Depression 101: It’s okay to ask for help

Anyone who has suffered with depression knows how difficult it can be to reach out for help. Depression makes you feel completely alone in a well of hopelessness that goes so far down that there can’t possibly be a long enough piece of rope to reach and rescue you. So it can seem pointless or impossible to ask for help of any kind, especially when it comes to university. I get it. I totally get it. Continue reading “Depression 101: It’s okay to ask for help”

Dermatillomania: the Skin Picking Disorder

Dermatillomania (also known as compulsive skin picking or excoriation disorder) is a mental disorder that causes sufferers to feel compelled to pick at their skin to ease anxiety. This is often linked to OCD and perfectionism, picking at every little imperfection on the skin such as scabs and pimples. The horrible irony is that the sufferer falls into a wicked spiral of creating more imperfections in the pursuit of perfect skin, and potentially leading to greater mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

8 Ideas For Coping With Depression

Around one in five people in the UK suffer from anxiety or depression, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Depression is slowly becoming more understood and accepted in society, and there are now some well-known ways that a person can use to overcome their battle with depression. I would like to share with you eight ideas for coping with depression.


Make exercise more of a convenience

We’re always told that exercise helps battle depression due to the release of endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body. The problem with exercise, for me, however, is the inconvenience of physically having to go out to the gym or out for a run, especially with it being cold. After all, it’s just me I’m letting down, right? Who cares?

NO.

If that’s the state of mind you’re in when you think about exercise, change it. Find a way to make exercise more convenient for you, whether it’s by getting a gym membership to motivate you to get your money’s worth or having a partner to exercise with on a regular basis (this can be running, or going to the gym, or playing a game like squash or football – anything).

If you have the money to splash out a bit, you could even start exercising from the comfort of your own home by buying your own personal exercise machine. I purchased a Ultrasport Home Trainer F-Bike on eBay (it cost me £40 second hand and is in fantastic condition) and try to do at least 2 km two days a week. Sometimes I come home from college or work feeling extremely annoyed and I take my frustrations out on the bike; 3+ km later I feel the euphoric rush of endorphins and no longer care about the exasperations of the day. And I haven’t even had to leave my house to get that hit.

I have also started completing some of the 30 day exercise challenges, which make me feel a sense of achievement, even if they do sometimes hurt like hell. These challenges give you targets to meet every day, whether it be lunges, push ups, crunches, or sit ups. There are rest days every five days for you to recover as well. I am coming to the end of the 30 Day Easy Squat Challenge, and although I am so looking forward to it ending, I can’t wait for the next challenge. I may do the sit up challenge next.

Even dancing around like a lunatic in your room is a form of exercise; plus it can be really fun and allow you to loosen up after a tense day. Do whatever you can. The idea is to make it as easy and as convenient as possible for you to exercise regularly. Get those muscles pumping!

Source: Headspace
 


Breathe: Yoga or Meditation

Yoga and meditation can be used to train your mind to dismiss negative thoughts that can worsen your anxiety or depression. Just ten minutes of yoga or meditation a day can be enough to reduce your anxiety, improve your sleeping patterns, and relieve any strain in relationships with friends, family and co-workers.

Yoga and deep breathing classes are a great way to maintain a routine, learn different poses from a professional yoga trainer, and meet new people. However, if this does not suit you, there are other alternatives. Does anyone still have the WiiFit? If you do, there are a number of different yoga poses to try on there. There are also a number of YouTube channels to choose from for your yoga fix. YogiApproved.com have a list of 18 recommended YouTube channels to suit your needs.

In terms of meditation, again there are a number of meditation classes and YouTube videos to choose from – check out Mindful Muscle’s 7 Best YouTube Guided Meditations for some inspiration and see what fits your needs. There are also a number of apps to choose from. I personally use Headspace. It’s available both on iPhone and Android and each session is just 10 minutes long – ideal if you don’t have a lot of time.

 

Medical Assistance

This probably seems an obvious one, but I’ve still put it on the list because it’s incredible how many people dismiss it for whatever reason. There is no shame in asking for professional help. Some people just need a leg up, and some need a bit more assistance. Either way, counsellors and antidepressants are there for a reason. And if something isn’t working, don’t do what I did and give up: try something else.

