Showing posts with label Northern Ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Northern Ireland. Show all posts

Monday, 1 January 2018

My Victories of 2017



Saturday 4th February

I woke up in Dublin on my Birthday. We spent the day exploring our favourite parts of Dublin. My boyfriend and I went to the beautiful Italian restaurant, ‘Il Posto’  for dinner. This is where we went for our first date, 3 years prior. We intended to ‘go out’ after dinner, but our mutual love for all things cosy and comfortable led us straight back to our hotel. I turned 28. 

My mind feels decades older. Mental Health illness will do that do you. 

Friday 3rd March

For the first time, I visited Edinburgh. We stayed in a quirky Airbnb. In those freezing days in March I saw the iconic architecture of a city that proudly cherishes both its past and future.

As an old soul, and that ancient mind of mine, you could see why I found the archaic ascending path to Edinburgh castle absolutely captivating. I walked through the dark passageways as if I was cautiously navigating the through the mind of Robert Lewis Stevenson himself, unaware if the shadows of the people who passed were like that of Dr Jekyll, or more a sinister Mr Hyde; reminding me of the duality of my own mind. I had tea in quaint tea rooms, bought authentic Tartan scarves, visited The Writers' Museum, and celebrated the 1st Birthday of my boyfriend’s Niece.  




Thursday 14th April

For Easter I went to Tegernsee in Germany, just an hour from where my boyfriend lives in Bavaria. We stayed in a Spa/Boutique hotel which was very quaint. We walked around the town which seemed to still be in hibernation, but we loved it nonetheless. I find a strange comfort in stillness, it brings calm to an otherwise un-still mind.

April 20th- 28th

Within these dates I did a makeup demonstration in Debenhams for Lancome, launched my mental health organisation ‘Replenish’ , did two mental health talks, did session 1 of 6 of the first Replenish ‘Tackling Anxiety’ workshops and had my little dog of 17 years euthanized. 


The Day he Left...
Whenever I would play piano or put on any classical music my dog, Rico would always sit in a trance. He loved music. The day he died he was on the sofa as the vet injected him with what would be his end. Pavarotti played on the radio. After he (Rico, not Pavarotti) had been wrapped up in his favourite blanket and given to the vet for cremation I closed the door, entered the living room again where he had just been alive, 10 mins earlier, and suddenly from the radio came a triumphant ‘Hallelujah’. It was as if Rico, my best friend since I was 11 until I was 28, was telling me that he was happy he was no longer in pain. Despite the devastation I was experiencing,I felt content. 
The following week I continued on with the rest of the Replenish workshops. 


For the following weeks I did numerous mental health talks, workshops and felt completely and utterly in awe of the response and demand of Replenish. I felt I was serving my purpose in this life. There’s nothing like that feeling of fulfillment. Nothing at all. 








Saturday 27th May

A dream came true this day. 
For years, since I can remember, I have been listening to Guns ‘n’ Roses. They soothed me as I would slide down my bedroom wall in the midst of a panic attack, and became the soundtrack to the best summers of my life. So, I hoped, for equal amount of years of listening to them, that they would reunite despite having broken up long before I was born. 

On that Saturday, I saw them reunited and play in Slane. I paid over €300 to stand right under the guitar riffs of Slash and the swaying hair of Axl Rose. I went on my own. Like, I didn’t know of anyone else who would pay that money. I didn’t know anyone on that same level as me. So, I stood, on my own, completely immersed in the dream that was now a reality. I was paying homage to my ultimate therapist. The therapist who was there long before anyone else was. 

 I’ll never forget that day for as long as I live. Some of the best moments are spent alone, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 



Sunday 18th June

I was in Bombachsee, Germany in the lake and ‘Supping’ (Stand Up Paddling). Germany, in its reliable nature, gives the most beautiful summers. The Sun almost melts away my mental health 'errors', like a brand new anti-virus on a backed-up computer with corrupted files. 



Tuesday 27th June


By this time Replenish was on its third cycle of workshops in Derry and just started its first cycle of ‘Tackling Anxiety & Depression’ in Letterkenny, Donegal. From here I would gain the greatest of friends who would come to be integral to the success of Replenish. It was like realising that the isolated island that you'd be on all your life was actually full of people, just like you. Glorious!

Tuesday 13th July

For two weeks I went to the Portuguese sun. Had a dose of the anti-virus again, you could say.  I spent every second restoring my levels of Vitamin D and letting the Sun doctor my mental health. Eating well, swimming in the waves that inspired the birth of Replenish and lying on the sand, a lifestyle I hope to cultivate on a more permanent basis.  A paradise of sorts. 










