My Experiences

Just a story about growing carrots

One day I decided to start growing some carrots. It was something I’d wanted to do for some time but it took me a while to gather the courage to put my plan into action. I made sure that I felt prepared; I spent hours reading all about sowing seeds, watched numerous youtube videos on plant care and gathered all of the things I required from the shops. I was excited that I was finally going to grow some carrots.

It was a gorgeous summers day. Alongside the daylight breeze, I sowed the seeds to the best of my ability. Each day after this I ensured that I watered them, keeping an eye on their progress. About two weeks later, my hard work appeared to be paying off – a few seedlings started to appear, followed by a few more until there were rows upon rows of them. I felt a huge sense of pride and I looked forward to seeing them each day, growing and ageing as the summer progressed.

One morning I walked to the top of my garden, smiling in anticipation of greeting my crops, but I was instead greeted by shock. Where there had once been seedlings, there was chaos. Rows upon rows of defeated and ruined seedlings. I stood there, processing what had happened, but also questioning how it had even happened at all. All of the hard work and preparation of the last month was destroyed before my eyes, ripped apart in a matter of minutes. I blamed myself, I felt like I could’ve done more and that the situation occurred as a result of my inability. I felt deflated and couldn’t bear to look at the vegetable patch, it was just a constant reminder of how I had failed. I found myself withdrawing from the garden, questioning the point of trying to grow anything in the first place as it obviously wasn’t working out.

The next Monday I woke up with a more positive energy and decided to give the carrots another go. I read a bit more information online and considered the advice of other gardeners from internet forums. It appears that my carrots may have been the victims of some cheeky little birds. I researched how to protect my carrots and better prepare myself for the next attempt. The next day I sowed more seeds and considering my new gained knowledge, added a fabric mesh over the top of them. Once again I would water and monitor the seeds each day and sure enough, the seedlings appeared again. But this time the seedlings surpassed their previous size, growing and developing each day until they were ready for picking.

Reflecting upon the past, I realised that what happened was out of my control at that time (cheeky birds), but the experience allowed me to learn and expand my knowledge so I was better prepared for the next time. Now each day I look at my lovely carrots not only smiling with joy because of their pure existence, but also appreciating the journey that it took to get them here. It didn’t work out the first time around, but I tried again and I’m so glad that I did.

For some, they may consider this story to be a metaphor. They may see it as an example of how an individual can grow, recover from setbacks and come back stronger. But really, this is just a story about growing carrots.

60 seconds

60 seconds on… Schizophrenia

This weeks 60 seconds is on Schizophrenia. In the survey I conducted, this was one of the mental disorders participants felt that they knew the least about. In my opinion it’s also an illness that is stigmatised a great deal due to the way it is portrayed in the media. There is constant misinformation portrayed about the condition which can cause fear in those who view it. Schizophrenia is often portrayed as someone having a split ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality, when research has shown this not to be true.

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental illness that can severely impair the way an individual thinks. An individual with schizophrenia can experience a number of different psychological symptoms, creating both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ feelings.

They include:

  • Hallucinations – they may experience things that aren’t really there or aren’t real.
  • Delusions – they start to think irrationally and believe in thoughts that are unlikely to be true (for example they may believe they are being spied on).
  • Disordered thoughts – this can include talking quicker or slower than usual about things that don’t make logical sense to those around them.
  • Possessed thoughts – individuals may believe that they are not in control of their own thoughts and that someone else is putting them there. Others can believe that their thoughts are being extracted from their mind by a third party.
  • Thought blocking – where their mind goes blank in the middle of their train of thought.
  • Thought echoes – where they hear their thoughts being spoken out loud, which can lead to them engaging in a conversation with them.
  • Thought broadcasting – this is where an individual believes that their thoughts are being said out loud for everyone to hear.

Negative feelings refer to the loss of an individual’s enjoyment in life or ability.

They include:

  • A loss of motivation.
  • Struggling with concentration, making it difficult to learn new information.
  • Difficulty planning and sticking to goals.
  • A reduced range of emotions and facial expressions.
  • Engaging in obsessive-compulsive behaviours.
  • Emotions may be inappropriate, for example laughing at something that is sad.

Having schizophrenia can massively affect an individuals life in a number of ways:

  • It may lead to relationship problems. They may find it difficult to trust others and In some cases they may believe that the people close to them are out to get them.
  • Individuals can become withdrawn from life and stop taking part in the social activities that they used to enjoy. They can lose an interest in life and may find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning for example.
  • Some may use drugs and alcohol as a way to alleviate their symptoms. But in some cases, their drug use can mess with any medicine they are currently taking and could actually make their symptoms worse.
  • They may find it impossible to carry out normal activities such as food shopping or eating, especially if they are experiencing hallucinations or delusions at the time.
  • Difficulty concentrating can lead to an individual finding it difficult to plan their daily life.
  • They may feel that their thoughts are not their own and they may contemplate committing suicide. They need a support network who are able to seek help when this happens as those with schizophrenia are more likely to attempt to take their own life.

I hope that this post has been useful and informative. I found out an interesting fact the other day which I feel is really relevant to this post. A lot of individuals are fearful of those with schizophrenia; they believe that the individual is likely to be violent towards them or cause them harm. In actual fact, individuals with schizophrenia are much more likely to cause harm to themselves before anyone else. Also, research suggests that you are more likely to be attacked by a drug addict than someone with schizophrenia. Food for thought…

Advice and tips

The most wonderful time of the year? – Looking after your mental wellbeing at Christmas

The twinkling of Christmas lights, the sound of Bublé in the air and the sight of some truly terrible jumpers, Christmas can really be the most delightful time of the year. But despite this, it can still be a difficult time for those who suffer from anxiety disorders.

