10 Self-Care and Self-Love Promises

6 years ago my health deteriorated so badly I became virtually bed bound. I was physically and mentally broken, and I felt like I had no reason to live. I could never have imagined that such a catastrophic event could actually (eventually) bring about positive events and changes.

Becoming so physically ill has forced me to reevaluate my life, but it has also forced me to confront my demons. It has forced me to face my mental ill-health head on.

It hasn’t been easy – it still isn’t. But I know I have come so far. I have learnt about self compassion and forgiveness, and I’m slowly putting into practice the many lessons this has taught me.

I’m finally at a place where I don’t beat myself up over every little mistake. I no longer blame myself for being so ill, and I’m finally starting to love the person I am, in spite of my many flaws. And this would not have happened if I hadn’t been forced to confront my anxiety, depression and self hatred.

I know I have made a lot of progress, but it’s an ongoing process. With this in mind, I have written myself reminders, self-care promises, if you like. I will try to respect these, even on my bad days. Maybe you could try these too or write your own.

1. For the times when my body and mind actually allow me to rest;

I will comply without beating myself up about all the things I “should” be doing. Whether this rest period lasts for hours, days or weeks, I will listen to my body and respect it’s need to restore and repair.

2. For the times when my mind is so active I cannot rest;

Rather than berate the 3 year old child in my mind constantly asking “but Why?”, I will thank my foggy brain for still functioning, and make the most of the rare moments of clarity.

3. For the times when I’m overwhelmed by the need to cry;

Instead of chastising myself for being over-emotional or over-sensitive, I will allow myself to cry and feel these emotions, and acknowledge these feelings are what make me a compassionate human being.

4. For the times when my pain levels are high;

When every minute feels like a day, and every breath is an arduous task. I will remind myself; this moment will pass, I will survive, and things will get better.

5. For the times when I fuck up;

Instead of beating myself up and replaying every mistake in minute detail, I will practice self-compassion and forgiveness, and remind myself I am only human.

6. For the times when I am alone;

Instead of fearing my own company because I’m forced to listen to the voices inside my head, I will embrace this time of reflection and use it as a opportunity for growth.

7. For the times when I look in the mirror and I don’t like what I see;

Instead of criticising every lump, bump, wrinkle and grey hair, I will practice being kind to myself, and acknowledge I’m beautiful, no matter how hard this message is to believe. Every line, wrinkle and scar represents a step in my journey through life.

8. For the times when I’m full of anger and everything irritates me;

Instead of calling myself a bitch, I will acknowledge that all my feelings are valid. Instead of turning this anger and hatred on myself, I will remind myself I have been through so much, and negative emotions are just a “human” reaction to the stress and discomfort I experience. These emotions do not make me a bad person, and I will try to forgive myself.

9. For the times when it feels like my body is betraying me;

Instead of focusing on the many ways my “broken” body has let me down, I will thank it for keeping me alive through everything I have thrown at it. I will focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t, and remember how far I’ve come.

10. For the days when I feel like a failure and I’m consumed by self-loathing;

I will do whatever it takes to survive the day. I will fight to see the many positive characteristics that I possess, and give myself the love, understanding and compassion I so freely give to others.

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For Many People the Festive Season is Not a Time of Celebration

Social media is full of posts telling us how to have the perfect Christmas. Every other advert is forcing upon us ideas of perfect Christmas gifts. At this time of year it’s impossible not to be bombarded by the festive season and all its glittery glory – it’s everywhere we turn.

But what if Christmas brings misery, not joy? What if you are forced to observe this “happy” occasion from the isolation of your bed? Or, what if you cannot afford to buy your kids the perfect gift, or even provide a christmas dinner with all the trimmings?

For many people the festive season is not something to be celebrated. People living with chronic illness, bereavement or mental ill-health, can find this time of year extremely stressful and upsetting. And let’s not forget the many families living in poverty, the homeless, and those that live alone. Christmas can be a lonely time, and observing “happy families” and festivities on social media, can be painful.

Christmas themed blog posts are everywhere.

Most bloggers have already started their “Christmas posts” with “how to” guides about everything from buying the perfect gift, to tips on how to cook the perfect Christmas dinner, or ways to cope with the additional exertion the festive season brings. And reading all these posts makes me feel pressured to do the same. But I made a promise to myself when I started my blog, that I would keep my posts authentic to who I am.

So, I just wanted to say that, I’m sorry but you won’t be getting an abundance of Christmas posts from me. I could go through the motions of writing them, but it would be false advice. It would not be true to who I am. Let me explain why.

Why the festive season is a tough time for me.

As someone living with chronic illness and mental ill-health, Christmas is a challenging time for me. I am not well enough to visit family or friends. I’m not well enough to participate in the revelry. I’m not well enough to party. Funds are limited, so I can’t afford to spend loads on presents. My diet is very restricted, so no Christmas pudding or mince pies for me.

When you are severely affected by chronic illness and are housebound, it can often feel like you have been forgotten. The outside world continues on without you, and this only adds to your isolation. Christmas time can amplify this feeling of isolation and loneliness.

And winter can be a particular difficult time for those living with depression, and the cold weather can bring additional distress to those living with chronic illness and pain.

But also, as a child, our family did not celebrate Christmas for religious reasons. And as an adult I have never really seen the point of Christmas. To me it just seems to be a time of excess and waste. People spend too much and get in debt, and people consume way too much. I find the amount of waste quite staggering, especially when there are so many people going without in the world.

I’m not against Christmas, I don’t want to come across as a scrooge. But I think the message of love is lost amongst the mountains of gifts, excess, and the stress that the ridiculous amount of expectation brings.

So, I practice avoidance a lot during the festive season. I avoid listening to the radio because every other song is a Christmas one. I avoid social media, seeing everyone playing happy families and enjoying the “perfect” Christmas just reminds me of what I’m missing out on. I isolate myself more than normal just to survive the season, and I know I’m not alone in behaving this way.

