One Door Closes, Another One Opens

A lot of people say they are ‘stronger’ after living with and recovering from bad periods of their mental health problem. I refuse to say this because I don’t know how I would define the word ‘stronger’ in that context. However, I am looking on the positive side of everything that has happened for the first time.

For me, the most important thing that has come from this last few months is that I’ve found myself in some tough situations with some very hard decisions to make and I’ve worked through them. Having led a relatively sheltered life up until this point, the hardest decision I’d had to make was which city to go to university in! Now I know, in face I am sure, that I can get through many of the problems that life could potentially throw at me. My attitude to life has changed dramatically. If somebody had told me a year ago that I might have to drop out of university or that I wouldn’t be applying for jobs in my final year of university then I’d have cried. I might still cry if this is the case but I have plans now, I know there are so many other options out there and that university, for all it is worth in the real world, is not the be all and end all.

Previously I’ve mentioned how amazing my close friends have been over the past few months. The people that I failed to mention were my family. If my friends have been amazing then my family have been phenomenal. Not once have they been annoyed with me or the situation (at least not in front of me) when they so easily could have been! I’m not afraid to tell them anything now, whereas a year ago I may well have been! Like me, they’re not the gushing type so I’ll leave it there and just say thank you!

Not only do I now have a much healthier attitude to life, I also have a healthier lifestyle. I wrote back in May about how exercise can have a huge impact on your mental health. Well it turns out that your sleeping habits, eating habits and generally how you spend your time can too. I won’t bore you all with what I eat; however, fruit, veg and meat play a much bigger part in my diet that dairy and carbs do now! There is also a short period of time (or sometimes a long period of time) each day where I just do whatever I want. That can be sitting on my phone, on YouTube or just going shopping. Basically I make time to think about nothing important! I also mentioned sleeping, I think it is clear to a lot of people around me and also that have read my insomnia blog post that I have had a few issues with this. Well I’m pleased to tell anybody that cares that I now get 8 hours a night, almost every night. In fact I had a sneaky 12 hours earlier in the week!

Some people have been asking what’s next for Spotty Sunflowers seeing as I am a lot better than I was. Well I’m going to carry on posting because I can’t tell you how much of a difference talking about mental health makes. It is one of the most important things to me because I can’t bear to think of anybody suffering in silence. However, since starting this blog I have become a big fan of just sitting down on my laptop and writing. So, I have a new blog (which has nothing to do with mental health) called Sunflower Snippets. I’m pulling previous posts from other blogs I’ve had together and writing a few new ones. To start it off I’m going to post something every weekday in September. I can’t promise you’ll all find it all interesting but I think there will be something for everybody on there, so go take a peek at some point in the next few weeks! As for this blog, I have a few ideas (or suggestions that were given to me) but I’ll post about them next time because this post is getting rather long now!

I’m quite into motivating quotes at the moment so I’ll leave you with my current favourite that I’m clinging on to because I’m not 100% sure what the future currently holds:

‘When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us’

PS. I know that most of you will know that quote but I will be very impressed if you can tell me who said it!

Why would I want to be Normal?

I always knew what I wanted to be when I was older. I had the mad dreams such as being a dancer and the normal dreams that were more along the line of a teacher or a physicist (because I thought that that was a job title!) Then I went to university and it was chemical engineering; that is what I was going to do when I was a ‘proper’ adult. It is now potentially a year until I graduate and I have no idea what I want to do anymore!

Being one of those people that had their life planned out in such a normal way was very simple. The plan was A Levels, University, Graduate Job and I hadn’t thought any further than that! I had always assumed that said job would be in an office environment and would probably involve talking about something number based, be that money or the dreaded engineering calculations! Now, I’m not so sure. It just all seems a bit normal for me!

Nobody that knows me well would call me normal, well I hope they don’t because I don’t want to be! I’m the girl that hated wearing dresses and heels. The girl that decided the bassoon was a far better choice of instrument than the flute or violin. And finally, I’m that girl that took physics and further maths in sixth form. None of these things are rare but equally none of them are what you come across all day every day. Things have moved on a bit since then because now I’m that girl that didn’t hide her mental health problem away, I’m the girl that put it all over social media and on the internet for the world to see.

