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A Journey Through The Snow

In search of myself I walk a blessed yet broken road

Break the silence – Tell the truth

“It sucks when you’re ignored by the person whose attention is the only thing you want in the world” – Unknown

Last week was Nightline Awareness Week here in the UK.

For those of you who are not familiar with Nightline, it is a confidential listening, support and practical information service for students; with regional branches throughout the UK. They aim to be a listening ear and a place of acceptance, where no student will be stigmatized or ignored.

The theme for this year’s awareness campaign went under the banner of “Break the Silence”. Whether it is regarding mental and/or physical health, academic struggles, family difficulties, abuse, self-harm or suicide, all topics need and deserve to be talked about; and having someone to turn to can make a tremendous difference for both the service user and the Nightline volunteer.

So when the publicity material began appearing on social media I initially felt a strong sense of gratitude. I felt happy that these kinds of topics are given the attention they so desperately need and I am so thankful that there are people out there who are campaigning for a more open, compassionate and accepting society. In the wake of the political changes that have occurred in the last few months, it seemed like a safe point to fall back on, regardless of where one might stand on such issues.

However, the more “Break the Silence” posts I came across, it got me to thinking…

Preventing stigma and urging people to open up about what may be bothering them is really good but I find that most forget how difficult it can be to find someone you can open up to. Just as we campaign for everyone’s right to talk about what they are going through, we need to campaign for people to actively take the time to listen; regardless of how insignificant or difficult the topic may be.

If you find it difficult to open up to people, what would happen if, when you finally find the courage to turn to someone, they respond with a statement such as “I’m sorry to hear that but I’m sure it’ll all work out for you”. Would you feel able to continue the conversation if you were met by such a response?

Since I am part of a family where we do not talk about how we are feeling, whatsoever… opening up and being honest with people about how I am feeling has been a personal struggle of mine for quite some time. Only now am I slowly finding it easier to admit the truth to others and I am really trying to open up to someone when I need to.

Whenever I have contacted a service about my mental health, their main advice has always been: “If you are distressed or feel unsafe, contact someone, contact friends, contact family… Just contact someone”. But what if they are not willing to listen?… Then what can I do? If so, what can any of us do?

Please.., know that I am very thankful for the work that services like Nightline provide for people and if you ever need someone to listen; please, do not hesitate to contact someone.

Just remember, that if someone ever approaches you in need of support, PLEASE LISTEN! Even if it is just for a moment, the fact that you are there and that you are willing to listen can change everything. Take care of yourself and take care of each other.

Stay safe everyone!

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Yet another return and another try

“Even if you’ve tried and tried and tried before,
Please, always always try once more”
– Kathy. R. Jeffords

I’m baaaaack…. and hopefully, you will not mind far too much.

Yet again, I apologize for my absence. My mental health took another turn and I have not been able to put a sentence on paper in months. I have really missed you all though; and the forum and community that WordPress provided for me before. I hope I will be able to find my way back to that again.

Although I may not have posted anything in ages I have still kept up with your blogs, and to that, I only have one thing to say: I am really proud of you!

Reading all of the posts and following your journeys is a true privilege and I have seen you all grow immensely in the time that has passed. Feel free to drop me a message if you ever want to chat or fill me in on how things have been for you. I am always here.

Hopefully, I will be able to post new entries relatively consistently from now on… but in case I drop off the face of the earth again; thank you for being there for me and for allowing me to be part of your journeys as we move forward.

All my love, to all of you!

The truth about self-criticism

“Self-criticism is an art not many are qualified to practice”

– Joyce Carol Oates

So… I am going to let you all in on one of my pet peeves…

I think most individuals live their lives through a certain degree of self-criticism. Sometimes it can help one to self-monitor their progress in tasks, and in life, and sometimes it can enable one to avoid minor mistakes and arguments. For some of us though, self-criticism becomes a force to be reckoned with. It takes control and shapes far too much of our lives and relationships.

So, in light of these factors, why is it that the general consensus is that one cannot tell an individual suffering from depression to “just get over it” or to “just cheer up”, while it is still fully acceptable to tell someone that they are just being “too hard on themselves” or that they are just “beating themselves up”?