I’m not saying this to get sympathy or attention. I’m extremely lucky to have loving family and friends – but I just don’t “do” Christmas.

Christmas can be such a distressing time.

Christmas can also be a distressing time for  those who are mourning the loss of a loved one. They are bombarded by memories of happy times together, which can exaggerate their feelings of loss. This time of reflection can be particularly hard for those who are recently bereaved.  

And let’s not forget the stress Christmas brings into our lives, and not just for those who are chronically ill. There is so much pressure to spend extortionate amounts of money and to “perform” the perfect Christmas. Although I don’t really celebrate the festive season, I can see that the only thing that really matters is the time you spend with those you love, not the amount you spend, or the number of presents you give.

How to help a friend who may be struggling.

“Sitting silently beside a friend who is hurting may be the best gift you can give”

If you are a friend or family member of someone who you think may be struggling to cope with the additional stress that the festive season brings, what can you do to help?

Most importantly, just be there for them. Let them know they are not alone and have not been forgotten. Ask them how you can help ease their stress. Are there any errands you could run? or maybe you could help wrap presents and write cards.

And, for your loved ones living with chronic ill-health – they may need a little extra love and understanding at this time of year. Please check up on them. They may be overwhelmed and not want a visit, but a text or phone call letting them know you are thinking about them could make their day.. They may “hide” from the world to avoid the pain of Christmas, but please don’t forget them.

Instead of buying expensive gifts, why not gift your time and company?

Your time and company can mean so much more than expensive gifts, especially to someone living with chronic ill-health. There are many ways you show your love and make a real difference in a loved ones life. Here are a few ideas;

  • Offer to take them shopping or shop for them.
  • Offer to visit them and cook a meal.
  • Run a few errands to ease their stress.
  • Ask if there are any jobs you can do around the house.
  • Offer to drive them to see family.
  • Offer to drive them to doctors appointment
  • Walk their dog.
  • Babysit their kids to give them a break.
  • Treat them to a pamper day at home.
  • Help them wrap presents and write cards.

How to help others in your community

Christmas is a time of giving, but it’s also an opportunity to help others, not just friends and family, but also the community you live in.

The amount of waste over Christmas upsets me, when there are so many people living in poverty. So I counteract this by donating to a local homeless charity. But there are many ways you can make a difference in your community:

  • Rather than buying one more present to add to the mounting pile, why not donate some toys to a local children’s charity?
  • Instead of spending £100s on food, most of which you won’t get round to eating, why not donate some to a food bank, or a homeless charity?
  • Or why not donate your time? There are many ways you can volunteer in your local community, and I can promise you the rewards far outweigh the time you sacrifice.
  • If you find yourself with unwanted gifts that you know you will never use, rather than leave them festering in a cupboard, why not donate them to a local charity shop?
  • Do your kids no longer play with their “old” toys because they were given so many shiny new ones as Christmas presents? If they are still in good condition your charity shop would love to receive them. The same goes for unwanted clothes.
  • And please don’t forget about your elderly neighbours who live alone. A simple card could make their day, or a visit to see if they are ok or need anything. The cold weather adds another dimension of isolation and your presence could mean the world.

You are not alone, even if it feels like you are.

If you are someone reading this nodding along, fearing the stress that Christmas brings, please know you are not alone. Do whatever you need to do to survive the season. Reach out and ask for help if you feel able, or hibernate for a couple of months if that’s what you need to do.

Please don’t feel pressured to conform to stereotypes at Christmas. Please don’t feel you have to compete with others. Please remember the “perfect” images you see on social media are just edited highlights of someone’s life, and no one’s life is perfect. Try to take your own path, celebrate Christmas within your means, and most importantly, try to enjoy this time. Take care x

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Perfection vs Happiness

“Perfectionism is a dangerous state of mind in an imperfect world”

I’ve spent most of my life beating myself up about not being perfect. I ruminate over every little mistake, and I used to avoid many new hobbies and new adventures because I was scared I wouldn’t be any good. Fear of failure stopped me from even trying, and because of this I missed out on so many new life experiences.

But when I fell ill, perfection wasn’t an option. Apart from the fact that it’s unreachable, I just didn’t have the energy or ability to strive for perfection. I was forced to accept mediocre or “ok” or “that will do”.

Coming to terms with this was hard. I was always taught that “if you’re going to do something, do it right” and “don’t start something unless you are willing to give it 100%”. But the truth is, it’s perfectly OK to do something just for fun, without any expectations or goals. You don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it, or strive to be perfect just to rationalise your choices. Acknowledging this was quite liberating.

It has opened up so many new doors for me. I’m now able to try new things without the fear of failure. I can try new hobbies “just because”. And I’m able to write about my experiences for my blog knowing that, although my writing is far from “perfect”, it has an impact, and I enjoy it!

But, most importantly, letting go of perfection has made me reevaluate what is important in my life. My new adventures have brought me much enjoyment and I’m a happier person because of this.

I’m not saying I’ve completely let go of my need strive for perfection, my anxiety doesn’t let me. And I still ruminate over my mistakes sometimes, it’s part of my personality. But my life definitely has more balance now.

So, I urge everyone to try to ditch the notion of perfection, and embrace life along with all its messiness and unpredictability. Try new things, do what you love and strive for happiness. Take care x

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Would You (or do you) Take Cannabis Illegally to Treat Your Medical Conditions?

I’ve been quite vocal, not only about my strong believe than cannabinoids (and terpenes) found in cannabis are pretty amazing and should be available to all, but also in my anger at the government’s implementation of new legislation that theoretically allows medical cannabis to be prescribed on the NHS.

I, like many others, waited patiently for medical cannabis to become available on prescription. I have wanted to try full spectrum cannabis oil for a long time now but I didn’t want to have to take the illegal route, not because it’s illegal, but because I didn’t feel I could “trust” the safety and potency of the source.

