Category: mental health
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The Ugly Truth About Body Image *TW* | #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

This post may be triggering, so please read with caution. 

Society tells us we should love ourselves, we should be happy with the way we look and embrace our flaws. We are also told by society we need to be perfect, look a certain way and be a certain size to be accepted. It tells us that if we are "fat" we are going to die and if we are "too skinny" we may also die. No matter how we look, we are fighting a losing battle and it's no wonder we are struggling with body image now more than ever. With photo editing regularly used by the majority, it's easier to show ourselves in a different light online. You can hardly go throughout a day without seeing something regarding our appearance or way to improve ourselves. Vitamins, new clothes, weight loss aids, the perfect smile, the latest skincare you NEED in your life to look younger, or the easy ways to conceal your acne and ultimately becoming the best version of yourself. This impacts us whether we are 13 or 93. Yet we are still told to love ourselves as we are all beautiful and it's about what's on the inside that counts. I'm not sold on that concept.

This week is mental health awareness week (13-19th of May) and this year it's about body image. This is an issue that most of us have struggled with at some point in our lifetime. The mission this year is to create a more positive image around our bodies, as after all our body image and the way we feel about ourselves impacts our mental health. On a massive scale. For those who struggle with the way they look it does put them off doing things, whether that is meeting up with friends, going out on a date or going on holiday, body image controls these situations. For me, body image is at the forefront of the majority of my downwards spirals. Regardless of whether it's my acne playing up, feeling fat or disliking my facial features, it's an exhausting battle to work through, especially in a world where appearance is supposedly one of the most important things.

To my dismay, this will never change. But taking baby steps towards feeling good about the way you look is a fantastic place to start. The way in which you arrive at this conclusion will vary dependent on each person and there isn't a right way to do this. Whether this means deleting the social media which you feel affects you negatively, not watching model shows, ditching those friends who make you feel unhappy about your body or not going on dating sites like *ahem* Tinder, which can drag you down. It can take a long time to figure out what really is the root of the problem, as a lot of the time we don't realise the ways in which we are actually affected by until we take a step back.

Growing up around Tumblr, throughout my teens I didn't realise it was having a negative impact on me, I met so many people that I could talk to on there, I gained a pretty large following and loved answering questions. It wasn't until I took off the rose tinted glasses and realised how much I envied the girls on the site, whether it was because they were allowed long hair extensions and I wasn't, or the bright hair colours which changed every week or if they were super skinny (even though I was at the time, I didn't see it) they always looked amazing in their baggy shirts, fishnets and backcombed hair. I felt like I was constantly comparing myself to them and when I stopped using the site I felt 3000x times better about my body image.

So many people wish they looked like somebody else, and then that person wishes they looked like somebody else, you see where I'm going with this? Nobody is ever truly happy with their body 100% of the time, but you deserve to love your body as much as you can. Your mental health is much more important than the way you look.

I often use humour to deflect how I feel about my appearance and it tends to make a situation feel comfortable as it gives us something to laugh at. As a result, I've ruined pretty much any self-confidence I've had over the years. Plus, if you say the terrible things about yourself, it feels like when others say it, it feels a lot less painful. Amiright?  But it's about time I aim towards making myself feel good, well... about me, rather than becoming the joke. I am going to take the steps towards loving myself instead of hating myself. The way I look doesn't define me as a person and I'm starting to realise this more and more each day. It starts by finding the parts of you which you "don't mind" and turn that into a like, then from that into love. The more you tell yourself you like something about the way you look, the confidence will continue to grow. A final piece of advice to end this post, don't say anything to yourself you wouldn't say about your best friend, that tends to make us think twice about what we are saying, as nobody really wants to hurt their best friend.

To find out more about what the Mental Health Foundation is doing this year for Mental Health Awareness week, check out their site here. I've done a variety of body confidence posts on my blog as well as a selection of mental health posts throughout the years so feel free to check those out too.

5 easy ways to de-stress.

Stress is something we have to deal with in our lives from time to time, for some of us it can be more often than others. It is normal to feel stressed as a reaction, but being able to combat it is also important. For those who struggle with stress a lot, it may be worth seeking advice from your doctor or counselling to get to the route of the problem. But we all have bad days and sometimes we just need something to help us de-stress. As someone who stresses out a lot, sometimes at the smaller things in life, having ways for me to be able to de-stress from it all is super important. In the past, my self-help posts have been super popular (therefore I am hoping useful) so I thought I'd bring you a new post today with my top tips for de-stressing. Let me know in the comments what your top tip is to help you relax on a bad day.

1. Take a nap:
When I take a nap I instantly feel better once I come round a bit. Stressing can make you tired so when you allow yourself to take a nap you feel a lot better. According to Verywellmind the amount of time you nap for is crucial, as once you fall into a deep sleep it can be harder to wake up from, leaving you feeling worse (anyone else ever woken up after a nap and completely have no concept of time or date?) a nap between 15-30 minutes can help us feel refreshed and I always feel so much calmer after a nap. I prefer to take naps somewhere which isn't my bed as I always find it harder to come out of a nap. Some people take naps on the sofa, however, others prefer to take one outdoors on a Hammock which sounds like a dream, especially in the summer.

