Time for a Kiwi adventure

I move to New Zealand next week….NEXT WEEK!?! Like what? How has that even come about?

I haven’t written a blog in a while because I’m not naturally a writer (shock!) and I usually write when my mental health has taught me a lesson or about something that I hope will encourage others. However, now it’s time for this blog to take a different direction but before it does I want to take one last time to talk about the university journey with mental health.

It’s been just over a month since I graduated from Glasgow but when I first started, in my naivety, I had two expectations:

  • To get a first
  • To find a husband

LOL!

Neither of which I achieved but quite honest lil first year Hannah was completely blind to the rollercoaster that next four years was going to present itself as. I mean to most of my friends who have known me through school they would probably said it was no surprise I finished uni and graduated but to me it is, in my eyes, my biggest achievement.

Let me give you a quick overview of uni…

First year was all just one big new adventure. The first time you get to live by yourself, cook for yourself, no one checking at what time you were coming in at or anyone to tell you off for the state of your room. I got distracted by the newness of it all and threw myself into absolutely everything – there wasn’t a night or day I was ever free.  I always had this cloud hanging over me but I just reckoned everyone felt this way, beside I was having so much fun I just put that niggling emotion “it” to the back of my mind.

Second year things started to get a bit more difficult but I was still able to function. I used to come back to the flat after a day of lectures and library to eat my cous cous in my room and cry before heading out to whatever activity was to take place that evening. I had no idea why I was crying I just felt deflated and lonely as if I had no friends. I convinced myself that I didn’t go out enough, I didn’t socialise enough, everything that I said was stupid, no boys ever fancied me, no one thought I was that great – in reality, I was a nobody. Yet, I could still function I just kept my head down with a (fake) smile and put one foot in front of the other. However, it was during this time that for the first time in my life I realised my grades weren’t what they used to be but instead of recognising I wasn’t well I put it down to not working hard enough. To get into third year we had to get 77% overall and with the way my grades were going it just didn’t seem plausible. At this point I nearly moved back to Belfast yet something kept me in Glasgow and by the skin of my teeth I got into 3rd year.

I walked into third year feeling completely empty; I wanted to “rebrand” myself. I didn’t like who I was or who I thought people saw me as. I wanted to prettier, more popular, cooler and so I focused on making myself into this other Hannah. Wednesday nights were for viper, Thursday and Saturdays were for hive and the rest of the week I was pushing myself (to not much avail) to fit in university work, the gym and my part-time job. Then one day it all got too much and I broke. This was when I first gave recognition to my depression and my road to recovery began but at the beginning the future wasn’t looking too promising (read: road to recovery). I wanted and tried to drop out more times than I can remember and I’ve lost counts of how many times I tried to get a flight back home. Yet in the midst of this despair and only now looking back on it do I realise that a significant moment happened that has led me to my future Kiwi adventure…I came crawling back on my hands and knees to my Father, God because I felt so broken I couldn’t stand up (read: healing and hope).

A mixture or broken relationships, friendships and person made third year the worst year I’ve ever experienced and I would never wish it on anyone to feel the way I did. My grades weren’t looking to bright either and so entering fourth year I decided to work on myself like really work on myself hoping that the grades would come with that.

Fourth year started off well and the medication seemed to be doing its job along with the CBT I had completed during summer. Then in December everything started going down again. I went back to the smiling and laughing with friends then to returning home and sitting for three hours curled in a ball and crying (read: Behind the scenes). Thankfully, my medication was helping maintain concentration for my studies and from the lessons I had learnt i.e. taking a break when I needed and making sure I was in-cooperating things I enjoyed into life (read: When revision takes over), I was able to keep my head just above the waves to deal with the uni work demands. That was all well and good until it came to exam time and I realised in order to complete this degree I couldn’t do it with the level of medication I was taking and I finally upped my dose to the maximum dose. AND I COMPLETED IT, I DID IT!

Now, for over two months as I said in my insta post (link) I have finally felt “normal”. So, what next?

Well that is where New Zealand comes in. It has always been a dream of mine to go to New Zealand and now in just over a week that dream is going to come true along with the added bonus of serving in a church. I’ve had so many people say to me they’re worried about me going so far away after all that I’ve been through and battling a mental health issue. I completely understand their concerns and it had been me last year then, yes, I would have also been worried but you cannot let your mental health deprive you of your dreams*.

