Friday, 31 July 2015

July Favourites

These are the little things, my favourite things, that have gotten me through the month.

Creating a work space for my blogging has been high up on my priorities list this month. My desk has been cleaned, tidied and organised so I can get my priorities in order. July has really been the month when I realised what makes my blog unique, and that I should concentrate on those unique features in all of my posts. I used to hate that I was different to other bloggers; I saw it as a negative. In reality, it's what makes my blog original. 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

A few of my favourite things...

As you may have noticed by now, my blog can feature some seemingly random things from time to time. Sure, I talk about mental health, in the socio-economic context, the medical context, and from my own personal point of view. Occasionally, you’ll see scattered amongst those posts little to-dos on crafting. Maybe a review of a product, or a tv show.

The thing is, I’m quite preoccupied with mental health. My depression plays such a huge role in my life. But then there are these other things I also obsess over.

My appearance, Doctor Who, Feminism and strong female role models, Books, Comic Book inspired films and tv shows, music reviews, nail varnish....

Basically, everything makes it onto my blog. And that’s because everything has an impact on our mental health.

You see, mental health is a much broader term than how most people use it. Mental health is something we all have, whether battling a mental illness or not. It's your general state of feeling; your emotional well being. Proactively protecting and enriching your mental health can actually prevent mental illness from occurring.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Lone Cinema Goer | Going to the Cinema by Myself

I posted a tweet on Thursday 16th July. I posed the question; 'Would it be weird if I went to the cinema by myself?' And the tweet got a lot of reaction.

You see, it had been on my mind for a while. That Thursday I had been to see Song of the See in the Light House Cinema, Smithfield. I love that cinema. I hadn't been in years and it felt nice to be back. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The Luxury of Feeling Unmotivated Part 2

Last month I blogged about not having the ‘Luxury of Feeling Unmotivated’ anymore. It can be a struggle as an adult when you can no longer spend the day feeling totally mopey. You have responsibilities. You have a job.  

And sure, there are benefits and drawbacks of having to go to work rather than pulling the duvet covers back up.

For one thing, I thrive on keeping busy. Without responsibilities, a to-do list, motivation to get me out of bed and off my bum I crumble. That’s what happened to me last Christmas.

But some days I feel like I’m about to burn out. (Sometimes I do burn out, and my stress makes me sick – physically I mean, not just my mental health). Some days I wish I could abandon my responsibilities and stay in bed, roll over and binge watch Netflix until I get lost in so much narrative I forget why I feel so crap. And sometimes I want to take the day off just so I can remember how to feel things.

But which is best? Staying under the covers or having to leave the house?

Both have their merits.

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."

If you leave your bed and duvet behind you still have to deal with the emotions. Forcing yourself to work when your depression is sneaking up behind you and tapping you on the shoulder every few minutes isn’t easy. You can’t concentrate on what you’re being paid to do. You feel like a waste of space, and a waste of your pay cheque.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Project 1 in 4

I love looking at mental health campaigns from around the world. There's always new inspiration to be found in the war to defeat stigma. The latest one I've discovered comes from America.

Project 1 in 4 is a daily exploration of the everyday struggles that are presented by mental illness. The project creates one sketch depicting a struggle with mental illness every day for 100 days.

Here's how they describe themselves:
What this equates to is very honest, very real pictures of what it's like to live with a mental illness. Below, I've shared 5 of the images that really spoke to me the most. But go search the website for yourself, and learn that although you may feel alone, you are not.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

What I really do when I’m sad

Yesterday I posted about What to do when you’re feeling sad. But the truth is, in a state of sadness (however you might define that term) it’s difficult to see outside of your feelings and into the ‘I’ll address this and make myself feel better’ frame of mind. It's all well and good giving advice, but I'm not quite as good at following my own advice 

So, here's what I really do when I’m sad:

- Isolate myself

- Lie in bed

- Don’t leave the house (except for work)

- Drink coffee

- Binge eat junk food - especially Pringles

- Cry

- Bottle it up and try not to cry

- Tweet some angsty 140 character rants

- Binge watch Netflix

- Fail to concentrate on what I’m doing

- Worry about being sad and how long it’s going to last without doing anything productive to help myself get out of the funk.

- Get angry at myself for not being productive

- Stare into space. A lot.

- Get especially irritated at the little things

I'm terrible at following my own advice. And so instead of working out my feelings through journaling, or treating myself, or releasing endorphins by exercising, I normally wallow in self pity.
Depending on the scale of my sadness, this could last a couple of days, a whole weekend, or maybe even a week.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

What to do when you're sad

Things feel a little rough today. And if you're also feeling like you need a pick-me-up, here's a list of things that can help when you're sad...

- Treat yourself - buy an icecream, a mocha etc. and don't feel bad about it because you deserve it.

- Write a letter. This can be to a friend or to yourself.

- Or just write. Open a notebook and get those thoughts out onto paper.

- Make lists.

- Light candles.

- Run a bath and spend as much time as you need soaking.

- Watch your favourite film (but not a sad one!)

- Get creative and make something.

- Or colour in.

- Go outside - take a walk, sit in the park, find a forest.

- Watch the sunset.

- Make a cup of tea.

- Cuddle your pet. Or any pet. But don't steal one.

- Bake.

- Eat baked goods.

- Put on fresh bed sheets.

- Buy new pyjamas.

- Talk it through with a friend. It helps to express your pain and know that somebody has got your back.