2. Turn off your phone:
My worst habit when I am stressed is looking at my phone, I feel unable to switch off when keeping my phone on, yet I am worried about missing something important so I won't turn it off #fomo probs. However, the times in which I've turned it off and spent a few hours away from it, I do find my mood is so much better and I feel a lot less stressed.

3. Write down your thoughts:
Writing down your thoughts when you're feeling stressed is a great way to try get to the root of the problem as well as being able to vent. You get your own personal place to vent and you don't have to worry about sharing it with others. Paperchase has a large variety of life journals which have tons of different pages to write on. Carrying one around with you is also a great idea so you can look back on it and reflect.

4. Read a good book:
Never underestimate the power of a good book, allowing yourself some time just to zone out with a book of your choice can be a great thing to help you de-stress. You get to live out of your mind for a while and soak in the surrounds of the book. In the summer I love to read books outside as it makes me feel extra relaxed. You can also dig your teeth into a book in whilst sitting in a hanging hammock chair which allows you to get super comfy in and relax.

5. Have a relaxing bath:
This is one of my favourite ways to relax when I am stressed as it allows you to be alone for a while, you can light up some candles, get yourself a nice drink and pop a bath bomb in the bath and you're good to go. I love buying bath bombs from Lush as they're always super fun and you can tailor your mood to which bath bomb you pick. An alternative to bath bombs can be adding some oils to the tub, like lavender for the ultimate relaxation session.

What are your top tips for de-stressing? 

*This is a collaborative post, however, it was fully created by me and all thoughts are my own as always. 

The confidence chronicles #2

*Collaborative post* 

Having confidence is something that so many of us wish we had. A little while back I wrote a post all about confidence in the first part of my confidence chronicles, which you guys adored, therefore I thought I'd bring you part 2, let me know in the comments if you'd like a part 3 to this post. Sometimes we might have confidence when we’re walking down the high street, or talking to our friends, but when placed in awkward situations, in meetings at work, or even meeting someone new, its not uncommon to find that confidence eludes us. For some, confidence comes when they're dressed well, have flawless makeup, their looks great and their anti-aging eye cream is working well. But have you ever considered finding a more natural and more permanent way to boost your confidence? Read on for 5 ways you can feel more confident. If you fancy checking out my first confidence chronicles post you are more than welcome to! 

Stand tall:
First things first. If you want to look confident and feel it too then you need to work on your posture and stand up straight. Walking with your back curved and your shoulders slumped makes you look small, and as if you’re shying away. Being 5'2, standing tall can often be a challenge, as it always feels like people are looking down at you metaphorically and physically, however, only one of these needs to be true. Cos sadly, no matter how much I want to be taller, I never will be. Take a moment now to stand up, put your shoulders back and hold your head up. Even if you’re still not feeling as confident as you’d like – rest assured, you’ll look like someone who knows what they’re doing, where they’re going and what they’re all about. Put this into practice every time you head out somewhere – studies have shown that a strong, powerful stance will help give your confidence a lift.

Press play:
Trying to muster the courage to ask for a pay rise? Or to raise an issue with a teacher or friend? Well, all you need to do is press that play button! Studies have shown that listening to upbeat, positive tunes can really encourage a powerful mindset. Especially tunes that are bass heavy! I always find Eminem 'Lose Yourself' gives me confidence and makes me feel like a boss. For more amazing playlists check out Spotify recommended or if you fancy listening to my playlist you can find it here.  

Remember a time when you felt confident:
Remember that time you nailed that job interview? Or when you received a compliment on a blog post you've worked hard on. Well, you need to remember that you’re still that person and if you did it once before, you can certainly do it again! Channelling a time when you oozed confidence has been proven to – you guessed it – make you feel more confident! Writing a list of things in your phone which you've done prior that make you feel good, is always a great way to find those memos when you're feeling a little short on confidence.

Dress the part:
Ever heard of the saying dress to impress? Well there is some truth behind it. Although bear in mind that you’re ultimately dressing for yourself. Wear clothes you feel good in, nobody feels good in their old tracksuit bottoms and a dirty t-shirt, they're comfy of course and we all need our comfort clothes, but when you're looking to dress to impress, it's worth making an effort and when I look good, I ultimately feel good. 

Try a new skill:
Studies have shown that learning a new skill or refreshing knowledge that has gotten a little dull over time, but it can give us as much mental satisfaction as getting a pay rise or a promotion. I am a huge fan of learning different photography skills on my camera or creating different pieces of art which is new to me, using different mediums. There are so many skills you can choose from. So, if you’ve always wanted to learn Spanish – see if your local college has any classes, or hit up Duolingo. If your maths skills could do with a little polish (I know mine could big time!), do some studying of your old text books or from the library.  

I'd love to know in the comments your number one top tip for building your confidence. 

The confidence chronicles.

*This is a collaborative post*

"Confidence is a superpower, once you start believing in yourself the magic happens."

