The Right to be Depressed

I’m gonna come out and say it…

I don’t always remember it, but I’m pretty lucky.

I grew up in a “Nuclear Family”, which is often referred to as the “cereal packet family”. It is so-called because of the use of this kind of family set up when advertising.

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For example – a breakfast cereal advert may focus on a father and mother in the kitchen one morning – the father dressed in a suit ready to go to work (the bread-winner husband), his wife preparing the children’s cereal for them (the mother as the primary care giver), with the son and the daughter (average 2 children who are both born to the same parents) looking anticipatingly at the amazing cereal they are about to experience!
The subliminal message from the advertising company:
This family is ‘perfect’ – and yours could be too… if you buy this cereal!

Now we know that this is, of course, just an advertising ploy, but generally people do make the assumption – even in these days – that a ‘cereal packet’ family is a happy family.
Lets not assume that is the case for all.
However, it was the case for me.

I was so lucky as a child – My dad worked as the bread winner for the family which meant that when it came to birthdays, Christmases, holidays… we didn’t want for much.
Although mum did work, my dad worked some long hours, so mum took care of us, the house, and provided the family with lovely nutritional home made meals etc.
Dad would ring the house phone from his car phone (welcome to the early 90’s!) for 3 rings to let mum know he was on his way home, and she’d have our family meal ready for him coming home.

We went on annual holidays – camping holidays, exploring the British coast, swimming, crab fishing, flying kites, building sandcastles.
When we got a little older we had annual trips abroad to various European destinations – Spain, Malta, Portugal, Greek islands… and more.

My brother and I had our own bedrooms and when I was 10, we moved to a larger detached house which gave us added space in our rooms as well as a spare room, and also meant no longer having to share a bathroom with everyone. My friends at school even expressed their envy at our amazing new home!

Growing up I was able to go on all the school trips I wanted, I enjoyed time with my friends and rarely missed out on anything.
Outside of school my friends and I were often at the cinema, visiting theme parks, or going shopping with our pocket money…

When I did well at school I got extra pocket money.
When it came to my GCSEs, my parents rewarded my grades with money.

I had a plan… I was going to be a teacher. I went to college with my sights set on following it up with University… however things didn’t quite turn out that way.
I spent more time out with friends and focussed on alcohol than I care to admit. Although I did get the first part time job I applied for to make money while I was still in full time education – I spent very little time thinking about my coursework outside of college.

After 2 years, I left college with nothing to show for it, other than some life lessons.

I landed a full time job and have been employed ever since, always landing on my feet through every redundancy.

I have worked for 11 years at the current company I’m employed by…. And have progressed during my time there.

After meeting at 20, and getting engaged at 21, my husband and I were married in 2012. Following years of support from my parents while we saved, we bought our first house.
We still live there now with our 2 cats. We live in the same town as both sides of our families and are financially stable.

My life is perfect.

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Except for the fact that it isn’t of course.

The above is my life as seen from the outside.
It doesn’t reflect the inside.
That’s not to say that any of it is untrue, because every word is fact. Nor does it mean that I had an extremely difficult and traumatic childhood, because thankfully I didn’t.

What it does mean is that there is more to my life than is seen on the outside.
Experiences and events are what shape us.

Mental Health issues are not as straight forward as they may sometimes be perceived.

Being depressed doesn’t mean that you hate everything you have, or that you’re ungrateful for it. It doesn’t mean that you hate the people in your life, or that you don’t appreciate them. It doesn’t mean anyone has caused it or let you down.
It’s more than likely that you don’t believe you deserve it. It’s more likely you feel so much hate for yourself that you find a reason that you shouldn’t have this as it doesn’t feel right that you have nice things or people in your life.

There is misunderstanding that if people are depressed then they are just being ungrateful for their life and the things they have.
That they need to ‘snap out of it’ and realise what they’ve got.
Yes, knowing that there is a lot to be thankful for can be helpful, but mental health issues are more complex than that.
Adding guilt won’t make someone more likely to recover quicker, quite the opposite.

