Tag: mental illness

You Don’t Have To Always Be Positive 

Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes your life does not go to plan, sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to even if you tried hard to make sure they would. Sometimes really terrible, tragic things happen and you have to rebuild, and…

If You’re Scared, Do It Anyway

The prospect of being on the slope without a coach was honestly terrifying me. I was going to do it for the first time yesterday, but chickened out because I still have so much fear of falling off the lift without a coach there, of…

How Snowboarding Has Changed My Life

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I may not have been snowboarding for long and I may not be very good, but riding has already changed my life in ways I didn’t think was possible. Of course, when I took it up my intention was that it would help me to turn my life around, but it still surprises me that in such a short space of time it has had such a profound effect.

Snowboarding has given me confidence. The confidence to push myself hard and take small risks to enjoy my life, the confidence to talk to new people, the confidence to no longer worry about looking stupid no matter how hilariously I fail. I’ve learnt that if you don’t put in 100% with no fear, you’ll never do your best or achieve your full potential.

It’s helped me to find healthy coping strategies for those late nights when there’s nobody around. When I’m anxious or when I’m starting to have suicidal urges that before I would’ve acted on, I can lock my door and just immerse myself watching edits, movies, documentaries and tutorials. I don’t have to think, I don’t have to feel. Obviously, it’s not always effective, but it definitely has saved me from crisis on multiple occasions.

When I’m on the snow, nothing matters anymore except for the feeling of descending the slope, having fun and trying to improve my technique. I can’t afford to get distracted because whenever I do, I fall, but I don’t get distracted about negative things anyway because I’m generally feeling too pumped up and concentrating hard.

That’s not to say I don’t have struggles while on the slope, of course. I have horrible anxiety about using the Poma lift because I’m still not good at catching it or staying balanced while being dragged up. I had a particularly hard fall that made me dissociate and possibly triggered an absence, I’m always a little concerned about possibly breaking my wrist as a violinist, and some days I just ride far better than others and it gets extremely frustrating. But even on bad days, everything from outside is left at the door of Xscape: all my problems, my past, everything.

Since I booked my very first lesson, I’ve always had something to look forward to. I was facing a long, lonely summer and now I don’t even care that I’m alone. (Not that I am anymore exactly, I’ve made some good friends through riding.) My whole life now revolves around my music and snowboarding. No matter how shit my day is, how bad my mental health is, snowboarding is basically giving me a reason to stay alive, and has reminded me what being happy and having fun feels like.

Of course, I can’t overlook that already, my physical health has improved significantly. One of my primary motivations for starting to snowboard was in the hope that a fun physical activity would not only help on its own but also serve as motivation to improve my health to the best it can be. Sure enough, my preparation period and my continued desire to become the best snowboarder I can be has made me more consistent with my diet, exercise, and taking care of my body. I’m fainting less than I was, I feel better than I did, I’m able to do more than I could and I’m getting stronger and fitter every week.

Taking up the sport was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions of my life. I love the sense of achievement I get when I learn something new, I love the happiness it brings, I love how alive it makes me feel and how much it’s helping me progress as a person.

Before I started snowboarding I had money, dignity, grace and my bedroom wasn’t perpetually decorated with soggy outdoor clothing hanging up to dry. Now I’m always damp, cold, bruised, aching, I make a fool of myself daily, and will probably be broke my whole life. But do I regret it? Absolutely not.

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While You Weren’t Looking

It’s December 2015. I’m lying in bed, alone, clutching my pink koala teddy. I’m wrapped up tight under my duvet. My body is freezing because I haven’t eaten, and truthfully I’ve lost count of the days since I last did. My calendar still tells me it’s October,…

Staying Strong When The World is Against You

This is not a post I wanted to be writing, but last week on Thursday something happened to me that has brought everything back. Something that has made me, I suppose, unpredictable and overly emotional for the last few days. Something that I need to…

Small Steps Really Can Take You Long Distances

1st walk 2016
The edge of the grounds at Temple Newsam, taken roughly halfway around the route I walked.

On Tuesday I walked 20km with no fainting, kept myself adequately fuelled, hydrated and fully enjoyed my time in the sun. This is a pretty big achievement when you consider that not so long ago, back when my health was so terrible that simply walking could be at times nearly impossible, when everything was only about calories and how I could lose them, and when I was far too miserable to even try to appreciate what was around me, this would’ve been unthinkable.

Admittedly, since being mostly recovered from my eating disorder it’s more been standing still that’s become the biggest problem, and lately I’m pleased to say I’ve actually also noticed some improvement in this area – shown both in the slight increase to how long I can play my violin for before the dizziness begins and also with the definitely shorter recovery time after it does inevitably hit me.

