Why mental health desperately needs to be on the national curriculum

15 Jul

IMG_0319[1]In the past week I have read two articles that have lead me to write this short post. One was in The Guardian, which you can read here and the other one can be seen here

Needless to say I agree with the sentiments wholeheartedly and feel mental health education should be a core part of a young persons development, especially considering the sheer number of people that will experience a mental health issue.

Speaking for myself and from experience, I remember the sheer confusion and alienation I felt when my own issues started to arise. With no understanding of what was happening and why I was feeling the way I was, I suddenly felt very isolated and withdrawn. I started down a well worn path of damaging behaviours to try and make myself feel better, or at the very least, try and restore some order to what was now a strange world.

I strongly believe that had there been a framework in place whereby I had been educated on mental health matters as a matter of course then things could have improved far quicker for me then they have.

I’m talking about simple awareness of the issues alongside education on how to tackle them. Now more then ever with the ever increasing knowledge we have of mental illnesses and different ways to treat them we should be giving our young people the tools to deal with and simply understand mental health.

Mental health education would also dovetail well with our increasing focus on improving our youngsters fitness and diet. Mental health education should be part of an overarching program to promote healthy bodies and also healthy minds.

Educating young people will also only help society move further forward on the way people with mental issues are viewed.

Next week I graduate/my fear of the next step

11 Jul

First of all, I’m going to make an effort to start updating this blog more regularly, or at least as regularly as I was when I started it. If nothing else, as I’ve said before keeping a blog is quite a good outlet to just get stuff off your chest.

So yes, this time next Thursday I will officially have graduated. I ended up with a 2:1 in the end and whilst I’ve written before that I hadn’t felt a sense of accomplishment from finishing my degree, I certainly feel more positive about it now.

My last post spoke about dealing with a rough patch but in all honesty I handled it better then I have done in recent times and at the moment I’m in a good place mentally – somewhat surprisingly I guess considering there are a fair few issues going on in my life at the moment. It is these issues that have drawn me back to this blog and what will keep me here as I go through them in the next few days.

At the moment one of my main concerns is crossing the threshold from the world of education into the world of work. Over the last few weeks I have identified a career path I would like to go down. It involves the skills I have as a writer and would be a good job to have whilst I continue working on my creative work alongside that. I have everything in place to start looking for entry level positions in this field but there is one fear that is holding me back.

Unsurprisingly the fear I have is depression. I’m worried about the effect a bout of depression would have on me were I to be in employment. I worry about coping in that situation. I also constantly debate with myself if it is something I should disclose from the outset. I still view it as being weak to admit it openly and besides that, I worry about being stigmatised and my opportunities being limited if I were to disclose it.

It is something I have thought about a lot and yet am no closer to an answer.

 

If you happen to read this and feel you have any advice, please feel free to leave me a comment. fear-of-failure

The unsubtle knife

15 Jun

As always the challenge comes not when times are good, but in times of adversity and it is here that I hope I can take strength from the last year and a so of my life and remember that, when I am making a real, concerted effort life is better and indeed fun. When the next bout comes I believe/hope I’ll be able to deal with it.

 

Those are my words from the end of this post, where I talk about taking back control. In the last week and a half I have had my first, and what I knew would be inevitable, brush with adversity.

It started in the usual way insomuch as that I could feel myself slowly being sucked into the black hole. Alongside this I could also recognise the patterns of behaviour that accompany it – the sudden unreliability as I struggle to fulfil plans I made when I was feeling myself, the sudden disruption in the quality of sleep coupled with the lack of energy and appetite, plus leaning towards a drink or two for a quick mood fix and of course my old personal favourite, spending money for the same mood elevation reasons.

As I already knew these bumps in the road would appear I’ve almost been waiting for it, to see if I could force myself to react differently – to put in motion what I hoped would become a new norm in the way I deal with things.

Now I realise that above this I listed the things I found myself doing and it would appear that all has not gone well but in reality, I have certainly cut short the length of time I normally spend doing these things. I’ve twice forced myseIMG_0277lf to keep plans I made even though I really didn’t want to (I also failed a couple of times in this regard), as well as keeping myself active.

I mentioned previously how important exercise can be in keeping your mind healthy and so, alongside starting to run again I signed up with a friend to do my first 5k at the end of this month, as I believe goal setting is also an important part of keeping your mind ticking over.

The way I see it at the moment, I think this current episode will always be a benchmark I measure against in the future because in all honestly, this has been one of the worst, sudden onsets I can remember.

