Thursday, May 26, 2016

Budgeting For Mental Illness

This may seem like a strange topic but it is important to think about the financial implications of a mental illness. There are a few reasons why being money savvy is important for your mental health...

  1. money can be one of the biggest worries people have and you need to minimise stress
  2. if your mental illness causes you to take time off work or cut down your hours this will impact on your income
  3. you may have medical bills or therapy bills depending on the type of health care in your country or the private help you have chosen
  4. spare money can be spent on the things you love and things that make you feel calm and happy
  5. organising bills and keeping track of your money gives you some responsibility and control back that mental illness can often take away
So here are a few money management tips that might help...

Stock Up- when you have money spare stock up on things you will need in the future. I always make sure my pantry (larder) and my bathroom cupboard are stocked with sauces, canned food, cleaning products, beauty and body products, etc... so that if we have a month where we need to be careful with money then we can work our way through the things we already have. They are all things that have a long shelf life so they can be stored but don't go over the top just make sure you can take a month or two off buying these products if needed

Groceries- keeping an eye on deals and finding better prices without cutting back on the food you love will help you watch the pennies. It can help to write a meal plan for the week and then make a shopping list from that if you find you tend to throw out food. A meal plan also makes sure you are eating properly and you can plan in mood boosting foods

Plan Ahead- work out how much money you need each month and what you have coming in. You may have one off bills such as car insurance once a year so make sure you budget for this and don't spend all your savings or spare money in the months leading up to it.

Bills- I have bills that I pay monthly but aren't by direct debit. This means I can overpay when we have spare money so in the future I can have a cheaper month because I'm ahead with my payments. We also have meters fitted for our electric and gas that we top up and I do the same with these so that I can miss a month if needed.

Debt- if you are in debt seek financial help from independent, free and trusted advice services. They can deal with repayment plans and speak on your behalf to the companies you owe money to. They may also have the power to stop interest being added onto existing bills.

Savings- even if you don't have a reason to save up for anything it's always good to have some money put by for a rainy day.

Shop Around- use comparison sites to look for better deals on utilities, insurances, holidays, phone deals and many more bills and purchases. 

0% Finance- there are a number of things you can buy on 0% finance. If you can afford to pay something in one go then do it but if you know you'd be better spreading the cost and can afford to keep up with it try 0% finance. It means you still pay the same amount but over a period of time, finance is always better for essential purchases, anything that is just a wanted item I wouldn't recommend being in debt for.

Prioritise- make sure you pay for the important things first before treats and pay anything where a late payment would mean having to pay a fine or added interest

Declutter- I've mentioned in a previous blog how it can help your mental wellbeing to declutter your home but you can turn this into a money maker by putting your unwanted items on selling websites or having a car boot or yard sale. It also helps you see if you have a lot of one particular item that you tend to rebuy or if you have certain items you never use.

Skill Swap- you may be able to swap skills with a friend or associate to benefit you both. For example if you are a baker and your friend is a hairdresser you might agree that you'll make a birthday cake for their partner if they'll cut and dye your hair. Just make sure the work is like for like and you're not out of pocket buying materials to complete the job.

Presents- set a budget for presents and stick to it. Remember it's the thought that counts not the money you spend and there are 'free' gifts you can give such as writing coupons for a friend to do their ironing or gardening. If you are crafty you could make a gift or cook for someone. You may decide with friends or family that you won't buy presents for each other and will just visit instead to celebrate a special occasion.