But after being let down so badly by this new legislation I felt I had no option but to try cannabis oil on my own. If the NHS can’t or won’t help me, then I will help myself.

So, I recently started taking THC along with my CBD oil. It’s still early days but I’m writing a diary, and I intend to be very open about my use of this illegal substance.

It shouldn’t be illegal. It should be an option for anyone who wishes to try it. And it should be a right for all to be able to access ‘safe’ cannabis medicine – we shouldn’t be made criminals just because we want some relief from our symptoms.

✔So my question is: Would you (or do you) take cannabis illegally to treat your medical conditions?

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Why I’m not celebrating the introduction of medical cannabis on prescription

Well, today is the day that cannabis-based medicines theoretically become available on prescription. Although many of us had high hopes (no pun intended) that this step would finally allow thousands of patients across the UK to gain access to cannabis treatment, the reality is – the vast majority of us will not qualify.

It appears that the government’s actions have been designed just to appease us, the public, following a few high profile cases of some very sick children with epilepsy – nothing more. We have tried to remain positive and say “it’s the first step” or “at least it’s a step in the right direction” but sadly I don’t even think this is true anymore.

Let me explain my pessimism and highlight the massive flaws in the government’s approach to introducing medical cannabis.

1. Doctors are already saying that they will not prescribe medical cannabis.

As patients approach their doctors about medical cannabis, they are being met with doctors blankly refusing to even consider cannabis as a treatment option.

This is partly due to ignorance and lack of education. Doctors do not want to prescribe something they have not received any training for, and sadly, the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid therapy are not taught in medical schools.

Also medical cannabis is not yet included in NICE guidelines, which seems to be an excuse used by many doctors.

But unfortunately, doctors personal prejudices are also at play here. The propaganda surrounding cannabis has been rife for years and doctors are just as susceptible to these lies as the rest of us. The lack of knowledge about cannabis can be addressed through education but this will take time. The doctors prejudices over cannabis is sadly something which may take years to overturn.

2. Tight restrictions on eligible medical conditions.

Initially patients suffering from chronic pain conditions were included in the list of eligible conditions. It was then announced that there would not be any restrictions on the medical conditions eligible, which was positive news. But this criteria has changed yet again.

New NHS guidance for doctors in England says it should be prescribed only when there is clear published evidence of its benefit and other treatment options have been exhausted.

The treatments can only be prescribed in cases of:

  • Children with rare, severe forms of epilepsy.
  • Adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy.
  • Adults with muscle stiffness caused by multiple sclerosis.

As a chronic pain patient, I am angered by this last minute shift.

3. There must be an “exceptional clinical need” for cannabis-based medicine and all other treatment options exhausted.
Patients must have exhausted all other treatment options before receiving access to medical cannabis. Doctors will have to prove there is an “exceptional clinical need” and no other medicine would be suitable for their patient. Sadly, for most, this will mean they will not be eligible, and in the very least it will delay cannabis being prescribed for years, along with the suffering and side effects patients endure through most traditional treatment options.

4. The guidelines to clinicians basically amounts to “do not prescribe”

The guidelines to clinicians by NHS England was left until the last minute – it was only released the day before the implementation of this new legislation. The actual guidance is buried within a mountain of bureaucratic doublespeak. Aside from chemotherapy-induced nausea, the guidance amounts to “do not prescribe”. This is extremely disappointing and will contribute further to doctors unwillingness to even look at cannabis as a treatment option.

If you would like to read the guidelines please click here

The NHS have also released patient guidelines.

5. The cost will mean doctors will be dissuaded from prescribing.

Pharmaceutical companies are charging huge sums of money for their licenced cannabis-based medicines. I know it costs a lot to gain a licence and many years of trials, but the figures being quoted, for what many see as an inferior product, are ridiculous

Ultimately this will means doctors will be unwilling, and discouraged from, prescribing something that costs the NHS more money than traditional medication.

6. Very limited choice for licenced cannabis medicines.

To be eligible, cannabis products must be produced and regulated for medicinal use in humans. The development of approved and regulated medicine can cost millions and therefore is only likely to be a viable option for large pharmaceutical companies with the financial backing to carry out the extensive tests and trials needed.

This definition plays into the hands of large pharmaceutical companies who already have approved cannabis-based products including Epidiolex and Sativex, developed and produced by GW Pharmaceuticals.

Unfortunately this limits the options available for patients as large pharmaceutical companies are more focused on isolated cannabinoids and their products are also suspended in alcohol. Single cannabinoid products are seen as far inferior to “whole plant” medicines, and many people are sensitive to alcohol – why mix such a healing substance with alcohol?

I personally cannot take a medicine that is suspended in alcohol. I am intolerant to alcohol and it’s also one of my main pain triggers, and I know I am not alone. It could take years of trials before alternative cannabis-based medicines are licenced and there’s no guarantee they will be “whole plant” or alcohol-free.

7. It’s going to take years.

The reality is, that although this change in legislation has been passed very quickly, the potential benefits will take years to be felt by the vast majority of patients wishing to access legal medical cannabis.

It does allow for children with severe epilepsy to receive the treatment they desperately need (once they have jumped through MANY hoops), although the “whole plant” cannabis medicine which is successfully taken by epileptic children like Alfie Dingley, will not be available – only less effective isolated cannabinoid treatments.

It appears that the only people who will benefit from the legislation change are pharmaceutical companies and their shareholders, many of whom are politicians and their family members. Am I being cynical? I don’t think so – I’m being realistic. Faced with all the facts, this whole farce seems to be a well orchestrated charade designed to appease the general public – while chronic pain patients like myself are left no better off than before the change in legislation.

So where does this leave patients?

