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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. 

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. 

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. 

Start Now, Not Tomorrow- My Story Of Mental Health.

As I write these words on the page it's impossible to say how people are going to react when they read them, but I am going to talk about two words. Two words which nearly everyone has been affected with is too scared to talk about in case of being judged only to find out more people than ever are also suffering too. If you haven't figured it out yet, I am talking about Mental Health. I have wrote a smaller version of this post and some of struggles before, but I decided now is the time to get real and talk. So I've dealt with Depression since the age of 14, it's been hard always, I've always been the outcast, the weirdo, the freak for as long as I can remember I've always been odd. At first I just thought I was really sad a lot of time no-one talked to me about what I could of been dealing with but I didn't really let on how bad it really was, I was being bullied to the point where I could of taken my own life, I went to counselling and got put on medication many times but nothing seemed to get any better. Somehow for two years I managed to just "deal with it" I'd spend a lot of time eating and gained a lot of weight, but nothing made me feel any better.

Last summer I realized I couldn't go on how I was and ended up being re-diagnosed and further to be diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) due to things which have previously happened to me (don't feel right talking about them on here) some of you may of noticed my HUGE break from blogging, and it was all related I felt like I couldn't even get out of bed let alone, set up perfect pictures, go on the internet, join in with chats and write blog posts and if I did they just wouldn't been to my standard. But after a long break, I am happier than ever and glad to be back.

So why am I writing this post may you ask? Well I am writing this post to talk to you about the seriousness of Mental Health and how more people are struggling more than ever, people are scared to talk in case they get judged, you can't see Mental Health- who says it's even a thing to some people its not, some people will never understand, some think depression is sadness etc. But I'm here to say to you, you can do it whether you tell another blogger, a friend, a family member if you are struggling you can talk to people. At the end of the day Mental Health is a REAL thing, people are suffering with it, the same way they are Cancer, and it takes lives also. If you could talk to someone and help them through you could save someones life.

 I am lucky after many years of suffering I've got true friends, an amazing boyfriend and a support network behind me and one day I hope to beat my illness, I know I'll have down days and I'll never be the same again, but you know what? I'll probably be damn stronger than I have ever been when I come to terms with everything that has happened. Mental Health isn't something to ashamed of, it's not a dirty thing, it's not wrong. Some people will question why I put my business something as personal as this online, but why not? What's wrong with sharing something that could save someone else from suffering in silence. I'm not ashamed of my illness, who I am anymore and neither should you be.

The question on everyone's mind, why did I change my name? Or for those who didn't know I changed my name from Jessica Leigh to Olivia Jade, it's something I've thought about for a very long time, and I am SO happy I did it, it's made me feel like I can start over again as the person I've always wanted to be, I feel awkward when I am constantly being asked why so there is your answer, I picked the name because I like it and it makes me happy when people say they are proud of me for doing it or that I'm brave, I am actually starting to agree, it's a pretty big thing to do but I won't ever look back, I am Olivia and I am here to tell you, that no matter what you are struggling with, big or small. If you can't talk to someone you know in real life, you can always send me a message, whether this is appropriate to my blog or not, I don't even care this is something I feel passionate about and I won't be silenced anymore. Thank you if you took the time to read this entire post and I'd love it if you could share it with others as it's something we need to deal with now rather than later.

The truth about reaching out.

**TW** This post contains themes which may be triggering, including suicide. 

20th of July 2017, the day I passed my driving test, that day is often in my thoughts and not because I passed my test, due to the passing of Chester Bennington. Growing up I was a huge fan of Linkin Park and they were one of the few bands who really spoke to me, I felt heard by someone. As a 14-year-old, their music was something I'd listen to most days on my iPod shuffle, Minutes to Midnight being the album I listened to most frequently and although their music is *sad*, it helped me through some dark times of my own. So to hear that Chester Bennington had taken his own life, it was hard to comprehend. There had been many interviews posted online about his struggle and despite the fact he was perceived to have 'everything', he was ill. You couldn't see from the outside, but on the inside, it was eating him up. Like most of us who suffer from mental health issues, it does sometimes feel like the 'easiest' way out, and for those of you who have never felt in that way, you are lucky. Those thoughts completely consume you and once they've trapped you it's hard to break out. Chester wrote songs which shouted out about his pain and how he felt and we all listened but did we do enough? 

