Thursday 22 August 2019


noun; a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.

I'm currently doing a course at work in Understanding Mental Health. Last year I launched a Mental Health at Work guide for my colleagues and always keen to expand my knowledge and be able to do all I can to help others with understanding and dealing with mental health.

One of the sections I have just completed was about what recovery means in terms of mental health and it really got me thinking about what it means for me. 

In October I came off my medication (documented HERE) and in general, I have been doing really good. I don't feel like I have reverted back to how I was pre-medication (a good thing) but I also am aware that I still experience depression and anxiety. August has been quite a tough month in all honesty. I've struggled quite a bit with low mood and I'm so ready for my holiday in a few weeks. I think I've just burnt out. I never usually go this far into the year without time off and I'm feeling it.
However, I also know now that this feeling is going to pass and things are going to be okay.

If I broke my arm I would be considered 'recovered' once that arm was no longer broken. If I had the flu I would be 'recovered' when I no longer had symptoms of flu. So with physical health 'recovery' is returning to how you were before the illness/injury.

With mental health, and specifically mine, I stopped taking medication as I felt I was at a point were I didn't need them anymore and I could manage my mental health without medication. Is this being recovered from mental illness?
I didn't return to my prior state of mind once I stopped taking medication, so by the definition of recovery does this mean I'm not recovered?
"To return to a normal state..." - what is normal is important here too.

Is it normal to experience mental illness? To my mind, it's not not normal. I don't feel abnormal for having experienced depression. And the point of me finally choosing to get help was because I didn't want to be that person anymore. So I certainly didn't want to go back to being that person. If that had have happened (which definitely does happen to some people), I wouldn't have considered myself recovered from mental illness.

When I sought help for my mental health I received medication to manage my symptoms, lift mood and ease anxiety. I also did a couple types of therapy and more recently took up going to the gym and yoga. All that combined got me into a place were my resilience had been built up and enabled me to be able to live everyday life with little disruption. It can be argued that recovery starts as soon as help is sought. From that moment, some control is gained back. Mental health hasn't won that day. And that can be empowering for some. 

I think recovery in terms of mental health is just that. It's about taking control over it. Once that has happened you can start to believe that getting well is possible yet acknowledging that there is probably going to be periods when it feels like mental health is winning. But being okay with that. Being able to accept that mental health exists in me and that sometimes it's going to be in control and win that day is okay. But also knowing that it won't last forever and maybe in a day or a week, or even longer, it won't be in control and I will win, is enough for me to consider myself recovered, or at the very least 'in recovery'. 

I know this current period of depression is going to go eventually. I also know that I'm getting out of bed and washing and going to work and just a few years ago, that wasn't always possible. 

You don't have to have taken medication to class yourself as recovered. You don't need to have gone to therapy in order to 'achieve' recovery. It depends on what it means to you.

What does 'recovery' mean to you, in terms of mental health?

Friday 4 January 2019


4th January 2019 Louise here... I haven't edited any of the following entries after reading through. I wanted them to be in the raw state that I wrote them in. Apologies for any repetition! I've done this because when I was thinking of coming off medication I would search for other people's experience so it could be a good resource for someone. Please be aware I'm not a medical profession. This is all my own individual experience and everyone will react differently to medication and withdrawal.

I started taking anti-depressants in January 2016 after many years of hiding my mental illness, being ashamed of it and pretending it didn't exist. After hitting the darkest pit of rock bottom I had enough and decided to get help. Almost 3 years later I felt ready to try and come off medication. I have been taking Citalopram the entire time on various dosages over time from 10mg - 30mg and at the time of starting to withdraw I was taking 10mg.
I am fully accepting and okay with that fact that I may just need them again in the future and I may not be able to be without them. I never think "ugh got to take my happy pills!!" It's just part of my daily routine and I don't think twice about it. I'm just curious to see how I go without the added help.

So I decided to keep a diary to keep track of any changes...

3rd October 2018

This morning I went to the doctor's for my annual medication review. In January I will have been taking anti-depressants (on various dosages) for 3 years. All year I've been thinking about trying to come off medication and seeing how my brain is without the drugs and how I cope. Every time I've thought about making the appointment a bad brain day hits and I get scared off the idea.
I've been feeling so good for a pretty long period now and when I went to my appointment it just felt like this was the right moment to start the withdrawal. I explained to my very amazing doctor that I've been exercising and doing yoga this year which has been a massive help for me and she was happy for me to try coming off the medication.
As I'm already on the lowest dosage she said I could either split them in half for a couple of weeks, do alternate days or just go straight ahead and stop taking them. I feel really good about that latter option. I know it's going to be difficult at first. When I've forgotten to take my tablet in the past, those days are not fun at all. But I'm hoping that as this time I know I'm not taking it rather than forgetting, that it will subconsciously make me feel better about it. I've got lots planned to keep me busy too. And I've told those closest to me what I'm doing. Work know I'm doing this and I've told them I may be a little sluggish for a few days/weeks. They are so supportive which is great, too.
I'm feeling so positive about this and I'm ready!

4th October 2018

Day 1 with no anti-depressant. I have occasionally over the last 3 years forgotten to take my pill and those days have, quite frankly, been shit. I can literally feel my body crashing and burning after a couple of hours of being up. And by then it's too late to rectify so I have to just deal with having a bad day. Today I came to work as normal and I kept thinking to myself "I wonder when the crash is going to hit me" and then trying to bat that thought away. Once it got to midday I was feeling pretty good! The crash hadn't come! My head had started feeling a little fuzzy but nothing I couldn't deal with and generally I still felt good. By the afternoon I noticed I was getting really irritable and getting angry at little things and wanted to cry. I still don't feel bad. My brain feels okay. I'm just easily irritated at the moment. I am going to the gym later so I can get those endorphins flowing! But in all I am feeling positive with my first day of no medication. It went a lot better than expected so hopefully tomorrow is the same.

