Winston Churchill was one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. He led Britain through its darkest hour and helped the west defeat nazi Germany.
He also struggled with his mental health as he battled the 'Black Dog' of depression. This short podcast outlines what I believe to be his five keys to mental resilience.
If you like the podcast, please leave a review in iTunes and subscribe on YouTube.
When thinking positive means plastering on a forced smile and latching onto one specific result that we’ve decided is more favorable than another one, that you think will bring happiness, we are only setting ourselves up for disappointment and unhappiness. Thinking positive in this way is really forming expectations and attachments to outcomes and almost always is a negative.
It’s like wishing that leprechauns will magically intervene to make sure everything turns out as we want while unicorns frolic in the flower-filled meadow under a rainbow. ‘Aint gonna happen. Then, when things don’t go as hoped, how can we help but be mad and sad?
This kind of positive thinking puts pressure on a person to control or manipulate events to try to make them go a certain way, which is frustratingly impossible and a sure prescription for anxiety and worry.
There's A Better Way
When any situation presents itself, I consider the possible probable outcomes, both desirable and those which may seem less-than-perfect, and stay open to and attempt to find the positive in each of them. There is always some good if you look for it. In my own life, I’ve witnessed time and time again where something, which initially looked like an “oh crap!”, turned out to be awesome and even better than what I’d hoped for.
I don’t pretend to begin to know what is “best”in any situation anymore. “Best” is something I make out of what happens. It’s up to me. I can make any circumstance good or bad with my thinking about it and my response to it. My experience and the ultimate impact of any happening in my life is determined by my thoughts about and response to the situation.
When I open up my thinking, consider the possible benefits of an event, and ask myself “How do I make this work for me?” , the positive possibilities become endless. Next, I can move forward taking mindful steps, being receptive to unforeseen paths and choices that may present themselves as events unfold, while having faith in myself and the universe.
Then, I think positive and take positive actions.
No matter what presents itself, I’m positive about my ability to handle and work with whatever comes my way and make something good of it. I’m positive that whatever happens is going to turn out OK in the end (because OK is in y thoughts) and that I can learn from it. Then and only then is being positive, having confidence and trust in yourself and whatever higher power you believe in, always a positive.
I saw an image saying “Positive thoughts are not enough. You have to have positive feelings and actions.” Now, that one didn’t make me cringe!
Debbie Hampton recovered from decades of unhealthy thinking and depression, a suicide attempt, and resulting brain injury to become an inspirational and educational writer on brain, emotional, and mental health. On her website, The Best Brain Possible, Debbie shares how she rebuilt her brain and life to find joy and thrive. She wants you to know that you can do it too! You can quickly learn the steps to a better you in her book Beat Depression And Anxiety By Changing Your Brain with simple practices easy to implement in your daily life. Improve your brain, improve your life.
Get daily inspiration and information by joining Debbie on Facebook. Connect with Debbie on Twitter: @dlhampton
The first time melancholia, depression, anxiety – and by this I don’t refer to just a brief spell of the blues, which most people experience at times during their life – knocks you sideways it’s a case of, ‘you never knew what was coming ! Unless it was related to a serious problem in the sufferer’s life, such as bereavement, divorce, loss of their job, initially you can’t determine what’s wrong other than the dreadful effects. So, to the uninitiated, the initial signs of the onset of the Dark Night of the Soul are often a strange sense of unease and concern, even though nothing is outwardly amiss but, nonetheless, the queasiness and the unsettled mood are tangible and disturbing.
The abrupt early morning waking, usually before 5.00am each day, is hard to comprehend until, along with the shock of fear, dread, nausea and panic as to what the forthcoming day offered, it becomes a regular and frightening pattern. This waking is often so sudden and abrupt that it can be likened to the shock of having a bucket of ice cold water tipped over the sleeping body. Drenched in sweat on a cold Autumn morning and totally lacking in appetite until night fall, a deep depression would fail to lift, even if no crises occurred during the day. Occasionally, these demons could be seen off temporarily, but never totally banished, by an evening’s alcohol only to return by morning.
During the gut-churning morning drive to work each day, the previously experienced pleasure of turning on the car radio to music in order to lift the spirits would, conversely, have the opposite effect as records recalled from happier, carefree, times only deepened the depression, evoking a sense of nausea and despair, drenching me in a clammy sweat even before I reached the purgatory of work where minor setbacks took on the magnitude of major proportions. Existence began to take on the quirks of a sadist as the odd optimistic moments, which offered a straw to clutch at, were rapidly dispelled at the first sign of some pessimistic mental signal, triggered, maybe, by something as ‘daft’ as a dark scene or episode in a television play or film.
