Thursday, 8 June 2017

5 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DEPRESSION

"Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all"
- Bill Clinton


Depression Doesn’t Discriminate

Depression doesn't care whether you have an active lifestyle or a busy social life, if you're young, if you're middle aged, if you're elderly, what colour skin you have, your religion, your sexuality, your gender, your social class and so on. It can affect anyone at anytime.

Trust me, we're not attention seeking

I think this one comes about because a lot of people struggle to differentiate depression with feeling sad. If someone is showing signs of being depressed, which is evidently more severe than simply feeling sad, people are quick to jump to the conclusion that we are just emphasising our sadness for no good reason other than to gain sympathy. This isn't a “who can be the saddest” contest. These people are the ones who don't care to educate themselves and try to demean those with a mental illness. Depression is challenging and debilitating and can be incredibly difficult to talk about. It's brave to admit you're depressed and there is nothing wrong with reaching out for help. It should be encouraged, not mocked. 

We can still have good days

Of course you can still laugh and smile. There will be days where you feel ok and like you can achieve something and there will be days you will find much more difficult. I was once out for dinner with a few people and happened to be discussing my blog to one person, mostly about the post where I speak about my own mental health which is an honest account of my depression and anxiety. Said person had read the post previously and was understanding at first, but when it was brought up again at the dinner table they were somehow confused as to why I still felt those things. “But you seem fine now” was the response I received. I felt almost as if I'd lost my right to be depressed because I wasn't under my duvet in my bedroom unable to move, but instead, smiling and laughing with everyone else. The important to thing to understand is that a good day doesn't necessarily mean the depression has up and left and should be taken seriously everyday and not just on the worst days.

We don't need to have a reason for feeling depressed

If you've never experienced depression it might be difficult to understand that you don't need a significant event to have happened in your life to suffer with depression. Depression can be triggered by these events but it's very easy for people to assume that when you're feeling depressed, it has to be because of something specific. I've found it difficult to try to explain to people why I feel how I feel and if I can't give them a valid reason, they often try to find one for me. They don't get how I could possibly be depressed otherwise. I'm talking “you're probably just having a bad day”, “have you fallen out with your boyfriend”, that sort of stuff. We've all heard the "but you have nothing to be depressed about" dialogue. Depression isn't just a mood, it's a real medical condition which can pounce at anytime with or without an explanation.

We're trying our best, really we are

Working through depression or a mental illness unfortunately isn't a quick process. It can be long, lonely and all we really want is someone by our side. It's not something that can just be ignored or forgotten about, its something that needs to be treated appropriately. As much as we would like to be able to just “get over it” or “try to be happier”, it isn't that easy and trust me when I say if it were that simple, we'd all be following that mindset and we'd all be ok. Would you ask someone who had been shot to just try and stop bleeding? Of course not. Mental illness isn't a choice, nor does it make any of us weak. It's an exhausting, constant battle and we really were doing what we can to win it.

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Monday, 5 June 2017

4 WAYS I LIKE TO WIND DOWN

My better half Stan in our new favourite spot

So after a fairly busy month with work and a marketing course and a few other exciting happenings, I have thrown together a small selection of my favourite ways to wind-down. You'll see that I clearly make the most out of my own company, it's something I cherish as I feel I need my own time to be able to function.


Going on a hike with my iPod in tow

I love walking and I love music, especially as loud as my ears can handle through headphones. I have a fell very close to my house which is the perfect location to listen to my iPod and to imagine myself as Maria Von Trapp belting out across the hills in a melodramatic fashion. Of course my hill walking adventures don't really pan out this way but while I'm trudging along it's nice to feel a bit disconnected from the world for a while, whilst getting my 10,000 steps a day in (or attempting!). 


Waking up before the world


Making use of the undisturbed silence in the early hours of the morning is incredibly relaxing I find, as it's just you and your own rules. Even if it means sacrificing a lie-in, I'm game. Back when I was slightly fitter I used to get up at 5:30am to go on a bike ride and I loved it, because there were no cars or people in sight and even though it felt like riding through a ghost town, I felt unstoppable and free. Note to self, start cycling again...



Blogger/vlogger love

I probably watch YouTube on a near daily basis, and when I do it's likely to be a vlog - I like main channel videos too but vlogs are where it's at for me. I'm also big on blogs, I love to write so I'm really interested in seeing how other bloggers do it and to see what they're writing style is, as well as reading the content of course. My favourite bloggers/YouTubers are The Anna Edit, Lily Pebbles, Estee Lalonde, Five Five Fabulous (a blog by Reem and Natalya Kanj), Zoella, Sarah's Day and far too many others. I see YouTube as a bit of a comfort blanket as I know it's something that will really relax me if I'm having a rubbish day.


A very simple pamper session

I'm talking face mask (I currently love the Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask), sorting out my likely-chipped nails, doing my usual skin care routine with a few extras and having a longer than life shower or bath. Hardly a pamper session as I cleanse my skin twice daily anyway and of course shower but the little extras make me feel significantly more put together and ready to take on the rest of my day. 




What are you favourite ways to wind down?