6th October 2018

So day 1 was completely fine except the little moment of anger. I got very tired in the evening but I did get to sleep quicker. Day 2 was great too. I felt good all day and didn’t have any anger either. Today (Saturday) I woke up and was okay but felt pretty tired. And then I got irrationally angry even more than the first day. It literally felt like my blood was boiling. I ended up crying when my 10 month old niece wouldn’t drink her juice properly. I was then going to the Trafford Centre with my boyfriend and although very tired I started feeling much better. And I was fine until I drove home and got stuck behind a very slow driver. The anger overwhelmed me and felt like I couldn’t control it. Hoping this doesn’t last much longer but day 3 is the first kind of bad day. I’m going to the gym tomorrow so hopefully that will help too.

8th October 2018

Yesterday was a good day. I had a good gym session and then a really chilled day and felt good. I am noticing that I am just getting very irritable and angry about most things. Another thing I've noticed is that my lips are super dry! I can't find anything online at the moment about this being a side effect of withdrawing. Maybe it's coincidence, but something to note.
Other than that just incredibly tired. Not slept too good the last couple of nights and been very distracted today and not able to focus properly.

9th October 2018

The irrational anger is really hard. In every other way I feel great. I don’t feel depressed and I don’t feel like I’m going back to how I was pre-medication. But the anger. Anger and irritable doesn’t even feel strong enough to describe it. For a few days I’ve been needing a good cry. I was just in the gym and it started. Not helped by me forgetting to bring a hair bobble to the gym. Yep.
So I quickly left and now I’m sat in my car trying to cry it all out. I’ve done some Googling and it seems a common side effect of the withdrawal. Which kind of makes sense... I don’t have that additional serotonin any more. Some people say it will take a couple weeks. Some say a few months. I don’t like it at all though.

14th October 2018

The last few days the anger has felt a little more under control. I've not felt it as intensely as I have been doing. The last couple days there was none at all which was great. Yesterday was a weird one though. I was feeling great all day. Got up at a good time and ate well. Then suddenly about 4/5pm I just switched and felt quite low and sad. Which is the first time in nearly two weeks of withdrawal that I have felt sad! I slept very badly too. I woke about 4am and then every time I closed my eyes I went straight into what I think was a night terror. My legs felt like they couldn't move. It was very weird.
I got up today though and went to the gym and I saw my friends in the afternoon and have felt much better than yesterday. I'm just trying to pull out positives from everything even when I feel angry or sad because I do know now that moods aren't permanent and I'm not stuck there.

19th October 2018

Whenever I try to keep a diary I do really well for a few days and then I either forget or think "I'll do it tomorrow".
So it's been a few days... The sleeping this from the previous entry continued for a few more nights
though not as terrifying. I would wake up but still be dreaming, but I knew I was awake and I was. Then I close my eyes, the dream still continuing but it freaked me out so I'd wake again but the dream wouldn't stop. Very bizarre experience. The last couple nights it hasn't happened but it has taken me longer to get to sleep and I have woken up a few times in the night too. The anger does seem to have pretty much subsided now though so hopefully the sleep issues will too.
I'm still feeling really good in general though. I've not had any bad brain days. I just feel "normal". lol what is normal?!

22nd October 2018

Today is Monday. Saturday was probably my first bad brain day of the withdrawal. First bad brain day in a while actually. I made myself get up and go to the gym even though I didn't really want to. I felt a little angry, too. I did my workout, came home and washed my car, had some food and then I got into bed and didn't get out again until Sunday. I spent the vast majority of that time crying. Just over anything and everything. Maybe it was all just pent up emotion that I've been needing to get out. But it wouldn't stop. And it took ages to get to sleep. Yesterday was much better. I felt more 'alive'. But then had the worst night sleep yet. The waking up but still dreaming thing was happening but it seemed much more frightening and I couldn't keep still. I even woke myself up whimpering at one point. So it feels like I've had about 20 minutes sleep which is not an idea start for a Monday morning...

29th October 2018

Much better weekend than the previous! I went out on Saturday night with my friends and I did start getting very tired towards the end of the night and was glad to be in bed! But I went out and didn't get any pre-night out anxiety like I have in the past. I think it helped that I told my friends I would be going home after our meal and not going out later.
The sleep is improving too. The scary dreaming situation (touch wood) seems to have ceased. I am sometimes waking up once or twice but am pretty much going straight back to sleep without having much of an impact.
My tear ducts are certainly unsealed these days! When I started taking antidepressants, almost immediately I lost the ability to cry. It may not sound like a bad thing and at first it wasn't - I'd be crying all the time so it was nice to not be doing that - but sometimes you need a cry! Now I've stopped the medication and the rusted up tear ducts have been oiled up and they are flowing free! Sometimes it's actually fine and good... I read a book (Tattooist of Auschwitz) and bawled my eyes out and it was nice to be able to experience the emotions. However I have been going to bed some nights, or just before I'm going to bed, and my brain whispers something to me I don't like and then I end up crying and then I can't get to sleep for a while.
I know my body is still getting used to the changes and I have to ride it out so I'm remaining positive about it and I am actually feeling great!
The clocks went back yesterday and this time of year, when it's dark and miserable all the time, is usually when I feel worse. I definitely experience some SAD so I'm hoping this good feeling continues through the next few months!

8th November 2018

I had every intention of doing this entry 4 days ago on the actual month-iversary of withdrawal... but alas here we are! But I have done a whole month with no anti depressants and I feel great. I have read that cold turkey isn't recommended and from the past when I've missed a day it has been awful. I feel like sometimes I'm waiting for the day when it will hit but so far so good. I think it shows that it was the perfect time for me to do this. My sleeping has got better in that I haven't woken in the night for a week or so but I have found it more difficult to get to sleep the last couple of days. Also finding SAD a bit tricky this year. As it gets to about 3pm all my motivation is wiped and I feel so drained. Getting up this morning was difficult too.

14th November 2018

I am officially a fully trained Mental Health First Aid-er! I have spent the last 2 days on a course and it was amazing. So insightful and I have learnt so much more about Mental Health than I imagined I would. I'm putting together Mental Health at Work guides at work and this was the last thing I wanted to do before I release it to my colleagues so I'm very excited to see how this goes.

On another note to how I'm feeling, I have noticed the last week I have been feeling sick a lot. But not actually wanting to be sick which I've always attributed to my anxiety. I can't remember when I last had it and I'm trying hard to remember if it was pre-antidepressants or if I did experience it when I was on them. And so just wondering if that is just this weeks withdrawal side effect!

