“We Progress” Short Film Premiere: Let’s Talk About Mental Health

This week I have a very exiting announcement! I have an wonderful guest on my podcast Exercising Depression, long time friend and Director David Gregory.

David is the director and one of the creators of an incredible short film called We Progress:

This film has a simple but powerful message: Let’s Talk About Mental Health. If you’ve been listening or following me for a significant time you’ll know that is is a message that is very dear and close to my heart.

My main goal in life is to confront and eradicate the stigma that surrounds mental health, talking about mental health and those of us who suffer with it. I aim to do this with conversation; often, open and honestly.

I won’t share too much about the film here; it premier’s on YouTube tonight at 8pm (8/5/2020 8pm GMT) and I want as many of you to watch it. Not only that I hope you check out the Exercising Depression podcast episode beforehand, where I chat with David about the project, his and the other creators visions when creating an filming it and their hopes for it’s impact and message to be shared.

I’ll most likely be writing and publishing a follow up blog post after the premiere to share my own thoughts on it; please join in tonight and feel free to hang around afterwards to char to the creators and other viewers. It’ll be great and very worth your time.

Claire

30 Days Of Music: 1-6

Welcome back to the blog! I was in the middle of writing another blog post about something very personal and painful, and I want to give it as much time as it needs to be  a post I’m happy sharing. I’ve been writing it for nearly a week and I’m only half-way; like I said it’s a very painful but very poignant subject that I’ve been wanting to talk/write about for a while. It’s just not quite ready.

So, I thought I’d do a fun kind of series of posts! This weeks Podcast episode is a bit glum so I wanted to keep the blog post a bit lighter. I’m not sure if you’re aware of the ’30 Day Music Challenge’ that’s going around Instagram? There’s a table with 30 days and 30 prompts for songs:

30 days Pretty fun! My Father-in-Law has been doing it on twitter (his preferred SM of choice) and I’m going to share it on here! I’ll do 6 at a time (a row) and share a little bit more about myself as each song has a little story behind it. I hope you enjoy!

1. A Song You Like With A Colour In The Title: Static-X – Black and White

Static-X are a band I got into when I was a teenager, around 14/15. I saw them live for the first time last year, 3rd October 2019. Unfortunately the lead singer, Wayne Static, died in 2014 so the tour I saw them on was a tribute tour with a brilliant guest vocalist.

Even though it wasn’t the original lead singer, the concert was incredible; my Husband went with me and he…well…we don’t have the same tastes in music. Let’s just leave it at that. But it was a really fun evening, listening to songs I’d loved since I was a teenager and an emotional one; paying tribute to a singer who is greatly missed. I’m gutted I never saw them live with Wayne but the gig in October is definitely one of the best live shows I’ve ever been to.

The song above is from the first album of theirs I owned, Machine. This is the album that made me fall down a rabbit hole of Industrial music and bands that I still love today.

 

2. A Song You Like With A Number In The Title: KMFDM – WWIII

There isn’t actually much of a story with this song. As far as I know this is actually the only song of theirs that I know well. My twin sister had this album and found this band; I’m not really sure why I didn’t really get into them. Listening to that album now it was right up my street!

But if I really think about it, I know the reason. When this song came out I was 16 years old and, as a lot of people do at this age, trying to find my place in a world that frankly scared the hell out of me. I’m quite an outgoing, social and personable person now but back in my teens I was painfully shy. Being a twin and figuring out who I was as an individual, it was an added issue – don’t think I don’t love being a twin, I do! I adore my twin sister and I love so much being a twin; but back in school and in friendship groups we were “The Twins” or “The Girls”. We were rarely approached or seen as two individuals and that weighed on the both of us. That pushed both of us, I think, to try extra hard to be nothing like one another. I dyed my hair red when I was 14 and I’ve never been my natural hair colour since!

So, the reason I didn’t get into this band more? They were a band my sister really liked, so I distanced myself from them, only wanting to listen to bands that liked. Does that makes sense? If you’re a twin, I think you’ll understand my reasoning. Anyway, it’s a good song that I still enjoy listening to.

Oh hey, look! There was much of a story behind this song!

 

3. A Song Which Reminds You Of Summertime: Head Automatica – Beating Heart Baby

This is an absolutely brilliant tune; it always puts me in a good mood! I’m not 100% sure why this song makes think of summer but the album is a corker and reminds me of visiting my Husband whilst he was at university.

At the time I was living in the south and was pretty miserable. I went down south with dreams of a career, making loads of friends and having an incredible adventure. I met friends and had a job I enjoyed (before it shut down) but an adventure I was not having. I was suffering with undiagnosed mental health disorders and my mental health was not good. I missed my Boyfriend so much, going to visit him was pure unbridled joy and happiness. We discovered and listened to a lot of albums over and over and these albums hold these memories for me.

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This song reminds me of visiting him during the summer and having picnics in the woods, walking around Coventry and enjoying each others company.

 

4. A Song Which Reminds You Of Someone You’d Rather Forget: Imogen Heap – The Moment I Said It

This is going to be a hard one to write so, sorry in advance. Things get real in respect to the times I mentioned above; living down south and having horrible experiences.

There are a number of people I wish I’d never met and would love to forget. It took a long while to come up with a specific person and even longer to find a song that I felt comfortable sharing with my Instagram followers that encapsulated this memory, this person.

I have a Twitter thread about the Imogen Heap album ‘Speak For Yourself’. I adore this album and every song has very specific and deep memories for me. I may do an episode or blog post about the album…but I may not. There are a lot of feelings and incidents I haven’t been able to deal with from those times; this is one I feel still does a lot of damage to me.

When I lived down south, I’ve mentioned above, it wasn’t the best time for me. I had some brilliant times down there and some amazing memories but they are few. The brightest shining and deeply painful memories are the ones that dominate. One evening, not too long before we moved back up here to the north, I went to a pub that my sister worked at.