This was my lot the first time…….
I am aged 68 and retired, though I have been providing help part time to the company I worked for, for over 20 years and retired from 3 years ago. I worked for most of my adult life as a Quality Manager in Industry. I am married and have two grown up children and four grandchildren. I read a lot and am currently halfway through an Open University degree course in Philosophy and Psychology.
Connect on Twitter: @Leveller49
What does mental illness look like to you?
Someone who sits in bed all day, unable to face the world?
A person who goes around crying all the time and is never happy?
Or perhaps even a nutter who shouldn’t be alone with children?
The reality is far less interesting. For you see, mental illness looks like…me.
Or your brother, sister, mum, dad, uncle, friend, cousin. Even your son or daughter. Maybe even you.
1 in 4 people in the UK suffer from some form of mental illness. That’s an incredible number isn’t it? But despite what the newspapers, television programmes or social media might lead us to think, we’re not all nutters and weirdos. Most of us are normal people going about our business.
Let me ask you a question. Before I opened up about it, did you know that I suffered from depression? What about anxiety?
And here’s another question. Do you know that I still do? Or did you think I was all cured now?
How many of you have stopped to ask? How many of you even know what depression and anxiety are?
Depression is not being in a state of permanent sadness. Sufferers do not walk around constantly on the edge of tears. Most of us are not bed ridden or house bound recluses. Depression doesn’t care if you are happy or sad. As a matter of fact, depression is in some ways the complete absence of emotion. Life loses meaning, there is no joy to be found, no matter how we may be blessed. We exist because we have to but we do not live. Not really.
But mental illness isn’t a real illness, is it? It’s all just in the head. It’s not like having cancer or breaking a bone. That’s real, I can see that, it’s physical.
Well let’s put that myth to bed.
Mental illness is real and believe it or not, it is physical as well as mental. Quite apart from the complex chemical imbalances that cause depression in many sufferers, symptoms include the very real physical properties of loss of energy, poor concentration, changes to diet and changes to behaviour. Sufferers may withdraw from life, isolate themselves.
But even without these physical manifestations, the mental anguish is difficult enough. Imagine being told every day that you’re no good, that you’re stupid, that you’re ugly, that you’re fat, that you’re a failure, that you get everything wrong, that everyone hates you, that you don’t deserve happiness, that you can never change.
Now imagine that this voice is your own.
That is what it feels like to live with depression and anxiety.
But if it’s all in the head, just stop thinking that way, right? Just forget about it, don’t take things so seriously, pull your socks up, get on with it, think how lucky you are!
Oh if it were that easy. Depression is not feeling down because your favourite programme just finished or because they didn’t have any beans at the supermarket. Depression is a persistent, pervasive lowering of mood. It can come quickly, perhaps triggered by a specific event, or come on gradually.
And anxiety is not worrying that you’ve run out of milk or that it might rain at the weekend. Anxiety is a state of hyper stimulation, locked in a constant state of readiness for an event that will never come, expecting the worst.
Stress is not the enemy. Stress is a friend that gives us the impetus to move forward. But anxiety and depression hit when the stress becomes too much for too long. Like a kettle constantly at boiling point but never able to shut off. Or the elastic band, so pliable until you pull too hard for too long and it snaps in two.
Mental illness destroys lives. Sometimes it even ends them.
I am lucky. I had the opportunity to undergo therapy. I spent three months in a mental hospital, surrounded by patients with a broad spectrum of illness; from depression to OCD, bi-polar to self-harming.
In some ways my mental illness cost me my job. At least it didn’t cost me my life.
But two years on, I am far from cured. I am wracked by anxiety on a daily basis. Depression remains an uninvited guest, constantly banging on the door to come back in. Sometimes I let him, it becomes too difficult to say no. But it’s even harder to get him to leave.
I decided to be open about my illness because I wanted to change and to show others that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. But many others are fighting their own private battles or suffering in silence.
Together we can end the stigma around mental illness.
Mental illness is not mental weakness.
I am a married father of twin girls and a young son.
In 2013 I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and spent three months receiving treatment at the Priory Hospital in Roehampton. As part of my recovery, I began exploring mental illness in blogs and stories and in 2014 I self-published three collections, which are available on Amazon.
Recent pieces published on my website include a series exploring how a healthy living plan affected my mental health and a look at the highs and lows of being a parent whilst battling mental illness. I also write weekly retrogaming articles for a videogaming website.
