Great Read Alert……

Have you ever read anything thing and thought ‘this is me, this is my life!’? I had that moment about half an hour ago. If you are a fan of great books and you have ever suffered from anxiety or depression I urge you to read Read After Burnout by our very own Mike Evans over here at readafterburnout. I started reading it this morning and now I can’t stop because it is funny and sad, brutally honest and thoroughly entertaining (pretty much what I look for in anything I read). 

Have you ever read anything thing and thought ‘this is me, this is my life!’? I had that moment about half an hour ago. If you are a fan of great books and you have ever suffered from anxiety or depression I urge you to read Read After Burnout by our very own Mike Evans over here at readafterburnout. I started reading it this morning and now I can’t stop because it is funny and sad, brutally honest and thoroughly entertaining (pretty much what I look for in anything I read).

More than that, it resonated with me on so many levels and voiced many of the things that I’ve never had the courage to say out loud. It shows an awe inspiring level of self-awareness but it isn’t self-indulgent navel gazing. Here’s a couple of excerpts to whet your appetite but I really hope that you’ll take the time to read more:

“Anxiety is a creep. It doesn’t announce itself in a sudden, calamitous collapse, a scream of fear or a strong desire to run into a corner and huddle up. No, anxiety hangs around like a phantom that exists somewhere in the corner of the eye or in the shadows”

“”If you want to cry it’s all part of the process”

I was part of the process now. I was in the process of working through a personal trauma that had brought me to a crashing standstill and….now I was being asked to cry as some sort of cleaning therapy. The problem was that I thought crying would be just a little distraction. It would be like having leaches placed on an exposed stretch of skin with the intention of having them suck out the badness”

See what I mean? It’s just brilliantly written!

It’s the story of breakdown, of life and I can’t wait to finish it. I hope you enjoy it too :O)

Lisa x

 

Do You Like You?

It’s a pretty important question, after all you have to spend 24/7 with you so is it a joy or do you sometimes wish that you could tell you to just shut the F up and leave you alone? Do you love to just go out with you, do some shopping and have a coffee with you or do you try to make a dash for the front door and pray that you doesn’t notice that you’ve gone?

It’s a pretty important question, after all you have to spend 24/7 with you so is it a joy or do you sometimes wish that you could tell you to just shut the F up and leave you alone? Do you love to just go out with you, do some shopping and have a coffee with you or do you try to make a dash for the front door and pray that you doesn’t notice that you’ve gone?

I’m going to be honest, totally honest………..Ok that’s not as easy as I thought it would be. Oh shit what do I write here? If I say I don’t really like myself (which is the truth) I’ve just written down something utterly negative which will do nothing to improve my self-esteem (or lack thereof). On the other hand, if I say I do like myself………well, to be blunt I’d be lying. There I’ve said it. The thousands of pounds that I’ve spent on self-improvement books and motivational videos and CD’s was just a complete waste of money which could obviously have been put to much better use in a shoe shop.

Julia RobertsRight, I’ve had a cup of coffee and a think and what it boils down to is that I don’t trust other people and I don’t have enough faith in myself to believe them when they say nice things about me. Do you remember the quote in Pretty Woman “if people put you down enough you start to believe them?” well, that sums it up. I didn’t ‘fit in’ as a kid, for many reasons that I won’t bore you with, and I was bullied as a result so I tried to change myself in order be accepted. As you might imagine that was a dismal failure but I kept it up for years and then got hit by depression and a feeling of not really knowing who I was – well no shit Sherlock!

I suppose that’s driven by a feeling of inadequacy. I wasn’t joking about the money I’ve spent on self-improvement (Christian Louboutin would be crushed if he knew how much he’d lost out!) and I’ve followed all the advice religiously but I never seem to quite get a version of me that I’m satisfied with. I know what to do on an intellectual level but I never seem to absorb whatever it is that they’re trying to tell me…….