21st November 2018

Here is a list of ridiculous things that have made me cry in the last few weeks

  • Mary Poppins Returns trailer, whilst being stood in the middle of the Disney Store
  • Thinking about finally seeing Mary Poppins Returns
  • The pattern the autumn leaves made blowing in the wind as I drove past
  • A podcast about plastic
  • A podcast about books
  • Pretty much every podcast I've listened to
  • The Boots Christmas advert.... but not the first time. It was about the 20th time of seeing it
  • This Morning's phone in on gender identity in children
  • Thinking about the ending of Tattooist of Auschwitz
  • A snake on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here
  • Any time Anne Hegerty is on screen on I'm A Celeb

SAD is kicking my arse massively this year. Worse than ever. I imagine that coming off medication is probably a factor but I don't recall it being this bad pre-medication. And I don't know what to do. I can't afford one of these daylight lamps. I've tried magnesium supplements but it just doesn't seem to be agreeing with me. Whenever I take it I wake up throughout the night feeling very weird... can't really explain it. So I guess it's just having to ride it out.

4th December 2018

Today is 2 months of not taking my medication. I still on the whole feel great. I am still struggling with sleep and I can cry at the drop of a hat BUT I don't feel like I did before I went on the pills. Whenever I cry at ridiculous things my brain goes to "oooh what if you're falling back there!" and I have to bat it away. I have noticed anxiety has felt worse the last week or so. I'm not sure why. I only got to the gym once last month and today I'm getting back to my usual routine so hoping that will help out with all that.

10th December 2018

This time of year is hard and the fact you can't say you don't enjoy Christmas without someone being like "BUT IT'S THE BEST TIME OF THE YEAR" or calling you a Scrooge. Without even considering why you might not enjoy this time of year. For me it's a reminder, in the form of a knife through the heart, that most of my grandparents aren't here anymore. And I can't look past that unfortunately. So trying to deal with that, with people having a go because you don't love it as much as they do, with the SAD that comes with the darkness of winter and then with the added coming off anti-depressants... it isn't that fun.
I do feel like the vitamin D supplements are helping a lot though. I notice I cope a lot better in the evenings on the days I remember to take it compared to when I don't. Maybe it's a placebo effect? But it's a good effect so I just need to remember to take it everyday.

19th December 2018

I have no real update only that I just feel generally good. I have been getting a bit of anxiety over money worries and things I probably know I don't need to. But as we know... mental health doesn't care for logic! So that's made me have a few nights bad sleep. I finish work on Friday for Christmas and I'm so excited to have a bit of time off to do nothing.

21st December 2018

It's last day of work for the year. It's (finally!) the Shortest Day!! And I'm going to see Mary Poppins Returns today. So all in all a fantastic day and I feel amazing!
I've kind of been counting down to the Shortest Day because I'm hoping this means the SAD will start improving. January does usually tend to be tough though and no medication may make it tougher? BUT I have gotten through my first end of year with no medication and though SAD has kicked my ass hard this year, I've fought back and I think I've done really well.

25th December 2018

I’ve not dreaded Christmas at all this year. I’ve not felt festive either. But not dreaded it. And kinda been looking forward to it.
But then it got to 10pm and I started crying and it’s just hit midnight and I’ve still not fucking stopped.
I’m the only sibling still at home (and the oldest which makes me feel more pathetic) but this is the first year I’m on my own at home. All my brain thinks about it wanting to buy a house and then tells me how much of a loser I am that I still don’t have one.
I don’t get to spend the day with my boyfriend which is also making me sad because everyone else I see in real life and online is spending the day with their partner and it just makes me a bit sad. I can’t help it. And I know I’m being stupid.
Been so tired all day and now I can’t sleep and I can’t stop fucking crying. I really thought maybe this year Christmas would feel good for me.

27th December 2018

Christmas was fine. We had a nice time and I saw my family. But I am glad it’s done. It’s just so mentally draining. On Christmas Day I was ready for bed at 5pm with not a single ounce of energy in me. And Christmas Day was our quiet day! We had our dinner on Boxing Day when my nieces and nephews could be here.
I am ready for the ultimate lazy day today. May aim to go to the gym tomorrow too. Woken up today in not a great mood so maybe that will help.
But it’s all done for another year and now I can just enjoy a few days off work.

29th December 2018

Definitely been feeling not all that jolly the last few days. I woke up too late to go to the gym yesterday but I did have a clear out of some things which was good. Been really struggling to sleep this last week. Just lying awake for hours. I think it could be because I’m out of a routine now? But getting back into one is going to be so difficult I can already tell.

31st December 2018

I think last night was the worst yet for sleeping. It did dawn on me whilst lying awake that I haven’t taken a vitamin D the whole week. I’ve taken one today so we’ll see how tonight goes. But today has not been a good brain day.
3 years ago today I booked my doctors appointment to discuss my mental health. Can’t believe how quickly time has gone.
For now it’s New Year’s Eve. 2018 has been good. So hopefully 2019 follows and let’s see if we can stay on a good mental health path.
And please, brain, let me sleep tonight!

1st January 2019

Today has been the mother of all bad brain days. I’m pretty gutted that’s how I spent the first day of a brand new year but trying not to dwell on it.
I’ve been feeling quite shitty the whole week. I just don’t do well this week of the year and mostly I’ve managed to ignore it but I think it all must have built up and fame to a head today. I love having the time off work. Working retail at Christmas was hell so having a job now where I get the time off is amazing. But I think my brain likes routine more.
So I eventually got out of bed and showered... because my boyfriend is a saint. And we went for a walk and I did feel a little better after that.
So it’s back to work tomorrow so maybe once I’m back in routine everything will be okay. I took vitamin D yesterday and slept much better and I’ve done the same today so fingers crossed because the alarm at 7am isn’t going to be fun...