Top Tips- shopping at outlet stores, hair and beauty treatments by apprentices/ beauty collages, try your luck and ask for deals and discounts, some business give you discounts or treats on your birthday, loyalty cards and point schemes that are free to join and use, early bird deals, having a 'no spending' day, week or month to challenge yourself, keeping a change jar, make a list of free activities or days out that you can choose from on your days off, on shopping trips take a set budget out with you

Transport- if it costs less to get off the bus or train early and gives you a safe walk home this saves money and a brisk walk helps you boost your endorphin levels, try walking rather than driving if you have a short, safe journey you can take too

If you find you are overspending try and figure out why. Is it for comfort? Is it to show love? Is it out of boredom? If your finances are suffering try to take a small amount of cash out with you and leave your bank card at home or ask your partner or parents to help you budget your money. You could open a separate savings and bills account and a spending account so that you know you are taken care of for the month financially and how much spare money you have. If you are getting to the point of debt or in debt there are free debt advice companies out there that can help. If you feel that your depression and overspending are linked it is worth taking to your GP or psychologist so they can help you manage it.

Much love,


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Coming Off My Medication

2 days ago I stopped taking my low dose antidepressant. I did this without consulting my doctor (please don't do that) as last time I saw them they said it would cause no harm for me to just stop (even so I should of seen them first). I am going to request a doctor's phone call tomorrow to update them and let them know how I'm doing.  I wanted to share with you my decision making...

Why now?
I was on the lowest dosage of my medication and felt I no longer needed them to function. I feel in a positive place with my mental health and that I am coping well. I have a few days holiday from work so I can rest and get used to it and my husband is off with me so I am not alone during the first week of stopping my medication.

What's your focus?
My husband and I are focused on starting a family early next year. I wanted to be drug free and then give myself enough time to get used to it and make sure I definitely don't need the medication. I don't want to be trying for a baby without being in top shape physically and mentally. It's also not medically advisable to be pregnant whilst on my tablets or immediately after.

Do you have any tablets left?
Yes and these need to be taken to my local pharmacy so they can dispose of them properly.

What will you do instead of medication to help keep depression and anxiety at bay?
  • TALK- to my GP, husband, mum, you lovely people, my friends, whoever I need to whenever I need to and I will be letting my work colleagues know
  • light exercise- I want to start Zumba again and go for longer walks with my dog
  • healthy eating and serotonin boosting foods and keep myself hydrated
  • plenty of sleep and rest
  • avoid unnecessary stressful situations and upsetting stories in the media
  • cuddle!
  • relax- herbal tea, scented candles, sit in the garden, a long bath with calming music
  • take time to reflect and breathe- meditation
Are you having any physical side effects?
  • slight dizziness with a few mild head pains/twinges
  • my hands keep feeling a little fuzzy/numb
  • sensitive skin and overheating a little
  • anxiety levels are slightly heightened but bearable
I will be mentioning these to my doctor tomorrow to see if there are any I should be worried about and I'm going to avoid driving, heavy lifting and be careful on the stairs as a precaution until the dizziness stops.

How are you feeling?
Positive but a little anxious. My tablets are not addictive but psychologically I know they helped me cope so it's a big thing to no longer have them as a crutch. I'm taking it easy and resting when needed so I don't feel stressed or overwhelmed. I am constantly telling my husband how I feel physically and mentally and he is really supportive, it helps knowing he's with me in this and that he is monitoring my health.

Do I recommend it?
NOBODY can recommend what is right for you and your mental health. I don't know you, your mental illness, your struggles, your cause of mental illness or how you would cope without your medication. I don't know the tablets you have, your medical history, your dosage or whether it is medically advisable for you to stop them now. You need to think it through yourself and discuss it with your doctor. Although I stopped mine myself I previously spoke to my doctor about this, the side effects I might face and my state of mind. Seek medical advice from a trusted professional. It is you that needs to make the decision for yourself and be motivated and willing to not have them.

UPDATE: Day 5 withdrawal symptoms. OH DEAR ME! 

Well it's not that fun... The flu like symptoms are a bit stronger today with joint ache and sudden hot flushes and the tingling feeling in my lower arms is still persisting. The dizziness is on and off throughout the day but has definitely improved a lot and I've had some strange dreams but at least they're not nightmares just a little weird. My concentration is a little off but nothing that is overly noticeable.