“There are people a lot worse off than you” – what does this even mean anyway? We’ve all heard the phrase, probably even said it at some point in our lives. Yes. This is true. But that doesn’t stop the pain we feel does it?

If someone cuts their finger it can really sting. We all know how bad a paper cut can be.
If we compare that to someone who has lost their finger, it doesn’t take the pain of the paper cut away does it? It doesn’t make us ungrateful for having a finger to cut in the first place.

And what if the person who lost their finger compares themselves to someone who lost their hand? Does it make it easier for them to cope if they think about someone else who has no hand, so they should be grateful they have the rest of their hand?

And what about the person with no hand comparing themselves to someone who’s lost an arm… it could go on.
It’s not about comparing ourselves. Everyone is different.
Everyone struggles at some point and that’s ok. It’s ok to struggle. It’s not about what you had or have. It’s about what you think and feel, and your ability to manage.

We don’t have to explain our issues, or justify or explain why we feel the way we do. There are a million reasons why someone may be depressed and a million reasons why they “shouldn’t be” – but they are.

We have the right to be depressed without owing anyone an explanation or an apology.

We have the right to be ourselves.

Positively Positive

Have you ever decided that you want to lose weight? Decided that you are going to go on a diet and you just need to decide what the start date of that diet will be?
You tell yourself every day that you need to sort your weight out, that you need to eat healthier, that you want to get into a healthy routine, that you want to shed that bit of weight you have been wanting to lose For the last couple of months? But your brain does not seem to want to co-operate?
The same brain that knows what it wants and how to get it, but the same brain that keeps putting up mental obstacles to knock your motivation and hold you back?
That is what it is like living with a mental illness and being told to ‘be happy and ‘think positive’. Our brain may know what we want, and even have ideas how to do it – but there are mental blockers In the way, holding us back, stopping us from being able to just flick a mental switch to ‘positive mode’.

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Telling someone with mental health issues to ‘think positive’ and ‘stop thinking so negatively’ is like telling a smoker to quit smoking.
We know that smoking is bad for our health, just like we know negative thoughts are bad for our mental health. The more we smoke the worse our health gets, and we know negativity breeds negativity.
We know that quitting smoking is the best thing for us and our health, just like we know thinking positively is better for mental health – but that doesn’t make it a quick fix option. The mental blockers are there preventing us from just switching that ‘positive mode’ switch.

We can try for days, weeks, months, years to get in to ‘diet mode’ and not succeed in losing that weight because of the mental blockers we keep fighting.
We can try for days, weeks, months, years to get in to ‘quitting mode’ and not succeed in quitting smoking because of the mental blockers we keep fighting.
We can try for days, weeks, months, years to get into ‘positive mode’ and not succeed in feeling positive because of the mental blockers we keep fighting.

But often, suddenly, without anything being different, other than the mental blockers seem to lift – the stars seem to align and we succeed to put ourselves into ‘diet mode’, ‘quitting mode’, ‘positive mode’. It feels like we are fighting to the same degree we were before, but the mental blockers are gone.

And for a while we start to lose weight, stop smoking, thinking positively.
But just like we can end up putting weight back on, or start smoking again, the negative thoughts can creep back in again.

It is a lifelong battle.

That is the reality of mental health issues.

That is why telling someone to “think positive” can great more of a negative effect.

Just because they aren’t being positive does not mean they are not trying to fight a hard mental battle.

The Millennial Life

How many times have we heard the negative things about ‘Millenials’?
They get such a bad reputation that even people who I know that fall under the Millennial generation try and deny they are a Millennial – simply because it is a label, and a lifestyle reputation they have no connection with.

So who are these ‘Millennials’? Generally a Millennial is classed as someone who was born between the early 1980s to the mid to late 1990s.