Thursday 27th July

I held the first session of the Replenish workshops in Sligo. I travelled to Sligo every week, some days a little anxious than others simply for no reason at all; to be expected of course when living with an somewhat unstable mind.  In the Sligo workshops I gained what I can only describe as a sisterhood. A sisterhood I’m very, very grateful for and in constant awe of. 


Monday 21st August

Replenish was in full throttle and I had given over 10 talks to schools, workplaces, events and this Monday marked the day Replenish had its first meeting with a company that it would later result in a fruition of collaboration. I could hardly recognise myself. I was exceeding my own expectations, surprising myself with strength I didn't even know I had and becoming more and more unapologetic about my authenticity. Replenish too, at this point, surpassed all my objectives, targets and expectations. 









Saturday 9th September


I was standing at a podium in Dublin speaking at the Endometriosis Association of Ireland. I didn’t consider this as another ‘talk’. It was so much more. It was a divine privilege to be invited to speak to women, dealing with a crippling condition, from a mental health standpoint.  
I was also preparing for the biggest event in the Mental Health Calendar, World Mental Health Day (October 10th).  Among having University Students, private clients, workshops running in Derry and Sligo, I went to Madrid. Naturally! 
You see, being in a long-distance relationships means committing to meeting up. For Stephen and I, we meet every three or four weeks either at home in Derry, Germany or somewhere we’ve never been. So I was making sure I was still making time for my relationship. Stephen was working in Madrid that weekend, so I met him there and sat under the Madrid sun and worked on Replenish’s first ‘World Mental Health Day’.  I enjoyed the sites of Madrid too of course when work got somewhat all-consuming. Regular breaks are needed to keep the stress levels at a minimum. Pre-existing mental health issues and stress are a poisonous mix.


When I arrived back to Ireland I began filming for our short film ‘Unfiltered Water’ that would be screened on the day of our World Mental Health Day event.










Tuesday 10th October

We had an event where many professionals came together to give talks, presentations and advice on how mental health can be managed. We had Yasmin our Occupational Therapist, Riadh our Nutritionist, Michelle our Pharmacist. We then had Counsellor Natasha, Financial expert Emma and Trainee Mental Health Nurse, Dee on a very interesting panel. We also enjoyed Yoga with Sophie, Exercise with George, Complementary Therapy with Megan and Massage with Foshie.


Tuesday 17th October 

I started the Replenish workshops in Limavady on Tuesday evening. The following day I was in Antrim giving a talk to a hall full of business owners in the construction industry on Mental Health in the Workplace. That evening I was back in Derry beginning the 5th cycle of Derry workshops. These workshops were different this time because they now involved ALL of the professionals who were involved in the Replenish 'World Mental Health Day'.

Wednesday 8th November 

By now I had just come back from my 4th trip of the year to Germany and was straight into giving another talk for the Donegal Youth Service on 'Body Image Initiative'. I used to work with youth in my previous jobs and so it's always a territory I feel natural in, and of course honoured. 

Friday 24th November

I was on my way to Dublin to meet my boyfriend who'd be flying in from Germany. This would be the last time I'd see him before he'd come home for three weeks on December 19th. During this weekend we explored Dublin in a different way, this time through the eyes of Jame Joyce. We then enjoyed a vintage cinematic experience in the beautiful Stella theatre in Rathmines. Of course, I met The Makeup Fairy, who'd become a good friend. Finding friendship in people who you'd think would never want a friendship with you soothes all the insecurities of the inner 12 year old who always thought she was incompatible with everyone because she was a little peculiar. 


December 

As you can imagine December lived up to its reputation of overindulging, dinners, sweets, open fires, presents and visits. I had a lovely December. Minimal stress.It marked the 8th month since I had become vegetarian. I had the most beautiful vegetarian Christmas dinner too, in case you were wondering. On the evening before New Year's Eve I felt that old familiar pang of fear, leeching anxiety and drowning mood. Why? Well, I don't know. Like I said, mental health illness will do that to you, simply remind you that it's there, watching. 

I allowed myself to feel like this. Not fighting it and not judging myself for feeling like that takes the emphasis and importance off it; less attention. When you consciously refuse to give something attention and focus on something else, it eventually pipes down. I got up, even though I wanted to lie in a heap, drove to my friend Natasha to have my brows done and came away yes, with beautiful brows, but also a lifted mood, invigorated feelings and concentrated gratefulness for having a my tribe; A tribe that I wouldn't know unless I had 'acted' on my mental health. 

