All things green

Health. Fitness. Positivity. Lifestyle. Mental health. Self love.

The invisibility of mental health

The toughest challenge I believe those battling mental health conditions have to deal with is the invisibility of it. The pure fact is that many people we all know will be suffering so terribly inside but no one else can see it. When it comes to mental health the only way to make others understand is by trying to explain how you feel, however when you don't even understand it yourself, it makes it impossible to try and put into words to explain to someone else.

The reality of mental health is that because it's invisible, it isn't always believed or fully understood. The sad part is that if a person had broken a bone no one would ever dream of questioning them whether or not it's really broken but yet people have no worry about questioning someone who has depression. Just because something cannot be seen doesn't mean it isn't there and it's never, ever okay to question a person about it. The upsetting truth is that so many people are afraid to talk due to the fact they don't think people will believe them, or they will just think their overreacting. It often takes a great deal of courage for a person open up and express concern over their mental health, so to be told 'stop being dramatic' or 'oh just snap out of it' would be enough to make a person never want to talk again.

This is genuinely the part I hate most about having a mental health condition because it really does make life challenging, trying to translate to the people in your life what it's like to live with a mental health is the most difficult thing I ever have to do. In the early days when I first become unwell, I couldn't even understand myself what was going on in my head, yet I was expected to explain that to doctors. For nearly 3 years I battled with not knowing what the hell was going on, after originally being diagnosed with depression but with the medication not helping, I knew there was something more happening. It felt like an eternity that it took to get the correct diagnosis and not being able to get just a simple blood test or x-ray to determine was unbearable. I know if it were possible to test for it would have saved me a great deal of heartache. I remember crying to my partner over and over and over because not even the doctors could understand what was wrong with me, when I was finally able to get a diagnosis it was the biggest relief as I finally had an answer.

Something I still struggle with is others not having the same level of understanding as you would do about your 'sensitivity' as they'd call it or as I would just call it, feelings. I can guarantee I am not the only person with a mental health condition that has been called numerous times 'sensitive'. In all honesty, it makes me so mad whenever people dismiss others feelings as if they aren't important. Just because something doesn't affect one person doesn't mean it can't affect another and just because someone has a mental health condition doesn't mean their overly sensitive, nor does it mean they can't have 'normal' everyday feelings.

The problem we have is that so many people don’t believe mental health conditions can be as debilitating as they are. It’s as if people think it’s all just made up and exaggerated. Those with mental health conditions will have to battle on a daily basis with problems that can't be seen to anyone else. For those struggling just even getting out of bed can feel like climbing a mountain but yet because the pain's inside, an outsider wouldn't have any idea.

The only way mental health can be understood is through people's experiences but everyone experiences it differently, meaning that it's a challenge to build up an overall understanding and I believe this is what leads to the confusion. There's no one answer and mental health isn't black and white, people can all suffer from the same conditions but in completely opposing forms. This does not mean one person should be judged because what they go through is different to what another goes through and there will always be more severe cases than others, but they're still all valid.

In summary, the message I so desperately want to get across with this post is that we all need to learn to have a better understanding of mental health conditions and become more aware of how damaging they can be. This is something I'm so passionate about because I know how apparent it is to every single person suffering. So remember, never brush off a mental health condition as if it's not important, they are 100% just as important as any physical condition and although they cannot be seen, this does not mean they aren't there.

Panic attacks

All a sudden out of nowhere your chest tightens and your heart starts to race so fast that it feels like its going to come out of your chest. You can't catch your breath and no matter what you do it won't slow down, it feels like your whole world is coming crashing down. Before you even have a chance to try to anything about it the panic attack has taken over and just have ride it out. Panic attacks create the most silently painful experiences that make no sense, suffering for an unknown reason, with no way of stopping it.

A panic attack is one of those most petrifying experiences and as crazy as it may sound when you're having a panic attack, it feels like your about to die. Breathing speeds up so much and your chest becomes so tight it feels like its closing up.

I have experienced quite a few panic attacks in my life as I'm sure many of us have. The best way to describe them is that it feels like your throat is shutting, your heart is going to burst and the world is sucking you up into it. It's a very traumatic and nerve-racking feeling to be unable to catch your breath, which takes some time to recover from.