On the plus side, and yes after all the moaning there is a plus side, I feel good! My emotions seem to be behaving as they should be and responding appropriately. I'm getting a good nights sleep. I feel active but need to rest when certain symptoms pop up.

I knew it would be no walk in the park. Although it's a low dosage my body has been used to my tablets for around 10 months and come to expect them. I've learnt to never underestimate medication and how your body can become reliant on it for periods of time.

My doctor has confirmed that these symptoms sound normal and are signs of drug withdrawal. To put my mind at ease I have been using the charity website Mind and visited this page...

Coming off psychiatric drugs

I found it really useful and would recommend it to anyone thinking of coming off their medication, as something to look at before speaking with your doctor. Mind is a trusted source of information as they are a regulated mental health charity.

Much love,

Becky xx

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Is It Good Advice?

Have you noticed that even the people who say they have no knowledge or experience of mental illness seem to give you advice? The people who know it all too well will give you advice. The doctor, counsellor or psychiatrist you see will advise you. There's advice forums, websites, leaflets, apps.... advice everywhere! But how do you know if it is good advice?.
  1. Who is giving the advice? Are they a professional or someone who understands what you are going through? Many people who have no idea about mental illness will have their say but you need to think about their relationship to you and their motive. A good friend may give you ill informed advice but be coming from a good place and trying to help whereas your boss may be giving you advice for the ulterior motive to get you back to work quicker because they are short staffed. You will soon realise the people who are trying their best to think of ways to support you and the people who give you a quick answer without care or thought.
  2. What are they saying? Think about what they have said and how you feel about it. Does it sound like a good idea? Does it sound helpful? Do you want to use that advice? Is it kind? Where did they get the advise from- experience, knowledge, hearsay?
  3. Why are they saying it? Are they trying to think of ideas to help you or have they lost their patience with you and suggested something for their sake? 
  4. Is it harmful? There is a big difference between someone suggesting you try to get some fresh air and someone suggesting you stop taking your medication. Always think whether taking the advice could harm your health and/or mental well-being in anyway. If you are unsure you can always consult your doctor.
Websites and forums...

Be particularly careful of information from strangers online. There are many official mental health sites you can use and many have a Twitter account BUT there are some that are not monitored and some that are very harmful. I was trolled on Twitter and feel if I had been in a more vulnerable place what they said could have really affected me deeply.

Most importantly...

Remember that if someone gives you advice (no matter who they are) it is up to you to decide whether you want to act on that advice or not. If it feels right and you're happy to do it then give it a go but if you doubt it then don't. You will know what is best for you. If you are not in the right frame of mind to decide what to do then find someone you can trust like a healthcare professional, partner, trusted friend or mental health professional to help you make decisions you are struggling with.

What would I tell myself?

Although people's advice may be coming from a kind place it's hard for someone else to tell you what you need to do. Even if they have been through the same mental illness it doesn't mean you are having the same experience and advice isn't one size fits all. So if I go through depression again it needs to be me that gives the advice. So I thought it might be best to write down my advice now and look at it whenever I might need to hear it again. I would tell me...
  • you've done it before you can do it again
  • this isn't the real/new you- we'll get you back
  • speak up about what you think and feel
  • there's no pressure to get better quickly
  • eat- even if it's just a snack and keep hydrated
  • get some fresh air
  • don't watch the news, anything scary or surreal
  • have a bath wrapped in a towel if you want to feel less vulnerable
  • don't try to guess what's coming next
  • you'll feel very ill and almost like you're bodies shutting down but it's your mind playing tricks
  • don't stare at the mirror it confuses and upsets you
  • take a break from social media
  • the side effects are temporary
  • sleep when you can
  • if you have dangerous thoughts tell someone quickly
  • say thank you to your husband and mum and tell them you love them
  • you are amazing
I just hope that I'll listen to me if needed!