I had lost the job I loved and made a decent wage on not too long before, and was now in a job I despised. I didn’t have much money, most of it was spend visiting my Boyfriend at University whenever I could. I didn’t have friends of my own; most of the friends I had made down there were linked to the job I had recently lost (the place shut down, I was devastated). I can’t remember why I went but I think I may have just been lonely and fed up of being indoors almost all the time. My memory is fuzzy about most of that night, my memory isn’t the best anyway and I’m really good at blocking out bad experiences so I only remember them like a dream. The night started well enough but ended with someone I knew spending roughly 3 hours verbally attacking, abusing and belittling me. He followed me around wherever I went, to tell me what a worthless piece of trash (I won’t use the language he did, it’s disgusting and incredibly triggering for me) he thought I was. I was scum, worse than scum. I didn’t deserve to have someone as amazing as my sister in my life and I deserved every single bad thing that had ever happened to me.

He was drunk. I think. I’m not sharing that as an excuse for how he was but I imagine he would never remember following me outside, into the beer garden, sitting next to and putting his face right up to mine and tell me how pathetic I was, how he hated me and hated even looking at me. It went on like this as the night wore on.

Like I said, I don’t remember everything, and I will never let myself remember them, but I walked home that night alone, in the dark, in the middle of the countryside. Something else happened on my way home but I can’t talk about it.

I almost threw myself off a bridge into freezing canal water. I just didn’t want to live. I can’t think of this night often as I haven’t ever dealt with it. Writing it down was painful. I almost didn’t share this part.

 

5. A Song Which Needs To Be Played Loud: Garbage – Why Do You Love Me?

There genuinely isn’t a story behind this one. It was REALLY hard to pick just one song for this one but this is an absolute banger! Also, I wanted to be Shirley Manson, and I still do!

6. A Which Makes You Want To Dance: Imelda May – Inside Out

This is a fun song for me and has a great story behind it. I used to be a Burlesque dancer, and I loved every second of it. I had so much confidence, I felt creative and had loads of friends I’d met through the Burlesque Society at the University I was at in my mid-20’s.

I LOVED Burlesque and everything that it stood for. It wasn’t anything I’d set out to do but saw the table at the Societies fair in my Foundation year and I was completely hooked! The girls (and a few boys) that were in the Society were as varied and interesting as you could ever come across and I felt so accepted and treasured.

I’ve always had self-esteem issues, for as long as I can remember, but when I was up on stage dancing, I felt amazing. There is no way I’d be able to accurately describe in mere words what it felt like to be up there. It might sound crass but hearing the whooping as you twirl your tassels and stocking above your head (the stockings…not the tassels…) was intoxicating. I joined the Manchester Burlesque Society and made even more friends.

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Putting together a routine from scratch was so enjoyable and being creative was a huge release for me after the stresses of starting a degree. I did shows in the Uni, in Lancaster, Blackpool (I was a semi-regular!) and Manchester. I had my sights set on Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival,. and I genuinely believe I’d have made it there.

I really, really miss my Burlesque days. The above song was the very first solo routine I did and it is one of my fast favourites. I’m not going to apologise for saying that I was good at Burlesque. I was a good dancer and I look back at those days extremely fondly.

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So that was the first 6 of the 30 Day Music Challenge! I’m either going too intersperse my usual blog posts with another 6 OR I may even do it daily during the week between my usual scheduled podcast episodes and blog posts…

Thanks for reading,

Claire

Please feel free to get in contact with me, I always want to hear from people and, as I said before, I really want to have more guests on my podcast.

Stay safe out there.

This blog post is accompanied by a Podcast episode and Vlog. If you’d like to check them out please feel free:

Exercising Depression YouTube Channel

Exercising Depression Podcast on Spotify

Exercising Depression Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Exercising Depression Podcast on Google Podcasts

And available on many more podcast platforms – just search Exercising Depression Podcast.

Contact me!

Email: exercisingdepressionpodcast@gmail.com

Twitter: @EDepressionPod

Instagram: @ExercisingDepression_Podcast

 

Mental Health Doesn’t Have Rules

Welcome back to the Blog!

I’m sorry, I’m back on the topic of isolation and lockdown; I hope you’re not getting bored of reading about it but it’s pretty much all I can think or write about at the moment. I have a couple of other podcast/blog posts planned that aren’t around the subject of COVID-19, isolation/lockdown etc. but they’ll be out soon!

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been in lockdown with my household. My Husband and I bought a large home with his parents and younger sibling. It’s a beautiful house in rural Lancashire and one which my Husband and I would never have been able to afford by ourselves. It’s our dream home, and living with his family is pretty good. Plus it’s only a mile or so away from my parents house!

In the midst of lockdown I can only count my blessings and acknowledge that I have certain privileges with living here:

  1. I am not alone;
  2. I have a huge garden and field to use for frequent (not just once a day) exercise;
  3. I have my Husband here with me;
  4. I can still work from home;
  5. I don’t have any children;
  6. Our home is big enough to have space from others when we/I need it.

Just writing them down now, makes me feel like I have no right to struggle at the moment. I know of so many others that are alone, can’t work, have no outside spaces or are separated from their loved ones. I sat outside just now and talked to my Husband about my feelings; that I have no real reason to struggle with all of the above advantages but he managed to help me back on track.

Besides all the advantages and aids I have in helping with being in lockdown, I’m still struggling with my mental health. Mental illness doesn’t have rules. It doesn’t discriminate. It riles me up that there are still people who think that if someone has many things and joys in life that they don’t deserve to be depressed, or anxious or suffer with any mental health problems.

So, what have I been doing to try keep my mental health on an even keel? Honestly, I’ve been finding life difficult. I have had a few stressful moments and I’m teetering on the edge of a self-sabotaging head space. It’s hard but I’ve learned over the years to communicate these feelings to my Husband and loved ones. I don’t always share and that’s when I get into some dangerous and damaging cycles. But, for the most part, I’m good at letting him know where I am mentally.

I don’t suppose many of you out there will know what it’s like to be at war with yourself on a regular basis (that isn’t a brag…). Even being more open with my Husband has me chastising myself. I shouldn’t share that because it makes me look like I’m not “properly” mentally ill, like in films and TV. I should be alone in a room somewhere, isolated and cut off from loved ones with no support system or self awareness of what I do to myself.