Anyone who has endured a panic attack knows that the symptoms are sudden, frightening, and difficult to manage. One of the most difficult parts of panic attacks is that they typically occur without any warning. They can swoop in from out of nowhere, with no oncoming symptoms. This makes them difficult because it can be happening and those around you won't understand, but this is all part of mental health, a lot of the time it is unexplained. The frustrating thing is you know that you have no real reason to be getting stressed or worked up and you feel silly for doing so but cannot do anything to change it.

Panic attacks are sudden and include a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms, this makes them feel overwhelming and those suffering can appear perfectly 'normal' just moments before the attack will happen. Panic attacks can also happen to absolutely anyone, so no one should be categorized as 'not the type who would have them'. 

The best way to cope with a panic attack is to break it down with helpful strategies like these: 

1. Deep breathing. The one thing that feels the most impossible thing to do but its a lifesaver in this situation, by focusing on slowing your breath down it will automatically make you calmer. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, exhale breath for 8 seconds and repeat. This causes an autonomic shift from a sympathetic state (fight or flight reaction) to a parasympathetic response.

2. Coping statements. By talking back to the irrational thoughts that panic attacks bring can help to rationalize. Saying to yourself " I'm not about to die, I'm just feeling anxious and this will pass" to fight against those negative thoughts and bring some calm.

3. Find something to focus on. By distracting the mind it can help to slow down breathing and relieve some of the symptoms of panic attacks. Keeping your mind busy and away from the panicking breath will hopefully bring the end to the attack a lot quicker. 

4. Ride it out. Sometimes there's isn't anything we can do to stop a panic attack or reduce its severity and all you can do is just go with it, knowing that at some point it will end. If this is the case, remember your safe and this is your body's way of protecting you, once it's over you can refer back to normal.

For those who suffer from panic attacks please remember that no matter how long it takes, keep taking deep breaths and the attack will eventually pass. I know it may feel like a lifetime but it will go and you will start to feel better. Unfortunately, there isn't a great deal that we can do to prevent panic attacks other than trying to keep stress levels low. I would advise doing regular meditation to settle the constant racing thoughts and calm the mind, meditation is proven to improve mental health and general anxiety so it's definitely worth trying out.

The long term affect miscarriages can have

The moment you realise you are having a miscarriage is the moment your life and your body are likely to never be the same again. Many understand miscarriages as an extremely difficult experience but I believe what isn't widely understood is the trauma it can leave behind for months and potentially years to follow. 

In those initial moments when you start to bleed or you go to a scan only to not hear a heartbeat, are moments that your heart completely breaks. What seems to catch you at first is shock and disbelief, disbelief that this is happening and you're losing your baby. I think it's our brains safety mechanism that tries to prevent the pain that will follow but instead it just delays it. The moment you retest or you get a second opinion and know that the baby is gone is when your whole world comes crashing down.

In this past year as spoken about in previous blog posts, I have experienced multiple miscarriages and in this post, I want to discuss the long-term effect that they can have on both your body and your mind. 6 months after my last miscarriage I am finally starting to feel like myself again, that's a whole 6 months later and the problem there can be is that people provide support and help in those first few weeks but after that it is often forgotten about, but never is for the mother, or indeed father.

My personal journey has been a rollercoaster ride, one which I wouldn't wish on anyone. For me, my biggest long-term struggle has been physical. I struggled for months and to some degree still struggle now as it has just taken such a length of time to get back to normal. For months after my miscarriages, my body continued to carry the symptoms of pregnancy, for so long I questioned: "am I still pregnant?" & "did I really miscarry?" which is because it takes a while for the symptoms to disappear and that is what I personally found the hardest. It leaves you almost in limbo because you can't understand why you still feel pregnant. People (myself included) just presume as soon as the baby is gone, the pregnancy symptoms go too, but that couldn't be further from the truth. 

