health, Personal

Time To Talk – Mental Health Day

February 1st. It’s time to talk.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll probably have seen a few of my posts where I’ve talked about my depression and anxiety, or maybe you’ve seen my Instagram posts.

I no longer feel the need to hide or shy away from my struggles and I no longer feel embarrassed talking about the things I’ve experienced.

NEITHER SHOULD YOU!

I believe that everyone has the right to feel safe and cared for, to feel hope and happiness, love and laughter – especially on their darker days.

I don’t wait until February 1st to talk about this, I try and talk about it at least once a month because although each of us experience things differently, just one shared experience may help one other person in some way. However, February 1st is the big day to talk and it would be ridiculous for me not to be a part of that.


What led to my depression, anxiety and PTSD is nothing out of the ordinary, and in many ways I feel ashamed that it affected me so badly when other women have suffered far worse events that I ever did. Over time I have learned to accept that I was entitled to my suffering, because what I experienced was the worst thing I had, in my life, been faced with. You cannot measure how much suffering someone should endure based on what they are faced with. Some people are able to handle so much worse than others, some people crumble at the slightest thing. THAT IS OKAY. 

One thing you have to learn to do is do not compare your struggle to others’.

Your struggle is yours.

Your pain, your darkest days are not for others to judge or to comment on.

This is one of the toughest parts of dealing with my depression. Was accepting what had happened, accepting that yes, many people have dealt with far worse than I have, but that will not change the pain I felt or take away the experiences I had.


The most important thing about your mental health is not to suffer in silence.

I know what it’s like to pretend it doesn’t exist. Fake a smile. Push yourself into those social situations you’re completely dreading. Get dressed every day and pretend your life is absolutely fine, when all you really want to do is hide under the bed covers and cry for hours and hours.

You do what you need to do. If you need to stay in bed all day, eat pizza and doughnuts and cry, do it. BUT you need to be talking to someone. Whether it’s an online friend, someone on instagram, your mum, your best friend, a partner, a therapist, a doctor, a teacher, a nurse. SOMEONE will listen. Someone will want to support you and help you through this.

The harsh part about mental health is not everyone is equipped to deal with it. Not everyone wants to be around the ‘sad person’ or the ‘party pooper’. But dyou know what we say to them? Fuck it. Fuck it. and Fuck you. If people don’t even try and understand or support you, stay away from them. You do not need that negativity in your life. Believe me.

Anyone who truly cares about you will support you, be there for you, try and get you through your darker moments. Don’t get me wrong, no one can be there for you 24/7, and they won’t be, because everyone has their own life to get on with, but that does not mean that they don’t care. 

I was extremely lucky, after 2 years of battling it out on my own, I admitted defeat and went home to live with my mum again. I stopped working. I saw a counselor. I took time for me. My mum went to work every day, and on her days off she cooked for me, we went shopping, we watched movies. We cried, we cried a lot. I was awful. Miserable. I felt like I was living in hell and all I wanted to do was end it all. Without my mum, I would have done. I would not be alive right now if it wasn’t for my mum’s never ending support.

And I understand that not everyone will have that, and that makes it worse. But, whether you have one person, or 10 people, you will have someone who will help you.

Please, please, please do not go through your dark days alone. Okay?

Promise me. 


I don’t like to say I’ve been ‘cured’ of depression and anxiety, because some days it hits me like a tonne of bricks. However, in the past year I fought with my own self to become a better, stronger and more capable person. I faced my fears of going back to work. I faced my fears of starting something new (a teaching career) and I faced my fears by openly admitting to my depression and anxiety on the days when I needed to care for myself. I learned to put myself first. Before my shame, before my fears.

The results were amazing.

I lost weight for the first time in 3 years (a lot of it).

I made friends.

I started reading again.

(P.S. Reading Bryony Gordon’s ‘Mad Girl’ made me realise I could have a life AND deal with a mental illness at the same time. This woman changed the way I faced my depression. I owe her big time!)

I started working. And I absolutely love my job.

(Although mental health in the work place, in general, is a huge issue. I may blog about this separately because it’s so important.) But I still get the ‘tuts’ and ‘eye rolls’ if I say I need a day off / at home / self-care day. It’s infuriating. 

I found a new enthusiasm for life.

I went on holiday alone.

I found a reason to feel alive again.


It isn’t easy. None of it is. Even without a mental health issue to deal with, everyone has bad days and none of them are pleasant. You’re not alone.

My message from this post is to please, please reach out to someone. Find the people you can trust, find a kind person on instgram (believe me, there are plenty!) and just talk.

If all else fails, I’m also here for anyone that feels like they want to rant, vent, talk to or share their worries – or even their positive vibes!

You are never alone.


#TimeToTalk


NHS advice for if you’re feeling suicidal here

Mind – A fantastic mental health charity that works nation wide to support people with mental health issues.

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health, Personal

Stressed not depressed

Firstly let me apologize for the slightly ‘down in the dumps’ topic, but then I’m being hypocritical really, as I like to remind people as often as I can that it is okay to talk about how you feel. Never apologize for sharing your thoughts. 

I’m stressing.

I’m stressing badly.

I feel absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of things that are racing through my mind every minute of the day. I don’t think I’ve had a decent night’s sleep in nearly 3 weeks and it’s drastically taking it’s toll.

I’m tired, grumpy, snappy and beyond emotional.
I keep welling up over the most stupid things.

This is what lack of sleep does to you.

But, what I have learned in the last year or two is that “one bad day, is not a bad life”. One day of hysterical crying, feeling like it’s the end of the world, doesn’t make it so.

It makes you human.

My depression has not come back. I am not depressed. I will not be depressed.

I am stressed.

And there’s a difference.


If there’s one thing I wish for myself, it’s to never have to experience the pain of depression ever again in my life. That feeling where you’re so low you’re breaking your own heart. I couldn’t experience that again and I truly hope that none of you do either.

However, if you are… REACH OUT AND TALK ABOUT IT. Promise me? Don’t do it alone.


Just lately I’ve been absolutely fine throughout the day, but the minute I get home I turn into an emotional wreck. I don’t want to hear any sounds, talk to anyone, do anything but lie in bed and cry. Or read, then cry.

Is anyone else feeling that way lately? Is it the weather? Am I not managing my time properly? I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong… Maybe it’s my diet? Whatever it is, I need to up my self-care game.



Things that have made me cry this week:

  • People thanking me for my work / help
  • Seeing all 12 of my students read silently for 20 minutes, with no phones or talking at all – their choice! and then ask to keep on reading
  • Finding out one of my students got a 5.5 on his IELTS and accepted into Cardiff (starting to well up now just thinking about it)
  • My students writing an entire page of homework, when 10 weeks ago they could barely write three sentences
  • Books. Always books.

I hope I’m not going crazy, but I really needed to put this out there.

I hope you’re not feeling this way either, but if you are, reach out!

xo

Book Reviews

Book 3 of 2018: Reasons to Stay Alive

Matt Haig, quite possibly an unintended literary genius?

I have tried, numerous times over the past 18 months, to read this book but each time ended up in floods of tears, so much so that I couldn’t read on. The book hit too close to home. I was struggling with my worst stage of depression and I couldn’t possibly read about it on top of the emotions I was dealing with.

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Today, about 9 months after I feel I have finally conquered my own depression, I got through this book. I won’t lie, I cried for a good hour and a half whilst reading this. It brought up so many emotions and made them feel so raw. It was heart-breaking to read what Matt went through.

But, and there’s always a ‘but’, he got through it. Matt found things in life that helped him deal, cope and manage with his struggles and he made it. What struck me so strongly was how his, now, wife Andrea stuck by him through this entire time. I cannot even imagine how difficult this must have been for her, or for Matt, but it only signifies how strong true love can be.

Their love, as portrayed through Matt’s words, gives me so much hope.

All I can say is that if you have ever struggled in life, whether it’s with depression, anxiety, mental health issues of any kind, or not, you have to read this book. You will most likely cry, you will be moved beyond explanation, and you will be inspired.

Matt has reminded me that although our demons may always be deep within us, we can win. We can move on from our darkest days, months, even years, and be happy. Our lives will get better and we will find things that are worth living for. Both small things like flowers, universal moments like sunsets, children, love, family, and my personal favourite – books!

I am proud of myself for finally finishing this book, but I am also immensely moved by Matt’s words and cannot thank him enough for sharing his story.

I’ll leave you with the quote I most relate to from his book, about mental illness:

“To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all. You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames.”
― Matt HaigReasons to Stay Alive

Matt is on twitter at @MattHaig1

and you can buy his books in Waterstones, Amazon, and most bookstores around the world! (I strongly recommend you do so!)

Book Reviews, Education, Personal, travel

2017 reflections

Initial plans

Before 2017 started I was determined that this year my main goals were:
1. to beat depression (my new year’s resolution that failed in 2015)
2. to hold down a proper job and pay my bills, and
3. to re-ignite my love for reading

What I have accomplished this year is more than I, and more than my family, could have possibly imagined. The first thing that changed was I decided to stop going out every day to ward off my depression with coffee and talking to random people in coffee shops. What this first step did for me was gave me time to relax at home, in my own space, and focus on myself. What happened was, I stopped wearing make up, took time to write and, wait for it, READ. I told myself to read for 10 minutes every day, that’s all, but within days I had gone out and bought new books. I was reading two a day, sometimes three! It was like magic that my passion for reading flooded back.

Once I’d realized it was back, I looked for a reading challenge and decided to go with PopSugar’s version! I’ve enjoyed it immensely and recommend any book-lover to do it too! Total books read in 2017: 44!

This is honestly one of the best parts of 2017. I had forgotten how much reading influenced me. How moving words can be and what an effect they can have on us.

I’ll briefly share a few of my favourites with you.

A man named Ove, by Fredrik Backman – This had me laughing, crying and feeling so many mixed emotions as I saw parts of my grumpy self in Ove, but also parts of my Grandpa in that the love between husband and wife is unbreakable even after death.

Mad Girl, by Bryony Gordon – The first book I read this year that I couldn’t put down and without a doubt reminded me of how much I’ve missed reading. Despite the struggles of Bryony, she lets us into her world through humour and showing us that it is okay, ‘not to be okay’. I can’t thank her enough for sharing her story.

Baby Doll and The Walls by Hollie Overton – wow! Neither of these books were read lightly. Absolutely gripping at the pages as I read both of these, each in one sitting. The Walls actually gave me nightmares, it was that good! Twisted, warped stories that had my heart racing start to finish! Must, must read!

All the bright places by Jennifer Niven – oh my poor heart. What a moving story! It took me a few days to read this, as I started back in January when I wasn’t fully in the swing of reading but by the end of it I had quotes on little post-it notes around my room, I wanted tattoos, I couldn’t stop following Niven’s fans on instagram and twitter. I was sucked into the world of Violet and Finch.

My weight loss

This was a pivotal part of my year because growing up I was always extremely skinny, and sporty, and even at Uni I wasn’t ever more than a size 8, but once the depression crept in, then the medication, I ate and ate and ate… I never stopped. Dr Pepper, doughnuts, pizza hut, crisps, chips, chocolates, beer, wine… whatever I wanted, I ate. Immediately. I was eating anywhere from 5 to 10 times a day and I didn’t care. It wasn’t long before I was pushing a size 16 and 70kilos. My family were shocked, my friends of course didn’t say anything, and I felt repulsive. This year I put an end to it. How? Believe me, people have asked.

  • I started off by cutting out eating after 7pm. This made a huge difference to my bloating and discomfort.
  • The next stage, I stopped eating dairy products. No milk, chocolate, cheese, none of it! This made a massive difference and the weight started dropping quite quickly.
  • Then it was time for some hard work, I had to stop eating junk food. I cut out cookies and crisps, I went nearly 6 months without a single pizza (this was painful!). It meant daily smoothies, veggie sticks for snacks instead of crisps, soups when it was cold rather than 2 plates of pasta or pizza.
  • Then the real work, exercise! This was tough. My knees are weak and running is always painful for me… so I had to buy some weights and do things at home. Mostly squats, sit ups, crunches, jumping jacks, lizard crunches (seriously guys, do these!!) Plus the occasional swim or trip to the gym…

I’m still working on my weight, and I hate my stomach, but to lose 16 kilos in 12 months is a massive achievement for me and I feel surprisingly proud of myself!

First real job

After a few part-time job stints in 2016, I wasn’t satisfied with what I’d been doing. I’d enjoyed my job at the Little Red Roaster immensely, but because of my mental health I had to resign. My boss there was amazing and most of the customers were lovely, and in the jobs that followed I didn’t find either of those bonus points.

Someone recommended I apply for Coffee #1 in Winton and I had a great trial shift… two days later they called and asked if I wanted to train up as an Assistant Manager. Jeez… Where do I begin? A week after signing the contract they said I couldn’t stay in Winton and that I’d have to go to Eastleigh. Every day. I agreed, since I had no other option but that journey was awful. Getting the bus to Southampton, then a train to Eastleigh took about an hour in the morning, but coming home was awful. I had to get a train back to Southampton, which depending on what time I closed up that night could have me waiting in Eastleigh for an hour. The coach times changed and sometimes I was waiting in Southampton for an hour, or longer. On average, coming home took between 2 and 4 hours, for a 30 minute car journey. I didn’t get paid for my travel time, as promised. I didn’t get compensation half of the time either. I enjoyed the job I was doing but most of the time, I was on auto pilot. The hours were awful, the travelling was even worse. I’ll skip the other finer, irritating details of what I had to put up with, but eventually I handed in my notice. It was absolutely the right decision for me and I’m so glad I walked away from that place.

No money

With my first solo trip booked, Switzerland!!, and no job… I was in panic mode. Do I cancel my holiday? Do I retract my notice? No no no! I went to Zuerich for three days and had the best holiday ever! I saw old friends, went to the FIFA museum, walked along the river and I barely bought a thing except for food. Have any of you been to Zuerich? What did you think of it??

The turning point

One of the biggest points of 2017 was my Taiwan holiday… Leigh and I had argued, big time, before I flew out and I was back at a really low point. I didn’t know what to do next with my personal life, my career, my education. Everything felt like a complete mess. However, I took myself off to a little coffee shop and explored my options.

I started working on my mindfulness, writing a journal again and learning how to be more reflective on situations.

NOW was the time to step out of my comfort zone. I signed up for a CELTA course. After years and years of uhmmmmmm-ing and aaaaaaaaah-ing about whether to go forward with teacher training, this was it! I started the day after I arrived home in Bournemouth.

I’ve said it time and time again lately but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That CELTA course pushed me to study again, to make some wonderful new friends and, believe it or not, almost cure my stage fright! I honestly had no idea if I was going to pass the course or not, but I applied for a summer teaching job at the sister school, BEET. I had a few interviews and finally, as long as I passed, I had a 4-week contract!

Now I won’t go into too much detail about the job, because I’ve blogged about it a fair bit already but this job has changed my life. I have found a passion. I love this job with my heart and soul, and the people that I’ve met through it have inspired me, supported me, and some have also left me feeling totally drained (but that’s a rare few!)

I’ll be forever grateful to those two people who gave me this opportunity, and to everyone who has supported me along the way. If I could work there forever, I would.

 

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it…

Okay. We did. But I’m not going to blog about that now…
August 30th 2017 – Leigh and I got engaged.

Closing

As the year draws to a close, I’m still glowing from my wonderful holiday in Germany with our friends, a lovely Christmas with my family and Leigh and I are in the process of signing contracts for teaching jobs in China.

We went up to London yesterday for our medical exams, and have a week to wait for the results. In the mean time, we are going to enjoy THREE WHOLE DAYS OFF together! Then it’s crunch time. Packing up my things, throwing away what I don’t need, etc etc.

I cannot believe that I’m about to move to the other side of the world and finally move out of my parents house. Hopefully for the last time! Does this mean I’m officially an adult now? Let’s hope so.

I hope everyone has a lovely New Year’s Eve and that 2018 is absolutely wonderful for you. Please let me know what you’re looking forward to, if you’re doing any book challenges or if you’re also going to be teaching abroad!

 

Lots of love

Claire

xoxo

Book Reviews

mad girl – the book everyone needs to read.

Bryony Gordon, what can I say? Well, let me start my saying this woman shook my world up just ever so slightly.

I was having a day out with my mum, wandering around the shops, when naturally we stopped in Waterstones to browse at their latest books, the deals, the ‘big this week’ books. Bear in mind, I was not reading at this point. I was still desperately struggling with depression and only the thought of reading made me feel better, yet I never actually did. On this day I was feeling particularly determined, and started browsing the latest books, where a bright yellow covered looked up at me. I grabbed it and instantly fixed on the back page review – with Bryony’s shocked face staring back at me, I had a feeling I would read this book.

I couldn’t put it down. I read it that afternoon in one sitting, pausing only for a toilet break and a biscuit. I laughed and giggled, I cried, I teared up, I moved. This story struck me in a way I had forgotten that books do.

Growing up, Bryony explored the parts of life that we all do, except she had a few additions. The voices convincing her someone would die if she didn’t say / do something a certain amount of times, bulimia controlling her behavior, battling drug use… these aspects of her life are completely non-existent in mine, so far those parts I couldn’t relate. However, the depression, the bizarre choices we make to encourage a more positive feeling (putting up with shitty men, moving in with shitty men…) I can relate to.

For the next few months, Paul is a dream.

What this book made me realize was that it is perfectly possible to live a functional life, whilst battling with mental health issues. It’s possible to go to work, to have a relationship, to be kind to your friends, to make changes. Whilst she wasn’t always coping well, she carried on.

I AM COMPLETELY MENTAL!

What Bryony has made me realize is that you can get through this. Perhaps we won’t always completely get over our mental health issues, but we can always work through them. We can learn to understand and take care of ourselves in a way that works for us. We can be happy, have families, keep our jobs. Bryony Gordon inspires me on my bad days. She reminds me that things can, and will, get better.

And, as her sub-title suggests “A happy life with a mixed-up mind”.

★★★★★

Go and buy yourself a copy. Now. Go.
More reviews on Goodreads
Follow Bryony on Twitter

health, Personal

Decluttering my head.

Lately I seem to be making some irrational decisions, and I have come to the conclusion that my life is an a fairly unstable mess.

With few friends, only a part time job and a shed-load of debt, finding the positives becomes a little difficult some days. Especially when you’ve just messed up the most wonderful relationship because your brain decides to tell you nasty things and fill your head with insecurities.

You often hear, “All girls are crazy!”, and right now, I feel as crazy as they come.

I have decided on a few ‘things’ to help me work through my cluttered mind, body and soul. (Yes, all of it. It’s a mess.)

  • Forgiveness – I have so many angry, upsetting memories that I just can’t let go of, but I have decided that I must. They are poisoning me. I will forgive people for what they have done wrong to me, I will forgive myself for my wrong-doings, and I will forgive myself for not taking care of myself when I needed it the most. I feel like this is a fundamental part of moving forward with my life.
  • Recognize my accomplishments – another negative is that I constantly put myself down about absolutely everything, despite having two University degrees and having worked 4 jobs throughout one of them. I can hold a conversation in at least two languages, and am trying to learn more. I can cook, sew, make a pretty decent coffee, I am creative, clever, occasionally hilarious and almost always kind to others. They don’t seem like such bad attributes right? So why, why, why, do I have such a negative opinion of myself? This is going to stop. Right now.
  • Breathing – Although I STILL haven’t been to a yoga class (it’s been 3 years I’ve been saying I’ll go, and I still haven’t.) I am starting to learn to breathe differently. I breathe to calm myself down, to relax, to think, to just be. It is absolutely unbelievable how much breathing properly helps in stressful situations. I am going to make even more of an effort to relax, breathe, and unwind during my days. Part of this will include finding a yoga class I can afford, and try and find an effective way to meditate.
  • Self-talk  – I constantly beat myself up and let my worries completely take over my mind, causing stress to my body and bringing out the worst in myself. I tell myself I’m useless, worthless, stupid, horrible and many other things. This will stop, as I said above, and I mean it. I am going to practice self-talk to bring more positive vibes into my mind, and to help rebuild my confidence (which is currently at about -10000). Negative self-talk can be immensely, emotionally crippling and damage our health more than we often realize, and I am going to stop it. I found an interesting article on Spirituality & Health on the benefits of Self-Talk, written by Linda Carbone.
  • WRITE MORE! I have noticed how little I write these days, compared to a year or two ago when I would fill notebook after notebook with thoughts and ideas and emotions. I am confident that by writing out my worries I can reflect better, and release my thoughts from my head, rather than bottling them up inside me, which leads to…
  • Being more open – I worry too often about hurting someone else’s feelings, therefore I keep my opinions or feelings to myself. If I feel that someone has been unkind, or is pushing me out, I let it bubble up inside and hurt myself, rather than discussing the issue. I 100% will be more open about what I am thinking and feeling, as this as once again caused a break down in certain relationships recently.

Whilst I have a few other options in the background (I am exercising more, and looking into mindfulness), I am going to start with these pointers and hope that they begin to make a difference.

If anyone has any thoughts or advice, please feel free to leave them in the comments section! xo

Personal

Living with depression.

I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to live a ‘normal’ life whilst dealing with depression. Yet, here I am. Working 50+ hours a week. Eating properly. Going to the gym. Making travel plans. Trying to make new friends. Days go by where I think, wow! Maybe I’ve finally recovered! And then it hits me. It hits me in a way that I’ve never felt depression before. As if I’m letting my depression down by functioning. It is engulfing. Rather than feeling stronger, for functing with depression, I feel weak for trying to move on with my life. Then, the overwhelming waves of terrifying thoughts seep back into my brain and force themselves out again through floods of tears. Sometimes, I wonder, why I ever pushed myself to start living again when everything else is pulling me back to the world of utter despair and darkness.