Confidence can take a lifetime to build and be knocked down in a matter of seconds. The truth is, most of us aren't confident in ourselves. The reasons for this vary on a huge scale and sometimes, sadly, some people don't ever build the levels of confidence in themselves that they need to feel good. For me, no matter how confident I can feel on the inside, the way I look always seems to drag me down. We all have our 'flaws' and things we wish we could change about ourselves and some things we will never be able to change. These things take over our brains and often turn us into someone who we don't want to be.

If you're like me, you will change other things about yourself to make you feel better if you can't change that thing, as much as you want to. I often feel uncomfortable about my acne, and I usually attempt to show my confidence via my hair colour. However, I do often worry about my hair and possible hair loss with the amount I dye it and the stress and depression in which I deal with. I had no idea until recently that depression can actually cause your hair to become dry and weaker, from low moods, a lack of energy and feeling drained which can eventually lead to hair loss!With my weight, my tattoos and bright coloured Dr Martens tend to give me that boost which I need. It's crazy to think what we see about ourselves that others don't see. Even those who seem the most confident, still have their struggles. 

Sometimes people don't struggle with their exterior appearance and more to do with what is within. I know that I struggle with talking to new people and groups of people in the fear that I come across boring and people don't actually want to know what I have to say. In some ways, this can actually be harder to overcome than the physical appearance side of confidence as it is you fighting against yourself. Although we can mask what we dislike on the outside, trying to lie to ourselves on the inside can often prove to be harder than it seems. Mind who is a mental health charity has some great tips about coming to terms with your low self-esteem and how you can get to the bottom of the issues to be able to allow yourself to continue to heal. Blast out those negative thoughts and fill the spaces with more positive ones. 

To me, my confidence does build every single day, week or month of the year. I've started to learn how to celebrate my successes, think about the 'good' qualities which I have and why they're good to have. I've also learnt how to stick up for myself more and become more assertive that includes everything from saying no to stuff I really don't want to do to taking control of your thoughts and not letting someone else do this for you. I totally understand this is not as easy as it seems but there a huge variety of resources in which you can use to help build your confidence on a daily basis and hit back against those negative thoughts.  

"Confidence is not they will like me, confidence is, I'll be fine if they don't"  

Confidence is about celebrating the little things you do, rather than focusing on what you weren't able to do. Making note of these victories for when your confidence is meter is a little low can be a great way to keep building rather than knocking it back down again. Spend time with those who make you feel great and who love you for you. My final piece of advice to those of you who feel this way is to reach out. Whether it is to a professional or a loved one, it's worth talking these things over, as often they can give you a whole new perspective on things. 

Would You Have Counselling Online?

When you’re experiencing a mental health issue, it’s important to seek therapy or counselling. There are many ways to do this, whether you decide to work with a counselor in your local area or someone online. It’s a personal decision. Seeing a counsellor face to face has its advantages. You get that face-to-face interaction, and it can feel good to talk with someone in a physical space. However, for some people, online counselling is an option that feels more intimate to them than going to see a therapist. Let’s discuss some of the reasons that online counseling could work for you.

Online counselling is exceptionally convenient. You can see your counsellor wherever there is a reliable Internet connection. It’s convenient in the sense that you can choose where and when you look at your therapist online. You’re able to speak with them via video chat, messaging, or over the phone. You get to pick whatever modality works the most efficiently for you. Your counsellor is adaptable and will work with your schedule. Plus, you won’t get stuck in traffic on the way to therapy!

Remote Areas and Accessibility
People who have disabilities or live in remote areas where there is not a large selection of therapists or counsellors tend to gravitate toward online therapy platforms. It’s a great alternative when you don’t have a large variety of mental health professional you'll find in the database of an online therapy site that there are more options than you might imagine, making it easier to access a specialist. Sometimes, your mental health needs are highly specific, and there are not people in your area that can cover those concerns.

Social anxiety
Sometimes one of the barriers to getting help is social anxiety. People who struggle with social interaction might have difficulty connecting with a therapist, so online counselling is an excellent alternative to sitting in a therapist’s office and talking with them in person. Online therapy provides a sense of intimacy that isn’t necessarily there when you’re working with a counsellor in a physical space. The person who is speaking with their counsellor feels connected with them because they are using their own devices - whether that’s a tablet, phone, or laptop. They get to choose how they communicate with their therapist, and that can relieve a lot of anxiety.

Communication styles
Every human being expresses themselves differently and has different preferences for how they like to communicate. Whether that is through voice, seeing somebody visually, or text. With online counselling, you can choose which modality of communication will work best for you and your counsellor. It helps because you can dictate the treatment, in a sense. You know your learning style, and you understand what makes you able to grasp the concept of new coping skill. Therapy isn’t just a place where you talk about your problems; it is a teaching place as well. You want to make sure that you get the information you need in a way that you will understand it. Maybe you’re not sure which mode works for you yet. You can try out different kinds of communication, such as text, video, and messaging. It’s helpful to experiment to see which of those gives you the best results. You and your counsellor can work together and decide what the most optimal communication style is for you.

