Thursday, April 28, 2016

10 Ways To Get Intimacy Back

Let's get personal! Mental illness, mood changes and stressful situations can put strains on relationships. Depression and anxiety and the medication that goes with them can also lower your sex drive. Along with your partner seeing you go through something so tough and in most cases while you are pushing them away, it can get hard for both of you. A strong relationship will survive and in time you will feel close again, if not even closer for going through a tough time together. So how can you make sure you're still being intimate with you partner without the pressure of having sex?
  1. "I love you"- are you still telling your partner that you love and appreciate them? Sometimes actions speak louder than words but make sure you are vocal about how you feel either verbally, in a text, in a letter
  2. turn the tv off and put down your phone- cuddle up on the sofa together even if it's in silence and just be together without any distractions- a conversation might begin or you might just sit in silence holding hands
  3. do the small things together- whether it's the washing up or doing the grocery shop together you're working as a team and helping each other out
  4. pillow time- lay together in bed and look into each other's eyes- this can get emotional for some people when times are tough and you can see sadness in someone's eyes but it helps you feel connected
  5. sleeping positions- laying back to back, cuddling up, hooking your legs, anything that's close and skin to skin is always more intimate and can be comforting
  6. the magic cup of tea- small gestures when you're at your worst mean so much to the other person and if they know how you're feeling they'll appreciate the effort it took
  7. backrubs- you don't have to be an expert at massage, rubbing someone's back can be really comforting
  8. sharing is caring- it;s built into us by animal instinct that if someone shares food with you then they care for you, sharing food, drink, your pillow, a blanket, your hoody are all little ways to say "I want you to have this too"
  9. opening up- trying your best to explain how you feel, sharing a thought or a memory, being vulnerable in conversation are all ways to build a connection with a loving partner
  10. love taps- the slightest touch shows affection to a partner and it could be a kiss or holding their hand to resting your head on them or anything small- it just says "I'm here with you" in the cutest way
If you think this might help you then let your partner read it with you and talk about what they would like to do more of. Remember nothing sexual at this point. Any of these could lead to more but it's about feeling close and not having that pressure. 

For partners don't presume these things will lead to more. If you try to make a move every time your partner wants to cuddle or hold your hand they might end up wanting to run away. Mental illness can change everything for a person. I didn't want to be cuddled or talk to much or be around anyone at certain times but my partner needed me to do that for him and our relationship. He understood how I felt but at the same time felt pushed away. Work at it together and you'll come through it a stronger couple.

Much love,
Becky xx

Monday, April 25, 2016


This is a subject that I have been unsure about talking about... bereavement. Everybody has a completely different experience of bereavement. It depends on the relationship you had with the person, the circumstances, the aftermath, your view on death and so many more factors. So the only way I can do this is to explain how I felt. Some of you will agree, some will disagree and some just won't understand or have anything to compare this to but that's fine, we are all individuals. Here's my story...

In January 2011 I lost my dad. My dad was my whole world, my hero, protector, best friend, teacher, the shaper of my personality and the man who helped me find myself and my beliefs. I have his hair, nose, smile, sense of humor, taste in music and a hell of a lot of memories.

We knew we would lose dad and watched him go very quickly from a strong 42 year old man to a lifeless shell in a chapel of rest within the space of 5 months. I'm so grateful we knew it would happen. It meant I could be there. It meant when he passed I was holding his hand at home. I sat with his body and talked to him about how proud I was of him and that he would be ok while we waited for the funeral directors to come. I visited him in the mortuary to make sure he was 'ok' and I was able to be involved in his funeral and attend. Some people don't get some or any of these opportunities.

I was devastated beyond belief. Not only to feel how I felt but to see my mum in the same way. After the funeral I felt in a completely different world and just dazed by what had happened. I felt very physically ill. Drained, sick, confused, headache, joint ache, dry skin, stomach cramps. I kept losing my breath and trembling. Then the anger came. 

Anger at everything. Anger at the overweight, heavy smoking, drinkers outside the pub that should be the ones who had dad's illness, not someone so healthy. Angry at the people that had disappeared after telling me how they'd do anything to support us and come and visit regularly but didn't come once. Angry at the amount of messages I was receiving from other people telling me they're not coping but they were never that involved to begin with. How dare they! Of all people to say that too. Angry at myself for not somehow knowing he was ill sooner. Even angry at people for being near me. Angry at the ones who wanted me to explain my feelings because they thought I was 'coping too well.' For me this was the most destructive and heart-wrenching part of bereavement. Beating yourself up and hating everything. Everyone who said I was taking it too well made me want to lash out at them or shout them down but I didn't have the energy.