But being like this hasn’t come easy. Or quickly. Not even a little bit. Being at the stage of recognising where my mental health might be going, in either direction, identifying thought patterns and inclinations towards certain behaviours has taken me a long, long time to be tuned in to. On top of that, it has taken me even longer to be able to communicate these things to my loved ones. Not only has it been hard figuring out just how to articulate my feelings, but having the nerve to go against every fibre of my body screaming at me to not open my mouth. To tell my Husband, my family, my friends, that I’m thinking and doing these things to myself. It has been one of the hardest things in the world to do, and it doesn’t get easier; every time I am in a spiral of self sabotage, paranoia, self-harming or anything, I have to fight my own mind in order to let anyone else know what’s going on. It’s really difficult.

So, having opened up and written that down, I hope that it’s plain to see that even with all the good things in life, the people, the jobs, the house, the outside space, mental illness can still be the biggest and scariest thing you have to deal with every single day. There is no one big cure for Depression, Anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder or any other mental illnesses like that. We’ve almost all heard that “The only antidepressant you need is a walk outside” or “All you need to cure depression is a pair of running shoes and a clear day”. Pardon my language, but F@#K that noise. None of that is true nor helpful. In fact, if you truly believe that then you could potentially do so much more harm than good to anyone you know who has mental health problems. If you spout these beliefs on a regular basis and honestly believe mental illness isn’t real, that person or persons will secretly never be able to trust you. And that’s heartbreaking for them.

This week for my Podcast I had a conversation with my Husband about being in lockdown and how we’ve been coping. We talk about various things but mostly social distancing and the above mentioned issues with my mental health. But having an open and honest conversation with him about those things really put the fire back in me. I remembered the reason I started my podcast; to help fight the stigma surrounding mental health by talking about it. Often. Openly. Honestly and with both people who have had or do struggle with mental health problems and those who don’t.

I started my podcast nearly a year ago (June 2019) to not only share how I find using exercise and training helps me with my own mental health problems, but to be another voice out there talking about mental health. I wanted to open up about my own conflicts and battles with my mind. I am nobody special; a 30something married British woman living in Lancashire. I have no children, am vegetarian(ish) and like to read. There is nothing outstanding about me or my life, but I do have various mental health diagnoses and have to find a way to live my life, day-to-day with them. I am one of thousands here in the UK, but I have something that nearly everyone else has; a voice. and I want to use it to help eradicate the fear, uncertainty and prejudices that loom over most facets of Mental Health.

Which brings me to my closing comment and request. If there is anyone out there who wants to be a part of my mission, to help fight the stigma through conversation, please, please get in touch with me. I love having guests on my podcast and I feel it is imperative to carry on the conversation, if we ever want to live in a world where those of us who have mental health problems and diagnoses are not stigmatised or feared, we need to talk more.

Please feel free to get in contact with me, I always want to hear from people and, as I said before, I really want to have more guests on my podcast.

Stay safe out there.

This blog post is accompanied by a Podcast episode and Vlog. If you’d like to check them out please feel free:

Exercising Depression YouTube Channel

Exercising Depression Podcast on Spotify

Exercising Depression Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Exercising Depression Podcast on Google Podcasts

And available on many more podcast platforms – just search Exercising Depression Podcast.

Contact me!

Email: exercisingdepressionpodcast@gmail.com

Twitter: @EDepressionPod

Instagram: @ExercisingDepression_Podcast

 

 

Being In Isolation With Your Cat

I thought I’d do a bit more of a light-hearted blog post this week; the podcast episode this week is a little dark so I thought I’d contrast with something more fun in the Blog. It was actually writing this blog this week that inspired the Podcast subject.

I have a cat. I actually live with two cats, but only one of them is mine. I’ll go more in depth into mine and my husband’s living arrangements in a later blog, but basically the above statement is true. My cat Rags has been with me for nearly 15 years and she is absolutely wonderful, the best cat that has every existed. That is also a fact and one that I WILL fight a stranger on the internet on…she’s excellent. Just look at her perfect little face:

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She is Venus is Cat Form. The Fluffy Goddess. Everything You’d Want in a Cat and More.

Honestly, she is one of the best things to ever happen to me and, though I have suspicions she killed her own brother in circumstances so shady Poirot would be stumped, she is the sweetest little soul. And you want to know one of the best things about her? I also work with her! That’s right, this pink-nosed little temptress is my colleague as well as my beloved pet! I haven’t mentioned it specifically so far but I am a professional Vlogger, I make cat vlogs for a living and she is my co-star. I’ll link below to the channel that we work for. Rags and I have been with Relax My Cat for around 3 and a half years and have loved every second.

But, as with every other member of your, my and a lot of others people’s families, I’m spending a lot more time with her than usual. Not by a huge amount, if I really think about it, I actually spend more time with her in a week than my own Husband…and I’ve had her longer than I’ve had him!

So this week I thought I’d offer some information and helpful tips on being isolated with you cat. Your being at home a lot more might be the best thing that ever happened to your cat or something they aren’t particularly dealing with very well, and hopefully this is where I can help. Given my job, I thought I’d share some of my wisdom…it’s niche but helpful…I hope!

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Exercising and Playing Indoors

Though there is something called Feline Coronavirus, it’s nothing to do with the current Coronavirus and cannot be passed on from cat to human. That being said, experts are advising cat owners who have been infected or are quarantining with a family member who has had the symptoms of the virus, to keep their cats indoors, especially in highly populated areas. This is due to the fear of the virus being passed on from humans, to cats fur, to another human via petting or touching. No one really knows how or if the coronavirus can affect pets, but it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Exercising and playing with your cat indoors is going to be fun for both you and your cat (I hope!). Did you know that playing with your cat is one of the best ways to bond with them? It’s true! With you being indoors much more, playing with your cat and exercising them indoors is also a good way to while away a couple of hours (or minutes!) depending on your cat’s attention span. The best kind of toys to play with are the ones that discourage your cat from seeing fingers and toes as play things. Nibbles and scratches do not a good time make! Those fishing rod type toys are the best or something you can throw for them to chase (I know, I bit TOO dog like for my liking too, but our Rags loves chasing her Catnip Banana!).

Playing with and exercising your cat indoors is going to really help keep your cat fit, healthy and stimulated if they are having to be kept indoors too. If you want to let your cat outside but they’re either indoor cats, too young, a flight risk or you live somewhere where it’s dangerous to let them out, you can always try taking them out on a leash.