2nd January 2019

Now I don't know if the Vitamin D did work the other night or not cos last night was awful! I fell asleep just after 8 for maybe 45 minutes. And then I get in bed... and no more sleep is coming. Was awake til after 1am. So I've had less than 6 hours sleep. Don't feel too bad right now though to be honest so maybe I just needed to wake up early again? And hopefully tonight will be better.
Feeling okay so far today. Work has been quiet so got done what needs doing.
I'm so happy yoga is tonight. Can't wait to just have a hour in silence. And then back to the gym tomorrow and I'm pretty excited for that!
Just a couple more days and I've hit the 3 months of no anti-depressants! It's gone so quickly.

4th January 2019

The day is here! 3 months since I last took an anti-depressant!

So first of all sleep has improved. I did yoga on Wednesday which was great. Class was so full which was lovely. Then I read before bed and I'm pretty sure I was asleep by 11! Last night was a bit trickier but I'm fairly certain I dropped off by midnight so that's good. And I am feeling much better that I was last week too.

But 3 months with no medication... honestly I thought it would be much harder. The side effects I got when I went on them were awful and lasted so long and from previous things I read I was expecting similar with withdrawal. I told my bosses that I was coming off and said that I may have some bad days with the effects. Overall I have felt just as I have in the last year of being on them. There have been bad brain days, but I know now they aren't permanent. SAD was much tougher this year which I imagine the withdrawal had an effect on, and I didn't really think about this time of year approaching when I went to the doctors to discuss coming off them. But I could acknowledge what was happening and I got through it. I tried magnesium but I don't think that agrees with me but I do think vitamin D has some impact so need to remember that for next year.
The anger was a very unexpected effect and luckily it only lasted a week or so but I didn't like that. The sleep issues... I mean at this point I'm just used to the fact that I'm going to struggle with sleep. I read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker last year and it's really interesting and I think this year I need to just establish a really good bedtime routine.

I'm feeling good about this year right now. My resolutions/goals for the year include trying not to dwell on bad things/moods/things I can't control, unfollow anything online that don't make me happy and have a good bedtime routine to help sleep.

Before I decided to withdraw I was fully understanding and accepting that one day I may need them again. And that is so okay. They got me out of a really bad place and brought me to a good place and they completely changed my life for the better. I just want to see how my body and brain is without them for now.

**Please be aware I'm not a medical profession. This is all my own individual experience and everyone will react differently to medication and withdrawal**

Thursday 17 May 2018

Thoughts on Mental Health Awareness Week

It is currently Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. A week dedicated to talking about mental health, how we can do better, how the government can do better for us and just generally talking about these issues to help break down the stigma still attached to mental health.

There's plenty of arguments that surround awareness weeks.

"We should be raising awareness all the time!" - we are but having a specific week dedicated to the cause brings it to more people's attention. Not everyone follows the same people online so they may not see mental health conversation on their feeds. But seeing #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek trending on Twitter may make someone click on and get involved where they wouldn't previously have done.
Also people (including myself) see these dedicated days/weeks/months as a perfect opportunity to speak out, to ask for help, to talk about what needs to change.

I posted on this blog on Time To Talk Day in 2016 and that was the first time I talked publicly about the struggles I've been through and how I'm working on fixing them. It just felt like the perfect opportunity to write it down and put it in to the world. A day dedicated to telling your own story. A day when people are listening to these stories. A day where people without these struggles want to listen and learn. And I don't see how they can be a bad thing.
(you can read that post HERE.)

I try and post something during these dedicated mental health periods because people are more aware and want to listen and learn. Last year for Mental Health Awareness Week I did a little post about how I was currently feeling as I was going through a bit of bad brain time. I thought it was important to talk about that as some of my previous "mental health updates" had a lot of positives in regards to how I was feeling. But it is important to show that just because a person is taking medication and/or doing therapy they don't magically recover. For me depression is always there but sometimes it is more prevalent than others, and that's okay.

Another point I hear a lot is "we don't need more awareness, we need better services. Stop telling people to get help."
So I think we need to break this down...

With the amount of daily articles we read focused on mental health, I can see why the "we don't need more awareness" argument can be made. However, there are people who still don't understand mental health. There are people that still say "cheer up!" or "what can you be depressed about?" (not to me but I see that it happens).
So not everyone is aware of the severity of mental health issues, the awareness is still needed.
But we 100% do need better services. There needs to be more money put into mental health services. There needs to be more education into mental health issues, for everyone. We can all do better to support those that need us.
My main gripe is with "stop telling people to get help" which I have seen on Twitter this week. Saying it in that way sounds quite harsh but in reality I don't think this is what anyone is really intending. Yes, people share their own stories with the message to others being that they don't need to be afraid of asking for help and that support is there for them. But nobody is forcing anyone to do anything they aren't ready for.
In my own experience, a person struggling with mental health knows that there are options for getting help but it's intimidating and scary to take that first step and the more positive stories put out there, the more likely they are going to seek that help for themselves. Hell, I spent the best part of a decade struggling in silence! I was terrified nobody would believe me, that people would think I'm crazy and attention seeking.

I posted on Twitter this week a mini thread about positive experiences with sharing mental health stories and asking for help. When I went to the doctors in 2016 I took a letter saying everything I needed to tell her. I knew that I would get too upset and wouldn't say everything. So she read my letter whilst I sobbed. She then spoke to me like a human being, she didn't judge me and she asked me all the questions a responsible medical professional should do. She explained my options with medication and therapy and she offered me a sick note whenever I needed it. It was such a relief.
I also wrote about how I told my employer at that time. I had decided to hand in my notice because I knew a 2 week sick note wasn't going to be enough time. Again I wrote a letter and they were beyond supportive. They made sure I was okay and comfortable whilst I worked my notice and they offered me the chance to work from home once I was ready to.

I think if I had heard more positive stories I may well have sought help sooner. Whilst mental health is talked about a lot all the time it's generally not positive stories. It's the horror stories and the new reports that link X, Y and Z to depression. These awareness weeks give us the chance to talk about our own experiences and show those people still struggling and hiding that it's okay and they can come out and ask for that help.

And the two go hand in hand... if the mental health services are better, then maybe more people will want to use them. But if people aren't wanting to come forward because maybe they're fearful or ashamed, then the people who have the power to improve these services aren't seeing the demand for them. There's absolutely no rush to seek help; do it in your time when you're ready but I don't think it's helpful to say "stop telling people to get help".