(*obvs sometimes it isn’t the best idea but you just need to be sensible about it, rich coming from me, but true.)

My encouragement from this blog:

DO NOT LET MENTAL ILLNESS RUIN YOUR DREAMS AND ASPIRATIONS.

My new direction from this blog:

Now it’s time for me to make this blog about my new beginnings. Of course, mental health may make an appearance but now I want to use this as a way for people to keep updated on the kiwi adventures, prayers (requests and answers) and lessons (from God, new people and venturing half way across the world) for the next six months.

 

Hannah

xoxoxo

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God didn’t say it’d be easy

After spending a week in Trent Vineyard, Nottingham, surrounded by people who love Jesus and hearing their stories of faithfulness despite pain and disappointment I’ve come to understand a bit more how following Christ doesn’t promise being exempt from misery.

I want to start off by saying I don’t believe God gave me my depression, a fallen world did. He is a good Father who adores us and although I suffer he still conducts good works through it. It is easy for us to cry and yell at God for the hurt and pain that we experience from life, we are permitted to do so (Exodus 2:23; Psalm 61:2; Matthew 27:46) – even Jesus cried out to his Father – and he does listen. However, a lot of the time we miss the good that God can do in the midst of despair and pain when we are obedient.

I’m not taking away from the fact that it is not going to be easy, as I have said before God confirms over and over again that we will face trial, tribulation and persecution (Acts; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, James 1:12, Romans 3:3-5). We just have to open our bibles and we see the constant conflict and persecution God’s children went through for years.

Read the story of Moses (Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy), it took 10 plagues before Pharaoh let the Israelite’s go (Exodus, 7-11). It took 40 years before the Israelite’s got to the promised land (Joshua 5:6). Moses, a faithful man of God, did not even get to enter this promised land because of disobedience (Numbers 20:10-13, Deuteronomy 34:4-5). Thankfully we have Jesus to thank that we are no longer punished for our sins as Moses was but that is a whole other topic all together. What I wanted to establish with you is that this belief “following Jesus means everything will be good and easy” is false and this is my conclusion after only one story in the bible.

We watch as Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 12 -21) waited 24 years, convinced she is barren, before they receive their promised son. The story of Joseph (Genesis 30-50) follows a similar pattern. Joseph sees two dreams (Genesis 37) as a young man where he declares his brother’s sheaths bow down before his and then that the moon and eleven stars bow down to him. This is followed by years of torture where Joseph is sold into slavery and later lands himself in prison (Genesis 39). By no means did Joseph have it easy but he remained faithful by holding on to the promises God had gave him and by the end of the story we see Joseph rise to power as the dreams God had given him came to pass (Genesis 41:27 – 45:38). In the book of Job, we see Job lose everything (Job 1:13-22) his family, his livestock, his friends and his health (Job 2). He cries out to God in a depressive manner, he can’t see any future in front of him, he begs for death (Job 3) but in all this he still remains faithful to his Father God. In the end God doubles his fortunes but he had to go through the pain of losing everything to gain everything (Job 42:10).

In the new testament, we reach Paul the apostle (Acts and the many letters he wrote e.g. Corinthians, Philippians) a man who faced severe prosecution while preaching the Gospel and still persevered. A man thrown in prison and finally was beheaded for Christ. Even God’s own son faced trials. Jesus faced the rejection of his people (Luke 4:14-30), the shame of carrying his own cross (John 19:17; Matthew 27:32) and the pain of being nailed to the cross (John 19:18; Matthew 27:38). If that doesn’t show hardship well then, I am at a loss.

You see throughout the bible are stories, historical accounts, of the trials faithful women and men faced. This is what gives me strength.

When my depression hits I feel like the Israelite’s in the desert not being able to see the promised land. Through periods of lowness when I am just waiting for something good to happen I feel like Abraham and Sarah waiting for that child. When someone makes a comment (not out of malice but it still hurts) I feel like Joseph who was laughed at by his brothers. I can relate so closely to these biblical heroes because although their life was thousands of years ago we still face the same challenges today.

