Life, mental health

Brexit? Let’s Talk About It

I come from the UK, and if there’s one thing that’s been on the back of mine, and many peoples thoughts over the last few years is the unstable parliament, Brexit, and negativity surrounding the opposing views of friends and acquaintances either talking, or posting about them on social media. This has become such a huge topic, that everyone from mental health specialists, to social media influencers, to primary TV channels such as BBC and ITV are constantly talking about the impact this is having on us.

Source: Me

As of September 2019, the Conservative parliamentary race saw Boris Johnson take on the role of Prime Minister of the UK, to some peoples excitement, and to others utter horror. As Brexit draws nearer, and with Boris promising that Brexit will happen- deal or no deal, this has only increased the anxiety, depression, and paranoia amongst us people living our day to day lives. I’ve heard many people post their concerns both in person, and on social media:

“What does this mean for my future?”

“Will I no longer be allowed in this country?”

“Is life going to be more expensive?”

The primary problem with politics in general is that it is such a mammoth aspect of life, and yet it feels as if the top 1% have the say and control over this. My theory is that a major trigger in anxiety and stress for some people is the loss of control, so when we see something that scares us, but we can’t control it- it triggers our fight or flight senses. Well- since we feel we can’t fight something as , we just want to get away from it. Unfortunately- the majority of us are stuck with what we may feel are consequences of years of Conservative/right wing rule, however I feel the best thing I can do is speak out about how I am feeling about it, and control the aspects of my life that well- I have control over.

I may not be able to control whether Johnson will deliver a No Brexit or not, but I can do my own unbiased research, find out what aspects of my life could be affected, and talk about it with the people around me. Whilst this can feel like an alienating time for some, it’s essential to know that we are all on the same boat. For us common folk, we only know as much as each other, and so we are all in this boat together- sinking or not. I am no way claiming I have any idea on the ins and outs of politics, but I am willing to learn- this is an attitude I believe many of us need to adopt if we as a nation are going to get through this with some sanity attached.

With a country that seems more divided than ever, it’s easy to alienate the other side. Whether you are left or right leaning, right now is undeniably an extremely important moment in our lives. Even the most enthusiastic of supporters can’t look you in the eye and tell you exactly what’s going to happen. This lack of knowing is what’s ultimately creating this fear culture amongst us. It’s normal for any of us to feel apprehensive about what’s going to happen, are we going to hit a recession? Is your house going to lose 50% of its value? What the hell is going to happen to Ireland!?

There are just too many questions that should have been addressed from the onset, but unfortunately all we can do is hold each other, and hope that MP’s such as Jacob Rees-Mogg stops lounging on the frontbench, and start taking this as seriously as the nation does.

I also want to disclaim that if you do feel overwhelmed by what’s been going on with Brexit and the political climate in general, you should take some time to yourself to do what you like to do, and speak to someone about how you feel. The world is too mean as it is, and what is ultimately the most important is your own well-being. Brexit might be important as I mentioned earlier, but it’s not so important that you should allow it to impact your mental health. As I said before, you need to focus on what you can control.

Source: MY OWN PHOTO.

The links below are a variety of resources with information about Brexit. If you want to be more practical, if your local MP isn’t a total douche, speak to them about how you feel and get their perspective as well. They are your representative who will listen to you.

BBC: What is Brexit? – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887

gov.uk: What do I need to do before Brexit hits? https://www.gov.uk/brexit

Investopedia: Information about Brexit with statistics and market reactions: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/brexit.asp

Politico.eu: News about Brexit, as it happens – https://www.politico.eu/section/brexit/

The Brexit hashtag on Twitter is a bit on the ‘ew’ side, but there’s sometimes some decent debates, and angry tweets by the MP’s for some perspective – https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Brexit&src=typed_query

Let me know how you feel about this. What do you think of Brexit? How do you think the parliament are dealing with it, and do you think the UK have reason to worry about this as much as some do.

mental health

Let’s Talk About Generalised Anxiety Disorder

If there is one thing that has been like my on-off toxic partner for the past 5 years (apologies to my boyfriend), it has been the complex condition known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Also known as GAD, in a very brief summary, is defined as exaggerated anxiety, and worry about everyday life, that may affects your day to day living.

In a world where mental health, and emotional stigmas are being more discussed, we often talk about how we are becoming more self aware about ourselves, and we are becoming more open to talk about how we are feeling. This may cause people to explore their mental health, and in particular in times of stress, and low moods- we are becoming more and more open as a society to look for a diagnosis, and try to find a remedy for how to combat this.

Unfortunately, as with everything in society that opens its door to wider discussions, the topic of mental health has invited critics who suggest that a lot of mental health diagnoses are “self descriptive”, and “attention seekers who are attempting to conform with the latest trend”. For a lot of people, myself included- having a mental health condition, of any kind, is not something that people would like to have, and wouldn’t wish it on anybody. In this blog post, I am specifically going to be talking about GAD, and my experience with GAD as this is the condition that has been the most prevalent in my life, however please suggest if you’d like me to talk more about other conditions, as this is a topic I have genuine interest in.