Getting help is easier than before
Before online counselling, people may have hesitated to get help. Technology has made it easier than ever before to seek out a therapist and find someone who you connect with to get mental health services. Companies like BetterHelp offer a variety of different counsellors to choose from, so you’ll be sure to find one that meets your needs. It can be anxiety-provoking to try and get mental health care, but online therapy can relieve some of that stress by making it easier to find a therapist who specialises in your needs. An online mental health professional is dedicated to helping you stick to your schedule and to accommodating your needs. You have the right to get the help that you need in the way that you need it, so give online counselling a shot.

*This is a guest post written by Maria Miguel on behalf of BetterHelp, however, I had full editorial rights over this post. 

Lets talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Hello November. Goodbye Sunlight. 

The day of the year I dread more than most the day the clocks go back and this year that was on 28th October, I didn't mind the extra hour in bed, or that day, in general. It was a pretty good Sunday, but the loss of light which was ahead was stuck in my head. Knowing that it wouldn't be until March when those long nights became longer days all over again. Sat my desk that day, knowing when I started it was only just getting light and when I finish the light will be completely gone. Limiting myself to going out in the evenings because the dark is something I fear. The person I become not having those extra hours of light struggles through the next few months. SAD also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression which comes and goes throughout a seasonal pattern. Most of us struggle with change which is out of our control, but this goes deeper than that. The change for most of us who struggle with SAD is unbearable. The lack of light makes us a shadow of who we were in the summer. SAD doesn't just affect people who struggle with the winter months, it can be the same for the summer months too. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder brings out the worst parts our depression and there's nothing we can do about it. For me personally, it makes me want to hide out in my bed a lot more, as the idea of going outside is not something I want to contend with. Getting up and going to work seems to become more of a struggle each and every day. The energy I had in the other 5 months of the year, zapped from within me. Looking forward to the months of being able to open the curtains and feel happy to be awake. SAD can often make us feel like we want to hibernate and not see our friends, not go out, and finding it hard to sleep at night and then almost impossible to stay awake in the light. One of my bad bouts involved me failing to sleep at night due to constantly waking up, then sleeping all day until it was dark again. I think I went 4 days without seeing any natural light and it made me feel so ill, but I couldn't overcome it. 

Despite this, Christmas is still one of my favourite times of the year, and this is something which helps me to get through those really bad days. The upcoming excitement of the streets being covered in lights, a huge tree making its way to the middle of the town, my house being filled with bright and quirky ornaments and of course the best Christmas songs and films around. The spirit of people coming together churns out some of the person who has been hiding inside. I find it a lot easier to cope on days when I feel like I have things to look forward to, and as much as I hate to admit it on the days when I eat better, I do feel the benefit. Taking those daily vitamins is a great way to boost your mood from within also, I often don't realise how much they do for me until I stop taking them. Vitamin C and D are my best friends for giving me an extra boost.

Until recently I had suffered in silence about Seasonal Affective Disorder and when a work friend and I started to discuss how every single morning at work felt like we had to wade through water whilst feeling like we have weights on our ankles which was pulling us back down, no matter how hard we tried to stop it. He told me about SAD lights and what a difference they make to each day, this is called light therapy. Most light boxes emit 10,000 lux, which boosts the serotonin in your brain and helps you cope day to day during these times For someone who didn't even know these existed, it was a huge relief to learn such things are available in these bad times. This year, I've started to research in purchasing my own lightbox. who sell these lights also have a huge section of information on their site about the different types of light boxes you can get to suit your lifestyle as well offering information on SAD itself, which can be useful to share with friends and family. also recommend getting light in as early as possible to boost your energy throughout the day. 

For now, until the sun returns for another summer ahead, I will try to make the most of the light around me, whether that is real, or artificial. It all makes a difference.

Me, Myself & I. {AD}

2018 has actually been a year where I've noticed a huge amount of growth in myself, unfortunately not height wise *forever stuck at 5'3* but with my confidence. I've found myself doing things I wouldn't have done before, wearing clothes I'd of once felt I wasn't pretty enough to wear, speaking to new people and feeling more confident in myself as a whole. This for me is a huge win, from making new friends, staying at my job for 18 months, trying new styles of clothing and even wearing colour, going out more with friends and even feeling like my social skills are somewhat improving. 

  For me, since I can remember I have always been afraid, afraid of just about everything. Leaving my mum at the school gate, to doing my work experience in year 10. To leave my hometown and visit anywhere else. Going to pubs, clubs and even blogger events. I even have a phobia of most foods, including the texture of meat and anything that has seeds. 

Growing up, I always knew I was different. I found it hard to make friends, and I didn't know how to act around new people. Doing sports at school made me scared in case I would fall, and it wasn't the phobia of falling and hurting myself, it was the phobia of what people would do, would they laugh? would they act like didn't happen or would they come and help me. I would forever play out each of the scenarios in my head and it consumed my life. Despite having various types of therapy, I wasn't ever sure how to overcome my struggles.  

