Monthly Archives: April 2012

Depression Awareness Week

This week (beginning 23/4/12) is Depression Awareness Week. A week for us to look at depression and to educate people about it’s causes, it’s effects, and just what it consists of.
It seems to have passed by as somewhat of an afterthought. Or should that be a 4thought. The latter reference is to a channel 4 TV programme which has triggered a complaint from Rethink to OFCOM due to the ridiculous trash spouted by an ignorant being about the causes of depression. My advice would be: do not watch or research the programme.
Anyway, let’s get back on topic. As mentioned before, it doesn’t appear to have been in the news, in the public eye or in the media. There are plenty of campaigns/blogs/websites trying to increase awareness of depression, but it is all focussed online. Of course most things are heading towards the idea of 24/7 online media, but now and again it does just help to have an advert on a train, or at a station, or even (an article or advert) in a newspaper. For instance, the recent campaign by Time To Change that ran in the metro made me feel much more normal. Which it should do, because there’s nothing abnormal about people with depression, it’s just a mental health issue (there’s a reason this phrase is often used by us). Ok, it’s not ‘just’ a mental health issue, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of, or to be treated differently for. Treat us with as much love and care as you would anyone else you care about. The metro campaign was probably seen by millions of people, and that’s great because it helps spread awareness. What is more important for me, is that it was something that people pick up on their way to work or way home from work/school etc. The more it is out there where we can see it with pictures, with bold writing, where we can touch it with our minds, the better. The crucial thing is to balance the idea of having it online and having it out in places that people travel to. Online, we can’t make as much difference unless we find the right contacts, but out there we can grab the attention of different types of people, of people who aren’t necessarily aware of these websites. I haven’t done any research, but as far as I am aware the BBC or ITV have not mentioned depression awareness week at all. Indeed, a quick google search for “depression awareness week BBC” on news articles lends itself to a pathetic return of 3 results. I shall leave you to draw your own conclusions.

So what can we do? How can we raise awareness? Well we can raise awareness simply by having a conversation with someone about it. A white lie if you fear the response, or fear someone finding out you suffer from depression. Something like “did you see on BBC this morning that it’s depression awareness week?” along with an additional comment about how depression is misunderstood (which it is by somewhat large numbers of people, hence why we have stigma) or just a pause for their response. Personally, if I was still at school I would want to do an assembly about it, a presentation like they do on ANZAC day or in Citizenship where they talk about numerous social topics. Obviously that’s one for the more self confident people out there. There are ways to turn conversations onto mental health subtly, a tad difficult to describe, but it is possible. It can be a short conversation, or a long one, either way you are still taking the time to speak about it.
Depression is not an easy topic to broach, but with the right attitude and a lack of fear, we can get talking about it. This is where social media comes in useful. Twitter and facebook. Facebook is more difficult for those who fear “reprisals” so to speak, the fear of the unknown, the unkown being what the response will be. If you suffer alone, things will take much longer to improve, so maybe the first step is to be able to share it. If you put a status such as “this week is depression awareness week, it’s important people don’t feel afraid to talk about it” then how many people are honestly going to assume you have depression? People don’t assume you have cancer if you put a status about raising awareness of that. Ok poor example but the point stands. No-one is forcing you to do anything, no-one will think any less of you if you don’t do it, but if you do then that is a great way to help people think about it. Sometimes we look at things and think “that’s interesting” and we go away and research. The same can be true of depression, if you get 1 person to change their view on depression for the better then it will have been worth it.
We at Talk_Out marked depression awareness week by having a twitter discussion asking for people’s experiences, and here is a summary of all the tweets we received with the #TalkOut hashtag: #TalkOut marks Depression Awareness Week: http://storify.com/Time4Recovery/talkout-marks-depression-awareness-week?awesm=sfy.co_qTJ&utm_campaign=&utm_medium=sfy.co-twitter&utm_source=t.co&utm_content=storify-pingback

Take the time to read through these tweets. Are they all positive? No. Are they mostly positive? Yes. Are they all talking about how rosy life is? Of course not. What are they doing then? Well they are simply helping to break down the stigma around mental health. They are helping others to see new ideas for coping, and hopefully to see that others have improved and become happier, therefore so can they! You don’t have to be happy all the time, or positive, but if you can talk about how you feel openly, then you are well on your way to bringing happiness back into your life.

To finish this entry, I leave you with a quote from Dr Tim Anstiss who wrote in the Guardian today that: “There is so much bullshit out there about mental health and mental illness…” The trouble is, unfortunately it’s hard to disagree with him. However, he goes on to claim that “people are ready for an accessible and helpful resource where they can share experiences, concerns and feelings, learn about new things and explore issues without feeling judged or told what to do.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/social-care-network/2012/apr/26/social-media-depression-support) We agree, and the purpose of #TalkOut is to do exactly this, begin a community, bring a community together to help each other alongside getting professional help, to return happiness to those whom it belongs to.

Motivation From Others

Over on out twitter page (@Talk_Out) we’ve been around for 2 months, something like that, neither of us took note of the day we started. In that time we’ve seen many stories, parts of stories, and the evolution of a story. A story similar to ours, except with so many more people. That story is in the form of another twitter account @ToFixYourHeart All dedicated to offering support to people with their feelings, some with mental health issues, some who just need a bit of love and support. So we want to share with you their experiences, because they took the courage to #TalkOut (our twitter hashtag which we hope you can all use on twitter when you want to say something about how you feel, regardless of whether you are tweeting us or not). If they can go from where they were to where they are and #TalkOut then so can you! There stories are below:

“Hello. My name is Rees and I am 16 years old. I guess I should probably start at the beginning. I was born on the 28th of December 1995 to two loving parents. I was born with Jaundice, which meant I had a problem with my liver. I spent the first hours of my life in a incubator. Nothing unusual, happens to loads of new born children. So little me carried on with life, all sunshine and rainbows. Until my best friend died from leukaemia. You’re all probably thinking, you were like 3 you can’t remember it. No, I can’t. But my Mum can, she told me since my friend died, I had become a little more independent, more detached. Little did any of us know, this would affect the rest of my life. I hit school. And I was bullied from year 1. It wasn’t your typical calling you names kind of bullying, it was people purposely going out of their way to make my life a misery. I was accused of things I didn’t do. Ok, yes I was like 6, but when people knock your confidence and you lose trust in people from a young age, it’s going to have a knock on effect. I was pushed out of groups, make a mockery of. People lied to, said they were my friend until no one was around to do anything. Over Christmas break in year 5 I became very ill, I had developed a virus in my blood that the doctors couldn’t diagnose. I was put under house arrest. I wasn’t aloud to see anyone. I couldn’t even see my brother for 2 weeks because he had a cold. I was then told I had no immune system. Whatever was going in my blood, it had destroyed my immune system. I was told that the slightest illness that got anywhere near me could kill me if I caught it. I eventually got better. But as I went back to school everything had changed. NO one would come near me. It got to year 6 and I lost all my friends because I stood up for the new girl. They were being racist, I was not going to let them. So, I paid the consequence. I became an outsider. I begged my Mum to let me move school, but she refused. High school came and I was beyond excited, I could meet new people and get away from all of them. No, of course I couldn’t. I had been put in the same tutor as them. Year 7 muddled along, I hated it. I was constantly teased about my weight. My hair. My Freckles. I hated myself. I started compulsively over eating. I then started self harming, It started with just hitting my head off walls and scratching myself, then got worse. But the first time I properly cut myself was when I was 12 years old. I had new friends. I also had a best friend, that I was madly in love with. Madly. But he wanted my other best friend. I didn’t mind, I wanted him as a friend more than anything. But a day came when he started acting weird with me. Started telling me it was all my fault. I didn’t understand, I hadn’t done anything. I was late told he has asked my best friend out. She said no, because it would hurt my feelings. I felt that I’d ruined his life. I know I found a true friend from that, she cared enough about me not to let a guy come between us. But I would have been ok with them together. They were my best friends I wanted them to be happy. But he wasn’t. He shouted in my face telling me he hated me, he never wanted to see me again. My heart broke into a million pieces. What was I meant to do, my best friend had just turned against me. I got home that day, I couldn’t cope with all the drama. I walked into the kitchen, not wanting to eat. I saw the big steak knife in the block and just grabbed it. I held it against my chest just praying I could push down. I dug it in to my chest. My brother came through the front door so I quickly put the knife back. I couldn’t let him see me like this. I ran into the front room and turned the TV on just so everything seemed fine. The first thing that came on was ‘This is real. This is me.’

At that moment I knew my life had turned upside down. I knew that this was what my life was going to be like. I went upstairs and cut my wrists. But that song was stuck in my head. I searched it on YouTube and found a girl called Demi Lovato. From that moment on I became obsessed. I followed her every move. She gave me so much courage and trust in her. I didn’t know she was suffering with the sae issues I was. I guess you could say it was fate that I came across her. That was the first time I intentionally hurt myself. Life went on, I was depressed, my eating was messed up. I was purging, starving, over eating. More things happened, I got accused of being a bully, which was not true. I got slammed into a radiator after two boys stole my bag, everyone laughed at me when I was on the floor. They had pulled my hair out and broke my phone. Nothing was ever done about it. They got told off, that was it. Summer came and I didn’t see anyone. I hated myself. My cutting had intensified and my weight was fluctuating. In November of year 9, I had found a guy that I really liked. We got together and I was happy for once. It got to Christmas break and he promised he would come see me for birthday. SO morning of my birthday, I waited for a call or a knock on the door. Nothing. Not even a text. He had forgotten my birthday. I was heartbroken, my birthday had been ruined. Days went on, he wasn’t answering my texts or phone calls. He called me on New Years but he hung quickly as he couldn’t hear me. We went back to school in the January and he was on a trip for 3 days. He still wouldn’t answer my messages. I was getting worse, I didn’t know what to do. I was so confused as to what was going on. Until the Wednesday night I got a text, from him. I thought it was just because he hadn’t had any connection and it was late. But it wasn’t. The text read ‘ I’m sorry but I’m with someone else now, It’s over’. My world just fell apart. I couldn’t believe it. Broken up with over text for a girl he had met 3 days before. I couldn’t even bring myself to talk to him. I just felt like killing myself, so I tried. I overdosed. It didn’t work, I just threw up and got very ill and passed out. I didn’t talk to him for months. I didn’t talk to anyone. I was just hurting. I later found out that he thought she was ‘better’ than me. Prettier, smarter, skinnier, funnier. That’s his words exactly. Not mine. I just got more depressed. May came and I was still hurting. I got a told in early may, that my Nan was very ill and they don’t think she’s going to be around for much longer. This had been happening for years, so I didn’t believe it. Now, my relationship with my Nan had been strong for a long time until she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She forgot me. I hated that. It scared me seeing her. So, if I wasn’t there to be forgotten, how could she forget me? So Christmas 0f 2009 I cut her out of my life. I didn’t see her, ever. I was dragged to see her that May. She looked, dead. I knew she was going to die. But I didn’t care. I was left in the room alone with her for 5 minutes while my dad went to talk to a nurse in the care home. She was very still. Until she grabbed my hand. I was just so scared. I was trying not to let her in. She said this ‘ I don’t know who you are, but I love you.’ That killed me. She had forgot me but she still loved me. I couldn’t deal with it. She did 2 weeks later on May 14th 2010. I regret to this day that I cut her out of my life. I wish I had never done that. She is my guardian angel and I will do anything in this world to make it up to her. I was extremely depressed, I cried myself for weeks on end regretting what I had done. I cut myself so violently that It has left permanent indents on my wrists. But nothing was to prepare for what happened on June 30th. I was just having another normal day at school. Nothing special. Nothing different. Until one of my friends mom’s came in, who worked at the school, and said she wanted to talk to me and her daughter after school. I thought it was just something to do with music or telling us we had to walk home tonight instead of get a lift. But it wasn’t. After school came and we found her. She told me my Dad had been rushed into hospital, he’d collapsed. I was so confused. I didn’t know what to do. I got home that night for my mom to tell me he had a stroke. My world came crashing down. I was more depressed than ever, He was never right after that. Year 10 came and my GCSE’s mounted on top of my issues. I just got worse and worse. It was that October that Demi had disappeared and entered to treatment. I had a breakdown, that was just the straw that broke the camels back.. I couldn’t do it anymore. My best friend discovered my scars, she urged me to get help. I went to a teacher and we talked. I didn’t get any better. I was just destroyed. Months went by and I just couldn’t get over everything that had happened. Demi’s issues were in the open. She’s what kept me going. She kept that little bit of belief that I could get over this. I owe my life to her. I eventually made the decision to seek medical help. I saw the school nurse who referred me to a service called CAMHS. But she had to have my parents permission. I begged her not to, but I eventually gave in. I regretted it. But my parents were so understanding. My mom thought I was so strong having held everything in for so long. I got help that summer. I regretted it for a while, but I am thankful I did. I am nearly over with my treatment now and I’m so much happier. I can actually feel real emotions now. My dad has since had another stroke. But he is now ok and a lot better. But there is still not a day that goes by that I want to hurt myself, or starve, purge etc. I don’t think there will ever be a day where I don’t. But I’m stronger now. I have |Demi to thank for giving me so much courage and all the people that supported me for so long. They believed in me and now I do too. Recovery is possible. I have self harmed since treatment, I have purged, I have starved. But it’s ok, I’m not perfect. I never will be. But I’m happy now. I love who I am. I don’t want to change who I am. This is real, this is me, and I am EXACTLY where I’m supposed to be now.”

“It all began 3 years ago half way through year 7 when this one particular boy bullied me constantly, calling me fat, ugly, worthless ect. I got very depressed within 3 months and i started to just stay in my room and never go out with friends because my confidence was very low and i felt insecure. I never told anyone anything because i was afraid of getting laughed at and judged so i kept it all bottled up which can i say is the worst possible thing to do. But then i grew tired of going to school and getting bullied so i told my headteacher and it soon stopped. But i was still depressed and insecure. By the beginning of year 9 i had cut myself twice because the bullying started again but with others this time. Now everytime i cry i have suicidal thoughts and im tempted to cut again but im fighting it, and when you’ve stopped crying and calmed down your like woah i didnt do it, and yes it makes you proud of yourself.

But im not doing this alone i went to the school nurse about my cutting and depression so she contacted my ADHD consultant and told her and she set me up an appointment with a therapist. Yes i was scared at first because i thought she was going to tell me off for cutting myself but when i met her she was the nicest lady she didnt judge me or tell me off. I’ve been seeing my terapist for 3 months now and im starting to feel better already because i now go out with friends and i dont wear baggy clothes anymore because i dont need tocover up anything i am who i am and thanks to friends and family im getting better

At you lowest points in life you always think is this the best my life is going to be and yes you think it is at the time but its not if you take action against your issues then they can be solved and people will help you. Its all about facing your fear of rejection and being judged and get help because it does get better.”

So we want to say thank you to them for their strength and determination. Hopefully we will continue to work together to talk out, reduce mental health stigma, and encourage people to speak about their feelings.

Remember. It’s ok to talk.

It’s A Parent-Child Thing

We all know what it is like to have arguments with our parents, most of us probably got on better with one of our parents than the other. Certainly it’s part of growing up and maturing, the fight for independence and the struggle for the parent to let go of their baby whom they have cared for, for so long. The question which sits in my mind though, is: ‘When does an argument become emotional abuse?’

This is a very personal subject, and I don’t particularly intend to put anyone across as a villain or criticise anyone, merely to explore the thought process that occurs in my mind at times like these.

So when does a series of arguments become emotional abuse? Let’s not look at it in terms of the dictionary definition, but let’s look at the effect it has on a person.

19 years of age. Living at home. Suffered from anger issues, a short temper and emotional issues since the age of about 12. They call it ‘depression’. I’m not a label, it does not define me and it never will. However, it did help me to tell my parents. My mum, she’s a very intelligent person that is obvious, but certain things have happened which have caused her outlook to become blinkered, and this is where the conflict occurs. The war of attrition as the waves crash down upon the rocks, gradually wearing them away to require either a compromise of soft defences, or a more hardened approach of re-inforcing that cluster of rocks preventing any penetration. I digress slightly. The conflict results in blame, arguments, “fights” and hatred being spouted.

Streams of consciousness enter the atmosphere & it becomes like a book. Dialogue is merely these streams of consciousness battling against each other. Nothing actually goes through, we both listen but do not hear. Shouting and screaming. It’s better than the alternative, but it’s far from perfect. “I can’t live like this anymore” comes the cry after half an hour of my thoughts being battered against her mind, trying to worm their way in to make that breakthrough and create an understanding. What happened?

An offer of money for a box to change to digital TV or no TV. We’ll give you £25 and you can pay the difference. I’ve just spent £102 to get my laptop fixed and money is not exactly in abundance right now. “Can I?”. Immediately the words are regretted because it results in an argument which centres around the idea that I have spoken in a “tone of voice” which she does not like. The irony here is that tone of voice is subjective. The ‘discussion’ continues & the annoyance is there due to being accused of something which is not true. The blame comes my way, it’s all because I spoke in that tone of voice. The frustration eminating from my heart and mind is blatantly obvious by now as I throw the cup down in frustration as she mocks my reaction, walks away knowing full well that it will anger me further. Why? Knowing full well it will anger me further, why does she do this? Is it some sort of petulant act of childishness, or is it just a form of regaining that control she lost when I grew up? Only one person knows the answer. The frustration boils over as whenever an explanation is forthcoming I am interrupted by a reaction designed surely just to wind me up further.

There is much more to it, & to be blamed for something constantly is perhaps a form of emotional abuse, but as noted, there is far more too it than this.

What causes this? Mental health issues? Perhaps. Really though, it is just emotions & personalities. Define it as depression if you so wish, but I do not see it in this way. How you see yourself is entirely your choice, depression is a serious condition and certainly something I experienced. Past tense. For now it is just a label to say that because I react in this way to life, I have depression. There is a chemical imbalance in my brain, the positive impact of this new medication suggests this is true, but depression does not define me.

Let us take that the two people here suffer with mental health issues, predominantly depression. What is it like to live with a parent with a mental health issue?

I love my mum, there’s so much I regret from my childhood about how she treated me, but instead of that being violence and abuse, povertyesque conditions, it was love. I love her because she loved me. I feel her actions contributed to who I am today, and whilst there’s so much I want to change about the past & some things about the present also, I love the way my mind works. The speed of thought, the analysis and the questioning of everything. Even something like football and the way it changes over decades, I was knackered and it was 1am on the DLR on the way back from Portsmouth, I asked my friend how football had changed, what he thought of the way I think, this that and the other. I explained the speed that my mind worked and how I love it. For this, I have my mum to thank. She protected me from harm for fear that I, her baby, would be hurt. She could not bear to see me hurt and that was born out of her unconditional love for me as her son. So despite the many negative aspects to her somewhat overprotection of me, there were some positives.

What does this have to do with living with a parent with a mental health issue? Well it needs saying that my mother loves me & I love her, regardless of what may be said in this blog, on my twitter or elsewhere. Love is there, and it will always remain, but we are at each other constantly.

The sheer bloody mindedness of us both creates conflict, and our inability to channel our stress and emotions in a positive way is a recipe for disaster. We both struggle. When you have a bad day and get in a bad mood, what happens? Often you become snappy, aggressive and somewhat withdrawn. Try living like that every day, and combine with it two people who refuse to give in. The 19 year old admits some wrongdoing begrudgingly to keep the peace, but the mother is blinded by her own problems, seeing things only from one perspective.

This blog entry does not appear on the surface to explain what it is like to live with a parent who has a mental health issue, it just shows conflict between parent and child, but deep down there is much more than that. The devil is in the detail.

What is hardest is to see the impact I have on her. The conflict that already penetrates my mind every second of my life is further exacerbated by the frustration at the suffocation of me as a child, but the realisation that the actions were out of love. The love is therefore repaid albeit not very clearly. How? Well when I see my mum struggling with her emotions, breaking down and crying, getting angry for (seemingly) no reason, my heart sinks a bit. I don’t want her hurting, regardless of the fighting we have. I love her, but she feels suicidal, she is depressed, low and somewhat alone. Solemnity, sorrow, scared. She’s scared, I’m scared and we both know it. Yet there is a silent acceptance of each others’ desire not to discuss it, that being my fault as such, my way of relucantly punishing her for her previous actions, for I cannot break the chains which are held tight due to the fear and embarrassment of the past.

Living with someone who has a mental health issue is difficult, but it shows your strength, their strength, the power of love and hope & the rays of light that shine through every now and then. Don’t be afraid, just show your love, because love is most powerful, moreso than hatred, loathing, of hopelessness.

Matt

What Gets Us Through The Day

Hope. That small little word called hope. We mentioned it in a previous blog entry, but how do you find hope?

Whilst hope lays within us, it can’t always be sourced so simply. Sometimes we have to search around, and deeply routed within our hearts and minds we will eventually find it again, hidden away in the drawer we’ve been so scared to root through for fear of what may lie in there, when in reality it was just a dusty drawer which was cleared out and became bright, standing out from the rest, it moved to the forefront of our mind.

What little things get you through the day? There’s so much that you can do to improve your mood, or just pass time.

Find something worthwhile, don’t just spend your day doing something that passes time, spend something that stops you from thinking about time, think about how much time you have to achieve something, not how much time it’s going to take, or whether you’re going to enjoy it. The best things in life are free, they say. It’s true as well, they are! 

Let’s take the beauty of the outside world. The grass, it’s green. I know, amazing right?! The sky can be blue, the sky can be grey and the sky can be black. There’s always a positive we can take from everything. When the rain fell, I would often say “I’m just going out for a run” because the rain was refreshing, and the run and the rain would cleanse my mind of the stale thoughts which ran through so fast throughout the day, especially if I had been having a day which was not particularly productive. The water that was the rain would refresh me, it would remove those negative feelings, and it would give me a new lease of life. Combine this with some music such as chumbawamba’s song tubthumpting or Eye of the tiger and you have yourself a platform to build a better mood, to relax your mind, enjoy yourself and improve your physical and mental health all at the same time.

What else is there? Well there’s things like writing. For instance, song writing if you’re that way inclined and have an interest in it. Or you could try writing a blog about a hobby of yours. I write a blog about football http://www.woosiethinksfootie.blogspot.com because I love it so much, so you could write about a sport, or perhaps just something that interests you. They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Well, I for one totally agree with that! Words have a massive affect on us, one that is so much harder to deal with than a sword.

With a sword, we are able to wear armour, or protect ourselves with a shield, but we can’t do that with thoughts and feelings that stem from words can we? Or can we? Well the answer is yes of course we can! It’s armour for the mind, and it’s a shield for the mind. No-one can make us feel down without our consent, we need to build defences for our minds to shield from harm. Now we all need these sorts of experiences as it is what makes us who we are, and it shapes us, but no-one should suffer pain. So tell yourself that you are a good person, look in the mirror every morning and smile. Say to yourself “i’m going to feel good today, I can do this, I can be happy” The more we tell ourselves we are going to do something, the more positive re-enforcement we give ourselves, the more we believe it and the more we feel it. 

The power of social media is well documented. Unfortunately it’s often highlighted for it’s negatives, not it’s positives. This is greatly frustrating but tonight we are proud. We are proud because a topic that started a little over a month ago in my mind has developed into a much larger project. We aim to talk to people, to support people, to let people know that talking about feelings, talking about mental health is not something to be scared of or ashamed of. Tonight we launched the hashtag #TalkOut where we wanted people to talk about their experiences of mental health and their feelings. The response was brilliant, with many people joining in. Some of the responses can be seen here: http://storify.com/Time4Recovery/talk-out-an-individual-and-collective-rise-above-m

Life is full of trials and tribulations but with the support of people like those who joined in tonight, the support of our friends and our families. The support of PEOPLE, and most importantly, the support from ourselves, the self loving rather than the self loathing, we can make it through with few regrets, and with the chance to say: “I’m proud of myself, I did everything I wanted to”. Don’t let mental illness hold you back, don’t let your emotions and your feelings prevent you from achieving what you are capable of, what you are setting out to do and what you will do. You have the potential to be brilliant, better than you think, more important than you know, more beautiful than you ever will see.

Don’t worry about going the extra mile, we need to make much more efficient use of the miles we already go. 

For the times where you feel as though nothing you do is good enough then remember that mighty oaks from acorns grow, or that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Progress is often slow, or at least steady and uninspiring but progress is something we only tend to realise once we’ve achieved it, and my word, once we look back, we see how much progress we have actually made, and it’s huge. Once you begin the journey towards self actualization, self discovery, you will never ever go back to stage 1 because you are always learning. You won’t want to either.

“The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, known struggles, known loss, and found their way out of the depths.” 

On being happy.

There is a common belief among humans, that in order to experience life in all its fullness, happiness is the way to go. If you ask 100 school children what they aspire to achieve by the time they’re 60, amongst the inevitable superheroes and pop star aspirations, most will mutually agree that happiness is what they will ultimately want.

But what even is happiness?  To answer this, we need to consider all of the possibilities. Some will say that money is the answer, others will say a marriage and kids, some might argue that a stable and enjoyable career can provide this. As much as we’d all like to have these things, and as lucky as some are to already have achieved them, not everyone is going to have yet found their soul mate, nor will they even be old enough to have their dream job. In fact, the majority of people dealing with ‘happiness issues’, are among those who are still in school. With constant dips in the economy, money clearly cannot be seen as a long term safety net, as much temporary happiness as it may bring us. So what do we say for the single, jobless and moneyless youth of our society? Furthermore, what do we say for those who already have all of these things, but who are still not happy?

Life is a journey; one which I have always understood to have been a constant rollercoaster of emotions, experiences, and life lessons. To die happy, would be a great thing. To be able to laugh as you look over memories that you once cherished, to be able to look a loved one in the eye knowing they’ll always remember you, to be able to have some kind of security for your children once you’ve gone. But once again, not everyone is in the position to experience these kinds of circumstances. What about those who die young? Those who have suffered great illness, to those who have nothing but painful memories? These are all harsh but extremely valid realities for many humans. What do we say for those who have fallen victim to the ‘common cold of psychiatry’; depression? What about other forms of mental illness? The World Health Organisation states that 20% of our population, will at some point in their lives, suffer from some form of mental health issue. It’s as common as they come, and unfortunately, wrapping it up in golden thread isn’t going to cure it. For many, this isn’t a curable disease. There are no sudden quick fixes that can bring about the happiness they apparently long for.

Life does not come with a set of instructions. It does not come with a hot line number nor does it have a repair manual. There is no key that fits the lock of happiness, because ultimately, each person’s happiness is different to the next. Just as cherishing the good moments is extremely important, it does not mean that you should immediately eradicate everything else that has ever happened. Sometimes it’s good to forgive and forget, to let go of the past and to move on. But how do we know we should even do this? It’s from our negative experiences that we learn there is something else beyond the fence. There is a sweeter side to goodness that’ll we never fully taste unless we can understand the true bitterness that life can deal. There is a positive in every negative. Never forget that; A silver lining to all that is negative, to turn even one of the ugliest of situations into something beautiful.

And for me, that’s it. To be content, is to have everything, as well as nothing; to know that the weather is unpredictable, but also to accept that we can get through this storm. Rain may be undesirable, but it is also water, the source of all life. Without it, we cannot survive. Essentially, the stormy weather is just as important as the sunshine. We need both to see the beauty of the rainbow. It is through this perspective that I understand my own serenity. I’m not always going to feel at peace, but that’s okay. I’m not always going to be jumping for joy, but that’s okay. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to know I can talk about this. Because my feelings, as up and down as they may be, are of utmost importance not just to me, but to all else who can hear my story. Some may strike lucky in life and have all of this provided on a golden platter, but the true hero is the one who can look inside of themselves, and whisper a song of hope to a troubled heart. To know that beyond death, there is life, and that there is always a time and place to experience love, peace and contentment.

Stability

A dangerous word one might argue, but one which causes many a question to be asked. What is stability? Am I stable?

Look at yourself, Matt, look at yourself. You’re still on meds, but you’re so much more stable than you were before! I can get on with my life without feeling the urge to pick up a tool and use it across my arm, and without ever really wanting to die.

I am slowly but surely regaining myself, turning myself back into the person I WANT TO BE, not the person that my illness is trying to turn me into.

Anyway, it’s about 2 years since I last got to talk to ‘her’, and the pain hasn’t gone away but it’s lessened and ya know, I’m kind of better off for it. I’ve learned a lot. Gosh I sound so condescending if I was talking to someone, basically, I WILL find someone who treats me well and I HAVE learned from what happened and I won’t be lonely for all my life.

School was the best time of my life, but that’s gone now. It’s important to look ahead towards the future, and to use the past to remember what I have achieved, and what I can do to be successful in the future.

What did I achieve by talking to someone just before I went into my seminar room on the first day of Uni huh? I achieved a relationship. My point is, that if I throw myself into everything then I cannot look back and have any regrets. If I didn’t throw myself into uni at the beginning then I wouldn’t have got myself a girlfriend and a fleeting moment of happiness. So, I will continue in the same vein, I will, I will, I will, I can, I can, I can. I CAN F****** DO THIS S***!

Someone said to me that “You are always there when needed!” I aim to please, my friend, I aim to please. Seriously though, I enjoy talking to people, trying to help them understand what they are going through. I enjoy listening, the most important thing anyone can do is to listen, not judge. You might say try to understand, but sometimes that’s dangerous if you are unable to understand. Don’t say to someone “I understand” if you don’t, it will make things worse, just let them know that you are there for them.

It’s so good to see my friend happy. Not like he’s been through the shit that I have, but he’s been through his own shit, he’s battled his own demons. I only became friends with him around year 10, when I began to broaden my horizons and actually interact with people more, partly through choice and self discovery partly because I didn’t want to be anyone’s ghost anymore, but also because I was finally accepted for being me, people liked me for me. I chose to hang around and talk to him, but it was probably at college where we became really good friends, and I’m so glad I know him because, well, simply, he’s a top guy.

I’m getting through life in my own bizarre and unique way. I love expressing myself, be it through words or songs, I simply thrive upon it and enjoy myself. I love all my friends so much, some of whom I’ve yet to meet but will do very soon.

We all have so much love to give, it’s inevitable someone will come along who needs to be showered with love, who will give you what you need as well.

Time is not of the essence, take it slow, stop trying to hurry everything and just let life take its course without trying to edit in the extra little details which ruin the experience by making it too complicated. Achieve what you want, live like you’re going to die tomorrow, dream like you’re going to live forever, and pursue those dreams, because you never know, one day, you just might achieve them.

It Will Take Courage My Love

I actually wrote this on my personal blog, which I oughta try and resurrect, but it is a good piece that I wrote and it needs to be shared.

So, I feel rough and raw but I am 19 and in theory, in the prime of my life.

This isn’t really going to be about me, per-se but about “it” and not suffering alone because it’s ok to talk, and how do I know that for sure tonight (this was in february) when so many times I question it? I know that because there’s a girl (young woman) on twitter* who has set up an account to let adolescents/teenagers realise that it is ok to talk about depression and just feelings in general.

Why is it ok? It’s more than ok, it’s good to talk about how you feel. We have this thing as humans that stops us from opening up to people for fear of their reactions, but if they react negatively then it’s not our loss, it just means they don’t understand properly and therefore cannot be sympathetic in any way. We must take from this, and learn things. What must we learn? Well, we don’t have to learn anything, but it’d be great if we could see that it’s not the fact that we’re talking about it that is the problem, but the fact that some people just aren’t prepared to listen or to understand.

I talk as though it is an inevitability, which it really is not. I speak about it on here, and show it to my friends. Recently, I came back from Wales following an incredible experience. I watched my team, Crystal Palace in a cup semi-final, and despite losing (on penalties) I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. A friend from a site I joined to help me with my feelings and self harm, kindly let me stay the night at hers, and I enjoyed her company greatly, however I was struck hard by a wave of overwhelming sadness and general emotion on my way home. My body and mind could not cope, and all that was left was to search out for someone to understand. In a desperate attempt for someone to come and hug me and just make me feel better, I tweeted “Really worried about my mood, like seriously, if you love me let me know”. A couple of people came back to me, including one from someone who I really care about saying “love you @MattWoosie, stay strong”** and then a couple more inquisitive but supportive ones. I responded truthfully, and as the conversation developed more people became involved and wished me the best etc.

What does that anecdote tell you? Well, hopefully it tells you that not all your experiences are going to be negative, in fact, most will probably be at least neutral if not positive. You have nothing to lose by sharing your feelings because there is ALWAYS someone out there for you, even if you don’t see it or realise.

Talking about my feelings made me better to put it simply. I sought out counselling because I opened up to someone who all I had in common with was the support of a football club. Gradually I began to realise how much I could gain from being open and talking, and I went to see a professional. I never gave up and although I’m not bursting with happiness, i’m stable and recovering.

I leave you with these lyrics that a friend liked and shared with me. The song’s a bit rubbish but the meaning behind the lyrics is one which we should all look at.

It will take courage, my love, to walk through this life; to cut paths through the bastards who’ll strain to devise nefarious methods to strip you of your hope. It takes courage to not let go. And then as your family fractures and your friends disappear, or, out of self-preservation, chain you to their fears…as their fictions and addictions drain the last of your will, it takes courage to love them still. It will take courage, my love, to refuse to heed the cramped imaginations of those who would lead. And though you can barely see past their consuming fires, it’s your courage that is required. To wrap your fists around what you’ve found to ward off their lies, to manoeuvre past hearses and to curse at the night. To pick up a tape off the floor of the van. To sing with it as loud as you can. Oh dearest, I know, you can’t see a light. But dearest, don’t you know, you have one inside. And now obstacles tower without and within; disease angles closer, your words lost within. But as its muscular wings rip the skin from your bones, oh, my love, you are not alone. Because it takes courage, my love, to assess what you are; to see what surrounds you and to be humbled and small…and to still find the strength to fight for these slivers of truth. So I take courage, my love, from you. I take courage, my love, from you.

It does take courage, it takes great courage to talk about ourselves and our feelings. Everytime someone talks about their feelings to me, it makes me feel a little better inside because I can use what I have learned through talking to help them. Now you don’t have to do that, but I want you to realise that if you talk to me (us) or someone else about your feelings then it is a good thing. It’s ok if you feel unable to at times, or don’t want to, but if you do then it’s great and will be beneficial for you and for me.

It takes courage, my love… so i take courage, my love, from you. I take courage, my love, from you.

The thing is, talking about mental health can lead you into a friendship. A friendship that doesn’t have to consist of “I feel shit” or similar phrases, but a friendship with mutual support, that branches out into a friendship whereby you feel confident to chat about less intense, everyday things, that is when it turns into a really great friendship, because you have that level of understanding, you know each others’ barriers and you know when to probe and press, and when to sit back and give some space. You learn a lot through talking about things.

*You can follow her @itsokcampaign she was the inspiration behind my decision to create this account with my wonderful friend, Steph and we are both thriving on it, so thank you May, thank you very much 🙂

**Yes, that is my personal twitter, you can send me a follow request if you so wish and you’ll probably get accepted.

Letting Go Of The Past For A Better Future

The past often defines us, defines who we are, what we do, our actions, our thoughts and therefore our lives. It’s important that we don’t allow this to happen, because we can become stuck in the past, to live in the past is no good to anyone. We need to develop as people, mature and learn from our experiences.

To let go of the past is difficult, it’s not easy and it’s not simple. It takes effort, it takes time and it takes strength. It’s ok to look back at the past and see the mistakes we have made, but to dwell on them serves only to cause us to loathe ourselves and has a negative affect. Look at the mistakes you’ve made and instead of berating yourself for them, see how you can learn not to make the same mistakes again.

If we are able to cut out the metaphorical cancers that are triggering our low moods, our depression, then we are at a stage where things become easier to cope with. Obviously not all of our problems lay in the past, but for those that do, let go of them and try to shape your future more positively by focussing on what you want to achieve, rather than what you failed to achieve.

Look at the stars in the night sky, each one represents you, sometimes there are clear nights where they are visible, shining brightly, and sometimes the cloud covers them. Sometimes we find hope, and sometimes that hope goes away, but you notice that the stars will always be there so long as the universe/solar system exists. It’s the same with hope and you. As long as you exist, there is always hope.

Life as a Jigsaw Puzzle

Life is beautiful, and it’s beautiful because it’s an enigma, a mystery, a puzzle.

The pieces come together to form outlines, and those outlines are the key to our happiness. The odd, individual pieces that just won’t fit anywhere, they get us down, and we put them down. It’s a puzzle though, we pick up the next piece and the next until we find where they go, each time learning something new about the puzzle. It’s the same with life, we get odd bits here and there, but we move on to the next bit, and the next bit until we find the pieces that fit together to create those outlines which make us happy. The togetherness, it represents people, the people who come into our lives and make an impact on us, get us to see things differently, make us feel happy, make us feel something good. This wouldn’t happen without the failure of us to piece together everything at once without having to stop and go back, to stop, to reflect and to see what it is we are trying to achieve.

Life truly is a wonderful, wonderful invention. I know. It’s an invention because you can choose to do what you want with your life. Granted there are restrictions to a degree, but you can make life what you want it to be. You have the power, the control. It’s all there in your hands, and you just need to grasp out with both of your hands and grab the opportunities which come your way.

Let life flow through you, if you cut, put down your tool for a day and replace it with the power of life, of love, of positivity and just try to be kind to yourself.

The beauty of life is oft misunderstood, oft unseen, so take your life and do with it what you want to. Do not let the parasites continue, cease their leeching and allow yourself some rest.

Life, is what you make of it, make the most of it, fight back against your demons and crush them with the power of hope.

The beauty of hope

I was struggling to see how on earth I was going to write 7 blogs in 7 days this morning having felt like absolute shit to put it bluntly. Anxiety, loneliness, self loathing you name it, I had it. I even contemplated self-harm but fought back against it, with the strength to prevent it from encompassing all that I was feeling and thinking. You too can fight against those urges that so frequently penetrate through the wall we build to protect ourselves from emotional pain and suffering, but most importantly, to protect us from life when it gets to us.

Self harming isn’t something to be looked down upon at all, but we believe that there are better ways of coping. That’s all that it is, a coping mechanism. A destructive one, but a coping mechanism nonetheless. Whilst we try not to tell people what to do with their lives, there are many regrets that you can have from self harm, and many opportunities that can develop from finding a different way of coping. What are you talking about, life sucks, I can’t do anything, what’s the point, etc etc. Yes, some of you may be responding like that, and the fact I just said that is evidence that I’ve reacted that way before. So listen, and listen carefully. You can go for a run or a brisk walk in the fresh air. Try it, the benefits are there for both your mental and physical health, and you can get some peace of mind. I find that sticking my iPod in at the same time helps, especially with running! Choose a song that pumps you up and absolutely hammer your running for as long as you can, then rest and have a light jog.

Ok, so running isn’t for everyone, granted. Reading and writing are two other beneficial ways of coping. Express your emotions in the form of creative writing. Turn them into a story and maybe just maybe build up that courage to show someone. Reading a book is a great form of escapism, something like a sci-fi or fantasy book will help take your mind away from the current situation of what is causing you to feel the way you do.

All of these other coping mechanisms take a great deal of courage, but they also take a great deal of dedication. You have to really want to make positive steps forward.

There’s a lot of hope out there. It can find its way into your heart from the darkest of places, and it’s there to tell you that you are loved, and you are worthy of love, you are worthy of SELF LOVE. LOVE YOURSELF, don’t hate yourself because you are unique, you are one of a kind. That’s not just my way of trying to get you to feel better about yourself, it’s the truth. If you don’t believe me, then I challenge you to tweet us at Talk_Out and tell us the person who is exactly like you.

Hope is beautiful because it gives us strength, it gives us more hope and it brings us into a better place. Hope can be sourced from many places, but ultimately it comes from within. How do you realise that there is hope within you, and hope that can actually be used? By talking. By doing things, being active and not passive.

So I say to you, give it a try, when you feel all things are defeating you, just remember that there is always hope.