Feels good to write a preamble again Moonlings. Most of what I want to say, I’ve said before. The below video was not what I planned but it let me be creative in a dark time.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. It can cause real pain and suffering not just in your mind but in your body too. I’m sure those of us with anxiety and depression are having our own issues during these uncertain times.
It’s vital to remember you are not alone and to reach out to someone. We have so much access to technology so even if you are stuck at home, you are a few clicks away from a friend or loved one.
There are some tough moments in this video. I filmed myself during a phase of chronic pain and then recovery. This might make some people uncomfortable so please be discerning and click away if you think you can’t handle it. For all of my anxiety, depression and chronic pain sufferers I’m here for you. You are not alone, and you are still valid, productive members of society.
The podcast stops playing on my phone as it begins to ring. I see the name of a friend flash up. I’ve taken many calls in the past week, but I don’t have anything left. I look down at my messy clothes, I feel my unbrushed hair and teeth, and my general sense of disarray.
My hand is hovering over the phone on the counter, and eventually, it stops ringing. I feel two things mainly. Firstly, I feel sadness. Sadness because I don’t have the energy to talk to my friend on the phone. Secondly? Utter embarrassment.
Does your mental illness ever make you feel embarrassed? When you are at your lowest, the simplest things are impossible, and it’s hard not to be distraught.
When I’m depressed I can barely get out of bed, nevermind shower. So if a friend turns up randomly at my home, I’m probably not clean. This makes me feel ashamed for my state of being. Although it cannot be helped, it still hurts.
Also, I can’t sleep at night, so I usually sleep between 7am and 10am. I can hear you say, “you need to adopt a more healthy sleep pattern,” and I agree. It doesn’t mean I’m not trying, it just means it’s not working.
Mostly for me though, the hardest part of the depression, is the brain fog. The dissociation. I can’t string sentences together. I find driving difficult. It amps up my anxiety which feeds my depression. If I could get off the hamster wheel I would, but all I can do it wait for it to slow down.
I was able to do some washing today. This is a big win for me. Sometimes I’m fine. I’m ok, I can work, and read, and wash and learn, and not be hard on myself.
Sometimes though, I need to rest.
There are many vasts posts about mental health and no one solution.
The one that works for me, that makes me feel less embarrassed is I don’t take myself too seriously. Life is a wonder, and it’s amazing to be alive, but it doesn’t make it any less strange. I’m still a valid person, and my inactivity does not define my worth.
Firstly sorry I missed last week, I was at a friend’s wedding. Happy one week anniversary Mr & Mrs Sweetman from myself and Le’Boo!
Well, Moonlings, don’t worry, today my thoughts on mental health are positive. Often I forget to write down how I’m feeling on a good day. Or maybe the processes that helped me get through a particularly bad day. I think once the bad day is over I’m so happy to be balanced again I neglect self-reflection.
So that’s what this is. A simple bit of self-reflection. I look back to when someone recently hurt my feelings, and how I processed those feelings so no more fighting happened.
Somebody bruised my ego. Look I’m not perfect(much to my chagrin), and when people say cruel things they sometimes hurt my feelings. Normally I’m pretty much used to people not understanding me or saying hurtful things in an unsolicited way. I’ve grown to have a thick skin because I like who I am, my style and how soft I am in regards to the flora and fauna of the world.
Some people don’t like that, they are afraid of what they can’t categorise or understand. Does this make me any less valid? It certainly does not.
I also have the added bonus of not doing something just because it’s always been done that way. (I’ve been called the black sheep in my family more than once). If we didn’t question our realities then citizens would still be legally allowed to own slaves in America, homosexuality would still be a crime in Ireland, and women would not be allowed to vote or own property.
Anyways I digress. Basically, I realised that when someone makes you feel bad, you are allowing them that right. Have you ever heard this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt?
“No one can make you feel inferior, without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
This is a sentiment I come back to time and time again. If something cruel is making you feel bad, then there must be a break within yourself. The cruelty is an external force, and you cannot allow it to penetrate and become an internal force.
Notice how I wrote ‘a’ solution, and not ‘the’ solution as there are many ways to tackle mental health, and they are all valid as long as they follow this cardinal rule. They don’t harm another person. (This includes yourself because you are a person).
So I used one of my many solutions. The “letters we write, but never send,” method. Why do people do this? Surely talking it out is the only way to resolve a conflict between two sentient beings?
Nope. Sadly sometimes the other person is incapable of seeing things from your point of view. You cannot force them to see, because the only person you have control over is yourself. So what you must do is write down all your feelings, problems and thoughts so you can see them in a thoroughly organised way.
