Category Archives: Mental Health

Mental Health: Burning out and fighting back

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post just about me and what’s going on inside my head, so I thought I’d write one. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m not writing this because everyone needs an update, I’m writing this because doing so would get a lot off my chest. I’m burning out and fighting back, sort of.

I’ve had a tough couple of months. May in particular was hard. I’ve been working over the last few years to be less anxious and less depressed and for the most part I was going ok. There has been the odd bump in the road, but returning to my self care routine and fighting everything usually pulls me out of the hole. 

May has been hard. I’ve been suffering from burnout. The boy was ill for nearly two months and the worry and stress took its toll. I work hard, probably too hard and I’m never off from work. I start early in the mornings and work till late at night and take little time for myself. There are a few other things going on too, but essentially I’ve been suffering from emotional and physical burnout. I’m spinning too many plates, struggling to keep up and it’s taking its toll.

The boys went away for a weekend and gave me a little bit of space, but it boiled down to two short evenings. It wasn’t enough but I missed them loads; proving that I’m complicated if nothing else. 

My anxiety has been through the roof, I’ve been angry at everything and everyone, I’m easily upset and oversensitive. I’ve tried to hide it all, but sometimes it spills out and without meaning to I upset people. I hate upsetting people and it just starts a weird shame, self-critical, low self esteem hate spiral which is hell on earth to get out of. 

Right now I seem like a happy and normal mum. Inside there’s all that shame, self criticism, low self esteem, hateful stuff I mentioned earlier. I hate that the careless words of strangers, or indeed of loved ones can have such an impact on me. My self esteem and self worth is an easily bruised peach and I’m feeling quite bruised and battered right now.

There’s no major plan for getting me back on an even keel. I know I need to not work as much and to take time out for myself sometimes. I know I need to look after myself more. Yes, I know I could probably do with some kind of digital detox, but that’s hard when the majority of your friends are based on twitter and you don’t want to feel more cut off than you already do.

It’s half term and we don’t have any major plans; go to the park, bake cakes, make crafts, watch telly, be excellent to one another. I’m trying not to stress, I’m trying not to let my anxiety personally attack me. I’m trying not to hit full burn out again. But I’m not well. I’m ok but I’m not well. I just need a regular afternoon off, a spa day, time with friends, time where my brain can switch off from everything and time to love and laugh again. Is that too much to ask? 

Mental Health: Burning out and fighting back

How I learned to talk positively to myself every day

Five years ago I was in a horrible place, physically and mentally I was broken. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get me back to the pretty good place I find myself in today. It was a long and at times painful road. The thing that really helped me back to wellness was talking positively to myself; or rather talking to myself with a more positive voice.

I have always talked about myself negatively. I have a negative voice in my head which tells me how terrible I am, how ugly I am and how useless my life is. My negative internal voice has always had a terrible impact on my self-esteem. I don’t think the negative voice will ever really go away, but when it pipes up, I make a point of trying to find some positive things to affirm myself with.

How I learned to talk positively to myself every day

Five years ago when I was in that dark dark place, a friend sat me down and gave me a talking to. I needed to start digging myself out of the dark hole I was in. Every morning I would text them a positive thing about me. Some days it was really hard to find a good thing to say about myself, some days were easier than others.

Each time I sent a positive text to my friend I also copied it into the notes on my phone. When I needed some positive affirmation I could look back and remember good things, good times and the days when I was stronger, better, happier and know that more of those good days were ahead of me.

I no longer send those positive texts and I don’t list the good things each day. There are times when I can feel my mood dipping; my anxiety rising and I know I need to put my positivity pants on again and I make a list. I list the good things I am grateful for. I list the good things about me and my life and I try to balance every negative thing my internal voice throws at me with something good, something better, something incredibly positive about me.

It’s not an easy habit to get into, but if you struggle with your own negative voice then getting into the habit of finding something nice about yourself every morning and writing it down can help you focus a little on the positives when everything may seem quite negative.