I’ll give you an example and this is intensely personal so don’t tell anyone else please. The first time (and possibly only time for reasons that will become apparent) that my husband told me I was beautiful I went up the wall! I was furious. He wasn’t best chuffed by my reaction as you can imagine and the worst part, the awful, frustrating part was that I couldn’t explain why I was so annoyed. I’m thinking about it now and I believe it stems back to being teased about my appearance when I was a kid; my nose was too big, my legs were chunky etc etc. It was probably just kids being kids but I believed what they said ergo when I was told I was beautiful it could only have been because I was being mocked, laughed at and I guess I was waiting for the punchline…….perhaps, when it comes to compliments, I’m still always waiting for the punchline…….

Inner fucking peaceWriting this I am beginning to realise how cathartic blogging can be; I don’t really like me because I compare myself to others and find myself wanting (punches the air in a moment of epiphany). Other people are more interesting, more confident, calmer, funnier; less prone to being stroppy, introspective, stand-offish and miserable. Other people are spiritual, they have found an inner peace that I crave with all my being and try so hard to find. How many hours have I spent sitting on the floor with my legs crossed chanting Om? How much time do I dedicate to exercise, to being outdoors? I’ve listened to Tony Robbins, Osho, Sadguru and Dale Carnegie until my ears are raw and my brain is filled with great advice for being happy and contented but it just doesn’t stick….

That’s not true, some of it sticks, like the ‘if you are happy, you will attract people to you’, ‘no-one likes being around a misery guts’…….hang on a minute, that doesn’t sound like a world famous life coach, that sounds like my mum!???? There you go – another realisation – I believe that I need to be happy all the time if people are going to love me. It’s great when I am happy but it’ not easy to fake it when I’m not and, the trouble is, when people think that you’re a happy go lucky, fly by the seat of your pants kind of girl and then they realise that you’re really not they tend to go off you. So, that leaves me with being happy (sometimes faked) = being loved and being sad = being lonely; the obvious answer then is to be happy all the time…………

Perhaps I try too hard…..yep there’s no perhaps about it but what else can I do??? Maybe just accept that I am who I am, warts and all (not literally…..WHY am I so shallow, I didn’t need to point that out; if I was a better person I wouldn’t care if I had warts!). Maybe I should take myself off to a desert island and spend a few weeks alone to truly find myself…..aaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!!!!! PANIC!!! Ok, no, that’s not going to happen any time soon

I don’t know what the answer is so I think I’m going to stop thinking about it and go shoe shopping…..

That was another lie, I will keep thinking about it because it bugs me and, until I get to the bottom of it all, I won’t stop trying to become someone that I can live with rather than someone I find slightly embarrassing and, frankly, a bit irritating.

If you love yourself, please tell me, help me to understand…….HOW?

Lisa

x

The Hardest Battle….

We were given the right pair of glasses to view the world through – they weren’t rose tinted and they weren’t dark and sombre shades either, they were perfectly, beautifully, CLEAR. We all learned that, whatever happens in life, it’s how you view it and process it in your own mind that will make the difference – your experiences are based on your perceptions…..

Is the one that we fight with ourselves. Every day. We all look for help, in one way or another but, essentially, only we have control over the way that we view the World and our own lives. Often the way that we speak to ourselves i.e. our own thoughts, have far more impact on our emotions than the words spoken or the actions taken by others.

My battle was with depression and I suffered with it and, more importantly, because of it for about 15 years. It started with, of all things, an appendectomy which resulted in a hospital stay for a few days and then a week recuperating at home…….and that was where I stayed for the next year, too anxious to go out. I saw psychiatrists and psychologists, I spoke to my friends and family and anyone else who would listen, effectively I talked about myself for about a year. It seemed strange to me, even at the time, that all of this analysing and navel gazing wasn’t actually changing anything, if anything it was making it worse. The more I turned my problems over and over in my mind, the worse they became and so I turned to pills, Prozac to be precise.

The medication helped insomuch as I didn’t have the terrible lows that had driven me to contemplate suicide but I also didn’t get any ‘highs’, never really felt happy or full of life. This carried on for a long time and the people that loved and worried about me were incredibly caring, they pampered me, walked on egg shells around me and made me feel the way that I had always wanted to feel: special. Depression, something wholly negative had given me, in my mind, something wholly positive. It’s something that I’ve only realised in the last couple of years and it’s a hard thing to admit but there is something addictive about being sad because of the reactions that it brings out in other people namely sympathy and understanding. Of course, the problem with that is that it doesn’t last, after a while anyone close to me got fed up with it and wanted to know why I couldn’t pull myself together and why I was feeling sorry for myself all the time.