By Joseph C. Lee, M.D.
“In the past when my father was diagnosed with cancer, it made me more focused, more dedicated, more connected to him. I was the best version of myself then. Now, I feel so frail. I don’t feel like my normal self.”
“I feel like I’m always one step removed.”
“I actually don’t feel sad. I don’t feel anything. I know that this should feel good, but it doesn’t.”
“I can’t get out of bed, even though a part of me knows that if I get out of bed, I’ll probably feel better. But I can’t get up.”
These are all ways in which people in my practice have described what they’ve felt during seasons of Depression. What they all have in common is that when they were depressed, they didn’t feel like their normal selves. I sometimes use this self-awareness to help people understand that this unfamiliar state only reinforces that what they are experiencing is indeed a clinical Depression, and not a “normal” reaction to difficult circumstances. This is one of the most valuable insights that I learned from one of my mentors during residency – that there’s “misery” which we’re all bound to experience at some point in our lives, and then there’s Depression, and they are not the same.
I’ve previously discussed the important role of emotions as it pertains to motivation, health and wellbeing – and this includes the value of unpleasant emotions. Some of these feelings that may not feel so great are necessary to help provide us the awareness and in turn the motivation to help course correct our behavior back towards healthiness.
Feelings of misery cause us to reflect on our negative circumstances and eventually create an internal tension so great that it creates a willingness to take the risks necessary to make meaningful changes in our lives.
Feelings of sadness are experienced when we’ve suffered a loss, and the process of grieving allows us to appreciate what we have, and take inventory of what is needed to move forward.
Feelings of loneliness help us to recognize our universal need for connection, creating an internal sense of longing, which builds a motivation to fulfill our relationship needs by seeking out opportunities to reach out to others.
All of these experiences are emotionally painful, but just like physical pain, they alert us to problems in our lives, and provide motivation and direction to attempt to resolve these issues. All of these experiences are also normal parts of our shared human experience. 100% of us will experience misery, sadness, and loneliness at different times throughout our whole lives, and if we respond appropriately, it’s a good thing.
Depression is different. Though certain emotions can feel depressing, a capital “D” Depression (or formally called a Major Depressive Episode) is a prolonged state of dysfunction, outside the scope of normal human experience. It is more common than most people think. About 7% of the American population will experience a Major Depressive Episode in any given year, but most people will not experience depression in their lifetime. However, it is common enough that you are very likely to know someone within your inner social circle that has experienced Depression, or you yourself may be that person. In fact, even by conservative measures, about 1 in 8 women will experience a depressive episode in their lifetime, which is about the same percentage of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. For men, the risk over a lifetime is about 1 in 15. To make these statistics more realistic, take the average sized class of 30 students. Two of the boys and four of the girls in that class will have Depression in their lifetime.
Another very important distinction between unpleasant emotions and Depression is related to the source of the feelings. Whereas normal emotional experiences are a natural response to circumstance (outside factors), the symptoms of Depression are caused by internal factors within the brain. For example, a person feels miserable because they have an ungratifying, underpaying job that they spend 70 hours a week at. Outside-in. Depression causes a person to believe that their previously perfectly acceptable job is now overwhelmingly difficult and stressful. Inside-out. Healthy emotions are also responsive to acute changes in environment. If a person is understandably feeling sad and lonely because of a recent breakup, some caring friends might be able to temporarily cheer him up by taking him out and providing good company to get his mind off of things. If a person is depressed, regardless of a change in environment or the presence of other positive relationships, this person still feels empty, disconnected, and is unable to enjoy themselves. If someone hates their job but goes on a two week vacation to Hawaii, they can have fun and relax while away, and will likely start feeling bad on the return flight anticipating their first day back to work. With Depression, that person still feels depressed in Hawaii, again because it is the internal state of mind that dictates their mood.