Trust me, I am one of the first ones to argue that depression is so much more than just being overly negative and weak, and I am glad that we have now reached a point where we have acknowledged the seriousness of the diagnosis. Hopefully, it can be a first step towards challenging the stigma that surrounds depression and mental health.

However, at least on a personal level, I feel that it is just as damaging to tell someone who is self-critical to just be kinder to themselves. Not only can self-criticism be a symptom of other difficulties but it can also be a coping mechanism that actually helps someone manage their life and retain some control through the chaos.

I have always been very self-critical and almost everyone I know has, at some point, told me to just “stop it”, to not “overreact so much” and to “be kinder to myself” and it is generally followed by a comment regarding how “doing that just makes everything worse” …

Now, I know that those words are often said out of frustration and that those around me simply wanted me to feel better, to see what they see, but what they did not realize was how those words affected me. They had no idea why I was so negative towards myself and how it had actually helped and supported me throughout my life.

When I was a child I was living, in what I now regard as, a total chaos. There were arguments, compulsions and numerous other factors in my life that I could not affect, control or cope with on my own. There has not been a day since that I have not wished I could have but I have to accept that I did not have the cognitive capacities at the time and, even if I did, I cannot control or change anyone but myself.

As a result of this, I created a highly self-critical approach towards myself. By being self-critical, I was able to gain what little control I could in my life and I was able to monitor and modify my own behaviours in a way that kept me out of trouble or kept me away from the most chaotic moments. As negative and damaging that self-criticism can be, and has been for me many a time, in that part of my life it was a support mechanism which helped me to survive and progress through life. It was a critical part of my own behaviour…, of my own approach to life.

So, to have someone tell me that “I’m just making things worse for myself” has been both hurtful and confusing to me. It has often made me feel incredibly shameful and guilty. I mean… I have never wanted to do the wrong things in life… I have never wanted to make things worse for myself… and because self-criticism is not something you can just “snap out of” those comments triggered me to be even more critical towards myself.

I have finally been able to reach a point in life where I can challenge that criticism and try to only utilize it in a beneficial way but it is still a struggle. An internal war which I have not yet been able to win.

So, for me, the battle continues and I am sure that some of you will be fighting your own monsters beside me and whether you are a highly self-critical individual yourself or not I simply want to leave you with this message;

PLEASE, do not ever tell someone who is self-critical that they just need to “snap out of it” and “stop making things worse for themselves” because even if it is said in love it can be incredibly hurtful and can actually create the opposite response than what you intended. You will never know exactly why someone is self-critical, and whether it is on a beneficial level or not, so just support and love those around you and recognise their struggle and the progress they are making. That is what can truly make a difference.

Lost in thought… Missing in action

“Absence is to love
 what wind is to fire;
 it extinguishes the small
 and enkindles the great” – Roger de Rabutin

Firstly, I would like to apologize for my absence during these last couple of weeks. I wish I could say that it was because I have had an amazing time and have just been too busy but unfortunately it is not the case. So I would just like to say that I have truly appreciated the amount of kindness and support I have received, from you all, since I began this blog, and I am truly grateful for having made your acquaintance.

During these last couple of weeks, I have struggled with the most complex and intense grieving process I have ever experienced. I have gone through far too much loss in this last year and the consequence finally reared its depressive head. I felt hopeless, lost, isolated, vulnerable and the smallest accident among friends and family terrified me. For most of the time, I did not even feel able to reach out to those closest to me, all due to fear and emotional exhaustion. For almost every minute of every day, I wished I could talk to someone. I was craving social contact, love, and support, but despite those emotions, I still instinctually knew that what I needed was some time to myself. Some time to ground myself and find my place in this world again. I love everyone so much, and the thought of losing yet another person was just too intense for me to handle for a while.

I have thought of you all often, wishing I could focus enough to reach out to you, but all I felt able to do was to sleepwalk through the days while trying my hardest to, at least, focus on my university assignments. Which I never really managed to do, to be honest… but I am trying to convince myself that the fact that I even tried was an achievement. Trying was all I could do at the time and I could very easily have spent the entire time tucked in my safe and comfortable bed but I managed to push through and that is a major achievement.