After this phase came great sadness. I had accepted quite quickly what had happened and that it was part of life. I have a very matter of fact view of illness, life and death when I'm thinking clearly. No matter how unfair it seemed we had lost people in our family at younger ages, children have diseases and don't survive, fatal accidents and disaster can happen to anyone. It was unfair but something that at the same time is natural. We live, we die.

I found comfort in knowing that many people live till old age and die without having the amazing relationship we had. I became very grateful. I had an amazing dad for 22 years of my life and many people would cry out for either that amount of time or that kind of relationship. I felt pride. Proud of him for everything he achieved in life. Proud of him as a dad and a husband to my mum. Proud of the friendships he built with people. Proud of the way he held the family together.

At first it was hard to know what I was 'allowed' to do. Can I feel happy? Can I enjoy life? It took a long time to come to a point where I was ok. To be able to have a good night's sleep. To wake up without feeling fear. To not feel guilty for laughing and smiling and wanting to go places or do something I enjoyed.

Now I talk about dad everyday and think of him more than a few times every day. I smile at his photo's. I remember times and suddenly smile or laugh because they were hilarious! I have days where I crumble and just need him with me. I constantly wish he was with my mum. If I could bring him back just for her and not get to see him myself I would. I know he would be very proud of what I do and if I really think about it I know what answers he would give me and what advice he might say for the majority of times I wish I could speak with him.

Bereavement is a very personal journey. For me this bereavement was worse than my lowest point of depression or any anxiety I've felt or any panic attack I've had. It is probably the most physically unwell I have ever felt and the most exhausted I'll ever be. But it is something that I have come through and so will others.

Much love,

Becky xx

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

The Science of Depression

We're getting all technical today and looking at the science behind depression. When I was first diagnosed I just couldn't understand how I felt or how it was in fact an illness. I heard people talk about mood, personality, feelings but not illness when it came to depression. I felt ill, in pain, confused, possessed almost by something else and as if I was shutting down and deteriorating. I felt like my intelligence, balance, memory, speech, emotions and health were all draining away and it was terrifying. I started my anti-depressants but these take some time to kick in and at first made me feel worse and gave me a lot of side effects. 

I was no closer to understanding depression after watching vlogs, documentaries or reading comments on forums. So I looked at the science and it made so much sense to me. It was an illness and I was a 'normal' depressed person feeling the effects that could be corrected and healed. Here's what I found out and it really comforted me to know:

In the brain there are four chemicals that make us feel happy and these are...

  • serotonin- high levels for happiness and low levels for sadness
  • dopamine- the striving emotion that makes you feel good
  • oxytocin- the cuddle hormone triggered by social bonding
  • endorphins- mask pain and discomfort so you push on
These chemicals play a huge role in controlling our mood. Whether they are high, low or being blocked from reaching the receptors in your brain, they make a big difference to how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically.

Brain connections and growth can be affected and the area in the brain known as the hippocampus, the part that controls your emotions and memory, gets smaller the longer you have depression and deteriorates. BUT it can be stimulated to grow new neurons, so it won't be gone forever. 

You might remember in another blog post I talked about feeling as though there was an electrical storm in my brain and it was as though I could physically feel the connections and changes going on up there. Well this was actually happening. I wasn't imagining it or just suffering from headaches. At first it felt as though I needed to get to the hospital before my brain shut down and this heightened my anxiety. I thought I was having some sort of brain trauma that needed emergency medical attention. It was so painful and intense but after knowing this it made sense and made me calmer that I wasn't physically ill or in any danger.

Scientists found that genetically you may be more prone to depression. You have a serotonin transport gene and receive two copies, one from each parent. These can be short or long. If your genes consist of two short copies you are most likely to become depressed, one short copy and one long you have a higher chance than average and people with two long copies are less likely to be depressed (this doesn't mean they won't be though as life events play a huge role). This explains why some families seem to have multiple members who suffer from depression, like one side of my family. Although we have all had something to trigger depression we may have been more prone to it to begin with. This helped me accept that I may be more likely to become depressed and with the events that have gone on I was actually doing really well to only just be affected now.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and links to behaviour, cognition, motivation, sleep, mood, attention, sexual gratification, memory and learning. It can affect our emotional responses and when it isn't transmitted properly our responses can become different to usual. For example laughing when you are angry or feeling sad but not showing emotion. Low dopamine will make you feel low in energy and demoted. This also explained why I felt so numb and blank as my emotions weren't being controlled properly. I had confusion, trouble sleeping and couldn't hold attention which all links to low dopamine.

