My Mental Health Story: The Snowflake

Mental health awareness is one thing that I’m passionate about. I’d love to live in a world where people feel comfortable about talking about their mental health issues without fear of judgement. The stigma that is attached to ill mental health can have detrimental effects not only on the lives of sufferers, but also on the lives of their loved ones.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to start a new series on my blog called “My Mental Health Story”. These are stories from real people who have suffered with a variety of mental health issues. If these stories help just one person then they’ll have done what I wanted them to do.

I’ve asked people to write honestly about their experiences, and to present their experiences however they see fit. This is the story of a girl who I have called “The Snowflake”.

Let me tell you this: Snowfall is beautiful.
Let me ask you this: Have you ever watched (with such intensity) the snow fall that you notice more than you’d see in a picture or snapchat video?
It’s fascinating. It’s difficult to focus on one snowflake unless it stands out from the rest. It’s more possible to focus on a crowd of similar moving snowflakes. A snowflake’s journey isn’t one of a straight line, impacted by gravity alone. Its journey is unique, not a single snowflake ever the same, never following the same path from sky to ground.
Consider this: life is snowfall. The real thing is rarely captured in all its beauty and downfalls in pictures and snapchats alone. It’s complex. We’re all snowflakes, some standing out from the crowd; noticed by everyone. Some feeling unnoticed entirely. All of us moving completely uniquely but crossing paths and sharing paths for varying amounts of time.
Gravity isn’t the only force at work in our lives. For some there is a God. For some there is physical pain and disease. For some there is war. For some there are family breakdowns. For many there are both fortunate and unfortunate events. For some there are friendships, bringing happiness or toxicity. And for some there is mental illness.
The forces at work in my life, beyond gravity, include God, pain, grief, joy, loss, gain, stability, uncertainty, stress, family, friends, and love. But the good forces all seemed to lose their strength when I eventually stopped seeing life as beautiful. Paths that crossed over felt more like collisions, whilst paths that were shared felt over-crowded. Everything sort of felt numb, like it does in the cold. I didn’t feel those intense emotions anymore; they were unreachable. Laughter didn’t bring that lasting joy, and each bad twist added to a long list of awful things which lead to the question: Why life? …Wouldn’t it be much more peaceful if gravity was the only force in control of the snowfall? If sky to ground, birth to death, was one quick and easy path?
Me, the girl who is known for her smiles through everything, stopped finding a reason to smile.  I pushed those close to me away. But when they were gone I cried. I longed for them to return. More and more frequently I had moments where my chest became tight and my heart beat fast. These moments came out of nowhere most days. There was no trigger; they just came and went when they pleased. They were in control. I was worried, scared almost.
I decided that I needed to gain control of my thoughts, switch them for positive ones. I knew it wasn’t healthy to consider death as a viable solution to problems but I was scared that no one would actually believe I was struggling. I’d built up a wall that not many were allowed to pass because as long as they weren’t on my side of the wall they were safe from my thoughts. But in doing so I felt alone. I’d separated myself from everyone for a little while just as I got caught in a whirlwind of mental struggle.
I began reading Katie Piper’s ‘Things Do Get Better’ and to this day I’ve still only reached chapter 4. Those four chapters were enough to encourage me into actively thinking positive each day and night. I started journaling, remembering each great thing at the end of everyday whilst acknowledging the hard stuff and letting myself feel.
The cloud lifted and I felt so much lighter, suddenly alien to the thoughts that once filled my mind. It had come and gone in such an intense and quick way. I was amazed.
A couple of months later, it came back. Much of the same happened in terms of ‘recovery’: I ploughed through and eventually it went away again. I began to realise a pattern each month. It kept coming back, each time in a different form. Sometimes with tight-chest pains and random anxiousness, other times my brain would come to catastrophic conclusions about problems that were quite minor in the grand scheme of things.
For now my doctor has prescribed me the pill to stabilise my hormone levels throughout the month. It would appear my lows and quick highs are hormone related.  I’ve just started taking the medication after a low before my period last month. I’m optimistic. I feel like I’m writing about another person when I put my story into words. It doesn’t feel real because my mental health isn’t who I am, it’s a battle I face and one that I’m choosing to acknowledge, to remember and to fight whilst I’m feeling well.
I wrote this because I think our mental health needs to be discussed openly. No matter how big or small the experiences. There is strength in shared experiences. Snowflakes movements are best noticed and followed by the human eye when they are crowded together following a similar path. Let’s start sharing together and encouraging each other. And, who knows, maybe our crowd of snowflakes will get the attention of someone who needs to see it?
Yours truly,
A fellow snowflake.

If you’d like to get involved, I’d love to hear your story. Please get in contact with me via Instagram, Twitter or through the contact page on this site. Together we can defeat the stigma.


Theresa May on Mental Health

On 9th January 2017, Theresa May spoke at the England and Wales Charity Commission about encouraging equality within the UK, with a particular focus on improving the wellbeing of members of society through improved mental health services.

I’ve just listened to her speech all the way through and was delighted to hear the approach she took in her presentation on how we can improve mental health services within Britain. Encouraging people to “defeat the stigma” and “strengthen the bonds we share as humans”, May’s speech was almost inspiring. She addressed issues frankly and recognised some key points, such as the increase in self harm in the UK, and the challenges that social media brings.

In May’s governments’ new approach to mental health, May highlights our need to recognise our “responsibility to each other”, something I feel we could all do a little more. While I don’t necessarily agree with all her political ideas, I am very much with her based on Monday’s speech.

May discussed several ideas within her speech:

  • Pilot mental health first aid training for school and college staff to enable better support for children and teenagers
  • Encourage schools to work closely with the NHS in order to offer the most appropriate mental health care for children and teenagers
  • Break the stigma attached to mental health sufferers within the workplace
  • Review employment discrimination acts to ensure that those with mental health issues are supported within the workplace
  • Support those who are unemployed and suffer with mental health issues to return to the workplace
  • Improve care within the community, offering clinics and crises cafes to ensure that people who are struggling have a place to go to get the help they need
  • Offer support and funding to charities and churches to improve their mental health support services
  • Improve online services to enable people to check their symptoms online and get access to appropriate therapies and treatments more quickly

At the end of her speech, May briefly mentioned the need to focus on suicide prevention, to reduce the 13 people who commit suicide in England everyday to none.

You can watch the full speech here:

Better late than never?

Happy New Year everybody! Hope you all had a lovely Christmas.

It’s been absolutely ages since I sat down to write a blog post, so I thought I’d put a bit of effort in to making sure that something goes up today.

By way of an update:

  • My Christmas was chaotic but on the whole pretty good. I got some absolutely beautiful gifts from my family and friends and had such a wonderful period of celebration. It was very busy and I didn’t really get a chance to sit down. Now that it’s  over, it feels like it was ages ago. I kind of miss it and I’m secretly looking forward to Christmas 2017.
  • I spent New Year at Ben’s parents’ house in Aylesbury. Unfortunately, I was pretty ill for the entire time I was there.
  • I went back to work last week and since I’ve been back there’s been lots going on. It’s nice to have a lot to do. I like keeping busy.
  • I got a brand new book shelf, and I’m really tempted to do a sort of book shelf tour so you can see all that I’ve got. Might be quite a good way of logging what I haven’t read and what I haven’t got yet, as well.

All in all, this busy spell has been a bit of a whirlwind, and I’ve made some pretty big decisions over the past few weeks which I’ll share with you in the future, perhaps.

For now, my only piece of advice is this: make 2017 your year.

That’s what I’m doing.