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Going To A Treatment Facility

Yesterday I went to a treatment facility. It’s a place which houses inpatients, day patients and has services for outpatients, like me. I met a therapist in this building which looked a lot like an old Victorian mansion where Lords and Ladies would have spent their time doing nothing but being rich and entertaining themselves. It also wasn’t particularly helpful that they were playing funeral music in the waiting area.

It was strange to be in a place purely dedicated to the treatment of mental illness. Before now I’ve only gone to hospitals and surgeries which treatment both mental and physical illnesses. There though, every patient was there for a broadly similar reason, yet still none of us would meet each other’s eyes or, if we did, it would only be for a brief self-indulgent second. Maybe that’s part of what the stigma around mental illness does to, it makes you internalise a sense of shame for being ill which not even being around other people in similar situations can heal.

I was taken up a grand staircase, trailing this woman that I knew I would have to open up my heart and soul to; a stranger with my life in her hands. The upstairs part of the building looked like a posh English boarding school with it’s cracked brown leather chairs, folders sprawled across the floor, art and books haphazardly covering every wall, a battered wooden desk and regal window frames that were not fit for purpose. It was surreal to be in this messy office and know that this would be the site where I would have to fight tooth and nail for recovery.

I answered the same questions I’ve covered with many, many people before over and over again. Initial mental health assessments all really follow the same formula and there never fails to be not enough time to cover everything you wish you could explain. I think I did the best I could though. I was scared and wanted to burst through the heavy door, run away and never return as soon as I took a seat on the sofa. There’s still a large part of my mind and body that wants to fight against and avoid treatment despite knowing that I need it. I stayed though and answered the questions. Then I accepted an appointment for next Thursday which makes it seem real to me – I really am returning to therapy.

The psychologist I saw also said that she was keen for me to see a psychiatrist and said that she would try and arrange an appointment. It’s difficult to know how to feel about that, considering I told her some things that I never told anyone else before. For now, I guess I’ll leave this here before I bore anyone reading this into having to click off this page! Thank you reading this far through, if you’ve got here.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter.

Some of my other mental health posts:

Six of the Most Harmful Mental Health Narratives

Daily Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

I’d Be Invisible

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Mental Health Treatment Is Not Fair

It is the patients who fight relentlessly to be heard, who chase-up their delayed referrals, who refuse to leave appointments until they are seen by those necessary who will find quicker access to mental health services, at least in my experience. However, this is completely contrary to how treatment needs to be supplied at the point of access. The energy and mental effort it takes to reach out for help when you are struggling with mental illness is hard enough as it is, without then having to deal with the rejections and knock-backs you are then subsequently put through. The turmoil you are put through having to be vulnerable with your most inner-held thoughts is enough to go through once when you are trying to reach therapy or other help, let alone having to repeatedly stress the situation you are in and justify your requests for help. Having reached out for help countless times and gotten nowhere seemingly on most of those occasions, I can tell you without doubt that gaining access to mental health care is not simple, quick or easy.

A recurring theme of attempting to access mental health treatment is having to prove again and again that you are sick enough to be treated. This is a fact that makes me sick to my stomach. Patients with mental illnesses are not believed often enough to have early interventions and because of this people are forced to deteriorate  with their mental illness before they get help. It’s not until people hit rock bottom that they are deemed worthy of getting help, which is disgusting. So many people go through unnecessary suffering and trauma because of this.

 

Sorry but I needed this rant. In no way am I discouraging people from seeking help by the way, I just needed to get these feelings of impatience and annoyance off my chest.

 

If you want to see my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter.

Some of my other mental health related posts:

Daily Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

Mental Health, Medication & Stigma

A Mental Health Update

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What Am I Going To Do?

As I said in my last post, I have withdrawn from University for the time being and I’m aiming to restart my second year in September. Obviously this leaves me with a lot of free time that I was not expecting to have and have not planned for. Apart from trying to gain access to therapy, I know that I will need to occupy my mind during all of this free time. If I’m not being productive in any way my mood plummets and negative thoughts are free to take hold of my brain. So, I have decided on some (admittedly small) goals that I want to achieve during my time out.

What am I going to do?

1) I want to re-learn French

I did French at school for about 11 years. Although I got an A in the subject at GCSE my ability to speak the language was never good and, because I haven’t studied it for three years, a lot of what I learned has left my brain. I think learning a language is a really constructive pastime and I’m determined to be able to speak French fluently at some point in my life.

 

2) Grow my NBA social media accounts

This is a fact that most of you probably do not know about me but I love basketball. I have a Twitter and an Instagram account dedicated solely to basketball news and my opinions on what is happening in the NBA. Watching basketball is a relief for me, it de-stresses me and takes my mind to another place, so I want to make it an even bigger part of my life whilst I’m not at University.

 

3) Talk to you more!

Recently, I have neglected my blog quite badly but I get a lot out of writing down my thoughts and interacting with you guys. Writing a post makes me feel like I have achieved something and reassures me that I am at least capable of completing some tasks. So, I would love to get back into the swing of things and post more regularly on here!

 

4) Exercise

I am writing this goal with a certain amount of reluctance because exercise and me have not gotten on well together since I was about 10 years old. I feel very self-conscious whilst I am running or just being active generally because my self-esteem is so low. However, I cannot ignore the fact that I want to feel fit rather than panting every time I go up a flight of stairs! If you guys are interested, maybe I will document my fitness journey?

 

5) Tackle my to-read list

I have a lot of books in my room, many of which lie neglected and unopened and I want to change this. I firmly believe that reading, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, can teach you a great deal. Also, I love the escapism which engaging in a good book gives you. If any of you have some good book recommendations, please leave them in the comments below so I can check them out!

 

This is the end of the list of things I am going to do whilst I am taking time out from University. I know many of these things will see small and insignificant to some but I am going have to be patient with myself and take baby steps to try and get to a healthier state of mind and being. Thank you for reading this post and if you have any suggestions for future blog posts I should do please comment them below!

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

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Fading Away

I don’t want to talk,
Don’t call me ‘brave’ or ‘resilient’,
I just want to fade, be numbed,
Feel a spiritual anaesthetic in my veins –
Don’t give me compliments,
Their falseness turns my stomach.

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Childhood Memories

It is hard for me to remember;
Part the sea of hazy vague glimpses
Which comprises my childhood memories.

An adolescence spent at war,
With the nucleus of my life,
Leaves little room for remembering
Or understanding what it was like before –
Before something else became my normal.

Instead I am left only with fragments,
Small throw-away details,
Seemingly without value,
Like opening fruit shoots with my teeth,
Falling over in a car park,
Eating rice cakes on a family walk –
Small moments,
So tiny, they may seem insignificant
When you are not the owner of this brain.

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I Will Write What I Write

Time pressure is on,
But I don’t mind what I write.

I was told to be ashamed of the subconscious in me,
But, in everything, I just let what the deeper me, be what I am.

I love being an anigma; being a crazy secret; the letter/the symbol I inhabit,
The letter that I am,
The reality that I create;
The person I am.

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Trans Stories From My Childhood

 

I got the idea for this blog post from Ashton Daniel’s video on YouTube called ‘trans kid stories’. In the video, he spoke about how, upon reflecting on his childhood, he can see early signs of his trans identity in many of the choices he made and the things he did. So, here I have compiled a list of some of the stories which I think show that I was aware of my trans identity from early childhood.

[I might do a part two for this as I think there are some more stories I could write about, let me know if you would be interested in reading a second part to this].

1. I refused to wear a bikini top when I was a little kid on holiday

I refused to believe that my body was that of a female because I knew in my head that I didn’t feel like a female. Also, I knew that if I wore a bikini top, that would mark me out to other people as definitely being a girl. So, I fought my mum and refused to wear a bikini top and just ran about the beach topless. I hadn’t grown a chest by that point and my mum (and social expectations) put a stop to this before too long and soon I would just opt to wear a t-shirt and shorts to the beach or be in my wetsuit to go bodyboarding (we always went on holiday to Cornwall, so the sea wasn’t that warm anyway).

2. I stood-up to pee

I didn’t want to pee like a girl, so I would stand-up to pee. I feel sorry for the person (probably my mum) who would have to clear-up the mess I made later but this is another story that, with the benefit of reflection, tells me that I was already questioning my gender by the time I was old enough to go to the toilet on my own.

3. Little Ryan: ‘I have a willy too!’

I refused to believe that I had female genitalia and convinced myself that I, like my brothers, had a willy. One day, I said something about this and my brothers corrected me. Then ensued a shouting match between me and my brothers in which I adamantly told them that ‘I have a willy too!’. I was probably about 4 years old when I said this and I found it very frustrating that nobody took me seriously.

4. Wearing trousers to school

Every girl at school, with only one or two exceptions, wore a skirt as part of their school uniform, so the option to wear trousers was mostly ignored by the female pupils. I hated wearing skirts which I saw as marking myself out as a ‘girl’, so I decided to wear trousers instead. This may not seem like a big deal but at 11 years old, I was very self-concious and I knew that people would do a double-take when they saw me wearing trousers because barely any other ‘girls’ did the same.

5. Wearing boys’ school shoes

Following-on from the last story, when my mum and I went shopping for school shoes (which was a trip we both dreaded every year), I told the man at the shoe shop that I resolutely wanted boys’ shoes. I think I was around 13 years old and, out of exasperation and wanting desperately to get out of the shop which was rammed with stroppy kids, my mum didn’t really try to convince me otherwise. So, for the next school year I went around wearing what looked like clown shoes on my little feet but I felt so happy that I didn’t have to wear the flowery school shoes which the other ‘girls’ wore!

6. Wanting to change primary schools

From the ages of 4 to 11, I attended an all-girls’ school whilst my brothers attended an all-boys school. I vividly remember dreaming at night during this period about being able to attend my brothers’ school instead and being treated as a boy. I longed to have a place in their school, which evidently did not happen.

7. Playing in boys’ sport teams

I used to play cricket when I was younger and, up until around 12 years old, I would play in an all-boys’ team. Up to this age, there were no regulations against it and considering that cricket is a non-contact sport and there weren’t many girls’ teams in existence, my parents and the coaches did not have a problem with it. I enjoyed this experience, except for that opposition teams would always make a fuss about wanting to ‘get the girl out’ (me) and it was deemed especially shameful if you were gotten-out by ‘the girl’ (for some reason they never addressed me by my then-name, they only called me ‘the girl’!).

8. Asking to play rugby

At about six years old I mustered all my courage and asked my parents if I could play rugby. I knew that, in their eyes, it was essentially a male sport (it is quite a rough contact sport) but I so desperately wanted to play. They said ‘no’ because playing rugby ‘wasn’t feminine’ and I felt angry and frustrated. I had hoped that they would take the same position as they had with me playing cricket with the boys, but no such luck.

9. Showing-off my strength and anger

At times as a child (and probably still now), I attempted to over-compensate in shows of my masculinity to convince people that I wasn’t ‘girly’. I saw anger, aggression and strength as typical male traits. At about 5 years old, I remember throwing a stool across my bedroom in a bid to appear masculine and impress people with my strength. All it resulted in was me breaking my stool and getting a big telling-off from my mum!

10. Screaming about and hiding clothes

I detested the clothes my mum bought for me. Going clothes shopping was an ordeal as I would walk miserably around every girls’ clothing section, trailing after my mum, and grow more and more angry as she put clothes she saw as ‘pretty’ into her arms to buy for me. Sometimes, when we got home, I would hide the clothes she had bought for me, stuffing them behind bits of furniture or at the bottom of wardrobes under all sorts of clutter. My reasoning was that, if she couldn’t find the clothes, then she couldn’t dress me in them! I remember the tears I cried and the tantrums I had about being made to wear dresses for family occasions and I now see these as examples of my trans identity already being prominent in my youth.