Mental health is as important as your physical health. 

Fast forward to April 2018, and on the 20th of April I came on to Twitter to find the news of Avicii passing. Avicii who was a DJ who worked with some of the biggest names in music had died. I couldn't help but wonder what had happened to him. A lot of rumours quickly started to emerge how he died, starting with things like his previous health conditions. It took until the 26th of April for his family to confirm what had happened, they released the following statement saying he "really struggled with thoughts about meaning, life, happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace" Despite Avicii having 'everything', it wasn't enough to save him. Like Chester, Avicii was struggling with his inner demons and despite having so many people who love and care about them, it's often not enough to stop the thoughts. A lot of people during these times blame themselves, but really it's usually the thoughts within their own heads. As someone who has felt in such a bad way it did seem like the way out, it's a really scary place inside your head, which you can't even escape. 

We are only in June of this year but another handful of celebrities followed in the footsteps of Avicii and Chester, including Kate Spade, who was one of the most creative and inspirational women in the world. Her designs were initiative and she spoke out for what she believed in, her bags which were bright and fun, was a showcase of her amazing talents. An idol to many designers and young women. A shock to the system, once again. But it wasn't long before the tweets and Facebook statuses started to appear, advising people to reach out. Sharing numbers of helplines and other ways to reach out, including speaking to someone online or that you trust. Sadly, even if we are to reach out, I feel like people have their own lives and often struggle to seek help on multiple occasions in the fear of 'bothering' people. Reaching out full stop is amazing, and I will never take that away from anyone as it does save lives, but what about those who need more than that? With the mental health services stretched thin, it's hard to get the help needed. 

I am one of those people who will open up to certain people during times of crisis. But I have been at points in my life, where I've thought about giving it all up. Staying alive can honestly be one of the hardest things when you feel alone. You constantly feel like a burden and don't know where to go from there. One of the worst things about mental health is, it convinces you, just about everyone in the world is against you, nobody understands and it's just not worth going through anymore. I don't know one person who has felt suicidal or committed suicide who didn't attempt to get some kind of help first and for a while managed to battle their demons. 

For most people who feel like suicide is the only option, they've suffered for a long time and no matter what help they get it appears to be their only way out, mental illness can take complete control of a person and they lose that person they once were. Mental illness is made up of tons of illnesses, people deal with these differently and sadly none of them are easy to escape from. For those of you who are still here but suffer on a daily basis, you know I'm here, you know you are amazing. You have the strength you need to keep battling through, we believe in you. 

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.

TW. Stand. Together. Against. Mental. Illness. In. 2018.

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35. Self Harm is one the rise and we still struggle to talk openly about it due to the stigma attached. Mental health is a scary enough battle without having to face it alone, yet so many of us are left with no choice. From my own experience, I have been told it could just be my hormones, you'll grow out of it, just take your mind off it, do other things. Trust me, I've tried everything to make myself feel better, there doesn't seem to be any other choice but to suffer in silence. I am sick of seeing articles about why I have depression due to eating 'this' food or spending a certain amount of time doing something like watching TV. Mental illness is the same as any other illness, except you are unable to see it, nobody can see it, and you're the only one who feels it. A doctor isn't able to give you a prescription and take the pain away like some other illnesses. You have to fight to prove that you are actually sick and that what is in your head is the reason you act this way. People are so quick to judge and usually aren't willing to hear the explanation behind it.  The things that happen to us when we are younger have a big impact on our mental health, with the internet at our disposal in 2018, people come across things online that they may not have ever seen or meet people they wouldn't have met without it. It's surreal really. 