The picture I have used to accompany this blog is taken from ‘Life of Pi’. The character Pi is talking about fear and how it can take you over and conquer you but suffice to say, for me he could easily have been talking about depression.

I was on a train on Thursday to Charing Cross to meet a friend when it hit me – a feeling of complete despair – hopelessness like I haven’t felt in years. It cut right through me, it felt like I had too much weight on my shoulders to handle whilst my insides felt like they were sinking, being pulled down into nothingness. It felt like all my thoughts and words were coagulating – they became thick in my brain and impossible to vocalise or shift away from a feeling of dread.

Nonetheless I have persevered and forced myself to go for a run yesterday and even though I still feel devoid of energy (even after spending 14 hours in bed last night/today, which is exceptionally bad for me) I am still going to watch the football with my friend tonight.

Lets face it, I know what the alternative is, especially during an episode such as this. I must force myself not to react in the same way because that would be admitting defeat and being out with my best friend is the better choice.

I’m looking for an artist to collaborate with

3 Jun

In my recently finished final year at uni I did a poetry portfolio.

I decided to approach it like a concept album and have ideas and themes running through it. The main themes running through the portfolio are alienation, identity and disillusionment. I looked at these through various aspects, such as depression, the media, politics, racism, day to day interactions and personal circumstances.

When I was writing it the thought kept occurring that I would love to put on some form of exhibition – but I really want pictures to go with it. The thought hasn’t gone away but seeing as I can write but have no talent in drawing, I thought I’d reach out here via my blog.

I have ideas and influences that I have in mind but essentially would like to see what someone who is creative in the visual arts could bring to it.

If you’re interested and want to know more, leave a comment and lets crack on.photo

Attempting To Take Back Control Of A Life With Depression

20 May

My blog updates here have certainly dried up recently. There are two reasons for this, the first of which I mentioned in my previous post, namely that I had a lot going on with finishing my degree.

The second reason is that I have been thinking about a lot of things in my life and making some decisions. The first big decision was making a real, concerted effort to try and get back to a happier, healthier state and frame of mind.

Every bout of depression is different in its severity and a bad one can leave a long lasting, residual mark on your mentality that can lead to unhealthy and unhelpful wallowing.

Looking back and analysing the last few years, I could clearly see the point where I was happiest, and it coincided with the time that I decided to make a real effort. Obviously that isn’t rocket science but a bad bout certainly derailed me and it all lead to me beginning this blog.

What exactly do I mean about making an effort? Well it means not coasting and really taking control. If I’m completely honest a kind of ‘woe is me’ attitude was setting in and if I’m really really honest, I have to admit I was sleepwalking through a vast majority of my final year of university.

So in the last couple of weeks I’ve made an active effort to ‘wake up.’ I’ve been readying my writing portfolios and have started looking for freelance work whilst continuing on with my novel and scripts, plus I’ve started doing other simple things like exercising again.

Regular exercise is genuinely such a great tool in fighting and coping with depression. Getting back into the shape I was, regaining the muscle I lost when I was wallowing is not only a great self esteem boost, the endorphins from exercise really are a great, natural buzz. I’ve also taken control of my alcohol consumption which is a huge step.

When it comes to my writing/professional life, all of that side is in my real name and does take up a lot of time so this blog will almost certainly revert to being updated once a week at best, but I’ll be keeping it as an outlet.

As always the challenge comes not when times are good, but in times of adversity and it is here that I hope I can take strength from the last year and a so of my life and remember that, when I am making a real, concerted effort life is better and indeed fun. When the next bout comes I believe/hope I’ll be able toKeep-Calm-and-Take-Control deal with it.

 

I had to go with a Rocky video here didn’t I haha.

Haven’t done this in a while….

9 May

I finished my degree last week – well I handed everything in anyway. So that’s that, three years done and dusted.

 

Feel pretty spent after the last few weeks of making sure everything was ready. The main thought on my mind since is how much I would love to just get away and relax. Get away and forget everything. That would be cool.

Of course when I say everything I really mean depression. It really wasn’t that very long ago that I started this blog and all because certain things were coming into sharp focus, like being 27 and having unsuccessfully coped with depression for nigh on ten years and not wanting to be 37 and still be in the same boat.

I still haven’t made any proper steps to remedy the situation which of course is nobodies fault but my own and that plus finishing uni has mixed together and it’s feeling rather claustrophobic in my head at the moment.