Address the letter to the person, tell them how they hurt you and why. Explain that you’ve tried to see from their perspective but you don’t understand because it seems unduly cruel. Then end with forgiveness and feel your calm returning.
I am not spouting ‘hippy’ nonsense, these methods do work to an extent. Especially on a once off fight or situation. However, if someone is being continual cruel or worse, abusive, you may simply need to walk away from that person.
Once you are done you can seal the envelope, burn it(safely), or even just rip it up and throw it away. Under no circumstances should you give the letter to the person, as this will just cause more hurt. Healing cannot happen if there is continued hurting on both sides.
Then do your best to forgive and move on, knowing that in your own heart it’s ok to be you.
Samaritans Ireland: Call: 116 123 or Text: 087 260 9090
Pieta International: Call: 1800 247 247 or Text: 51444
Welcome my Moonlings to a positive post in which I make you feel better, while also humbly (nose snort) boasting about my accomplishments.
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while (says every blogger ever). Since January I’ve been writing down 3 things a day that I’m grateful for. Whether that’s having a beer or a lie in. Being grateful for the little moments helped me realise that actually, they are big moments.
My mindset is now that I have the privilege of having a lie-in, the money to afford a beer and the means to be in a PhD programme. I don’t want to take my life for granted and living in the moment is all we have.
It would appear that this mindset has paid off because I realised that even though I’ve accomplished many things off my bucket list, I never truly celebrated them. As usual my ambition and inferiority complex meant I just needed to move onto the next big thing.
We spend so much of our time looking to the future, the next big life stage, but we rarely take the time to appreciate how far we’ve come. So today I want to discuss some of the bigger ones I’ve ticked off my list and actually pat myself on the back for once!
1. Got my masters.
Although I had to do it over two years instead of one, I still managed to get a masters in anthropology and development. This was while working in shift work, full-time, in order to pay for it.
I even won an award for my research and 250euro (see below). I was the only masters student in the PhD Colloquium in which I came second. I got a first(1.1) in my thesis that I wrote in the summer while working full-time in a call centre. That job drained me so much, I often got home at 6 and had to go to bed at 8pm because I was so mentally exhausted.
2. Got a funded PhD
It was September 2014 and I had just started the second year of my classes for my masters in anthropology and development. A PhD student came to sit in the class (it was a small class so you couldn’t miss her). She spoke so eloquently and confidently. Afterwards, we got to chatting and internally I was thinking, “I will never be this accomplished for someone to take me on for a PhD.”
Cut to 2016 I get a mysterious phone call from a man who became my mentor, friend and role model. “I see you started to fill out an application and you haven’t finished it…” (story of my life) “…I’m really impressed with your portfolio and I would like to offer you a PhD scholarship within the Business Management school.”
I am now three years in with one left to go. I have two publications, I presented at a conference in St. Petersburg, and I’m about to embark on my data collection.
3. Got response from publishers.
This may seem silly but I got actual responses from legitimate publishers who liked my 20,000 word draft of my novel. I didn’t want to waste my time finishing it if it wouldn’t have a home at the end. Though it was rejected by some publishers, they responded to it kindly and professionally.
Even though I had to postpone it until after my PhD, I know within my heart that my book will be published someday. If I could tell teenage Jaycee that, she would cry with joy.
See below my vision board I made below Christmas 2018 for the new year and beyond. I’m well on my way to accomplishing what I wanted.
4. Met someone who loves me for ME.
Look at this handsome divil. Honestly, I had tumultuously loves before Le’Boo and that’s what I thought a relationship was. Then I met him and I realised that love can be easy, and you can be loved for every single weird part of you.
5. Started a Youtube channel.
Yes, I have a YouTube channel have you heard? I’ve been watching YouTubers for years now, and I always wanted my own channel but never have the guts.
Cut to last year I was sick of being afraid and I started uploading. I only have 94 subscribers over there, but it’s growing strong. If you want to do something. Do it. There is no better time than now.
It’s better to start late than never even trying.
6. Grew my twitter following to 4500.
The Writing Community on twitter is the best thing I discovered on the internet since memes. Everyone is so supportive. We follow each other, share each other’s accomplishments and commiserate each other’s failures.
If you’re on Twitter and you want to join use the hashtag WritingCommunity and join in the conversation. Follow me over there and once you have writer / author in your bio I’ll follow you back.
What makes a successful blog? It’s simple. Whether you have 1 follower, or you’re lucky like me to have over 600 wonderful followers, write to them. Someone will comment to say they enjoyed reading or felt the same at one stage. I’ve gotten some gorgeous comments here on my blog and made some crazy friends.