****





January 1 2018

And now I sit, in present time. Nothing has changed much since we welcomed in 2018 with close friends.  I don't believe in a 'New Year, New Me'. I believe in a New Year a more mentally strong me, a more emotionally intelligent me, a stronger me. I wouldn't change who I am, I've worked too hard on becoming who I am. However, I do want to tell you that I will embark on 2018 with a little bit more appetite for victories. 

So, why do I consider my 2017 victorious when there will be people reading these dates and thinking "what is so 'victorious' about all of this?"

So here's why:

I did ALL of 2017 whilst living with a mental health disorder.
Those days started with me taking my usual three tablets along with a few vitamins for what the 'World Health Organisation' considers the "tenth most debilitating disorder in the world."

During the dark days, the days where I didn't want to get out of bed, or when my hormones made my O.C.D spike and more unbearable than usual, I still made my dream a reality. 

I felt fulfilled in my work, my friends and my entire existence.
I disciplined myself. Exercised, ate well, took time to myself regularly, introverted, became more unapologetic in my authenticity. I grew in all aspects of mind.  I acted on my mental health, the tagline of 'Replenish'. 

I also took a lot of self-care. A LOT! If I didn't then I wouldn't be able to work in the way I wanted to. 


If you read all those diary extracts again, but this time imagined yourself doing all that I've done with a huge stone in your shoe whilst doing it, then you'll have a new found appreciation for the lives I, and others in similar situations, live despite the mental pain we endure. 


In my work in Replenish I endeavour to become an example of how mental health doesn’t define or acts as an obstacle.The people within Replenish are my tribe because they do walk their daily lives with that same stone in their shoe. Somedays it wears us down more than other days, but we keep going because it's  exactly those kind of harsh days that condition us to become more compassionate about the people we want to work with. It drives us to go into 2018 with a great force to break the mental health stigma. We don't come from a place of business, but from a place of passion and that has made all the difference.


Act on your Mental Health in 2018 with Replenish and join 'Steps to Self-Care' Workshops

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Christmas, When it's Not So Calm and Not So Bright

The Christmas of 2013 was not only the worst Christmas of my life, but the worst time of my life.
Months prior I had come off my mental health medication a little too quick and in November,
a few days after Hallowe'en I had a major relapse. It was if my brain went into shock from
withdrawing too quick. So there's the first lesson, don’t come off any psychopharmaceuticals without guidance from your Doctor.


I’m writing the following guide for you, not so much from a professional standpoint, but from a
mental health sufferer warrior experience.




So here it is, a raw insight to how I got through the worst months of my life.


✷Disclaimer: There may be some triggers in the following content


Sadness & Loneliness


Christmas is a time for all families to reunite together from wherever they may be in the world.
Sure, that’s lovely. However, it’s also a huge slap in the face to those of us who have lost family,
whether it be through death or estrangement.
That indescribable feeling in the pit of our stomachs; that heaviness on our shoulders.


It doesn’t just take death and absence of loved ones to make us feel lonely because, for some of us,
our mental health has a tendency to make us feel lonely in a room full of our nearest and dearest.
Sometimes, we feel sad and we don’t know why.






Feeling sad and lonely is O.K. It’s a normal human emotion. Sometimes we know why, sometimes
we don’t know why. Either way, it’s important for you not to judge yourself for feeling these emotions.
You’re human, It’s not wrong to feel sad, but it is unhelpful judging yourself for feeling so.
Don’t try to push away or ignore your feelings.
Taking time to yourself amidst the chaos of Christmas will give you time to identify why you’re
feeling sad,
nostalgic and lonely if you can’t actually figure out why.
Oftentimes, there is an underlying reason, and taking time to reflect will often unveil the reasons.
You can empower yourself to do something about it.
Whether it be a lack of Vitamin D or unresolved grief.


If you’re lonely and by yourself, you don’t have to be. There is ALWAYS somebody who wants to help you, to listen and to be your friend.

If you’re dealing with feelings of despair, panic and terror remember these feelings will rise,
peak and then drop again. They won’t last.


Becoming part of our Replenish Official Facebook Group is an easy,
free and helpful way to taking steps to dissolve those feelings of loneliness.


Suicidal Ideation


For me, during that Christmas, I was on diazepam and sleeping tablets whilst I started
taking my antidepressants again and waiting for them to take effect (This takes 4 weeks minimum).