Depression is also much more than an emotional problem, but a reflection of the expansive dysfunction of the whole mind, where its symptoms reach into all the primary domains of brain functioning – including the physical, cognitive and emotional. In fact, when looking at the core symptoms of Depression, we can see that they are divided into these three categories:
Physical – changes to appetite, changes to baseline sleep patterns, changes to energy levels, changes to motivation and drive
Cognitive – concentration problems, memory difficulties, negative thinking patterns (hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness)
Emotional – inability to regulate mood properly, diminished ability to experience positive emotions, excessive feelings of guilt
A simpler way to think of how best to summarize these changes are that all brain functions are diminished during a depressive episode, and the above symptoms are the manifestation of that diminished functioning. Some symptoms are a result of losing the regulatory functions of the brain, such as with disturbances in sleep, appetite, and mood. Other symptoms are the direct result of impaired functioning – such as a lack of positive emotion, slowed thinking, low energy and drive. These core dysfunctions of the primary abilities of the brain lead to secondary impairments in social, occupational and the otherwise normal routines of daily functioning. The severity of impairment is usually a combination of symptom severity along with the degree to which cognitive distortions affect a person’s behavior. Depression by itself feels bad enough, but if a person is convinced that they can’t get out of bed, isn’t eating much, isolates, and recycles negative thoughts in their head all day long – they will feel worse. The most dangerous outcome of such distorted thinking is the triad of feeling hopeless, helpless and worthless – paired with the genuine anguish of Depression. This commonly leads to passive thoughts of dying as a form of relief to their suffering, and at its worst can lead to persistent thoughts of suicide. However, it is crucial to know that full recovery from depressive episodes is the norm, and so suicide would be an even more tragic attempt to find a permanent solution to temporary pain. With Depression, it will always resolve and recovery is usually complete.
As described above, the symptoms experienced during Depression are a reflection of problems of brain functioning, not related to brain injury. To use a modern analogy, if your brain was a computer, it’s more akin to a software problem, not a hardware issue. Once the software bug has been fixed, you can usually expect the computer to run as well as it did before. Talking about fixes, the good news is that Depression is readily treatable and most people respond positively. One big reason has to do with its episodic nature to begin with – there’s a beginning, and thankfully there’s an end. These episodes can last for a couple of weeks, or more commonly for few months. But almost always, they end. So in one sense, the most reliable “treatment” for Depression is time. However, there’s a lot of suffering during a Depression so all active treatments are therefore aimed at effectively reducing the severity, intensity, duration and recurrence of symptoms.
The most common options for treatment are the use of medication or structured talk therapy, the most studied and practiced being Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Many studies validate that the combination of the two tends to better than either alone. Beyond that, there’s also procedures that can be done for more severe cases, including rTMS and ECT. From the perspective of Mental Healthiness principles, I’ve previously discussed specific ways in which research has demonstrated that positive relationships, growth mindsets, and strategies that support self-efficacy also can be effectively used to not only treat a depressive episode, but also contributes to greater mental health in the long term, providing greater protection against future recurrence as well.
Misery, sadness, and loneliness are universal experiences of our human lives. Like all emotion, when we learn to recognize and effectively use them, they provide us healthy motivation and direction to resolve our problems and meet our needs. This is good. This is healthy. Depression is not good nor healthy. It is an experience that in some ways can feel like these normal emotional states, but in every other way is more painful, dysfunctional, and reflects an unhealthy state of mind. Thankfully, there’s many helpful and safe ways to accelerate the process of healing when depressed, and people always recover because depression comes and goes like the seasons. Winter inevitably ends and leads into the Spring. If you think that you or someone you care about may be experiencing Depression, reach out to someone and get help, because it will do just that – it will help.
About Dr. Joseph Lee: I’m a Psychiatrist in private practice in Redondo Beach, CA. After completing my training at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, my post-residency learning has been influenced by the successes and challenges of being a psychotherapist, the life changing experience of becoming a parent, as well as the study of Interpersonal Neurobiology, Social Cognitive Neuroscience, Nonviolent Communication, Positive Psychology, and Emotions Research. My other interests include spending time with my wife and kids, playing basketball, eating good food, the Lakers, and U2.
Aye so, another blog, a few paragraphs of wisdom, an insight into my personal experience of post traumatic stress disorder and the symptoms associated with it, the depression, the anxiety, the feelings of failure, the need to stay safe, the loneliness, the turmoil that would flow through my mind. To be honest I can’t really remember half the symptoms and to me that’s a result, another reminder of how far I have came and the victories I have achieved since my first blog in May 2013.
If you’re that interested in the symptoms and my battles you will find all my previous blogs via firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @weaselblogs. If you are suffering from PTSD or other mental health conditions they might be worth a read, they’ll let you see that your demons can be beaten, controlled, I’m not really sure what the best term to use is but I’m pretty content with where I am mentally now.
I don’t even know why I am attempting to write this blog, previously they’ve been used to get thoughts out of my head that is haunting or controlling me, stuff that I needed to say but couldn’t or found too hard to. I’ve also used them to give some practical advice to others that are going through similar but haven’t been fortunate enough to receive the professional help that I have. I also like to use them to give others hope, hope that one day things will get easier for them. Hope that they too can win their battles and find this contention mentally. I’m not going to do that with this one as I think it’s just going to get repetitive.