I tried a number of different counsellors in my area, as well as fluoxetine and citalopram, and nothing was making me feel better, so I just gave up and somewhat submitted to the dark cloud of depression over my head until my boyfriend pressed me to try again. I have now been on 50 mg of sertraline for about 6 months and I finally feel like I can start to overcome depression with these different ideas. So definitely go back to your doctor if you feel your prescription isn’t working for you.

Your doctor might also suggest you set a monthly or bi-monthly appointment with them to monitor your progress on the medication, which you should definitely do if possible. Note any side effects and hopefully you will find an antidepressant that works for you. If not, don’t worry – there are other types of treatment out there, which I’m sure your doctor will go through with you.

Counselling aims to talk through any problems you are having, identify key events that may have lead to your mental illness, and coach you on how to challenge any negative thoughts that you may be having. Just because the counsellors in my area didn’t suit me doesn’t mean that they won’t be useful for you.

There are a number of different types of counselling to choose from, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal therapy, and Psychodynamic therapy. Talk through your choices with your doctor and see how it goes. And if you do go to counselling, try to be as open as possible with your feelings and requirements as possible (I asked my counsellor to be less sympathetic because I got enough of it back home, and he was actually really great about it). And if you feel you’re not progressing with that counsellor, try another. They are paid to help you, so shop around as much as you can.

 

One of my rats, Chadwick
One of my rats, Chadwick

Therapy Pets

Animals might be the key to your recovery – how amazing is that?

A therapy pet’s duty is to give a person struggling with mental health issues a loyal companion while also helping to boost their confidence and reduce their anxiety. The fact that a living creature depends on you to feed it and look after it can give a person a strong sense of routine, something that they may have lost track of if they are struggling with depression or anxiety, and the reward of gaining their love and trust is inconceivable. Just simply stroking an animal or watching fish swim around is well known to lower blood pressure and reduce stress.

Therapy pets can be any animal you wish, and since the needs of different pets vary widely there is no need to worry about biting off more than you can chew. Whether you want a dog to help you to start walking every day, or a goldfish that just needs a pinch of food every day and regular tank cleans, a therapy pet can help significantly with your mental health.

I have five rats as therapy pets (I know, that sounds absolutely insane!), and they brighten up my life so much.

The reason I chose rats is because I missed having rodents in my life, and rats are perhaps the most rewarding rodents you could keep as pets. They are extremely affectionate (I just wanted all of the love), and highly intelligent – you can train them much like you can a dog. They also really love to play, so I knew I would never feel alone with them in my life. They don’t get overly grumpy or judgemental like humans can, and their love is unconditional. Basically whenever I feel down I turn to my rats to cheer me up, and they haven’t failed me yet.

Another great thing about rats is that, like dogs, you can enter them into shows! I am a member of the North of England Rat Society, which is fantastic for meeting new people and giving and receiving advice on looking after your rats.

There are a lot of pros and cons to each animal, so it’s always worth doing some research before you choose a therapy animal, and make sure that you can afford potential vet bills.

Of course, there are people out there who can’t get their own therapy pet due to living circumstances or just not having the time or the money to keep them. However there are other ways in which to get your furry fix. Going horse riding has the added benefit of fresh air and exercise.


Do things that make you feel good – even if you don’t feel like it

One of the ways in which depression makes us feel utterly alone and useless in the world is by making us lose interest in the things we used to love. It makes us feel too overwhelmed to even think about doing those fun things, and before we know it life just seems pointless.

While you may not be able to force those feelings away and have fun, you can push yourself to do things that you enjoyed once, whether that be a sport that you enjoyed, a walk in the park, some music or art, or just going out with friends. Set yourself little goals that are really easy to achieve and you could be surprised by how much better you feel for it. You might even start to have some fun again!