I am finally feeling more like myself again though and I am hoping this means that I will be able to keep up with you all again. I always love reading your posts, and sharing whatever is on my mind with you all. It has been really beneficial to me, more so than I ever expected. I hope some of you have been able to gain something from my posts as well, either way though, thanks for checking up on me and sharing my posts. It means the absolute world to me that I get to be even a tiny little part of your lives.

All my love, to all of you!

A lost world – Nothing more to say

Ever since the results came in, the world has seemed to be in constant chaos. Lost, in a world without direction. I do not really know what to say, other than to share a poem that came to me as I was reflecting on the state of it all. I apologize for the gloomy tone, but neither I nor those around me seem to be in the best of moods currently…

I hope you all are doing well. All my love and support goes out to whoever needs it.

All words are missing

wandering aimlessly
in the fog that used to be
a world worth living in

There is nothing more to say…

Relief is absent
anxiety rampant
and storms are raging everywhere

No matter how much
we need to explain
argue
or get of our chests

There is simply
nothing more to say…

A place to call home

“Days will pass and turn into years
but I will always remember you with silent tears”
– Unknown

Let me tell you a little story about a girl who spent her entire life looking for a place to call home and who, on one blessed day, thought she had finally been fortunate enough to find it… Surprise, surprise… the girl is me;

Growing up was really difficult for me… I have a large, beautiful family that I love more than anything else in this world but no matter how much I loved them, or they loved me, nothing could prevent the chaos that would be our life together…

Although I was living with my family, in circumstances that would most likely be regarded as privileged, I never felt at home. I never felt safe… I was constantly on edge, terrified of not being good enough, not being what was expected of me and to thereby end up causing inconvenience and pain for all those around me.

My father, despite loving me more than his own life, was, and is still, suffering from an undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Depression which left/leaves him incredibly anxious and unable to refrain from blaming me for much of his discomfort, even though I believe he additionally blames himself for not having taught or raised me well enough to avoid such errors. His anxieties and fears, coupled with his need to protect those he loves, forced him to tell me every possible negative outcome that could arise from my actions since in his mind it would save me from making such mistakes. It also drove him to continuously list all the reasons for why I had caused trouble, inconvenience or pain for those around me.

In a sense, I guess one could argue that the issues of the father were passed on to the child… I do not suffer from OCD, but in response to having experienced this I am left with a constant sense of terror and I still, to this day, feel incredibly guilty and ashamed for whatever pain I may have caused my fellow human beings…

These experiences, coupled with various forms of abuse of which I do not yet have the strength or the heart to tell you about, I never truly felt safe or that I had a place that was indisputably my own….

And then the most bizarre thing happened;

When I was 17, my mother, the stepfather of that time and I, went on a simple tourist trip to London, England. I was as excited as I could muster at the time and all I felt able to hope for was an overall pleasant trip. However, when we arrived at Stansted airport we were required to leave the plane by use of those mobile staircases, and from there take a bus to the entrance of the airport, and I will never forget that experience.

The moment I stepped foot on English soil I experienced a massive jolt of energy and emotion go through both my body and mind; I was HOME.

I felt safe, I felt like this was the place where I could live MY life, not that which others require of me, and although having never been in London I immediately knew what to do and where to go. After all, I was home… so, of course, I knew where to go, of course, I never got lost or confused…

Ever since that moment, I was never able to shake that feeling. I was never able to shake the feeling that London, or maybe England as a country, was where I was meant to be. So, when I started considering applying for university degrees internationally, London was the undisputed choice.

I subsequently moved to London in 2012 and, no matter how difficult the years have been since then, I have always felt safe. I have always felt at HOME…. Until now…

Last night’s vote in the EU referendum has left me with an indescribable feeling of loss… I have been left completely speechless and I do not know if I will ever be able to explain what it is like to no longer feel welcome in a country that I had finally come to regard as my HOME… I honestly have no idea of where I belong anymore…and I have no idea what will come to pass…

So, as a final note, I simply want to say that for all of you who voted in favour of BREXIT, I respect your choice, I feel grateful for the democratic society in which we live and I am sorry that you feel like your world would be better off without your fellow Europeans.

 And finally, to all those of you who cast a vote for inclusion, acceptance, love, and hope, I simply say this;

THANK YOU!

Thank you for fighting not only for what you, as British citizens, believe to be right but for the rest of us as well. Your support and love mean the absolute world to me and I am so grateful to you all.