I guess it just annoyed me that I felt no accomplishment at all from finishing uni, I thought I’d feel something but instead it was just a feeling of ‘I don’t deserve to feel happy’ type feeling.

I think the weirdest thing is that I don’t feel unduly depressed – I’m certainly not in the black hole I was when I started this blog. It’s just a rather surreal feeling of ‘well, what did I expect, this is your life now’ which I know is depressing enough.

Well, to end on a positive – yes I know finishing uni is definitely a positive, but to add another one I’ve given myself till Monday to completely switch off from writing (professional writing I mean) at which point it will be back to the screenplays and working on my novel. That would have made it a complete week off, something I can’t remember doing since I decided I wanted to be a writer.

I’ve actually gone out a couple of times as well since I handed in my work. I’veblog tried to be more sociable and see my friends again and it was pretty cool to see they genuinely seemed pleased to see me out.

And it’s my best mates birthday night out tomorrow so something good to look forward to there as well.

Council Estates, Ex Girlfriends, love and Uni

17 Apr

I try to keep my posts focused on one thing at a time but on this occasion there are a few things on my mind.

I’ll start by saying that today was a lovely day here in South London; it was sunny and warm. You often hear how the weather can affect your mood and I always forget just how true this is until those first proper sunny days appear and you really do feel better about things. It just puts a nice tint on your emotions; even those things that are making you feel rather melancholy can be diluted down in their effect by filtering them through the happier disposition the sunshine can give you.

I was travelling on the train today, going through Norwood Junction, Crystal Palace, West Norwood, Gypsy Hill etc on the way to Balham.  I grew up in these areas, specifically a council estate in West Norwood; as I looked out of my window at my old stomping grounds I felt this pain deep within me, this void that I feel and know could never be filled. I was thinking about the council estate I grew up on and how I wished I could go back; experience it again as I was when I was younger, when things were so much more simple. My mind was sound, I had a happiness that I doubt I’ll ever recapture, a boundless enthusiasm for life I feel I’ll never rekindle. I rarely get such thoughts but today it was an urge that was – I don’t know – I’ve wracked my mind and the only word that comes close to describing it is an existential urge; probably because I know I can never go back in time but that somehow, some way I hope that I can experience those emotions again.

These days my happiness and forward thinking is filtered through the mechanism of simply coping; coping with depression, coping with bi polar, coping with a life tinged and tainted with an unremitting sense of ‘this wasn’t how it used to be, it used to be more fun but at least right now I’m doing OK because I know how to cope.’

As for uni, one of the other parts of this headline, I’m in the last two and a half weeks of my degree, which just seems strange. Three years gone but it feels simultaneously much longer but also that it has passed in the blink of an eye. Time is a strange concept. One thing that made me smile recently was that as part of my dissertation I obviously had to do an essay. I chose to look at Sherlock Holmes and why his popularity has endured through the years and unbeknownst to me there was a Sherlock Holmes story set in Norwoodwest-norwood1 called The adventure of the Norwood builder. After doing some research I found out that part of the story was in fact set in West Norwood, very close to where I grew up. Conan Doyle actually lived in South Norwood, again close to my local area.

Another point about Uni was that when I started I was going out with my most recent girlfriend. Tonight I met her for a couple of drinks; we still meet up quite often. She told me yesterday that she had split up with her current boyfriend (I briefly mentioned her in my last blog post). As much as I do not think we could work out (we were on and off for three years) I can never escape the fact that she was the one woman that I truly, deeply loved. I know she feels the same way because she says so but again love is a strange concept. Not complicated, just very…. strange is not the right word but I’m running out of steam now so strange will have to do.

Silly Little Grey Hairs

12 Apr

Grey hairs are one of the most trivial yet visible signs of stress I can think of. I say trivial, I guess for some people it could be a big deal but I’ve never really worried about things like hair loss or grey hairs. Anyway I went for a haircut yesterday and this morning after a shower I realised that ‘hey, there’s a few more then there used to be.’

I know the first ones came along a couple of years ago and it didn’t really surprise me; I certainly feel stressed a lot of the time due to dealing with depression. I also know a few others appeared during my last relationship due to issues beyond my control. How beyond my control? Well there’s nstress-gray-hair-1ot a lot you can do when her parents don’t like you because of your skin colour and would prefer you not to go out with their daughter because of it. Oh and social class, they were pretty well off to put it lightly. That kind of thing wears a relationship down after awhile. There were plenty of other issues to. In the future I will probably blog about it.