11. Playing ‘dad’ or ‘son’

At my all-girls primary school, my friends enjoyed playing ‘families’. I would always immediately volunteer to play the dad or son and would be angry at the mere suggestion of me playing a female character. For the most part, people welcomed my willingness to play the dad or son because they always wanted the female roles to themselves.

 

Here are some resources for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming/questioning people:

Mermaids UK

The Stonewall Blog

A list of organisations over at All About Trans

 

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My Goals For 2019

As 2018 comes to a close, I can’t help but wonder what 2019 might hold in-store for me. Creating long-term goals and having aspirations for the year ahead can be positive for my mental health; it gives me something to keep going for, ways to occupy my mind and shifts my perspective on what I can do with  my life. So, I decided to write down some of the goals I want to achieve in 2019. The reason I’m not using the term ‘resolutions’ is that ‘goals’ sounds more positive to me and gives me more room to adapt my plans throughout the year rather than having to stick completely to what I have resolved to achieve for the entirety of 2019.  

My Goals for 2019:

1. To stop playing scratch-cards

2. To find a more permanent/secure living arrangement

3. To create a treatment plan for my mental health

4. To at least be on the waiting list for top-surgery by the end of the year

5. To do more advocacy for mental health and transgender rights

6. To read 25 books

7. To do regular volunteer work for a charity during my summer break

8. To get my drivers’ licence 

9. To let go of toxic relationships and to not harbour unhealthy anger over them afterwards

10. To improve my relationship with food and achieve a healthy weight

 

If you want to see my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature.

 

Feel free to leave some of your goals for the New Year in the comments below!

 

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The Hogwarts Tag

I first saw this tag over at My Bookish Dream and I thought that it looked really fun, especially considering that I am obsessed with everything magical and Harry Potter related! You can go over and read her post here.

1. Are you a Pure-Blood or Half-Blood?

According to the DoQuizzes quiz, I am a pure-blood. I don’t know whether to be happy about this or not but coming from a magical family sounds like an interesting childhood!

2. Which wand chose me?

According to Pottermore, it was an alder wood wand with a unicorn hair core, 10 inches long and quite bendy.

3. Did you take a cat, owl or toad with you?

This is a difficult question because I would love the company of a cat but I absolutely love writing and sending letters which would be an easier task with an owl. Also, leaving the owl to be looked after in the Owlery would be less responsibility than having to look after a cat yourself the whole time at school, plus Hedwig totally won me over and made me an owl fan. So, I think I would have taken an owl along with me.

4. Where did the Sorting Hat put you?

I am in Slytherin; the house of the most shrewd, cunning, resourceful and ambitious students!

5. What House did you want to be placed in?

I always had a sort of affinity with Slytherin, however I could see the merits in being in any of the four houses, so I wasn’t too desperately attached to the idea of being in either.

6. What lessons are your favourite and least favourite?

My favourite is Defence Against the Dark Arts because it is the most practical of the classes and involves learning a lot about every area of magic. My least favourite is divination because honestly Professor Trelawney gives me the creeps a bit and those lessons would get me easily bored I think.

7. What is your patronus?

My patronus is a buzzard which is quite cool considering that it is an animal which can fly.

8. What does your boggart look like?

Me in my old age having never undergone my gender transition and still feeling the same level of anxiety and sadness which I feel on a daily basis now. This is the most scary thing I can think of to be honest, if I let myself down and never make the progress I want to in life, I can’t imagine living in the same level of emotional pain which burdens me on a daily basis currently.

9. Do you partake in any magical hobbies or school sports?

It would be quite cool to use magic to do cool craft projects, like Mrs Weasley does with her self-knitting needles!

10. Where would you spend your spare time?

In the Slytherin common room probably or chilling-out at The Three Broomsticks!

11. What would you most likely get detention for?

Probably for being late to lessons because my sense of direction isn’t brilliant so I could easily end-up getting lost on my way to class.

12. What career do you want after graduating Hogwarts?

I would be an author of fiction books for witches and wizards and would hope that my stories would be common knowledge amongst magical families!

 

Anyone reading this who fancies doing this tag, I tag you!

If you want to read my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature.

Find some of my other Harry Potter posts below:

The Harry Potter Tag

The Wisdom of Rubeus Hagrid

5 Lessons I Learned From The Harry Potter Books

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The 12 Questions of Christmas Tag

I saw this post over on Northumberland Mam’s site and thought this tag looked really fun (plus I thought my blog needed some more festive content on it!).

Go see her post here.

1. When does your Christmas tree go up? Who will decorate it?

My Christmas tree went up on the weekend, at my brother’s insistence! One of my brothers is very into Christmas and loves having the lights, tree and decorations up around the house, so I just helped him when he asked. It was odd actually taking part a little bit in decorating the tree this year because I have sat that activity out for so long. Christmas is often one of the toughest times of the year for me mental health wise, so in recent years I have tried to live in denial that it was approaching.

2. Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

I prefer Christmas Day, mostly because Christmas Eve consists of a lot of tension in my house as we are all convinced that we must have forgotten something! Also, when it’s Christmas Day, I can see the end of the festive period in sight which is often a relief when I have spent about a month feeling low and anxious in my Christmassy surroundings.

3. What is your favourite Christmas advert this year?

The John Lewis one with Elton John at its centre. I grew-up listening to a lot of Elton John, so his music and story always makes me feel nostalgic and a bit sentimental!

4. Is there anywhere you would love to visit at Christmas?

Hogwarts! Jokes aside, I have never been to the Hogwarts in the Snow feature at the Warner Brothers’ Studio Tour in London and I think that would be an amazing spectacle to go and see, especially for a Potterhead like me.

5. What traditions are you looking forward to most this year?

Probably seeing my dogs open their presents on Christmas morning! Their excitement is hilarious and seeing their tails wagging fast is really sweet!

6. What are some food and treats you can count on having every Christmas?

There aren’t many staples that I insist on having every Christmas. Especially as the only vegan in my family (everyone else eats meat and dairy), I don’t join in much with the food-aspect of Christmas like everyone else does. However, seeing as I will be alone for most of Christmas Day this year, I can tuck into all my favourites (which probably means having cereal for lunch!) without feeling awkward. 

7. When did you stop believing in Santa?

I can’t remember what age I was exactly but it was pretty early because I had older siblings who didn’t believe in him. To be honest, I think I was quite relieved as I didn’t like the idea of a stranger coming into my house at night, even if he was delivering presents!

8. As a kid, did a sibling or friend ever receive a present that you wished was for you?

Being given girls’ clothes when I was kid was obviously quite problematic for me being a trans person, so I think I was always jealous of the clothes my brothers were given and wished that I could receive similar things too.

9. Do you like giving gifts or receiving them better?

I prefer giving gifts because the attention is less on me at that point.

10. Are you guilty of peeking at your presents or do you like the surprise?

The reason I have never peeked at my gifts is that my mum would have been completely outraged if she had ever found out! Also, my paranoia plays into this one quite a lot because if I’ve convinced myself for a long time that if you know you are going to be given a gift then you will jinx yourself and never be able to receive it (I know this doesn’t really make sense, it is one of my irrational thoughts which comes with my mental health issues).

11. If you could be in any Christmas movie what would it be?

The Polar Express! For some reason I find trains magical and it beats being in ‘The Grinch’ and being accosted by a green, furry man who lives on a mountain. 

12. What would you like to find under your tree this year?

I don’t get too invested in what presents I want for Christmas anymore. However, if someone buys me a book, I will be more than pleased!

 

If you want to see my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature.

Find some of my other Christmas-related posts below:

Anxiety At Christmas

The Christmas Tag

Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

 

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Night Guard and Onto 40mg?

Today was the day I had been waiting for in fearful trepidation. The thought of going to the dentist and the hygienist is truly nerve-wracking for me, so I spend the week-or-so leading up to the appointments worrying about what might happen and agonising over everything that could possibly go wrong. I am relieved to say that both the dentist and the hygienist were very happy with my teeth and gums. However, I did have to be fitted for a night guard to wear over my teeth at night to prevent me damaging my teeth and jaw through grinding and clenching them. I already knew that, due anxiety and stress, I clench my jaw in my sleep but the dentist wanted to prevent long-term damage coming from it, so wearing a mouth guard in my sleep is going to be an experience!

I went to my GP again last week and was told to double my antidepressant dose from 20mg to 40mg. To me, this is nerve-wracking, as this particular antidepressant caused me side-effects when I went on it initially (after trialling Sertraline unsuccessfully for a year), so I am worried that these side-effects will return. However, I do see the logic in doubling my dose because I have been particularly low recently; having suicidal ideation and engaging in destructive behaviour. It feels slightly like I am in a catch-22; if I don’t double my dose I risk carrying-on feeling this way, however if I do make the increase then I face having all of the side-effects return which will possibly make me more depressed because they may leave me unable to do much.

Recently, my focus has moved away from criticising myself for the things I do and the ways I feel towards accepting these negative aspects of myself and trying to protect myself as best I can from them. Constantly fighting against the dark parts of me has been making me feel lost and hopeless, so until I get the therapy I require to attempt to undermine these negative thoughts and behaviours, I will instead just try to prioritise protecting myself from long-term damage. Hopefully, when I eventually do get more treatment, I will be able to rebuild my habits in a healthier form with the help of a mental health professional, right now trying to do this on my own seems an insurmountable and possibly dangerous task.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Find some of my other mental health related life-updates here:

My Relationship With Alcohol

Antidepressants and Nightmares

A Mental Health Update

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10 Facts About Me

I thought I would try to give all of you an insight into me and my personal history through these 10 facts which you probably do not know about me. Let me know in the comments if you are surprised about any of these facts or share one of your own!

1. I broke my leg when I was 6 months old

2. My favourite hair colour I have had is purple

3. In year 6 I was my primary school’s librarian!

4. I am a taurus, although before the horoscope dates changed I was an aries

5. The most pain I have ever been in was when my eardrum perforated

6. When I was 13, I had 7 of my teeth taken out so that I could have my braces put in

7. I once did an obstacle course up the side of a cliff

8.  I travelled to Copenhagen to see my favourite band in concert

9. My favourite day-out is going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London

10. I nearly drowned at a birthday party when I was 4 years old

 

If you want to see my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

See some of my ‘unpopular opinions’ posts below:

Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

Unpopular Opinions – Harry Potter Edition

Unpopular Opinions – University Edition

Unpopular Opinions – USA Travel Edition

Unpopular Opinions

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Daily Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

Anxiety manifests itself in a huge variety of ways and the massive presence it has in mine and others’ lives means that it inevitably takes a toll on our bodies and physical health. So, below I have listed just five examples of how anxiety translates into physical symptoms on a daily basis.

1. Headaches 

When I’m feeling stressed for extended periods of time, I usually end-up getting what I call ‘stress headaches’. When I am anxious and worrying about things, my whole body becomes tense; my shoulders rise, I curl-in on myself and I don’t let any of my muscles relax. The result of all this pent-up tension in my body is that I will get a headache which, in turn, makes me feel worse because I am unable to be productive during this time and I have to wait for painkillers to kick-in.

2. Grinding and gritting teeth

I have been told-off numerous times by the dentist for the toll which grinding my teeth all night has on the condition of my teeth. Despite wearing retainers, I still manage to cause myself damage by the extent that I grind my teeth together due to the anxiety I feel even whilst I’m sleeping. This habit also makes my jaw-ache a lot which then contributes to me getting more headaches; so it is easy to see that the physical symptoms I have from anxiety interlink and worsen when they combine with each other.