8. Finally calling myself a writer.
Yes even though I’ve been writing since I was a small child, I never considered myself a writer. Then I realised. Do you write Jaycee? The answer was yes, I write every day. What is the definition of a writer?
For those of you out there that clicked on this because you relate to having mental health issues, I’m so sorry. If you are just curious and maybe want to learn more, you are still welcome here. I will just warn you though, this won’t be a particularly fun post.
When I was originally diagnosed with anxiety & depression, my counsellor told me, “You will get better at managing it, but it will never really go away.” Instead of taking this as a cautionary tale, I jumped back into work. Then slowly, but surely, I slipped into my old bad habits.
What are these bad habits? In a nutshell, I overwork myself. I’m so afraid that any opportunity I get will never come around again, so instead of thinking it through I just say yes to everything. I don’t think about what I already have, I focus on what I still need to do. Which is my bucket list, the arbitrary list of things I want to do before I die.
No one is watching me, or evaluating me. If I don’t get through the list nothing bad will happen, there is no finish line or prise. Yet my ambitious doesn’t just rule me, it screams at me.
My sleep has been destroyed as a result. I lay in bed planning to perfection how I’m going to fit it all in, then have panic attacks in the dark. My body is sore and tired, and it needs a break.
I’m here today to tell you that Thinkingmoon.com will be slowing down for a while. I bit off more of the Moon than I could chew and sent my anxiety into overload.
My priority is and always has been my PhD, but lately, I’ve been overextending myself. Taking extra jobs to pay bills (proof reading), writing this blog, filming YouTube videos and spending waaaaay too much time on Twitter.
I’m not going away completely but I will only be posting once a week, on my original day, which is Friday.
When I feel better and more grounded I will post some extra days again. When the mood strikes or inspiration cannot wait, but this will not be permanent. Not until at least next July 2020.
In the meantime, please use meas your cautionary tale if you are struggling. Your health is more important than anything else. Go rest, then reevaluate. What is important to you?
I’m going to make everything really awkward for a bit so buckle up. Last week I was very ill. It was spent alternating between crying and feelings of numbness. Immediately after that week, I had 24 hours of pain in my abdomen. Thinking I was constipated or something (despite the large amount of fibre in my diet) I proceeded to eat plenty of beans and bowel friendly food.
I wake up on Tuesday morning and boom. Period in my pants. Less than 25 days since the beginning of my last one. So, in order to make myself feel better, I apply makeup and do my hair. Less than a year ago. This would not have been the case.
By the way, this blog post was not planned. I actually have my blog posts planned until pretty much 2019. (I haven’t necessarily written them, but there you go). Also if you don’t feel like reading all this today, I have a link to my Youtube video below explaining everything.
I want to talk about: Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Now although I have not been diagnosed with this, it would appear that I have many of the symptoms, especially in regards to depression.
I’ve been keeping a journal just monitoring my general well-being and moods. It appears that the week before my period, my depression is heightened. I’ve always had some form of depression and was only recently diagnosed in 2016 / 2017. I will be bringing this evidence to a gynecologist as soon as I can.
When you think you’re doing everything right by eating well, maintaining healthy relationships, working in a job you love, you feel like depressive episodes shouldn’t be too frequent. For me though it’s always bubbling under the surface. The symptoms are as real as any other disease and there is no definitive cure. So if my period is making it worse, well then I’m going to try everything in my power to, A) find ways to alleviate the pain, and B) build a better internal dialogue with myself.
Women are often ridiculed, “Oh don’t get so offended, you must just have your period.” Which, besides deserving zero response, is not fair. If our internal workings are really affecting some of us so deeply, shouldn’t we at least be allowed talk about it like adults?
It’s been 15 years since the beginning of my period and the realisation of its effect on my life has only recently clicked. When I said earlier that less than a year ago, I wouldn’t have bothered with makeup and hair to make myself feel better, I’m being honest. The general feeling during my period was self-blame. You shouldn’t feel sad, just get on with things, stop being such a baby.
This is not ok. Remember, if you are suffering from depression, regardless of how it is caused or exacerbated, repeat this to yourself. “It’s not my fault.” That’s like saying your auto-immune disease is your fault or the symptoms from the flu is your fault. It’s crazy and it’s pointless.
If anything I’m going to continue to make people uncomfortable and talk period talk. Especially if I spend up to a week beforehand alternating between crying uncontrollably and feeling completely numb.
The mad part? A lot of friends and family will read this, who were with me last week, and they will be super confused because I didn’t let any of this out in front of them. Which is just exhausting, let me tell you. I’m always exhausted.
