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

How to help…yourself


Yourself.

When it’s no longer just been a down day or a bad couple of weeks. Now you realise it’s turned into months and you’re feeling low all the time or like me you feel nothing…numb. How do you get help? How do you help yourself?

Firstly, I want to say it took me until I was 20 years old to get help, so I get it. It’s really really difficult to do something about it especially when you have no reason to feel this way and also don’t have words to explain how you feel. If you look back to my very first blog I refer to my emotion as “it” because it didn’t fit under any of the emotions we use as humans to express things. “It” kind of looks like a mixture of fog, grey clouds and a black hole all in one and I mean what does that even look like?

Tell someone

It took me to break down over a stats homework to finally pick up the phone to my dad and say I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had no explanation as to why, I had nothing more to tell him than I didn’t want to do it anymore. (Fortunately, I have the most amazing Dad and he knows exactly what to tell me and what to say in that moment.) But without a doubt it was the first step to getting better. Telling someone you can really depend on and trust whether that be a family member, a friend, maybe someone who has been through it will be the best decision you make, I promise ❤.

Whoever you choose, know they are ready and willing to listen. The people who love you DO NOT want you feeling this way so as scary as it is you will be pleasantly surprised. In fact, they have probably been worried about you for a while and telling them you will see the relief wash across their face as they now are going to be able to help you which is something they have wanted to do for so long.

Go to your GP

I tell you to do this and YOU SHOULD but I want to also point out that GP’s don’t always know what to do. It isn’t their fault, they have a 10minute slot with you before the next patient comes in, they have to know nearly every condition under the sun as well as trying to keep up with the latest medical research. Mental health isn’t a quick 10minute fix and most of them know this but still more than likely they will offer you medication, give you a few websites to look up and give you a phone number to refer yourself to a psychologist (which is a 6month waiting list).

All this information and what do you do with it? You’re too tired to get yourself out of bed never mind google these websites or pick up the phone to make an appointment? My advice would be to get the person who you told to help you. My mum was great and tried to help me get a psychologist, so she did a lot of the phone calls to get me the help I needed which was blessing because I used to shake until I felt sick if I had to phone someone. If possible get someone else to make the phone calls, help arrange the appointments and maybe even go with you to them…it might be good having some moral support beside you?

In terms of medication, I am fortunate enough that I study psychology and had a fair idea about the pros/cons of medication. I opted for medication because I needed anything to try and make it better without having to wait for another 6 months but even that was a journey in itself and you can read that in the road to recovery. Also, I think there is definitely a biological basis to mental illnesses so from the research I read I wanted to give that a try. However, now my first advise to anyone who has asked me about medication is try not and take it as a first option!! Hypocritical of me as it is exactly what I did but after experiencing it all myself I think other therapies are crucial in getting better like CBT is great and I would highly recommend!!!

The other stuff

So, you’ve told someone, you’ve been to the doctor and it is going to take time believe me I’m still going through the process and I don’t think I’ll reach the end anytime soon. So, what do you do if you need a bit of encouragement and motivation now? Well, read others stories, follow Instagram pages that inspire you, listen to music that makes you feel excited to do life again. I’m going to give you a list of books and websites that I have found really useful over the years and return to again and again when I need something to motivate me there and then.

Books:

  • Depressive illness: the curse of the strong by Tim Cantopher
  • Reasons to stay alive by Matt Haig
  • The heartache that no one sees by Shelia Walsh
  • Spurgeon’s sorrow: A realistic hope for those who suffer depression by Zack Ewsine

Websites:

If you have any questions about any of it or want me to go into detail in more of it shoot me a message

Much love,

Hannah

xoxox

How to help…

…a friend?

Being a friend watching from the outside I know how difficult it is to know exactly what to do when your friend hasn’t been themselves recently. You don’t know how to approach it but you also don’t want to ignore it.

Approach them as you usually would.

I know this sounds obvious but at time when you’re worried you can get ahead of yourself and ask 101 questions. Anyone with mental health issues knows the last thing they need is to feel as if they’re under police investigation. So just ask them the normal things, how they’re doing? How is work/studying/school? Have they got plans this week? Don’t pry don’t push just be normal. It’s a difficult thing telling people for the first time that you haven’t been yourself especially when you have no reason as to why it is so, just give it time.

 

Do something they know they would appreciate.

Buy them a coffee, spend some quality time with them, make them dinner whatever you know they will like. Don’t make a deal of it just do it as a nice gesture. With mental health issues whether it be anxiety, depression, schizophrenia etc. the person tends to believe the lie that they are unloved or no one likes them. Doing the small gestures that don’t seem that big a deal to you can change the world to them and remind them they have someone around them who is willing to stand by their side when they need it most. They are so much more likely to talk to you when they remember you really do care about them.

 

If they tell you  

LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN!!! I cannot emphasise this enough. The person struggling has being trying to figure it out for years and I’m sorry to say but it is highly likely that you’re input isn’t going to fix it. I do not doubt they have already thought of everything you are about to tell them. Sit and listen, don’t try to interrupt or put words in their mouths, don’t give them a solution – let them talk. It’s probably taken a lot of courage to tell you so please give them your full attention (*n.b. cup of tea may be necessary at this point*).

 

Advice

Firstly, I guess I would say to reassure them that you’re there for it whenever they need and you’re so glad that they’ve told you. Ask them if there is any way you can help, if they’re finding it difficult to get up in the morning you could offer to make them breakfast so they know they have a reason to get up and they also have the joy of seeing their friend without the hassle of deciding what to eat. Do they need to get out for a while; should you plan to meet up and go for a walk. Do they want to do more exercise; you could do a gym class together. The list is endless so think outside the box.

Secondly, it may that they just needed to get it off their chest and that has helped already but on the other hand you may realise they need more help than you can offer. Don’t force them but suggest to them to visit their doctor (**side note – I know it isn’t always the best thing and I will write a blog tomorrow in more detail about that**). You can offer to go with them for moral support or ask them if they want you to book the appointment because sometimes even lifting the phone to talk to someone can fill you with absolute fear that makes you speechless. The whole idea is make the process for them getting help as easy as possible for them.

 

At risk

If you think someone is at risk of hurting themselves then YOU NEED TO TELL SOMEONE. I can tell you from experience it is not the nicest thing in the world to do and it’s terrifying (sorry for not sugar-coating). I know the fears that they’re going to hate you for a while and they probably will but remember this is someone you care too much about them to let it pass you by. You’re doing them a favour. Usually, it is best to phone a family member their close to who you know would be good help but if you have absolutely no idea who to get in contact with then here are a list of helplines that you can get in touch with 24/7:

Samaritans: 116 123

Childline: 0800 1111

PAPYRUS: 0800 068 41 41

 

We’re all in this weird thing called life together, look out for each other

Love,

Hannah xoxox