It helped me to have someone to text my affirmation to; someone who would come back to me and say I can do better, or that’s not positive enough. It helped me to have someone to be accountable to.

It’s not a magic bullet which will cure depression, anxiety or low self-esteem. Talking positively to yourself is a tool in your armory which can help and did help me. I really do credit this daily habit I kept up for almost a year for helping to drag me out of the absolute depths of my depression.

I’ve looked back at my talking positively list. Here are a few of my positive thoughts and affirmations from that time… 

  • I know I can and will survive what life throws at me.
  • Overthinking and dwelling is bad. I can stop it and I will.
  • I am so lucky to be as loved as I am.
  • It’s a beautiful day and full of possibilities.
  • I can make good things happen to myself.
  • There is nothing to panic about. Everything is ok.
  • People can’t hurt me unless I let them.

How I learned to talk positively to myself every day

Five ways to take some time out of your busy day

Where you’re busy working and looking after a family, if you’re anything like me, you’ll put yourself and your well-being in last place most of the time. I’m a spa junkie and a few times a year I’ll book a day and take myself off. Despite this, I know I need to take 10-15 minutes time out each day to keep some semblance of personal sanity in between spa visits.

If I’m being honest, it’s not always possible for me to take a full 15 minutes, sometimes I forget to put me first for just 1/96th of a day and the habit slips.

Part of my problem, and quite possibly yours too, is that I’m available to other people; friends, family, kids, the internet, every waking hour and sometimes in my non-waking hours too. It’s advisable to turn off phones, tablets and laptops at least an hour before bed. Apparently the blue light can stop us winding down properly and interfere with our sleep patterns. I’m terrible at doing this, but I’m going to try a bit harder.

Five ways to take some time out of your busy day

Here are my five ways to take some time out of your busy day. 

Meditate. I love to meditate. I don’t sit cross-legged on a rug, I generally make myself comfortable on the sofa, or curl up in bed and listen to a mediation app. Andrew Johnson has a great “Power Nap” meditation which lasts for half an hour and is usually enough to wind me down and then power me back up again. I’ve recently downloaded a couple of other apps – Calm and Headspace which are great for shorter bursts of meditation. Even just five or ten minutes can be enough to save your sanity; it’s important to let a little bit of peace and calm into your day.

Read a book. Finding 15 minutes during your day to sit down with a brew and a book. It’s a much better use of your time than you’d think. Transporting yourself to a fictional place and forgetting the state of the house for a few minutes can leave you refreshed and ready to crack on with whatever is waiting for you on the other side. Reading a book before bed is also an excellent way to wind down and stops you scrolling on your phone.

Have a bath. Have a bath, not just any bath, but one with nice fragrant oils or bubbles. Enjoy it in a room lit by candlelight with the door locked to stop invading children is a thing of beauty. I’ve had that kind of bath less than a handful of times over the past few years, but when I have, it’s always been incredibly relaxing. I have friends who manage this every night and their lives are genuinely enriched by having a peaceful bath before bed. Lucky them hey!

Listen to some music. sometimes I’m too agitated to focus on some meditation, so instead I listen to music. Music has the power to lift me up, calm me down, help me process anger or frustrations; it can make me sing and dance,  and it generally raises my spirits. Choose some music to fit your mood or give you what you need and lose yourself in it. For just 15 minutes sit and appreciate, or dance your socks off around the house. Whatever you need.

Go for a walk. I have a dog, so going for a walk is part and parcel of my day. Getting some fresh air, a bit of exercise and physically removing myself from the laptop and the mess in the kitchen does wonders for my mood. I know it’s not always easy to leave home to go for a walk; but even getting off at an earlier bus stop, or going for a quick walk during your lunch break can work wonders.

These are simple things that with a bit of effort you could fit into your day. So what have I done today to give myself some time out? I read a book for a while after lunch in front of the fire, and tonight I will be falling asleep listening to the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Their music sends me off to sleep a treat, I say that in a good way!

