Depression and anxiety make your world small. Taking even
the tiniest step forward can feel impossible. If you are lucky you will have
people around you who can help you take those steps to get out of your
emotional pit. Sometimes all it takes is little inspirations to help you move
So far my 2019 has been full of pits, pits full of shit that
I keep getting tripped into. With every fall I have felt angrier and more
pessimistic. There is only so much shit a person can shovel before giving up
becomes a pretty tempting offer.
When you are in the shit pit, and have been in it for a wee
while, it is easy to feel like ‘maybe this shit pit is the one I’ll never get
out of’ or even ‘hey it’s a shit pit but it’s not the shittiest pit I’ve ever
been in’. The antithesis to this kind of
thinking is a martial-arts badass.
Luckily for me I found find myself at a self-defence class
run by La Cher. Two days before, I had been in another shit pit thanks to a
bout of sepsis (a consequence of another shit pit I don’t have time to get into
here!) which landed me in hospital. I had very legitimate reasons not to go to
this class, I was still really unwell and I was sleeping a solid 14 hours a day,
so maybe a self-defence class wasn’t the best idea. I’d like to say I was motivated by some higher
purpose but it was a combination of having paid and wanting to know how to
wrestle people to the ground.
It was far from what I expected. The class was not just
physical self-defence but La Cher went into ways to protect yourself from
verbal attacks, from yourself as well as twats on the street. It was a room
full of women of all ages and I left not only knowing how to get myself out of
a strangle hold but also feeling very inspired. I hadn’t written anything in so
long but I’d found someone who I knew I had to write about.
I met with La Cher to find out more about her tips for getting yourself out of shit pits.
right tools for you
The only thing that works is you, therapists can give you
tools but they don’t make it right. I
went to a therapist and I was like “the only thing I want you to do is erase a
memory from my mind, that is all that I need you to do” and she was like well I
can’t do that but you can re-programme your mind.
You are the only who can make yourself happy, you are the
only one you can dig yourself out of hell, out of depression. You are the only
one who can have the confidence to say you are amazing. Someone can tell me all
day long “you inspire me, you are amazing” but if I don’t believe that too, it
doesn’t mean anything. It comes from
within us, nobody does it except us.
Facebook used to be my newspaper, so I realised I had to
fill my newsfeed with happiness. I stopped watching the news, because the news
90% of the time they just want to talk about negative things and that isn’t
what the world is. I started creating
positive messages around me, it’s one tool, one tool doesn’t work alone you
have to use other tools. I used post-its, I started sticking them everywhere so
I would see them in the morning, in the mirror and I’d see the messages.
We need to start from the inside out. The mirror became my
friend, I hated the mirror at first but what really helped me was talking to
myself. Looking into my eyes in the mirror, if you can’t look at yourself… that
is you! If you can’t love yourself how can you expect other people to love you.
So, I had to start loving myself first, so what did I do? I had to dig back to when
came that I thought I was hopeless. What happened to me?’ When I was a kid I
was so vibrant I had so much energy. What happened that I felt worthless? I had
to go back and that’s when I went back to a time when I was violated.
I want to show women that this happened to me too and you
are going to be ok. Everything will be ok. When I did the self-reflecting, I
had to apologise to that little girl, because for so long I blamed her, I told
her she deserved it, I was so mad at her and I had to apologise and let her
know that I forgave her. We have to forgive whoever we blamed in the past. That
is the only way you can get past it, it is the only way you can cleanse
Recently, I went through something again and I almost took
myself back two years. I had to grab hold of myself, I took myself away, I
needed to get myself back. I just spoke to myself in the mirror and meditated
like morning, afternoon and evening and I spoke to one of my girlfriends. She
gave me some advice. I didn’t take her advice but just being able to talk about
it made me feel good. Eventually, I did the right thing that I was supposed to
do. I still go through that today but I know how to get myself through it so
If it keeps coming back up, you never learned your lesson. If you don’t want something to keep coming back up you have to learn from it. You have ask yourself ‘what can I get from this? How can I benefit from this?’ and that’s how you push forward. You have to go through it to get through it.
lot of people look at me like she is this strong female like I am just built
strong but the strongest people come from so much adversity that they had. My
whole vision is to unite and empower women, to say we are ok, we are enough, we
can trust each other, its ok to talk about stuff, its ok to be vulnerable.
I went to a therapist, that didn’t help, my mum took me to a
doctor for medication and that didn’t work. It wasn’t until a situation three
years ago that I got out of, everyone was so worried about me but none of it
worked until I realised, I think it was a Tuesday, I woke up and I thought “no
I’ve been through a lot of shit, I don’t need to go back
there, I am powerful I am strong. People might call it cocky it doesn’t matter.