The biggest physical battle I had long-term was with chronic fatigue. My coping mechanism after miscarrying was to just keep going and not stop to have time to think about it; so I continued working, training and basically carried on with life as normal. This, however, meant that I never gave my body the chance to rest and recover so my body went into overdrive; when I woke up in the mornings I was so physically exhausted it was nearly impossible to even lift my head off the pillow, and by the time I managed to get myself up, I had to take myself back to bed and would stay there for most of the day. It has genuinely only been in these last few weeks that I have felt my body getting back to normal and that I am able to get through the day without falling asleep, I have more energy for my work and for the gym & my body has finally stopped feeling 'pregnant'. 

Mentally I'm very glad to say that I definitely healed a lot quicker than I did physically, which did surprise me and the only reason I believe I've managed to heal is because deep down I know in my heart those miscarriages happened for a reason. However, that isn’t to take anything away from the pain and damage those miscarriages had in those moments. Hindsight is a great thing. Those times were honestly the most unbearable of my life, miscarriage is a pain that you can never explain and an ache in your heart that will always be there. 

The mental challenges miscarriages bring are the constant self-doubt. It makes you blame yourself and question every single thing that you did leading up to that moment and even though everyone will reassure you it was not your fault to you, you'll always believe it is. The thing that hurt me the most was the thought of what could have been and after trying for a year, the thing I was so unbelievably desperate for, I was so close to having. It only takes that one small moment for every single one of your plans and dreams to be taken away from you. It's completely and utterly soul destroying and leaves you feeling numb.

The reason I wanted to be so open up and honest with my experience is to help anyone struggling with the same thing and to help those around them to provide better support. This is not to say everyone will suffer for as long as I did or in the same way I did it's just to show how it can be and that more support is needed in the months that follow. For anyone who may have suffered a miscarriage I don't want you to think the next 6 months will be hell, this is just my experience. I also suffered multiple miscarriages, which probably lead to the length of time I struggle for.

 It’s so incredibly important that we talk about miscarriages more as a statistic that will shock many, is that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. That’s a lot more than I ever imagined and it's because they just aren't spoken about. The whole process of fertility is not spoken about anywhere near as much as it should be, it’s very sad that it’s still a subject we are afraid to talk about. No one should never be ashamed to share their story and it doesn't make you any less of a woman or man.

The most important message I want to get across is that the suffering doesn't just end after a few weeks. As much as I have a more positive outlook regarding my miscarriages, there's a certain ache in those who struggle to conceive which they will carry around with them every single day. No matter how happy and together they can look on the outside, just like all mental health conditions so much can be hidden behind a smile. Please never forget to check on your loved ones. 

Anxiety and finding ways to manage it

Throughout life, anxiety is something everyone will experience at some stage but in different forms. For example; feeling worried about an exam, nerves about a job interview or being apprehensive about meeting new people, all of which are perfectly normal. However, for some people the anxiety takes over their entire life.

Anxiety is defined as 'a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.' 

 Anxiety about everyday small issues are not to be confused with generalised anxiety disorder, which is a long-term condition that causes a person to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues rather than one specific event. This condition can lead to symptoms such as panic attacks, heart palpitations, a heavy feeling in your chest and feelings of restlessness. The main difference which determines between normal anxiety and generalised is the impact anxiety has on a person on a daily basis.

Quite often anxiety can come hand in hand with other mental health conditions, as well as being a mental health condition in its own right. I believe one can impact the other, to give an example, depression can lead to anxiety due to low moods and low self-esteem just as anxiety can lead to depression due to the disrupt & stress it causes.

The truth is for some, anxiety can completely destroy a person's life and it's certainly not something which should be overlooked. For those suffering daily with anxiety, leaving the house is nearly impossible, holding down a job is a job in itself and trying to attend social events is unbearable. A lot of people will brush off anxiety as 'not a serious health condition' but I want to raise awareness to prove it most definitely shouldn't be. 

I personally only suffered occasionally with anxiety as part of my bipolar, due to my changeable moods. Often it will lead to overthinking and worrying about how I will feel in a certain situation, so I experience anxiety mostly before an event, when it never really turns out to be as bad as I thought. On the other hand, anxiety can also be for no reason what so ever. I often told people I was feeling anxious but when they ask why I have no explanation for it. Something which to someone whom has never experienced anxiety can be very difficult to understand, but sometimes it is just for no particular reason and completely unexplainable. 