This wasn’t what I wanted, why were people being so mean all of a sudden? Couldn’t they see I was suffering? Where was all the sympathy that made me feel so special? I was hurt and then angry and, as a result, I fell into a pattern of behaviour that made things even worse. I started to push people away; if someone was nice to me and let me drone on about all my problems, after a while I would turn on them and be cruel in some of the things I said – thinking back I think I was, subconsciously, hurting them before they could hurt me.

I don’t think I realised that I was becoming a complete bitch, I mean I must have known on some level, I’m not stupid by any means, but I think I saw it as a defense mechanism against the cruelty of others. Do you know what? It was funny, the more I pushed people away the less friends I had – how strange is that! That’s with hindsight, at the time it was just evidence that I’d been right about people all along – none of them really cared about me. This in turn justified my feelings of rejection and the inevitable sadness that went along with it. I was sad and no-one cared which meant I was more sad and pushed people away even further.

Two things happened to change all that: I was given a wake up call by my doctor and I met my future husband. The doctor basically showed me that I had two paths in front of me – stronger and stronger medication that would ultimately leave me zombie-like and emotionless (I should add here that that was my impression and not necessarily the reality) or I could chose to take back my life from depression and live it. I didn’t need depression any more because I had found the thing I’d always craved: love and I couldn’t face travelling down the other path, further into misery and sadness, because, quite honestly, it frightened me. I had had a glimpse of a place so dark, so lonely and terrifying that I couldn’t and wouldn’t take another step towards it….

As a result, I stopped taking any medication and I did everything I could to turn my life around. I stopped moping and started motivating myself into action. I listened to all 12, I think it was, of Tony Robbins self-help CD’s and I did what he instructed to the letter. Lo and behold, everything changed because I changed, who would have credited it! A few years later I went to two of his seminars in London, the first time with my friend and the second time with my husband and, guess what, ALL our lives changed….for the better. We were given the right pair of glasses to view the world through – they weren’t rose tinted and they weren’t dark and sombre shades either, they were perfectly, beautifully, CLEAR. We all learned that, whatever happens in life, it’s how you view it and process it in your own mind that will make the difference – your experiences are based on your perceptions…..

I didn’t know it at the time but I would need all this wisdom that helped me live such a happy and fulfilled life for more than 10 years….

Eight months before our 10th wedding anniversary, my husband was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. We drew on all that we’d learned over the years and we were utterly determined to stay positive and fight this thing until we beat it. We had both heard stories of people who had beaten cancer with the right foods and the right mental attitude and we were the two most determined fuckers you could ever wish to meet! Sadly, despite all our best efforts (I say ours, my husband was the strongest person I’ve ever met and he never gave up) he lost his battle.

Afterwards I shut myself off from happiness and pleasure and I grieved and I worked. I spent hours in my office trying to find some semblance of my ‘normal’ life and, the rest of the time I sat at home and I cried; bitter, endless, heartbroken sobs. You could say that I had gone back to depression but, although the symptoms were similar, the cause was very, very different. Again, I thought about suicide but the one time I came close to it something stopped me; I was once again at that fork in the road and I chose the same path that I’d chosen before – life.

It wasn’t so easy this time for obvious reasons but I couldn’t go back to a life of depression whatever happened. I still have ‘bad’ days when I despair of ever regaining the happiness that I felt when my husband was alive (it’s almost like being back on Prozac again) but I don’t give up. I didn’t spend all those months watching him struggle to keep his grip on his life to just throw mine away. I’m still sad, I still cry but, even on the very fork of that crossroads I will still not follow the path that I know has no turnings and no way back.

Instead I look for inspiration, I look for pleasure in small things and I try never to ask myself the question ‘why is life so terrible’; it isn’t it’s a wonderful gift and I know that it won’t last forever. I choose not to be depressed, I chose life……..

We all need love so I’m sending mine to you. Lisa x

The bravest thing

Could You Cope with Life on Death Row?

They start to lose hope that they will ever be free from their emotional restraints and, when their end finally comes, I wonder if they will regret not opening the door to their cage and freeing themselves……?