I used to do a lot of writing, which I haven’t done for a good couple of years due to my depression. I recently decided to set myself a daily task of 100 words a day – or more if I feel like it – just to get back into the habit of writing again. It didn’t have to be good or make much sense. It just had to be a minimum of 100 words each day. Sometimes I don’t manage it, and I have to remind myself that it’s okay to not always meet this target – it’s a work in progress to make this a habit again. But the fact that I am writing – somewhat – again feels amazing. I feel as though I’m slowly seeing the real Claire again. I try not to think about the fact that this post took me three weeks to write!


Learn something new!

What better way to earn a sense of achievement? It can be absolutely anything and has the potential to become a new hobby for you to turn to in times of need. I’m learning how to knit and crochet and it’s actually been so ideal for me. I can do it whenever I want, whether it’s while I’m watching TV or working out on my exercise bike, and it also gives my hands something to do – I have a condition called dermatillomania, which causes me to obsessively pick at my skin, so knitting and crochet have reduced this significantly for me.

You could also try learning a language, photography, sewing, a musical instrument, anything that is doable for you and that will give you a real sense of achievement.

Stay connected to friends and family who can offer you support

This may seem like an obvious one, but one of the biggest things that depression does is make you feel alone in the world. You don’t feel like going out with friends anymore because you feel like you’ll just be a constant downer and they won’t want to hang out with you.

You are WRONG.

We are fortunate today that society is becoming more aware of mental illnesses, and understand better that depression is a whole lot more than just “feeling down”. There is more respect and support now for those who struggle with mental illnesses than ever before.

The worst thing you can do is shut yourself away from those who can help you overcome this. Friends and family are there for us to reach out to when we’re in the darkest of places, just like we are for them in their hour of need. You are not a burden; you are a human being fighting a mental illness. The fact that you have decided that you have accepted this and decided to find ways in which to conquer it just shows how strong you are. But a battle is never won alone. You need comrades.

Going out with friends can take your mind off your depression for a little while and make you feel better about yourself. You can also confide in them about how you’re feeling, and maybe help support them in their woes – if you’re anything like me, then you can deal with anyone’s issues but your own!

Social support is essential to your recovery, so make the time to call or hang out or send a message.

 

Keep a Bullet Journal


This is a fantastic way to plan your days, set goals for yourself, and unleash your creative side. As the Bullet Journal website puts it, “The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.”

Your bullet journal can be as simple or as extensive as you want it to be. You can jot down a list of things to do and goals to aim towards each day and places you need to be. You can also create ‘collections’ of information you want to keep a record of, such as books you want to read, movies you want to see, new healthy habits you want to start up and maintain, and savings goals. It can also help you to introduce the previous coping ideas into your life without you having to remember it all in your head.

It is your own planning and creative haven for you to do as you wish with.

If you’re still not sure about bullet journals, there are plenty of websites and YouTube videos out there to help you figure out if keeping one would be useful for you. Boho Berry is a particularly good channel to go to in order to gain a good idea of how to start and use a bullet journal.

I hope that these ideas help you to get onto the road to recovery. Regardless of whether you have suffered with depression for a day or 10+ years, you are not alone and you can get through this. You just need love and support, and with that you can get through anything, even this horrible chapter in your life.

And remember: you are worth every second that you are in this world.

 
Keep smiling!
 
Claire

A Brief Description of Depression: Wooden Wheel

Ring o’ ring o’ roses… Ring o’ ring o’ roses…
Ring o’ ring o’ roses…
Ring o’ ring o’ roses…

It’s dark behind the lids. The clouds are blacker than night and they stick like tar melted to the eyeballs. The brain is numb and the tears blotch the skin and every day they sit on the chest and whisper and snarl, and laugh and sneer. And they bounce and jump and flop and loll. They wear dark grey suits and never walk alone. Instead they catch a ride on the first poor soul who stops, who only too late understands the ignorance and apathy of the others as they choke from the dangling bodies now swinging around the neck.