How will you take 15 minutes time out today?

Five ways to take some time out of your busy day

If you enjoyed this, you might also like these 28 Self Care habits to stop anxiety in its tracks!

28 Self Care habits to stop anxiety in its tracks

Having an anxiety disorder I try to manage it myself. I personally don’t like myself on medication, but I absolutely don’t judge anyone who benefits from it. Different strokes for different folks and all that. What I am very keen on is self care.

I’ve had a lot of therapy and one common thing which has come up is that I understand myself, my problems and my triggers really, really well, which is great when it comes to managing myself more effectively. Understanding and recognising when things are going to start to slide is a big help, and once they do I have a whole raft of self care tricks up my sleeve. They don’t always work, but nine times out of ten I can head an episode of anxiety off at the pass these days.

There are five recognised areas of self care, these are –
  • Physical – sleep, food, exercise, medication etc
  • Spiritual – meditation, prayer, forgiveness
  • Lifestyle – routine, relaxation, time in nature, setting goals
  • People support – family, friends, therapist, church, support group
  • Emotional self care – positive thoughts, writing it out, dealing with and processing emotions such as grief.

28 Self Care habits which can stop anxiety in its tracks

28 Self Care habits to stop anxiety in its tracks

Ask someone for help. People you love will almost always want to help you, or at least hold your hand a little.

Bake something from scratch that will make you focus on the process of baking. Most baking or cooking from scratch is process driven and needs a little concentration and consideration, it’ll occupy and distract you and you’ll have a cake to eat and share afterwards.

Be in nature, go for a walk and enjoy the fresh air and gentle exercise. Try to find beautiful things to admire, like blossom on the trees, small flowers or fluffy clouds in the blue sky. Take notice of things.

Buy some flowers. Treat yourself to a bunch of your favourite blooms. They don’t have to be expensive. Right now I have a very cheery bunch of daffodils in a jug which smell fantastic and brighten up my home.

Cuddle a human. If you have a human to cuddle, a partner, a child, a parent, a friend, cuddling them can help soothe you. A therapist once told me if you hug someone and your heart is pressed against theirs, the hug has extra love and soothing power. I’ve tried it and I think she might have been right. If you can’t find a human, a cat or dog will be just as good.

Declutter. This has two benefits, you get a tidy house and the act of physically doing something and focusing on the task is great. My anxiety means that over the last few months, my drawers and cupboards have had a lot of attention and it’s quite pleasing to live with some order and no chaos.

Do something you’ve been putting off – grasp the nettle. Sometimes my anxiety is around something I need to do that causes me anxiety. It might be replying to an email or making a phone call, or just tackling something I don’t know how or where to start. Just finding the nerve to just do it can take the anxiety away.

Gardening – getting out in the fresh air is almost always good, digging, planting and creating a nice spot for you to sit in the garden with a cup of tea is never a waste of time.

Get crafting. This is something you can do at home. During a very bad spell a few years ago I took up cross stitch which was great, it really focused me on something other than the inside of my head. I’ve now joined a monthly craft club and sitting for a few hours and working on creating something new gives me one evening a month which I know will be anxiety free.

Go out with friends. Anxiety can make you feel really isolated and alone. Meeting friends for a quick coffee, or going for a night out will help to remind you of the good people around you. Surround yourself with good people if you can, they can make such a difference to you.

Go to bed early. Insomnia, poor sleep patterns and anxiety go hand in hand. Sometimes when I’m anxious I won’t sleep a wink for days. Sometimes all I want to do is sleep. If you can sleep, then an early night and stocking up on a bit of precious rest can help.

28 Self Care habits which can stop anxiety in its tracks

Go to the seaside. I find being near water very restful. I live by the river, so a walk by the river can help soothe me, a lake is good too, but a walk on the beach, even a blowy wintery beach really calms the mind.