Just try to imagine it; the last thing you think about before you go to sleep, the first thing you think about when you wake and every hour in between, is the fact that you are going to die. You could live like this for years before the day finally comes: worrying, imagining…..suffering unbearable mental torture. Trapped in a cage with no means of relief from the anxiety and stress gradually…..slowly losing all hope. Knowing that, when the final day comes, you will be filled with regret about the life that you led behind a prison’s walls.

To end up on death row you need to have committed a terrible crime but many people sentence themselves to a life like this. They are so worried about the future, about what may happen to them and how they might suffer that they are mentally imprisoned and suffering all the emotional torture of literal incarceration. They gradually retreat into themselves until their world grows smaller and smaller; until it’s the size of a prison cell. They start to lose hope that they will ever be free from their emotional restraints and, when their end finally comes, I wonder if they will regret not opening the door to their cage and freeing themselves……?

We are born – we die and the bit in between is called LIFE, don’t make it a sentence.

x

Are You Lonely?

And so it goes on. The pack on social media smells blood and suddenly complete strangers are praising Mary to the hilt and tearing Jane’s self-esteem into tiny pieces. The comments keep on coming and the night of Jane’s dreams has turned into a nightmare because it was shared with her online ‘friends’.

Loneliness is, apparently, felt more acutely in the US by people under the age of 30 than in any other age group. Can you believe it? How bloody sad is that! Young people have more chance to interact with others, through the internet and social media than at any other time in history and yet loneliness is becoming as big a threat to their health as obesity.

They can share every aspect of their lives with their friends and friends of friends and complete strangers, they have hundreds and maybe thousands of connections with other people. The thoughts and feelings they share will be ‘liked’ or commented upon or criticised ad nauseam and I can’t help but wonder how much this affects the things that they share in the future. The advent of ‘selfies’ means that our image is constantly popping up on social media and, again, the pictures we post can be ‘liked’, commented upon or criticised; how does this affect our self image?

Prom photoLet’s imagine that a teenage girl finds a dress she loves for her prom. She feels great in it, thinks that she looks amazing and feels more confident about her appearance than she has done for ages. She heads off to prom with one of her best friends who is also dressed up to the nines. They have that special bond that only teenage girls can have and are full of expectation as they chat and giggle about the night to come. They admire each others outfits, hair and make-up and describe to each other, in great detail, how they’ve imagined the wonderful night ahead; they’ve probably not thought about, nor talked about, anything else for weeks!

The inevitable selfies and group photos are posted online within minutes of their arrival; they get some ‘likes’ from their close friends but then the comments start:

“Not sure about that dress on you Jane but I love your hair”

“Mary looks so hot but Jane – what were you thinking LOL!”

“Yeah, Mary’s got an awesome bod why’s she always with that dog Jane?”

CyberbullyingAnd so it goes on. The pack on social media smells blood and suddenly complete strangers are praising Mary to the hilt and tearing Jane’s self-esteem into tiny pieces. The comments keep on coming and the night of Jane’s dreams has turned into a nightmare because it was shared with her online ‘friends’.

Her real friend, Mary, has become the centre of very positive attention but Jane is left isolated by mocking laughter and resentful of the girl that she was so unfavourably compared to. Their friendship may recover from this virtual assault but its unlikely; so much about teenagers lives in shared online that their attackers have the means to really hurt them readily available. Jane will drift away from someone that she was genuinely close to and will probably seek out those who defended her; they may well be complete strangers but they will feel like friends because they tried to protect her in her hour of need. The Worldwide web is exactly that so the chances of any of her defenders being in close enough proximity for her to have an actual relationship with them is unlikely so they chat online instead.

Jane will feel isolated in her real life because those around her will have been witness to her humiliation on prom night; they will have actually seen her tears of mortification and maybe even mocked her for her weakness. virtual friendFortunately she will have her new virtual relationships which will give her a chance to express herself and unleash her feelings so she will increasingly spend time in front of the computer in her bedroom or huddled in a corner somewhere frantically tapping away on her phone.