Much love,
Becky xx

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Depression Misconceptions

I want to share with you some misconceptions about depression that I often come across. These can be things I hear from people, see on the television, hear in song lyrics or see portrayed by the media. They can be very offensive to anyone who suffers with depression and harmful to helping them heal. 

The more that people understand the less stigma people with depression face and the more people can support their loved ones who suffer. It's easy to be judgemental as you really can't understand how it feels or affects a person unless you experience it. So here are my top ten offenders...
  1. "I've never met anyone with depression."- the chances are you have because 1 in 4 people will experience it each year. Not everyone greets you with "hi I'm Tom, I have depression" and people don't tend to wear t-shirts with "I'm depressed" printed on them. It's also very hard to hear this if you are depressed and feeling very alone. It's almost as if they are justifying your thoughts of "I'm the only one." Depression is very common.
  2. "Trauma causes depression."- it can but not always. It can be a chemical imbalance, come from another illness, lifestyle choices, environmental factors, medications, drug abuse and so much more. Trauma may cause another type of mental illness or no mental illness at all.
  3. "They're not a very strong person."- you need a huge amount of mental strength to live with and get through depression. Often depressed people have had to be strong for a very long time.
  4. "Depressed people feel sad and emotional."- for me it is feeling numb and void of emotion, everyone is different and you need to understand that depression affects everyone differently.
  5. "It's not a physical illness."- depression is classed as a mental illness but it can feel very physical and has side effects that are uncomfortable, painful and irritating.
  6. "You don't look/act depressed."- depression is yet to have it's own fashion! There is no look or action that relates to depression. People can put on a front or hide how they feel and what they are thinking. They may have avoided you in their darkest times so you haven't actually seen them depressed.
  7. "It's all for attention."- ARGH!!! It is a mental illness and not a choice. For a lot of depressed people they prefer to be alone or avoid physical contact, eye contact or company during their darkest times so it is definitely not for attention. Cries for attention may happen because that person needs help and support not because they want the attention.
  8. "Depressed people are suicidal."- depression does not mean you are suicidal or a self harmer. Some people will have suicidal thoughts but not act upon them. Depression does put people at a higher risk of becoming suicidal but there are other mental illnesses that can lead to suicide attempts too. If you think someone or yourself is suicidal seek help immediately through a crisis team, help line or your doctor.
  9. "You're being selfish."- one of the most hurtful comments you could say to someone with depression. They have no choice in the matter and often can't control their thoughts, words and actions when depression takes over.
  10. "Men are mentally stronger than women, only weak men get depressed, women are emotional anyway."- NO! Men and women who have depression or a mental illness are not weak. Mental illnesses and depression do not dictate the strength of someone's character or their ability to live with it. Depression does not discriminate it can affect anyone. You can't be too manly to become depressed and you can't be too weak or emotional for depression to be a normal state of mind. Treat people as individuals.
Are there any comments you have heard that you feel need some light shed on them?

Much love,
Becky xx

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Delayed Emotions

This might only be me that does this or it might be more common than I think but does anyone else have delayed emotions?

A lot of the time I go through the motions but with no emotion. Whether it's an argument that I start for no reason, a sad song or happy news I can still feel very numb about it. 

Yesterday I started an argument with someone I love and didn't even realise they were really upset about it until someone else pointed it out. I apologised because I knew that's what I should do but still felt nothing. It was like I was totally detached from the situation and the other person, even though I love them.

It wasn't until today whilst I was at work that I suddenly felt the emotions. Probably around 24 hours too late. I was upset that I had argued. I was really upset that I had hurt them like that. I was annoyed at myself for not realising what I was doing at the time. I felt guilty for everything. I'm used to the numb feeling happening and going through the motions of things but not this delay. 

I find it hard in these situations too because whoever that was inside me yesterday that acted like that WAS NOT me. So do I apologise for my illness? I apologised for arguing but what about the complete lack of empathy or feelings? I explained I feel like this sometimes and it's not me but I can't say I'm sorry for being ill. That would mean I have some sort of choice and control in the matter and I didn't. I'm sorry it happened though, very sorry.