I think I want to use this blog to highlight the importance of being open and honest about your problems and the benefits that come with this honesty. I know it’s hard to open up, it would feel like a defeat, a sign of weakness, a failure, it honestly isn’t. It’s been the single best decision I have ever made, it’s led me to being the most confident and content mentally that I have ever been.
It took me to get to the lowest I could get to before I could admit I had a problem, I was forced into opening up and admitting my problems, sharing my fears, telling the people I love why I was acting the way I was and how my mind was out of control. Who wants to tell someone that they believe they are going crazy and that the world and everything in it scares you.
Maybe if I didn’t get that low I would never have opened up, I’d maybe never have sought the professional help that I did, I’d maybe be spending the rest of my life battling my thoughts and believing I was weaker and inferior to everyone else because I had all these irrational thoughts, I had all those social anxieties and all those fears that were stopping me from living.
I’m not saying I am the man I want to be now that I’ve dealt with my demons but what I am is content mentally and I have belief and confidence in life, myself and the world around me. My mind now works as logically as it has ever done and my thinking is calm and under control. I’m maybe lucky that PTSD can be a temporary condition; maybe mine wasn’t as severe as it can be, maybe I just got a right good psychologist, who knows but I’m in a great place mentally and I never ever thought I would get here this quickly or get here at all.
I’ve learned along the way that most people have anxieties, fears, worries, it’s perfectly normal, it becomes a problem when it takes control of you and stops you acting the way you truly want to act and when it stops you doing the stuff you love and enjoy.
When I started my psychology sessions, I decided to be as honest as I could with my psychologist, this was my chance to get everything out of my head and find out why I was acting and thinking the way I was, I wanted answers, I wanted to be normal again, I wanted to be able to compare myself to my peers and feel on equal par again. We talked through my fears and my way of thinking, Laura my psychologist explained why I was thinking what I was and acting the way I was. In that first session she diagnosed what I had, explained all the symptoms and told me how I was going to beat it.
I came out of that first session and I knew I had to be as honest with everyone in my life, friends, family, and my girlfriend at the time, my work colleagues. I didn’t know how to go about this but I needed to. I needed them to know what was going in my illogical mind. The only thing I could come up with was one of these ramblings and soon I had my first blog.
Within minutes of sharing my first blog, I received incredible messages of support and some amazing words of wisdom, people who I believed to be far stronger and greater than me would tell me about what they feared or told me they felt similar. They told me how brave I was to be as open and honest, I didn’t feel brave I just felt this feeling of pressure lifting off of me, my mind slowing down a bit, a sense of pleasure that I had took this action and it was so positive.
This is where I believe being open and honest has been a massive help to me. People couldn’t wait to offer support, an ear to let off steam into, words of wisdom or simply to tell me that I was loved and a far better person than I believed myself to be. Since that first blog I continue to be open and honest and I shall for the rest of my life. I’ve realised It’s just me that can make me feel inferior, only me, can deal with my thinking and keep it under control.
I believe if I am going to stay on this path, where I am positive and living the way I want to live I need to continue being as open and honest. The lies I told to stay safe when I was ill will probably frustrate me for a while yet, that’s why now I am so honest. When am having a bad day, which has been very rare, I’ll talk about it, I try to share the wisdom and knowledge I have gained from my experiences to help others.
I ask you that if you are toiling open up and you will see the love and wisdom people can give you. The ability to stay connected and talk to your friends and family is part of the solution in terms of things getting easier and better for you. I’ve managed to help a few other people who have issues with my honesty and that’s what it’s all about, giving that wee bit back and breaking down the stigma. You soon realise that you aren’t alone, depression and anxiety are more common than you imagine, it’s just some people hide it better than others or have the skills to keep it under control.
Anyway, I’m not really sure I’ve achieved what I wanted to with this blog and I don’t feel it’s as strong as my others but maybe that’s a sign of where I am and how positive I am feeling. It’s hard for me to recall the feelings, the fears, the symptoms, it all just seems like a journey that I was meant to take in order for me to help others and learn so much about myself, love and life.
It has been two years since I got discharged from my psychology sessions, in that time I’ve completed my first year at university studying psychology and I’ve regained my life and had so much fun with friends and family. Life can change in moments, my attack and breakdown demonstrates that but it can also change for the better. That moment I tweeted my first blog was a massive help to me, the moment I walked into that room for my first session my life started improving again. What’s the worst thing that can happen if you try opening up? I guarantee you it probably won’t be as bad as you think. The human race can be an understanding and caring lot when they need to be. I rely on them when I do have my moments of anxious thoughts, they don’t happen that often but when they do, I’m not long in discussing my irrational and illogical thoughts.
