As we celebrate World Mental Health day we must remember that reaching out for help does not always mean that you get it

Below is a blog that I posted a few years ago but I feel that a lot of it will still resonate with people. Take a read below.

Today is World Mental Health day and you may have read a lot of mental health stories in the media. Stories of people who have reached out for help, and have come through the darkness to the other side.

I know from my work as a mental health advocate that it is so important to reach out for help, and to encourage people to do so. But I’m completely torn, because I also know the realities of reaching out for help and it’s so bloody hard.

The fact is that not everyone who reaches out for help has a good experience. In fact many people may need to reach out time and time again before they receive the help that they so badly need. We always hear of the good stories, someone reaches out for help and with a bit of support for a couple of months they feel better and move on their life. But it’s important that we also know about the ‘not so good’ experiences of reaching out for help.

I’m so glad that people get to experience first hand help from the mental health services, and that they get to move on and live their life.

Now, I know how important it is to share stories of people having successful attempts at reaching out. It’s encouraging to hear of the success stories where people have reached out and got the help that they so badly need. We need to share those stories. But we also need to be honest and let people know that sometimes they may not get the help that they need. The truth is that the mental health services are far from perfect, and resources are stretched across the services.

Reaching Out For Help

You may reach out for help, and find that you just don’t get the response that you had hoped. It might be to a friend, family member or even a health professional. Now, unfortunately that’s not ideal, but the truth is that it happens. In fact it happens all the time. I’m pointing this out, because every time I reach out for help and am greeted by a response that just isn’t helpful- I feel like a failure. I feel like I can’t even ask for help right. ( It might sound strange, but when you are in a really negative mindset you believe that everything is your fault.)

What I feel would have helped me was knowing that a fairytale experience is not true for everyone, and that’s perfectly NORMAL!

It doesn’t mean that you are undeserving of help, or that you have done something wrong. It just means that you may have to be clearer in asking for what you need, and spelling things out for people. I think it’s important that people know this. I know in the past I have always been reluctant to talk about the realities of asking for help because I was afraid that it would put people off from seeking help for themselves. But I feel that if we don’t at least let people know the realities of the situation out there, we may in fact be doing more harm than good. People need to know that there isn’t always a fairytale ending, and instead of worrying that it might put people off asking for help, we should instead arm them with the knowledge on how to deal with the situation if this is the case.

Reaching Out When In A Crisis

I’ve made it clear of the realities of asking for help, but there are a few other things I want to say.

First of all, If you are in a crisis, it’s important that you let someone know that. I know how hard it is for me to admit to someone else when I’m in crisis. I feel like I’m afraid to tell them how bad things really are. If they ask me the right questions, that I will try to be as honest as I can, but if they don’t ask the right questions, I might not have the courage to admit to them how bad I feel.

From my own experience, I’ve learned that you have to use your words to describe what is going on for you as best as you can. it’s important that you are completely honest with the person you speak to. This is no time for subtleties. Be blunt if you have to be. Just don’t keep suicidal feelings to yourself.

If you are in crisis, let them know that. If you are thinking about suicide, and more importantly on acting on those thoughts- then you need to very openly and bluntly let someone know. You need to let them know exactly what is going on in your head.

Make an emergency appointment with your GP, or go to your local A+E. ( A+E can be extremely stressful so try and go along with someone who can sit with you as you may have a long wait. Contact a help line like Pieta HouseFreecall 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444, or call Samaritans on 116 123.

If you are already a user of the mental health services, make an urgent appointment with your psychiatrist, Community Psychiatric Nurse, or Counsellor. If you have to do this over the phone and are speaking to a receptionist, be clear as to how important it is that you are given an appointment.

You Deserve To Feel Better

There’s something else that I want you to know. No matter how bad you feel about yourself- you deserve to feel better. I know right now that I feel that things will never improve for me. I feel like every glimmer of hope is gone. But somehow, I am managing to hang on. To be honest I don’t know how, but for now the fact that I am is enough.