Having access to the internet growing up, meant I spent a lot of time in my bedroom. I was talking to my friends on the computer, but I wasn't really talking to anyone in real life, I would fear the outside world. Things were easier online, you could speak to people who got it. Those who cared enough to take the time to reply, even make new friends and sometimes even more. You forget the outside world exists. With technology advancing, we can get an internet connection in most places, and there is no escaping it. We feel the constant need to share, everything we do with the world, from our first child to when we get a new car. Each photo, status and moment you put out there gets analysed. You see your friends get engaged and despite being happy for them, it gives you an element of FOMO. Which makes you wonder why this isn't happening to you and if it ever will. People post the parts of their lives they want you to see and this is always going to be the best version. As a blogger who regularly posts on Instagram and views many others, from the outside looking in, it shares these perfect images of food, body image, makeup and life. But in reality it's not that simple, those shots take hours, to prepare. They're taken, edited, probably edited some more than posted online. But those standards are high to live up to, we are constantly comparing ourselves.

Suffering from a mental illness, the guilt is a huge factor for me. I need a day or two in my house a week to recover, doing nothing. I often feel drained and tired and unwell after putting myself through so much, honestly going out in public for me is a draining experience that is almost impossible to cope with at times. When people ask what I did with my weekend, I often find myself trying to make up something interesting that I could have done, I didn't do it. However, it's better than saying what I actually did, which was nothing. I spend hours upon hours in bed, planning each element of my night, from the order of programmes I will watch to what I will eat. Even when I am 'relaxing' I am not. Everything runs through my head constantly, what were my numbers like at work, this person didn't speak to me what did I do? I can't go to that party next week as I can't deal with it, will everyone think differently of me. I'm having my hair cut tomorrow, what if it goes wrong. I can't face cooking tonight so I'll eat pizza, the guilt hits hard with food, it's hard to keep the motivation to do anything when I feel low. I want to lock myself and forget the world.

When you suffer from a mental illness a lot of the things you do, don't actually make sense and it leaves you as a shadow of yourself. It's terrifying to be in that situation and also to see someone you love suffering from it too. You can tell someone over and over it's going to get better, but in our heads it isn't, you can try to be there for us and we want to be happy, we want to get the energy to face the day and hang out, but it's not that simple. We love you for trying and appreciate you for everything you do. However, at the time, it's almost impossible to see you do the things for the reasons you do. From each time you've called an ambulance or forced me to go outside on my darkest days, you've done it from a place of care. In my opinion one of the scariest parts on mental health is dealing with not actually knowing what is going on yourself, how do you tell others what is happening with yourself when you don't even know yourself? Sitting in a doctors office, trying to explain your mind and why you feel this way but you don't have the answers. You want to get to the bottom of it, but even you don't know how. 

  • By 2030, it is estimated that there will be around two million more adults in the UK with mental health problems than there were four years ago.
It's time to talk and we can change the way in which we think and stand together. 

Mental Health, Meds and Meltdowns!

*TW* Medication for treating mental health is still a huge taboo subject, and until 6 months ago I was one of the people who hated taking medication to deal with my issues. I always felt like it made me weak and I was putting these tablets inside of my body for the sake of it. On my good days I felt like myself, but the bad days didn't go away, and they kept creeping up on me and I'd feel like the worst person in the world. I have been on 5 different types of antidepressants and only now do I feel like these may actually be the ones for me, along with my mood stabiliser medication. It has taken me some guts to go to the doctors in the past to ask for new medications, I was forever convinced they were going to shout at me for stopping taking them, or for needing to try yet another. Luckily for me, with time it got easier and I found a doctor who understood me, and I got referred to the correct people to seek my official diagnosis. 

I've gone through periods of time where I've stopped taking them for a few days but I instantly notice the difference in myself. Sometimes it was done on purpose and other times it was from being forgetful when you have multiple medications to remember it is easy to do, for me the key was purchasing a pill organiser like this one and getting into a pattern where I manage to remember it as part of my night time routine and it has become the same as taking my make up off, brushing my teeth and taking my meds. I feel sad knowing there are people out there that are yet to get the breakthrough with medication, as I myself know that it can be a long complex journey to get the place where I am now and a lot of people refuse to go back after trying a few types as they just seem to make things worse or not do anything at all. I've been there myself and I know what it is like.