Something I'm not so sure about with the awareness weeks etc is to do with the corporate world. During these times companies, whether huge or small, post on social media about it. How they support those with mental health issues and how they want to spread the awareness. But are these thoughts actually extended in to their workplaces? I don't know anybody who's workplace offers any mental health training or educating. I don't know anybody who's workplace even mentions mental health in the company handbooks the same way that things like sick/maternity/bereavement leave is. If we have flu we can ring in to work, know we will be believed and go back when we are better. But can we do that during bad mental health times? Even though I am pretty open about my mental health now, I still don't feel like I could call in sick if I was having a 'bad brain day'.
I could be very wrong. I don't know anyone who works for huge companies. I could be being very cynical. But it seems like, sometimes, companies are jumping on the bandwagon like it's a fashion statement and just want the likes and to boost their Twitter engagement.
It would be great if companies can share their posts but also say how they implement mental health support. That would be so beneficial to a person who is hiding away being too afraid to ask for help.

In all, I like that we have these dedicated days to talk about mental health. No we don't have to limit these conversations to these days and we shouldn't. But having these days pop up every so often just acts as a reminder to those who don't have to think about mental health issues everyday. It makes sure that mental health doesn't get brushed under the rug. We have so much further to go to do better for everyone and the more it's put in front of people, the more likely that one day we'll get there.

Let me know what you think?

Also I wrote a piece about empathy and mental health for The Nopebook which you can read HERE.

And there is a great petition started by Natasha Devon to make it compulsory for there to be mental health first aiders in the workplace. You can sign the petition HERE.

Monday 16 April 2018


Last year I wrote a post about my "lifestyle change". I wrote about how unhappy I was with my body and how I decided to do something about it via calorie counting. I wrote about how it was working for me and how proud I was of myself.

That was 8 months ago and present me is in a very different place to past me. I was going to straight up delete the other post because it's not something I agree with anymore but it makes more sense to address it and talk about what changed and how I am approaching health and fitness now.

Firstly, yes I was unhappy with my body. And I still am. But with the changes I have made now, I'm not getting upset all the time about it because I know what I am doing now is good and right for me in this moment.

Calorie counting was not good. For me anyway. I'm reading and learning about health and fitness and (probably an entire post on its own) but calorie counting and the apps like My Fitness Pal (that I was using), aren't good. There's a reason we have a recommended daily allowance. And MFP was telling me to have 800 calories less than that. And I got obsessed.
I was so obsessed with that 1200 calories figure. And whilst I did it and I did see weight start coming off, I hit the plateau and then got disheartened that it wasn't working anymore.
I was taking ingredients out of my salad so that it "saved" calories. I was walking round the block an extra time to "earn" calories. It was just taking over my life and having had problems with food and eating in the past, I got scared of going back there. So I deleted the app. And I ate what I wanted.
And I was still unhappy.

The media is so obsessed with calories and making us feel like we have to earn the right to eat food we actually want. And then make us feel guilty for doing so. So I was back to feeling stuck in a rut.

At the back end of 2017 I started going to therapy. I told her one week about wanting to be fitter but being scared because of how obsessive I get over things. And I ended up realising I do obsess and meticulously plan everything I do. And then she made me realise that isn't necessarily a bad thing. And then it sort of hit me that she was right.

So I planned...

I planned that I wanted to try and see if I could go to a gym and enjoy it. I knew I wanted to go to a relatively small and quiet gym as I would feel more comfortable. There is one just a few minutes away from where I work so I did some online research and then on a lunch break I went in and asked if I could have a look in the gym. The duty manager came to show me around and I told him how I'd never been to a gym but I wanted to but the thought of them scares me. And he was just so lovely. He was saying how he understands how they can be intimidating at first but he showed me the gym and it is very small and not crowded at all. He then told me I can get a 7 day free pass to see if it's for me so that's what I did!
And since then I have been going 3 times a week and I actually enjoy it and look forward to going!

I knew I had to take it easy and go slow to begin with having never done it before and not wanting to be in pain the next day - that would have made me not want to go back!
I got an induction on the first day. One of the ladies showed me how to use the cardio machines. I said I do want to do weight and strength training eventually but right now I need to work on my fitness levels. And then she left me to it. And I went on the cross trainer. And after about a minute I wanted to be sick. I felt like all my internal organs were going to drop out of my body. I pushed through to 5 minutes and then did some on the bike and treadmill and that was enough for a first session.
I know my fitness levels have improved as from that initial wanting to be sick after a minute, I can do 30 minutes on the cross trainer. I am so proud of myself.
I am planning in the next few weeks to enquire about Personal Training my gym offers so I can learn how to use the weights and do it properly. I'm pretty excited for it! I can't believe I am even this person!

So then the next hurdle to tackle was food. I don't want to be scared of food. I don't want to feel like I have to earn food. And I don't want to feel like I have to punish myself for enjoying food. I hate the word 'diet' and phrases like 'clean eating' and the whole idea of good and bad foods.
I set up a new Instagram to keep me motivated throughout this journey and I follow a whole mix of people who do weights, yoga, runners, foodie posts and I have learnt so much just from that. (My Instagram is HERE too.) Seeing that these people don't calorie count and don't punish themselves and do some great myth busting is just so refreshing and it has definitely given me a more positive mindset on the matter. So yes, I am trying to eat better. I am making good food (hey I even realised I like avocado!) but if I want half a garlic bread with dinner, then I'm going to have it. And if I want to eat a whole Easter egg in one sitting, I'm going to do that too.
This Easter weekend I had a Chinese and a Dominoes and I didn't once feel bad I had done it. I didn't feel like I had to work harder on my next gym session.

And that in itself is doing my brain a world of good.