I’m engaged with the mental health services and have been for a long time now. Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time. I get frustrated, I get angry and most of all I get so upset. I know that the mental health professionals are trying to help me, but there are so many times when I wish they would just all back off and leave me alone. It would have helped me to read about other people in the services who feel the same, and to realise that it is perfectly normal. I’m trying to remind myself of that every day.

Don’t Let Previous Experiences Of Asking For Help Put You Off

Whether your past help-seeking efforts have been positive or negative, don’t let a bad experience stop you from finding someone who can help. Asking for help again after a bad experience is extremely brave. One thing you can do to prepare yourself to make sure you have the best chance of success, is to remind yourself that you deserve help. You deserve to feel better, and no matter what you have to keep fighting for the right support.

My doctor recently told me that “Even problems that seem hopeless have solutions”, and no matter how bad I feel I try to remember this. It might not feel like it right now, but things can get better. But doing it alone is almost impossible. There are loads of people who want to help you get through this, start by letting them help you.

50808 Support Text line

50808 is a first of its kind for Ireland. It is a free 24/7 text service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for people going through a mental health or emotional crisis – big or small.

From breakups or bullying, to anxiety, depression and suicidal feelings, their Crisis Volunteers are available 24/7 for anonymous text conversations. Their aim is to provide immediate support in the short term and connect people to resources that will help them in the future.

Free-text SPUNOUT to 50808 to begin.

Dealing with this new way of living

Wow… What a few weeks it has been. The Covid 19 virus has managed to spread itself far and wide across the world, and it looks like it will keep us social distancing for the foreseeable future. 

I’m very lucky in that I live in rural Ireland. I can hear the birds singing outside, I can go for a 2km walk and feel the fresh air on my face. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be living in a town or city when you are unable to go for a scenic walk or for some even leave the house.

When you are dealing with mental health difficulties, something like the Covid 19 virus can really get you down or lead to increased levels of anxiety. You may feel anxious about catching the virus or that someone in your family will. The daily news conferences held in each country releasing the figures of infected people and the large death toll is so overwhelming. It seems that nobody is safe from this virus. 

I know I have had to cut back on watching the news updates as I could feel the familiarity of anxiety rising in my chest just waiting to catch me unawares. But this time I was prepared for it. I knew that it would settle if I stopped worrying about the what ifs and what could happen, and instead take each day as it came.

Some days my motivation is zero and I just feel like staying in bed all day and avoiding everything, but I know how detrimental that is to my mental health so I am trying to fight that.

So how am I getting through it? I’m trying to set myself a routine that I stick to. I am trying to do as many things that make me feel good as possible. That includes walking (I’ve let this slip over the past few days), writing in my notebook about anything and everything, speaking to friends and family each day via Facebook or phone, and limiting the amount of Corona virus news online.

We are living in a strange time and it’s ok to take things easier than usual. Try not to let unhelpful thoughts take over because they can embed themselves pretty quick in your head. Do try to get some exercise in, you don’t even have to leave your house. Look on Youtube for some fitness classes that you can follow straight from the comfort of your own home.

There are also lots of online courses that have been made available for free that you could check out. But don’t forget that it’s ok to take things slower than usual. There’s a lot of pressure for us to rely on distraction to get us through. While this is good for a while it too can become exhausting so don’t try to do too much. Just remember that you’ve got this…

I’d love to know how you are coping wherever you are.

Let’s not fake how we feel anymore

Let’s be honest. Living with mental health difficulties is exhausting. I’ve been there. I’ve told myself that I’m worthless, I’m selfish, I’m ungrateful, and that it would be better for everyone if I wasn’t around anymore. There’s so much talk about mental health stigma. But to be honest I didn’t need anyone else to judge me when I already did such a good job myself.

If you feel lost, sad and have zero hope of feeling different again. Please just hang in there. It’s ok to take a deep breath and slow down. If you need to take some time out than that is perfectly okay. It’s okay to not be okay and it is most perfectly okay to ask for help. Help is real.

You might be cursing me right now saying that it’s easy for me to say these things. But I speak from experience. I have been in that place where you want to give up. Disillusioned by everything, and only able to see the negatives and unable to recognise any positives in my life.