If you have a younger cat, leash training them is way easier than trying with an older cat so maybe start them young if that’s what you aim to do for the rest of their adult life. Taking them out on a leash not only satiates their feral need to go exploring outdoors (or sniff every inch of your garden, eat plants and poo in plant beds…) but gives you a chance and excuse to go outdoors for your ‘One Time A Day For Exercise’ we’ve all been granted by the government.

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Rags in Catnip Banana Nirvana

DIY Projects

Yep, I think it’s the best time to get that shelving unit up you and your cat have been putting off all winter! And that back room isn’t going to paint itself!

Wouldn’t that just be the cutest thing? Your little moggy in a smock or pair of old jeans and a paintbrush?! Obviously (and unfortunately) that’s not what I mean, as fun as the idea is. I’m talking about making things for your cat to enjoy! It might not include your cat in the processes but making things your cat can use and play with is a fantastic way to focus your mind on something other than maybe work, studying or the scary things on the news. Now here is where I pimp the channel I work for a bit more, more specifically some vlogs I’ve done with How-To DIY tutorials and even cooking vlogs! Over the years I have made DIY vlogs for cats beds, easy cat toys, a cardboard camper-van (yes, really), cat cocktails, pumpkin spice latte’s and Easter treats! I’ll link them below if you fancy making your cat something fun:

I hope you guys enjoy the vlogs, they were made a while ago so the quality isn’t as good as the ones I make now, but hopefully still enjoyable to watch and easy to follow!

Making things instead of going out and buying them is also a huge plus at the moment; if your cat need a new bed, you want to get them a few new toys or treats, going out to buy them at pet shops right now isn’t highly advised. Making them yourself is fun, safer than going out to a store and can even be a good way to recycle things you might have lying around the house.

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Rags and one of her (many) Home-made Toys!

Help Your Cat Acclimatise To A Busier Environment

You and other members of your family being home more might be an amazing thing for your cat, or it might cause some real stress to them. That might sound a bit dramatic, but it can be a real problem; cats love routine and schedule, not just with things like feeding time, bedtime etc. but almost all cats have their own internal or little routines that structure their day. If you’re out most of the day at work, school or other places you’ll likely not be witness to these routines, but now we’re all mostly in lockdown we’re spending a lot more time at home and around our furry friends.

Because they enjoy their routine and schedule so much, all this major change has the potential to affect your cat in a negative way. Big changes to their environments could be very stressful for your cat, and stress can cause certain behavioural changes and health issues. Rags used to get urine infections when we started the process of moving house 2 years ago and, though moving house and the house being more occupied may be different occurrences, having more people around might have a similar effect.
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There are a few things you can do to ease your cat into this new environment; the first and easiest one is to not interfere with your cat’s routine and schedule. If after breakfast your cat likes to go outside (if safe to do so, obviously) and sit in the garden, continue this. You could even join them in a sit outside in the morning sun. Don’t be tempted to give in to their Hungry Eyes and feed them more regularly or provide treats at every dilated pupil; this is a routine that should definitely remain as it is. Over feeding your cat is one way to become their best friend but it’s not worth the trade off (sorry Garfield). Obesity in cats can happen quickly and leads to all sorts of horrible health problems including Diabetes, Arthritis and a significantly shorter life. Boo Hiss!

I also have a couple of vlogs about this…but I’ll leave the shameless self promotion for this one!

Making sure your cat has places to retreat to in order to chill out and be by themselves is very important. If your cat is used to spending most of the day alone, then letting them do that is vital. If you can provide somewhere that is high up, that’s a bonus. Cats love to be higher as it makes them feel safe (and better than everyone else). If your cat really seems to be struggling with having a house full of people, then things like Feliway Diffusers can be a real help; these are diffusers that release a synthetic feline pheromone that is designed to calm cats. There are loads of different brands and they are widely available online.

Here comes another YouTube channel mention: Relax My Cat does exactly as the name suggests; the aim of the YouTube channel is to provide calming music for stressed out pets in various situations. It sounds incredible, but it really does work! Having a track playing might really help relax your cat (lol) in an otherwise stressful situation. Give it a go!

 

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Stay Calm & Keep Safe

This one might come across as a bit obvious, but cats can pick up on nervous energy. They’re good at picking up on any kind of energy or atmosphere anyway and it can affect them in certain ways. If you are particularly stressed or tensions are high at home due to being cooped up together, your cat is likely to pick up on this and become agitated. This can lead to unwanted behaviours such as toileting outside of their litter box or destroying furniture, but it can also cause health problems.

The same goes if you’re feeling particularly nervous or anxious. I know that the news and nearly everything you see online is scary and anxiety inducing, but it’s best for both you and your family (cat included) that you try your best to keep calm and, well, carry on. Being constantly glued to your TV or reading everything you find online will only cause you to become overwrought and upset.

Of course, keep up to date with news stories and guidelines to stay safe, but obsessing over each thing 24/7 isn’t going to do anyone much good. If you or your cat becomes unwell through worry/stress/sleeplessness, getting help from doctors or vets isn’t as easy as it was before this. A lot of vets have closed, though of course they are still available online or over the phone, it’s better to do all you can to stay happy and healthy and make sure your cat doesn’t endure any unnecessary stress or illness.

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I hope you’ve found these tips helpful! I certainly enjoyed a more light-hearted blog post this week, I hope you did too! As always, stay safe out there and PLEASE share your cat photos if you want! I’d love to see your precious moggies!

This blog post is accompanied by a Podcast episode and Vlog, though they are about mental health and not Cats; if you’d like to check them out please feel fee:

Exercising Depression YouTube Channel

Exercising Depression Podcast on Spotify

Exercising Depression Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Exercising Depression Podcast on Google Podcasts

And available on many more podcast platforms – just search Exercising Depression Podcast.

Contact me!

Email: exercisingdepressionpodcast@gmail.com

Twitter: @EDepressionPod

Instagram: @ExercisingDepression_Podcast

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Isolation and Depression: How To Cope (Part 2).

Welcome back to the Blog!

So, we’re in lockdown. The first week of it is over and we’re fully into the second; I don’t know about you, but the previous week seemed to last about a month! I had to ration my workload to make sure I had some left to do this week, something I’ve not had to do for a long time! That sentence is a very privileged one to be able to type; I explained in the last blog post that I work from home. My work is consumed entirely online and I have my own studio and study at home where I work. Not much has changed for me in that respect and I know just how lucky I am to be in this position. But lack of changes to my working life doesn’t shield me from struggling with my mental health.