I don’t like writing such a pessimistic post but the reality is we have been promised so much and given very little. I am pleased that children with severe epilepsy will (hopefully) be getting a promising treatment option, but what about the thousands of other patients who would greatly benefit from cannabis treatment?

In reality, cannabis-based medicine will only be prescribed in extreme cases, which was already the case before the new legislation came into force – so nothing has changed.

As a chronic pain patient myself I feel angry and severely let down. I really wanted to try medical cannabis and I believe it’s a far better treatment option for my chronic pain than any prescription medication currently available.

Maybe it’s time for me to explore medical cannabis on my own?

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Resting When Tired Isn’t Lazy – It’s Self Care

Since my heart procedure 2 weeks ago, it feels like I’ve done nothing but sleep. I know I should be thankful my poor, exhausted body is finally letting me rest, but I’m struggling with the notion that I’m just “being lazy” and the thoughts that I “should” be doing more. But where do these negative perceptions about rest come from?

Challenging negative perceptions about rest.

Yes, like many others, I find the concept of rest challenging. I have always equated rest to laziness – probably because it’s a message we are bombarded with from an early age. We are frequently told, to be a valuable member of society, we must work hard and push ourselves. We must utilise every minute of the day in the pursuit of reaching our goals. High achievers are praised, while more creative souls or dreamers are seen as lazy.

Our society equates success to monetary wealth and possessions, rather than peace, happiness and good health. Our education system does not equip our children with the tools needed to cope with the stressful lives we all lead. Emphasis is not placed on mental and physical wellbeing. Instead the focus is on working hard, achieving high grades and preparing our children for a lifetime of hard graft in their chosen careers. Of course these are all important, but surely there needs to be some balance?

The world around us has been designed to keep us busy, to keep us from getting bored. But this also stops us from obtaining the crucial rest that our bodies and minds need to survive and thrive. It also prevents us from making meaningful “real life” connections that are essential for our wellbeing.

I know from personal experience that if I don’t get the rest my body needs, my health suffers. When I choose to ignore the signals being sent by my body, and I instead ‘push through’, my health deteriorates quite rapidly. But rest is also very hard for me. My brain never switches off, it is constantly thinking about all the things I “should” be doing and all the millions of things I would rather doing at that moment. I often find I have to physically force myself to rest, although a more constructive term would be “concentrated rest”. Rest requires discipline, something I often lack.

What is rest?

Rest means different things to different people, but in essence it’s taking a break from our busy lives to focus on our wellbeing. It may be physically resting or taking a break from the mental strains in our lives, and of course, it can be both. It may take the form of meditation, or reading a book, or listening to music. Some people find watching their favourite TV programme gives them time to recharge, or it could be engaging in our favourite hobbies.

For those of us living with chronic illness, it may mean switching off completely from all distractions and lying quietly in a darkened room. Whatever form rest takes, it is vital for our physical and mental health. But how do we get passed the notion that we are being lazy?

I decided, the key to challenging my preconceived notions towards rest, was to educate myself. Why is rest so important? What happens within our bodies when we rest and sleep? Why is it so vital for our wellbeing?

Reasons why rest is essential.

Rest is essential for our wellbeing and it can positively impact on our health in many ways. So, rather than see rest as an inconvenience or a waste of time, try to concentrate on the “good” you are doing for your body and mind.

1. Repair, Restore and Recharge. Having a chronic illness is exhausting, resting gives our bodies time to repair. We often underestimate the importance of rest and the difference a few minutes of calm can make in restoring balance back into our bodies. Rest renews our energy levels and allows us to press the reset button, so we can continue with our day.

“Sometimes the most urgent and vital thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest”

2. A healthier body. Rest is as essential to our physical health as the water we drink and the air we breathe. Rest has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, and lower blood pressure and cortisol levels.

When we suffer with chronic, physical or mental ill-health, the importance of rest is multiplied tenfold, and our health deteriorates if we neglect it.

3. Less stress. Concentrated rest confronts stress in two ways. First, it reduces the demands of the situation we are currently in; we have no demands on us as long as we have the ability to mentally let go of unfinished tasks. (this is the part I find hard) . Secondly, rest reduces stress by increasing our resources, particularly energy.

Resting gives me much needed perspective and time away from the stress I experience daily. I often get so overwhelmed by my “to-do lists” and my “should-be-doing lists” that I feel suffocated. It’s so easy to let this stress consume me, but resting can break this cycle.

4. Opportunity for reflection. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest through the trees. Concentrated rest allows us to take a step back, to evaluate our lives and to identify our priorities.

For years I lived my life by keeping myself physically and mentally busy 24/7. I then wondered why I suffered so badly with insomnia. My mind and body were so active at night because I didn’t give myself time for rest and reflection during the day.

The importance of Sleep.

When struggling with ill health you may also find yourself sleeping more (day and night). This can sometimes wrongly be perceived as wasted time. We feel we are sleeping our lives away. But our bodies need sleep to stay alive, it is vital to our survival.

Sleep allows our bodies to repair themselves and our brains to consolidate our memories and process information. Poor sleep is linked to physical problems such as a weakened immune system and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

When you sleep, your body heals and repairs itself at a cellular level. Your brain signals the release of hormones encouraging tissue growth. Your heart and blood vessels are healed and repaired. Your body also stores up energy for the next day’s activities.

Sleep is essential to building your body’s natural defense system. As you sleep, your body makes more white blood cells, the foot soldiers of your immune system. Your brain forms new pathways to aid in memory and learning. Your body needs sufficient sleep to accomplish these things. It’s amazing to think this all happens while we sleep. The human body is truly a wonderful thing.

What if your body doesn’t respond to rest and sleep the same way a “healthy” body does?

I know some of you will be reading this and thinking; “But my body doesn’t respond to rest as it should. I can sleep for hours and wake up just as tired”. This may be the case, but so much is still going on “behind the scenes” that we are not aware of. We may not respond in exactly the same way, but rest is vital and without it our health deteriorates. When you live with a chronic illness it’s even more important to prioritise rest and sleep, and to appreciate the role they play in our mental and physical wellbeing.