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We are a generation who were raised in a time where it was still ok to play in the street and ride to the park, but where we had an array of TV shows at our finger tips on Sky TV or Cable; A generation who adapted quickly from the adjustment from video cassette movies to DVD players; The first generation to perfect their text typing speeds. We grew up in a world where Beanie Babies would one day be worth something, Pogs were banned in playgrounds due to them being a ‘gambling concern’, and where we were amazed that we could teach Furbies how to speak. In our childhood, the biggest worries were knowing who loved Orange soda, memorizing the lyrics to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and remembering to feed our Tamagotchis so they didn’t die!

With the introduction of the internet and home computers becoming the norm, we were also the first generation to excel at online communication – waiting for someone to finish on the landline so that we can use the old dial-up connection to join chat rooms, log onto MSN Messenger and perfect our ‘MySpace’ layouts.

We had it all. We had everything. And we were reminded of this.
In the UK, growing up we had exams around every corner – SATS every few years, GCSEs, A-levels… We had the best opportunities and we were expected to succeed and being constantly tested to see how we performed.

We are expected to succeed academically so that we can succeed in our careers – so that we can excel and be the best we can be.
We are expected to have some kind of recognised profession co tributing to society – Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers.

Without the qualifications, will people want to employ you? Yet with the qualifications but no full time work experience, will people want to employ you?
I have seen so many examples where people have walked out of University with degrees and ended up working alongside those without qualifications – working sometimes for a higher wage for their degree and sometimes not. Those with a degree of course, still having to pay off University debts so being on the property ladder is not something they can even consider whilst in their 20’s.

The house prices these days make it terribly difficult for people to get their step on the property ladder. A study from the financial Times https://www.ft.com/content/81343d9e-187b-11e8-9e9c-25c814761640 looked at the cost of housing, while “incomes have faltered”.

There are, of course, those who are fortunate enough to have parents who can help them out financially, to help them onto their first step (for me and my husband our support came in the form of us both living with my parents while we saved – something which is becoming increasingly common in millenials in order for us to be able to afford our own homes).
There are those who are unfortunate that can afford to get onto the housing ladder due to an inheritance following a bereavement – something else which happens less due to the longer life expectancies.

We are faced with the challenges we learnt from the lessons of previous generations where pension schemes can’t always be trusted and you need hefty deposits to purchase homes.

Women are expected to work full time, have careers and still manage a household. There is still shaming from previous generations if homemade meals aren’t cooked. There is still a judgement from previous generations when it comes to hired help in the form of cleaning companies – and this is for the ones who are fortunate enough to be in a position to earn enough to have that as an option.
Men are also expected to work full time and have a career and expected to be a ‘modern man’ – contributing to household chores.

Women are stigmatized whatever choices they make it seems – if they choose a career, why are they not having children? Or why is someone else taking care of their children?
If they choose to be a stay at home mum – why are they not working to provide for their children? Why are they not setting an example for their children?

Who adds to the stigma Millenials face? Well for one, The Media. Compared to previous generations, there has never been such an overwhelming media presence – News 24/7 – News on the TV, in Newspapers, Online. The Media have to make stories to feed the demand.
Social Media also has a massive role to play – playing the comparison game on Facebook is not productive and negatively affects our mental health.
As we are the first generation facing this lifestyle, we are the ones who’s mistakes will be learnt by future generations.

More of the issues Millennials face can be found in this interesting post about ‘quarter life crisis’ https://www.theguardian.com/global/2018/dec/30/me-and-my-quarter-life-crisis-a-millennial-asks-what-went-wrong

It discusses the pressures we are faced with and how it impacts us mentally and is an interesting read.

While we as Millenials are very fortunate, we are constantly referred to as the ‘snowflake’ generation – when the truth is that we are like many other generations – we have benefits previous generations before us didn’t, but there are also challenges we face that other generations were not faced with.

My view is that every generation can learn from the previous, and that in a time when we will be living longer and become a world of multiple generations, we should each respect our similarities and differences.

New Year, Same Old Me?

So 2018 has ended, and what did it bring for me?