I would write stories, and I always would be the shy girl, the underdog who just needed her chance to shine, and it felt like this was me my entire life growing up. I would want to be one of the 'popular' people and always fell short. I forever dreamed of being an author, I would spend hours of my time, drafting all of these stories, especially after reading book after book where the uncool girl became the one everyone wanted to be friends with. 

Being different for me in my teenage years was something I found hard, I wanted to belong somewhere where I wasn't alone. I tried to change myself so much but it wasn't the answer, even as an adult up until recently, I thought I needed to fit in. 2018, has been the year where I've stopped caring what people think of me, I am that girl who has bright coloured hair, a yellow raincoat on and the brightest doc martens. Weirdly, now after hating who I am for the majority of my life, I feel somewhat more confident in who I have become.

"Be proud of how you see yourself, rather than ashamed of how others see you."

There are people everywhere, and I wish I had understood this growing up. The people who are around you now, are unlikely to be around forever. Things change, people change and the world changes. Some friendships last, sadly others don't. You learn who your real friends are and those who aren't. You only need to live for you, and that's the huge thing in life a lot of people don't realise, myself included

Learning, that living with a mental illness doesn't make me any less worth happiness, and that my moods are something that sometimes I cannot control. I didn't choose this illness, in fact, it chose me. I come with my quirks but that's just what makes me, well yano, me. 

My goals for 2019 are to work on my confidence even further, this includes facing the things that make me 'hate' myself, as opposed to loving myself. Keep making steps in the right direction and continue being me. 

University, the unknown and what to do when you can't cope.

It's now been over a year since I finished university which feels like such a long time ago in some aspects and like it was yesterday in others, yesterday, I was invited along to speak on BBC Radio 5 live about mental health awareness whilst at university from the perspective as someone who has made it through university (by some miracle) whilst having a mental illness in tow. The experience of the radio was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed having that verbal platform, I also decided it would be great to share my experiences on my blog as there is so much more which needs to be spoken about and as you've probably guessed from my blog and my huge section on mental health, it's something I am passionate about. I have previously touched on my experiences on What Uni and decided it would be great to expand on this on my blog too. Let me know your thoughts and feelings in the comments below your experiences around mental health and university. 

The pressures of going to university: 
University can be a difficult experience for anyone who goes, whether you're the most outgoing person around or the quietest. The picture painted for most of us around university is one of the best times of your life, no parents, a ton of alcohol and parties, making new friends and for most of us love interests too. Oh and that *small thing* of work, lectures and learning new things. I went to university on a whim, which is definitely not something I'd recommend, during college, I felt like I was talked into going to university, it was never something that massively interested me, as I didn't know the career path I wanted to go down. I remember when everyone was at college, applying to UCAS and choosing the universities they wanted to go to, I felt like I wasn't ready to go or if I was going to go at all. Although we are all considered adults at 18, I don't feel like many of us are in the right place to make the decision of what our future could hold and for £27,000+, it is a pretty important decision to make. I was told to apply by my tutors and then if I didn't go then all I'd lose is the application fee for that university. So I did. I applied to the local university as at this point the idea of moving away and living with strangers was not something I could deal with. 

For anyone who isn't sure about the route to take, after college/sixth form it can be extremely difficult to decide as it one of the first times in your life you have to make that choice yourself, but it is important to remember that if you decide you no longer want to be a part of the course which you've joined you can drop out within 1st year and then go on to start a new course and get full funding for the three years. Which is something I wish I had done as I knew from the early days the course is not something I wanted to carry on doing. 

Change, so much change:
I remember the first few weeks of my lectures were absolutely awful as I struggle to take the information in, let alone write it down as I was convinced my stomach might rumble (like really loud) or that I might not be able to get a seat despite there always being way more seats than people. It feels somewhat like going back to school as you're in a whole new place, on your own and you don't know how to feel. Then comes the workload and for me that felt like it was never-ending, you'd get work for each of your modules and were told you needed to put like 40 hours study in at home a week which in reality isn't really possible and to top it all off, making new friends involves having somewhat of a social life. Of course, with that much change, the majority of us are going to feel floored by that, but it is important to remember that other people will feel the same as you and you can talk to people about it. I often found myself taking to the internet mainly Twitter to talk about my anxiety around university and I found a lot of other people related to how I felt.

I'm struggling: 
Whether it is you or a friend who is struggling, there are platforms of support out there for them. I know a lot of university students don't reach out to their parents for fear of feeling like a failure. Others struggle to reach out to their friends due to what they're seeing on social media and for me, that was a huge part of the FOMO I was feeling, as all of my other friends were meeting new friends, partying and I struggled to keep my head above water. Most universities offer counselling on site to help those struggling and in the last few years, the support keeps getting bigger and better. There shouldn't be any stigma in needing to reach out for further support, no matter who you reach out to. I ended up needing to be signed off university for a while, which meant I needed a sick note from my doctor which is when my university became aware of my struggles and told me all about what they offer on site. I was assigned a note taker for those times in lectures when I wasn't able to cope with coming in or when I was struggling to take focus. I remember feeling really embarrsed when the note taker would hand me my notes as from the outside I look and act 'fine'. Before my sick note, I wasn't really aware of my university offering these services, so it is important to speak to your lecturers to find out what is available for you.

