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,