We have to fight every day to focus on the positive, even if that means telling
myself “you are the best bitch”. I know if I allow it, I can get sucked back.
I’m still amazed by La Cher’s emotional strength and motivation
to stay mentally well. I can’t thank her enough for sitting down with me to
tell me more about her work. She has reframed recovery and wellness for me as a
process of getting your mind to a place of power not just treading water.
So if you are lucky enough to identify as a woman and be near or in London La Cher is hosting another event on Sunday May 12th in Brixton, more details can be found here, come down and meet her and other like-minded ladies!
can also find her on all the usual social medias!
On Monday I got an email reminder that it was Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I haven’t written about this before but thought this week was as good as any to give it a go.
Although, I have a lot of friends who have experienced depression or anxiety I don’t have anyone else in my life, who I know of, who has struggled with disordered eating. As a teenager and in my early twenties I felt completely alone with it, the only one who spent every day battling with my body and food. Of all the problems I have had with my mental health my experience with bulimia is still the one I struggle to speak openly about. It took years for me to feel comfortable to admit to even having a problem. I was so ashamed of myself, angry that I couldn’t just snap out of it and scared of being judged for something I thought was disgusting and reckless.
Shame is a common emotion associated with mental health problems. For people who don’t understand them eating disorders are a skinny, teenage, white girl’s disease. These two factors make it hard for people who suffer from bulimia or binge eating disorder to seek or receive the medical support they need. Not looking completely emaciated can make it hard for people to get the help they need. Some GPs and treatment centres still use weight as a diagnostic criteria for treatment and most people will be complimented by friends or family if they lose weight. I first sought treatment when I was 19 and was seen by a counsellor who told me it seemed like I was looking for attention. I didn’t seek help again for years. By staying quiet (and not telling my doctor the counsellor was an idiot) my shame took a greater hold of me and I told myself I wasn’t strong enough or deserving enough to get better.
My route to recovery was not smooth, I had many more problematic responses from medical professionals before I found a team who supported me how I needed. I didn’t go from actively bulimic to recovery overnight and it took time for me to feel comfortable enough to speak to people about it.
Before I could speak about it, I read about it and listened to other people talking about it. Finding other ‘normal’ people who understood the shame and isolation of an eating disorder, people who like me didn’t ‘look like they had an eating disorder’ helped me to find a way to speak about it with non-medical professionals and accept it as part of me but not a shameful defining factor.
Eating in the Light of the Moon This book genuinely changed my life. Author Anita Johnston uses fables and fairy tales from around the world to create metaphors for disordered eating. Reading it helped me realise how isolated I was, by hiding my eating disorder I was blocking myself off and ensuring I could never overcome the shame I had about having the eating disorder in the first place. It has activities and strategies to help understand the roots of your disordered eating and how to combat them.
You can access more information on the Light of the Moon Café website, which has blog posts, resources and free books all aimed at helping you tackle your issues with food.
Sensing the Self This book was recommended to me by a therapist. It is quite academic but hearing testimonies of women who were in the middle of or in recovery from bulimia definitely helped me feel less alone. Seeing myself in other women’s experience was so powerful, hearing their shame made mine feel less scary and it helped me visualise a place where I could be free from my eating disorder.
So the blog title says books but I am also a big radio/podcast lover and my recovery has really been boosted by shows which promote body liberation and mental health.
Food Psyche Moving on from my eating disorder wasn’t easy and maintaining it while surrounded by messages which promoted weight loss and thinness was a real struggle. I tried a few different podcasts about eating disorder recovery, and although they had good advice, I didn’t enjoy listening to them. Food Psyche has a really diverse guest list; activists, dieticians, psychologists, yoga teachers, Instagram influencers all speaking about their relationships with food and being happy with the shape, size, abilities and colour of their bodies. I’m far from a beacon of body positivity but this podcast has really helped me feel ok with not being ok.
Getting Curious I was already in a stable recovery when I found the beautiful sunshine that is Jonathan Van Ness but this episode fully made me cry. Hearing someone who I looked up to and admired so much speak about suffering with and recovering from bulimia was incredibly powerful. The podcast in general is fantastic, and definitely a good shout for feel good listening, but this episode was a nice reminder that eating disorders effect all sorts of different people who go on to be successful and brilliant!
So it has been a while! After a few weeks of beating myself up for not being productive enough I decided to take a break to focus on studying and working. With the pressure of coursework and regular work I had to put some things on the back burner.
I struggled a lot trying to maintain healthy routines for myself and avoid relapsing, with so little down time outside of work and studying it was hard to practice regular self-care. It has only been a week or so and I am trying to be patient with myself while I try to get back into a routine of self-care and healthy coping strategies. I haven’t relapsed, which I am very proud of, but am conscious that I need to get into a better routine to maintain my mental health.