Have a bubble bath. Wind down with a warm bubble bath, light candles and create a restful atmosphere. Close your eyes and relax, or take a good book in with you to keep you company.

Listen to music. Music for most people has the ability to lift moods and put a spring in your step. I find some music empowering, some comforting, some makes me happy and some makes me sad. Make a playlist of your favourite songs and listen to them when you need a mood lift.

Make a plan. Having something to look forward to, be it something big like a holiday, or something small like a night out with friends, can give my chaotic mind something to focus on. Having something I really want to do on the horizon can give me something to focus on and aim for.

Meditate. Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, all of that can help you clear your mind and give you some respite from the constant chatter of anxiety. Look on YouTube, download an app or join a class. There will be something out there that will suit you and help you find a bit of inner calm.

Mindful colouring can be great for adults. Mindful colouring books and magazines are widely available and when my mind is really racing, sitting down for an hour and focusing on colouring in can take my anxiety down a notch or two.

Pamper yourself. Give yourself a manicure, pop on a face mask or book yourself in to a salon for a treatment. It’s easy to neglect yourself, especially if you’re feeling negative about yourself. Giving yourself a little pamper can make you feel a bit brighter about things. If I’m down I will dye my hair a cheery colour and it makes me feel a bit less grey and dowdy.

Remove toxic relationships/people from your life. If someone is having a negative impact on you and your life, then you need to start taking steps to remove them from your life, or minimise contact with them. These people are often the trigger for anxiety and removing the trigger can make a huge difference to your long-term mental health.

Say no. If you find yourself saying yes to people or things because you don’t want to let people down or disappoint them, but really you’d much rather say no. Maybe you need to look at why you’re saying yes and what you are getting out of the situation. Maybe it’s ok for you to say no to a few things. It really is ok for you to put yourself first sometimes.

Sing. You don’t have to get on stage and sing, you can sing in the shower, or in a choir, or at church or a concert. Sing along to your favourite songs, let yourself go and sing, sing, sing. You’ll feel better for belting out a tune.

Change your routine. If you can shake up your routine a bit, do. Walk a different route to work. Do something different during your lunch break. Take an afternoon off and go to a gallery, walk in the park. Find something you’d not normally watch on TV that someone has recommended and give it a try. Step out from what you’d normally do and try something a bit different.

Take a social media break / digital detox. I find at times social media can be a bit overwhelming. If it’s not the contact messages, it’s checking likes, it’s feeling bad about the number of likes, and it’s comparing myself to other people and feeling inadequate. Stepping away for a day, a week or forever can be a really healthy thing to do. Sometimes when it all gets too much I delete the apps on my phone rather than deleting the account. That way I can access things if I want to, but they’re not there on my phone, throwing up notifications and vying for my attention. Stepping away for a few days can help to refocus me on the important things in my life and just gives me space.

How to keep track of your Social Media Followers

Turn off your phone. Being available 24 hours a day is all very well and good, but there are certain times when the phone needs to be turned off or put away. Family mealtimes are a time to focus on each other. I try not to use my phone on the school run, so I can fully focus on my son and what he has to say. Turn it off an hour or so before bed and give yourself time to disconnect before bed. Plus it’ll help you wind down for sleep too!

Watch TV or a film. Turning you mind off and watching something that really interests you for a few hours is great self care. Watching a favourite film can be as comforting as putting on an old pair of slippers. Think about what your favourite film is, which film always makes you feel warm and fuzzy, or helps you process feelings of anger. Which film puts you in your happy place? Dig out the DVD, grab some popcorn and treat yourself.

Wear comfortable comforting clothes. I have some clothes in my wardrobe which make me feel better for wearing them; an especially snuggly cardigan, a nice pair of pyjamas or a special jumper. Equally, I have clothes I wear when I need to feel confident. Clothes maketh the man (or woman), so if you need to, dig out your snuggly cardigan, or your uber-confident jacket and put them on.

