Challenging you, Challenging Me: Mental Health

I contemplated many a time how to write this blog post and many will go to town on it for their own reasons, but thats okay because that is them and this is me, but as a word of warning, I will take down any negative comments in any shape or form.  This is not the place for them.  (I do like to be clear! 😉 )thinking-1471454-639x432

I also wondered which of my blog sites to write it under, this one, my personal blog post journaling most of my training and racing experiences OR my business blog under Louise’s PT 4 U (https://louisept4u.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/ladies-i-apologise-for-raising-the-embarrassing/).  But you know, there is no realm where it is not applicable, therefore I will share across the board and if you feel this blog will help anyone please feel free to also share.  Sometimes we must choose to do whats right, or at least I like to help others and hope that in sharing this it will help someone.

Its a big scary world oot there, to expose yourself for all to see is ridiculously scary, but I am also not known for being put off doing what I believe to be the right and honest thing, BUT and this is a big but to put out your worries and fears where others may or may not support you leaves you with a sinking pit where your stomach used to be.

So with that, you are probably wondering exactly what is this post about, get around to it woooman for gawds sake!

Within the scope of my business I have been supporting the month of May #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth by posting tips every few days on both twitter and facebook, primarily to give people some ideas or suggestions that they may or may not decide to use.  I profusely support mental health issues in Dundee and have raised money for the local charity, DAMH (Dundee Association for Mental Health – http://damh.org.uk/ ), I have detailed these efforts in some of my blogs.  My conviction to do this comes from my own experiences within mental health.  Those who have known me for a long time may know of parts of my journey, or maybe you have guessed at some point.  .  .  .  .

I have suffered from mental health difficulties for much of my life, depression, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, they have all reared their heads at varying points throughout my life and to varying degrees.  The depth of which I will not go into within this blog, I am actually a very private person but so many times I see the blogs I write helping others and as I write more blogs for the area I specialise in within my work role – ‘women through the passage of life, at any age’ I see how letting others see that we all go through very similar experiences at varying points and for differing reasons within our lives but nevertheless the similarities are there.

priority-mental-health-1546123-638x477Depression is a dark cloud that masks every part of life when it emerges, we can sometimes feel a shadow in the background of our lives, growing like a dark cloud over the bright sun-lit sky and it comes to nothing because we pick up on the tell-tale signals and use strategies to subvert.  At other times its almost like it appears from nowhere and I haven’t even been aware of what is emerging, I have not been aware on any level that something is amiss, friends may enquire but denial is the initial reaction to any query about anything we are not happy with or feel strong enough to admit.  I have been rejected by family and ‘shushed’, that happened a number of times both by friends, family and those professionals, that is all it takes.  I also listen to those around me, how they view mental health and you know, anyone reading this who has suffered mental health issues will understand what I mean when I say, we gauge who is safe and who is not within our group of friends.  But it is also not all that we are, I am more than my mental health difficulties, I attribute alot of my strength to the journey I have had and the challenges I have had to overcome throughout my life. Let me also add, I have some of THE most fantastic friends!hand-in-hand-1310453-640x480

Words often used to describe me include, strong, independent, adventurous, determined, an encourager, ambitious and hahaha bonkers (now don’t go off on one, they simply refer to my challenges and my funny nature 😉 ) and vulnerable (this one surprised me), not words that the stereotypical view of depression or mental health issue sufferers are associated with.  Common misconceptions that are held about those with depression include: those that are happy on the outside dont get depressed, depression is only related to life events, those with depression are weak, fragile, can’t cope with any stress, you must take medication when depressed.  These are simply a few of the misconceptions, which are half-truths for want of a better description.

It amazes me that despite the statistics, 350 million individuals suffer from depression across the globe (WHO, 2015), with a quarter of the British population suffering from depression and anxiety (Mental Health Foundation), this remains a taboo topic in the 21st century.  It really does pain and anger me that people feel worried and have difficulty in talking about it, not because sufferers feel it is not right to talk but because we, as a society have created and continue to endorse this feeling by NOT talking, by not making it acceptable to discuss our mental health situation.  If you broke a leg, cut your leg open or in my case damaged a nerve (can not be seen) you would seek out the physical help of a doctor, we are more sympathetic to the implications and what it means practically for our lives.  This will only change when we really do become brave, when we are willing to be be supportive, empathetic, respectful of those who suffer from mental health difficulties.