It wasn’t until I experienced first-hand the detrimental effect sleep deprivation had on my overall health, that I truly recognised the importance of sleep. A few years ago, I spent 6 weeks unable to sleep, and the dramatic deterioration in my health was scary. So, even though you may not find sleep restorative, our bodies are still hard at work carrying out functions that are vital for our survival.

Rest is not always a choice – our bodies sometimes just stop functioning and “crash”. But if we can preempt this by practicing concentrated rest we may be able to prevent or reduce the severity of these “crashes”. I know it can be frustrating, and we often feel like we our fighting against our own bodies, but please know, by resting, you are doing the best you can for yourself – you are not being lazy.


If, like me, you struggle to switch your brain off to give your body and mind time to rest, a form of meditation may be a useful tool. Meditation is a simple and effective way to steady the mind, give clarity to your thoughts and help you to manage stress. This could be in the form of a structured ‘body scan’ or a guided meditation using an app, or simply practising breathing techniques. It’s the most effective method I have found for calming my overactive brain enough to allow myself to rest.

Rest isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity.

The cause of my recent health scare, which landed me in hospital with heart problems, was most likely stress. It has been a huge wake up call for me. It has made me realise I need to look after myself more, listen to my body and prioritise rest and relaxation within my life. It is so easy to see rest as an afterthought or an inconvenience – it gets in the way of us doing the things we need or want to do. But rest is a essential part of our lives, without it our physical health and mental wellbeing suffer.

So the next time you beat yourself up for having a “rest day” remind yourself you are giving your body and mind time to heal. Try not to worry about all the things on your to do list and concentrate on what you need right now. Think of rest as the medicine your body needs to repair itself, and most importantly – be kind to yourself. Take care x

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10 Tips To Get You Through Bad Mental Health Days

I wrote post especially for ProHealth and it first appeared there on the 29th September 2018.

I have personally suffered from depression and anxiety most my life. In fact I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel their presence. I spent a lot of time denying their existence. I think I hoped by ignoring the symptoms they would just disappear, but instead they consumed me.

So, after a particularly bad depressive episode I experienced a few years ago I decided enough was enough. I realised I needed to dedicate more time to developing strategies for coping with my mental ill-health, in particular my depression.

So I reached out for help. I also spent a lot of time reading, learning about forgiveness, self compassion and other coping techniques. I dedicated time each day to practice mindfulness meditation, in an attempt to learn more about myself and my relationship with depression.

I would like to share with you some of the things I discovered about myself and the ways I learned to cope with the days when I’m consumed with self loathing and self doubt. Through these simple strategies I learned to accept the person I am when I’m depressed, and I even found a way to love myself again.

10 things that have helped me cope with my depression.

The following are some of the things that have helped me through the days when my depression takes hold and the world seems too much to bear. Maybe some of these will help you too.

1. Communicate with your loved ones about how you are feeling.

This was one of the first things I learned but probably the hardest to execute. I resisted reaching out to loved ones and admitting I wasn’t coping, for a long time. Communicating the dark thoughts that were circling in my mind was a scary prospect. But being honest with those around me was the best thing I did for my mental well-being.

I believe it’s important to speak to someone you trust when you are feeling low, sometimes just talking about how you feel can help ease your pain. Sharing your feelings with someone you trust can make you feel less alone. Also, depression is an effective liar, talking to a trusted friend or loved one can give us much needed perspective.

2. Back away from stressful situations and cancel non-urgent commitments.

Stressful situations often tip me over the edge, as I find stress harder to deal with when I’m depressed. I also don’t think straight when I’m depressed and this leads to further frustration and anxiety. So I learned it was ok, and beneficial for my mental health, to back away from stressful situations and even cancel commitments where needed.

It’s ok to cancel plans when your mental health is bad. Please don’t ever feel guilty about it. Cancelling plans is better than doing something that is only going to stress you out and make you feel worse. Try focusing on what’s going to help YOU instead of trying to please other people. Your health and wellbeing are more important.

3. Allow yourself to rest and sleep.

I was fighting so hard everyday, I was exhausted. So, instead of tirelessly fighting my personal battle with depression, I allowed myself to take a step back and rest. I wrongly thought that if I stopped fighting and took a break, I would allow the depression to consume me, but the opposite was actually true. Resting allowed me to press my reset button and gave me the energy to cope with my depression in a more constructive way.

Resting gives our body and mind time to repair. We often underestimate the importance of rest and the difference a few minutes of calm can make in restoring balance. Depression is exhausting and it’s much harder to cope with when we are tired. Also, please don’t beat yourself up if you need to sleep more.

4. Allow yourself to cry.

When I’m depressed I have any overwhelming need to cry. I used to fight this feeling as I saw tears as a sign of weakness, but I’ve learned it’s important to let my feelings out. Bottling them up only leads to further pain or an explosion of another emotion, like anger.

When we are depressed our feelings are amplified tenfold. Rather than trying to suppressed these emotions, allow yourself to feel them. Your feelings are valid and need to be acknowledged.

5. Write a Journal.

At a time when I felt emotionally stronger, I compiled a list of reasons to live and positive thoughts about myself. I wrote them in a pretty journal along with photos of loved ones and images to stimulate happier thoughts. I look at this journal whenever I’m depressed and have suicidal thoughts. Having a visual tool to help me through my bad mental health days has been hugely beneficial.

This one takes a bit of time and preparation but is worth the effort. When we are depressed we often don’t think clearly. By focusing on the reasons we have to live and positive affirmations about ourselves, we can break the cycle of negative thoughts. You could ask your loved ones to write you messages of encouragement and include them in your journal.

