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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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

 

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.

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

 

 

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.

Turning Down Opportunities Due To Mental Health

Sometimes life throws chances into your path, leaving it up to you whether you wish to grasp them or turn the other way. Declining to take-up opportunities due to mental health issues is a double-edged sword; on one hand if you do not challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone, then your mental health can continue to control and dictate your life, on the other hand some opportunities are just not worth the mental toll and upheaval they will place upon you. If you take the opportunity and then ultimately fail, will the impact of failure be so great as to outweigh the benefits of saying yes in the first place?

As I have grown older, I have learnt to distinguish with more ease and clarity which opportunities are really worth seizing and which others I should let fall by the wayside because of the risks they pose to my mental wellbeing. However, this is most often not understood by other people. Those opportunities which I turn down are viewed by lots of other people as amazing chances and new experiences to be cherished, so they cannot appreciate why on earth I would even consider not giving them a go. Instead, they ask themselves whether it is because I am lazy or unmotivated or unambitious that I will not go along with these chances.

What some people fail to understand is that there comes a point where you have to prioritise yourself and your own safety. This goes hand in hand with knowing your boundaries and understanding the wisdom of testing yourself versus being your own protection. Whilst I do attempt to challenge my comfort zone in certain situations, there are other circumstances which arise where I know that it would not be a healthy environment for me to take such a leap. Weighing up the relative risks and rewards, sometimes it becomes obvious that the potential benefits of saying ‘yes’ to something are outweighed by the looming possibility of damaging my own sanity to achieve these rewards.

It has taken me a long time to become unashamed of prioritising my mental health. I used to feel immature for admitting that I was not ready to take a certain opportunity or pursue a particular avenue but really my knowledge of where my healthy boundaries lie is a sign of personal strength and emotional maturity if anything.

Let me know your thoughts on this, whether you think it is wrong or right to turn down opportunities due to mental health. If you have any wisdom to share, then please do because goodness knows I need it!

 

CONTACT ME:

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

Insomnia – The Peace Which Never Arrives

I do not dream,
Sleep is a heavy, suffocating, blanket
Which smothers my anxious head as I wake.

Whilst fraying edges unravel my days,
I eventually settle for tantalising sleep,
However, the comfort of darkness never arrives;
The night air adopts a new weight over me,
So I am betrayed by the smug winking stars
Which fade in and out in apparitions,
Depending on flight, fancy and teasing glances.

RECOVERY

QUESTION: is the idea of ‘recovery’ helpful?

I have mixed feelings about recovery. Whether it is a help or a hindrance when so many people present it as an ideal which feels distant and unattainable to people who are in the midst of any type of illness. Sometimes when people reference recovery or being recovered, it just makes me feel more lost and hopeless than I was before. However, other times it can inspire me and give me the courage to keep moving forward with the comfort that others have weathered similar storms.

What is probably most frustrating to me about the idea of recovery is that it is so vague by virtue that it is subjective and hard to pin down in what it means to each of us individually. There is no specific route or journey that will lead you straight to recovery, the same steps and challenges do not work for anyone. Recovery does not look the same for everyone either, leaving me in the strange position of never being entirely certain of what I am aiming or working towards, meaning that my motivation begins to dwindle behind my uncertain mind.

Whenever counsellors or therapists have mentioned recovery to me I have felt myself recoil into my seat. Even the word seems so intimidating and far off in the distance. Also, I find the use of the term frustrating because who has the right or the knowledge to determine exactly what recovery is, what it looks like and what the time period for recovery should be? However much I want there to be a finish line I also do not know who I am without mental illness because I have let my mental health define me for so long. How do I separate myself from the characteristics of my illnesses and how will I know when this process is complete and I have recovered?

This post is a mess of rhetorical questions and abstract thoughts but what I have learnt from it is that I need to narrow down the specifics of what I am striving towards and what progress I will be satisfied with so that I could call myself recovered. Abstract and vague goals only lead to more frustration and motivation leaving me like a deflated balloon.