Having to seriously consider whether the path you had chosen to take in life is not only the right one but also whether it is possible anymore is something that the majority of people don’t want to do. I was definitely one of those people. However, now, I’m glad that I’m having to consider my future in a whole different way because I couldn’t have ever imagined the number of ways that people earn a living and some of them look a lot more fun than what I’d had planned!

I’m not really ashamed to admit that I’ve always been driven by money; to be honest I think the majority of people studying chemical engineering are drawn in by the rather lovely average starting salary. There have been many articles saying that once you have enough money to provide yourself with food and shelter, you’ll be happy and that no extra money on top of that will make you any happier. My initial reaction…that’s wrong. Thinking about it properly though, why would you go and do a job you hate for 48 weeks a year so that you have enough money to go on a flashy holiday for 4 weeks a year when you could spend 52 weeks a year loving what you do?! Obviously there isn’t a job that comes without its boring parts, that is the balance of life, however there are jobs that are far more satisfying than others.

I’ve spent the last 12 months hating my course at university. Whether this is due to the sheer volume of work, the fact that my brain had to work harder than ever before or merely because I’ve being living with Anxiety is probably a question that will never be answered. However, it has taught me one important lesson and that is that I won’t spend another year doing something that I hate. It’s just not worth it! Your mental health with inevitably start to suffer and in my opinion that is a price that is far too high to pay.

As the modules within a course change every year I’m lucky that no 6 months is ever the same for me at university so I’m going to finish my degree. After that, who knows what will happen but I know that I won’t be finding a job in chemical engineering if next year is half as bad as this year. Besides, using your degree to find a job seems a bit too normal for me and why would I want to be normal when I don’t have to be?

Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything happens for a reason. I love this little motto that many people live their lives by; most of my teen years were lived by it. If something a bit rubbish happened in my life (I’m talking minor issues here by the way, such as staying out in the sun a bit too long – obviously won’t be doing that again!) then I normally learnt something from it! However, when I first came to university I started to disagree with it. I didn’t really see ‘lessons’ in the silly things that happened. Two years have gone by since then and quite frankly I have never agreed with this saying more in my life.

A lot of you may be thinking that I’m going to write about how having mental health problems have changed my life and how I’m a much stronger person for it. Well…No. Quite frankly I wish it hadn’t happened because it was a crappy 6 months. However, what I am going to say is that this blog has helped me get over some of the problems I was having and I’ve learnt to cope with the ones that are hanging around a bit longer!

I was worried when I first started writing SpottySunflowers because I had absolutely no idea how people would react. I didn’t expect much, in fact if anything it was a really simple way of telling some of my friends what was actually wrong because I didn’t like talking about it. However, little did I know that I would receive countless messages from people (mostly nice!) and that my best friend who’s helped me through a lot of this year would do this:

Image

She was diagnosed with Anxiety far before I was and had always kept it to herself; she told close friends and family. However, now it is out there for the world to see and people have been as supportive of that as they have of me. (Very proud friend right here!)

A private person is something I’m not most of the time, I’m quite open about my opinion on things and I don’t have a whole load of secrets stashed away in my head. I don’t like secrets all that much because I find keeping them so hard. When I started this blog I felt like a weight had been lifted and I didn’t have to worry about people finding out my ‘dirty little secret’ (that’s what it felt like anyway). Seeing as people with Anxiety worry a lot, you can imagine how much easier it was to start dealing with Anxiety once I didn’t have to worry about this! I hope that my friend had the same feeling when she ‘revealed all’ even though we shouldn’t have had to have the weight on our shoulders to start with.

I’m no longer nervous when I sit down to write a blog post. I know that I can write about mental health and I know that people will read it. In fact I know that a lot of people will enjoy reading it. Therefore, whenever I’m having an off day or I just want to be cheered up I’ll sit down and write. If you’ve got a blog then you’ll know the mini ego boost you get when the view count goes up or somebody writes a comment or likes a post! For those of you with twitter, it’s very similar to being retweeted or favourited however a lot more thought, time and effort goes into a blog post than a tweet so the feeling is even better.

I started this blog out of pure frustration at the lack of understanding some people had about mental health problems. However I can now talk about them in person and I know a few others than can to. So I guess everything does happen for a reason. 

Time To Talk!

Time to Change is an absolutly amazing campaign that is led by the mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. It’s main aim is to get people talking about Mental Illnesses and it’s doing an outstanding job! A couple of days ago they started the campaign ‘The Big Share’ which is predominantly pushed by people using social media. It is obvious to most people that social media is an amazing way of getting across a message – it is how most of you know about this blog!

