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

Behind the scenes

I’ve never been very good at opening up. Yea big coming from me but honestly hiding behind a computer screen opening up is a lot easier than in person.

Let me show you two pictures…..

 

 

These were both from the same day 6 hours apart. The first one – the one the world sees; a smile, make up on, dressed up and confession edited (as if you didn’t already know).  The second, the one we never want to show the world, a tear stained, unfiltered/untouched face. The image of what is really underneath the smile.

I’m guessing you’re wondering why I’m showing you this? Well, because I want to show people the realness and consequences of mental illness, what it’s really like when you’re having that low day/period. What it feels like after the day is done, your make-up comes off, you’re in your pj’s and you’re alone.

I’ve opened up for the world about my illness, I’ve told those closest to me and I message people when I’m not okay but still…still I have these days when I can do nothing but crawl away to be by myself and sob until my head hurts, eyes are raw red from the tears and there is no water left in my body. Opening up is no longer an option but friends understand it isn’t because I don’t think there isn’t someone I can tell because there are more of you out there than I could ever imagine that are ready to pick up the pieces whenever I need.  However, the most difficult part of these days is the fact for being so open I just can’t find the words to talk – I become temporarily mute.

Please please please for anyone who finds themselves in a similar position and reading this don’t feel disheartened on these days. Don’t feel like it it’s a step back because simply, it’s not. Recovering from any illness, there are going to be days harder than others but the good days are coming, they really are I promise. Every once in a while it’s okay to be alone and cry, half the time it lets me wake up feeling so much better because all the emotion just needed released. One note, just don’t let it become habit.

6 hours apart…how can it change so quick? Hmm, your guess is as good as mine. Honestly, one day I can wake up and feel like I’m ready to skip, flip or cartwheel down the street then half way up that street I want to pull my hood up over my head, look to the floor and walk as fast as I can until I get to the end of it. Fellow sufferers, my friends, friends of sufferers I know it’s hard to take but our mood can change in an instant. We understand it’s so difficult for you to know what to do but just know you being there is enough, we may not seem like great company (sorry) but it helps having someone there even if it isn’t to talk and just do your own thing. Other times we need to go and be by ourselves. It’s never a reflection on you or what’s happened, it’s all in our heads – give us time we’ll come around again. The best thing for you guys as friends, supporters, hand holders to do is just read the situation and learn what is best to do for that person when it all changes so suddenly.

But… generally guys, keep doing what you’re doing because even if you feel insignificant in the situation you have no idea how much good it is doing underneath the surface.

Finally, for those suffering, take comfort. Even for those who think I outwardly appear to have “recovered”, I still have those times of struggling and times when darkness takes over. I have come a long way since this all began and it has taken years to get any degree of better but it’s not complete and that’s okay. I’m not as strong as I look all the time but as Shawn Mendes says (cringe)

“Hold on…there is so much life ahead of you”. 

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

 

Healing and Hope

I have depression.

Yes – sassy, crazy, centre of attention Hannah has depression.

We all have our secrets and that has been mine for the last 21 years.

But I also have something else in my life. I have Jesus.

For as long as I can remember I have been riddled with an emotion I came to call ‘It’. A lot of the time ‘it’ looks like a thick mist whist in a maze which is never ending, no matter how many more steps forward you take you can never see a clearing. It engulfs you, inhibits you, it takes away your characteristics creating a zombie. Sometimes it causes you to become a recluse never wanting to face another person again and at other times you do not want anyone to ever leave your side. It ruins relationships with family, friends and boyfriends, it stops you reaching achievements all because you cannot love or believe in yourself. It is something you can never fully explain to anyone because you cannot even explain it to yourself.

I know so many of you will be sceptical as you continue to read this but at least hear me out. I have grown up all my life hearing who this guy God was, understanding what it entailed to be that ‘perfect’ Christian. I heard the stories of all the great things he had done for other people, how others had been made completely better. Lucky them, right? How fortunate are they God is healing them so why not me? I’m not good enough for anyone, not even God. God loves everyone but me, I am yet to see any proof that he loves me. I battled with these thoughts and believed I couldn’t be healed because I could never be this ‘perfect’ Christian I had to be which eventually lead me to run away from my faith to seek assurance in anything but God.

I tried various different techniques and used numerous people over the years to try and heal it. I became a gym fanatic (which I still am but not for the same reasons), I became dependent on my appearance, I watched endlessly to see if the number of likes would increase on my latest post, I had to be the most popular and loved girl in school, and constantly relied on having a boy. Each of these, one at a time began to overrule my life all because in my head each one I tried MUST BE the solution.

I could not have been more wrong.

The day I was healed was the day I realised I needed nothing more than simply Jesus.

Knowing Jesus was the solution.

I had been on anti-depressants for 4 months after finally 20 years later I found the courage to admit I was not well. These drugs were continually upped until I was almost at the maximum dose possible – it still wasn’t working, I couldn’t see any future where happiness existed, at 20 years old I didn’t even understand what happiness felt like. However, finally one Saturday night this January (which I will never forget) I was healed. I sat in the snow with non-stop tears listening to the depressing playlist I had on repeat for weeks thinking of ways to make sure I wouldn’t see the next day or the one after that (you get the picture). Yet, for some unknown reason after 9 months of refusing to acknowledge Jesus I played the song ‘One thing remains’- Hillsong.

When I was younger I imagined the day I was healed to be a big wondrous miracle, like a musical on Broadway. It was nothing like that. It was quiet and dark with only me sat in the snow freezing my ass off, listening to the reminder that even when I fail his love never fails and he simply healed me. Somehow that night – I am yet to understand how – he reminded me he never asked me to be the ‘perfect’ Christian and I didn’t have to be to be healed he asked me to accept him as my saviour, he was all I needed. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.

Don’t get me wrong ‘it’ is part of me, it will never leave and every day I still have to take those tablets, without them I feel myself slipping back into the self-deprecating person I was. Healing has not come in the way humans expect it whereby it leaves and will never exists again such as when someone is healed of a physical illness. One thing I am certain of is that ‘it’ is still very much in my life but Jesus healed me by giving me the opportunity not to let ‘it’ rule my life but to let him rule my life.

Those who know me are very aware I am nowhere near this ‘perfect’ Christian and mess up every single day and will continue to do so (I am human). I still long for that relationship with a boy and to feel beautiful but when this happens I remind myself of the love I felt that night. Even when I hate myself and feel others hate me – he loves me, even when I cannot accept myself and it feels as if no one else accepts me – he accepts me. This is difficult to come to grips with and for some people it takes a lot longer than 21 years but it is possible for everyone. He wants to show you the love he has for you if you let him.

Clearly, I have grown up with Christianity surrounding me and so I don’t blame any of you for thinking it is all well and good for you having Jesus but he isn’t for me, he won’t change my life. Erm, negative. Jesus is for everyone and he wants you to accept the relationship he offers. In acts 10:34-35 it says “Truly I understand that God shows no particularity, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” There is no one God will not accept if you accept him. As I said I am the furthest thing from perfect which many of you will have seen multiple times (prominent example, nights out), I have messed up as much if not more than many of you reading this (if you want to know just ask) and will continue to do so. I am a sinner. But you know what Jesus himself said,

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

It was never that God was not healing me it was that I wasn’t letting him.

There is always healing and there is always hope.

Never give up.