Magic has been banished to the past. It has been overshadowed by science and its meaning twisted to fiction rather than fact. Humanity has voiced magic for millennia. I like to believe magic is within us all, only we’ve forgotten how to invoke it. When I call out my mental illnesses, voicing to the world their impact on my body, my pain is allayed. That is the magic through words and declarations. We need to be open to magic, and let it flow.
Throughout my life, I appeared to be a happy and contented human. However, I was not always a happy child, nor teenager or young adult. This passage I present to you is not to lay blame, there is no magic in blame. There is magic in self-reflection, and I am lucky to have been a writer for most of my life. I can look into the past to see myself, who says magic is impossible? My writing wasn’t for others, most of the writing appeared in a diary form, for comfort and understanding. Now I am more or less comfortable in my own skin, and maybe that only happens after a certain age. I can’t help feeling my rediscovery of magic helped.
Below are excerpts from a diary between 2007-2008 when I was 17. I was in my first year of college, and unlike most, I was miserable. I’ve decided to post it for me at 27 before I turned 28 next week, so I could see a girl who was hurting. Writing these entries was the only way she could soothe her sores. I want you to know that I don’t hurt nearly as much or as often anymore. The emotions that caused these fragments are no longer my master. Their control has weakened, and although I am still not fully formed, I know who I am. I look into the past to see, someone who is no longer me, because now I have compassion for her. When I was her, I could not forgive her and her demons. It’s calming to see how I formed, not just through my happy moments, but through adversity. In between class notes, and assignments, I wrote the following words.
“Observe and learn. I’m wearing my ring the right way around, and I’m running, not walking down one way.” – 16.10.07
“I’m running away, but I don’t get that far, the blue calls me back, and the voice is my scar.” – 18.10.07
“I just need to get some stuff out of my system. I haven’t eaten… I’ve bruises on my wrist, I know how I got them.” 19.11.07
“Soon everything will work out right? It has too, I’m trying to be strong (failing miserably), but it seems I’m failing in every aspect of my life.” 19.11.17
There is this Othello quote, I need to include it because I was with someone I wasn’t in love with. I was so young I didn’t understand that consciously, but my unconscious self-connected with these words for a reason:
“My love doth so approve him, That even in his stubbornness, his cheek, his frowns… have grace and favour in them.” Desdemona. Act 4. Scene 3. Line 20.
“Can’t wait for my days to be over.” – 22.11.07
“I feel like someone beat me up and left me to die.” – 27.11.07
“The pain! I’ve pains everywhere lately. Chest, stomach, head. Stress is a killer.” – 27.11.07
“I’m in the study room again. I really like it in here, it’s quiet, warm, and you don’t look like a freak for being alone.” – 4.12.07
“I wish I was home with the 3 idiots I live with. Idiots only in the sense that I love them to bits and they’re really special. I miss them too. I miss home.” – 4.12.07
I guess I understood cause and effect when I was 17 but often choose to ignore it:
“I haven’t eaten in a while so that’s why I assumed it had something to do with how crappy I felt. That or the fact that maybe I’d too much to drink last night.” – 17.12.07
“We have to live and grow. Some things have to happen as a natural part of the process. See the concept is crystal but the execution is elusive, and mostly the result is resounding. Either in a very good heart-warming way or, just killing every good thought you have that day. Or week.” 11.02.08
“I hope we don’t fail. I think that should be the motto. Or maybe something a little more uplifting? I believe that failure is not a factor.” – 11.02.08
“I can’t stop writing complete waffle. There has to be something good and worthwhile in all this crap.” – 11.02.08
“I’m confused, really I wish this was all over.” – 13.02.08
“I see the desert red, in my mind it helps, you stand.” 13.02.08
“The blanks and the blanks are just part of that process.” 14.02.08
“As a story begins, so does the whole new world. Growing so fast.” 21.02.08
“Can’t control it. I’m not the only one whose ever felt this way, but you’d have to feel this way to understand.” – 3.04.08
“You know I probably wouldn’t have gotten through this year, if it hadn’t been for this journal. It gave me solace, and a place to voice my thoughts. I’m so glad Mam and Dad gave it to me.” – 23.04.08
“I actually don’t know if all of this is good or bad for my state of mind. I’ll just have to hope it has a strengthening effect on it. It was always fairly week before, I always wished it could be stronger.” 23.04.08
Listen to this poor scared girl:
“It’s 20 to 1 in the morning. I’m sitting on my bed, near tears but none will come. I’m sick, of the mind. I wish my mind would shut up, stop haunting me. I hate human feelings, they are human right? Not the issue, I can’t let go, I’m afraid, so afraid of people leaving, of not seeing and loving what I have, please, please take me away, give me some purpose, you don’t owe it to me but I owe it to you. I can do good, I can learn how to do good, I’m not evil, I’m normal. Sad and normal. It’s extraordinary people that achieve. It’s all relative, I just want to achieve good. Is darkness affiliated with evil because people can’t see what’s really happening? If so the world must be shrouded in darkness and it continues to fall until the world is pitch darkness.” 02.05.08
I am sitting outside my boyfriend’s house, willing myself to get out of the car. Meeting new people always made me nervous but today, it’s debilitating. I am furious with myself. “Just open the door, and go inside, you’re being completely stupid,” I say this out loud. The malice in my own voice causes me to cry. I battle with myself, between getting out of the car or asking for help. Thankfully, I opt for the latter. I ring my mother, and her gentle voice comes through, “hiya honey, everything ok?” The poor woman, I am talking so incoherently she cannot understand a word I’m saying. The sobs are so loud I know I must be scaring her, but I cannot convey myself coherently.