I don’t get stressed immediately. Things tend to pile on top of me and then, eventually, I snap into a very stressed state of mind. Right now, I’m not doing too bad with my Mental Health; but I know the warning signs and my triggers when it comes to relapses, breakdowns and the slipping of, well, my mental health. I won’t lie, I can feel them starting to form a tiny pile, but there are things I’m going to share with you that may be able to help you, or be useful in looking after your mental health during isolation, lockdown and uncertainty.

Communication

Communication is an incredible tool and one I urge you to use as much as you can. I know for many that that is easier said than done, talking to people for some people is either nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing or logistically problematic. Thankfully Social Media and platforms such as Reddit and Tumblr (is that still a thing?!) mean that even if you have little to no close members of family or friends to reach out to, there are millions of people whom you can talk to.

I mention Reddit, and for the most part I really like this site, but be warned; like many platforms and websites there is a darker/unsavory side to them. If you stay firmly in subreddits you want to engage in and seem genuinely helpful and wholesome, do use them to talk to (potentially) like-minded people. There are support groups for basically anything you can think of, some of the ones I use are:

There are also loads of funny subreddits, ones for games, films, books…basically whatever you can think of! Not only are the support group subreddits great for communication and support, the fun ones are great for connecting with people who share your interests but are also a great distraction if you need it.

If you have people in your life, family or friends, who you can talk to during isolation, please do talk to them. I like to think I’m one of those people for a number of others, my family included. You might be afraid that you’d be bothering someone or they don’t want to hear from you. I don’t know know for certain, obviously, but I don’t think that would be the case. If you’re unsure all you can do is ask and request those around you to be honest. Boundaries when it comes to emotional and mental health support are incredibly important for everyone involved. Communicate!

My family and my friends have set up various video chat platforms so we can stay in touch and see one another. Messaging and emails are great, but seeing your loved ones faces, talking to them face-to-face, is just that bit better. My family includes 3 nephews, all under 5. At that age they grow up and change so quickly, being able to see them as well not only makes us feel we’re not missing out on their growing up, but helps keep us in their minds too!

Most of these, like Skype and WhatsApp are free to use and have video chat. If you want to have multiple screens chats there are others that either have a small fee or a time limit. Use whichever best suits your needs.

Equally, if you have people to talk to but are just not in the mood, or you have mental health issues that can result in bad days, let people know. Don’t just go radio silent and off the grid; keep your loved ones up to date with your moods etc. If you’re having a bad day, a mental health day or just need a bit of space – tell people. This just ensures they don’t worry if they don’t hear from you and they can safely respect your need for quiet and space.

Getting Professional Help

It's ok to Talk

I know, it’ll be hard, but reaching out and getting help from professionals shouldn’t be dismissed because of the current situation we’re in. Looking after your mental health shouldn’t take a back seat because physical health is in the news every day. I’ve even noticed people who don’t usually suffer with mental health problems, show signs of them, and admit that they’re feeling anxious, depressed, lonely and other things that for some people are an every day struggle in more normal times. So this is why it’s important to remember that mental health professionals and services are still available and should be used by those in need.

I’m not currently in therapy  (I recently finished a very successful course of EMDR therapy, check out the Podcast Episode) but I have friends who are, and their counselling and therapy have been adapted to online and telephone sessions. I was going to share them here but I think I’ll dedicate an entire blog post to them soon.

So, as I was saying, mental health care is just as important as physical health at the best of times, but it is especially important to remember this during this pandemic. Because of this, you shouldn’t be afraid to get in touch with and use professional mental health help that is still available throughout all of this. Though, one piece of advice I will share is to try, if possible, to refrain from using the NHS 111 line (Non-emergency number here in the UK) unless it is an actual emergency (You’re feeling suicidal, at risk of self-harming or harming someone else). This line will be especially busy at the moment and to make sure that everyone gets the help they need, it’s best to only use this number in an emergency. Below I will list number and websites that you can use during this lockdown to get help with your mental health:

  • https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/immediate-help
  • http://suicidehotlines.com/
  • Calm: 0800 585858 www.thecalmzone.net
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably Help and support for young men aged 15-35 on issues which include depression and suicide.
  •  HopeLine UK 0800 068 4141
  • www.papyrus-uk.org For practical advice on suicide prevention
  • Lifeline (N.Ireland) 0808 808 8000 www.lifelinehelpline.info For anyone in N.Ireland who is in distress or despair. Immediate help on phone 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Face to face counselling can be arranged, also befriending, mentoring. Issues dealt with include suicide prevention, self harm, abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety.
  •  Run by Contact N.Ireland www.contactni.com independent counselling service employing professional qualified counselors who have extensive experience of working with people facing a wide range of problems, free to all users.
  • Premier Lifeline 0300 111 0101 www.premier.org.uk/lifeline Helpline providing a listening service, information, emotional and spiritual support from a Christian perspective
  • Samaritans: Helpline: 116 123 (free of charge from a landline or mobile) Email jo@samaritans.org www.samaritans.org24 hr helpline offering emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide.
  • Kooth from XenZone, is an online counselling and emotional well-being platform for children and young people, accessible through mobile, tablet and desktop and free at the point of use.

 

Routines: Be Constructive, Creative and Productive

I mentioned in the previous blog post that establishing or keeping up a routine whilst working from home is going to be one of the most important things, but it’s just as important in every-day living during isolation and lockdown.

Not everyone is working from home,. Perhaps their job is not doable at home, they’ve unfortunately lost their employment, or their contacts are suspended until things are safer. If you’re a student at university, school or college, this is also an issue; though many are having online lessons. GCSE’s and A-Levels have been cancelled, meaning that so many students have their workload made redundant.

These people and more are now stuck at home, wondering what to do with their days, and this is where forming and carrying on with a routine is going to help. Not only to, hopefully, structure your day, but also to help with mental health and ‘cabin fever’. Not only that, a routine and schedule can really help you creatively. I have my job already to work with part of the week, but since things started getting a little scary I decided to up my productivity with my Podcast, Vlogs and Blog. This fills portions of my day and I really feel like I’ve been working on something – being productive and letting my creative juices flow.