The definition of maybe is never. Weight and daggered tongues press against the skin and flesh and bones, and the saliva eats through all like acid. Decrepit and insane, the feast is only just beginning as the chains close around tendons and wood and the cries are choked and strained and ignored. And the spinning…

Ring o’ ring o’ roses…
Ring o’ ring o’ roses…
Ring o’ ring o’ roses…
Ring o’ ring o’ roses…

The wheel never stops; it just keeps turning, and turning, and turning… The angle of the spine is excruciating and the shoulder blades dig into the hard wood; bone dowels mated to the circumference, and the hot sweated glue locks it air tight. The carvings deepen with each turn; the dancing of fire illuminates the crazed red eyes and the skin melted off to reveal the bloody flesh and the wide maw opens and closes as shrieks of psychotic joy leave through its teeth.

The axle screeches its miserable tune as the cackling continues…

The fog is thick and the hands are cold as they close around both wrists and slam them into the hard dirt. A crash and a shriek are drowned by the roars of monstrous laughter and the cracking of ribs as the weight increases and blood rushes out in streams of ruby wonder.

Its heat soon dissipates; as do the memories of good times in which smiles were wide and pearls glistened in the golden rays of the sun. As do the hopes and pleas and the nails that bite into the wood and splinter, and the limbs that struggle and strain and fight, and the tears that glistened and fell and the thoughts of conquer and prevalence. All of them: gone.

The dark darkens and the light ceases to have ever had a meaning.

Source: Kevin Casper

Improving one’s self

So since I have taken a year out of university, I am working on improving myself in whatever way I can so that when I go back for my third and final year I’ll be in the best shape I can be physically and mentally.

As you all know I suffer from anxiety and depression, and everyone knows that the best cure for these is a combination of healthy eating and exercise. And I’m going all out: I’ve swapped most coffees for peppermint and nettle tea, I’m eating more fruit and veg, and I’m lucky enough to have a fitness freak for a housemate so I’ve started going running with him.

In fact I went running with him today along with my other housemate, and WOOOOO, those endorphins were rushing through my bloodstream like crazy antelope. An hour after finishing our run, I was asked if I’d taken drugs, because I was hiiiiiigh.

On endorphins. Just to clarify.

I’m also working on improving my brain, because it’s never too late to do that. So I’ve signed up for Lumosity where you can give different areas of your brain a workout online, and bought a Brain Boosting book by Parragon for tips on how I can study and use my brain more efficiently. I have a long way to go – at least 144 pages – but I’m going to get there.

I’m trying to write more as well, but unfortunately my laptop has decided that now is a good time to die, and so the few blog posts I had lined up I no longer have access to, and if I need a computer I have to go to the university library. I guess that bit works out better though – it gets me out of the house and I’m more likely to study if I have to go to the library all the time.

I had a job interview last week with a motorsport company for the role of a trainee thread rolling engineer (believe it or not, cutting threads is a highly skilled job), and the company were really impressed by me and invited me to have a trial day which I took to like a duck to water. However, since I’d be going back to university next year and they’re looking for someone permanent, they’re a bit unsure about hiring me. I really want this job; it’s perfect for me and I’ve told them that I’d be able to do evenings and weekends when I go back to uni and I’d be happy to go back once I’ve graduated, so it’s just a matter of waiting to see how my opponent for the role does in his trial, and hopefully getting a phone call saying I have the job. I’m trying to stay positive.

I believe it’s important to always try to improve oneself, not in appearance but in self-worth and ability. Whether that’s by reading a book every day or learning a new language or facing a fear, every little bit helps to result in a better you, and that’s a goal we should all strive to meet.

Are you trying to improve yourself? If so, how?

Keep smiling!

Claire

Struggling doesn’t make you a failure

I’m suspending my course at uni, and instead I will be sitting my second year exams this time next year. I guess you can say I’m having a gap year.

The reason for this is because I’ve been feeling less and less like me, more like a shadow. I miss the old Claire – always so bubbly and motivated – and I’m going to spend the next year finding her.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and I know it’s the right decision for me. I just need the time to find me and fall back in love in engineering again. Lately I’ve been in a dark place with no light at the end of the tunnel; it’s time to get out.

Ever since I got my first C during A levels (it was a huge shock to me since I’m usually a straight A student), I’ve been going down a deep, dark hole which I’m finding impossible to get out of. I’ve always had really bad anxiety when it comes to exams, but it’s only gotten worse, and my friends and family – and members of staff I’ve spoken to at university – all agree that I am not well enough to sit these exams.

