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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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

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

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

 

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

 

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.

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

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

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

Why I Shaved My Head

Today is my first day of classes back at Uni. So, naturally this morning I decided to make a big physical, aesthetic change by shaving my head! Full disclosure: my hair has not been long for a good year and a bit, I have had it cropped for a while but nowhere near shaved. I’ve always kept it long enough to style with gel and give me a little something to hide behind.

My relationship with my hair has long been a love/hate one. When I was younger I had long blond hair down to my hips before I accepted that I was trans. People would always remark on my ‘pretty’ hair and often I would be moved to either tears or anger by the word ‘pretty’ being used to describe me because I adamantly did not want to be girly but I couldn’t express or understand why this was. As long as my I left my long blond hair flowing people would put up with me wearing jeans, t-shirts and trainers all the time rather than dresses and skirts because at least my hair kept me looking feminine. There starts my feelings of resentment towards my hair.

As I grew up, I began to tie my hair back into a ponytail everyday without fail but the long shock of blond which ran down my back was never far from my mind. I was torn about my hair, whilst it kept me looking socially respectable as a little girl and earned me the attention and compliments of people around me, I certainly felt a disconnect from the way it made me look.

Fast forward to me as a 16 year old who had just finished secondary school and was about to embark on the new-found freedom of sixth-form college for two years. I decided to get an undercut, meaning that I shaved the underneath of my hair. This was an interesting compromise because it meant that I kept the look of long hair on the top of my head but if I tied my hair up I could show something different through my shaved hear underneath. However, I still felt that I was hiding a big part of my identity and couldn’t find the confidence to go fully short with my hair.

At 18 I dyed my hair from blond to black. I was a very sad, confused and isolated figure at this age and I craved to express what I was feeling on the inside on the outside of me. My hair was still pretty long but I stopped being defined by the ‘pretty’ blondness of my hair. Then, I snapped. I’d had enough with not being true to myself and selling myself short to please other people. So, I got my hair chopped into a black pixie cut.

20170915_153608

Whilst this look was still layered and ‘feminine’ to an extent, I felt a lot less like I was lying to myself and the world when I presented myself this way.

Now, back to the present day and I have just given myself a buzz cut in my new accommodation that I moved into on the weekend! I feel like I have finally found the courage to be unapologetic in the way I look. There is no longer any hairstyle for me to hide behind which is a significant development for me as I have been so ashamed of the full face of acne I have had for the past 8 years. I have always looked to become invisible and fade into the background because of the level of disgust I have felt towards myself whenever I’ve seen my reflection. The disconnect between my mind and my body has weighed me down with the burden of self-loathing which was an unsustainable way to live my daily life.

I feel like buzzing my hair signifies to me a fresh start. No more hiding or trying to please others. I no longer feel the need to be seen as attractive by anyone, I prefer to make myself happy first. I want to abandon the shame I feel about the reflection which glares at me from the bathroom mirror. I will not live my life by anyone else’s rules any longer.

 

CONTACT ME:

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00