Write a letter to someone. My postman mostly delivers bank statements and bills. Last year, fed up with the number of brown envelopes on my doormat, I asked if any of my Twitter followers wanted me to write them a good old-fashioned letter. Five people said they’d like that very much; so I sat down and wrote five chatty letters and popped them in the post. They were thrilled and I was equally thrilled when they wrote back. It was a lovely feeling to correspond with someone, like the good old days. What was lovely was to sit down and think of lots of nice, happy, chatty things to talk about it my letters. It helped me focus on the good and the positive. Having a pen-pal is a wonderful thing.

Tell people what they mean to you. I’m a lover. I’m always telling people what they mean to me. Friends and family get told I love them all the time. People who help me get thanked and told how much they’ve made my life easier. It’s not fake, it’s genuinely meant. Sometimes I feel like no one cares about me or appreciates what I do, so leading by example, I tell people what they mean to me. Someone has to start spreading the love, why not let that start with you?

Do you have any self care habits which help you?

28 Self Care habits which can stop anxiety in its tracks

A weird thing happened in the park today

Today I met some friends and their kids in the park for a picnic. It’s half term here and we wanted to try encourage the kids to run some off their excess energy. I had a lovely time, we all had a lovely time.

After a couple of hours we were ready for a coffee, so we ambled over to the cafe in the park and sat outside and watched the kids playing. We were chatting and one of my friends pointed at a woman in the distance and waved. She came over and said hello, we were introduced to each other and she recognised me. She reads my blog! (Hello Sarah *waves*). It’s weird to be recognised.

It’s weird being recognised. I’m not famous, or special, or especially gifted in any particular way. But when I write blog posts, I know people will read them, but I don’t imagine they will. Sometimes hundreds or thousands of people will read the words I write, these words I write, but when I sit at my laptop and write about my thoughts or feelings, or my struggle with my anxiety, I don’t imagine for one single second someone will actually read it or relate to it. But they do. 

Sometimes when I’m pouring my thoughts and feelings out onto my keyboard, someone will read my words and relate to them. Knowing that you are not the only one having these thoughts and feelings can actually really help. I’m not actually helping anyone, I don’t have a cure or a magic bullet to make anyone feel better about themselves, least of all me, but not being alone in feeling anxious or depressed and not feeling so alone can be some comfort. 

I don’t write about my mental health because I’m attention seeking. I don’t do it for clicks or to win awards (because I’ve not won any for a start). I don’t do it so people will pat me on the head and say there there. I write about my mental health because it gets it out of my head and articulating my thoughts and feelings makes me feel better inside.

When I started blogging, about 80% of what I wrote about was awful dirge about the spiralling mess my life was in. That percentage has thankfully dropped and my blog posts about my mental health hopefully read less like a girl falling into an abyss, but a woman who is more in control of things and able to mostly nip things in the bud before worrying things happen. And I thank my blog for that, for the most part anyway.

I guess what I’m wittering on about in my round-about kind of way is talk. There’s no shame in having anxiety or depression, or whatever. Find someone to talk to, find an outlet for all the swirling thoughts in your head and I promise once you open up in whatever way suits you best, you will start to decode the things inside your head. You will figure out your triggers and the things to do and the things to avoid. You will be better, not cured but better.

Things won’t always be as dark as they can be. Talk about it, open up, write a blog. Who knows, you might even get to be as not-famous as me one day.

A weird thing happened today in the park thoughts and feelings

If you’re interested in reading more posts about Mental Health and general thoughts and feelings on the matter, my blog posts can be found here.

This is how it feels to be lonely

Here’s a thing. I’m lonely. I’m very, very lonely. I live in a busy house full of busy people and I’m busy helping people put shoes on, wiping noses, cooking tea, washing school uniforms, walking the dog. It’s endless and endlessly repetitive. A thought keeps creeping into my head and I keep pushing it back so I can’t acknowledge it. But I’m lonely. I’m so very lonely.