I don't know the reason for it and there's no excuse. I just know that yesterday was depressed Becky talking and I'm really annoyed with her for making an appearance.

Much love,

Becky xx

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Foul Mouthed Blogger

I won't be dropping the F bomb but we will be talking about swearing. What does it have to do with my blog? It's the link that has been made between swearing and stress relief and swearing and pain relief that I want to share with you.

I Swear I'm Stressed!

Psychologists from the Keele University in England found that swearing is a way we can cope with emotion and vent it. They found that when you become frustrated it can be one of the best ways to get it out of your system. They even discovered that the more frustrated you are the more likely you are to come out with a variety of swear words, so you could get quite creative with your cursing.

I Swear That Hurt!

Although unsure on how it helps there has been research that shows swearing when we are in pain can help to reduce the pain we feel and help us endure lasting pain. Apparently if you constantly swear anyway then it doesn't work as well because the curse word becomes just another word to you. But if like me people look honestly shocked when you let out a swear word then this could work well! So next time you drop something on your foot, get a papercut or even have a tattoo, be safe in the knowledge that you can let out a bad word for your own good. Maybe not in front of children, so you may have to mutter or mouth the word instead and definitely not in front of my Great Grandma or you will be in more pain from the smacked legs you'll get!

Do I Swear?

Yes and no. I still get that naughty feeling if I swear in front of anyone during conversation and I rarely swear. I might say it as a joke but always feel as though it's something I shouldn't do. Now when frustrated or in pain, that is a totally different kettle of fish! 
When driving and someone cuts me off they get full barrelled insults, when annoyed the F word becomes an adjective and a noun and if I hurt myself then usually one word gets repeated until the pain dies down. In these cases I don't feel bad about it at all. I find it almost unbearable not to swear in one of these occasions where I know I can't be a foul-mouthed sailor for a moment, such as in front of children. It actually becomes painful not to let it out, and sometimes saying "oh sugar" just doesn't cut it.

Choose your words and moments wisely!

Much love,

Becky xx

Monday, May 02, 2016

Splish Splash I'm Taking A Bath

After a road trip today I came home rather tired and had a lovely bath. I felt so much better after it. It got me thinking about a link that has been made to depression and neglecting personal hygiene. Many people will know this stage of depression. In my first few weeks I'm afraid to say that I was a complete mess due to this.

My hair became knotted and greasy as I hadn't brushed or washed it. I brushed my teeth once a day at the most and some days just gargled mouthwash instead which made my gums bleed and red. I used baby wipes instead of having a bath and really struggled to eat and drink a decent amount. I also used to get to the point that it was so physically painful to hold in a wee that only then would I go to the toilet and leave my bed.

With my husband's help I'd have a bath. The bath made me feel quite vulnerable, I'm not sure why but I didn't like being in it. My husband had helped me getting in and out as I felt very weak and dizzy at this time. I just wanted to be wrapped in a towel in the bath and sleep. I was so tired. I washed my hair a little but it really took all my energy. My husband helped dry me and I put on my pj's and went back to lie down with soaking wet hair. I never got around to drying my hair and just needed to rest.

It wasn't that I couldn't be bothered or didn't care. It made me feel worse that I was such a mess and yes I had noticed. I just had no energy and wanted to be laid down. My head felt too heavy for my body, I was dizzy and tired, I was in pain and I kept losing my balance. What a state!

So why would I want to tell you this? I'm disappointed and embarrassed in myself by this but I'm not ashamed. It's a common stage of depression that I have heard many people talk about. I wanted you to know that you are not alone for the people that have experienced this. I wanted to end stigma and talk about mental health issues honestly no matter how embarrassing I find a subject. I want you to know that mental illness sucks but it does get better.

Much love,

Becky xx