For months I found myself convinced that I would end up having to drop out of university because I wasn’t able to stay standing for long enough to even play a full study, and because of the fact that a lot of things were just getting worse and worse and I wound up having to miss, reschedule or distance learn a lot of my course. For the first time, though, I can now confidently say that I don’t think I will have to drop out. If I can continue to access the help I need and to improve my mental and physical health and fitness over summer, I think I might actually have a chance of succeeding academically, musically, and in my life generally.

That’s not to say I think it’s really going to get much easier though. In fact, I think I’m going to have to work twice as hard to get to where I want to be and to catch up, but if I break things up, continue to take my baby steps forward and, most importantly, ask for help to get myself back on track, I no longer believe it’s completely impossible.

Shoutout to the people in my life who’ve stuck by me and helped me get this far. It’s been a hard enough road to this point and I’m definitely not going to give up now, not when I can see the distance I’ve come already and the distance I have the potential to travel right in front of me. And the next achievement scheduled? That’s handing in my university work and finally finishing for the year.

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How to Tell If Your Mental Health Is Deteriorating

When I was first admitted to day hospital they asked me if I could identify any signs or behaviours that were an indicator that my mental health was deteriorating, and at the time I couldn’t and didn’t even care enough to want to work it out…

Self-Sabotage: If You Don’t Change Now, When Will You?

The other day I sat in the office with my support worker discussing the way that my life has been going for the last few months, the things that have affected the direction of my life so far and my plans for the future, and while we…

5 Things I’m Reminding Myself To Stay Positive – Living With PTSD

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I would be lying if I said that I’m not seriously struggling right now, and if I said that the level of positivity conveyed through this blog was representative of my current feelings. Truthfully, positivity and motivation is like the sun peeking through the holes in the clouds on a typical British autumn day: rare, but the most beautiful thing when it’s there. That’s not to say I don’t usually want to get well when I’m not actively suicidal, or to say that I don’t want to try to get well even when I am in crisis, but often in those times it comes down to a belief in whether or not I even can.

It is very easy to believe, especially when you have been struggling with the same problems for years or when history keeps repeating itself, that it will never get better. And often, I still don’t think it can for me. I find myself believing that I am too broken, that everything that has happened will never go away from my memories enough for me to succeed at life and that I should give up trying. So to combat this, the other day I made a list of what I decided would be my responses to somebody else if they came to me expressing these feelings, so I can look at them and at least try to believe and keep my motivation to pursue recovery and healing. I’ve decided to share them here on the off-chance that somebody who also needs to read this might stumble across it.

  1. Even if it doesn’t feel it, the worst really is already over. You are still alive. No matter what happened to you, your body is still here, your mind is still here. You survived. Yes, maybe you suffer terrible flashbacks, insomnia, anxiety or other effects following what happened but the simple fact you made it this far gives you a reason not to give up just now.
  2. If you were strong enough to survive what happened, you are strong enough to survive therapy and you are strong enough to carve out a life for yourself. See point 1. You survived what happened and you’ve survived since, you’ve already proven your strength. By even entertaining continuing with your life, you are already stronger than so many other people, and so if anybody’s got this, it’s you.
  3. It is okay to feel like this sometimes. Don’t beat yourself up more for feeling the way you do because you’ll just end up going around in circles and perpetuating your suffering. I do this sometimes just after I come out of believing that my life is completely pointless, cursing myself for wasting my life being so self destructive, and this attitude is certainly not helpful. It’s okay to feel this way. Even people who haven’t experienced trauma or who don’t have any mental health conditions have days where they feel terrible, so you are definitely allowed to have a bad day/week/month/year.
  4. It doesn’t get better overnight. You won’t just wake up one day and never be troubled again. Recovering your life can be a very slow process, and sometimes it takes multiple professionals, setbacks, and any good periods may be followed by bad periods again, but if you don’t stick it out you’ll never know how much better it can be in the end.
  5. When you’re finally there, you will be glad you stuck it out. When you finally remember what feeling happy feels like, when you finally have the coping strategies you need in place, when you’re doing things you love, you will be so glad you didn’t give up.

For all reminding myself of these things doesn’t keep me positive all the time, repeating them and trying to have blind faith in them being true even when I’m doubting, when I can feel myself slipping into crisis, has already a few times kept me safe and alive.

If you are reading this and you are doubting your ability to heal, please don’t give up. Talk to somebody, seek help, believe in your own strength no matter how weak you feel. You can do this, and so can I.

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Shredding my Way to Recovery (Hopefully)

So, maybe it’s important that I address the question fully. Why snowboarding? Obviously, I’ve already mentioned my desire to do it for a long time, and I’ve briefly gone into detail about needing to for the physical benefits on my about page, but it’s actually…