No matter the position you hold, no matter what your job is, how old you are, we can all be susceptaible to mental health difficulties, be that person that reaches out.  People, on the whole, your friends, want to help, they want to know, let them.  In these words I do not mean it is easy, Isimply mean reach out, as its written, no underlying meaning.

How do I cope?  I strive to reach higher physical challenges, I strive to be the best that I can and to really see what I can do within the capabilities of my physical self.  I take on challenges for me, to be a better me and to help others, because you know what, if I can do it, so can you.  I am very much linked to my physical strength, I believe I am a testament to what physical activity and health can do to help relieve the symptoms of depression and mental health issues and I am hugely passionate to share with others its possibilities.

Currently, racing in obstacle races is what I do, I am very priviledged to be sponsored by some fantastic sponsors and friends, my chosen family.  This is where I leave it all out there, bettering me.  SO when I step up to the start line, I am racing no-one but myself!

In the past Ihave written poetry, trained, spoken with friends and learnt when to take timeout.  We must each work out what it is we need to do for ourselves.  We each have a unique story to tell that is our lives, our past, please do not judge unless you walked in those very shoes I wore.

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Thank you for reading folks, I appreciate you taking the time!

(Picture top right (1) by Ed Garcia from http://www.freeimages.com/photo/thinking-1471454; picture 3 by Siewlian from http://www.freeimages.com/photo/hand-in-hand-1310453)

Uncomfortable with Mental Health?

Evening Y’All!

I’m sitting here trying to work out the best way to write this blog, its a challenging one to write I think cartoon-confused-face-300x297

I could tell you all about the stats that are out there:

‘1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health condition in any given year’,

‘9 out of 10 people who suffer from mental health difficulties will be the subject of stigma and discrimination’,

and ‘nearly 3 in 4 young people fear the reaction of friends when they talk about their mental health difficulties’

( http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/mental-health-statistics-facts ).

Being Brave . . . .

On some level we are aware of these facts, we know people who suffer from mental health difficulties, these people are our friends, family, work colleagues.  I would add myself to this list of people, I am not identified by this, nor does it define me.  I have been told at different times to ‘Get a grip’, ‘dont be dramatic’, ‘why do you think you are any more important than anyone else’ and many more.  I have had health professionals see me only as my mental illness, some can not see past it, family and people I thought were friends,  be dismissive of it.  I really believe it is important to never judge the road you have never travelled, and in all honesty, will not travel, because you are never fully in that person’s shoes.  You can sympathise and empathise but you can not walk in their shoes.

How would people describe me? (comments I have had back)

‘determined, strong, active, successful, distant, arrogant’, amongst many other sayings.  Why is this important?

Those who suffer from mental health difficulties come from all walks of life, why am I talking about this, because I believe by being open I can help others see that those with mental health difficulties are not the stereotypical images that we have imagined, but can affect so many of us to a variety of levels and extents.  Does this mean your feelings are any less than anyone elses – NO!  Yes, there may be people in a worse position than yourself food wise, poverty wise but this does not detract from the feelings that you have.

To help me, cope with a bad day (or anyway you wish to describe such a day), I choose to exercise.  I choose to get out in the fresh air, there is nothing I find more exhilirating than getting out in the country, in the fresh air of Scotland, the surrounding area.  To see wildlife on my run, for me that in itself really does make a run or a cycle, to run in the hills, past the farmyards.  The occasional nod from a fellow runner/ cyclist, its that mutual understanding.  Don’t get me wrong, I have to work at it, this is by no means easy.  But there is some celebration in this achievement of simply sticking to the decision to look after myself.  Simple and silly to some but an important necessity to me.  I have managed to take what I enjoy and use it to benefit others.

Fundraising

On and off I have raised money for local mental health charities Insight Counselling (http://www.insightcanhelp.co.uk/).