This is not your fault:
It's easier than said done to believe in situations of crisis that you are not to blame. But the same as any illness physical or mental you cannot help it. I remember thinking how pathetic I am, surrounded by a room of people who are doing the exact same thing as me, but yet again I am the one struggling to come to lectures, not being able to make friends and finding it hard to comprehend the 40 hours of work I am due to do after this. But now I am starting to understand these situations aren't my fault and can't be helped. Whatever course you are studying, in whatever town or city or even country you are allowed to feel overwhelmed and shouldn't feel guilty for doing so.

P.s. If you don't feel like you can talk to anyone around you in real life, remember there are people you can call to talk through your feelings such as Samaritans who are free to call  and you can reach them on 116 123
 and they're open 365 days a year 24/7 and are happy to talk through just about anything you're struggling with, as someone who has used them previously, it is great to be able to talk about your feelings with someone who doesn't know you and can offer an ear. Mind also offers a lot of amazing services, including resources if you're in crisis. Finally, if you or someone around you is feeling distressed it is worth ringing 111, who can offer you the best advice and services that may be needed. 

I am thinking of creating a series of posts around mental illness/health and university and I would love to know if this is something you'd enjoy, let me know in the comments and I hope you found this post somewhat useful. 

Lets talk about: Relationships and Mental Health.

Without a doubt, being in a relationship when you suffer from a mental illness makes it 10x more difficult especially for me as someone who has BPD I previously wrote a post about dating when you have BPD and I thought it would be interesting to delve more into what it is like when you get past the dating stage. I find the start of relationships the most difficult part as it's so new, and I wonder what is ok to tell that person without scaring them off, as well as struggling to comprehend my own emotions in these new situations. That new person doesn't know about your triggers, how to cope with you when you're having a bad day or may not even be aware of the condition in itself. Each relationship is different and in some relationship, one person has a mental illness or both of you might, and the severity of each persons illness may vary and that's where it gets complicated. If you both suffer from different issues it makes it somewhat easier in real life situations to deal with, especially with anxiety as most of us know that some people struggle with situations more than others. My boyfriend struggles with things I often don't and vice a versa. I do think being in a relationship with someone who has had a first-hand experience of mental health does make them more empathic towards you and your situation, but also those who have been around others suffering as they understand somewhat what you are going through.  

Emma from Emma Jots says: 
I suffer from anxiety, depression and extreme stress. I also have chronic IBS which is brought on by all of the above. I have suffered with self-harm in the past and always felt extremely vulnerable because of my mental health issues. But my husband really understands and he gives me time, and he looks out for me all the time. We get through it and come out stronger. I do feel like I am a drain on him at times but he gives me the caring side I need.

Like Emma, I do often feel like I am draining on Will and it can be hard to get over the hurdle of them wanting to be with you because they want to and not because they have to, and in my head, this will always be something that I worry about. The care that is shown to me by Will does really help with my mental health and even when I end up getting unwell and taking my feelings out him, he is understanding of why. 

Alice from Danity Alice advised:
Communication is key, and someone who is supportive and understanding is great as she knows even on her bad days she can rely on him for support.  

Like Alice, I agree that communication is key, without it, it does often cause issues in a relationship, trying to keep a front on things is often when I find out that it causes issues within a relationship. 

Alice from Alice Loyallaloen shared her personal experience on the subject here:
For me, I think a positive way to approach this type of relationship is it’s about understanding the triggers that another person has and realising that to you it may not mean much but to another person I may mean a lot. Patience and compromise and realising that nothing is a direct reflection on you and your relationship. Mental health is at times irrational and illogical so it’s about being supportive and understanding the realities of what someone else feels. I have been in relationships that have been sooo toxic because of misunderstanding my mental health. There were horrific arguments all because of a complete disregard for support and kindness. I even had issues with a previous partner thinking that I did not have a problem and that anxiety isn’t a thing. If someone does not understand and acknowledge your mental health issues then there is no point in a relationship with them in my opinion.

Alice gives a great point in this about stating that mental health is at times irrational and illogical and it is, it takes away any of the feelings that a 'normal' person would have and amplifies them and this is often hard to deal with, a small argument can turn into a huge one, and unless it is spoken about it will keep spiralling out of control, I do find it hard to admit when I am wrong and often when I am struggling as it makes me feel weak. I am starting to learn a lot more about myself and with the help of BetterHelp who is an online service who offer help from trained therapists as well as a huge range of articles to help you along your journey, I am starting to learn how to function better as part of a couple After being on your own for so long and being with someone who doesn't really understand what you are going through, it can be hard to let your guard down. 

Finally to finish off the post I thought it would be interesting to get Will to share his thoughts on Relationships and Mental Health. 

