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As I said in my last post, I have withdrawn from University for the time being and I’m aiming to restart my second year in September.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

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

 

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

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?

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

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.

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

 

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

 

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