Although, I wasn’t posting regularly I found a lot of inspiration from people around me. This time of year, post-Christmas, tax returns, winter weather etc means most people have been feeling pretty broke and pretty low, and most of my conversations with friends have been about how crap they feel.
A few weeks ago, walking round Brixton with my friend, she told me about a friend she wanted to introduce me too. “He has been really depressed recently but he just got funding to do a big theatre tour so he is doing much better! … I actually said to him – do you think you were really depressed or just poor?”
It might seem flippant to chalk depression down to not having money but as an environmental factor it has a pretty big influence. It’s well known poor people have poorer mental health outcomes (do a quick google search and you’ll see the outcomes for children and adults living in poverty are pretty grim!). Although, I did already know that being poor and depressed could be linked something about my friend’s comment really hit me.
I’ve said before that the absolute worst my mental health has been coincided with the poorest I have ever been. 2015 was terrible and to be honest 2016 wasn’t a million miles better but I was out of the financial skip I had been in. A week after Christmas I was reminded of this when I went to go see Hamilton, for the third time in 2018. When I first heard of the show in 2015 I fell in love immediately! But I couldn’t afford to buy the album. I listened to the songs out of order on youtube, dreaming of seeing it in real life. As I left the show with my friends at the end of 2018 I thought back on that year, would I have believed three years later I would not only have the money to see Hamilton but see it 3 times?
Is that the most significant change that has happened to me since 2015? No
Is being able to go to the theatre the key to improving mental health? Not at all, a few weeks later I was so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed!
But for me that moment reminded me that not having money is limiting not just in terms of your opportunities but also your aspirations. If this coincides with other stress or mental health dips, then it can become a toxic mix and navigating your way out of it isn’t easy. Making more money or paying off a substantial debt won’t happen overnight but recognising that having less financially will affect your mental health could help you to work out small ways to counter it. Winning the lottery or living on a diet of boiled lentils aren’t realistic or practical solutions.
Financial deprivation has a real impact on your optimism about life and you need to apply realistic solutions to manage your money and allow yourself to feel better.
Stop telling yourself you should have more money
One of the most depressing thoughts is that you are the only one who is out of control or has no money. Everyone else is going on wonderful holidays or buying houses and cars and you’re sat wondering how you are going to afford to travel to work next week.
Telling yourself you should have saved more two years ago or you shouldn’t have bought such and such a thing three weeks ago isn’t going to help. Feeling guilty or angry about it won’t motivate you to change your behaviour. Tell yourself it is a problem you are capable of solving, that managing the stress, deprivation and frustration all this time is a sign of your resilience not weakness or recklessness.
Come up with a realistic strategy
Recognising that having a crappy paying job, living in an expensive place or having huge debt (or all three!) is important. Deciding you won’t go out for the next six months or will only eat cornflakes for a month is unlikely and won’t make you feel beter. Depriving yourself when you are already feeling deprived won’t improve your well-being.
Clearly define what the problem is, are you spending too much in rent? Is your debt repayment costing too much? Is there somewhere you can make a saving?
Identify clear areas where you can make changes and set dates to review it. Tell people you are doing it so they can support you with it.
Do research on websites like Money Saving Expert to find out if you could change your debt repayments, find deals on food and utilities and blogs on financial literacy. When you know better you do better.
Find cheap thrills
Saving money doesn’t mean you have to give up on treats for yourself. Some things are expensive, going on holiday for example, but it is possible to find cheaper alternatives. Save for your holiday and check or cheap alternatives for when you are there. Get rid of your gym membership and join a running club or do yoga online. If you go out with your friends don’t drink so it is less expensive.
Don’t deprive yourself of the things that make you feel good, just adapt them to fit into the budget you have not the one you want. Be grateful for what you do have and don’t tell yourself you need something else to make yourself better or more valuable.
You’re already awesome and you don’t need any amount of money
It has taken me a while to finish this post. The last few weeks have been really draining. I’ve swung from high to low on a daily basis, feeling empowered and out of control, struggling to manage myself and my mental health. I’ve been trying to bring myself back to the blog and see it as self-care but sometimes it is just easier to avoid things that are challenging or scary. Sometimes you’re avoiding them because it is the healthiest thing for you at the time. It isn’t always clear which category I am in.
I started this blog as an outlet to share my experiences but its hard to write about the things I have spent years hiding from everyone around me. In my most recent therapy session, I said something out loud which I don’t think I had even admitted to myself. I immediately burst into tears. Saying it out loud allowed me to just let go and be upset. I was embarrassed but it was necessary.