To find out more about ‘The Big Share’ then you can simply click the link below:

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/news/big-share

The main way in which Time to Change are promoting this campaign is by encouraging people to download one (or many) of the images (found in the link below) and using them on social media. I’ve currently got a cover photo on Facebook and will be putting them onto this blog and twitter in the next couple of hours!

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/downloads

It’s amazing what sort of difference just a few people promoting this can do. Not enough people are aware of campaigns such as Time for Change that are driven by charities that literally change lives! I’m not asking for me, I’m asking for everybody that Time to Change helps, just change one of your photos on any social media site to a #TimeToTalk image! Even if it is just for a few hours or a day or a week, it makes such a huge difference.

If you do decide to change one of your images then tweet me (@SpottySunflower or @KerrySmith92) and I will tell you how amazing you are and might bake you cookies if I know how to get them to you!

It’s finally #TimeToTalk so prove that you’re not afraid to!

My First Time

Before you even think anything else, this is not what you think! ‘My First Time’ is currently a YouTube ‘tag’. For those who don’t know what a ‘tag’ is, it’s a video that a YouTuber will put up with questions or theme in it and then other people will do the same video using those questions or theme. If you still don’t understand that then go into YouTube and type ‘My First Time’ into the search bar and you’ll understand what I mean! However, I’m altering the questions so that it becomes a ‘My First Time: Mental Health Edition’ and obviously it is a blog post rather than a YouTube Video! So here it goes:

First time I knew something was wrong

I can’t pinpoint an exact date for this however I know it was in the winter of first year. I passed it off as being home sick at the time but I worried constantly about ridiculous little things and it also marks the time when I stopped going out clubbing and drinking as much. Things didn’t stay rubbish, they actually seemed to get a lot better around the February/March time but then the May exam period that year was dreadful and the point when other people seemed to notice something wasn’t quite right.

First time I told somebody something was wrong

I came home during exams and told two of my close friends at home how terrible I was feeling. My best friend at university had noticed and so had my mum but I don’t actually remember telling either of them quite how bad it was. I just didn’t know how to be happy. I put it down to exam stress and enjoyed a lovely summer!

First time I got help

I had a Panic Attack in an exam in January this year and had to be taken out of it. I couldn’t sit the exam and I was forced into going to the doctors for a letter so that I could sit the exam again in the summer. I know that I wouldn’t have gone at this point if I hadn’t had a reason like this to go so in hindsight it is probably a good thing that that embarrassing experience did happen! This was the point where I was put on medication and referred for counselling however it got a lot worse before it got any better!

First time Mental Health affected my everyday life

I guess you could say that not being able to do an exam because of a Panic Attack comes under this category, however I would say that it was a couple of weeks after that happened. I stayed in bed all day because I just couldn’t muster the energy or motivation to get out of it. You may think that this is very student like but it’s not very me like! That is the first time it affected my everyday life!

First Panic Attack

The day before the Panic Attack in the exam was the first Panic Attack that I recognised as one. However, I now realise that I’ve had a few in the past when I’ve been in a rowdy place or there has been lots of alcohol around, I was just mistaking them for problems with Asthma. They started just before I left for university, almost 2 years ago.

First CBT session

I did an online version of CBT and I started that in March. It takes a while to be referred and to go through a waiting list for therapies like this. I was very lucky how quickly I went through it all but it came at just the right time because February was a bit of a write off for me, I had no inclination to do anything – I was just depressed.

First time I went the night without sleeping

I got diagnosed with Insomnia a couple of weeks into February but the first time I actually went a night without sleeping was the night before a mid-term test back in November last year. It is not a pleasant experience; the mid-term or the sleepless night!

First time I blogged about Mental Health

11/5/13. Only 3 months ago. And quite frankly the reaction and support I’ve received after starting this blog has been completely unexpected. I’ve had people tweet me saying ‘Well done’ and friends text me saying how brave they think it is. I’ve also had people I haven’t talked to in a long time message me, which has been lovely. So thank you to all of those people and to everybody that has read this blog up until now!

First time I did a First Time

6/8/13. I’ll probably do a few of these because I have a whole list of ‘First Time…’ statements which I didn’t include in this one. Also if you have any statements of your own then leave them in the comments below or tweet them to me!