Listen carefully when I say this. You. Have. Got. This. Even when it feels like you don’t. You might wonder how I can be so sure of this. I’ve learned from personal experience that it is possible to live a life, despite what depression tells me. Depression lies.  Continue reading “Let’s not fake how we feel anymore”

Saying hello to 2020

I’m ashamed to say that this blog has been seriously neglected. I had hoped to blog more often in 2020 but here we are in February and this is my first post.

Last year back in September I spoke about the new wellness cafe that I have been involved in setting up in Letterkenny. It’s the first wellness café in Donegal and I’m happy to say that it is going from strength to strength.

We meet every Thursday morning from 10.30am-12 noon in An Grianan Theatre and each week we are seeing the same people returning and new faces coming along all the time. We are seeing numbers increase all the time and the fact that people keep coming back shows us that there is a need for such a service.

Since September we have had a number of guest speakers come in and speak to our café members. We have had all sorts of people such as pharmacists, dieticians, people from the Donegal Library service, someone talking about budgeting and lots of other topics.

We have a suggestion box which we ask our members to leave suggestions on what we can improve and what types of things they would like to see at the café. The feedback we have received has been really good and it’s been interesting to hear from people that the café and meeting up with others over a cup of tea has become a really important part of their week and is something that they look forward to each week.

The best thing about the café is that it is a joint project that behind the scenes there is amazing support from the Donegal Mental health services who ensure that we have a psychiatric nurse attend every week. We also have wellness café facilitators who are mental health service users and who are involved with the café.

The café is for anyone so if you are in Letterkenny on a Thursday morning please call into the theatre and say hi. We would love to see ya.

‘It will be sunny one day’- Stephen Fry’s inspirational letter to someone struggling with their mental health

sun shining through clouds
One day it will be sunny

To mark Oct 10th and World Mental Health Day 2019, I’ve reposted something from the Unwind Your Mind archives.

Depression is such a lonely illness and it takes a lot of courage for people to reach out to others. But I love hearing of stories when someone does reach out and gets a positive reaction.

Crystal Nunn was going through a deep depression when she found the courage to send Stephen Fry a letter. Fry’s history with manic depression is well documented, but never in a million years did Crystal think that Fry would reply to her letter.

The letter which I’ve transcribed below has a wonderful message and it well worth a read.

Transcript

April 10, 2006

Dear Crystal,

I’m so sorry to hear that life is getting you down at the moment. Goodness knows, it can be so tough when nothing seems to fit and little seems to be fulfilling. I’m not sure there’s any specific advice I can give that will help bring life back its savour. Although they mean well, it’s sometimes quite galling to be reminded how much people love you when you don’t love yourself that much.

I’ve found that it’s of some help to think of one’s moods and feelings about the world as being similar to weather:
Continue reading “‘It will be sunny one day’- Stephen Fry’s inspirational letter to someone struggling with their mental health”

Donegal’s first wellness cafe to open

I’ve been extra quiet on here over the past few months and I must apologize for that.  I’ve been busy and blogging just seemed to take a back seat and the longer I went without writing a post the more difficult it became to get back to it. Anyways enough excuses…

Over the past few months I have been involved behind the scenes in helping to set up a wellness cafe in Letterkenny. The idea of a wellness cafe is to provide people with a safe space to meet up in a relaxed informal space to connect with others to support their wellbeing.

Basically this is a fancy way of saying that it’s for people to meet and have a chat over a cup of tea or coffee. The wellness cafe will be held every Thursday between 10.30 and 12pm in the Eatery cafe in an Grianan Theatre. Although it’s only for two hours a week I believe that it’s a good start with the potential to do a lot of good.

WellnessCafe_A5Flyer

Myself and two other people have been working closely with members of the Donegal mental health team in Letterkenny to make sure that the cafe places the mental health service user at the centre of everything. That means allowing cafe members to make decisions about the way the cafe is run, choosing any short workshops they would like to take part in and most of all giving them a stigma free space where they can come for a cup of tea and a chat.

The cafe is launching on the 19th of September in An Grianan theatre in Letterkenny between 11am-1pm. Why not come along and learn more.

There has been a Facebook page set up which you can like and follow updates and the progress of the cafe. You can find it : Letterkenny wellness cafe