The other thing I have started doing is yoga. I have wanted to give yoga a go for years. I have done a few yoga videos on YouTube but not religiously and not for ages. A new studio opened the same week I started going to the gym and it opened about a 2 minute walk from my house. So every Wednesday evening I go down and spend an hour with no phone, in the quiet having a good old stretch. And I bloody love it!
The first session was great. And then I woke up the next day and my arms were killing! I didn't even get achey from the gym but yoga was another story!
I went back and I've been going every week and the aches have stopped and I just really love it. My favourite bit is the relaxation at the end because I nearly fall asleep every week. Then I basically float back home, feeling so chill, and then I get into bed and read for a bit.
I follow a lot of yoga people on Instagram and the way they bend blows my brain and I just live in hope that one day that will be me!

Whilst I wish I could have made these changes a long time ago, those times were clearly never the right time for me. I'm in a good head space right now, I feel more motivated than ever and most importantly I actually enjoy what I am doing.
With the last Lifestyle Change post, whilst I thought I was doing good things and in a good place to do it, I obviously wasn't.

I will try post more frequent updates but you can follow my Instagram where I do try post regularly.

Some Instagrams I love that are positive and motivating:


Thursday 1 February 2018


Two years ago I posted on Time To Talk Day about how I had finally acknowledged my mental health problems and had started to do something about them. I had just left my job, I was a month into taking anti-depressants, suffering with insomnia (as a result of medication) and, questioning everything.

Would the medication work? Would I ever feel better? Would I have to take medication for life? Will I ever get back into work? Where am I going to get money from?

The questions went on and on and on...

Two years later I feel like a completely different person.

I am still taking medication, but I am currently on the lowest dosage I have ever been on. Bad brain days are much more rare. I am in a job that I love. And I can answer the questions that rattled my brain.

The medication does work for me. I do feel better most of the time. This year I want to try slowly wean myself off medication and see if I can go without. But I am also aware that maybe I can't go without and that's also okay.

At the end of last year I decided to try therapy. I found someone local and went to the free initial session she offers. I felt comfortable with her and I've been a further 3 times so far.
In this weeks session I was feeling really great and positive and she's helping me realise that the things I see about myself in a negative way actually are positives. So I'm finding it useful.
She's asked what I want to get out of the sessions and for me it's to just stay being okay.

I wanted to do it now as I lowered my dosage over Christmas so doing therapy at the same time sort of feels like a safety net. Just having a back up in case the lower dosage wasn't going to be right for me.
So far, it's been good. I don't feel different from when I was on the previous dosage - which I see as a good thing. I feel as good on a lower dosage as I did on the higher. It gives me more hope for coming off fully.

I think had I done therapy at the start of my journey, I wouldn't have been as open. I wouldn't have wanted to talk so freely and I wouldn't be open to seeing the negatives as positives. But now I have the hindsight to see how things have changed, it's about changing the way my brain deals with things and keeping on top of that. I guess for me it's more like CBT. I did CBT when I was first diagnosed but it was an online course and I never physically spoke to anyone during it. It was okay but it wasn't the best it could have been.

I'm in no rush to come off medication. I'm just taking it as it comes. I have a couple months worth of my prescription so my plan is to see how I feel at the end of those. If I feel ready, I'll go see my doctor to see what the next step is. If not, I'll continue for a couple more months.

I never wanted to accept that I have mental health problems. I was scared of the labels and stereotypes. I was scared of medication.
But now, I fully accept that sometimes I am depressed and deal with anxiety. And that's okay. I'm doing all I can to make the symptoms better and that's all I can do.

What works for me isn't going to work for everyone. But I guarantee just telling someone, anyone, will help. Whether it be friends, family, doctors or a therapist. Anyone.
I find it easier to talk to people I'm not close to. That's just me.

Please just talk to someone. They'll listen.

Thursday 10 August 2017


I dug out the bikini from my drawers that had been sat in there for 2 years, unworn, and nervously tried it on ahead of a spa day with friends the following week. I knew I had put on weight over the last year and I haven't been happy with my body for a while. I've had to buy jeans in bigger sizes than I ever have and my t-shirts started feeling too tight. But when I tried on the bikini and looked at myself in the mirror I had a little breakdown.

I despised my reflection. I looked awful and had no idea how I managed to get to that place. Now, I'm nowhere near being overweight and my BMI sits in the healthy spectrum, but I know in myself I wasn't healthy and I didn't feel good.
So I spent all night sobbing. And with a lot of encouragement from my boyfriend, when I woke up the next morning I committed to a lifestyle change.

I don't like the word 'diet'. It has such negative connotations and I think getting wrapped up in it would make me fail. So I downloaded My Fitness Pal and put in all my details which told me to have 1200 calories a day, I joined some Facebook groups (which are amazing - so supportive and motivating! I will link them at the end), I bought a copy of Women's Health, did some online research and did a good food shop.

I live at home so eating rubbish things is too easy but everyone at home was on holiday for two weeks so I did the food shop and I was very well behaved. I made a list and planned my meals ahead so I knew what I needed. I've never been a salad/vegetable eater. I don't enjoy it. Give me cheese and potatoes any day! But I bought salad and foods and dressing to make it taste better!
Being on my own for the two weeks also made it easier as I didn't have to announce I was doing this change. I have been nervous to tell people as I've never done anything like this and I do get comments about what I do or don't choose to eat and I hate it. I makes me very self conscious and having had eating problems in the past, it just brings back memories and feelings that I'd rather avoid.

Last year I saw Caitlin Moran at her book launch for 'Moranifesto' and she read a piece from it which was a letter to teenage girls. In it she says to treat yourself like you would your own child. You wouldn't starve your child as much as you wouldn't feed it just junk food. You would feed it healthy foods, make sure it was well and you wouldn't deprive it of treats. So that is what I'm doing. And I shouldn't be afraid to say this is what I'm doing for myself.

Caitlin's letter - please watch!

I'm eating my 3 meals everyday full of good things and I don't get left feeling hungry. I have healthy snacks and plenty of water, but if I want a chocolate bar than god damn I am going to have one!

A general food day

Breakfast: Bowl of Special K - sometimes with milk, sometimes Greek yoghurt

Mid morning snack: Apple or some kind of low calorie breakfast bar. I don't always have a snack

Dinner: Salad of spinach and rocket with either chicken, turkey or tuna, caesar dressing. Sometimes add in a boiled egg or too and sprinkle on some chia seeds. Will also sometimes have an apple if I didn't in the morning!