I spoke to a fellow blogger about her experience to get a wider view of taking medication whilst suffering from mental health issues.

Neve from Life With Neve says:
"I was in a horrible place, I couldn't eat or sleep or do anything. I'd been going to therapy for at least 6 months and I was still suicidal and self-harming and completely shattered and so I was offered meds. I felt awful when I was first on them but the longer I was on the better I was getting and tbh it was like opening my eyes and seeing everything clearly. I felt like id been in a cloud for years and all of a sudden I had the confidence to go out with my friends and do things alone and I was like a whole new person, the person I had longed to be and work so hard to become. I was on them for 3 years and then I eventually took the step to get off of them and I've been truly fab ever since. So many people say that they don't believe in them etc etc but I literally would not be here today or happy or anything without my doctor put me on them! I watched some of my friends go through the same situations one even being placed on a ward and medication literally helped turn her life around too. I mean I always feel silly saying that I'd not be here without being on my medication but tbh it's true! And it's really right what they say when you start them haha you deffo feel worse before you feel better!" 

I also spoke to another blogger Ida who does not like to take any medication for mental health due to the number of side effects she has had and also has tried many types of different medication. All with negative side effects which she outway any positives of the antidepressants. Although she has now found a medication which helps. She says getting an official diagnosis for ADHD has also helped her be able to manage her moods in ways which aren't medication. 

Where I stand on taking medication to help with antidepressants leaves me a little torn, although these work for me currently, they may not always work and sometimes it does make me worry that I am taking the 'easy' route out. Currently, I am going to continue to take them as I find them of use. I am also looking into the route of online psychiatry as I feel like this is something I may also benefit from. I would love to hear your opinions of treating mental health with medication in the comments below. 

*This is a collaborative post, but all thoughts are my own and thank you to Neve and Ida for helping me with this post. 

Living with Mental Health as a university student! Lets Talk

Mental health is something I will always talk openly about on Dungarees & Donuts as it's not something I am afraid to talk about, if you are looking to find my mental health story check it out here. Today's post is about what it is like dealing with mental health issues at university.

Some of you may know that I never actually stayed in halls as part of my first year at university due to the stress of being around and living with strangers, the crazy amount of thoughts that went through my head talked me out of even considering thinking about halls. I'll never know on what I missed out on not going to live at university halls. I am now just finishing my second year and am moving in with my friends and boyfriend for third year, which I am over the moon about. Although there are still parts of it which scare me, the whole what if I annoy everyone with my weird moods, or what if they start to hate me despite being my friends these are the thoughts that constantly go through my head.

One part of my anxiety and depression which I have noticed does effect my university social life is the way I feel uneasy about visiting my friends at their university and going to clubs. The idea of going to club makes me want to be sick, people all around me, it's warm and so many people are touching you by accident. The fear is unreal. I have been to clubs before but always freaking out and having to leave early, or getting so drunk and feeling so unwell that once again I have to leave early, which really does suck. I'd to be able to experience the 'fun' in clubs but I am not sure it is something I will be okay with in this lifetime. There is one good thing though, I am finally starting to be able to go out to pubs and have a social drink, I can sit in a pub for hours and actually start to enjoy it, I am not sure if it's the fact I don't have to wear 6 inch heels or the fact that I won't randomly get touched that makes going to a pub more okay in my mind.

My friends are so great with my anxiety and depression and when I struggle to go out at all they are great about it and try their best to help me the ways they can. My boyfriend is amazing with it all, if we miss a night out because I can't face it he never once holds it against me, he says he doesn't fancy it anyways, which really helps with my guilt issues. I am not saying this will be the experience for everyone who goes to university, in fact for some people it does them the world of good and helps them break out of their shell! I just wish I was able to take that leap.

An Interview With: A prison officer.