3. Exhaustion

The amount of energy I use-up and expend on a daily basis because of the anxiety which courses through me means that I tire myself-out. My fatigue is very frustrating because my mood becomes worse and worse when I am not being productive and exhaustion really slows me down throughout the day. It is like my body is constantly existing in conflict with what I need and want it to do. Whilst I feel exhausted a lot, I am also on-edge for most of every day because I am anxious – so the conflicting symptoms I experience leaves me feeling uncomfortable and unsure what to do with myself.

4. Weight loss and fluctuation

For me personally, when my anxiety took a turn for the worse a lot of weight simply dropped-off me. I am now underweight and people frequently comment on how small I have become. Some people find that the opposite happens for them when they go through a bad-patch of anxiety because they use food as a way to comfort themselves, however when I am anxious the thought of eating makes me feel nauseous and I cannot manage to tackle having a full meal. 

5. Skin problems

Anxiety causes both my acne to flare-up and rashes to appear across my body. I have had acne since I was 12ish but there is a definite combination between the state of my mental health and the state of my acne, which is furthered by the fact that I do not eat and drink properly when my anxiety is at it’s worst. My skin becomes painful, red and irritated during these times; almost like it is a physical representation of what I am feeling on the inside! 

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Here are a few of my other mental health posts:

Anxiety At Christmas

Mental Health, Medication & Stigma

Protecting Factors – What Saves You?

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5 Things Not To Say This Christmas

Here are just five examples of things that people say around Christmas which really grate on me and deserve to be called-out:

1) ‘Come on, crack a smile, you can’t be miserable at Christmas’

It doesn’t make sense that people could just will their mental illness away for one day or part of the year. People with mental illnesses do not chose to be miserable or any other type of way at Christmas so don’t put your energy into shaming or stigmatising them. Instead, try to engage some empathy this festive period and respect that not everyone has the same experience of Christmas as you do.

2) ‘Are you vegan over Christmas as well?’

The look of disbelief on people’s faces as you admit that you do not have Christmas dinner is startling and hilarious in equal measure! I don’t know if people expect me to pick-up a bacon roll in the name of Christmas and joining in with the people around me but, let me tell you now, that is NOT going to happen! How about you let me do what I want at Christmas and you do you?

3) ‘Well at least have one drink’

People do not realise how hard Christmas is for people who have complex and difficult relationships with alcohol. The pressure to ‘get in the spirit’ and ‘be merry’ is ever-present and telling someone to ‘at least have one’ can do a lot of harm to people’s recovery processes. Don’t assume that the drinking culture around Christmas is enjoyable for everyone or even healthy for some people to be around for that matter.

4) ‘She gets very OCD at Christmas, you know, when she’s decorating and party planning and all that…’

Enough with using OCD as an adjective! OCD is an illness that people have to live with on a daily basis, so stop using it as a throw away comment to describe people’s habits which you find annoying. It is belittling and demeaning for people who have OCD to hear you laugh and joke about it in such a dismissive way when you do not appreciate the reality of how the illness manifests itself in the daily lives of others’.

5) ‘What’s the point of buying presents for pets?’

I call my dogs my babies and so they are treated like any other member of the family and given presents on Christmas Day. They deserve the treats they get for the joy they give me all year round and, if you saw the excitement on their faces when presents get placed before them, you would not even need to question why they are given presents. Genuinely, I think seeing them sniff-out their new toys and rip away wrapping paper is my favourite part of Christmas!

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

 

 

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Anxiety At Christmas

The festive season comes with all sorts of pressures and expectations which is a shame because these details detract from what should be a relaxing time in the company of loved ones. The ideal Christmas image leads us to think that we have to achieve perfection in everything we do; in how we decorate our homes, buying expensive ornaments and gifts, maintaining completely harmonious family ties, being a social butterfly and flitting from one Christmas party to another and immersing ourselves in an environment centred around food, alcohol and indulgence. Whilst all of these things are part of the Christmas image we are sold and look good in the Instagram pictures we are inundated with, they can also produce a lot of anxiety in the many people who worry that they cannot achieve or keep-up with this level of so-called perfection.

Christmas isn’t supposed to be about competition; who’s got the best Christmas tree or how many designer gifts someone has received but the airbrushed images we are presented with lead us to believe that there is a certain standard we have to live-up to, no matter how unattainable it really is. For many, anxiety can be produced as a result of fearing failure or worrying about external expectations. When it is expected for people to attend their big work Christmas parties, for example, fear of being overwhelmed by the hectic environment and the unnecessary pressure to do everything in excess are not a part of the conversation. So, each person who struggles with anxiety at this time of year feels isolated and alone, like no-one else is going through the same things as them.

The following can be sources of anxiety during the festive period:

  • Christmas shopping in busy areas
  • Seeing relatives you do not meet with often
  • Christmas parties
  • The expectation to be festive and merry in all of your interactions
  • Buying gifts and worrying if they are adequate
  • Receiving gifts and stressing about opening them in front of the giver
  • The expectation to indulge in food and alcohol when, for many, our relationships with these things are complex

And so many, many more situations, which others may view as tiny details in the bigger picture of their Christmas, can be anxiety-provoking.

Christmas is meant to be a time we feel the opposite of isolated and fearful of judgement. So, let’s make mental health and inclusion a part of the discussion within the bigger picture of Christmas this year and make sure that no-one feels iced-out of the celebrations.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

 

Here are some more of my Christmas-related posts:

The Christmas Tag

Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

 

Don’t feel alone this Christmas (resources about the festive period and mental health):

Support at Christmas – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas – The Priory Group

Real Christmas – Samaritans

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I’d Be Invisible

You know when you’re asked as a kid what superpower you would chose to have if you could? The answer has always been the same for me, without doubt or question; I would chose to have the power of invisibility.

The power to become invisible at will has always been enchanting to me. Perhaps it’s because I am someone who suffers from anxiety, perhaps it’s because I am cynical and instantly see threats around every corner and a potential bully in every set of eyes. Either way, invisibility seemed a perfect superpower to summon whenever it was needed.

If I could be invisible whenever I wanted, I could drift through the journey from flat into Uni, rather than have to look at every person crossing my path and wonder about all the thoughts which could possibly be crossing their mind. If I could be invisible, going to put the rubbish out wouldn’t have to be an ordeal, wondering whether I might see someone as I walk down the stairs and panic about what on earth I would say to them. If I could be invisible, I could attend lectures without feeling sick at the thought of other people seeing me.

In short, the shame and worry and wracking fear which churn my stomach would no longer plague me if I could summon my power of invisibility at the drop of a hat.

Perhaps then I would not be trapped inside my flat fearing the threats which lay outside my door, agonising over the assassins which I am convinced lie in wait for me. Invisibility could solve a lot of problems, it would be the superpower above all superpowers for people like me.

Therefore, it follows that people like me have to reconcile ourselves with the fact that invisibility is not a superpower we can conjure onto ourselves whenever our thoughts threaten to overcome us. Instead, we set about making ourselves appear and feel invisible instead. So, the next time you see someone with their hood pulled over their face or shaking when they hand the cashier their money, do not snicker and laugh or wonder ‘what the hell is their problem?’ Have some empathy and realise maybe, just maybe, they are wishing themselves invisible in that moment too.

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The Christmas Tag

I first saw this tag the other day when Nicole Eloise did it for her Blogmas Day Two. I thought it was really fun so, even though I haven’t been tagged by anyone to do it, I decided to gatecrash the tag and do it anyway! So, without further ado, here is my Christmas Tag.

1. Do you prefer giving or receiving gifts?

I’d say that I prefer giving gifts. I always feel awkward and embarrassed opening gifts that people have given to me, especially if they watch me do it because I’m anxious that I don’t look happy or grateful enough (I have a naturally grumpy face!). 

2. Do you make and stick to New Year’s Resolutions?

I do make New Year’s Resolutions, however I have the terrible habit of scrawling them at the back of a notebook and then forgetting about them after the first few months of the year! I generally find it more helpful to set smaller short-term goals each month or week, for example. Although, New Year’s Resolutions are a bit of a tradition in my life now, so I don’t see myself not making some this year.

3. Have you ever made a snowman?

Yes, I remember making them with my brothers when I was younger and I would become overly attached to the little people I created, so much so that I would get emotional over watching them melt away. I can’t say that I have made any snowmen in recent years as the snow usually gives me a headache so I tend to bundle-up inside and watch the snow fall through a window!

4. Is your Christmas tree real or fake, and what theme do you prefer?

We have always had a real Christmas tree ever since I can remember which, with the benefit of hindsight, seems rather wasteful looking back. I actually have nothing to do with putting the Christmas tree-up or decorating it anymore; once my family stopped putting on chocolate decorations wrapped in foil, the tree suddenly became a lot less interesting to me!

5. Most memorable holiday moment?

This is so hard, primarily because my memory is terrible and I don’t remember any of the Christmases I’ve had distinctly, so there are only a few snapshots which have stayed with me. I think my most memorable moment would have to be my grandpa tucking into his Christmas dinner with a colourful paper hat on his head or tearing open his presents like a excited little boy even though he was past 90 years old! Now that he is gone, the memories of his fun-loving nature pop-up from time-to-time and remind me how much he loved a family occasion (especially if there were sweets or chocolate involved!). 

6. What holiday traditions are you looking forward to this year?

Probably seeing my dogs ripping-open the paper around their presents and then running off to their beds to enjoy their new treasure. My dogs’ enthusiasm for Christmas is hilarious! 

7. What is the best Christmas present you have ever received?

When I was younger I got tickets to see my then-favourite band McFly in concert and seeing those tickets felt completely surreal as I was blown-away that I was going to see these people that I had idolised on stage in front of my eyes.

8. What are your favourite holiday foods?

Well, I don’t have Christmas dinner, so I’d probably have to say whatever sweets people gift me (I have a very sweet tooth!).

9. What is your favourite Christmas film?

Sorry to sound Grinch-like but I actually don’t have one, although the Harry Potter films always make me feel Christmassy for some reason!

10. What is your favourite Christmas song?

Again, I actually don’t have one – I just listen to whatever my brother puts on.

11. What is your favourite thing about Christmas?

The way time feels like it stands still on Christmas Day – you feel like it is a day which completely stands alone from any other on the calendar and it seems to pass in a very surreal way.

12. What would be your dream place to visit at Christmas time?

Copenhagen, Denmark. I have been there before and I thought it was the most stunningly beautiful city, so I bet it would be a very special place to be at Christmas.

13. Who do you spend Christmas with?

Usually it would be my parents, my two brothers and my dogs and then either side (paternal or maternal) of my extended family. However, this year will be different, I think, in that my immediate family will be visiting my extended family without me this year. I find Christmas difficult mental health wise and I think it will be good for me to try and handle it in my own way this year in just the company of my dogs for the majority of the day. Although, I believe I will still be opening my presents with my parents and brothers. 

14. When do you start getting excited for Christmas?

I don’t get excited until classes at University end for me because, up until then, I am so immersed in the Uni bubble and removed from what is outside of campus that Christmas does not feel like it arrives until teaching finishes and I leave campus. I sort of get quite nervous for Christmas really, so it is a combination of nerves and excitement which start to peak around the nights of the 23rd probably.

15. You have one Christmas wish – what will it be?

I’m going to take it that the wish has to be Christmas-related rather than encompassing anything bigger than Christmas Day. So, my wish would be that everyone in the world feels loved and cared for this Christmas Day. 

 

I’m not going to tag anyone specific to do this tag. Instead, if you are reading this and want to do this tag, please do! It would be fun to see as many different responses to these questions as possible.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings please follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

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Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

I don’t know why but I love writing ‘Unpopular Opinion’ posts so much! Sorry if you are sick of all the different versions I have done by now but I cannot get enough of creating them, so here’s another one all to do with the festive season and Christmas itself.