Taking up an old hobby or starting a new one can be beneficial for many reasons, you can use it to structure your day. Keeping yourself busy with something you love (or are passionate about) will help with isolation, and having to stay indoors. It will help keep your mind occupied and healthy. Always wanted to learn a language? Go for it! Used to paint more? Pick up the paint brushes and let your imagination go wild!

An added, unexpected, bonus to this lockdown is that many online courses and learning platforms are having generous sales on their materials and programmers. For example, the website through which I have done most of my Feline Care courses, Centre Of Excellence, is offering most (if not all!) of their courses at a hugely discounted rate of £29 (I’m not sponsored! I have just used them before and highly recommend!). You can use online courses to better your work skills, learn new ones or just do something for fun like creative writing or crafts! Again, not only will this help structure your day but keep you entertained and busy during isolation.

Help Other People

I’m very worried about getting sick or bringing the virus into my home; my Father-In-Law, with whom we own our home, is Type 1 Diabetic and would likely get very poorly if he were to contract the virus. This has amped-up my anxiety, through watching the news, worrying about my grandparents and needing to leave the house to buy food. My Husband asked me recently if this near-constant feeling of anxiety was what it was like being me. You know what, he wasn’t far off…

But heightened anxiety and a fear of the outside may be doing more damage to you than good (obviously don’t go outside more then you need to…but try not to harbour a fear of going outside that will hinder you late on). Distraction in the form of helping other people will not only help yourself, but someone in need too. If can be as simple as going shopping for an elderly neighbour or relative. Use your own trip to the supermarket to do their shopping too; most places are restricting the amounts of things people can buy but I’ve heard from various people that if you explain that you’re shopping for others they’ll let you buy what you need to (within reason…).

Ringing relatives or loved ones who are alone or vulnerable is a great way to not only connect with someone else for your own good, but provides interaction and friendly conversation to someone who might not get it regularly, if at all.

You can even go as far, if you’re able to, as physically volunteering in places such as care home, hospices, food banks and community outreach. This is probably best done if you live alone, exposing yourself to increased risk in order to help others is extremely generous and much needed, but not worth putting others at risk (family, roommates etc.); especially if one or more of them are particularly vulnerable or high-risk.

 

Right, I think that’s enough from me for another week! I hope you have found these pointers useful, and please, if you need to talk to someone, reach out to people. Reach out to me if you want to, I would love to hear from you (see links below).

Stay safe out there.

Exercising Depression YouTube Channel

Exercising Depression Podcast on Spotify

Exercising Depression Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Exercising Depression Podcast on Google Podcasts

And available on many more podcast platforms – just search Exercising Depression Podcast.

Contact me!

Email: exercisingdepressionpodcast@gmail.com

Twitter: @EDepressionPod

Instagram: @ExercisingDepression_Podcast

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isolation and Depression: How To Cope (Part 1).

Hi everyone and welcome back to the blog. This post will be up a day before the Podcast and Vlog, work commitments have meant I haven’t been able to do more than one this week and as an apology here’s the Blog post a day early. I can’t imagine it’s much of a treat but hopefully you enjoy 🙂

My last blog post seemed to get a lot of attention and I think it may have been because of the subject matter. So with that, I’ve decided to help anyone who stumbles across this blog who are struggling with the current situation and their mental health.

Because of the uncertainty of the next few weeks or months, knowing how to deal with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues is going to be difficult; isolation at the best of times had it’s difficulties but if you are one of one in four people who suffer with mental health problems, the difficulties can be tenfold.

Thankfully we live in a time where almost everyone has Social Media and uses it every day to stay in contact with friends & family near and far; I have a very good friend whom I speak to most days, despite him living in a different time zone.  Many people complain about the over-reliance of Social Media but it is in times like these that it can, quite literally, be a life line for those in isolation and who are lonely.

The internet has opened the world to most people and with that comes a never ending supply of information, programmes, games and activities. It’s going to be a very important tool we can use, as well as other offline things. I’ll share with you a few things to consider to help with isolation, loneliness and mental health.

Bring The Outside In

By this I mean see if there are any outdoor/out of your house activities that can be done at home or in your garden. Obviously, if you don’t have a garden certain things can’t be done there but if you do, use it! Especially here in the UK at the moment, the weather is lovely and set to stay that way for a little bit. Even if the weather isn’t the greatest, if you can get out and do something then take the opportunity.

My Husband and I go to one of the local pubs every Saturday for a sort of “Date Night”. We have a couple of drinks around 5/6 pm then head home for supper. A couple of years ago we bought a beautiful house with his parents and younger sister, for various reasons, and though we have our own space and “wing” of the house to ourselves, we do enjoy time away from everyone to enjoy each other as a married couple. This is why we started the Saturday Evening Drink tradition. We’ve lost this little pleasure but we’ve been imaginative:

Garden Pub We have a summer house in the garden, it wasn’t particularly warm (hence the blankets) but we wrapped up, took a couple of beers out and had a good hour and a half alone to enjoy each others company and have a drink. As the weather improves and we move firmly into Spring, I feel this will become a firm replacement for our usual pub trips.

If you enjoy a drink or two with a spouse, partner, family or with friends, you could try this (within reason) or even host/be a part of an online gathering via Skype, FaceTime or other platforms. Equally, if you enjoy going out for a coffee with the above mentioned, try going online or Al Fresco too:

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The Gym

The loss of being able to go to the gym is something I’ve felt deeply; I typically go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week including classes and Personal Trainer sessions. Training and the gym is something I utilise to help me with my mental health; I’ll get into that in way more detail another time (or you can check out my Podcast!). But not all is lost! Thankfully there are a myriad of online fitness and workout programs, YouTube channels and a good percentage of Personal Trainers that offer online coaching. Some of these are free, but paying for a trainer who might be struggling at the moment (if you’re able to) could be a great way to help them and keep on top of your training.