I also find that writing about my feelings and emotions while experiencing them, gives me some much needed perspective, and by writing them down I find it takes away some of their power.

6. Find positive distractions.

When I’m feeling very low, I become consumed by the destructive thoughts in my head. Practising distraction techniques can be a useful tool in breaking this circle. So when I’m depressed I try doing an activity I enjoy, even if it takes a bit more effort than normal. I think of things I used to enjoy doing at times I didn’t feel so depressed. For me this is reading, writing and listening to music.

Giving yourself a break from depressive and negative thoughts can help, even if it’s for a short time. So try doing what makes you smile. Whether that’s sitting in your PJs all day and listening music, or taking a long hot bath, or binge watching your favourite TV show.

7. Practice mindfulness meditation

I find mindfulness meditation a useful tool when I’m depressed. I use it as a way to escape my negative and destructive thoughts, or as a means to confront and challenge them in a controlled, safe environment. Mindfulness has been more beneficial for my mental wellbeing than anything else I have tried.

You can use meditation as a way to create your “safe place”; a place in your imagination that you can return to again and again when the real world becomes too much to bear. On days when my mind is a jumbled mess of self loathing and negativity I practice simple mindful breathing techniques, or when I need a bit more structure I use guided meditation apps.

8. Practice self care, self compassion and forgiveness.

When depression hits I’m filled with self doubt and self loathing. Instead of mercilessly judging and criticising myself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, I try to show myself kindness and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said I was supposed to be perfect?

Try cutting yourself some slack – you are worthy of love and compassion. We all make mistakes – try to forgive yourself and move on. If you struggle to fight past the destructive voice inside your head, try writing down a list of your positive attributes on one of your “good days”, or ask a friend to do this for you.

You carry a heavy burden, you are not a burden, and you haven’t done anything wrong. Try to remove blame and judgemental thinking. Please try to stop blaming yourself for what is out of your control.

9. Take a break from social media.

We only see carefully edited highlights of people’s lives on social media but it can often appear to us that other people’s lives are perfect. This can add to our insecurities and feelings of inadequacy, which often amplify our feelings of failure. No matter how much we try to avoid it, social media is also an open market for drama, stress, trolls and judgemental thinkers.

Although social media can give us a valuable connection to the outside world, it can also add to our stress levels, and we don’t need that when we are already struggling with self worth. Try taking a break from social media and see if it helps.

10. Just breathe.

I often feel overwhelmed because I experience a whole multitude of feelings, emotions and fears all at once. But I came to the realisation that I didn’t have to tackle all of these problems at that exact moment.

All the problems you are facing, that seem insurmountable, don’t have to be solved right now. You don’t have to have everything worked out right now. Rather than worrying about all the problems running circles in your mind – try to just breathe. There will be plenty of time to confront these problems another day.

For more personal stories, reviews, news, inspirational quotes and in-depth discussion, please head over to my Facebook page.

Embrace your flaws and unleash your story.

“Please don’t be afraid to tell your story. Your voice is important and your story is unique.”

Writing about your most personal thoughts and feelings, and publishing them for the whole world to critique, can be a scary thing. Especially when you suffer from anxiety and depression yourself, or you live with an invisible chronic illness, which many refuse to believe exists.

I’ve been accused of “attention seeking” and “self pity”. I’ve been told I should be more “positive” in my posts, and I’ve been accused of “faking it”.

But the people that make negative comments like these, don’t understand why I, and many others like me, write a blog. Unless you go through these struggles daily you cannot comprehend the positive impact discovering that you are not alone in how you feel, can have on your life.

Reading someone else’s thoughts, and thinking “I could’ve written that myself” or “It’s like she’s talking about me” can make us feel less alone.

Just knowing that other people feel this way too, or feel a certain pain, or act a certain way due to illness, comforts us and can turn something which is frustrating and often scary, into a situation which is more manageable.

I don’t share my darkest thoughts or my, often depressing, reality to get sympathy. I do it to raise awareness. I do it to let other people know they are not alone. I do it to let the person who is in their darkest moment know that things will get better – they will not always be this bad.

I do it to break the stigma surrounding, not just mental illness, but all illnesses that are not truly understood. I do it to stand up for myself and a community that is often abused or downright ignored. I do it to give myself and others a voice.

You are the reason I write my blog.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about how depression makes me feel. I almost didn’t publish the post because it’s a very honest and raw piece, and I was scared of the response I would get from people who don’t understand my pain, or the reasons why I share my thoughts.

I was scared people would think I was being a drama queen and overreacting. I was scared to let the dark thoughts, which run cycles in my mind, out of their cage. I was scared to open up and admit my insecurities and failings.

But I’m so glad I did. I have received so many positive comments from what many would describe as a “depressing” post. It was also published on The Mighty, and to date it has received over 11k likes, which just goes to show how powerful a collection of thoughts and words can be. But there’s nothing special about me, you too can share your story.

I would like to say “Thank you” to everyone who comments on any of my posts. It means the world to me and it’s what gives me the strength to keep writing, even when I lose my self confidence.

Here are a few readers comments taken from this post:

This is so spot on!!!”

“This is probably the best article about depression. It’s exactly how it feels. Unfortunately, I’m on day 2.”

“I relate to this 100%”

“It was perfectly said. Exactly what I’m going through at the moment. Hopefully it passes by quickly so I can start feeling somewhat normal again”

“I’ve never read it so spot on and well explained, like you are inside my mind.. Thank you!”

“You describe this type of depression and anxiety perfectly.”

“I’m 39 and have CPTSD which brings along depression and anxiety! Other than that! I swear you was in my head! Living my life in a parallel universe! WOW 🙌🙏💜 My heart breaks for knowing your pain! I also salute you 🙌💪🙏❤ the strength it takes to get through is nothing short of superpowers 🤩💪Your amazing!! Thank you x”

“I can relate to this…. it’s a my story as well but, do remember that you you are good enough and lovable… it’s just a irrational thoughts and not true that you are not loved and unlovable…😊❤”

“Gosh I can relate to this.”

