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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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

When revision takes over

Revision time is always a period when my mental health takes a turn for the worst. I don’t actually know why this is because I LOVE studying (nerd.) but it always leaves me feeling really low.

So here are a few hints and tips I’ve learnt over the last 8 years when it comes to exam time….

1) PLAN PLAN PLAN

Seriously… plan. Sometimes it gets so overwhelming with so much to do and so little time – we all know the feeling.

So firstly, I have a massive poster on my wall where I write all the days of my exams in and shifts for work to give me the overall view/time frame.

Secondly, I have my dairy which is basically a daily planner. Every night (or sometimes morning) I plan my day to a T even to the time it will take me to get places. Okay, this sounds a bit insane but honestly my psychologist suggested it and it has been life changing!! Previously, I would stress myself out because I would plan one thing right after another then realise I didn’t have the time to actually get between the two events. Also, I used to study for hours on end without and break and it was really unproductive so by planning I always factor in times for a break.

2) Plan coffee breaks (tea, hot chocolate, cold drinks what ever takes you fancy)

This is the perfect excuse to catch up with all those friends you’ve been too busy to see throughout the year. I love this time because it means I have something to look forward to in the day and it means I get to see some of my favourite people ❤ this never fails to help ward off mental illnesses.

3) Go for walks

I just do not do well sitting down all day cause I get so bored so when I realise I’ve been sitting down too long I get up and go for a walk – whether that be outside or just a wee nosey round the library it always helps me refocus. Also in case you didn’t realise I LOVE taking pictures so going for a walk always gives me some insta content (LOL). So…. Get your self up off your arse and use the legs you were given, get some fresh air and let your brain re-calibrate.

4) Have a good music playlist

Music is life. Well for me it is as I honestly listen to it 24/7 (I swear there is even music in my dreams). If you are like me and need music to study make sure you have a playlist that makes you feel like that independent women (or man) that you are. You need those songs that make you feel as if nothing can stop you and you are on top of the world. So before you start those long library slogs or before the one start tomorrow make a really REALLY good pick-you-up playlist!!!

5) Targets

Sometimes we go through a 7 hour library day and come out wondering what we actually got done?! You ended up feeling so deflated and unmotivated meaning you feel like CRAP! Set (realistic) targets then by the end of the day you can tick them off and actually look back and realise you absolutely smashed the day. If you don’t reach them all – that’s okay there is always tomorrow or maybe you tried to cram to much into that day. At the end of the day if you’ve ticked off one of your targets you did more than you thought.

6) Change your environment

Finding those four walls around you are making you go insane and you’re starting to hallucinate. Get your stuff and get out. You don’t need to imprison yourself to the same place day in day out, it you find you’re no longer getting anywhere go try somewhere else. Maybe a coffee shop, a different library, a friends house, go outdoors and take some reading you need to get done, your living room. The list is endless – be creative with it and you’ll surprise yourself with how much a different environment can help.

7) If you’re unproductive –STOP!

People hate hearing that – I’ve heard all the comments “Oh, I don’t have enough time” “I have sooo much to do” – okay cool but seriously the more you sit and stare at the screen the less you are going to get done and I’m telling you this from experience. I used to push through and got maybe a total of 2 slides from a lecture done in 3 hours. Now when I know work is going no where I do one of three things – go to the gym, make food or read articles. Everyone is different and enjoy different things so find things that you enjoy doing that take about and hour or so note them down then use them.

8) Laugh

CHEESY AND CRINGY.

I know but do you have a picture/video that always makes you laugh? Maybe your like me and the memes people tag you in make you laugh out loud. Just remember no matter how down you feel find at least one thing in the day that will make you laugh. Every smile counts ❤

Happy revision guys,

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”.