1. There is too much pressure put on giving someone the perfect present

It feels like people view the presents they are given as a signifier of how much they are valued by the giver. However, presents should be all about the sentiment, not the price tag or what designer label it comes from. Giving presents these days feels like you are having to prove to the person how much you cherish them but that feels impossible to encompass in an item or two, so it ends-up simply being an unnecessarily pressurising process.

2. Opening presents in front of the person who gifted them to you is tense

When I am opening presents, I am way too aware of my facial expression! I worry that I’m either looking unimpressed or that I’m making too much of an effort to look happy with the present which means that I end-up looking like I’m faking my reaction. There is no satisfactory way to open a present and I wish people would accept that I am being truthful when I tell them that I am really grateful for their present rather than seeing the look on my face as the real signifier of truth.

3. Crackers are a disaster waiting to happen

Who thought that having multiple contests of strength occurring at the same time around a dinner table loaded with glasses, plates and drinks was a good idea? The males in my family especially really like to muscle-in on the crackers, so much so that their arms end-up flying back when they break and I live in worry that a glass of wine is going to go flying!

4. Flashing Christmas lights are too intense

I much prefer the softer type of lights where they either fade in and out or just stay the same. Some of the flashing Christmas lights around where I live look they are trying to replicate a secondary school rave more than be festive!

5. There are no Christmas-specific films that I love to watch

To be fair, I’m not really a big film fan anyway (except for the in the case of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films!). Although, I distinctly remember the Grinch absolutely terrifying me when I was a child to the point where I would simply avoid watching it when it inevitably came on every year. It wasn’t even the fact that he was trying to steal people’s Christmas presents from their own houses which scared me, it was more about the way he walked around and his creepy fingers!

6. People who put cold cream on top of their Christmas pudding are going too far!

Every single year at Christmas, I will look around me as people tuck into their Christmas pudding and see people pouring cold cream (fresh from the fridge) onto their hot puddings and it continues to make no sense to me!

7. The expectations people have for Christmas Day are too high and put an unfair amount of stress on the host

Every year people stress about making Christmas Day absolutely flawless. People get so caught-up in trying to make everything look picture-perfect and ensure that everything goes off without a hitch that they forget to enjoy the moment. I feel sorry for all of the people who run around their kitchens, boiling hot and flustered, on Christmas Day and miss out simply relaxing with everyone else and enjoying the day for what it is. 

 

Find my other ‘Unpopular Opinions’ posts below:

Unpopular Opinions – University Edition

Unpopular Opinions – Harry Potter Edition

Unpopular Opinions – USA Travel Edition

Unpopular Opinions Part 2

Unpopular Opinions

 

If you want to hear more of my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

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My Relationship With Alcohol

TRIGGER WARNING: if talking about alcohol/alcohol abuse triggers you, please do not read this.

My relationship with alcohol is complex. In all honesty, I’m not supposed to consume alcohol at all because of the medication I am on but that is a rule I have ignored repeatedly, especially in this semester at University.

I think it is important to make clear that I am not a social drinker, meaning that I only ever drink alone. So, you might think it is completely normal for a 19 year old to use alcohol as a release, however many 19 year olds drink in friendship groups on nights-out as a way of having fun. I, on the other hand, drink for the sole purpose of getting drunk in my flat at night so that I do not have to grapple with the thoughts and feelings swirling around my mind. This is where I believe my relationship with alcohol becomes unhealthy.

When I make the decision to drink alcohol, it is because I want to forget about the things that are weighing me down. So, I drink strong spirits until I cannot think straight anymore. So, really I view drinking as a crutch; a way of getting through the night when I am too emotionally spent to deal with my own emotions any longer.

The buzz I get from drinking, the way it makes me feel light and removed from the person I spend the rest of my time being is difficult to ignore. A niggling voice remains at the back of my head every time I feel myself spiralling into a dark realm of thinking. It tells me to ‘just have a drink, it will make everything feel better’. That voice becomes stronger at night, especially if I’m craving sleep.

As I am writing this, a drop of alcohol has not crossed my lips for the past two weeks. I have been making a conscious effort to exert control over my impulse to drink away my thoughts. Although, it has left me wondering why I bother because avoiding alcohol has, if anything, just made me feel worse. Being sober has not brought any great epiphany to my life which the idealistic side of my personality so hoped it would.

Alcohol is a part of my life I keep secret from many people. My support worker at University knows that drinking carries a heavy amount of temptation for me and continues to warn me against it because of the conflict it holds with my medication. I was also honest about it at my last mental health assessment, not that I felt it had any effect on the outcome of my assessment. However, I keep my drinking very separate from my family, it is a part of my life that they have little insight into. Whilst they know that I drink, I have never told them the thoughts and behaviours which go alongside my alcohol intake.

One thing my destructive behaviours have taught me over the years is how to keep secrets.

 

Poems about my relationship with alcohol:

Finding Comfort In A Bottle

Finding Comfort In A Bottle – Part Two

 

If you want to see more daily ramblings from me, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Resources for help with alcohol-related issues:

Recreational drugs and alcohol – Mind, the mental health charity

Drugs, alcohol and the links with mental health – Rethink Mental Illness

Alcohol and mental health – Drinkaware

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Closing The Chapter Of November

November has been a funny old month, full of a jumble of occasions, tough moments and travelling back and forth between my family home and University. So, in a bid to get my mind around everything that has happened in the last 30 days and document these events for my own memory, I thought I would do a post to close this month’s chapter.

Opening-up and being assessed

November brought with it more than its fair share of mental and emotional hardships. The weight became a lot for my mind to bear, so I reached out to different people for help. Although I didn’t always get the results I wanted or needed from these attempts, at least I know that I took responsibility for my own mental health again this month and didn’t completely close myself down, no matter how strong the temptation to do so was. I continued attempting to adjust to my new medication this month which prompted me to write a post about the stigma around taking medication for your mental health. Finding the right medication can be a long, confusing and winding road which I’m not convinced I have fully travelled yet, so this month was about me assessing the impact my meds were having on me and the extent to which they have been effective.

 

Deadlines crept-up on me

I handed-in my first two proper essays of my second year at University. One minute their deadline dates seemed in the far distance, then suddenly they were upon me and I felt woefully unequipped to tackle them. Whilst there are many ways I could have better approached these assignments (essentially giving myself more time to do them!) I’m proud that I managed to give them a good go whilst juggling some of the heavy mental health-related things which were swirling in my life.

 

Back and forth

The train journey between where I live at University and my family home has become a habitual presence in my life over the course of this past month. Due to birthdays and appointments, I have been needing to be present at home quite frequently. Each time I go back there, I gain a new appreciation for how much I miss the simple things which come with being home. The town I grew-up in makes me feel nostalgic these days with every corner prompting memories from my childhood to flash in front of me, whereas before I only held a seething resentment for the (admittedly very much imperfect) place.

 

Birthdays at every corner!

There was a grand total of six birthdays within my family during November. First of all, it was my Godmother’s 31st birthday then her sister’s 22nd. It’s crazy to think of them as being at these ages, it makes me wonder where all those years went between them being the girls I once saw them as and the confident young women they now are. Then, there was a 17th birthday in the family, another milestone that I cannot quite believe has crept-up so quickly, especially when I remember going around to said boy’s house when we were nothing more than tiny tots. Then, both of my brothers and my grandma had their birthdays. My grandma turned 91 whilst still holding herself with the youth, energy and wit of  someone years younger. Also, she is nothing less than a flipping style icon to be honest; that woman knows how to put together an outfit!

 

Fantastic Beasts, The Crimes of Grindelwald

It takes a lot to get me excited about a film because I’m not particularly a movie fan considering that I usually find it boring to sit through over an hour of watching something. However, JK Rowling’s wizarding world has a place in my heart that I cannot even attempt to explain or summarise, so the second Fantastic Beasts film had been a date in my calendar for quite a while. I went to see it in the cinema (a very rare occurrence for me) and I was blown-away by the spectacle of it. I genuinely believe the people who work on the visual effects of those films must be near geniuses! As we re-visited Hogwarts, I felt a very real tug on my heartstrings and the phrase ‘Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home’ played in my mind.

 

I can’t say that I’m always proud of myself

My attendance this month at University has been patchy at best. When my anxiety in particular rears its head in its customary vicious fashion, I struggle to even open the door of my flat let alone take a step outside of it into the danger of the wider world. Therefore, my attendance at seminars and lectures took a hit. The thought of sitting through a class whilst destructive thoughts raged within me and words stuck in my throat was, at times, too much for me to bear. I couldn’t pretend that I was ‘well’ when, in reality, I was feeling at the complete mercy of mental health. However, for the classes I did manage to attend, especially in the last week of this month, I can be pleased that I pushed myself to regain some control over my academic life and didn’t let my lack of attendance spiral out of control too far.

 

So, it is now December. Who knows what this month will throw at me or you, yes you, reading this. However, I’m immensely grateful for whoever will be here to read the following instalments on this blog and follow my somewhat volatile ramblings as I relay my thoughts, feelings and emotions. To anyone who has commented or given me a like this month, I am so, so grateful to you! You have no idea what a boost those such things can give to my day when I am feeling low or anxious or anything in between.

 

If you want to hear me ramble on everyday follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature !

 

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Mental Health, Medication & Stigma

There is a certain stigma around taking medication for your mental health. Full disclosure; I do take medication to help me cope with my mental health and I’m tired of it being treated as shameful or weak.

Taking mental health medication is seen as proof of a person having given-up and not working to resolve their own issues. Medication is viewed by many as the ‘easy way’ and reliance on it is thought to be weak and showing a lack of self-motivation to engage with therapy and other methods of working through mental health condition.

I call BS on all of these assumptions! I reached for medication as a last resort after I had tried therapy and counselling and found myself in a desperate situation where I felt like there was no hope of me ever getting better. For many people, medication offers them a lifeline, a way to level-out their condition/s so that they can go about their lives in the way that they want to. Medication can offer someone a platform from which to build their lives but it does not magically solve all of your problems. Work is required on top of taking medication to achieve the feeling of being mentally ‘well’. So, the next time you want to call antidepressants ‘happy pills’ think again because it just shows uneducated and ignorant you are about the whole topic.

Patients and doctors never take the step toward medication lightly. The journey to finding the right medication for your needs is a hard one in its own right. Often you have to trial a medication for a few months, see if it makes you better or even worse, then face the possibility of trying it all over again. The added stress of the medication having negative side-effects makes the process even more disheartening, scary and confusing. So, no, medication is not the easy option or a sign that someone cannot be bothered to work on their own self-improvement. In reality, a person’s trials and tribulations with medication can be really bloody hard in itself.

Other people pile shame on those who, like me, take medication. They say that medication is harmful, ask why we would subject ourselves to it and tell us to try a myriad of different natural alternatives. Now, I’m as big a fan of yoga and colouring-in as the next person but assuming that we haven’t already tried all of those things or that our conditions (which you know barely anything about) could be suddenly cured by these activities is insulting. The individual taking the medication knows their mental health the best, so do not try to shame them by pretending that you know better what they should and shouldn’t do. Some people find that medication works for them, others find that mindfulness and other techniques are great for them, none of these options should be shamed or stigmatised. Let people deal with their own health in the way they see best.

 

Another post I wrote about this topic can be found here: BEING ON AN SSRI

 

For daily doses of my ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

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Protecting Factors – What Saves You?