I am lucky to be able to say I that I don't suffer to the extent I once did with anxiety and the reason why is because I've taught myself how to manage it. This is something that took time and a lot of practice, I have included the methods which I use on daily basis to manage anxiety. I believe this also comes from having peace and happiness within because when everything in my life feels settled, my anxiety does too. 

Methods to help manage anxiety:

Deep breathing: Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.

Exercise: Research suggests that those who got regular exercise were 25 per cent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years, it also shows that exercise can work quickly to elevate the depressed mood in many people. Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress and as little as a 10-minute walk can help. 

Getting outside into nature: Common symptoms of anxiety are feeling breathless and a racing heart so sometimes the best thing to do when you're feeling anxious is to distract yourself. Going for a walk, picnic or sitting in the garden can, therefore, be a great way to think about other things. 

Meditation: Meditation actually reprograms your brain to be less anxious as well as calming you in the moment by taking that time to sit and relax. Although it doesn't just temporarily help you relax, it also works on a deep level by changing the function and structure of your brain. 

Managing stress: Stress can be a big trigger for anxiety so it's important to keep it at bay. Stress can often come from feeling overwhelmed with too much to do so techniques like writing a list of your tasks that need to be done and working out how to will tackle them can help. When going through a particularly stressful period of time talking to people can ease anxiety.

Heartache that is trying to conceive

Trying to conceive in my opinion is the biggest rollercoaster ride a person can ever experience. Filled with hope and heartache all rolled into one. Each month is a cycle of excitement to try, happiness thinking you've conceived, mixed with dread and finally heartbreak when your period eventually arrives. I find this subject difficult to write about which I believe is down to the fact it's what i'm still living through.

The pain that trying to conceive brings is like nothing I can describe, which makes it difficult for others to understand, because the heart ache of not falling pregnant month in, month out isn't something that can be easily described. It's like an ache in your heart that you carry around with you every day which never goes away. There's so much that can be hidden behind a smile because people don't often express their feelings, in order to avoid the risk of being a burden. However there's normally an immense amount going through their mind which they will put to the back and carry on with daily life.

It's odd because some days I won't think about it at all and other days it completely consumes my thoughts. The smallest thing can however trigger a derail of those thoughts, something on TV or social media.I think the situation just makes you overly sensitive to anything on that subject. It seems that everywhere you look there's pregnant women or babies and it's impossible to block them out. It's not that your angry with them though or want to take it away, you just wish that could be you too and it's just another reminder that you aren't.

Even though the things I've dealt with so far in my life have been challenging, this is by far the most painful thing I’ve experienced. What I find most difficult is not being able to have control over it. Of course there's treatments that can be explored, relaxation techniques and medical help but each month it's not something you can physically hand-pick the outcome and to me that's what I find most difficult. I'm a 'fixer' and this is something I can't just fix.

 It's challenging to explain how much pain this type of situation can bring because it comes with ups and down but every month when that period arrives it's like all your future plans and dreams are destroyed within a single moment. Something which you have to pick yourself up from every single month, even when you you've got nothing left.

What's incredibility important when going through this journey is to not let the situation take over your life, which is near enough impossible to avoid. Your life otherwise just becomes ovulation, trying, dates, symptoms and periods. For a while this was what our lives definitely ended up being centred around it, however getting to that point gave us the realization we needed to know that something had to change. In the last few months we've been doing our best to forget everything we've been through and live our lives as we did once before. It's something I’m quite proud to be able to say, as at one point it was a very different story. I can certainly say 100% happier for doing it.

The reason I decided to open up about this subject, after over a year of saying I wasn't going to until I conceived, is because I truly want to help people. To me it's a life goal to have a positive impact on others and help those who are feeling alone to feel more supported. Although in a sense I find it embarrassing to write about, if it helps any one  person then it’s completely worth it. 

Hopefully this blog post can give a better understanding to those who have never had this struggle and help them to provide support for loved ones who are going through this tough journey. I know in my experience I have felt a little misunderstood at times, mostly because I don't think others understand fully the impact it has on a persons life and the full extent of how consuming and unbearable it can be.

To anyone dealing with this, I would love to be a source of support and a person to relate to for anyone who may need it, so please reach out. Remember the things you use to enjoy about life before all of this and remind yourself of the reasons you have to keep battling on.

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