Anyway keep on keeping on
Love and peace
Kevin I sufferes from PTSD and got a bit lost for a while. He's now trying to spread the word regarding mental health and breaking the stigma. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @weaselblogs
A Saving Encounter on the Streets
During the late summer of 2005, I found myself homeless. I spent two weeks in an overnight shelter in the city of Camden, New Jersey. Most people would consider this a terrible and frightening situation. However, providence allowed for a different situation and outcome. To begin my story, I suffer with mental illness. My mental illness was not the direct cause of my homelessness, but an indirect cause. I had been living in my own apartment for several years, working a fulltime position as a human services case worker. However, the stress of the position resulted in my first hospitalization in a psychiatric hospital. I spent nine months in the hospital, during which I became stabilized. Because of the length of time, I lost my apartment. The loss of my apartment started a whirlwind of circumstances, some good and some bad.
After my stay in the hospital, I lived in boarding homes. The boarding homes were private residences, where the owners were licensed to take in clients. Most of the owners treated me kindly, some not so kindly. I had to deal with jealous women and men offering propositions, in the boarding homes which housed coed clients. As a condition of my residence, I had to attend a partial-care behavioral health program during the day. The program was an opportunity to socialize, but my time at the not so comfortable boarding homes made me more resilient to find my way back to having my own home.
I had a case worker assigned to me. At first, she seemed kind and concerned. I would try to call her at her office every week so that she could help me find my own apartment. I would leave several messages for her. She would not return my phone calls. I became very frustrated and felt hopeless. I left my last boarding home in the middle of the night. I felt fearful and unsafe. I snuck out without telling anyone, leaving behind all my clothes and possessions. Because I had money coming in, I was able to take a taxi to a hotel. The next day, as a means for revenge for my poor treatment by the owner of the boarding home, I canceled the money order I gave her the previous day, for the current month’s rent. Then, I attempted to call my case worker.
My caseworker was forced to come visit me at the hotel because I told her supervisor that I did not feel safe at the boarding home. Upon her arrival, she treated me with disdain; she acted as if she had a poor attitude. I tried to explain to her that I wanted to get my own apartment and that I had the money to do as such. She would not listen to me. She was busy talking on her cell phone. I started to cry and became so angry that I turned over the night desk. Although I would not hurt a fly, she stood there watching to see if I would come toward her in a violent manner. I knew that if she were truly afraid, she would have turned around and left immediately, but she was taunting me. As per agency rules when affronted with possible violence, my case worker finally left me standing alone in my hotel room. I was so scared of being left alone without any help, I went after her. I followed her all the way to her car, begging her without shame, not to leave me. She ignored me and drove off.
Because the hotels were not for extended stays, I had to go to one hotel to the next until I ran out of money. At the last hotel, I was so stressed that I fainted in the lobby of the hotel. I was taken, by ambulance, to a hospital in Camden, New Jersey. While there, a social worker found a shelter where I could stay the night. The shelter was a row home in the city. The men slept upstairs while the women slept downstairs. I was very nervous and a little afraid. There was no room to be judgmental of the other people; we were all in the same situation. The shelter was only temporary; everyone had to leave in the morning. If anyone wanted to stay again, he or she had to come back the next day just before the shelter opened.
There was a young, Caucasian man that befriended me who also stayed at the shelter, with me being African American. He was quite handsome. I found out later, through our conversations, that he was Jewish. I had to go back to the shelter for two weeks. I did not know anything about the city, nor did I know my way around it. This young man was a Godsend to me. He took me to a place to get clothing. I was fortunate to find a bag of donated clothing that did fit me, and the clothing was very fashionable. I did not miss a meal. The young man and I went to a local church for our daily meals. The food was satisfying and delicious.
Obviously, there was nowhere to clean up or take a shower. The gentleman that directed the shelter allowed me to get up early before anyone else to wash up in the bathroom with some donated toiletries. I thanked God for his kindness. I felt blessed and protected because I had somewhere to lay my head down at night, food to eat, and clothes on my back.