If that isn’t possible for financial or logistical reasons, classes can be recreated at home. If you’re comfortable enough huffing, puffing and sweating at a gym, doing it on your own home or garden isn’t going to be an issue! My Mum, my Husband and I usually attend a Bootcamp on Tuesday nights, it’s hard as hell but incredibly rewarding, I swear each week our trainers eyes glitter with excitement at the thought of torturing us in new and inventive ways! As mentioned above, the weather here in Britain is pleasant so we’ve decided to torture ourselves with our very own Home Bootcamp:

IMG_1537

If the weather turns or isn’t as nice where you are, there are plenty of exercises and activities you can carry out inside, fitness DVD’s and YouTube videos are perfect for this set up.

If you’re considered ‘High-Risk’ (over 70, health conditions etc.) you have to a little more careful but having to isolate doesn’t mean you have to stay inside 24/7. It’s been deemed okay for you to go out for walks and even bike rides; these activities can be done on your own or with others as long as you stay 2 metres away from one another. I have 3 grandparents who are all quite active; my Granny and Grandad are planning on taking picnics to beauty spots instead of their usual bi-weekly Pilates classes.

Working From Home

Working from home, for those who can, has almost become compulsory. If you have a job that can be done from home then this is going to be another facet of self isolation and social distancing. This also goes for children at school; most schools are now closed to the majority of their students and they’re now distance learning from home.

This development has me counting my blessings and feeling very lucky; I work from home anyway, in a house that is rarely completely empty. My job is entirely consumed online so my pay and work won’t change one bit. For that I am very grateful.

Equally, my Husband is a teacher, and he’s not in school but still on full pay. Having him home and my working not being affected is a blessing and I am very aware of the privileges I have that means social distancing and isolation doesn’t mean complete isolation, unlike for many people. Obviously this has the potential to be a short lived positive, the chance I’ll become frustrated at having everyone home 24/7 is a real possibility. It might end up being a bit Hunger Gameseque…who will survive this lock-down?!

The main thing to remember when it comes to working or studying from home is how important a schedule is going to be. Directionless days can be the death of productivity so keeping a very similar day that’d you’d have normally is the best course to take with working or studying away from your usual environment.

Procrastination has the potential to be a real problem in this situation, so if you find working in one environment (e.g. Lounge) an issue, try setting up a work-space where there are minimal distractions. A dining room, study if you have one, or a spare room might be a better place than somewhere with access to televisions, non-work computers or gaming consoles.
Saying all that, breaks are important too! I’ll no doubt be interspersing my workload with trips to Skyrim, shooting bad guys with Lara Croft or flaming Gnorcs with a very specific purple dragon.

The bottom line to working or studying from home is to be kind to yourself. Deadlines will always be a part of it, but they’re no different to the deadlines or projects you’d be dealing with in the workplace or school. Breaks are as crucial as a schedule and don’t forget to have days off. Stress will never be a good bedfellow for working from home.

So that’s it from me this week. Hopefully this post is of some use or comfort to many of you. I intended to write more but honestly, this post took me nearly 2 days! I’ll probably carry it on next time with a few more suggestions and reflections on our current situation.

Thanks for tuning in, I hope this post and the accompanying podcast and vlogs find you well, please feel free to check them out below!

Exercising Depression YouTube Channel

Exercising Depression Podcast on Spotify

Exercising Depression Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Exercising Depression Podcast on Google Podcasts

And available on many more podcast platforms just search Exercising Depression Podcast,

Claire

These Uncertain Times: Isolation

Welcome back to the blog!

I am fully getting back into the swing of things with this blog and syncing it with my Exercising Depression podcast and YouTube channel.

I recently found an old blog of mine from, believe it or not, 10 years ago! In 2010 I started a blog for my musings and thought-recording, and it was adorable re-reading my old posts. There weren’t many, but one thing that made me reflect was one post I made about The Snow of 2010. It was a nationwide phenomenon that, not unlike one Coronavirus, occupied most thoughts, writings and conversations.

In reading back my post from ‘The Snow of 2010’ I realised how disconnected I was from my mental health. I wrote with such vivacity, colour and boisterous narrative; I miss that. I remember being that person; I was 23, living somewhere new and all I could see were fresh horizons and a new adventure. Little did I know that my time down there would be miserable, isolated and borderline suicidal.

My vlog and podcast episode this week were along the lines of isolation, uncertainty and mental illness. The isolation being the main focus. Now, I work from home, spend much of the day in my own company, with the odd interaction with my In-Laws, and wouldn’t change it for the world. I adore my job and the opportunity to work in my own home; it can get a bit monotonous and lonely at times but these tend to be short lived. The pluses always far outweigh any negatives I encounter.  It’s the loss of being able to leave my home that is proving the real difficulty for me. I am a social person, I like to be outside, meeting people and being part of a community; be it church, the gym, my own family outside of my house or the local pubs. These are what give me real joy and purpose outside of working.

The aforementioned previous blog is linked to this, I promise. And here it is; my supposed carefree writing and view of my world was insincere. I have a terrible memory at the best of times so it’s hard for me to recall most details of every-day life when I lived in Pitstone, but reading my few blog posts from that time has really let me back into my own mind. I lived in a sort of blissful, self-inflicted ignorance. I knew I got sad sometimes but I largely ignored it. I never imagined that I would end up being medicated, out the other side of many therapies (with varied results) and with official diagnoses.

I write of living in a small village during a long period of snow:

“…clad in what can only be described as Tanks in Boot Form, leopard-print coat, two scarves, two pairs of gloves, floppy hat and ear muffs, I wandered to the shops. I am always delighted when walking through my village as, no matter what you look like, whether you have two heads and a toilet brush stuck to your shoe, you’re always guaranteed a pleasant smile and sincere greeting…”

As whimsical as this paragraph seems, I remember feeling isolated, alone and hopeless. I recall hating where I lived and its distance from anywhere I could interact with people and be myself. So why did I write as though I were happy? I can only put it down to the aforementioned disconnect from my mental health. I was in the throes of an (unrealised) eating disorder and thought of harming myself as you would about getting a new toothbrush. This was just my reality, but I didn’t see it as problematic. I didn’t want to not hate food, and antidepressants were the furthest thing from my mind.

Which brings me to today and my most recent podcast episode and vlog. I am very much connected to and understand my mental health problems. These things affect me every day and have an influence on almost every decision I make, activity I perform or plan I make. Is this connection to my mental health…healthy? I have automatically thought through the next few weeks or months in terms of my mental health and how it will impact my life and mind. Should I be more distant from instinctively thinking like that? I know I certainly find reading my blog posts from 2010 much more enjoyable than the narratives I share on my podcast and vlogs (and now blog posts).