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE AND SUICIDAL IDEATION

It was not until very recently that I heard the term ‘protecting factors’ but immediately it made sense to me. I was having a mental health assessment and I admitted to having suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. The nurse then asked me what stopped me acting on those thoughts and attempting suicide. I asked myself this question and was slightly embarrassed to give my honest answer. However, I knew the truth and this was that my dogs are what stops me from acting on my suicidal impulses and thoughts. I felt embarrassed about saying this out loud to a mental health professional because human relationships with pets are so often trivialised and I thought that they wouldn’t take my bond with my dogs seriously. I thought that giving this answer would leave them to believe that my suicidal ideation could not be that strong in the first place – none of which is true.

Instead, the nurse told me that my dogs are what is called my ‘protecting factors’. They act as a release valve for my stress because playing with them is uplifting. They comfort me when I am low by nuzzling and cuddling me, letting me know that I am not alone. When I get anxious about having social contact with humans, they remind me I am capable of having a functional relationship because of the ways I have bonded with them. When I think about leaving this world, they tether me to it because I could not bear to leave them; my desire to protect them and watch them grow-up are what, at this moment at least, is still keeping me fighting for life.

The World Health Organisation works on the definition of ‘protecting factors’ as being those which “enhance the likelihood of positive outcomes and lessen the likelihood of negative consequences from exposure to risk.” They use this definition in relation to physical as well as mental health risks but ‘protective factors’ are always seen as what stops an individual’s situation from escalating to a dangerous or drastic level.

So, I would encourage you to think about what your protecting factors are, especially in the lead-up to the festive period which, for me, always adds extra stress onto my shoulders and makes my mood dip because I am hyper-aware of the fact that I am supposed to be happy. Hold your protecting factors dear and be grateful for their existence and what they mean to you. Feel free to share what your protecting factors are in the comments below!

 

Information And Resources About Managing Mental Health At Christmas:

Christmas and mental health – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas (5 ways to look after your mental health) – Priory Group

Depression At Christmas Guide – Mental Health in the UK

 

Some Related Blog Posts Of Mine:

How Mental Health Stigma Has Hurt Me

Six of the Most Harmful Mental Health Narratives

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Unpopular Opinions – Harry Potter Edition

 

1. I actually do enjoy the Fantastic Beasts franchise

Since the release of ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’, I’ve seen a lot of criticism online about the Fantastic Beast stories as a whole. People have said that it is unnecessary to make more films about JK Rowling’s Wizarding World and that they should have left the Harry Potter series as the ending for this world. Also, others have said that Fantastic Beasts simply resembles leftover author’s notes from JK Rowling and that she is prolonging the series for the sake of money etc. Apart from the fact that, I assume, JK Rowling has more than enough funds to be getting on with, I genuinely do enjoy this new franchise. Whilst I am not blind to its flaws (such as continuity issues) the visual experience of seeing these gloriously detailed films and revisiting Hogwarts (my spiritual home!) is more than enough to get me hooked!

2. I love Slytherin House

I am very, very biased about this one considering that I am in Slytherin myself according to Pottermore! However, I do think that the House is unfairly demonised by people who assume everyone who belongs to it must be evil. In fact, I believe, the traits of the House amount to a person being resourceful and knowing what they want which are no bad things (as long as people do not go too far in their quests for what they want!).

3. I find Dumbledore vaguely annoying!

I know that it seems wrong to say this about such a well-loved and and cherished character but honestly the way that he manipulates events and withholds certain truths when he feels like it became really quite frustrating to me during the Harry Potter books and films. The fact that he was always so sure that he knew best and asked so much of the people around him was not a typically benevolent characteristic. 

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Read my Harry Potter Tag here.

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Antidepressants and Nightmares

A quick Google search about the relation between antidepressants and nightmares/graphic dreaming brought-up claims that SSRIs (a form of antidepressants) have been found, in some studies, to increase the number of nightmares and vividly of dreams a person experiences in their sleep. Now, I am certainly not a scientist or psychologist, however I do know that lately my dreams have bordered on seriously disturbing most nights recently. I am also on antidepressant medication.

The frustrating thing about dreams is that they appear outside of our control; how are we supposed to suppress something which preys on us whilst we are semi-conscious? It’s like being chained to the inevitability that I will be forced to watch a horror show with me as the main character the vast majority of times I go to bed.

There was a time when I thought that nightmares were a feature of childhood, something we all grew out of eventually and consigned to our distant pasts. This seems an incredibly naive idea to me now. Is it not logical that if you are emotionally distressed day in, day out, then this would seep into your experience of nighttime too? How could the problems you face in the day not transfer into how you feel at night?

Although, it does seem rather unfair. My mental health issues preying on me when I am most defenceless does not exactly seem like a fair contest. At least when I am awake there are some avenues of distraction I can attempt to take, whereas at night time my entire mind is the playground of these disturbing, graphic storylines.

Also, somewhere I remember reading that most people do not dream in colour, which is a statement that amazed me. From what I can recall, I always dream in colour (I don’t know if this serves to make my nightmares worse or not though).

Please leave your experience of dreaming/nightmares in the comments below and feel free to share any knowledge you may have about the correlation between nightmares and antidepressants.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

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A Mental Health Update

Recently so many mental health issues have reared their heads and spun out of control in my life that I thought it may be useful for me to write about them all in a blog post to see if that helps me not feel so overwhelmed by my emotions.

TW: TALK OF SELF-HARM, DEPRESSION AND SUICIDAL IDEATION

Firstly, the feeling of hopelessness has been following me around for weeks. Like my shadow, it has shown me darkness in every moment or situation I have been in. Hopelessness has fed on my fear that no matter what I do my life will always be controlled by my mental health conditions which I will never have the power to make better. I have despaired for hours on end about how I cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel and I have lost faith that one day I may be free of all the negativity which constantly weighs me down. I’m starting to believe that my mental health is a life sentence.

My anxiety has been running wild lately. Without the energy to tame it, the beast has chained me to my flat and isolated me from everyone. Even when I do manage to creep outside my front door and brave the wider world, it haunts my every step and tells me that I should sprint back inside before something terrible happens. Almost everyday I wake-up feeling nauseous and ill because of my anxiety. Butterflies in my tummy remind of the dangers which could lurk around every corner and the worries in my mind paint the world to be a very dangerous place.

Partnering with my chaotic anxiety, my OCD has flared-up again. Intrusive thoughts have taken on a graphic hue and I cannot look at certain people without the thought of them harming me flashing constantly across my mind. My OCD informs me that everyone is dangerous and that I am vulnerable to being attacked every second of the day, so I am left scared, vulnerable and confused even in my own home.

Self-harm has crept its devious way back into my life. Yet again, I have to keep my arms covered by long sleeves so no-one can see the evidence of what I do to myself. The loathing I feel towards myself has yet again manifested itself in violence and I feel like a defenceless pawn in self-harm’s twisted game.

I have been at the brink of thinking that life is no longer worth living. However, I sought help and went to speak to my local mental health team with the faith that, once they heard what I had to say, they would know how to help me. Instead, it turns out that I left the centre with a couple of numbers written down on a flimsy piece of paper and the encouragement to self-refer myself to a charity, as if this was something I had not already tried. This felt like a kick in the teeth. They ignored my request to review my medication and, although I have a final review appointment booked there, I have no enthusiasm to return to their service again after this experience. Finding no help available for the one place you hoped may give you some answers is so deflating it is almost too painful to think about.

The atmosphere of University has only been exacerbating my problems. Everything feels worse in the context of this high-pressured environment, in which I am surrounded by people to compare myself unfavourably to. I look around and see people able to move around without being heaved down by the weight of anxiety and depression, then self-loathing fills up my body and soul again with a vengeance.

 

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

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Is The Internet Poisoning My Mind?

Life takes on a different sense of touch
When my eyes are not grazed,
Or pricked by poisoned pixels
Invading my mind via osmosis
From a scarily familiar screen.

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Expecting The Worst

I surprise myself
When my ink does not make me gag;
To enjoy an impression of my existence
Is a call to confidence,
Harking from deep inside my soul.

It’s strange how very menacing
A morsels is to consume
If it hails from the fibres
Of your own energised hands,
Bearing the weight of your fingerprints.

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Scared To Write?!

Is it ironic to write about writers’ block? Probably, but it feels like the only way to exercise this frustration I am feeling with myself. I have a lot of blog post ideas rattling around in my head but I cannot muster-up the confidence to actually make them come to life on my computer screen. Sometimes I get as far as writing the title but then the image of unimpressed readers’ faces float before my eyes and I convince myself that no-one will be interested in what I have to say.

It’s frustrating, largely because I know that I should be writing for myself rather than trying to complete the impossible task of writing to please anyone and everyone who could possibly stumble across my post.

Without the release of writing on this blog, a build-up of emotions start to compile inside me which is difficult to navigate without an outlet.

A list of draft posts, all asking for my attention, are left unfinished to differing degrees. I cannot conjure the energy to conquer all of the voices telling me to give-up trying with my writing ideas, so I just leave the drafts to gather metaphorical dust.

All of the poems I have been posting recently, I wrote in one hour on a couple of days (largely when a measure of desperation had set-in and I knew that I had no other choice to write-out my distress otherwise it was going to eat me up inside). It’s hard to have confidence in what your mind is telling you to write when you are struggling to trust your own mind in the first place. So, I start and then all of my insecurities and worries come crashing back down into the forefront of mind – a weight of thoughts I do not always want to wade through.

Bear with me, if you will.

 

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Finding Comfort In A Bottle – Part Two

I love the seizing ache
As it spreads across my chest,
Powerful and raw like wildfire;
It blazes a trail down my body
Resting in my stomach where it burns
As my whole body yearns towards it.

The longing to seize this power
And draw it down me never ends –
It’s a part of me –
The portion of my whole which craves
More destruction, the release
Coming from such sickly, manipulative liquid.

Despite the warnings, the stop signs,
Before it reaches my mouth,
The liquid release settles inside me anyway,
Leaving it’s mark burnt into my being
And caressing the lost parts of me
Which it makes a point to find and seek.

 

The first instalment of this poem can be found here: Finding Comfort In A Bottle

 

 

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Flawed Hope

I might suck the vitamins from my tongue
Lame as a tamed, feral animal,
However, their colourful bottle fools me;
When promise comes in a capsule
Your ground has already slipped away.

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Under The Puppeteer’s Control

Do you know what it is like,
The electric charge in my head?
It sends shockwaves to my fingers,
Vibrates the crux of my bones
And sends me skidding into the night.

As uncontrolled hands fly over my head –
My body a veritable war zone –
I look to my feet, scolding them,
Before I remember the puppeteer is above
So dominant, it kills my control.

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My Anxious Chest

Anxiety has a smothering hug;
Like a mother bear who pretends to protect you
Whilst it goes about suffocating your existence,
To the point where your lungs are a cage
And the locked bars on your lips allow no escape.

Anxiety has the manipulative claws of a monster;
It pretends to protect you from potential
Doom, then goes about crushing your skull
With the pressure of an invading force
Which, guiltily, you let in in the first place.

Welded into a cage designed by your fears,
What lies outside the bars is always a threat,
Movements and sounds are menacing
When the sky cannot even by trusted
And your hope for a future comes crumbling down.

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Survival Mode

I curl myself into a ball
To save myself –
Stave off the jeering knives,
Make them wait another day
For me to expose my tissue paper flesh.

I fall asleep on my hand
Because the yellow lights pull
My eyelids down,
So the veins, like crossroads,
Slither so narrow – they shut.

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Boxed Into A Corner

Writing things down feels like a prophecy;
Ink it with a pen and it shall be,
Like the death carvings on stone:
I am the cornered tribe
Waiting for you to take my home.

 

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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I Am Not Me

All at once I feel everything.
Then a confused blank of nothing at all.
A sick game of hide and seek
Spins me like a top around corners so quick –
I don’t see the wall coming.

Nothing is me; my character is hollow,
I knock and knock knowing no-one is home
Until I return to stand over my lifeless form
And feign empathy for myself
In death.