“This is such a stripped down piece.so raw and so to the point.i could feel every word written.stay strong through it all sending you love and gratitude for such a beautiful essay.”

“Wow! What an incredible story. You’ve provided so much insight to me in regards to my son,. Even though I am very involved in his everyday, your story helped me understand him so much more. Thank you, and best of luck for a long, fulfilling life.”

“Incredible article. Thank you”

“This hit me hard. I’m glad to know I’m not alone.”

“This is so relatable!! I found myself nodding along and moved to tears as I read this. It is so difficult to be in a constant battle with yourself. I am too engrossed in my own mind, too tired to be able to explain to someone what I’m feeling or going through. Thank you for giving words to my emotions. It’s getting progressively hard to carry on…”

“Txs txs thank you so much!!!! That’s exactly how i feel right now… and i feel so alone but your words are a reminder that I’m not alone. I’m not the only one. And this too will pass…. hopefully”

“Thank you for sharing. I live the same things but can’t express it. You did express everything for me. Thank you!”

“Thank you so much… this means a lot to me”

Some of these comments are so powerful they made me cry. They are a huge reminder of why I do what I do. I feel immensely privileged to have my words reach out to so many.

Real life isn’t “perfect”.

So this leads me to answer my critics. Why do I write about the often depressing realities of living with chronic ill-health? Why don’t I paint a more positive picture of life?

I don’t know about you, but personally I’m sick of trawling through all the sterile images, and the endless pieces of advice from seemingly “perfect” people, with “perfect” lives, who are pretending to have their shit together.

This isn’t reality, and until we accept this and back away from the pretend manufactured world we all immerse ourselves in, our mental health will continue to suffer.

I am not going to apologise for being “Real”. I am not going to sugarcoat my feelings or experiences just because other people may find them hard to stomach. I believe it’s important to show the realities of life.

So, I will continue to share my imperfect flawed life. My imperfect flawed self, and my imperfect flawed thoughts.

I will continue to share my personal experiences with mental illness and chronic illness, even if sometimes the reality is tough to read.

I will continue to show it’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to be flawed, in fact it’s not just OK – it’s called being human.

I will continue to let anyone who needs it know, that just like me, you too deserve happiness. You too are worthy of love. You too are allowed to be imperfect.

You too are allowed to have days when the world is too much to bear – it doesn’t make you weak.

You too are allowed to be angry, fearful, depressed, irritable – these are valid emotions and they matter.

You too should feel like you are able to tell your story without fear of being judged or ridiculed.

I’m fast approaching the 1 year anniversary of my blog. 1 year since I took the scary first step in sharing my innermost thoughts. And it has been scary at times. A year ago I couldn’t have even contemplated the rollercoaster of a journey this step would take me on. But I’ve relished every minute. Thank you for all your support.

For more personal stories, reviews, news, inspirational quotes and in-depth discussion, please head over to my Facebook page.

Norwich: Invisible Cities Linkup

Pros & Cons of Living with Chronic Illness in Your City.

I have decided to participate in “Invisible Cities Linkup” hosted by A Chronic Voice. It’s a great way to learn about the ins and outs of living with a chronic invisible illness in different cities and towns around the world. I will be answering a list of 12 questions about the quality of life in my city, as someone living with a chronic illness.

Q&A: What’s the Quality of Life Like in Your City with an Invisible Illness?

I live in Norwich, Norfolk, UK. Norwich is a beautiful city located in the East of England. It’s a relatively small city surrounded by countryside, within a short drive of the coast. Norwich is situated in a mainly rural area of England called East Anglia and it’s about 120 miles north east of London.

1.Best thing about your city for living with chronic illness?

Everything is in close proximity. Pollution levels are low. There are lots of open spaces and public parks. You can be in open countryside in minutes and the seaside is only a short drive away

2. Worst thing about your city for living with chronic illness?

Probably the public transport around the city and transport links to other parts of the UK. Norwich is situated on a “bump” that juts out on the east coast of England. Road links are pretty bad and to visit anywhere else in the UK by train you first have to travel to London.

3. How accessible do you think your city is in general?

Norwich is known as the most complete medieval city in the UK, including cobbled streets, ancient buildings and many medieval lanes. Although it’s a beautiful city, many of it’s ancient structures are still in use today as shops, restaurants or public buildings. They were not designed for disabled access and they have many steps and levels. The older streets are also cobbled, which is not ideal. But if you stick to the newer parts of the city centre Norwich is relatively accessible. The main streets are pedestrianised, which helps.

4. How educated is the public on chronic illnesses there?

I don’t think they are any more or less educated than any other UK city. Norwich is a small enough city to still have a friendly town vibe, and locals are always open to learn about new things.

5. If you could pass one new law in your country, what would that be?

I would reverse the damaging cuts our current Conservative government has placed on our public services. I would invest in the NHS, especially the mental health sector. We are so lucky to have free healthcare but it’s not going to be around much longer if the Tories have their way. I would also implement a fairer assessment process for all health benefits.

6. Which is your favourite city or country (other than your own) and why?

Probably London. I love the hustle and bustle, and there’s so much to do. No matter how many times I visit, I never get bored and there are always new things to discover. It’s also a big contrast to where I live. Alternatively, anywhere by the coast. I love to be near the sea.

7. Where in the world would you visit, if disability, illness or level of fitness weren’t an issue?

I would love to visit the beautiful lakes in Northern Italy. I would also like to return to the US.

8. What sort of alternative treatments or therapies wouldn’t raise any eyebrows there? (Perhaps it’s ingrained in the culture, totally legal, etc).

I don’t think any particular alternative treatments would raise eyebrows. Norwich folk are pretty open and accepting of most things.