Back in the day I had a busy job and work colleagues, legions of friends to go out with and an active social life. Now my life is lived for the most part online. It is wasn’t for the constant chatter about the practicalities of living, finding shoes, being late for school, what’s for tea and me telling the dog what a good girl she is, I’m sure I’d not speak to anyone about anything. I’m really very lonely.

Sometimes I lie in bed at night listening to the quiet creaking of the house and the gentle snoring of the boys in their rooms. I turn over and hug myself to sleep. Sometimes I lie on my arm until it’s numb and I hold hands with myself, just to feel the comfort of human touch. I’m so bloody lonely.

I miss banter, I miss laughing with other people, I miss making people laugh. I miss talking about last nights TV and I miss people needing me and wanting me. I am superfluous. If I vanished I’m sure people would only eventually notice because I stopped tweeting, or the dog needed walking and no one had done it. Or that tea wasn’t on the table.

This sounds so self pitying, but I feel so alone. I feel so lonely. I can’t see a time in the future when I won’t feel like this, if anything it will get worse and I’ll feel more alone and lonely every year. And I don’t know what to do to fix that, other to keep lying on my arm so someone will hold my hand while I fall asleep at night.

Goodnight xx

This is how it feels to be lonely

I will not be beaten by my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD. I was given pills and then more or less was left to get on with it. There were two episodes in my life which were the triggers for my PTSD, both occurred in hospitals. One was an assault and the other is the result of a traumatic birth and a poorly baby. 

For me my PTSD symptoms centre around hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, anxiety and panic attacks. The events which brought on the PTSD happened in 2009/2010 and it wasn’t until mid 2010 that I became symptomatic. Before the first incident I was calm, level headed and strong. When things began to change I felt out of control, anxious and weak.

My son was born in November 2010. His birth was traumatic. In the week afterwards he was subjected to a battery of tests, one of them was a stress test which went on for a couple of hours. Hearing his screams echoing down the hospital corridors haunts my dreams. Just writing it now, I’m reliving it in my head and my chest has tightened and I can’t breathe.

Since my diagnosis in 2012 I have worked hard to find ways of coping with my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and self care is at the heart of a lot of what I do for myself. Pouring my thoughts and feelings out and into my laptop is one of the things I find really helps me. 

Last night I was triggered over a very small silly thing. On twitter I shared a small anecdote about the time I met a very minor celeb (who was in the news) outside a pub. I remarked that his behaviour when I met him was edgy and unsettling. Someone I’d known on twitter a while got snappy with me about it. I obviously touched a nerve with her, although my tweet was innocuous enough.

It got me thinking about why this very minor celeb had unsettled me. Finding the root of the things which bother me or trigger me is something I’ve started to do over the last few years. Doing this is the only way I can confront and deal with the bits of dark inside me which will help me to heal.

After some thought (at 2am, never ever a good time for deep thinking) I realised I was unsettled by the celeb as his demeanour was almost identical to the man who assaulted me. He was edgy and dangerously unpredictable. I doubt the celeb would have laid a finger on me, but remembering the assault triggered a panic attack, which triggered some flashbacks, which meant I was too worried about having nightmares to go to sleep. And now the PTSD, anxiety, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, insomnia cycle has kicked itself off inside me.

More than 12 hours after a something or nothing throwaway comment on twitter I’m now swimming through the sludge of PTSD. I’m trying to keep a lid on my rising panic, but every time I close my eyes I’m back in that clinic room. I’m not sure what to do for the best. I think a good walk and some air will help. I might distract myself with some baking and new puppy cuddles. I need to somehow turn my brain off from thinking and reliving.

But this is what it’s like. You think you’re doing alright keeping control of your demons. Holding things together when the big stuff goes wrong in your life. You take a step back from the things which you know will trigger you, look after yourself and do all the good self care things you know will keep you on track. Then out of nowhere something small and insignificant throws a lego brick under your bare feet and you have a wobble.

