Mental vs. Physical

One thing I didn’t realise is that mental health and physical health are interlinked.

Let me take you back to third year of university. This is when my mental health reached absolute rock bottom and I finally broke down giving recognition to the fact that something really wasn’t right. I noticed I couldn’t concentrate as well, I couldn’t complete my uni work and my grades were falling significantly. I also realised I was finding friendships taxing, I didn’t want friends and having any sort of dating life was a disaster. I could get my head around this, I understood that a low mental state could cause these things. What I didn’t realise is the impact mental illness can have on your physical health as I believed they were two entirely separate entities.

Sports have always been a big part of my life from primary school right up until this present day especially netball. I’d been playing netball for the Uni team for two years by the time third year came around. Everyone’s fitness decreases after the summer break because let’s be serious we just treat ourselves all da time right?! So, I didn’t realise at first that the lack of fitness was out of the ordinary. As the weeks went on and I should have been getting fitter I appeared to be dropping out of fitness sessions earlier and earlier. Every time I ran my body felt like lead and I couldn’t move any faster. My head was telling me I was a failure and how could I be so unfit; I would need to hit the gym hard but the harder I worked the more unfit I became. The problem was although I was going hard in the gym and doing the clean eating thing my mental health was affecting my body in ways I couldn’t even see.

Fast forward to about two months ago, I went back home to the UK from New Zealand and I started to feel sick every time I thought about food or ate. I was never finishing a full meal which used to be easy peasy. Obviously, there is a level of jet lag that throws you off course and you never know what day it is so it is no surprise that your appetite goes. However, as it started going on 4 weeks and my appetite still hadn’t returned I realised there was more going on. The anxiety that had come over at the thought of leaving my family and friends again had once more taken a physical toll and what started off as a mental issue had translated into a physical one.

At one stage there would have been no way you could have convinced me that physical and mental health were related. Yet, the more life goes on and the more I learn about my depression I realise the two are so closely connected.

There seems to be the “physical health buzz” with all the new healthy eating and gymspiration instagrams around but in the same way we need to get on the “mental health buzz” it’s just as important, if not more important, than your physical health.

At one point people didn’t brush their teeth because they didn’t realise the benefit of it and now people wouldn’t think twice about not brushing your teeth. If you have a tooth ache you wouldn’t thinking twice about not going to the dentist. Well, let’s make looking after your mental health just as important to the point where we won’t think twice about taking a mental health day off work or going to the doctors when we need help or taking time away from situations to recalibrate ourselves.

Self-love peeps, self-love. ❤

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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…

…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