Last year after being encouraged by a previous client, I decided to fundraise properly for a big challenge I was undertaking.  Now, I do a fair few challenges and races, I really enjoy pushing my own limits and fully seeing what I can do.  For me, at the time, this was a biggie!  So I met up with DAMH (Dundee Association for Mental Health – http://damh.org.uk/), Jenni was amazing and super keen for me to hear of the various activities that they do.  I wanted to ensure that the momey raised would go to a specific initiative and wouldn’t be swallowed up, into admin for example.  What excited me, ALOT, was that the money raised could go to a physical activity initiative, well this blew me away, this was completely in line with my own beliefs, what I do for a living at Louise’s PT 4 U (http://www.louisept4u.co.uk/) and fully in line with the research out there.

I was alittle worried that I wouldn’t be able to raise enough to really help the charity but I was committed to doing my best.  WOW!  I was blown away by the support I was given for my Cotswold Way 100 Mile Run (Equivalent of 4 marathons in 4 days! – there is a blog detailing the 4 days if you want to have a read).  It was incredibly tough, this was the furthest distance I had ever run back to back and I think, it was my furthest distance in one day also.  I ticked off alot over these 4 days.  Truly pushing  your limits, really is a great thing, your perception of yourself and the possibilities really does change.  Not only that, the fact so many people supported me and donated money, showed me they believed I could do it.  I couldn’t let them down.  So through those hazy, lightheaded moments – I pushed through with my donaters in mind at all times, helping me put one foot in front of the other to the finish line!  We had raised over £800 by this point.  Simply outstanding, I really can’t even begin to have the words to say thank you and express my gratitude!

Tough Guy The Original

This one deserves italics!! I decided it would be great to top the money off to £1000, I thought that would be great.  Next big challenge, ‘Holy S**t’ – you get the idea this was going to be mental.  It pushed my boundaries in a way I never thought possible.  Blog is upcoming for this folks – keep your eyes peeled! (Apologies for the profanity, but even now, I have butterflies in my belly thinking about it, so that is tame)

You guys, everyone who donated are simply AMAZING – we hit that £1000 and some.  Truly amazing.  Blown away!

Time to Change . . . 

MIND, the mental health charity based in England were running a campaign called ‘Time to Change’ on the 5th February 2015.  Now, I just happened to see it on facebook and decided this would a great wee initiative to encourage folks to get involved in, albeit, it was last minute as it had only just popped up on newsfeed.

This was a great day that we ran at the gym I work from – Good Health and Fitness (City Quay, Dundee).  The members as well as my own clients and friends there were fantastic in supporting the day.  I did an early morning walk, a midday walk and we had a few guys do some baking, by the way, I believe I may have consumed my fair share of them.

All in the name of checking it was appropriate and tasty enough for you guys of course, hahaha.  During the day it was about simply taking that 5 minutes to talk about mental health.  This could be from a personal experience perspective, it could have been from the view of having supported someone, a work initaitive or simply your own perceptions.  We also looked at how physical activity played a vital role.  We then asked everyone to make a pledge, not in the typical sense, this was about maybe something that had been learnt or what you already did, maybe mental health and physical activity.  I was overjoyed to see we raised a brilliant £85, for a last minute day and not managing to get as much done for the day as I would have liked, I was super pleased!  Again, the people I have to thank are all of you out there who have sponsored, supported and shared anything I have been running.  It has been amazing!

Last words . . .  

Those who suffer from mental health illnesses are not by any stretch of the imagination weak.  They are strong beyond belief!  To get through every day can be the hardest thing in the world, our history makes us who we are today.  I would not be the person I am today had I not had to go through the difficulties and experiences that I have, this in no way intimates that I wanted these situations or would choose them.  Simply that I know I am stronger today than I was yesterday.

‘It is not the mountain we must conquer but ourselves’

Thank you folks for taking the time to read this blog folks.  Please remember these are my own opinions and not those of any organisation/ business or group.  Keep any comments positive, any negativity will be removed.

P.S Just heading off to hand over the cheque folks – picture will follow.