Tea: Chicken breast with pesto and spinach and side of brown rice

Snack: Low calorie yoghurt

I have managed to stick to the 1200 calories perfectly well and I am seeing the number on the scale drop slowly. I find My Fitness Pal amazing. It seems a bit time consuming to begin with logging everything but I enjoy seeing the breakdown of everything I enter in and it just makes it easy to see what calories you have left. It also tracks the steps you do each day and that ends up giving you calories back, if you need a little extra!

I am going to eventually start incorporating working out in to this lifestyle change but I have a lot of confidence barriers to break through there.

In all, I am feeling good and supported and I'm motivated and I'm happy I finally did something about what has been making me hate myself.
I'm proud of myself.

Little side note: I have signed up to the Manchester Memory Walk in aid of Alzheimer's Society. My grandad passed away last week after a very long battle with the disease so I just wanted to do a little something. My Just Giving page is HERE if you would like more information and are able to donate a couple of quid I would be so grateful. I have hit my £250 target already but now I just want to smash it!

Facebook groups:

Low Calorie Meal Ideas
Carly Rowena - #GetGorgeous

Instagrams I like to follow


My Pinterest 'healthy' board

Friday 12 May 2017

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week and I have certainly been aware of my mental health this week.

I woke up on Tuesday, after a great weekend and no problems on Monday, struggling to get out of bed. My head and body was heavy and my brain was cloudy. I eventually forced myself up (because I can't bring myself to ring in work sick for a bad brain day) and I went to work. I was empty and heavy all day. I had a little cry on my break and tried to tell myself it's a bad day and tomorrow will be okay.

Tomorrow wasn't okay. Neither was the day after and so far neither is today.

This is the worst I have been for months and although I know that there doesn't have to be a reason, it makes me angry when it shows up without reason.

I'm angry and annoyed because I was recently thinking about dropping my dosage again to start coming off my medication. I'm angry because this has deflated me and made me think I'm not ready. It's made me think that I'm not doing as good as I thought I was. I'm just angry at my brain for doing this to me.

But I have been honest and told people that I'm struggling at the moment. And I'm lucky that I know such good people.

It's been worse and I got through it. So I got this too.

Hopefully the clouds blow away over the weekend.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

A Big Update

Well. It's been a while. 9 months to be precise.

My last post was about being on antidepressants for 6 months and the progress I made. I had quit my full time job and started working from home, still having bad days and just had my medication dosage increased.

9 months later... 15 months since being prescribed antidepressants... I am still taking them daily. I have recently reduced my dosage back to the 20mg I began on, my "bad brain days" are happening more rarely... and I am back in full time employment. And generally, I am happy. 

That is massive for me. Saying that I am happy. I wasn't sure I knew what being 'happy' felt like because I felt nothing but emptiness for so long. The last year has been great for me, I'm in a great position and I am so proud of my own progress.

So what's been happening in the last 9 months...

At the end of June/start of July I had my dosage increased from 20mg to 30mg of Citalopram. I had noticed my bad days becoming more frequent and started to feel like I was before I took medication. I was brave and went to the doctor once I realised what was happening. We agreed to increase the medication and I responded well to that. I definitely felt the improvement and I stayed on 30mg until February this year, when I felt comfortable and ready to start decreasing the dosage. 

With working from home I was only doing a small number of hours a week just to give me a bit of an income whilst I took the time to sort myself out. I enjoyed what I was doing, I could manage my workload to how I was feeling and could take time out when I needed to. Around August time I was half feeling really good and half worrying about my financial situation. Being a spreadsheet lover though, I set one up mapping out all my incomings and outgoings. I took into account how I was feeling and decided I'd give myself the rest of the year to continue keeping myself as number one and not putting any pressure on myself. By September, I was feeling really good and positive. I found myself on a job website and saw an ad for a receptionist. It was full time, which did worry me a little, but the job role itself sounded manageable. So I sent my CV.
The following day I got a phone call to go for an interview. I went for an interview. I was afraid of having to explain why I left my job/why I was working from home and that being an issue. But it never came up and I didn't want to bring it up. The role was explained to me and I felt like I could do it no problem. A few days later the job was offered to me and I took it!
I've now been there a little over 6 months and I love it. It's a relaxed environment, I don't have too much responsibility right now and everyone is lovely. It was the perfect job to get me back in to the swing of things. I have opened up to some of the people, including bosses, about my struggles with mental health and they've been very understanding which reassures me greatly.

A new job also meant a new car! I had to get rid of my old little baby around May/June time due to the running cost and the fact that I wasn't having any real need to use it anymore. It was a hard choice as it did make me feel like I'd lost some of my independence and freedom. I have to travel by car to my new workplace and so I got myself a brand new car! My first car that wasn't a little old thing with 3 previous owners. A brand new one. I got my freedom back!
I also drove on the motorway for the first time..! Yep, despite being a driver for 5 years, I never went on the motorway. I was always very afraid and nervous and felt like my cars have always been too old and shabby to handle it. And now, the motorway is basically my second home. The first time I drove on the motorway may have a little something to do with the next point...

...Around May time I was having a brew with some girls I used to work with. One was complaining about a guy she was speaking to on Tinder. I'd never used it and told her to let me go on hers to find her someone. It was a laugh and she made me download it. I thought why not? A bit of fun. But it was quite nerve wracking. It was something completely new to me. But I also was at a stage were I felt comfortable and good about myself and I wanted to meet somebody. I was always a bit afraid in the past to meet someone. I've never liked myself before. I always hated how I looked, I didn't think I had a personality or anything that anyone would be attracted to. So I hid away. How can I expect someone else to like me when I don't like myself? Would I have to tell them I have mental health problems? Would that scare them aware?
But I found some confidence and downloaded Tinder.
I had the kind of messages you see online from the assholes (probably another blog post on its own). But I got chatting to a few decent people. I met up with someone (which was terrifying!). I let one of my friends know what I was doing and where I was going. And kept it during the day. It went well, we saw each other again but there was nothing. Hey ho!
And then I got a new match...