Keys jingle, doors slam shut, doors lock, footsteps can be heard from a distance, on each landing 60 doors look back at you, and behind each door are men who are ready for what today's regime will present to them. After 6 weeks of initial training, I am finally here, my fresh uniform hugs my skin. I'm stood ready, nervous yet eager. I remind myself that this, this right here is the beginning of all I have ever wanted to do. I prepare myself for the stories they will share with me about how they got here, for the men who won't talk to me, for those who fear that my uniform is my way of telling them that I am better than them because I am on the other side.

I think of how many times I will have to remind the masses that we all make mistakes, and that despite the fact that they are serving time for theirs it is not the end rather it is their learning curves. The SO (Senior Officer) screams from the landing "unlock 2's and 4's" and at this point, the anxiety kicks in, I don't know if I'll be able to shoot the bolt or if I will be one of the officers with the horror story of being dragged in. Ten doors later I am smiling, each greeting from the men reassures me that unlocking the door is the easy part, and the conversation that will come after that will be harder to digest.
My first conversation is with a young man who openly admits that he is in for attempted murder, the voice in my head reminds me that we are not here to pass judgement. He starts the conversation questioning why I would want to work in the prison, he tells me I am young and can be doing something better with my time. I begin to explain things to him, I grew up in a neighbourhood where gun and knife crime was highly prevalent. I witnessed someone getting killed at 11 years old and since they cannot count how many people I have seen get stabbed, shot or end up in prison. I tell him of the countless number of friends I have seen go in and out of the system, and remind him that I think everyone can change and that I am here to help the men in whatever way I can. He smiles, then challenges me "you'll become like all the officers who stop caring about us, everyone starts off wanting to help, but the job is hard and they get tired and forgot why they started the job in the first place".

He hits a nerve this time and there is a lump in my throat, I swallow and then I remind myself to be a swan. The swan that gracefully moves on a lake is a picture of elegance in motion but what is hidden from the eye is the activity going on beneath the water’s surface. We don’t see the hard work conducted by the swan’s webbed feet which propels the graceful motion we see and admire. I digressed, I smile at him as I say "if I ever find myself losing who I am here, or no longer doing what I came here to do, then that will be my cue to leave" he smiles shakes my hand and says "you're the first officer I have heard say that, I like you, you're going to be an amazing officer, don't let this place change you".
A month later I still remember his words, it stands as the constant reminder that I came here hoping I can help people. As a teen, I remember wondering why the boys around my area were constantly re offending. At the time, I blamed the prison system for failing these young men, I swore I'd grow up and go in there and fix everything. Being on the other side I have only been given a reality check. I see prison officers, limited in numbers on each wing, who work hard every day to ensure the men get what they are entitled to, and where there is room for more they make it happen. I see young men who put their time and effort into working on the servery, in the application office and being painters or cleaners on the landing, to make everyone's life that little bit easier. Of course, I see anger, frustration, tears and even I have shed a few. Being in a prison environment is hard, it is challenging and sometimes having to work as a team to restrain someone is difficult. As is seeing someone with clear mental health issues being held in the confinement of the prison walls.

As a founder of a Mental Health organisation (SAIE – Survive, Achieve, Inspire and Elevate) myself, I must say it brings me joy to see that the prison has a Mental Health Unit where nurses work actively to help inmates with mental health issues. I guess as much as the job is challenging, it is very rewarding and extremely humbling, and I wouldn't change what I do for a living because I simply love it.
I’d encourage any recent grad looking for a challenge to consider applying for the Unlocked Graduates scheme. It is honestly the best thing I have done and it is time well spent. Unlocked has helped give my life more meaning and allowed me to feel like I have a real purpose. Being a prison officer is an incredibly rewarding role and we get the chance to study for a Master’s alongside our two years on the front line. A free master’s degree yay! I know I’ll be able to use this time to make a real difference.

Written by Saida, graduate from the University of Birmingham and Unlocked Graduate in the 2017 cohort.
*Guest post

Taking Back Control.

It's always daunting coming back to your blog after being away from it for a few weeks and it has been a good couple of months since I've been able to sit down with a clear head and actually want to write posts. I've gone from writing four posts a week to struggling to do four a month, but I guess that's one of the annoying things about mental health, it can take over your entire life, seize you it's grasp and not let you go again. It's even worse when someone manages to get into your head, change everything about you that you once knew and then drop you like they didn't even care. At all. I ended my previous relationship late last year and did the usual, "oh lets join dating sites; if something happens it happens and if it doesn't that's ok too". But then, I met someone and I was happy.