My anxiety wasn’t present during the first 15 or so years of my life. I guess Christmas was just exciting to me back then. Nowadays I find myself needing to look after my mental wellbeing more at this time of year. Things like gift buying, seeing people I haven’t seen in a long time and just other general stress at this time can have a knock on effect on my anxiety and mental well-being in general.

I thought in this post I could offer some tips on how to cope with the festive period if your mental wellbeing tends to suffer. These tips are by no means proven, they are based on my own previous experiences and having to learn to cope with my own anxieties at this time of year:

You are what you eat

For some this may not be the case, but I find that my anxiety tends to behave a little better the healthier I eat. This time of the year is associated with lots of delicious, but somewhat unhealthy food. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t eat all the exciting festive offerings (I’m not a total Scrooge), but I’ve found it to be beneficial to try and tame general indulgences. I’ve found this to be really helpful when it comes to things like caffeine and alcohol. It’s about getting that perfect balance between having fun but also considering the effects on consuming certain things on your mental well-being. Understanding your limits can really help, for example I’m happy to have a traditional glass of champagne, but I’ll always stop at one.

Have a break (Kit Kat is optional)

It’s totally normal for Christmas to be overwhelming at times, even for those that don’t struggle with their mental wellbeing. It’s important to take regular time out for yourself, this is definitely not a selfish thing to do. I will often take time out to do something I enjoy for a little while (for me it’s reading). Doing something that you personally enjoy can be a great way of eradicating or easing any negative feelings that you may be having at the time.

Be a lover not a fighter

Accept how you feel and stop working against yourself. No two people think and feel the same, what a boring place the world would be if that was the case. It’s okay to feel how you do. If you don’t feel festive, totally fine. Not in the mood to have in-depth conversations with relatives you see once a year? Then don’t. I fought against my own feelings for years and felt terrible because of the way I’ve behaved and felt in certain situations. Give yourself a break (it’s Christmas after all). Just accept that you feel how you do. If you become anxious, don’t fight it, I’ve found this to actually make the feelings worse. Instead, accept the anxiety and understand that the feelings will subside, like a storm in the ocean. Don’t let others tell you how you should be feeling, they aren’t in your body.

Keep active

It’s pretty common knowledge that exercise has positive effects on mental well-being. But as the nights draw in and the temperature drops, it can be difficult to keep active. Ensure that you do a little something each day, even if this is a short walk outside. Your mental well-being may thank you for it.

Keep your fire burning

I think this is my most important advice. It’s so easy to work your mental health into the ground these days, but this burnout can be detrimental and difficult to come back from. If you can sense that you are struggling the do something to help. This could be talking to someone, or delegating things in order to reduce stress. Don’t worry about being a burden by putting things on your friends and family, if they love you, they honestly won’t mind. It personally took me a while to realise this and be comfortable in asking others for help.

So remember, check in with yourself and your mental wellbeing on a regular basis and don’t be afraid to avoid anything which will have a negative impact on this. It’s not being selfish, it’s called self care.

To all my blog readers, I wish you all good health and a pleasant Christmas! 🙂

My Experiences

Are we all bus drivers?- a mental wellbeing metaphor

This week I was travelling on a bus. Whilst travelling I observed something which I felt was such a fitting metaphor for mental wellbeing that I feel I should share it. In a way I love bus journeys. I live in a fairly rural place, so when I’m on the bus I’m usually looking out the window to be greeted with serene scenes of fields, livestock and wildflowers. I find that travelling down country lanes is so often suitably calming.

On this particular morning, I was sat at the back of the bus, watching the world pass by on the outside. There was a variety of passengers on the bus, all varying in their appearances and ages; there was a small child in a pram talking to its mother about big dogs, next to an elderly gentlemen reading the days news in the Guardian. Although full of different people, there was a peaceful equilibrium as the bus drove peacefully through the lanes. As the bus progressed, it picked up and dropped off people, still maintaining its peaceful environment.

But at one stage of the journey a young couple got on. They sat down and started a heated discussion, apparently the guy had been seeing someone else and hadn’t told his partner. This argument got louder and more aggressive between the two as the journey went on, and the environment began to feel hostile. Although things in the back of the bus were beginning to become nasty between the couple, the bus driver still had to drive on. They couldn’t pull over because it wasn’t safe to do so. Also the driver had to keep to the set timetable, so they just carried on driving, transporting this negative energy with them. While all this was happening, a bus passed on the opposite side of the road. The bus drivers shared a friendly hello gesture and a smile as they passed each other, irrespective of the events happening in the back of their vehicles that they were transporting around.

At this point I found myself reflecting upon this, comparing the bus to an individuals mind. The chaos that ensues inside an individuals mind is not totally visible to those outside, similar to that of the events on the bus. Irresponsive to the events on the bus, the driver presents a positive face to other drivers as they pass. I feel this to be representative of the face that an individual presents to others. For some who are living with mental distress, they may feel the need to cover this up, often appearing smiley and cheery to others, regardless of their actual feelings. We are all bus drivers in a sense; travelling with our own passengers and events going on. I just found this metaphor to be so fitting I felt I had to share.

So be kind to your fellow bus drivers, even if you can’t see inside their vehicle very well. You just never know what chaos they may be having to handle inside.