He had a Disney related image and he was cute. We met. A few times. We hung out for a couple of months and then... we were together. And I am beyond happy. He gets me and understands as best he can that some days aren't easy, and he's always there on those days. I am so comfortable and relaxed with him. I could get super soppy but nobody needs to read that..!
He's good though. I like him quite a lot.

So a lot happened since last summer. I still get the odd Bad Brain Day but I'm getting better at managing them and telling somebody when I am struggling. I'm feeling good and happy with my current life choices. I am so proud of myself.

I'll try to not leave this empty for as long this time. This was actually quite therapeutic. 

Tuesday 5 July 2016

6 Months On...

Back in February I made a post called "Time To Talk". I discussed finally getting help for depression and anxiety after suffering in silence for 8 or 9 years.
I've now been on medication for 6 months so I thought I'd give an honest update of how these 6 months have been for me.

I began my prescription of 20mg Citalopram at the beginning of January. The first day was horrendous. I felt very light headed, unbalanced and nauseous all day and I just spent the day laid on my bed. I did a lot of Googling (as always...) and this seemed to be a thing that happened to others so I just put up with it. I remember being a bit scared to carry on taking them but I did and the feelings from the previous day didn't continue.

However, the first week I got the majority of the common side effects stated in the leaflet. I felt sick constantly. I couldn't eat anything. And my main problem was that I couldn't sleep at all. In January I was still working and that required me getting up at 7am and being in work 8.30-5/5.30 but, I'd still be wide awake come 4am. I would be exhausted all day and my eyes would be dropping but the moment I got into bed, I was wide awake. I ended up sticking Netflix on for hours in the hope it would make me drop off. (I did find out that I love Brooklyn Nine-Nine though and powered through it very quickly. Swings and roundabouts.)
The other side effects of feeling sick and having no appetite went after a couple of weeks but the insomnia was destroying me. I wrote about not being able to sleep too, here.

An odd side effect I have had is that I've lost the ability to cry. I have Googled this but I can't find many others that have had this and other people I know on the medication haven't really experienced it either. It feels like all the emotions I could feel have just been drained out of me. The second week I was on the medication, I went to see The Danish Girl at the cinema. I am a crier. Especially a film crier. This is the kind of film I would have cried at. But I just sat there, and I felt nothing. My friend was sobbing and I knew it was sad but I just didn't feel anything. Since then I've only managed the odd few tears a handful of times. It sounds odd to complain about not being able to cry, when I previously spent so much time crying, but it's frustrating not being able to. Sometimes you just need a good cry!

In February I gave myself the whole month to do whatever I wanted; to be selfish. I let myself wake up whenever I naturally did. It was really nice to not have to be woken by an alarm, even though I wasn't actually getting that much sleep still. I managed to nap for an hour or so a few times during the day, which I never used to do. I just did whatever I wanted, when I wanted and I really needed that time to just feel relaxed and free. I also began my course of CBT. I was doing it online via an app. The app is full of programmes, tools and techniques to control and manage anxiety. My reviewer checked in every two weeks to see how I was getting on and ask me questions. I can send him messages and there is a journal I can put everything that's on my mind in that I find really useful.

In March I began working from home. For the first couple of weeks I left my alarm off and let myself wake up naturally. I put my alarm on from the middle of the month and have it on for the same time every weekday now. I make sure I get changed everyday even if it is just putting on my scruffy jogging bottoms. Just as long as I change out of what I slept in. I really enjoy the work I'm doing now and being able to do it at home in my own time. My bosses have been so supportive to me during all of this.
I could definitely tell I was feeling a lot clearer. My mind didn't wander off to dark places and make me think bad thoughts. I talked to my family a lot more and joined in conversations at tea time. The sleep problem was still bothering me and my doctor prescribed me sleeping pills for 10 days. I mentioned in the sleep post that although the tablets got me to sleep quicker, they didn't make me feel any better and once they ended I had the worst night yet. I decided with my doctor, and also my CBT reviewer, that it would have to be something I have to just let pass and use relaxation techniques etc to help make getting to sleep easier (easier said than done).

I have missed one day of medication and I was okay until later in the day when I didn't feel well at all. Could have been coincidence? There have also been a couple of times when I have taken the pill a few hours later than I usually do and this also makes me feel very sluggish and I don't tend to have good days then.
I have now finished my course of CBT and my results from it show that my anxiety levels have improved from when I started. I found it really useful and doing it online meant I could work through it in my own time. I still get access to the app and materials on it for another year too so I don't feel like I've been thrown into the wilderness to go it alone.
I definitely feel like working from home has helped. I love what I'm doing now but I am getting a bit worried about my financial situation and the future. With working from home though I do need to make sure I go outside most days. I've got really into walking around the park where I live but some days that seems like too much and I end up just walking to Tesco and back!
Also, after 6 very long months... this last couple of weeks I have managed to sleep!! I don't want to jinx this but I haven't struggled getting to sleep. I haven't lay awake wondering when my eyes will close. I haven't been tossing and turning for hours. I'm still going to sleep quite late but I've got into the habit of only going to bed later now, however I ham managing to get 7 or 8 hours in most nights! Hallelujah! Hopefully this isn't a blip and it continues...

And now, this last month or so I have noticed I have had a lot more bad days than I've had since beginning medication. Once I started medication I was just having the odd bad day and then I'd be good to go again the next. Recently it's been constant bad days for about 5 weeks. I was scared that I've got too used to the medication and the effect is wearing off but I did the right thing and went to the doctors before I started feeling worse and back to my old self. I have been prescribed a slightly higher dosage so hopefully this will have a positive effect. And hopefully it doesn't sned my sleeping crazy again..!

Overall I am pleased with my progress in such a short space of time. It makes me even more annoyed at myself that I let myself struggle for so long. I'm so lucky and grateful that I have good people in my life who have been supportive.

Thursday 30 June 2016

The Monthly Playlist: June

Another month, another playlist. This month is quite upbeat, which seems necessary right now.

Orange is the New Black was back this month so obviously the theme song is in there. As well as the song from the closing credits of episode 1... I'll see if you can work out which one it is.
New songs from Kaiser Chiefs and Bastille came out and I love them both quite a lot.
Plus a few new finds and a bunch of rediscoveries.