I have thought about this long and hard for months. I’ve not been enjoying uni at all; in fact I’ve hated it since the middle of first year. What was stopping me from deciding this earlier was the daft idea that quitting uni or suspending my studies would mean I would fail in life – and the one thing I fear more than anything else is failure.

It’s something that is implied at school from a very young age. If you don’t go to university and get a degree, you will never get anywhere in life. And it infuriates me that we are made to feel like that, because university isn’t for everyone. Some people learn better doing a more practical vocational course. Others are more suited to doing an apprenticeship or internship. Some don’t even know what they want to do with their lives yet. So what’s the point in spending £9000 a year on some random course just for the sake of making the education system happy that they have another number to add to their statistics?

Schools need to start teaching pupils that taking a year out to have a break from education or to figure out what they actually want to do in life is okay, and it doesn’t mean you’re going to fail in life. I wish I’d taken a year out before going to university just so I could take a breather and get myself back on track because I was a mess during A levels. I was starting to doubt myself a lot, and a 12 months’ break then maybe would have benefited me.

Then again, I can look upon this situation in a more positive light. If I had taken a year out then, I probably wouldn’t be friends with the amazing people I know today. I probably wouldn’t have a job at the hotel I wait on, and thus I would never have had an internship at Vulcan To The Sky Trust, which I absolutely love doing.

I guess this was the path that I had to stumble upon. But I want my generation and future generations to learn that it’s okay to take a break. You’ve been in some form of education from the age of four or five. That is a heck of a long time meeting deadlines and cramming for exams. Is it really any wonder that some of us forget that life is supposed to be fun?

A lot of people don’t need to take a year out. They graduate from university at 21 or 22 and perhaps even go on to do a PhD. Good for them, I say. But not everyone is suited for that path, and that needs to be understood by us – and by the schools that try to force us to follow the crowd.

I can tell you that I will get my degree…just not next year as we had planned. But I’m okay with that, because it’s right for me.

Something kind of personal…

I haven’t really spoken about my family much on here, and I’ve never intended to. But something happened today that I want to talk about. Maybe someone is going through something similar, and maybe someone can help me see some sort of light. Because I have these odd unfamiliar feelings about the topic and I don’t know how to address them.

Before today I hadn’t spoken to my father in over six years, by a matter of choice. I changed my surname and I’ve torn up every single Christmas and birthday card he has ever sent me. I used to really hate him, because he made mine, my mum’s, and my brother’s lives a misery. When I still called him my dad, he was a selfish, bullying drunk who was able to afford cigarettes and booze and football season tickets, but was too skint to pay for days out or meals out. He had enough energy to bully my brother and strangle him with a washing line, but he was too tired to spend actual quality time with us. He was cruel, and the final straw was when he attacked my mum because she had someone other than him fixing her car.

Today was my birthday and I answered the door to see him standing there. He looked awfully old. His teeth are even yellower than I remember and he’s lost one of his front incisors. I expected to feel the hate I’d let go of a couple of years back, but all I felt was pity for the mess I saw before me. Not the sympathy he tried to gain from me, just pity. The big bad dad that I’d feared for a large portion of my life was now nothing more than a short pitiful old man, and although the fear is well and truly gone, it’s been replaced by another emotion that right now I can’t place my finger on.

I know that I’m never going to be able to forgive him for all the hurt that he caused, nor am I interested in keeping in contact with him, as I have told him. But it’s kind of hit me hard in a way that I can’t describe, and it just makes me cry to think of those five or ten awkward minutes facing the man who I had feared more than anything else in my life.

Sometimes things just don’t work out…

As some of you know, I was all psyched for the summer since I would be in Mumbai for two months doing an internship with a magazine I had an article published in (to read the article click here). Unfortunately, that seems to have fallen through. I’m just glad I hadn’t bought my plane tickets yet; luckily my mother and I were a little apprehensive, and alas it seems we were right to be. I keep thinking to myself:

What if?
What if I had tried harder to keep in contact with the editor? What if I had been less patient and more persistent for information? What if I had been less naive that it would all go as planned? A whole army of ‘what if’s float around in my head, and it sucks. I was going to have the best for once. For once it was going to be me boasting about what I did during the summer, and for once it was going to be my friends gawping and feeling sick with jealousy.