 

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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I am all of nothing

I’m not enough of anything;
Too middle-ground to be real,
Forced and fake – so I don’t feel –
My metallic scars run so deep,
Flinty shaving will never let my skin heal.

I paint on a cartoon face to keep-up,
But it gets in my eyes
So panicked rushes of bile rise,
Then my throat sticks like an envelope
And I leave to box myself up again.

There is a hole where my stomach should be;
Acid-ridden, an iridescent tangle,
It tells me where not to be,
Kills me so I do not have to see
And I can sellotape my box closed.

 

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Finding Comfort In A Bottle

I love the amber liquid,
The stirring burn as it hits
The back of my throat, so it roars,
It’s powerful as it scours my tummy
And makes me feel again.

The amber liquid blurs me at the edges,
It is easier to think and feel,
Everything is not real!
Amber makes everything a dream,
My hands do not work like they should.

With the amber liquid;
I do not have to be responsible,
I do not have to be me,
Instead, I can be blurry at the edges
And forget how to type properly.

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10 quotes for when you need motivation to write

We’ve all experiencing writers’ block. From the world famous authors of literary classics to all of us struggling to keep producing consistent blog content; no one is immune from staring hopelessly at a blank page. The quotes below all inspire me in different ways to keep writing no matter what. They help me to cast doubt from my mind and stop thinking about how other people would judge my writing abilities.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Oscar Wilde

“The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

“Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” – Ray Bradbury

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway 

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write.” – Margaret Atwood

‘There comes a point in life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.” – Albert Einstein 

“You must write for yourself and not what you think people want to read.” – Jodi Ellen Malpas 

“If you’re creating anything at all, it’s really dangerous to care about what people think.” – Kristen Wiig

“At this stage accept, deep imperfection.” – Jessie Burton

“Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one can tell the stories that you have to tell.” – Charles de Lint

 

If any of you have tips to help navigate writers’ block, please let’s help each other out and leave our advice down in the comments below!

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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The Autumn Tag

I first saw this tag over on Hart of Blogging and thought it looked fun. Even though I haven’t actually been tagged in this, I will not let that stop me! So, without further ado, here is my Autumn Tag:

1) What signifies the start of autumn for you?

This probably very predictable but autumn feels like it officially starts for me when the leaves start to change colour. As soon as the luscious greens of summer begin to fade and the warm, earthy hues begin to take their place, I can really relish the changing of the seasons.

2) What is your favourite autumn scent?

I’m not one for sweet scents like the ones often found in Yanky Candles. So, I much prefer richer heady scents, such as ginger, cranberry or fig at this time of year. These probably sound like quite strange choices but pumpkin and vanilla scents do not appeal to me for the most part, even at this time of year.

3) Are you a fan of pumpkin spice latte?

I feel like the only person in the world who has never tried a pumpkin spice latte! For the most part, I avoid Starbucks anyway because I view them as an unethical company. So, overall it seems that I am failing on the autumn checklist so far!

4) Apple or pumpkin pie?

Another unpopular admission here; I really do not enjoy the taste of pumpkins. Genuinely, when I have tried it before I have almost gagged! It’s unfortunate because pumpkins look so beautiful that I really wish I could enjoy them as a food as well. 

5) What TV show, new or old, are you looking forward to in the next few months?

As I’ve said before, I’m not particularly a TV fan (I really am cracking out all of the unpopular opinions during this tag aren’t I?!). Although, I do have a soft spot for Riverdale, even though I am literally a series behind because I am so slow at getting through episodes. There are definitely some creepy elements to Riverdale which give it a somewhat spooky feel, so I’m really looking forward to (finally) catching-up with it.

6) What is your favourite autumn fashion trend?

The comeback of hoodies, bobble hats and cosy coats after the heat of summer.

7) What is your favourite comfort food to enjoy during the cooler months?

Veggie casseroles, hearty lentils and curries definitely! I love warming and hearty meals at this time of year, so I decided to get myself a slow cooker the other day so I can make big batches of these meals.

8) What is your favourite autumn activity?

Walking my dogs around the streets where crunchy yellow, orange and red leaves have fallen along my path. Walking in the cold, crisp autumn air is a treat, especially with my dogs trotting along beside me.

9) Are you a fan of horror movies?

Put it this way, when I watched the Woman In Black at the cinema I had nightmares for a ridiculously long time afterwards. So I tend to avoid horror films as best I can.

10) Do you ever do anything fun for Halloween?

I always stay in and I never dress-up but that’s a choice I make because I prefer to do things which I consider fun, such as making my home look and feel atmospheric and reading creepy books!

11) What was your favourite part of Halloween as a child?

I used to craft fake witches’ potion books, as well as draw magic-themed pictures which I especially enjoyed when it distracted me from the prospect of having to dress-up in a Halloween costume!

12) Are you a bigger fan of Bonfire Night or Halloween night?

Probably Halloween night because my dogs get scared of the fireworks which go off on Bonfire Night.

13) Where is your dream destination to visit during autumn?

Vancouver Island is definitely on my travel bucket list, not least because its landscape is stunning at any time of year. Also, I would love to visit Denver in the USA for its largely unspoiled natural features. 

14) Do you always forget about the clocks going back?

Not really, although I do often forget to change a few of the clocks around my home which creates a few moments of confusion on the same day it changes.

15) When do you usually start for preparing for Christmas?

I don’t do much to prepare for Christmas overall except for purchase presents for others which, in general, starts in the first week of December. 

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Easy Ways To Campaign For Good Causes

We are not powerless to make a difference. If you are reading this you probably have an internet connection and a laptop or tablet, therefore you have the vital tools to campaign for good causes. So, don’t just feel angry about the injustices you see, do something about them however big or small.

Below are some ways which are quick, easy and simple to contribute to campaigns for good causes.

NB. [some of the language I use is UK-specific, simply because I’m more aware of how politics works here due to being a Brit.]

1. Online petitions

Platforms which give people everywhere the power to start their own petitions are growing in power these days. Signing an online petition takes under 30 seconds and helps to put public pressure on social authority figures, such as council members, Members of Parliament or CEOs of companies. It is hard to ignore people power, especially when individuals from across society collaborate in creating hundreds of thousands of signatures, signalling their determination to make a change. Change.org is a particularly prominent online petition platform which makes it quick and simple to get involved in worthwhile campaigns, as well as also keeping you informed about new and upcoming campaigns you may be interested in. 

 

2. Email your local authorities

Starting at a local level is a really handy campaigning tactic. In general, local councils deal with a lower scale of incoming correspondence than Members of Parliament, so you will get a quicker response from them if you send them an email. Also, if you can get your local authorities onside, then that can add weight behind your campaign once you move it onto a larger scale. In addition, the response of council members will give you an indication about points of opposition people may have to your campaign which can indicate to you what issues you need to build upon when you contact other individuals later.

 

3. Tweet public figures or companies

How quick is it to send a tweet? We all know how easy and convenient it is to use Twitter, so it makes perfect sense to use the platform to your advantage when you are passionate about a campaign. The more people who pile public pressure on a public figure or corporation the better, as it means that at some time or another they are going to have to respond. Also, individuals and companies are easily searchable on Twitter, so getting in touch with them is made extremely simple. Although, please remember to never use aggressive language however much you disagree with the person you are contacting. It devalues your argument, strips the moral high ground away from you and means that you are not campaigning on a compassionate basis, which I believe is key.

 

4. Boycott certain businesses

Corporations run on profit and the only way they can make a profit is through the consumer. If you refuse to consume their products or services, then business is fundamentally compromised and, unfortunately, many companies only take notice when money is involved. In the past, campaigns such as the one against the Dakota Access Pipeline urged supporters to boycott banks which were investing in the damaging project. Divesting your funds away from unethical corporations will make them have to chose between their customer base and their dirty investments.

 

5. Drop a quick text to a friend or relative

Many online petitions give you the option of sharing a link to their page after you have signed. This enables you to send a link to the petition via text, email or other social networks, so you can ask friends or relatives to consider signing too. Text and emails are an undervalued way of spreading awareness about an issue, so if you think someone you know may also be interested in contributing their signature and using their power as a member of society, then it couldn’t be easier to facilitate them doing this. 

 

Resources:

Change. org – The world’s platform for change (online petition site)

Greenpeace – online campaign platformWWF – campaign with us

WWF – campaign with us

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

A Walk With Nature Facebook Page

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Do not live and die by the judgement of others

Day by day I am noticing how much I constrain myself and tailor my behaviour through fear of how other people will judge me. I toe a line, telling myself that I am free and do not care about people’s irrelevant opinions when really everything I do, even down to what clothes I wear, is decided through the lens of what I know other people will find acceptable.

It is easy to pre-empt what other people will think and say. As long as you fall into line; dress, think and act like them, they will have no complaints. Do not challenge their view of the world and do not scare them by stepping out of place and becoming an unknown quantity. Do all these things and you will be safe. However, you will never be fully happy.

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”

– Sigmund Freud

Only as I am growing older, learning about new things, experiencing things outside of my small bubble am I realising the compromises I make in my daily life. The little decisions I make so as not to cause to ripples whilst telling myself that I am doing those things because I truly want to. Lie after lie legitimates my never reaching my full potential.

“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being purposefully inauthentic is so boring though. When you look at the person next to you and realise that you have morphed into a similarly brainwashed creature who has followed the pattern of other people’s beliefs without question or issue. You have fallen into line so quickly and easily you never saw it happening. The most exciting thing you can do now is be fully and unashamedly yourself. Follow your intuition and impulses which are intrinsically unique to you. Express yourself in the brightest ways you can think of no matter what. Indulge in whatever interests you, no matter if no-one else you know cares about the same things. More than anything, become someone you can be proud of, not only now but years down the line when you are reminiscing about your life. Did you do your unique nature justice? Did you follow your passions? Did you take a stand for the things you believe in?

“Expression is survival”

– Hayley Williams

 

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Another Gratitude List!

Things have been rocky lately (how many times do I start off a blog post with those words?!). In short, I have experienced some very unsettling mental health symptoms which are new to me and got me seriously concerned and fearful, I then changed medication and am waiting for my body (and mind) to adjust to these tablets. However, through the whirlwind of mental health confusion which has left me trying to catch my breath at times, I have seen glimpses of things I am so sincerely grateful for. Surrounding myself online with positive (yet realistic) accounts, whether that be on Instagram, WordPress or Twitter, has yet again realigned my perspective and made me give time, no matter how small, to the things I am grateful for. So, here’s a gratitude list from me to the world!

1) The seasonal change to autumn.
From the leaves changing colour to the crisp edge on the air, autumn is definitely upon us. I am thankful for this change of season because it has brought my attention back to nature. Consciously looking out for the changes in my surroundings, whether big or small, has made me undergo a whole new process of appreciation for the environment. When you can see the world around you as beautiful, it is one more weight taken off of your burdened heart and a way to look around you and feel some sense of hope.

2) Having access to mental health services
I retain the right to say that I firmly believe mental health services in the UK are critically underfunded by the government and so what they can offer people is curtailed by the lack of support they are given by the state. However, I am grateful that I do have access to support when so many people around the world are suffering completely alone in a whole variety of different, heartbreaking, situations. I am immensely grateful that I was able to get an appointment with a GP, talk honestly about how I felt regarding my medication and have him give me a way to reach out to the services I need. I want to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to the people who work in our National Health Service, as time and again they tirelessly try against the odds to help us in anyway they can.

3) My dogs aka the lights of my life!
Being reunited with my dogs has undoubtedly given me a huge boost (as it always does). Their boundless enthusiasm for life, their endless love and devotion as well as the all-round silly and ridiculous things they do which make me laugh out loud, are the things which really keep me going sometimes. I could write for hours and hours about all the ways they have improved me as a person and given me a little chink of sunlight in my life when I have felt completely hopeless. However, for now, suffice to say that I love them both so dearly and genuinely see them as my best friends.