It burnt out very quickly, we stopped talking. I assumed that was the end. Until we decided we could be friends. I wanted new friends and I enjoyed the life he lived so I went for it, why not? Over the following weeks, we tried the whole friends thing, but it was clear quickly it was way more than that. I wanted to give it ago more than anything. I wanted it to work and I would of done anything for him. I put myself in some stupid situations, I sacrificed my friendships  for him as I knew my friends didn't like him. I gave up caring about myself and my mental health was deteriorating. Neither of us would sleep at night as we both had issues with sleeping during the night, so we were sleeping all day. I wasn't even seeing any light apart from when I was falling asleep. This was pretty much everyday. My mood was dropping. Despite this I somehow managed to push through my dissertation and ended up with a 2:2 which I'm so happy I did.

It wasn't until I stepped away from the situation, that I realised it was poisonous from the start, he would never even want to admit he was associated with me in public. He would act like it was all in my head, then when we were alone, he would act like he loved me, telling me he was falling for me, treating me like I was the only girl in the world. In front of others he was constantly checking dating websites, talking to girls and making feel like I was nothing to him. I was supplying him with the lifestyle he wanted, funding everything he wanted. Treating him like he was the best thing in the world, because to me he was. I didn't understand at the time but I honestly felt like it was more like an abusive relationship, it was never physical, but the mental abuse I suffered was not okay. No one deserves to get torn down every single to the point where they don't know who they are anymore, they feel so empty and alone that they don't know how to cope. Made to feel like they are worthless.

Then one day, after he admitted he actually had feelings for me and wanted to give it ago, he started being weird with me, and you know, when something doesn't feel right? Yeah that. I was sat in his flat and he disappeared for hours, came back and something still wasn't right, and it got to the point where he stopped talking to me all together despite being in the same room for 12 hours. I left his flat the next day and he deleted me off everything. He stopped replying to my messages, it was like he was gone without a trace. That hurt.

The next few days were tough, I spent two months of my life trying to make someone so happy, I had forgotten how to care for myself. My mental health was poor and I was giving everything to a guy who frankly didn't care. I didn't know what I'd done to him so my anxiety went through the roof. I felt like I was a bad person, like I'd done something unforgivable. But worse, this guy who you'd given everything to just cut you out, just like that. You hear from people in your life he's been telling them he cut you loose and that he only stuck around for the money benefits I was offering. It hurts being used. Honestly it does. It was only a few days ago when I finally realised I am SO much better off without someone who is that much of a low life and I found this AMAZING article, which I read about cutting toxic people out of your life (you can read it here) it changed the way I was looking at things, I started to wonder what if I had actually done anything wrong, and it occurred to me I did everything for that person, and that person had let me down. I am still trying to rebuild myself up now, and I am going to find it SO hard to trust again, BUT, I will trust again.

I will find someone who doesn't make me feel awful for wanting to hug them, or for telling them they look good. I will find someone who actually makes me feel good instead of putting me down, I will find someone who wants me around and appreciates what I do for them. I am worthy of that, I know damn well I am. For those of you stuck in a toxic situation, remember it's not your fault and as hard as it may seem, you can get through it, I promise. It may not be easy to get out of, it may take weeks, months or even years to get out of it, but remember you're not alone. Surround yourself with those who make you feel worthy, you need those people in your life.

"To the wrong person, you'll never have any worth. To the right person, you'll mean everything."

Getting Help With Mental Health | Self Help

It takes guts to admit that something isn't right, whether that be with yourself, in your relationship or something else. Setting out and admitting you need help can often be a super huge challenge for people, especially those who aren't used to speaking about themselves. When it comes to mental illness the sad thing is because it's not a visible thing it can be misunderstood and even ridiculed by people and those people are the ones who don't understand. With mental illness there is a huge stigma around it, that is makes you a crazy person, or that you're a weak person which I think is totally not the case at all. In fact in my opinion dealing with a mental illness which is your head day in and day out makes you a pretty damn strong person, you feel weak, you feel scared and most of the time people don't understand you at all which can make it all that bit harder.