“I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.” – ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ by John Green

5 TIPS FOR THE SLEEP DEPRIVED…

I am one of those people who really struggle with getting enough sleep. Every night, I lay in bed for hours waiting to fall asleep, I wake-up multiple times, toss and turn and then I wake-up in the morning feeling the opposite of refreshed. As with lots of people, this problem becomes a lot worse when high levels of stress are thrown into the mix as I cannot stop my mind from buzzing during the night and jumping from problem to problem which I feel like I have to fix right there and then, even if the situation is out of my control. My University exams are quickly approaching and I approach this period with a sense of dread that I will be a walking zombie throughout it because I will only manage to grab a few hours of sleep here and there. So here are five tips which I have been given along the way during my trials and tribulations with poor sleep which I have found really help if I actively discipline myself to act upon them rather than reverting to my own bad habits…

1) Do not go to bed earlier than you usually would

This may seem counter-intuitive because your mind tells you that if you are going through a period in which you are not sleeping well then you should go to bed an hour or two early to counteract your lost sleep. However, often your body-clock will not agree. Your body gets used to the time that you usually go to bed and settle down for the night and so even if you feel that you are tired enough to go to sleep your body may well resist you. Then you might start a snowballing feeling of frustration as you toss and turn in bed for longer than necessary and get yourself annoyed rather than relaxed which is obviously what you need to drop-off during the night.

2) Read for a bit

When you get into bed, don’t instantly try to fall asleep, give your body and mind time to relax and switch-off instead. Personally, I find reading very therapeutic especially if I am reading from a physical book rather than a device like a kindle. You do not have to work your way through masses of pages or delve into a heavy-going classical literary masterpiece, this shouldn’t feel like school homework or a burden in your evening. Instead, pick a book you find genuinely interesting and hopefully you will find yourself getting so lost in the words of the book that anything weighing your mind down will disappear.

3) Jot down a list of your worries

If stress is what is restricting your sleep then roughly jot down a list of bullet points about whatever is occupying your mind. Any thoughts that occur to you, just scribble them down and do not worry about writing in flowing prose or making grammatical sense, this is purely an exercise to relieve your mind of the issues which are bouncing around inside it, demanding your immediate attention and distracting you from falling asleep. Once you have written them down make a conscious decision to leave the issues until the morning and give your brain the chance to refuel and recharge during the night so that you can tackle them the next day.

4) Do yoga or stretch of an evening

Especially if you spend your days huddled over a desk or scrunched up around your laptop screen, your body develops a lot of tension during the day which can be another thing which weighs your mind down as well as making you feel uncomfortable. So, of an evening try to do a few stretches or, if you’re into yoga, roll out your mat and get to doing a quick twenty minutes of yoga to relieve your muscles of their tightness. Whilst you are doing this, focus on your breathing so that you give your mind a break from being occupied by stressful thoughts. This is also beneficial because it will boost your sense of accomplishment of what you have managed to do during your day if you can incorporate an exercise such as stretching or yoga which are both good for your wellbeing.

5) Do not clock check

I am awful at taking my own advice on this one! When I am lying bed waiting to fall asleep, my head pops up every ten minutes or so to check the time and I mentally calculate how much sleep I am losing and how long it is until I have to get-up in the morning. It is blatantly obvious that this is unhelpful. Constantly looking around at your clock is only going to build a sense of frustration and annoyance in you, as well as anxiety about the sleep you’re missing out on. In the end, checking the clock only makes you ruminate harder on your sleep problems which has the adverse effect of making them worse.

SCARS ON MY BRAIN…

Who am I?
The mirage I see in the mirror
Or the crayon drawing of an oversized child?
A twisted, morbid, relic
The mask of chaotic innocence.

Should I be ashamed, afraid,
Confused, depressed or scared?
Love is not written on my arms,
Assurance is not absorbed in my veins
And my heart doesn’t pump,
Not like I remember it used to.