I was very unwell. I didn’t think I could feel normal again. I didn’t think I could get past the thoughts my
O.C.D was shooting me with. The thought of going on living was agonising and I didn’t want to
prolong that agony. I didn’t have active plans of suicide, but I was wishing something bad would happen
to me, like an accident or illness. I know this sounds terrible and very disrespectful because
I know there are people fighting for their lives right now, but at that time I wished I had a terminal illness.
Anything, anything instead of being inside my own head. 
As Sylvia Plath once said Is there no way out of the mind?”

I didn’t want to die, I just wanted the pain to end. It was like running up a steep hill, in excruciating pain,
exhausted and sore but with no option to stop. Nowadays, when I actually am running up a steep hill,
the pain is nothing near that to living with the mental torment during Christmas 2013. When I run,
I smile to myself remembering my victory of learning to love life again after wanting it to end.  
Because, the thing is, you will learn to love life again. The darkness brings you to a place where you
have a greater appreciation for all is that beautiful. So that’s why people who have been through the
hardest times, have the greatest appreciation for the small, often overlooked and beautiful things in life.
We need people like YOU to help people dealing with similar experiences. It takes somebody like you,
an expert by experience, to really make a change in mental health awareness because
you know what it's like and you know what it takes to help somebody.






So how did I come out of this darkness?


I didn’t have any quick-fix solution. I persevered through the agony. I didn’t believe my thoughts of
“they’d be better off without me”. I knew these were negative, false thoughts. I decided to live.
I chose to live. When I wanted to lie in bed, I actually made myself get up, get dressed, show up
and never gave up. Getting up and getting showered may seem like nothing to the average person,
but as Bryony Gordon said about her depression “it was like walking through treacle.”
Yes, due to the nature of our unique minds, not everyone will really understand the sting of your anxiety
fuelled feelings, your sinister O.C.D thoughts and the depths of your depression.
But do you know what? And this is for people who feel frustrated about feeling helpless when
seeing a loved one suffer with their mental health:

You do not have to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist to help your anxious friend, or depressed cousin
or grieving partner. All you have to do is be there. To sit with them, hug them and comfort them
with kindness and support.




My Mother and Father, and the rest of the world for that matter, will never really understand my O.C.D,
and they don’t have to.
During that Christmas all my Daddy had to do to help me with my mental health was light the fire
everyday. I tell this to everyone in the Replenish workshops, to illustrate how something, like primal act
of building and sitting beside a fire, can really have a therapeutic benefit. All my Mother had to do
was sit beside me and talk to me about light-hearted things.  They didn’t have to know C.B.T,
and they didn’t have to anything other than be there.
Let me say, the mindset that you may be in now isn’t going to be the mindset you’ll be in for the rest
of the year. A few bad weeks, heck even months, aren’t a determinant for how the rest of
your life will be, as much as it feels like it’s never going to change. It will. I’m proof of that.


During Christmas…


During Christmas it’s important to remember that when you see happy, perfect scenes on
social media it isn’t how it actually is. Every photograph is choreographed and strategically formed,
and NOT true to life. So remember that before you compare your situation to the false ones
you see online.


Take it easy. Just because everyone has a party to be doesn’t mean you have to. Go ahead
if you want, but don’t feel obliged. The best thing for me was to take very small steps.
I would get up, have de-caf tea (caffeine is to be avoided when you’re mentally unwell),
shower, put on a little makeup, put on loungewear and sit and do something creative like
making Christmas cards. I’d then watch a movie, have a sleep and then have some dinner,
sit with my parents, watch another movie and then go to bed.
This may seem like a ‘lazy’ routine, but it was what I felt only able to do. Everyday I got stronger,
i’d leave the house for an hour, then come home feeling accomplished.
I’d go a walk the next day and then visit family. I slowly built myself up again at my own pace.
Do not feel an obligation to be happy. Focus on YOU.





Recovery and self-care isn’t about one solution as much as it’s about small actions.
For me, building myself up a little bit more as each day progressed resulted in me then,
exactly a year later, strong enough to travel to Australia on my own to visit my brother.
Again, this may seem a trivial pursuit to the average person, however remember
how unwell I was a year before. A small victory for many, a huge victory for me.
Therapy, medication, exercise, creativity, diet and planning are all aspects of my
wellbeing that sustains me and something that you can avail of this coming January when
Replenish begins its 'Steps to Self-Care' workshops.