 

Gratitude

“Gratitude is the fairest Blossom which springs from the soul” – Henry Ward Beecher

Today has been a relatively good day. I have not accomplished much but I was able to get some severely needed rest and, although I were unable to finish any of the work that so desperately needs to be completed, I took a step in the right direction. Or at least, I think I did and that has to be good enough right now.

I am feeling extremely uninspired so I will not keep you for long. I simply want to take the time to say THANK YOU! Thank you to my friends who so often keep me going even when I am not sure why that is, in any way, a beneficial venture.

Thank you to all you amazing people that I have come across as part of my creative ventures, for all your support, positivity and endless amount of kind words.

Thank you to all you wonderful individuals I have met in my educational, volunteering and professional lives. I would never have been able to reach the heights I have without your help. You have all had such a positive impact on my life.

And finally, thank you to my family. I know we have not had an easy past but whatever happens I will be forever grateful to have you in my life.

I really hope you all had an amazing day! You all most certainly deserve it.

PTSD – So much more than just flashbacks

“Remember,
a diamond is merely a lump of coal
that did well under pressure” – Henry Kissinger

As a disclaimer, I want to begin this post by stating that although Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) consists of numerous symptoms that are experienced by a majority of sufferers, this account is, in no way, meant to mirror the experience of anyone but myself. Whatever the situation, whatever the diagnosis, we all live very unique lives and I would never attest to an ability to explain everyone’s’ exact experience. This is my account, and mine alone…

Having only recently realized that I suffer from PTSD I am constantly reminded of how much it affects my everyday life. To this day, I have no idea how I missed it. I know I generally downplay what has happened to me, throughout my life, but to have completely missed a diagnosis which I have an extensive level of understanding of is beyond me.

It did cross my mind, every once in a while, but I always disregarded the idea. I never thought I had been through something that merited such a diagnosis. As a result, I ended up blaming myself for not being able to let things go. Flashbacks would occur at any time and I never seemed to be able to ignore them. It felt like my own memories refused to let me go… Like we would never go our separate ways, no matter how painful and shameful the memories were….

Being unable to put difficulties behind me, which I was constantly urged to do and which those around me seemed to do so easily, was incredibly frustrating and painful to me and the only method of coping that I was aware of was to beat myself up over it. It may not have been the best of coping mechanisms but it provided me with a sense of control that I so desperately lacked at the time. It allowed me to take responsibility for my own faults, even where there were none.

I really wish I would have realized it all sooner… I always wonder how my self-image would have developed if there had been no reason to feel inadequate, no pain to push away or beat myself up for…

So… what is most commonly mentioned when someone is discussing PTSD? Flashbacks seem to be the poster symptom of the disorder, to which I have only one thing to say; PTSD is SO much more.

Yes, I have flashbacks…. Sometimes they are relatively minor, feeling more like a distant memory than anything else, sometimes they occur as nightmares to which I wake up in tears and fear ever falling asleep again and sometimes they are so powerful and intrusive that I can lie in my bed for hours not daring to move…

It is, furthermore, a diagnosis which often co-occurs with depression, which might not be too surprising since it relates to traumatic experiences which continues to affect the individual for, sometimes, as long as several years after the fact. In my case, this is perfectly illustrated by my feelings of never being able to escape what I have been through. Feelings which I can still experience today, every once in a while.

For me, however, the worst thing about suffering from PTSD is the constant anxiety and hypervigilance that is, only now after confronting it in therapy, slowly subsiding. To spend my days constantly distrusting those around me and waiting for the worst to happen, when all I truly want to do is to enjoy this life that I have been given, can be so draining and depressing. It really makes it difficult to continue fighting for health sometimes…

I will get through this though. Regardless of the struggles I have mentioned, regardless of the traumas I have been through, I will get through this. I have no idea how long it will take but I know it will happen. Someday…

June storms

Mental storms are raging
twisting
turning
tearing apart

Heavy rain
of salted drops
dripping
drowning
soaking my heart

Even the brightest of suns
could not disperse
the snowy chills
of my soul

Today was rough… Here is me hoping for a better more productive tomorrow…

I hope the rest of you had a more positive and wonderful day.

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