Will says: 
I think being able to understand and communicate mental health issues is really important in relationships. Without those two things, it could cause conflict and tension. It can be really hard to open up about mental health issues but when you're with someone who gets it and understands things can start to look up. I think since I've learnt about what mental health issues Olivia suffers from it's helped me to be able to make things better for her. We've been able to talk about it and we have both made lots of progress together.

Thank you to everyone who has taken part in this post, it is great to understand from other points of view from what it is like to suffer from mental health issues in a relationship and how you overcome it.

*This post was sponsored by BetterHelp and always all thoughts are my own and they're a great company who do some amazing work. 

The truth about dating with BPD

Dating with BPD is a tricky one, from my own personal experience I fall fast and find it had to cope with the emotions that come from dating. Dating for anyone can be confusing, do they like me? Why haven't they replied? I think I've been ghosted and half of the time that person just doesn't like you and doesn't have the guts to tell you. I have always struggled to think rationally when it comes to dating, and I am always willing to give someone a chance. As someone with BPD, I do think I am easily manipulated and I know I give off those vibes, which sadly people use for their own gain. I find it hard to not know things, so when I am left hanging after a date whether it's a few hours or a few days it makes me feel like there is something wrong with me, or I did something wrong. My best friend always said whilst I was dating I went after the red flags instead of avoiding which to some degree I can now see this is true. I like to try to fix those who don't want to be fixed, I get attached to people who treat me badly and those who are actually nice to me confuse me as I don't understand why they're being nice. 

I dated someone who was nice to me until I fell for him, acting like I meant so much to him. Then bam, he was gone, and only came back when he needed something from me. But in my head, this meant he wanted to come back to me and I spent the best part of 2 months being treated like a piece of rubbish by this person. It honestly felt so much longer too. I've never felt mistreated so badly by another human, and as innocent as he tried to play the whole situation, he knew exactly what he was doing. He was looking at other girls Tinder profiles in front of me, on dating apps messaging girls telling them they're beautiful and acting like I didn't exist. I am so glad to this day he finally cut me off or I am worried it never would have ended. 

"Stop looking for happiness in the same place you lost it." 

I met guys on Plenty of Fish and Tinder who were great to chat to, but if we met in person they were nothing like they said, I met someone who was racist and another who kept 'making jokes' about how hot their sister was, claiming it was ok as it was only his half-sister, but that made no difference. Some dates it felt like we were both trying to find something to say, like about anything, including the age of the building we were in. I started seeing a guy who told me my issues were clearly linked to deeper issues than I was willing to confront. People liked to play therapist on me, telling me how I should feel and why I felt in certain ways, but they had no idea.  I met guys who were great guys, but they weren't the guys for me. I went through months of struggling with my own sexuality and wondering what this attraction to girls I was having was about and why I was still more attracted to guys than girls. I met people who taught me a lot of valuable life skills, I made friends with some of the people I dated, and I felt less lonely the more I dated. 

The whole time I was dating, I had no idea I actually had BPD, I knew there was something more than the issues I had been diagnosed with at this point, but I didn't know how to address them. Which for me was terrifying as I was just burying the issues deeper and deeper and hoping they went away. I became more reckless with meeting people I didn't even really know and could have put myself in serious danger, but at the time I didn't even care. Being a super bad place with your mental health and then going out to date isn't something I'd recommend, as you're not as well equipped to deal with the bad situations as you may be on a 'normal' day. I felt like my heart kept being broken over and over and put a clock on every one of the people I dated, like that Black Mirror episode but the clock was in my head and it was how long it would last before someone walked out. In a way, I think this was me self-sabotaging the good things to protect myself, but at the time I couldn't see that. 

It was around seven months into being 'single' and I was talking to this guy who would spend all night talking to me on Facebook video calls, we'd chat about normal things, and it turned out we went to the same college and did the same course just in different years and now did the same degree at university as me. We talked about the people we knew in common, and it turned out we probably met previously at college. We went on our first date at Starbucks and he offered to pay for my drink and although I turned him down, it was such a great first date and he was everything I thought he was, and all he wanted to was get to know me. Which for me was exactly what I needed, we took our time to get to know each other which is not something my brain was used to from past relationships. That person is Will, and we are still together now and I couldn't imagine not having him by my side. He's my best friend and more and I can say he saved me from myself. 

"A simple hello could lead to a million things"

Dating when you have BPD is anything but smooth sailing, and although dating is confusing and hard for anyone who does it, doing it with BPD makes it 10x worse. To anyone who is currently dating with BPD or any other mental illnesses, I completely know where you are coming from if you need to talk to someone who has been where you are. I think it's important to remember that your friends and family say things because often they notice the signs that you do not, and even though it sucks to hear it, they're usually right and those who take advantage of your kind nature aren't worth your time or energy, ever. 

Why it's OK to take a mental health day.

Despite suffering from mental health issues all of my adult life, I still find needing to take time off when I am suffering one of the hardest things to do. I don't think there will ever be a time when I need to take that time off that I won't feel guilty. Despite it being exactly the same as psychical health because it can't be seen, it somehow makes me feel like I am being lazy. Last summer I had to take a month out due to struggling so bad with my mental health and every time I went out of the house I felt guilty. Even if it was only to the gym or therapy, like the motto of if I am sick I should be in bed was drilled into me growing up, but this is a different kind of sick, on the outside I look normal, despite the possibility of huge eye bags, messy and unwashed hair and 3 days old pjs. 