You will get there.
Bel Esprit

Monday, 13 July 2015

23 life lessons I learnt in my 23rd year

Eeek! Here I am at the ripe old age of 23. Yesterday, Sunday, was my birthday. In typical Zoe fashion it was a low key event to bring in the anniversary and I spent it hiking up around Donegal. It's scary to be 23, but also pretty liberating.
From my 23 things to do before I'm 23 list I made pre-New Year I've achieved a lot.
I got the job.
I stopped biting my nails.
I've been reading a lot more.
I spent much more time with my favourite people.
I starting doing a lot more in my youth.
Not only do I feel like I've achieved a lot in my 23rd year, but I also feel that 23 will be a good age for me.

Here are 23 life lessons I learnt in my 23rd year:

1) That we need the lows so we can appreciate just how amazing the good times can be.

2) Life is what you make of it and you get back as much as you put in.

3) Even if they're thousands of miles away, or just a few kilometres down the country, you can always count on your best friends.

4) Dating is hard as an adult.

5) Follow your gut.

6) You always have room for new friends.

7) It's the fake friends you can do without.

8) Make the most of every opportunity.

9) Some people will inevitably let you down.

10) And some people will surprise you when they come through.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Mindfulness Technique

I overhead a conversation on the Luas the other day. A guy was trying to explain to his friend the difficulty of trying to practice mindfulness on your own.

"With an instructor and a room of people it feels so easy. Trying to be mindful on your own can be a bit - ugh."

I've definitely had the same experience. It's difficult to be quiet, close your eyes and relax your muscles when you're not being told to do so. It can be enough to turn you off mindfulness altogether.

But, there's one simple mindful practice I learned last year; a simple breathing exercise. I get stressed a lot. And a huge part of my stress has been mild panic attacks when I'm upset or overwhelmed. Regulating your breathing is a great technique for helping you to calm down and return to a more neutral state. Mindfulness, as discussed in last week's post, can help you with this.  
Inhale for 4 seconds
Hold for 2 seconds
Exhale for 6 seconds
It sounds so simple, but it's ridiculously effective. Deep breathing is a highly lauded practice in helping with anxiety. Basically, it's the ultimate in de-stressing, and it's worked for me.

But, as it's tough to remember to use these techniques on your own, I had to make a visible reminder.

Reusing an old Scrabble board, I painted the board gold and waited until it had dried fully.

On top of the gold paint I spelled out what I wanted to say via stickers (the Stickers I used are also gold, making them hard to read in this picture, but a bargain at €1.49 in Dealz). I also included an anchor because anchors are quite possibly my favourite ever thing, and this breathing exercise is perfect to keep you anchored.

Then, I spray painted over the stickers in pink spray paint (picked up from my local hardware store).

All that's left is to peel off the stickers and ta-dah it's complete! My own little personal reminder to turn to mindfulness when things get tough.

Seriously, give mindfulness a try. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Workplace | The Last Bastion of Mental Health Stigma?

Yesterday saw some stigmatising advice from one of the mental health sector’s leading advocates:

‘If you become mentally ill, don’t – whatever you do – tell your boss. That’s Ruby Wax’s advice.’

Monday’s article on the Guardian contains quotes from Ruby Wax (taken from an interview she gave with the Times), who was recently awarded an OBE encouraging and promoting discussion around mental illness. Ruby’s a spokesperson for mental health charities, and uses her unique humour to tackle the subject in an accessible way. However, she’s decided the workplace is one place where it cannot be discussed:

“When people say, ‘Should you tell them at work?’, I say: ‘Are you crazy?’ You have to lie. If you have someone who is physically ill, they can’t fire you. They can’t fire you for mental health problems but they’ll say it’s for another reason. Just say you have emphysema.” Mental illness, she added, “is like the situation used to be with gay rights. Like being in the closet, but mental illness is now the taboo instead.”

I’m not sure Ruby Wax has even had an employer in the traditional sense, in the past 20 years what with her occupation as an actress and stand-up comedian. And speaking about mental health over the last few years has only re-ignited her career. So she hardly is speaking from any recent experience.
Furthermore, such an opinion is deeply stigmatising and reinforces the notion that we should NOT speak about mental health. It’s a statement that if taken on board could vastly set back the work of stigma reduction, work Ruby has herself been involved in.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Who can you talk to? | I'm Not Okay

Have you ever opened up to the wrong person?

Back around Christmas time, you may remember that I was going through a tough time. I hadn’t felt that low in almost 3 years.

I reached out to a ‘friend’, or at least someone who I had been very close to in the past.

I said I was scared. My exact utterance of distress was ‘I’m not okay.

They told me I was okay. In a ‘your tests came back negative for cancer’ way, as if they knew for sure that I had been tested as ‘okay’. It was blunt. They shut down the conversation and never broached the subject with me again.

I’ve previously spoken about when I was a teenager, I questioned whether I might be bipolar. I was told I couldn’t be, and made me to feel like an idiot for even suggesting I could have something like that.

When I was 18 I was worried about my mood swings, my inability to feel happiness, and being ever increasingly on the verge of tears.

‘I think there’s something wrong with me. What if I have bipolar?’
‘No, you don’t.

My obsession with bipolar grew from the term being one of only two mental illnesses I was aware of (the other being schizophrenia). Depression was an emotion you felt, not a state of mind.

That same month I broached the topic of suicide, and my longing for my torture to end.
That admission greeted the response ‘Ah sure everyone thinks, ‘Things would be better if I’m dead’ sometimes. It’ll go away.’

Today the Samaritans released research for their #TalkToUs campaign. They found that: