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.