This Christmas you deserve to be relaxed. You deserve to de-stress.
You need to take time to yourself, to take self-care and to build
yourself back up to your strong self, because that version of you already exists,
you just have to take the journey to meet yourself. It won’t be easy,
it won’t be smooth but it’ll be worth it.


If you find you’re in distress this Christmas, please see the emergency numbers below:


Lifeline
  • Telephone: 0808 808 8000

The Samaritans

The Samaritans offer a 24-hour telephone helpline:
  • Telephone: 028 9066 4422 (local call charges apply)
  • National telephone:116 123 (this number is free to call)
  • textphone: 08457 90 91 92
Email me: Replenishyourmind@gmail.com

Monday, 5 December 2016

A Trail of Glittering Experience

I have been recently discovering a lot of snails about my garden...

And, I, in my tendency to succumb to the seduction of a silent reverie, found myself wondering about snails, their purpose, and why they are the way they are. Why a shell? Why have they their houses on their back?
Then I thought ‘Snails are independent in a weird way’.
They rely on themselves for their shelter, their security; unattached 
to anything but themselves. 
They travel leaving only a trail of glittering experience of the path they’ve taken, despite how long it has taken them.

A snail didn’t choose to be a snail, it didn’t choose to be slow and burdened with its shell, but despite its wavering purpose in nature, it still carries itself and travels to a new place, independent of all that surrounds it, and irrespective of what humanity thinks of it.
With its beautifully grotesque shell, intricately designed by the hand of nature, the snail climbs up walls, unaware of what is before it, never questioning.
It goes on, until a bird comes and ends its insignificant life, fulfilling its purpose as a meal for its avian predecessor on the food-chain... and the world goes on.

And I think, perhaps I’m too like this snail. I, too, am burdened by an unreckonable force upon my back, that is, my Mental Health. With such a heavy burden I’m tempted to wait in hope of a winged figure to pluck me from the perils of my physical encasement on this Earth.
But, despite the weight, and the fear of an ominous shadow, I have become accustomed to it.


“despite its wavering purpose
in nature, it still carries itself
and travels to a new place, independent of all that surrounds it, and irrespective of what humanity thinks of it”
I, too, can keep going despite what humanity thinks of me. It’s only with my beautifully grotesque mind, my perseverance and struggle that I can leave my glittering trail of experience. 
Perhaps my purpose is to show that despite the weight of my mental illness, I can still travel to new places, explore new grounds and live, unattached to the stigma and social ‘impressions’ of what it means to have a Mental Health problem. To show, that despite all the odds, I can still live.
I have come out of my shell and accepted who I am.
My Mental Health disorder has conditioned me to be strong, to persevere through everything that life offers. I chose to turn something negative into something positive, so going to therapy, taking medication and working on myself holistically has taught me to realise that I can have control over how I feel.
I consider what I thought was a curse, as a blessing. I feel blessed because what was once a burden is now a monument that signifies my success through the toughest struggle that I’ve ever endured, and I’m leaving my glittering trail of experience.

Living with a Mental Health disorder doesn’t define who I am as a person. Having a Mental Health disorder does not make me any less a dreamer, any less a daughter, sister or girlfriend. Being a snail doesn’t mean it’s any less an insect. Having a Mental Health disorder means I just have something extra to deal with in my daily life.
There was a time when I considered myself ‘cursed’, questioning why I was inflicted with such mental torment, convincing myself that I was being punished.
How I perceived my Mental Health disorder is indicative of how society can penalise and ostracizes anything that is ‘abnormal’ or ‘taboo’. In the daylight hours society doesn’t blatantly outlaw those who have Mental Health issues; in fact, it encourages inclusion and well- being of everyone. It’s only in the dark corners of quiet moments, when the day has yawned and the tie is pulled off, that the other face of society looks warily from the corner of its eye upon us and wonders are we actually monsters, psychopaths and murderers like the people in those horror movies.

Society paints a sloppy picture using only limited colours to portray those with Mental Health issues. 
We deserve to be painted by our own experienced hands, we who have experienced the inner turmoil that Mental Health can cause. If each of us could choose to contribute to what Mental Health is like using our own artistic technique, our own stroke of the brush, our own unique colour upon the canvas of society, then perhaps the art depicting Mental Health wouldn’t be abstract art, but simply naturalism, a reflection of our minds, our struggles, beautiful dashes of colour with trails of glittering experience. 
We owe it to ourselves to keep going and to make our own purpose despite what nature has given us. 
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