Unfortunately, the online ‘friends’ who really know nothing about you but were happy to jump on a bandwagon crusade on prom night will soon stop sending messages of love and support and may, instead, start telling you to “grow a pair” or “stop being a cry baby”. Jane will again feel like a victim, misunderstood and with self-confidence in tatters.

Eventually turning back to real life she will realise that Mary has moved on and no longer really wants to be best friends; after all she did nothing wrong and felt hurt and betrayed when Jane turned away from her. It’s at this point that Jane will start to feel truly lonely; she has access to virtually everyone on the planet but she does not love or feel loved – is it really a surprise that loneliness is becoming such an issue for so many young people?

Broken-Friendship

I’d really love to hear about your experiences, especially if you are under 30 and feel the burden of loneliness. The tale of Jane and Mary came from my imagination but please, tell me, is it really like that for some of you?

Lisa x

The Age of the Quick Fix

For this desperately unhappy woman, cutting out or closing off part of her stomach will not sever the emotional link that she has to food. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder if people who are morbidly obese would profit far more from the psychiatrist’s couch than a scalpel

In this technological age we seem to have a quick fix for everything, gadgets and gizmos that ensure that we need to put in as little effort as possible, sadly it’s also the case with weight loss in the form of bariatric surgery. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work for some people, it does, but it’s a physical fix only i.e. it doesn’t deal with any underlying psychological issues which may have caused the weight gain in the first place.

There are several different types of bariatric surgery but they all have the same end result, they make your physical capacity for food smaller. However, they don’t take the mind’s ability to over-ride the body’s capabilities into account which means that some people will just ignore the discomfort of trying to force a quart into a pint pot and they will continue to over-eat despite their shrunken stomach’s protests.

Schenee Murry Hopkins was on a US show called My 600lb Life which charters the weight loss journeys of the super morbidly obese who follow a programme of healthy eating and exercise in preparation for bariatric surgery. She gained weight during the show and subsequently left for which she was heavily criticised. my-600-lb-life-schenee-murry.jpgHowever, what most of her critics didn’t know at the time was that Schenee had made a mental connection with food very early on in her life which, unless broken, wouldn’t allow her to lose weight. She was sexually molested at the age of 5 and turned to food for ‘comfort’, furthermore she was humiliated at school for being over-weight and, at the age of 20, she was raped.

At the age of 5 we are not sufficiently developed to deal with the trauma of sexual abuse but we have to try and find some way to cope with the negative feelings and emotions that we cannot really understand. In this case it may have been that Schenee was given an ice-cream or some candy to ‘comfort’ her after her ordeal. A well-meaning adult who didn’t feel able to physically comfort the small child as she was a victim of physical abuse may have given her something sweet to eat telling her ‘here you are honey, this will make you feel better’. That’s often all it takes to take us on a path of self-destruction.

The mental connection had been made, food = comfort and, as it had been made at such a young age, it stuck. There may have been times when Schenee felt a physical discomfort from over-eating and she certainly suffered at the hands of bullies as she continued to gain weight but, emotionally and mentally, she was utterly reliant on the one ‘positive’ thing that had happened after her abuse. An adult spoke kindly to her but didn’t invade her personal space, which had so recently been violated and gave her something sweet to eat which then triggered the release of serotonin (the ‘feel good‘ chemical). She was perfectly well aware that gaining so much weight was bad for her health and could result in her death before the age of 30 but, in her mind, it must have seemed as though people were trying to take away the only thing that had allowed her to deal with her childhood trauma – food.

The events as described are conjecture on my part but it illustrates how easy it is for a strong mental connection to be made at a very young age that then dictates the choices we make in our adult lives, be they good or bad. For this desperately unhappy woman, cutting out or closing off part of her stomach will not sever the emotional link that she has to food. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder if people who are morbidly obese would profit far more from the psychiatrist’s couch than a scalpel; it may take longer to get the desired results but at least they would be permanent. Apparently 1 in 2 patients start to gain weight again two years after surgery, one of the reasons is:

Psychological state following surgery – Increased food urges and decreased feelings of well-being following surgery are directly correlated with weight gain after gastric bypass surgery (7). Food addiction is also a big (and under-reported) reason for gastric bypass weight regain”

Bariatric surgery is a choice that’s offered to people who want someone else to take responsibility for them losing weight but is it really the best way forward? Can’t we offer something better in 2018 than a quick fix?