I have always been told I am too private, like a brick wall, and I never really cared. I didn’t want people to know what was going on because I was so ashamed. For years I held things in and taught myself to hide what I really needed, letting it boil away inside me, till it burst out. I’d cry or get angry in situations that seemed unreasonable. Talking to people I love and trust was a really important part of my recovery but I still struggle with it massively.
Talking as self-care is hard to define: in one way establishing boundaries for yourself (what you are willing or unwilling to share) is a key part of self-care but for me my boundaries can be so huge they can easily become barriers. Finding a safe way to talk about things is incredibly important but also goes against an instinct I have honed over decades. If it was easy I would already be doing it!
I spent 20 weeks in therapy and was told by my therapist at the end of it that they felt like they barely knew anything about me. It took a further 30 weeks of therapy with a new mental health team and a new therapist before I felt comfortable enough to talk about myself and how I felt. It still felt like I was trying to squeeze blood from a stone.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, speaking with medical professionals was helping me develop a sense of security. It allowed me to go on to share what I was most ashamed of with my friends and family. Being able to say that I am really struggling in the moment is something I want to be able to do for myself. I’m not there yet.
It is much easier to write this now than it would have been a few weeks ago when I was at the bottom of a very hopeless hole. Every day felt like I was just trying to get my head back above water. I am still on my way out of the hole but now I am able to write about it.
Talking isn’t easy especially about what you think people will judge you for but finding the right way for you will lift the weight of it.
Talk about it, write about it, read about it
I’ve had plenty of bad experiences trying to talk to people about what I was going through. The therapist I spoke about often made me feel really misunderstood. Times before and since when I have tried to reach out I have been completely knocked down, been told by people I love they didn’t believe me, didn’t understand or called me a liar for not telling them earlier.
Not everyone is going to be able to listen or want to help. It isn’t their fault, it is just a sign that they can’t support you. Find people who can understand. Write to yourself about how you are feeling. Keep a diary or notes on your phone. Find a way to express what it going on and find communities who share your experiences.
I know it is clichéd. Meditation has become the panacea for the world’s ills but there is a reason, it can really help.
I have always struggled with meditation, I still have to use guided meditations, as I find it difficult to settle my mind in silence. Using guided meditations has really helped develop my self-awareness, something I have always struggled with when I have been stressed or in crisis.
Have a look on youtube for some videos, have a listen, assess the narrators and topics and give it a go for a week. It won’t be easy to start with, nothing ever is, but meditation can help change the way you talk to yourself.
Don’t beat yourself up if you fuck up
When you are struggling, whether it’s just a bad day or a full-blown mental health crisis, it can be hard not to get frustrated with yourself. Wishing you had done things differently. Wishing you didn’t have whatever condition is causing your problem. Be kind to yourself. You are not to blame for whatever is happening. You can’t beat yourself into changing. Look after yourself. Be nice to yourself and the motivation and strength you need will come eventually.
Look after yourself and if someone is making you feel bad tell them to fuck off!
Happy New Year!
p.s. As you may have noticed I love Brene Brown, look her up on youtube!
So it is self-care week and I am having a good week so far and feeling very conscious of looking after myself. Weeks like this are good but I know that if I don’t stick to my routines and practice regular self-care it could be very different, even if I do I might be in a very different mind space tomorrow, such is the beauty of mental health!
Music is a big part of my self-care, when I am at my lowest I can listen to songs on repeat for days, to give myself the mental boost I need to get through! So in honour of self-care week I have created my top 5 self-care songs along with a SSS from my lovely pal who I know is also having a tough time at work!
Hope you love these songs as much as me and let me know your best pick me up, self-care songs!
Star Red by Nakhane, from the album You Will Not Die
I have seen Nakhane live three times this year! I love their performance and I LOVE this song! Its about their grandmother and wherever I am, whatever I am doing it makes me smile. If you haven’t heard of them look them up! Elton John is a fan and you should be too!
2. Doubt by Samm Henshaw ft Wretch 32
I only just saw the video for this and I love it! This song just gives me cheesey grins and I can’t help but love its optimism.
3. T.H.U.G by Todrick Hall, from the album Forbidden.
So this song is a little explicit but I just love the beat! Always gives me the attitude I need to feel like I can kick ass at work!
4. Andinanto by the Soil, from the album Nostalgic Moments
I discovered The Soil in 2013 and they their songs got me through one of the toughest years of my life! This song came up on a playlist I was listening too so thought I would chuck it in here but I could do a top 10 Soil songs all on their own! Absolutely love their voices and no matter what the song it always manages to distract me from whatever I need it too!
5. King of Wishful Thinking by Go West
So this song is dedicated to my lovely pal. It is not currently on my go to pick me up songs but the video is hilarious! For anyone who needs reminding of what the 80s looked like, here you go!