The best example I found of this was an article saying someone who is low in dopamine may wish they were dead but wouldn't have the energy or motivation to end their life. Antidepressants give your dopamine an initial boost so then you may feel as though you wished you were dead and suddenly have more energy which can increase suicidal thoughts. Hence why anti-depressants can make you feel worse before you feel better. I found with my tablets that I didn't think about suicide but I did have worrying thoughts like hoping I would become hospitalised with an illness so I could rest or thinking about causing myself an injury for the same reason, but not death.

If you read the side effect labels of most antidepressants you will see how they link to low dopamine as they say that depression may cause; mood swings, insomnia, drowsiness, failure to orgasm, confusion, suicidal thoughts and so on.

Once you know how these chemical work and just how much they can affect you then you start to understand depression. When you hear that your brain activity and signals are almost rewired then you realise how much of an illness depression is. It is not a mood or state of mind like a lot of people would want you to believe, you cannot choose to have it or get over it. You are ill.

NOTE: After speaking to a friend of mine who studied psychology up to a doctorate level, she warned me of how she wouldn't recommend antidepressants to each depressed person, because each person is depressed due to different reasons. Antidepressants that work as SSRI's work by increasing serotonin levels, but they would therefore only work best for people who have lowered serotonin and this is not the only reason someone maybe depressed, neither is a chemical imbalance. Someone may be depressed due to another illness, chronic pain, a life event, social reasons, psychological reasons and so much more. 

The antidepressants that are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may make some people feel worse or suicidal rather than better. But for others may work well, each person is individual. The way to  tell whether someone is high or low in serotonin is with a blood test which many doctors do not use before prescribing an SSRI. It is worth speaking to your doctor if you find that your type of antidepressants don't agree with you or if you would like to find the root cause of your depression.

Much love,
Becky xx

Monday, April 04, 2016

Self Appraisal Exercise

I've been thinking about a recent response I left to a blog comment about self appraisal...

It got me to think of how you could do this and get the most out of it, so I have created an exercise that you could do. Whether it's once a month or every few months or you want to do it each week that's up to you but it gives you something to concentrate on. It also lets you take a look at yourself in a balanced way. I was always told to deliver a criticism in a 'compliment sandwich'. "your idea is really inventive, we might need to make a small change but apart from that I think it will work really well." It's all about making a criticism softer and focusing on what's good. Here is my idea to try:
The idea is to start at a negative circle: 'I want to be more' 'I need to work on' 'bad habits' 'I want to start'. It doesn't matter which one you start at as long as you work around the circle. This means that every time you write something negative about yourself, you follow it with a positive. If you get stuck on a positive then you can't continue until you have thought of something. If you are stuck on a negative then move on. The biggest achievement for me would be to struggle to find a negative about myself yet find positives.

The idea after you have written this is to see how things link together. For example in mine it says I want to be more active and start swimming again so by swimming I'd reach two of my goals. My positives include my home, husband and family so by being around them more and making sure my home is more organised, as mentioned, then this should keep me content.

However you do it, whether it's written, verbal to someone or thoughts to yourself why don't you give it a go. A positive for each negative. Let me know how it goes.

Much love,

Becky xx

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Dear Becky

Dear Becky,

I'm so proud of how you are doing now and how far you have come. You've dealt with mental illness in all it's ugly glory and come out of it a more enlightened person. Your blog seems to be doing well and is hopefully helping others like you wanted it to do. Saying this I don't want to put a downer on things but I am a little worried.

You started at rock bottom and worked your way back up. You came up with strategies and plans to help but you don't seem to stick to things and old habits came back. I'm worried these old habits will drag you back down. You have the answers so why not practise what you preach?! You've slipped back to late nights on the internet and then getting up late. You're eating better but still binge on sugar when you know it doesn't agree with you and can affect your mood. You forget to take your tablet sometimes and that makes you feel strange. You used to love swimming and Zumba before but have become less active. I know you are concentrating on working full time and on your blog but you need to be selfish. That's your downfall. You don't put yourself first.

If you really thought about it you'd get to bed earlier, wake up at a decent time to have a good breakfast and have cuddles with your husband and your dog before work because that makes you feel ready for the day. You'd continue your blog but not obsess over how many views it has or if it's promoted enough. People are reading it so it must be doing some good out there. You need to get outdoors more. You love the outdoors; camping, glamping, the sea, forests, the fresh air. Yet you're starting to sleep in and stay at home. I don't think you are doing things wrong you are just not doing them right for you. Things could be better and you deserve them to be the best they can.

I really hope you take my advice and remember I love you.

Much love,

Yourself xx

As a personal challenge can you write a letter to yourself? I found it very therapeutic and hope it can help you too.

Much love,

Becky xx