 

A Problem Shared…….?

People will share the most intimate details of their lives with complete strangers; sometimes their hopes but, more often than not, their fears, their worries, the things that make them angry and resentful………in other words the negative things in their life. 

There have been questions raised recently as to why mental health issues are so prevalent among children and young people these days when awareness and help for things like anxiety disorders has improved so much. It’s an incredibly complex subject and I’m no psychiatrist but I do wonder how much social media is contributing to anxiety and depression in the young.

When I was at school, we had a few bullies who would verbally and sometimes physically intimidate others but, if you just stayed away from the nasty few, the encounters, although traumatic at the time, were few and far between. Now, however, bullies have any number of ways of tormenting their victims because, not only do we have real life to contend with, but almost all of us also have a virtual life. Many people seem to spend half their lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. and it has become the norm for them to become far more open and honest in their virtual existance than they would be in a face to face situation. People will share the most intimate details of their lives with complete strangers; sometimes their hopes but, more often than not, their fears, their worries, the things that make them angry and resentful………in other words the negative things in their life. depression 1

Before the advent of social media individuals would discuss their problems with just one or two of their closest friends who would invariably listen attentively and maybe offer some advice or just a hug. Now a single post can attract dozens or even hundreds of responses. With Twitter especially, many of the people who reply will know nothing about you other than what you share online so they may ridicule or they may try to ‘help’ by giving you advice, offering words of support or sharing their own experience. What you then end up with is a timeline which is accusatory, sympathetic and empathetic but which, if any, are of actual benefit to you?

 

depressed 2The people who mock or ridicule you will lower your self-esteem even further and make you regret sharing whatever it was that you shared. If you decide to engage with them it will end in one of two ways – they will become increasingly abusive, feeling safe hiding behind the avatar of their virtual self or you will become angry and attempt to hurt them in the way that they’ve hurt you.

Sympathy tweetSympathy and words of support can make us feel loved and, in some ways, special. We are all craving love in one form or another so there follows the temptation to try to generate more of those feelings by posting again. If we’re having a bad day, feeling anxious or depressed, and someone sends us a message of love and sympathy it can give us a lift there’s no doubt about that. However, if the way that we attract positive attention is to constantly post negative comments, how long will it be before we are looking for negativity in our lives merely to have something to say that will encourage loving words from others? What we focus on in life determines our mood and our state of mind so, if we are constantly looking for ways to generate sympathy our focus will be on the things that we are lacking.

 This can lead to a vicious cycle. People will usually only be sympathetic for so long            so, although you may attract new followers who will give you the words of love and support that you crave, the messages will slow down or even stop. You continue to pour your heart out, writing down all the negative things in your life (which will reinforce their significance in your mind) but they don’t attract attention. The only way that you can continue to get those positive vibes is to make your posts more and more negative which means that you will be more and more focused on the things that you see as being wrong in your life. anxiety-tweets-memes-45-59d787f3c5dfa__700

Empathy is a wonderful quality; to be able to understand and share the feelings of others is a rare and beautiful thing. If you ever meet someone who is truly empathetic you will feel as though you have known them all your life and that you can share anything with them. It can seem like that on social media when you come across someone who seems to understand your problems completely because they have experienced them themselves. However, just because someone wants to share their experiences with you, it doesn’t mean that they are empathetic or that they truly understand what you are going through. Human beings, for the most part, like to talk about themselves and their experiences and those who think about what they want to say next are far more common than those who actually listen to what the other person is saying. Someone with real empathy will listen attentively and with compassion; they won’t launch into their own tirade of misery the second that you have finished recounting yours.

As there are so many stories being shared on social media 24/7 you can always find someone to share your misery with. Whilst this may feel liberating and helpful, what you are actually doing is constantly enforcing your own negative thoughts by writing them down and then having them verified by someone else who is doing exactly the same thing.

If social media was full of positive and life affirming comments and stories of people over-coming adversity I truly believe that we would focus far more on the things that are right in our lives rather than the things that are wrong but, you know what they say, misery loves company! Personally, if that’s true, I think I’d rather walk alone………………

Osho happy quote