My time on the streets of Camden, New Jersey came to an end. I did not see the realities of city life: the drugs, crime, and prostitution. I did see the poverty, however. The young man must have seen that I was becoming too attached and comfortable to him and this city life. He had to implement some tough love. He took me to a one-stop agency that helped homeless individuals. He said that he had to leave me there because he had to continue by himself. He said that I would find help at this center. We said goodbye to each other. That was the last time that I saw the young, handsome man.
The one-stop agency did help me. That day I was placed in a shelter for women with mental illness. The shelter was a full-service agency. I was able to stay during the day and night, take showers there, and receive my meals there. I received counseling and guidance to help me get back on my feet.
Today, I have lived in my own home for over seven years. I have earned two degrees, including a Master’s. I have written two award-winning books of inspirational poetry. I remain thankful for what I do have, never taking it for granted. I did call the shelter, where I and the young, handsome man had a brief encounter, to thank the director for being so kind to me and for watching over me. I believe that I had to experience homelessness to make me strong for whatever destiny God has planned for me, and for my ability to relate to and console others. As such, I have no regrets.
My name is La Shea A. Stanard. I am a writer and author of inspirational poetry. I believe that we all have different experiences that lead to similar life lessons. We also all have gifts that can lift us to new heights, if we allow them. I write poetry to express those common, life lessons for clarification and inspiration. My life motto comes from my favorite poet: “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” –William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
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My Name is Jasmin Pierre. I am from New Orleans, Louisiana and I am 26 years old. At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression. For almost 6 years ive been battling this illness. The worst of it came in 2014 when I nearly almost died. This video I created spreads Awareness and also gives my personal testimony of how I got through everything and came out even stronger. I made this video to help people realize they can come out of the darkness and find the light again. I also made this video to educate people who may not know how serious clinical depression really is. It is my mission to make this video go viral. Over 350 million people suffer from some form of depression around the world. I want people who are suffering with Depression or just life situations in general to know that they can and will come out victorious as long as they have a faith in God, a faith in themselves, and they NEVER EVER give up. Please watch, share, and subscribe to my YouTube channel. Help me spread awareness.
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My name is Jonny ward or the anxious fireman on Twitter (@jonnyward21).
About two years ago I was fine, absolutely fine, confident, self assured, resilient. But underneath that my mind was bubbling.
I was stressed from work, organising things and life in general. There had been some ill health in a couple of close family members and life was becoming harder. I had also been to some particularly nasty incidents at work. I didn't realise how much these things were affecting me so I just carried on.
I started having heart palpitations, both during the day but mostly at night whilst I was trying to sleep. I did what most men would do, I ignored them. I say I ignored them but what I actually did was massively over think and worry about them without telling anyone.
I started to worry more and more that my physical health was deteriorating when it was really my mental health. There is a history of health anxiety in the family and it was now my turn. I started taking myself to A and E only to be told nothing was wrong.
I convinced myself something was wrong to the point I started withdrawing from anything physical. This was especially hard to do with my job so work was becoming worrying. The more I worried the worse the palpitations, or panic attacks became. As they got worse I became more withdrawn from everyday life.
I started to avoid my normal activities like the gym, the pub, seeing friends as I didn't want to have a panic attack in front of them. They caused me to sweat, feel very uncomfortable, giddy and just want to leave the situation.
My personal hygiene, fitness, sleep and normal happy go lucky attitude were all suffering. I found it hard to go to work, leave the house or go on holiday.
Then I caught myself drinking to calm myself down. It was this point I new something had to be done. I saw the doctor, who prescribed me medication and put me onto a cbt course with the NHS. I contacted mind who offered me counselling. I also started meditation and gradually reintroducing myself to my old life one step at a time.
It was a long process but gradually I got better. As I got better the palpitations stopped and my stressed state calmed. I slowly but surely returned to my old self.
Almost anyway, I don't think I will ever be my old self again, nor would I want to be. I'm 30 now, but in my early twenties would have been someone who thought mental illness was not a real thing. I know now that it is the most lonely, frightening illnesses anyone can go through.
But for all the dark, withdrawn days I spent in bed just hiding from the world. There has come a brighter way at looking at the world. I understand myself more, my triggers, my mind. I am also much more understanding, compassionate and willing to listen to people who are suffering.
In a way in glad it happened, it was rubbish, but I'm glad it happened. I always wanted to experience life and all it has to offer. I know now that means experiencing the darker side of it.
The best advice I can give anyone, whatever you feel, admit it. Don't shy away, allow yourself to feel and understand it. Don't fear your emotions, they are just your reaction to the world around you. They are normal.