A wobble is all it is, I’m sure of it. But it’s a wobble all the same. A Post Traumatic Stress Disorder wobble which will not beat me.

I will not let my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder win

Are you feeling lonely this Christmas?

It’s Christmas Eve. The presents are under the tree, the small boy is tucked up in bed waiting for Father Christmas and I’ve been crying on and off all day.

This time last year I was sat watching TV with my Dad, probably a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special or something, I forget. I know we were sat watching telly with a brew in quiet companionship. My Dad lived alone and for some reason last year I hated the thought of him waking up in an empty house on Christmas morning, so I invited him to stay.

It was one of the best decisions I’d made in a long time. We had a lovely evening and topped it off a little glass of something at midnight to celebrate. After he was asleep we hung a little Christmas stocking on his door and went to bed. Christmas morning was wonderful. I think he’d forgotten how special and magical being in the house with a child on Christmas Day was. It was a day I will treasure forever. Six months later he was dead.

I hate the thought of someone being lonely or being alone when they want company and companionship. I’m northern so I always nod hello to strangers in the street. I’ll sometimes chat to people at the bus stop and I’m happy to make small talk with people in cafes, pubs or wherever. I try to judge it so I don’t come off as a weirdo. But I know that to some people, a little interaction and a chat at a bus stop might be the only conversation they might get that day.

I am lonely too. I miss my Dad so much because he was bloody good company, we’d talk and laugh, or exchange jokes. I’d show him funny things I’d found on Facebook (I’m still saving things to show him, forgetting that I’ll never be able to share a funny video with him again). Some days I hardly speak to a soul, bar the usual “put your shoes on…eat your tea…don’t pick your nose” parenting chatter.

I’ve bought a puppy for company, we’ve had her for ten days now and she’s part menace, part wonderful creature. She sits on my knee and nuzzles me when I cry. I hope she will help with my loneliness at any rate, and she is a comfort at least.

I was sat this afternoon, the house was quiet, the boys off doing things and I reflected on our Christmas so far. It struck me what a lonely time of year it is and how alone I am feeling right now. If I feel alone, then thousands of others must feel the same.

I’m not sure what the cure for that is, other than people extending the hand of friendship and being there. Recognising that someone might be lonely or alone when they might not want to be is probably the first step. It’s not all about parties and enthusiastic socialising. Just popping round for a brew, joining someone for a walk or just picking up the phone for a chat could make all the difference to someone.

Who do you know who might be feeling lonely this Christmas? It might not necessarily be the people you think might be lonesome either. Sending hugs to all those who need one. Merry Christmas xx

Are you feeling lonely this Christmas?

Mental Health Update: I’d rather be happy than normal

People keep saying to me “look at all you’ve been through, look at all you’ve survived, you’re stronger than most”. But I don’t feel strong or stronger than the average person. I just feel human. I don’t think I’ve really gone through more things than the average person does in their life, maybe my bad things have all been squished together into a shorter timeframe. I’d like to think so, if that’s what’s happened, the next few years should be fantastically carefree. But I doubt it.

I’ve spent this evening reading back through old blog posts. Reading the thoughts and feelings I had in 2013/14 when I was really struggling with my mental health and anxiety. To this day I’ve no real idea how I didn’t do myself a serious mischief, but I had good friends who kept me in line as best they could. Without my friends I would have been a complete disaster.

Looking back has given me the chance to reflect on how far I’ve come and how incredibly stable I am these days. I’m quite a bit more boring too, but I think a bit of boring suits me right now.

I’ve always enjoyed going out and painting the town red, but after my Dad died in June I had a word with myself and for the sake of my sanity I decided to focus on my family more and not go out as much, after all, they were grieving just as much as I was. It’s a tactic which has paid off, we are all closer, good things are happening and home feels like a great place to be right now.

