Seeing as A Level results day was yesterday…

I wrote an article about how A Level exam results are not the be all and end all that students believe they are. Check it out here, and thank you to Crowd H for the opportunity to write for them.

Why A Level Exam Results Aren’t the Be All and End All

Cuddles with Maxwell

My poor little Maxwell somehow trapped his tail and the tip has now gone black and is going to (hopefully) drop off on its own. He’s been prescribed antibiotics and anti-inflammatories by the vet. He’s also been prescribed lots of cuddles by me.

Depression is Shrinking My Brain

Depression Shrinks the BrainFor a long time I have felt as though I am getting more and more stupid. I can’t think as quickly as I used to. I struggle to think of what I’m trying to say to people. I’m also extremely forgetful and my attention fades in and out, no matter how interested I am. I almost feel as though I’m a child again. Maybe I even act like a child more; I’m not too sure. But since being diagnosed with depression six years ago, it’s very clear that my mental capacity has taken a nosedive.

Why? Because depression shrinks the brain.

That’s right. The part of the brain responsible for emotion and long term memory – the hippocampus – shrinks due to depression. Studies across the globe have affirmed that the more episodes of depression a person has, the greater the reduction in the size of the hippocampus. The neurons slow down and die, and you can actually feel yourself shutting down. It’s¬†associated with conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which is why a link between depression and dementia has been suggested. It’s terrifying.

I thought the reason I was slower at processing information and struggling to focus was due to being tired (I’m always tired), or maybe that I was always this slow deep down. This explains so much. It explains why I make so many silly little mistakes in some of my working out in maths, and why I feel so stupid all of the time. My brain isn’t working as well as it used to because it’s been shrinking on and off for the past six years.

And the terrible thing is that it then worsens my depression because I feel down and frustrated with myself…which then contributes further to my brain struggling to function. It’s a constant downward spiral. And it stresses me out, naturally, because it makes it difficult to complete academic work, take in information, and just think logically.

Instead of accepting and explaining that to people, I let my pride get in the way. I hide it and pretend that I do know what people are talking about. Admitting that I am struggling to think seems even more shameful than the actual diagnosis. I used to try to make mental notes about things mentioned in conversation that I had the feeling I should really know about but don’t dare admit to friends, but I always forget about them so I have since given up with that. It is such a huge deal for me when I do understand something. I get really excited, only for friends to respond as though it’s the most basic thing that everyone should know. That doesn’t help, but they don’t know, because I keep up this act.

This is the first time I’ve admitted this to myself, let alone telling anyone else. I must admit that I feel slightly comforted by the fact that my messy brain can be explained properly with science. However, it does make the future seem more bleak. On the plus side…

Hippocampus shrinkage IS reversible

The good news is that a shrinking brain is not the end of the world; it can be reversed. The reason the hippocampus shrinks in the first place during depressive episodes is because it is not being exercised. Your brain works a bit like a muscle: if you don’t work it, the less effective it becomes. Chronic depression causes the neurons to die, and long story short the brain’s functionality reduces in the areas where the neurons are dying (in this case the hippocampus). However, contrary to traditional belief, the adult brain does still produce neurons, but only in restricted areas such as (you guessed it) the hippocampus.

So how can we reverse the damage?

Well, one effective way is through medication. Scientists suggest that antidepressants can boost the rate new neurons being made. Of course, anyone who has taken antidepressants knows that these are not a quick solution. They can make it a little easier to get up in a morning and try out some personal hygiene; they are a little bit of a leg up and over the kicking-depression-in-the-goolies wall. You still need to do a lot of work to beat it, but as least they can help increase your functionality a bit. From there, it’s a matter of exercising the mind to reverse the reduction of hippocampal volume.

Reading, writing, arts and crafts, playing video games, and even going for a walk can help engage the brain. Learning a new skill can also help to give you a sense of achievement – keying into the brain’s reward system to give you the can-do attitude to do more things. It all sounds easy in theory, and I know that it can be difficult in practice. Nevertheless it is worth trying any of these things out to get over that wall.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Ex-RAF Veteran Guest Post

PTSD UK StatisticsPost Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD for short, is a type of anxiety disorder caused by a singular (or series of) traumatic events. The sufferer often relives these events through nightmares and flashbacks, which can lead to the sufferer feeling isolated and tormented.

Although military combat is the main traumatic event associated with PTSD, there are a number of other situations that can cause it. These include serious accidents; physical or sexual abuse or assault; being held hostage; witnessing violence or abuse; or experiencing a natural disaster. The symptoms can come about straight after the event, or quietly fester and traumatise its victim several years later.

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Being in Love While Depressed

Being in Love While DepressedSo you guys know that I’ve been battling depression for a while.

You may also know that I am currently in my longest ever relationship.

Two and a half years may not seem like a big deal to some people, but it is for me. My past relationships (if you can even truly class my couple of high school tonsil-tickles relationships) lasted a maximum of about three months before I became bored and broke up with them. I’m pretty certain my exes thought I was a heartless bitch and perhaps I was. I was too self-centred for a relationship and it’s something I still struggle with. After all, if you don’t look after yourself, who the hell will?

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Let’s Discuss: Panic Disorder

Panic disorderHave you ever felt suddenly so anxious and fearful that you find it difficult to breathe?

Have you ever felt this way for no apparent reason whatsoever?

Panic disorder sufferers experience recurring panic attacks, but have no idea why. Although it is not yet known what causes panic disorder in people, it is estimated that 2.7% of the population will experience it at some point in their lives. If left untreated, panic disorder can get worse and manifest in the form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and phobias.

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Some of the Best Self Help Advice I have ever received

Last Thursday I had an assessment/interview in London for a modelling agency. I passed the assessment, however it turned out to not be what I was looking for and I had to decline their offer.

However I can’t say it was a waste of my time or money because I met a wonderfully wise young woman.

Our assessment slots were at the same time so we got chatting. She was at the agency with her 5-year-old son; she wanted him to grow up to be confident in himself and therefore took him for some modelling. She actually did some modelling herself to pay her tuition fees when she was studying Medicine at university in Pakistan.

Somehow our conversation moved to how we both love writing and I mentioned my blog. I told her about my struggles with depression, and in turn she offered her own story with postpartum depression. That’s when she told me a fantastic self help tip.

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Oops! I was in Berlin.

I went to Berlin for a week.

To be honest, I wish I still was there!

Leaving real life behind for a new city allowed me to breathe freely for the first time in what feels like forever. There was no worrying about college or work or anything. There was just me, Phil, and a beautiful city that needed to be explored.

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