Maybe I’m still too childish, and maybe that’s why my summer plans fell through. Maybe there is a God, and He was going to give me a chance, only I proved Him wrong and that I was not deserving of such a grown-up sort of responsibility. Maybe He’s trying to protect me from myself.
I’ve often wondered why I sometimes act so immature. Sure, some things in my past meant that I had to try and grow up quickly, but why is it that after the problem left I appeared to become less mature? Am I trying to make up for lost time? I guess I’d rather not use that excuse: that excuse is reserved for broken families, not our family that had a spare part we needed rid of. I once thought maybe my immaturity is due to dyspraxia. After all I’m quite hyper and fidget a lot, I suck at throwing and catching, and I’ve always been rather slow at writing… But after doing some research I’m pretty sure that’s not the case.
I can act mature; it’s just I seem to choose not to. Or maybe it’s just all in my head. I should ask a friend, but I’m scared that they might not be honest…or maybe they’ll be too honest.
Which leads me to uni. To be honest, I’m not doing that well at uni. Sure, I’ve handed in and done well at assignments, I’ve attended most lectures, and I even hired a tutor to help me with MATLAB and Maths. But I’ve still let myself down. Exams started this week, and to be honest, they’re not going very well. I doubt I’ll pass. I always stress so badly during the exam period, even more so than when I was doing my GCSEs. Not to mention my motivation levels have been running on empty, hence my lousy papers that my poor professors have to mark. I can imagine them sighing as they think they hold the exam papers of a lazy partying nitwit who hasn’t turned up to a lot of lectures and spent most of their time drinking or being hungover, and it sucks because it’s not the case. To be honest, I found it difficult. Really difficult. I didn’t want to go to uni, I was forced, and I found a lot of the lectures either boring or challenging. And – stupid me – I decided the best way to handle it was to bury my head in the sand for the majority of the year, watching the clock as I waited for each hour to pass and for each day to end.
You’re probably thinking now, “Well if you fail then you’ve got what you wanted. Shouldn’t you be happy?” and I wish that was the case. But I’m torn. I don’t want to stay because I’m hating uni what with the stress of exams and education as a whole, but I do want to stay because if I leave I’ll be back to being surrounded by fake friends again. Yes, I’ve made friends. A lot of great friends who I love with all my heart. Sure, I have one or two friends I have kept in contact with from high school, and I hope to stay in contact with them for a lot longer. But these guys…I love them so much. I can trust them to not let me down, and I can trust them to not bring me down either. I feel close to every single one of them. We’re honest with each other and I can feel my guard lowering. But if I leave uni like I want, I’ll be leaving them too. Do I really want to do that?
Without my results, I can only guess that I have two options: I can quit university, or I can resit modules – or the whole year – and continue. Maybe things will be better next year. Maybe, because I’ll be in a house with friends who want to do well I’ll find it easier to stay motivated and revise, something I’ve found difficult in a house full of students who get drunk and rowdy nearly every night.

Sometimes things just don’t work out, and I guess that has to be okay. Right now, I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do, but as soon as I work it out I’ll let you guys know. In the meantime, keep smiling.

Claire

The Pursuit for…Rubber Bands?

Yes, I am a dirty scrubber who looks for rubber bands on the floor and wears them.

My logic? I was inspired by Van Hansis, and I totally agree with what he says:

Ever since I started doing this at the beginning of the semester, I have felt more confident for the future. Okay, I don’t find a rubber band every day, but if you look at the bigger picture, the more important things that you pursue are going to take more than just a day to get.

Van Hansis, as you may know, is another person on the list of people who inspire me, and in the video above not only does he explain the rubber band theory but he also talks about not following the trends and just being yourself, which is what I went on about here (check it out).

So ja, there you have it: Claire goes on the pursuit for rubber bands every day!

Do you guys have any theories like this one, whether it’s original or inspired by someone else? Let me know!

Keep smiling!

Claire