4) The ability to cook
For me, self-care always starts with looking after my nutrition. Eating properly gives me a foundation from which I can start to feel better about my day and show myself some compassion. Preparing my meals is therapeutic in itself, then actually appreciating the fact that I have made the effort to give my body a nutritious and healthy meal allows me to shift my perspective which usually focuses on my habit of self-loathing.

5) Music
Whilst my ears have probably suffered from my reliance on music, at least putting my earphones in and drowning out the world has given me some peace of mind at times throughout these past few weeks. As always, I am immensely grateful to Paramore, Twenty One Pilots and Dodie Clark for making such raw, honest and insightful music. The fact that they don’t dress-up life as an easy ride in their lyrics gives me so much comfort whilst the beautiful music which laces together their words affords me hours of escapism.

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

 

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Awkward Confessions – Halloween Edition

1) I have only been trick or treating once

One Halloween, I went round to my friend’s house and her dad took a little group of us around their neighbourhood trick or treating. We must have been around 7 or 8 years old and I found out later that her dad had gone around prepping all the neighbours for our arrivals. My parents never let me go trick or treating around my area although, to be fair, I’m not sure I would have wanted to anyway but being with my friends and one of their dads, I felt like it was an amazing adventure, especially because they lived near a graveyard which made the whole experience extra spooky!

2) My family used to close the curtains and pretend we were not home when trick or treaters came around

I feel quite bad about this one but I think this was because my parents did not want older kids coming around and causing trouble from what I remember. Also, we were inevitably that family who had forgotten to buy any sweets for the occasion so even if we had of answered the door the best the kids would have got would have been a few mints from the bottom of my mum’s handbag!

3) I used to hate dressing-up for Halloween

I used to hate dressing-up full stop actually, no matter what the occasion was. The whole process of putting on a costume and embracing fancy dress has always gotten me embarrassed and feeling flustered. Part of that is probably down to the fact that I am a very self-conscious person and inherent in fancy dress is having to be able to pull-off an outfit and be confident enough own your look. Suffice to say, I have always avoided dressing-up wherever possible. 

4) I am awful at carving pumpkins

For some reason, it used to fall to me to carve our pumpkin each year which is actually very puzzling because every year I would do a pathetically bad job of it! Apart from the fact that I hate scooping-out all of the gloopy insides from the pumpkin, I have always struggled  to do anything fancier than a few triangles for the eyes and nose and then a slightly jagged line for a mouth.

5) I like celebrating Halloween…just not at parties!

I know that I am most likely the exception but I enjoy celebrating Halloween in my own ways and mostly on my own. I am not a fan of parties no matter what occasion or time of the year it is, so Halloween celebrations are no different. Instead, I have my own traditions which I enjoy largely in my own company.

(Wow, I’ve just realised how much of a misery guts I sound…)

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

 

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Beauty is a Myth and Other Ugly Confessions

I have acne.

My head is unevenly shaved.

My lips are flaky from the time I’ve spent chewing them.

I am a permanent sweaty mess because of anxiety.

I pull out my eyebrows.

There is a scar where my nose piercing used to be.

At 19 I already have worry lines.

I wear glasses too big for my face.

My teeth are coffee stained.

These are all just facts – things I am supposed to be ashamed of and try desperately to hide. I have whittled away hours of my life fretting over everything that makes me ‘ugly’, all of the features which dump me in the category of the unappealing. Then, I began to wonder, why do I care? Who is it I am trying to impress? It certainly wasn’t myself. I know that my acne amongst my wild variety of other flaws are all natural pitfalls that accumulate along the journey of living. If it doesn’t offend me to see a scruffy so-and-so looking back at me in the mirror, then why am I wasting all of this energy worrying about the implications of my so-called ‘ugliness’?

If someone looks at me on the street and thinks to themselves ‘wow, they’re ugly’ or ‘I wouldn’t date them in a million years’, frankly I never have to speak to them or see them ever again and they are not going to make any impact on my life. They are as irrelevant as the crisp packet being blown by the wind down the pavement.

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Unpopular Opinions – University Edition

1) Seminars are nearly unbearable and I barely ever get anything useful out of them

As someone who suffers with anxiety, I hate seminars. It feels like a magnifying glass is being placed over the fact that I am useless at speaking in front of people, so I clam-up and find my body ridden with tension for the duration of the seminar. To be honest, I have expelled so much energy over being anxious about the seminar that the majority of the material we cover just passes me by. In addition, I’ve always been more of an independent learner, meaning that I find it easier to teach myself concepts using my own methods rather than attempt to absorb what someone else is telling me.

2) It is not worth the £9,250 a year 

To be fair, I know this fee is a lot less than what students in other countries have to pay (I’m looking at you America) but I still think it is overpriced. We are being trained to become a functional part of the economy later in life, if nobody went to University the country would be in an extremely difficult predicament (I have a better word I want to use but I’m trying to keep swear words out of this post!). So, surely a better way to run the system would be to not put us in debt for the majority of our working lives unless you want to make Higher Education so unobtainable and unattractive a prospect that young people reject it out of hand?

3) Academia is inaccessible and elitist

First of all, academic books cost a small fortune, so it is no surprise that only a couple of people in each class actually purchase the required reading materials. Honestly, I actually felt compelled to play The Lottery the same day as I bought my books for Uni this year out of sympathy for my bereft bank account! Also, in a lot of cases, it feels like the technical jargon and overuse of words which are never used in everyday life just serve to put up barriers between people who hadn’t swallowed the dictionary by the time they were six and academic success. Things can be said just as effectively without drawing out concepts into hundreds of 10-syllable words and confusing sentences which go on for half a page without a comma.

4) Half of the stuff I study has no relevance to my interests

Although I picked a course I was interested in, the fact that the actual content of what I study is determined year by year by the interests of staff rather than students means that the things which particularly interest me can be swiped from the curriculum before I have a chance to study them. The depressing fact is, I have ended-up studying the same time periods and concepts multiple times because diversity within my course has been whittled down so much. 

5) Compulsory modules should be banned

This is something I feel with a passion. Why, oh why, do Universities force students to study particular things which may have absolutely no interest or relevance to them? In someone’s first year, compulsory modules are somewhat understandable because it gives students a broad basis of knowledge and exposes them to lots of different perspectives but, for second and third year students, it useless to force them to take one module in literary theory for instance when they have decided they want to specialise in history. 

I should probably stop ranting now before my blood pressure rises any further but I would be really interested to hear what any of you think about these opinions I have raised, no matter whether you agree or disagree with me. Also, do you have any unpopular opinions about University or college that you would like to add?

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Autumn Activities

I am so in love with autumn; it feels like a breath of fresh air after the stifling heat of summer. I really believe that there should be more celebration of the seasons changing, like a mini new year’s party as we embark on a clean slate for the next chunk of the year!

As the wind is getting gustier and whipping the fallen foliage into a frenzy, I’ve looked at my surroundings and felt a real craving to properly appreciate autumn this year rather than just look at it as the precursor to winter. There are plenty of things to put on an autumn to do list, so I thought I would leave a few ideas here in the hope of generating some good appreciation for the season amongst anyone who stumbles across this post!

1. Visit a gardening centre

Gardening centres are really nostalgic places for me. It used to be a real treat to walk along behind my mum, piling our trolley up with new, colourful plants and discuss where they could find a home in the garden. At this time of year, gardening centres have a stunning variety of different pumpkins in all shapes, sizes and shades on display which are the perfect things to get you in the Halloween mood!

2. Pack away your summer clothes

Put summer out of sight and out of mind! I know some people find passing into the colder months sad and somewhat demoralising but I find it completely the opposite. Get all your layers out ready to be donned once the wind and rain start to descend on you to get yourself into the autumn frame of mind. Also, this is helpful to check that you actually have the appropriate clothes waiting for you to wear them, in case a moth has decided to make it’s way through your choice of warm coats during the summer!

3. Cook hearty, warming meals

Shifting towards big warm meals has long been a feature of summer’s departure in my life. Autumn seems like the perfect time to get creative with cooking and create big batches of casseroles and stews, incorporating all of the wonderfully colourful harvested vegetables which make their way into our homes at this time of year. Food which warms us from the inside out can be the perfect antidote for people who are not so keen on the colder weather.

4. Get in the garden

If you are lucky enough to have a garden then get stuck-in nourishing your plants as they make the transition from the summer warmth to the colder months. If you do not have a garden of your own, think about going out ready to spot some of the gorgeous plants which bloom at this time of year. In the UK, autumn is especially good for Acers, Dahlias, Crocuses, so-called Beauty Berries and Asters. Looking at autumn’s unique offerings rather than focusing on how the luscious greens are fading around you can help to assuage some of the melancholy you may feel about summer finishing.

5. Harry Potter marathons

Personally, I think the Harry Potter films are the perfect accompaniment to your day no matter what time of year it is but it is true that they feel especially good to watch around Halloween time. Immediately, from the opening notes of the beginning credits, I fall into a mental wormhole of nostalgia and feel instantly comforted by the familiar characters, stories and scenery.

6. Get walking the dogs in your life

If you have dogs, they can give you a whole new appreciation for this time of year. They seem to find endless fun and interest in the piles of fallen leaves on the ground. My two spend a good portion of each walk kicking their way through piles of leaves and then giving them a good long sniff before inevitably trying to run around whilst balancing a fallen branch in their mouths! Honestly, dogs can be hysterical and the best ways to find enjoyment in the little things around you which otherwise would probably go unnoticed.

 

More resources for autumn fun can be found here:

10 Plants for Autumn Colour – Gardeners’ World

British Harvest Facts and Traditions – Countryfile

Autumn Activities for Kids – The Imagination Tree

 

You can find me here:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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How Mental Health Stigma Has Hurt Me

TRIGGER WARNING: REFERENCES TO SELF-HARM.

When I was 15, I was told by a family member that I was ‘over-sensitive’ because I had completely shut down whilst suffering with depression. My memory of that depressive period are incredibly hazy. When I try to think back to that point in my life all that really springs to mind is a cold, heavy feeling in my chest which takes me back to the days on end I spent sitting on my bed in a grey, miserable bubble. I remember glimpses of conversations I had with people at the time, such as when I was labelled ‘over-sensitive’, other than that it is a chunk of my life which remains shrouded in a cloud of fear I’m not really ready to make my way through just yet. However, the phrase ‘over-sensitive’ still hurts me to this day. It is an obvious example of someone buying into the stigma around mental health and trying to tell me that it was a character weakness of mine which was causing me to suffer, erasing the fact that depression is a serious illness.

I remember the first time I went to see a counsellor. I was scared stiff and my anxiety was the only thing my mind and body had space to feel. She asked me what I was worried about and I told her that I was scared she would think I was ‘pathetic’. I was 16 at the time and my self-esteem had been completely decimated by the narrative that suffering with your mental health makes you less of a person. I carried that weight around with me everyday as I avoided people’s eye contact at school and went to elaborate lengths to hide the fact that I was having to leave lessons early to go to counselling sessions. Stigma had taught me that my mental health was something to be ashamed about and a part of me to be hidden at all costs.

How many other people in the world have felt that way too?

Stigma around anxiety led me to skip school rather than tell my teacher that trying to make me do a presentation in front of the class was unacceptable when he knew that I was suffering at the time and could barely vocalise my thoughts in front of one person let alone a whole class. I thought that he would laugh it off or tell me that I would have to grow-up one day and make me do the presentation anyway. So, I missed a whole day of school because I knew how widespread the stigma around anxiety was (and still is).