Maybe this is just how I was meant to grow as a person. I must admit, keeping my mental health problems in the forefront of my mind has crippled me at times, but in others it’s made certain achievements that much bigger. I genuinely don’t know what to think.

But enough now, please feel free to check out the podcast and YouTube channel to check out how I feel I am going to cope in the next few weeks and months; this blog post is more of an extention of my thoughts and a reflecton after finding my old blog. I will certainly share more from that old blog in coming posts, I hope you enjoy them!

 

Thanks everyone,

Claire

Exercising Depression YouTube Channel

Exercising Depression Podcast on Spotify

Exercising Depression Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Exercising Depression Podcast on Google Podcasts

And available on many more podcast platforms just search Exercising Depression Podcast

I’m back and ready to start the conversation…

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So this is a tiny bit weird. I’ve not been here for quite a while! I left for personal reasons, but I’ve decided to take up this platform once again. I recently got a couple of email notifications that people had stared following this blog, of which a I have to admit, I forgot about until then. So I will be taking this back up and syncing it with the scheduling of my new(ish) podcast and YouTube channel…

In 2019 I decided to start a podcast (as most people have, I’m sure!) about my mental health, I’ll leave links below if you want to check it out. It’s a podcast about me, my daily struggles with mental illness and my attempt to lift the stigma surrounding mental illness by having open, frequent and honest conversations about everything that comes with mental health.

Thank you sincerely to those who hav recently started following this blog, it was the kick up the behind I needed.

I stay tuned! I upload new podcast episodes and vlogs on Fridays, and this will now include a blog post so watch this space!

 

Thanks everyone!

 

Claire

Brain Zaps – A.D.S.

At first I was going to start this post with an apology, but I realised that I didn’t need to. So, this is just a general information post to all who want to read it. I will, though, include a TW for mental health issues/medication/symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal and a general note that I take antidepressants and they help me. I don’t care if you agree with them or think all depressed people need is a sunny day and running shoes. I’ve heard and read too many times that “I’m just not comfortable with the idea”, “I don’t agree with chemicals affecting your body, “I don’t think they’re necessary” and so on. I take antidepressants, chemicals, happy pills because I have mental health issues and they help me. They. Help. ME.
You are, of course, entitled to your opinions but until you can spend one night of insomnia/night terrors/voices/anxiety/dark thoughts and self-deprecation (etc!) in MY shoes, you don’t get to judge me or my choice to be medicated.

Onwards: Recently, due to my own errors and my proclivity for forgetfulness, I somehow switched off the alarm on my phone that reminds me to take my medication every evening; 8:30pm on the dot. As mentioned, I am a forgetful person, so I didn’t notice that I was missing my medication until I started feeling unwell, confused and a bit “Brain Zappy” (I’ll elaborate shortly). After noticing these sensations, I quietly told myself off and went to take a dose. Empty box. Damn. I usually have a stash of lower dosage pills in case of this very thing but, damn, out of them too.
Now, what I should have done was go straight to the pharmacy, detail my situation and receive a small box of pills to see me through until my prescription could be refilled, but I didn’t and that was a mistake. I decided to ride it out until I had time to go to the pharmacy to reorder my prescription and wait the couple of days to get them again. Unfortunately for me and due to my silliness, it’s been about ten days now (I get my meds tomorrow!).

 Just as a disclaimer, this I the longest I have ever gone without my medication and I didn’t realise the slight confusion and brain zaps were just the tip of this discontinuation iceberg. I DO NOT RECOMMEND going cold turkey off antidepressants; more specifically 100mg of an SSRI. If you want to come off your medication, PLEASE talk to your doctor about it and they will help you do it properly.

So, we get to the point of this post: Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome. I didn’t know it was a thing until I googled the fun new symptoms on top of my Brain Zaps and discovered that my errors resulted in so many more confusing, horrible and worrying sensations. I found that in of themselves, each physical, emotional and mental experience was nothing worrying or even very noticeable as something to, well, take notice of, but together, I was in hell.
I couldn’t even escape these feelings and side effects at night; my usually sporadic but restful sleep was either completely non-existent, day-consuming or plagued by frightening nightmares or disturbing lucid dreaming. Even if I slept through the night or for a portion of the day I was exhausted.

 Anyway, to stop this becoming a play-by-play of my daily misery and upset I’m going to outline Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome. By doing so I hope to shed some light on something I didn’t even know existed.

Common symptoms include:

– Flu-like symptoms (nausea, vomiting, headaches, sweating);
– Sleep disturbances (insomnia, nightmares, constant sleepiness);
– Sensory and/or movement disturbances (vertigo, imbalance, tremors, dizziness);
– “Brain Zaps”. This is one I have experienced a few times, it feels like little electric shocks in your brain (completely painless but noticeable and annoying);
– Mood disturbances and emotional volatility (including dysphoria, anxiety, agitation and, in my case, bitchy snippiness!);
– Cognitive disturbances (confusion, hyper-arousal and -more uncommonly- acute psychosis).

As mentioned earlier, these are things I have experienced in the past and can just be a result of PMS, a cold or just being a bit run down. They became a lot more worrying when I noticed I was experiencing nearly all of them in a very short space of time; my day-to-day life was a struggle and I was utterly and inconsolably miserable.

The most alarming thing I discovered about Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome is the absence of any mention of it in the safety information provided by the manufacturer. I always read through the safety info every time I get a new box of pills and not once have I seen those three words included. That, paired with wanting to explain my behaviours and lack of social interaction the past weeks to my loved ones, led me to writing this post. 

I’ve struggled to leave my house, I haven’t kept up with friends & family and I think wide spread knowledge of Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome should be as commonly known about as symptoms of taking antidepressants is, for both patient and their families.

Thankfully all symptoms can all be stopped by continuing to take medication, but if you have issues with this or just need to discuss further, please go to your doctor. Don’t try to ride it out like I did, I really suffered. It’s not worth it.

Right, I’m off to print out a checklist to stick on the fridge labelled “Is Your Wife…?” so Nick can check if I’ve been a Forgetful Farkas again…

Thankyou for reading,
x