But as I get to the end of these stories I see the glimmer of hope and how God still used these painful situations. In my own story I have seen the work of God as he allows me to help other people battling the same illnesses by sharing my own story, encouraging people and being able to help people. It doesn’t make it any easier, it doesn’t take away my pain or my feeling of worthlessness or my low self-esteem and every day I still battle with the impact of depression. However, by focusing on his word I can at least bring good in a bad situation.

God didn’t give me the mental illness but he still used it for his good. 

I encourage you; look for the good. Look for the ways you can turn these situations around. Most of all however what I want you to take from this is that you have a Father in heaven  who adores you and is keeping his promises even when we can’t see or feel it.

“… And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” 

Matthew 28:20 

Love,

Hannah xoxo

 

How to cope….

How to cope….

When depression hits what do you do?

Recently, this has been something that a lot of people seem to be asking about. As many of you know there are times when we feel we cannot get out of bed or face the day ahead. We don’t want to go on that night out we have been looking forward to for weeks or the thought of having to go to work leaves us feeling overwhelmed to the point we will break down in tears.

These are a few things I do in these moments  and ways that I can still get myself out of beds in the morning.

 

  • Music

Music is my life. Honestly, I listen to it day in and day out and I used to put on the music that fitted my mood, you know sad slow depressing music but I realised the negative impact it was having. So, I changed that. When I feel down one of the best things for me is to put on song that makes me want to dance. I have a playlist called “keep smiling” which I put on when I can’t drag myself out of bed. Although it won’t fix it all at once it usually helps me enough that I can immerse myself in it enough to start the day off and get out of my cave aka bed.

  • Shower and put on your favourite outfit

Even if it has taken me four hours to get out of bed I hop straight in the shower, I put on my music and take some time to myself before having to face the day ahead. Even if it is only in and out it always leaves me feeling a bit better and more refreshed. I then have a go to outfit that I know never fails me. It isn’t anything special just black jeans and a grey polo neck but I know that when I put it on I will never doubt what I’m wearing or wonder if I look “good” in it. I feel comfortable and that is SUPER important.

  • Exercise

This word used to have so many negative associations with it for me. I would force myself to go to the gym and always beat myself up if I didn’t work hard enough. Now I have learnt to only work as hard as I can manage that day but afterwards I always feel that bit better for doing some exercise. Some days all I can manage is a walk, others I need to go to the gym and push myself. It’s all about knowing how you feel that day. What I am sure of is no matter whether it was the toughest work-out I’ve ever done or it was just a 20 minute walk it makes me feel better.

  • Treat myself

Okay so I’m on a student budget and can’t be treating myself to holidays or clothes all the time. For me, my treat yo’self is getting a coffee, having a diet coke, buying a nice lunch or making one of my favourite meals. It doesn’t have to be anything big but I know that when I have something to look forward to that day it makes it feel achievable.

(**one thing I would say though is try not to treat yourself with alcohol – it’s a depressant and if you’re feeling low it isn’t the best idea)

  • Pray

I know not everyone understands this and the reason I believe in God, my Father, is a blog in itself. When I feel as if I can’t go on anymore I turn straight to him and it is yet to fail me. If I’m in my bedroom all by myself I wrap my arms around my legs and cry out to him, if I’m out and about it’s all in my head. God never says it was going to be easy, he just said he would be there for you (John 16:33; Philippians 1:6).  So far, he has always been there for me.

  • But most importantly….TALK

I have never been good at this and I will be the first to hold my hands up and admit this but talking always helps. I have people in my life I know I can trust and can go straight to when things do not feel they are going my way. It can be frustrating because I don’t always have a reason for feeling this way and that is what makes it so difficult to open up. Learn who the people are in your life who you can just tell you are feeling like crap that day and they’ll be there for you.

Sometimes though it is WAY too difficult to open up and I just can’t do it. For these days, I’ve started a document on my computer and I just open it up and type all my thoughts down. Half the time they aren’t coherent and I’m going around in circles but even just the act of BLURTING IT OUT helps release me from my despair enough to be proactive in feeling better and eventually lead to being able to tell someone.

Everyone has different ways to cope and please be aware that these are only mine. Nonetheless I hope that some of you can find that they might be able to help you out as well.

Much love,

Hannah xox