Aforementioned, Generalised Anxiety Disorder is all about excess worry or tension. It blurs the lines between the general day to day stress that we have a genuine reason to worry about, to becoming so nervous that you’re too worried to do anything, for example simply leave the house to do your food shopping. GAD however is very difficult for a lot of us, to describe it to you because it affects everyone in different ways. I listed a few symptoms below that I have experienced at one time or another, however someone with GAD may not exhibit all of these symptoms, or may feel a lot more of a few of the symptoms, but not necessarily of the others:

  • Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
  • An unrealistic view of problems
  • Restlessness or a feeling of being “on edge”
  • Irritability
  • Tightness in the chest area
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Excessive mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Frequently going to the bathroom
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Trembling
  • Being easily startled

GAD can come to somebody in a variety of ways, and coupled with a variety of other disorders, for instance some people experience prolonged senses of dread, some experience frequent panic attacks and some exhibit other mental health conditions as a result, or alongside the condition, like OCD, depression, or PTSD. This means that when someone might be going through a traumatic time, or they are having a low point in their life, they might not be aware of what is actually going on in their brain. Moreover to this point, there isn’t one simple reason why people get GAD. Although this isn’t one of those disorders where you can pinpoint exactly how you got it, there can be a realisation, for example with myself, that makes you realise that there were many factors that could have triggered it. Examples could be from your brain chemistry, to perhaps having a traumatic childhood, to having a negative life experience- such as losing your job.

I personally exhibited what I now know to be GAD for a couple of years before I went to a professional. Why? Because I wasn’t aware of anxiety as a condition, and I could blame a whole range of reasons for this, but I’ll save that rant for my brain to eat itself at. To be honest, and thinking back, I just thought everyone probably felt how I felt as an angsty 18 year old, but I also rationalised in my head that because I felt I had baggage from some bad experiences throughout my life, THAT must have been the reason for the symptoms.

So whilst I can sit on my sofa 5 years on, and coach you on what GAD is, and what you can do to resolve this, I’m not a therapist, I can only tell you what I know. I was personally diagnosed by a therapist at the age of 21 when I was becoming too scared to go to my university lectures, and when it began to manifest with my personal relationships through irrational thinking, and either isolating my loved ones, or simply lashing out at them. Luckily for myself, as I was at university at the time of my diagnosis, I didn’t have to be on a waiting list to be assigned my therapist, and I went to weekly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions for 3 months. There are also recommendations to take medication, though you need to discuss this with your doctor or therapist before embarking on this decision.

I remember from every session I had with my therapist, I learnt more and more about myself, about why I was feeling the way I was, and the patterns of my thoughts. Therefore, even to this day, whilst I do sometimes struggle with symptoms of anxiety disorder, I still have the coping mechanisms, and can differentiate between a “normal worry”, and an “excessive worry”. I was also very lucky to have a very supportive family, and partner during that time, and every day I am very grateful that although they didn’t “understand” what was going on in my head, they wanted to understand, and with every exercise my therapist gave me, they were on board to help me out with those, and work with me.

If you suspect that you have GAD yourself, Anxiety UK recommend that you ask yourself the 4 questions bullet pointed below, and if you say yes to these, they recommend going to your GP or a formal assessor to be properly diagnosed. With me when I called up to get an examination, the lady on the other side of the line asked me about 30 questions, before I began the process of going to CBT. Once I started doing my therapy sessions, my therapist would ask the same 10 questions about the week before to see where I was at, and compare to the weeks before that.

  • “Do you feel that you have been nervous/on edge most days over the past 6 months?
  • Do you have problems falling asleep?
  • Do you feel tension in your muscles because of feeling on edge?
  • Do you frequently feel tense and irritable?”

At the end of the day, whether you’re reading this post because you feel like you may have GAD, you have a loved one who has it, or you’re just curious about mental health, I hope that you have taken something away from this. There is a stigma, in particular within the minds of someone with anxiety conditions, that if you get diagnosed with a disorder, you are seen as inferior, or not good enough. This simply isn’t the case. Mental health disorders can affect anybody, at any time, for any reason. It could be affecting the tough boy at school who thinks he runs the place, the colleague at work who seems to excel in her position, or the waiter serving your family for the evening. The point is that as long as we are talking about it, and we are making it less of a “taboo subject”, we are moving ourselves to a society that is comfortable for those who are crippling mentally, to have their voice heard.

Thank you to my therapist. I wish I could say your name, but I’m technically not allowed.

mental health, Uncategorized

Mental Health: What’s The Big Deal?

DISCLAIMER: This post talks about various mental health disorders, in both subject matter, and in name, so if you feel like this would upset you, or affect your mental health, please don’t feel obliged to read this. I am no health expert, so I am merely voicing my feelings on the  matter.