9. Which are the most and least affordable therapies there? How much do they cost in general?

It’s been many years since I’ve paid for private alternative treatment due to lack of money. I wouldn’t know what the current prices are.

10. How expensive is it to live with a chronic illness there? Any stats you’d like to share to give a clearer picture?

We are extremely lucky in the UK that we have free healthcare through the NHS. But care is not consistent and it’s really not equipped to treat patients with multiple illnesses.

Prescriptions are £8.60 although if, like me, you have multiple prescriptions each month, you can save money by buying a prescription prepayment card.

I was also provided funding to convert my bathroom to a wet room due to my disabilities, and my care costs are covered. So I guess I’m very lucky compared to many around the world. And I would probably be bankrupt if I lived in a country like the US where you have to pay for healthcare.

11. What are the hospitals like in terms of service, quality of care, emergency room protocols, etc?

It depends on the time of year and day of the week, for A&E (emergency care). Wait times can be very long. But considering all the cuts that have been made to the NHS the quality of care is very good. I have regular hospital visits and I’m always looked after well.

GP practices are the first port of call for non urgent treatment, and the level of care and consistency varies a lot between practices and even between GPs within those practices.

12. What should foreigners be aware of in regards to healthcare, if they want to visit or work in your city?

Our emergency phone number is 999. Accident & Emergency (A&E) is where you go for urgent care and it’s located at the main city hospital. Be prepared to have to a wait a few hours for treatment as A&E departments are always very busy.

We have non emergency out of hours healthcare services. You can access them by dialling 111 but we also have “walk-in” centres.

Non emergency services between 8am-6pm are normally carried out by GP practices.

If you would like to participate in the Invisible Cities Linkup, please click here and follow the instructions.

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How can you help a friend who may be contemplating suicide?

I wrote post especially for ProHealth and it first appeared there on the 10th September 2018.

There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about suicide after some high profile, seemingly happy and successful (whatever that word means) people took their own lives. Although it’s good to talk about mental health, it can also be triggering for many people who are already struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. How can people who seem to have it all fall victim to this debilitating mental illness? If someone who is successful, popular, rich and well-loved can lose the battle with depression, what chance do I have?

The reality is, depression does not discriminate and we have no idea what’s going on inside other people’s minds. And it’s often the people who seem the strongest that find it hardest to ask for help. Vulnerable people do not always look vulnerable. It’s easy to believe that fame, professional success, wealth, or adoration can protect people from pain, but that is not true. Depression doesn’t care if you’re great at what you do. Mental illness doesn’t just affect those without opportunities and resources.

Depression is an effective liar – we don’t always feel able to ask for help.

Depression is a very effective liar. It can convince us that the world does not need us here, that we are a burden, that there is no way we will overcome the pain we feel in that moment. Depression often makes us feel like a failure. We are often ashamed to discuss the thoughts that go on in our heads. Depression tells us we are worthless and unloved. It convinces us no one cares, it convinces us that no one would miss us if we died.

Depression, anxiety and other disorders can completely warp one’s view of reality. What you might consider a minor mistake or a fleeting moment of human weakness are crimes that those battling these demons often can never forgive themselves for, let alone forget. The honest truth is: Living with depression is a constant battle, it’s exhausting, and there are times when we don’t have the strength to keep fighting. We often feel ashamed and don’t want to reach out and ask for help, or we don’t feel we are worthy of being “saved”.

How can we reach out to someone who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts?

If a friend isn’t able to open up about their struggles, how can we help them? If someone is too afraid or in too much pain to ask for help, what can we do? The truth is that you cannot possibly know what is going on in someone else’s head and so it makes it incredibly hard to know how to help. But we can start by being kind to each other. Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Tell them how much you value their presence, how much you would miss them if they were gone. One kind word could make someone’s day or even save someone’s life.

If you notice something positive about someone, tell them. If you admire something about someone, tell them. But most importantly – don’t judge someone or disregard their pain or their struggle just because they don’t appear to be struggling with the same battles you are.

If you have a friend who has dropped out of your social circle or has been absent from social media for a prolonged period, call them and say “hi”. A few words from a friend could be enough to convince them they are not alone, they are loved and they have a reason to live. You don’t have to discuss mental health; talk about the weather, talk about happy times together. Tell them they are missed. Tell them they are loved.

8 Signs that someone may be suicidal:

Even if a loved one is unable to reach out for help, there are signs we can be aware of that could signal they are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Knowing these signs may just save a life.

1. Big changes to their sleep patterns.
2. No energy.
3. No interest in their appearance or personal hygiene.
4. Rapid weight change.
5. Alcohol or drug misuse.
6. Withdrawal from society.
7. Increased feelings of sadness, angee, hopelessness, desperation.
8. Sudden emotional outbursts.

Keep your eyes open. Look for the signs in the people you love. You don’t necessarily have to understand their pain, you just have to acknowledge it, and be their for them when it’s at its worst. Let them know that no matter what they may think of themselves, they’ve got someone who won’t turn away.

You are not alone.

I read the following comment from a member of the public, on an news article about one of the most recent high profile suicides: “Every time I hear of another suicide, I wonder why I keep fighting it.”

If you’re struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, it does not mean their path will be your inevitable outcome. Just because they took their lives does not have to mean you will. Just because you are having suicidal thoughts does not mean you have to, or will act on them.

If you are reading this and you are feeling suicidal please try to find the strength to reach out and ask for help. Try to talk to someone, whether that’s a friend, family member, partner or stranger. You are worthy, you do deserve to be happy, and you are loved. Things can and will get better. You will not feel this bad forever. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – quite the opposite, it shows great strength.

And, if you have a friend who you think is contemplating suicide,the best thing that you can do is just be there for them. Listen to them. Show them you care. Ultimately you want to give the person a reason to live, a reason to fight. By showing that you care, that they are not alone, that is exactly what they need. Take care.

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