My best to you all,
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If you had told me three years ago I would be working on a wellbeing project helping others with their struggles around Mental Health I would not have believed you. This time three years ago, my life had gone from being a loving wife, mother of three, professional nurse within critical care, having fulfilled most of my life’s dreams to someone who was determined to destroy themselves in any way possible.
This obviously did not happen overnight, and looking back, I have always had a tendency to act impulsively and irrationally at times, but always thought this was normal and I was just an emotional, passionate person. I knew at times in my life I was struggling with depression but always related it to my menstrual cycle saying, “oh it’s cos I’m due on”.
I was also aware that my mum had suffered with a hormone imbalance, which caused behaviour changes and she had spent many years on hormone replacement therapy.
As a teenager I was a typical tearaway, and really struggled with my identity. Often I would feel like I just changed according to the people around me and didn’t know who the real Lydia was.
I moved to Liverpool in 1999 to work at Alderhey hospital as a staff nurse. I met my husband and we married in 2002 and went on to have three children. After my first child, I suffered with post-natal depression and was started on antidepressants by my doctor. I stopped these once pregnant with my daughter but as soon as I had finished breastfeeding her, I relapsed. In September 2007 I found I was pregnant with my third child Ethan and once again stopped my medication. I still felt that somehow my mood and behaviour changes were linked to my hormones as when I was pregnant or breast feeding I would feel so much better. Once Ethan was born, yet again my thoughts and behaviour were becoming erratic with outbursts of anger and plenty of tears. During the years I had struggled I always managed to maintain an external appearance of a women who balanced, family, work, church and life in general really well. I can remember people often saying to me, “How do you do it all??” Even at work where I held a responsible job as a sister in critical care, no-one had any idea of my internal suffering and the constant struggles I had inside my head. One of the obsessive thoughts I would often have to fight was the fear of something happening to my children. This soon became too close to reality when my youngest son Ethan had a large seizure at home and was diagnosed with epilepsy.
I started to lose separation as to what was real and what was not and began to lose grip on reality. I couldn’t understand what the point of me living was when I couldn’t protect my children. I felt like a failure as a mother and as a nurse as the realisation set in that I couldn’t save everyone. The world felt like an awful place to be and heaven seemed an easy option.
After a serious attempt to take my own life I spent most of the following year in and out of a psychiatric unit and made numerous attempts to end my life. I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar type two disorder and stabilised on medication.
In some ways being ill has given me a new sense of freedom. After all when you have walked through Liverpool in nothing other than a theatre gown with a drip and lots more showing than you would like, being foolish in public now feels quite acceptable.
However, on a serious note, the lows were extremely painful and included numerous attempts to end my life and generally destroy myself in any way possible. Since being diagnosed I have completed a course of cognitive analytical therapy which has helped me to understand why I think the way I do and helped me to recognise and change certain thought patterns I struggle with. I have taken time to understand my illness in order to recognise triggers and signs of me becoming unwell again and have put preventers in place. I do still have to take medication and may have to continue this long term, but my life is worth living and those feelings of despair have gone. I want to take this opportunity to thank my husband; Stuart, Children; Cameron, Rosie, and Ethan, family, and friends for supporting me and loving me through this very difficult time. But ultimately I want to thank God, as he never gave up on me and when I had no fight left in me to live, He carried me through to the next day. God is my hope and foundation for the future.
Key Symptoms I was suffering: Obsessive intrusive thoughts, Catastrophic thinking, paranoia, outbursts of anger, extreme behaviour changes, suicidal tendencies, switching between being very happy and busy to very sad and melancholy.
Symptoms for PMS/PMDD: mood swings, depression, tiredness, fatigue or lethargy, anxiety, feeling out of control, irritability, aggression, anger, sleep disorder, breast tenderness, bloating, weight gain, clumsiness and headaches. Dramatic change in behaviour from ovulation to the onset of a period (7-10 days prior to a period)and complete relief from those symptoms once you have menstruated.
For further help and advice, please go to www.Pms.org.uk
Places I found help: St Andrews Church Clubmoor, Celebrate Recovery Programme, Community Mental Health Team, Merseycare NHS Trust, GP, Family and Friends.
If this story has affected you or you would like any further information on services provided by the wellbeing project, St Andrew’s Community Network, please email; Wellbeing@standrewslive.org.uk.
“I want to give Hope to others suffering from mental health Problems”
My name is Lydia and I currently volunteer for the Wellbeing project in St Andrews Community Network. The project looks to help people within our local community who are struggling with physical, social and mental wellbeing.
The services we currently provide are:
Connect with Lydia: Twitter: @likeablelyd
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