whole picture. There is no way to paint a realistic picture of mental illness or tell your whole story in such a short time frame. And so 'Me and My Mate Jeffrey' (he named his depression Jeffrey, hence the book title) introduces us to the fuller picture, and in turn paints the everyday reality of what it's like to struggle with your own mind.

Bressie writes in a very relatable way - well at least for us Irish. It's full of Irish colloquialism. Swear words and all. In this way, the book is accessible for Irish audiences, and as it's littered with rugby tales, it's extra accessible for young Irish males - one sector of the population who have the most difficulty with talking about mental health.

It's groundbreaking in a sense. Never has an Irish male, and a famous one at that, opened up his soul to this extent. Whether it's the pure agony of fighting for your very breath, or the type of mental anguish that causes you to break your own limb; there hasn't been honesty like this in an accessible book before.

Mental health issues in teenagers are often difficult to spot. Bressie talks about his school years with reference to an inability to relate to his peers, being socially awkward and reclusive, and his introduction to anxiety in the Holy Land. It's easy to dismiss such symptoms of mental illness as teenage moodiness, hormones, or just as part of the growing up process.

I found myself in tears by Chapter 2. I could relate so much, it was like reading my own story at times. Despite a ten year age gap, different counties and different genders, our early mental health experiences were eerily similar right down to the first self-harming incident during the Junior Certificate exams year.

Bressie found help in his late twenties. It was a small step he'd been fighting against for a decade. And it made me realise how lucky I am to have had my diagnosis and started seeking help at 18 years of age. What a difference that has made to my life.

The story is incredibly honest and moving. With fantastic advice and moments of self-realisation:
"By getting to know Jeffrey, I was becoming much more aware of myself. I realised that Jeffrey was not a weakness..."

And while he found relief in sports and challenging himself physically, he had these wise words about how the mind is different:
"If you have never run you cannot expect to go out and do a marathon, and it's the same with the mind - it needs to be trained and guided."

And that while challenges still come:
"It was the fact that I was able to experience these real moments of happiness that indicated I was well and truly on my way down the road of recovery."

It's probably that last quote that resonated with me the most. I have these real moments of happiness and that's how you know how far you've come.

For anyone, male or female, young or old, personal experience with mental illness or not, this book has something to teach you. Whether it's about recognising the signs in others, gaining an understanding of what it's like to live with a mental illness, or finding the right course of treatment for you and overcoming adversity, there's much to gain. It's inspirational to see someone at their lowest and follow their journey to recovery. There's motivation to anyone who is struggling to find the light.

And whatever you might think of The Blizzards, The Voice of Ireland, or the Ironman events, there is no denying that Niall Breslin is one brave man.

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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Depression | What it feels like as told by gifs

1 in 4 people in Ireland will experience a mental illness at some point in their life. But everyone is affected by mental health. Whether it's having a rough day, the death of a relative, the end of a relationship, or the myriad of other knocks we get through life, feeling down is common. 

When I was younger I threw the term 'depressed' around a lot. Sure, I was sad so I must be depressed. In fact, I felt depressed. I never realised that there was a difference between the illness, depression, and feeling blue until I was diagnosed with depression.

It's hard to understand what a mental illness is like if you haven't gone through it yourself. I say the words 'hopelessness', 'numb', 'fatigue', and 'constant nausea' but even the most empathetic of people can struggle to relate.

Last week a few 12 year old kids I was supervising asked me about the book I was reading (Niall Breslin's 'Me and My Mate Jeffrey'). Despite giving countless talks about mental health and what it is like to have a mental illness, I struggled to convey in words what it felt like in terms they could understand. But, there's nothing like the power of a good old fashioned image to help when it comes to relating. And lately I've come across a number of .gifs that really hit home what it mental illness feels like to me on my worst days.

Here's what it's like to experience Depression as told through .gifs:

Life knocks everyone down from time to time. 
But those who are susceptible to depression find it harder to pick themselves back up.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Pitfalls of Being a Big Sister

Back in August, I wrote a blog post on the Perks of Being a Big Sister. And believe me, there are many.
But I've also discovered some serious downsides over the past week.

Just over 7 days ago my little sister flew the nest and headed off to University. She packed her bags, bought groceries and a bed spread, and spent her first week moved out of our childhood home and into adulthood.

It's been 5 years since I made that journey myself. And for me, things hadn't exactly gone to plan.

Needless to say I didn't take it well. I messaged her every day; sometimes first thing in the morning to wish her good luck, and every evening to see how her day went.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Letter to My Future Self | World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It's a day where mental health charities issue statements and politicians make pledges.
Many of Ireland's famous buildings, like Croke Park, are lighting up orange today in solidarity with Cycle Against Suicide.

But to me, suicide is personal.

My depression brought with it suicidal thoughts.
There were times when I wished my life would end. There were times when I wanted to pick up that knife or those tablets or walk in front of that car. There were times when I tried to end it all.
I didn't think of suicide as a selfish act at the time. I couldn't think of anything other than how worthless I was. I tried to rationalise it, embed it with logic - No one will miss me. No one will notice. Now's exactly the right time. Don't wait any longer. They'll be better off without me. 

When I look at how suicide has affected me in the years since, I see how wrong I was. I've felt the loss of people I knew, people I barely knew, and some I didn't know at all to suicide. And every single one of them hurt me.

The theme of this World Suicide Prevention Day is reaching out and saving lives. So today I'm reaching out to myself. I'm making my own pledge. I'm pledging to live with a Letter to my Future Self.

Hey you,

I know things don't seem okay right now. I know you are down and feeling defeated, but I'm here to remind you that you are strong. That you have felt like this before, and you got through it. That you can get through it again.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Positive Thought of the Day

Tonight I'm heading back to Zumba for the first time in almost 3 months. I ended up taking the summer off as it just never suited, and I also was a little bit lazy. 

But now that I'm about to head back I am reminded of something my instructor always says.
There are no mistakes. Only Solo Moves.