I jump as my boyfriend knocks on my passenger side window, “everything ok?” He mouths through the glass. The best I can manage is to unlock the car, because everything is certainly not ok. He gets in the car, “love what’s wrong, did something happen?” On the phone I hear my mother asking me to give him the phone. He accepts and his face goes from concern, to understanding. My mother is telling him what she suspects is wrong, and how to deal with it. He nods making affirming sounds, then eventually hangs up. He goes through the process of winding down my panic attack. Eventually, I feel able to leave the car, and enter the house.
My body is exhausted, and my mind is cloudy for days afterwards. This affects everything, especially my work. This panic attack was the beginning of a breakdown.
Hello friends, welcome to this safe space. Do elements of that story sound familiar to you? It happened to me just like that. One minute I was driving to my boyfriend’s house, the next I couldn’t get out of my car. While this appeared to be a spontaneous occurrence, it didn’t come out of nowhere. The event that triggered the panic attack was just a final straw. Some of you may think, “poor weak-minded girl,” and that’s what you’re taught to think. It’s not the truth though. Present me knows this, but the girl sitting in that car, would have agreed with you, through her sobs.
I have come to realise that at the time, my generalized anxiety disorder (which I had yet to be diagnosed with)[i], was exacerbated by a simple act: Suppression. I would suppressed anger, I would suppressed jealousy, I would suppressed sadness, because these were not productive emotions. If I felt anger, instead of stopping to process why I felt the anger, I would push it away. Anger is for people who are not forward thinking, there is no reason to be angry just because someone cut you up on the motorway.
So, these emotions felt neglected, because they are tangible entities. Just because you suppress your emotions doesn’t mean they disappear. You need to understand why you’re feeling them, before they will be sated. Believe me, I learned this the hard way. The very hard way.
I am writing this blog for fun, but it also helps me distinguish my thoughts by giving them life on paper. I have been a writer for as long as I can remember (and maybe I’ll put up some really old stuff for the laugh later), but at the moment this blog is therapeutic. I know it’s right to understand that I’m not perfect. I will make mistakes, and I’m not weak because of my generalized anxiety disorder. For me to really believe this though, I have to see it here. In black in white, in words learned from my life, in concepts gifted to me by insightful people.
When I finally accepted that I needed help, and went to a counselor, I experienced such an awakening. My 10 year struggle was finally recognised. She legitimised my experience, so I didn’t feel like a fraud. My depressive episodes were born of my anxiety, resulting in exhaustion of my body and mind. She seen right through my veil. She told me once that while describing some of the most painful moments in my life, I would look up and smile, because I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable.
If you are feeling any of this, or you are seeing a loved one struggling, there are infinite ways to get help. My GP put me on a course of anti-depressants, and my therapist gave me exercises. The goal was to be kinder to myself, and to be unafraid of being imperfect. Failure is the best teacher (I believe the great Jedi Master Yoda himself said this). I will write more about this topic in the future because it is necessary. Do not view yourself or loved ones who are suffering as weak, see them as being too strong, and in need of help. There are some resources below, and there are many resources in your life you might not even realise. Your friends and family may not know how to engage with you. They might see you struggling and not know what to do. No one is perfect, and we will not all have perfect reactions to mental illnesses.
I will also leave you with a before and after photo, of someone who woke up one morning and said, no more. She said, “please I need help”. She has now realised that this is not only ok, but it is necessary. There is one woman smiling, through pain, her smile is a mask. The other is smiling, because she is joyful and happy to be at work on a Wednesday morning. Maybe you can’t notice the difference, but I can.