When it comes to asking for help it can be difficult, I have heard stories of people being rejected by their doctor which is an incredibly wrong thing to do and they should be the most understanding of them all, but as we move closer to breaking the stigma which comes with mental illness people are becoming more accepting and starting to understand it's not something that can be helped within a person. It makes me annoyed that some people turn around and say that it is your own fault that you have the illness, yet it hits waaaaay more people than everyone knows. A lot of celebrities even suffer from mental illnesses, and just like any other illness, it's blind and it doesn't discriminate against people.

If you're reading this and not sure if you have a mental illness or you're not sure what is going on, you need to sit down with yourself and think about your feelings- if it is easier write them down that way when you go get help it is a lot easier to go through all of the points of how you are feeling, take a friend or a family member with you I promise you it helps a great deal, even if they just wait in the reception area. I think a massive step when dealing with mental health is speaking to people, even if it is just one person who you trust. Let them know you're struggling and you don't know how to cope and they can help you along the way too.

The worst thing you can possibly do is lock yourself away or try to push it away as it'll always rear its ugly head, which is the sad and scary thing. There are so many routes to help deal with everyday life and dependant on your illness there are many suggested routes by your doctor. There is no such thing as you not deserving the help, even if you have a huge house and a perfect family, it doesn't matter.  Mental illness is evil like that. If you feel like you are feeling suicidal please talk to someone whether that be a friend, me or even an anonymous service like Samaritans.If you're struggling in your marriage it may be worth checking out a site such as to see what options there available around you. People care and they want to help you, please take that step to getting help today, I promise it doesn't make you weak or any less of a person, it makes you stronger if anything.

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. 

It's okay, not to be okay.

I've gotta be honest with you guys, this year my mental health has been one of the worst it has been in my 22 years on this planet. My anxiety seems to amplified by 100 and I find each day that bit more challenging. I am forever wondering if it is because I am no longer a student and now work full time, and before that was an emotionally abusive 'relationship' (if you're curious you can read more here.) Although working gives me a purpose which I never had when at university as I was stuck in a degree I hated more than anything and despite managing to complete it this year, go me! My anxiety refused to let me go to graduation, which again was a huge disappointment not only for me but for my family too. A week later I managed to get over my anxiety and pass my driving test, something I genuinely thought I was going to take the most attempts in the world to pass, but I did it on my 5th attempt, quite a few attempts for some, but I did it and that makes me proud. Everyday I suffer with the feeling that something isn't quite right with mental health, I have been given a diagnosis of PTSD ever since I entered the world of getting help for the way I feel, however it just feels like it doesn't feel right, like there is more yano?

I went back to the doctors a few weeks back and was put on Sertaline, my 5th type of antidepressant as usual I wonder if it will do anything at all. I suffer with these moods, these moods which can often have me feeling incredibly low, but also out of this world happy. This worries me. My doctor advised at the mental health service he has re-referred me to should be able to help me seek the correct diagnosis. I struggle like crazy some days to get up, but remember I need to go to work, my managers are super supportive which helps for sure. But I still sometimes struggle. `

I often beat myself up for the way I am, wishing I was someone else and didn't suffer with this condition, which nobody else can see. I wish I was able to control my own moods. However I realise I can't and until I manage to get this under control a little more I may not be able to. So there is only one thing left to do, realise it is okay, not be okay. I am coming to terms with the fact, my condition makes me feel this way, and I shouldn't feel bad or disappointed in myself when I struggle to do things like go out with friends, do certain chores or even when it is really bad go to work. We are all human and I have to say living with a condition that controls your thoughts and feelings is a tough one. So I should keep feeling proud of how well I do manage to cope and keep staying strong.

For all of you out there who are struggling with feeling not good enough, your low moods or anything which isn't your fault REMEMBER this, you are a badass.