Certainly in the past I would be able to take any and everything in my stride and deal with things really well, but added to the depression, I guess I just don’t handle things as well as I used to. There’s only so many battles you can fight before you’re spreading your self to thin so in the end, even the little things that used to be handled easily, like dealing with impending work deadlines can seem altogether more draining and stressful.

And when you’re operating beyond the stressful threshold often, I guess it’s no surprise that there will be more of those silly little grey hairs.

Depression Update via Questionnaires

6 Apr

In this blog, I talked about how I would track my progress by doing depression questionnaires every couple of weeks.

Each time I do these I’ll be picking out a couple of questions from each one and expanding on the reasons behind my answer.

Last time for the ‘Goldberg depression questionnaire’ I scored a hefty 69. Anything above 54 is severely depressed. As you can imagine I wasn’t in a very good place. This time I got –

Total score of: 29
(22-35, Mild-Moderate Depression)

You appear to be suffering from mild to moderate depressive symptoms commonly associated with depressive disorders.

As you can see a marked improvement, tallying with what I have been describing in recent blogs. The improvement in my mood has been brilliant and has felt brilliant as it always does.  One of the statements you have to rank according to how it applies to you is –

2)  My future seems hopeless.

My answer this time was ‘just a little’ as I am scoring for the whole week but really today I could make that ‘not at all.’ The difference in outlook when you have come out of an episode is incredible and I plan to blog about these differences soon.

Moving on, my tri-axial Bipolar spectrum screening results last time were 32, which means –

Your answers indicate levels of experiences which are consistent with bipolar disorder, including those associated with both manic and depressive symptom 

This questionnaire takes into account how you have felt and behaved over your life so I won’t update this one for a while as I’ve blogged about the bipolar side recently in regards to money.

Finally we have another depression one but with different depression questions that I can talk about. This one is called the ‘Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)’ and last time I scored 41. Anything over 21 means a possibility of major depression. Like the Goldberg questionnaire it asks you to take account of the last week in your life.  This time I got –

Total score of: 17
(15-21, Mild to Moderate Depression)

You appear to be experiencing some mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

Again a huge improvement. As for one of the questions –

14. I felt lonely.

The crazy thing I find with my depression is that whilst you tend to isolate yourself when you’re going through it because you don’t want to be around people, you can also sometimes simultaneously feel this intense loneliness that really cuts right to your core. That feeling can even arise when you’re with people. It’s just a very unpleasant sensation.  At the moment though that sensation is a lovely distant memory.

As I said before I decided on doing these as a way of tracking my progress and to have some concrete signposts as I go forward.

Doing them this time was a much more enjoyable experience as I chart just how much better I have felt recently.

That’ll be it today I think. Signpost

Your own personal Judas, fear of silence and lack of sleep.

4 Apr

I am going to preface this post with the news that life is pretty good at the moment, the mood swings have levelled out and I’m in a pretty good place, which is helping in what is now the short sprint to the finish line of university. The only thing that hasn’t returned yet is a good nights sleep but that will soon ease its way back in I am sure.

On the subject of sleep, I thought I’d write a little about the fraught relationship I have with it and how these problems are underpinned by the mental issues I’ve discussed previously.

When I am in a bad moment, or episode, or whatever you want to call it, one of the first things to go is adequate sleep.

When your mind disconcertingly decides to play Judas and betray you, it is almost like you are under attack and what do people do when they are under attack? They seek refuge. I seek refuge in anything that keeps my brain occupied; books, writing, TV, films, computer games. At least the list is longer then the old list; Alcohol.

Now I enjoy all of those things anyway but I throw myself at them even more because of the fear of silence. Silence is where my low-self esteem, negative thoughts about life and many other silly things manifest itself in the shape of a constant inner dialogue full of self loathing and pessimism. Some of the thoughts that can enter your mind are just damn right distressing. So yes you take refuge in never being alone with your own mind and most nights I will finally pass out book in hand and get a few shoddy hours of sleep.

Soon the haze of tiredness clouds your view, like a particularly useless Instagram filter, adding to your general discontent.

The funny thing is, I really enjoy silence and taking the time to be alone with my thoughts, to think, when I am in a normal state of mind that is.

But, as I said, I am in a good place at the moment and I am sure sleep will return soon as my mind returns to a peaceful state.

 

uk-we-fear-silence