I waited for years to tell anyone about my OCD because I thought that they would call me ‘crazy’ once I explained my rituals and intrusive thoughts. Stigma around OCD means that it is not talked about much in society other than in regards to people who clean obsessively when, in reality, the disorder is a lot more complex than that. So, I purposely did not mention these symptoms throughout all of the counselling, therapy and assessment sessions I had. If I had not been so worried about the labels which I thought people who attach to me due to my experiences, I could have gotten my OCD diagnosis so much earlier.

The stigma around mental health led me to suffer with self-harm alone. I was petrified about what people would think of me if they found out and I imagined scenarios in which people would call me an ‘attention seeker’ for what I was doing. So, quickly my habitual self-harming thrived in my silence as keeping it a secret meant that there was no way for anybody to intervene or convince me to stop. Reaching out for help seemed like an insurmountable task because of the judgements I knew people held about self-harm, such as that it is ‘a trend’ or ‘a cry for help’. When I finally did tell a family member, I got shouted out and had angry, accusatory words thrown at me which felt like a slap in the face when it had taken me so long to open-up.

The stigma around mental health is dangerous. These experiences I have documented above affect millions of people in varying ways across the world. The stigma ingrains in us a shame around talking about our mental health and makes us feel weak for struggling. People die every year because they cannot face telling people about what they are feeling – these are the real effects of stigma. It’s time that we all break down these barriers, no matter who you are or where you come from. Normalise conversations about mental health, make it a topic that you talk about often so that others will hear and begin to think that, if they needed to, they could talk about it too. Don’t let people suffer in silence, reach out and offer an understanding shoulder to cry on. Start the conversation and others will follow.

 

Resources for help with mental health:

Information & Support – Mind, the mental health charity

Samaritans

Contact – Childline (for under 18s)

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Unpopular Opinions – USA Travel Edition

As I mentioned in my Remembering The Summer Of 2018 post, I visited the USA for the first time ever this summer. It was a bit of a whirlwind experience which jet lag made all the more surreal as well as the crazy humidity which lingered around me everywhere I went. Along the way, I developed my own opinions about some American quirks and confectionary choices so, without further ado, here are some of my unpopular opinions which I gathered during my travels!

1. Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is disgusting

People talked at length to me about their passion for Dunkin’ Donuts and their coffee in particular (shoutout to the bus driver who raved about the place for a solid five minutes). So, I got myself a coffee from the buffet car on the eight hour train journey I took from Washington D.C. to Boston… I literally could not finish it because I hated it that much. This is saying something for me because usually I will be so desperate for caffeine that, no matter how grim a coffee tastes, I will chug it down anyway. There was also no other coffee choice available on the train, so I suffered the eight hour journey without my caffeine-fix (first world problems!). Honestly, I would see a Dunkin’ Donuts what felt like every five steps whilst I was in Boston because they are a Massachusetts-based chain, so it almost felt like the company was taunting me with memories of their horrendous coffee as I walked around the city.

2. Too many tasty things are displayed in grocery shop queues

My goodness, I had to develop an iron will whilst I was standing in the queue to buy groceries! It’s like they saved all of the most delicious, sugary items of temptation for the layout before the tills just so that I would have to stare at them in all their glory whilst I waited in line to be served. Really, it is an unfair tactic, I felt pulled in every direction whilst every flavour of Oreo was laid out there before me, ripe for my taking. You’ll be happy to know though that my lack of many dollars meant that I had to force myself to resist these sweet treats, otherwise I would inevitably have come back from my travels with rotted teeth!

3. America has way too many Starbucks

Sorry to continue the criticism of the biggest American chains but I felt like I was the places I visited were overflowing in a superfluous number of Starbucks chains. I feel like the little, independent coffee shops stood no chance against the power of a big corporation like that which dominated every street in every town. I like to support small businesses but that was hard since they seemed to have been mostly forced to relocate elsewhere because the cities I visited was so chain-reliant.

4. The idea of cream being put in my coffee is like sacrilege to me

Every time I had a coffee, which let’s be honest was very regularly, the person serving me would ask if I wanted cream in my coffee which is something you are never offered in the UK. Each time I would protectively cling to my coffee before they could get the cream in and plead for some soya milk whilst people looked at me as if I was abnormal for looking at the cream as if it were poison. There were even little cartons of coffee creamers in the rooms I stayed in. To be honest, I know I must be a very sad person but I just could not get over how millions of people were ruining their perfectly good coffees everyday by putting cream in there. Horrifying.

5. American airports are really confusing

I properly struggled with this one. I found American airports to be like highly distressing mazes which offered you directions in the form of very unhelpful signs for every mile you walked further into the trap. I’m glad I got to the Boston Logan International Airport about three hours in advance otherwise I would have had heart palpitations just trying to find my gate. I don’t know if other airports in the country would redeem my opinion of them overall but the two airports I went through over there were some of the most bizarrely laid-out places you could possibly come across!

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Having been away from the place where I grew-up, my heart is now starting to crave a return to that place which I once took for granted. I thought my hometown was simply run-of-the-mill, boring and easy to forget, little did I know that one day I would look back over my shoulder at it and get a little misty-eyed in missing that place. Sure, it looks grey and typical from an outsiders’ perspective but once you lace the town with your own memories, it takes a hold over you for life. Nothing about it special per se but hindsight tells me that it formed a basis for my life and gave me a springboard to jump forward into the place I live now.

I love my home county in the autumn and winter. I miss walking with my dogs through the dense woods where the trees block out the rest of the world, I miss seeing my dogs kick through the neat piles of autumnal leaves as we made our way through the posh streets in town and I miss shivering in my bed at night with no heating on. It’s funny the things which cling to your heart when you look backwards at your past life. The things you would have assumed that ‘adult’ you could forget in a heartbeat come back as fresh and clear as ever. Small things which seemed inconvenient or too small to notice at the time take on a different hue when you put your rose-tinted glasses on.

Sure, I can still appreciate that it’s not perfect. People there are discontented and suspicious of each other. No-one proudly proclaims that they live there; it is not a picture postcard town. Actually, if anything, the heart of it is pretty ugly. Perhaps it is the bubble which I inhabited there for a time that I want to return to – I can take or leave the rest of it. It’s the walks I took when the air was so cold that it burned the back of my throat, it’s the journeys we took in the car after rugby matches and it’s the times I saw my doggies run around the house together in synchronised mischief. Those are the little bubbles of emotion and experience I look back at with tears in my eyes. Maybe, it’s not the place that I cherish, just the memories it provokes in me. My hometown can still be seen as my fairytale though; the place where I lived when I wanted to die and the place where I learned to breathe again when I was scared to go outside.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Remembering The Summer Of 2018

Sometimes we let moments pass before us without thinking much of them then, before we know it, a whole season has passed and it’s easy to forget what was achieved during that time. Summer always seems to be chock-full of events, experiences and memories, probably by virtue of it being a long period of freedom from University, for me at least. In retrospect, things that happened have taken on a different perspective in my mind and I have come to realise that a lot of things which occurred this summer were either things that I should be proud of or memories I should treasure. So, I thought I would record some of the highlights of summer 2018 on here!

1. I saw my brother graduate from University

My brother is now officially making his way in the ‘real’ world. It was surreal hearing his name called-out and watching walk along the stage in his swishy gown that he was so embarrassed to wear. I thought of how much he had changed over the four years of his degree, the new passions he had taken-up whilst at University and all of the future opportunities waiting for him in the big wide world.

2. I visited America for the first time

I’ve grown-up watching American films and TV shows, listening to American music, reading American books and studying American literature and history, yet I had never been to the United States. So, this summer I went to the US for a whirlwind week of sightseeing and walking for miles and miles. I started off with two days in Washington DC, then I took an 8 hour train journey all the way up to Boston where I spent the rest of my week. Then, after flight delays, I started my flight back to the UK at just after midnight, arriving at 10 am UK time. Then I had half a day to pack my life into boxes and suitcases before moving into a new place for Uni to start again. So, when I say it was a whirlwind, it really was a whirlwind!

3. I prioritised my writing

Throughout the summer, I made sure that I valued the time I had to write. For once, it wasn’t just a few scrawled sentences at the end of the day. Instead, I set apart actual chunks of time for me to invest in my writing. From poetry to fiction to opinion pieces, I made my way through many pieces of paper and developed my craft along the way. Taking writing seriously rather than discarding it as frivolous past time was definitely something I now feel vindicated in doing.

4. I came out online as trans

This was the most nerve-wracking blog post I have ever written to date but it was also so worth it. The reaction and feelings of validation I got from publishing The Gender Tag  is still having an impact on my daily life to this day. Taking the step to come out online has given me the confidence I needed to return to University using my real name, Ryan, rather than my birth name. Now, when I assert my identity, I feel proud of myself rather than ashamed which was a process of emotional development started by that blog post.

5. I started learning to drive

My goodness, this was an experience! Every time I got behind that wheel I felt either like I was going to die or be physically sick (or both)! A year or even six months before I would not have believed anyone who would have told me that I would be cruising along a busy A roads at 60mph but I did it. Every moment of feeling scared out of my wits and like I just wanted to give-up was worth it for the pride I feel now knowing that I felt the fear but did it anyway. I proved to myself that I could be brave and that perseverance is the key to learning any new skill.

6. I began baking

An overarching theme of the summer was learning how to come to terms with my body. As a trans guy, my body is most often associated with self-loathing for me, so the process of starting to nourish it was both a trial and a milestone in my life. Baking myself healthy snacks and allowing myself the time to consider the different nutritional components my body needed went some way to shifting the relationship I have with my body even though this shift was only limited. Progress is progress.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

January Recap/The Worst Month Of My Life

TRIGGER WARNING: REFERENCES TO SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, SELF-HARM AND ALCOHOL MISUSE.

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted on this blog in quite a while. In all honesty I have not been mentally well enough to build-up the energy required to write a blog post. January has been a whirlwind of anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, confusion and excessive amounts of alcohol. I had four assessments (two exams and two essays) to complete during January in order to finish my first semester’s classes. However, I did not turn-up to either exam and I did not write the essays, let alone submit any. During the week I was supposed to do my assessments, I spiralled out of control and eventually had to tell an advisor at my University’s Student Life Centre that I no longer felt I could keep myself safe. So, the day culminated in my trip to Accident & Emergency where at least I felt I was in a safe and protected environment.

For context, over a two week period, I had been getting black-out drunk everyday, self-harming, unable to eat properly so I was faint and found it difficult to walk and having brutal panic attacks. So, I became suicidal. I felt like life was not worth living if I was going to have to struggle miserably through everyday of my life. I was shocked by how low I had become so quickly, I had never once come close to skipping exams and abandoning deadlines or felt in such a depth of crisis. So, I abused my body; hoping to die of alcohol poisoning due to the amount I was drinking, cutting became a refuge in which I could express my self-hatred. Intrusive thoughts filled my mind everyday, graphic images of committing suicide and hurting myself. I was hopeless.

I returned home from University and realised that only option was to temporarily withdraw from University and restart my second year in September. I knew that if I went back in February when my next semester was to start I would be putting myself in a very vulnerable place because, honestly, there was no way I could cope with being at University and pretending all was well with my as I continued my studies. So, I have now withdrawn from University until September. It’s hard not to feel like a failure at the moment, like I have disappointed myself and those around me greatly. However, I know that this is what I needed to do for my health’s sake.

Since being at home, I’ve had to have difficult, honest conversations with people. I have felt guilty burdening my family with my daily presence considering how low and anxious I have been, I know I am dragging the mood down everyday. I feel helpless. I have spent a lot of my time trying to find a psychotherapist, even considering committing to day hospital. For now, I’m not sure what I will do.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

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