I’ve been trying to be an uber-mum and a wonder-wife. Importantly, I’ve been trying to be kinder to myself. I’ve had spa weekends with friends, the occasional night out, a wonderful weekend away with my husband. I’ve had a trip to River Cottage, I’ve taken the boy on some magical adventures and I’ve just done things which make my heart glad. I have plans for more things which will make me and my family happy too.

For years my life has been without balance. There’s a lot of talk about work-life balance and I’ve had it wrong all along. Before Ben came along I worked hard and played hard. Once he arrived I began to struggle to be the girl who loved work, enjoyed going out, to be the wife and the mother, the girl who could do it all. It quickly became apparent that I couldn’t do it all and that I was human after all. Fate intervened and the balance shifted, but I still didn’t have it right.

To be the best me I can be I need to up my mum game. I need to be a better, more supportive wife. I need not to work as hard. I need long walks in the fresh air and decent coffee. I need laughter and love. I need my friends and I need to spend more time doing the things that make me happy, rather than the things I’ve felt I needed to do just to get by. I think focussing on being happy rather than my to do list will eventually force the balance to shift.

It’s good to look back sometimes, to see the person I was and to compare and contrast with the Jane who is sitting here today. I am different. I’m stronger, maybe a little jaded and frayed around the edges. But I’m so proud of myself for pulling myself out of the mire and for just putting one foot in front of the other at a time when that felt almost impossible.

It would’ve been so easy to throw in the towel. I’m glad I didn’t because where I am today is so far beyond how I was back then. I’m no stronger than anyone else, I’m no more resilient. I’m just human and we are born to survive.

Mental Health Update: I'd rather be happy than normal - stronger

What’s it like being an Emotional Empath?

There are people in this world who will take advantage of your kindness and care. As an emotional empath there are certain kinds of people who pick up on that and take advantage of my sensitive, caring and giving nature.

I identify as an Emotional Empath, if you’ve not heard that term before, Karla Mclaren defines it here –

An ‘emotional empath’ is “someone who is aware that he or she reads emotions, nuance, subtexts, undercurrents, intentions, thoughts, social pace, interactions, relationship behaviours, body language, and gestural language to a greater degree than is deemed normal.”

Being an emotional empath means I am attuned to other people’s feelings and sensitivities on a level above and beyond the average. All my life people have said things like I’m a good listener, or I give great advice. People find it easy to open up to me and tell me their deepest darkest secrets. It can feel like a real honour to be the one person someone feels able to confide in. 

The downside is that sometimes people can overburden me with their problems. Sometimes people can be a real drain on my emotional energy and it’s exhausting. It’s easy to burn out emotionally when someone leans on me too hard. I just have to take a step back, I can’t be the emotional crutch for the world.

Emotional empaths are highly attuned to the emotions of the people around them. Often instinctively knowing that there is more to a story than meets the eye.  We are emotionally drained by crowds, noise, smells and being talked at or bombarded with text messages, and we need time alone to recover ourselves. 

I am very open with my feelings, I talk about them to everyone, I cry in public. I am highly sensitive, probably too sensitive and I pick up on so much around me. It can be exhausting.

I have learned to manage it to a degree. When I recognised that I was an emotional empath a few years ago, I read around it, spoke to a few people and I began to understand myself a bit better. I understood why I act and react the way I do and why I attract emotional vampires (people who instinctively see the empath in me, and take advantage of that) and how I can take steps to stop that happening.

I see my heightened empathy as a gift and a curse. I can’t imagine being any different. It’s a nice thing to be able to be there for people when they need someone to care and listen. But it can be overwhelming to be constantly aware of everyone else’s emotions swirling around me.

I used to think I was too sensitive for my own good, but in so many ways it’s good to be sensitive. Learning to listen to the intuitive voice inside me makes me a better person. It can be exhausting, but being an emotional empath is a powerful gift, and one I wouldn’t change.

emotional empath