I am not in any physical pain that you can see, but my brain convinces me of all of the bad things and talks me out of anything good I once felt about myself, it makes me feel tired, like I've walked a hundred miles, I have headaches from the lack of sleep I am getting and don't even get me started on my panic attacks. But yet I still feel guilty for being 'sick', I suppose I see it as there is no way it's going to be cured, unlike a cold or a sickness bug. 

I wake up with the dread over my head that I need to tell my work once again I am feeling ill, and they already know what it's going to be, and despite being kind and understanding I can't help but feel like one of the worst people in the world. I lay in bed surrounded by the guilt of having to phone into work and also the sheer panic that this is the time I am going to get fired. Luckily for me, my work is understanding and as long as I am willing to see my doctor/ be proactive about the time I need off, they are ok with it. But no matter how many times I am in this situation, it ends up feeling like the worst time yet.

Usually, I am lucky, the days off I have are enough to help me recover and help me to feel better, however, I know some of us aren't that lucky. This time last year I was signed off for 5 weeks at the same job I am at now as I went from a small amount of part-time work to 5 days a week with blogging added on top, and everything became too much. I felt scared that this was going to be the end of my new job back then and that didn't make it any easier to relax. Once I went back to work things seemed easier, I cut down my days to 4 and do a lot more blogging now and it feels less like I am drowning. I will always have my down days, weeks or even months but that is something I need to come to terms with. 

Please remember that your work should treat your mental health the same as they would with any psychical health condition and allow you the time you need to recover. I understand that often it is hard to open up to your employer in the first place, but if you feel comfortable doing so I would recommend it, so they can provide the support you may need. I am lucky in the fact I have a doctor that knows my situation and is happy to provide my work with the documents I need for long-term sickness. 

I am now hoping that I do not need another sick day for a while as I hate taking them and I hate phoning up to tell them that I feel this way, but if I do, I know it cannot be helped and I shouldn't make myself feel guilty for it. I'd love to know your experiences with mental health days at your work in the comments. 

What I always pack for travelling!

Going away travelling can be a stressful experience for anyone, for me, I find it difficult due to the masses of anxiety that build up beforehand and I ended up forgetting just about everything I am supposed to take with me. Packing for a holiday is something I dread as I am more of a throw these items of clothing on the morning kinda girl, rather than planning each outfit, so I usually end up taking half of my wardrobe, shoes I haven't worn in years and just about every medication I've ever taken 'just in case'. In the past, I have forgotten items from my phone charger to my kind of, important inhaler, oops.

I was recently introduced to an app called Medsmart which is your virtual medicine cabinet, where you can store a list of all of your medications, set reminders of when you need to take them and it's great for in an emergency to allow a full list of your medications and conditions to be listed. The app is also completely free with no hidden charges within, this app works well for me as it allows me to make sure I have all of my meds packed and I also live with the fear of something bad happening and the people around me not knowing what possibly could be wrong. The Medsmart app has over 20,000 medicines listed, some letting you know how to take a certain medication and most of them listing the ingredients in. It also includes a share button to allow you to be able to send a list of your medication to somebody else, this is great if you were in a foreign hospital and they do not have your medical records. You can download Medsmart here for Apple devices and here for Andriod

In my hand luggage, I always need headphones as they're key to surviving any long journey, some earplugs are always good for a long haul flight as nobody wants to hear the snoring of Barry from two rows behind. I also would need to include my inhaler, a hair bobble, my phone, a possible colouring book and some snacks, can't beat a few packs of sweets on the way really. Oh, and a really good book or two. I tend to store the majority of my medication in my hand luggage as they are easily able to be accessed. 

For my suitcase the fun really beginnings, like I said above I am awful at picking what to wear in advance so I pretty much chuck in anything that I've worn within the 3 years which is remotely sun-related in case I may need it. Enough makeup to last me around 6 months, my toiletries which are in another bag similarly sized to makeup bag, I mean you never know when you're going to need more than one deodorant and how many hair bobbles you may lose (those things are forever getting away) and are you really going on holiday if you don't take double the amount of pants and socks for the days you are actually going for? Shoes are usually the thing that I spend the least time thinking about, I pretty much live in Converse so I add my trusty pair of pink converse and a pair of sandals in my case and I am good to go.

The final few things I always add to my luggage are a map of the place we are going to (Google Maps is so unreliable), a phrase book for those go to phrases I may need such as 'where can I get a pizza from?' and enough of the currency to have a royally good time. Oh, and I may possibly need my tickets and passport, could be helpful! I would love to know what your travel essentials are in the comments below and also if you use this app what are your thoughts on it?

*This post is in collaboration with Medsmart but all words are my own and if you haven't yet downloaded their app, I'd recommend it as its a lifesaver!