Over the last couple of years, there has been a lot of talk surrounding mental health, and how far we have all come in regards to this. Whilst I have myself have suffered with anxiety disorder, and depression, I have since received the help I need, so I should simply forget about this, and get on with my life, right? It’s not a problem anymore for me, so when I go on Twitter rants, or repost articles highlighting the importance of people getting the help they need, why am I even bothering? I know for a fact that my voice on its own “doesn’t matter”, but I am constantly aware, and reading articles from organisations such as MIND, Time To Change, and Rethink Mental Health to gain better understanding, and meaning as to why mental health is such a big issue, and how to aid my own mental health.

When I hear the daunting statistics on TV, how for example; 1 in 4 of us suffer with a mental health disorder, and how according to mentalhealth.org, suicide is the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34 years in the UK, how can I sit here and not voice myself. My family history is plagued with those who have been diagnosed with various disorders, such as addictions to substances, anxiety, bipolar, depression, and sociopathy. I’d say there are very few of us who haven’t at least gone through an episode of having one of these disorders. Luckily for yourselves, I’m not writing however, to preach to you about my family, as amazing as they are. I’m here to simply tell you that mental health, whether it is your own, or your friends- is a big deal.

Well”, you say, “Of course it is a big deal, it’s me after all!” – and to that I say, what a lackluster response, but I also say, that when in a world where people are labelled with a disorder, and just being thrown prescriptions, or in a society where even in 2019- people are stigmatising anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders as those who are weak, or need to get a grip, this issue is so much bigger than we even realise. The two ridiculous, but often echoed descriptions are also completely incorrect, and I’m here to tell you why.

Within anybody’s lifetime, even yours, there is a story. A story with good events, bad events, and tragic events; these all shape your perception of everything. Your perceptions of life are the baseline of your moralities, of your opinions, and of how you also perceive other people’s lives. Now when we look at mental health in this instance, we will instantly compare our own views and experience on the subject to what stories you read online, or what struggles your friend is going through with this, and here we will judge them- because that’s what human do. We categorize people as weak, strong, admirable, and a disgrace based on their actions, and how they present themselves. We see somebody opening up to their OCD, and we automatically assume there is something wrong with them for instance- but what we fail to realise, is that their mental health is just encapsulating them, for that time. That person isn’t the OCD, that person isn’t their mental health. Nobody chooses to be depressed, nobody chooses to lose sleep, their jobs, their relationships because they wake up one day and say “oh well wouldn’t be great to have anorexia!” – there are so many different factors in somebody’s life that lands them in any situation, and it’s the same with mental health. There is a hell of a lot of strength to wake up in the morning, to get into the next day, and I especially think it’s admirable for someone who is struggling with their life, to even exist.

With this in mind, when somebody comes to you, and says they are struggling with depression, how would you typically respond? Many people would say “oh that’s awful, I hope you’re okay“, or “I know how you feel, I haven’t felt great either“- I know this because I see this on my Facebook feed, or I have opened up myself to people with my anxiety disorder with these same responses. There isn’t anything wrong with this, in the sense that at least you’re not telling them to sod off or anything, but what would be a huge improvement would be to inform yourself, reflect on your life, on your baseline, and think- how can I find out more about this? How can I not give this person who has just opened up to me a closed response? I believe there are several small pointers I would recommend: (although as I say in the disclaimer, I’m no expert, these are what have helped me support my friends, but these are also things I would want my friends to do if I went to them with my depression/anxiety issues)

  1. Read articles online, or watch YouTube videos on the matter. If you want to go really old school – read a book (oh god…)
  2. Don’t compare your situations with theirs. As I say, everyone has their own baselines, and their own experiences of life – what they might be going through could be something you’ve never personally experienced. It makes their anxieties about the situation feel minimised.
  3. Don’t shame them – I think this is pretty self explanatory.
  4. Listen. I mean, really listen to what they’re saying. If they need a hug afterwards, or a shoulder to lean on if they start crying, do it. You don’t even need to say anything, apart to offer reassurance during this exchange.
  5. Don’t offer them advice – I mean this the first thing we want to do when someone is suffering, however this can make someone feel inadequate, that “everyone else seems to have the solution- why don’t I?”. I’d say the best thing to say is “How can I help?”
  6. Keep contact. Not all the time, as this might come across as patronising, especially after someone has opened up to you about their mental health, but sending someone a silly meme, GIF, or a hello every so often, really helps.

So what’s my point in all of this? Why am I seamlessly rambling about all of this? If even one person reads this post, and takes something away from what I’ve said, if it gets healthy conversation going, or if it gets you to research what mental health disorders are out there, then this post has done its purpose.

If you are based in the UK such as myself, the NHS have a wide range of contacts for people who are suffering, as well as contacts for loved ones to gain more information, and advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/