Well like every other year of my life, and like pretty much most other people’s lives, it was a year of highs and lows. It was a year that in some ways feels it has taken an eternity to get to the end of, and in other ways I feel like “are we really at the beginning of a New Year again already?”
So basically it is like Groundhog year I suppose.

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This year for me started like most others, it ended on some massive lows but some good things have also come from my year.

I guess the lows reflect my ‘real’ life and the highs reflect my ‘online’ life (generally speaking).

The beginning of the year found me continuing to encourage others that it is ok to need and ask for help – that there is no shame in not being ok.
All the while, I was failing to see the downward spiral I was on mentally. I was aware of it to some degree, but hadn’t fully acknowledged it. It felt ok to say others needed help, but not ok for me to ask for it. At least not to the degree I was starting to feel I needed it.

While I was telling everyone it was ok to seek help and support, it began to open my eyes to the fact I was not doing the same myself.

After a while it became too much and my ‘mental meltdown’ happened before work one morning. I finally cracked and decided I had to seek professional help to try and stop feeling the way I did, and to try and stop some of the behaviours I had begun due to my mental health issues.
I called the Doctor’s Surgery and sent texts to my husband and mum. I apologised for failing them. I told them I couldn’t do it any more – that I needed help to stop me feeling the way that I did.

When I went to the Doctor that day, I barely said many words, as it was mainly tears. He was very kind and very patient. He prescribed me with medication and referred me to a local team to decide the method of support I could get, where I attended an information session. After this they enrolled me onto 6 group CBT sessions.

Having to take time out from work to attend these sessions, I was completely open and honest with my manager about my mental health issues and he supported my need to attend the sessions. This was a big thing for me because my role had changed at work and in honesty it was contributing a lot to my mental health issues, something I only truly begin to realise more and more as time goes on.
In addition to this I opened up to one of my work colleagues who I am closest to and she was very supportive and understanding, having experienced mental health issues herself before. It is amazing when you open up about Mental Health, that others feel able to open up too. This helped my day to day work life massively as she understood and could help reassure my anxieties, encouraging me to put my own mental wellness first.

I attended 6 sessions of group CBT and the tablets seemed to be helping a little and alleviating some of the behaviours I was developing.

I had a small Twitter account which I began using more actively at the end of July and started tweeting about Mental Health. Through this I met the incredible mental health community on Twitter. More detail on this can be found in my previous posts (‘The Me In Social Media’ – Part One can be found here: https://wp.me/paaGKg-j)

This led me to meet some amazing people and also to create The Mental Health Crisis Angels on Twitter (you can follow us here https://twitter.com/MHCrisisAngels)

Around the same time, my job role changed again. As my confidence in what I was doing with the Angels grew, and I loved the new purpose I had found – things at work were getting worse. I was increasingly unhappy in my job, and discovered I was going to have to take redundancy at the back end of 2019. On top of this I had additional medical issues which, combined with my anxiety, was causing me to take regular time off work – something which was uncommon for me.
My Mental Health was getting worse again, some of the behaviours creeping back in like they had before.

That didn’t stop me finally doing what I had been wanting to do for years though – and that was starting my first blog!

Nor did it stop me continuing the work with the Angels, and going on to create a blog for the MH Crisis Angels before the year was out. You can follow their blog here https://mhcrisisangels.wordpress.com

2018 ended in me turning back to the professionals, but this time it will be Private rather than through the NHS – and that is where my 2019 journey will begin.

So what does 2019 hold for me?

🦋 To try and make the best of a bad situation at work – to try and turn things around and see where things go for my final months in the company
🦋 To continue my mental health journey towards having much better understanding and control of my mental health and wellbeing
🦋 To seek new work opportunities
🦋 To continue the work I have started with my own Twitter account, and continue to grow the MH Crisis Angels to provide as much support to those struggling as we can
🦋 To work on and grow the blogs for My Simple Mind and MH Crisis Angels
🦋 To keep working on myself as much as I can – to be the best me that I can be!
🦋 To encourage and remind people that it is ok not to be ok – whether that is someone else, or yourself!!