Georgie


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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Chapter 3 | My Story

It's been a little over a year since I wrote the second chapter of this little story of my mind so there's a lot to catch up on. It's going to be a rambly one so I hope you can bare with me. My mental health hasn't changed in the dramatic way that I was hoping for this time last year. But I have learnt to trust the undeniably lengthy process and it's important that I remind myself of the changes that have happened, as they're not always as small as I think they are.

I learn more and more about myself every single day. I am getting to know how my mind works and why I think the way I do. For example I can recognise the early signs of feeling anxious and I know which situations intensify my anxiety, but I haven't quite figured out how to manage it yet. Fortunately I don't suffer from panic attacks but I still experience physical symptoms - certainly not as severe but they can still have a significant impact in situations.

I think in one of previous posts, I mentioned that I don't like going into shops, which I still unfortunately hate. In fact any brightly lit busy environment is a no no for my anxiety. It's a feeling of being exposed and 'seen', which might sound absurd to some but it makes me feel dizzy and disassociated from my surroundings. It's not that I can't go into shops full stop because of course I regularly do, but I wish I didn't have the feelings about it that I do. I think it's worse that I get these feelings in "everyday" situations as that's what I feel makes the whole mental illness thing so frustrating, because it's these exact reasons that make me feel so "abnormal" sometimes. What even is normal and what makes a person more normal than the next. I don't have the answer but I do know that having a mental illness makes me feel abnormal on a daily basis. Is this just a product of my low self esteem or is it because I've had drilled into me that having a mental illness isn't really commonplace? I think the latter and I know a large majority of people think the same as I do.

When I wrote my last chapter I didn't have a job which at the time I thought was quite a significant factor in how I was feeling. In fact I was told regularly that getting a job would probably be the answer to my prayers and I believed it. That was wrong of course. I mean, having a job has helped in a lot of ways and it means that I'm not stuck inside all the time, but it wasn't the magical cure I was frequently promised. Claiming anything to be a cure is a bit overzealous anyway but you start to believe anything and everything just for the slight shred of hope that these 'normal' things that 'normal' people do will rein you back into normality. Obviously this is absolutely ridiculous because someone with a mental illness isn't an entirely different species than the rest of mankind, yet there's still so much out there that makes us believe that we are. I know my job hasn't fixed my problems for me, just like how I know going on holiday won't fix my problems, or going to university and so on. It's just a lesson learnt that quick fixes aren't the answer to my prayers after all and I have to continue trudging along the long road. But it's on the long road where I will learn the most so I know I just have to keep trusting the process, and so long as I keep telling myself this I think I will be ok.

The largest hurdle I struggle to surpass is my own cynical attitude about myself. I want to raise as much money as I can for my Kilimanjaro trek, I want to exercise regularly, I want to progress in my career and pursue other ventures. I want to want to do things. I feel so prevented to achieve my goals sometimes because I feel so defeated. Every idea is immediately a waste of time before it's even had a chance to develop as a potential something in my head. I would love more than anything to find the motivation I had two years ago. I'm not lazy, I shouldn't even have to justify that when I talk about things like this, but I feel like I always have to find a really good excuse as to why I don't do things, because depression never seems to be a good enough one.

I wish a lot of people would realise that it's the small things like that, that make mental illness so difficult. Simply knowing that mental illness exists isn't enough. I feel that not enough people are willing to learn about it because they feel it doesn't affect them. I think mental health affects everybody, whether it's minimally or severely, and there's a lot more to it than depression or anxiety. Stress, anger and sleep problems fall under the bracket. Have you ever felt really stressed? That's related to mental health. Maybe you haven't experienced depression and if you haven't I consider you very fortunate, but I believe that every one of us will experience something mental health related at least once in our lives, and it doesn't have to be something like depression. It's something we should all take very seriously, like with any illness, because it's around us whether we may like it or not. Just like any physical illness. Start learning about mental illness now. It's so important and it's more than just learning, it's life saving. 




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Saturday, 6 May 2017

THREE PEAKS CHALLENGE IN AID OF MIND 2015



On September 11th 2015 I took part in an event with Mind that challenged every fraction of my mind and body. The aim of the Three Peaks Challenge is to climb the three highest peaks of England (Scafell Pike), Scotland (Ben Nevis) and Wales (Snowdon) in 24 hours.

I signed up to do the challenge by myself, and whilst I'd be doing it with other people, I would only be meeting them the day before the event. Initially, the thought of arriving in Chester (our meeting point) on my own and meeting all of these people made me far more nervous than doing the challenge itself. I was sure that everyone else would be coming in pairs or in teams and I'd be the only one tackling the event as a lone ranger but much to my surprise, it was quite an even mix. Thank goodness.

We set off for Fort William and the several-hour road trip meant that the ice was quickly broken between the group and we all got to know each other. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to speak to everyone but there was certainly all round 'good vibes' from the get go which made the prospect of the challenge far less frightening. An early night and an even earlier rise later, we were ready to rock and roll.

BEN NEVIS

Our challenge officially commenced and we were introduced to the 1,344 metres of Ben Nevis in Fort William and off we marched. About a half hour in, I remember immediately becoming far too warm in all 4 of the layers I was rocking and I had chugged a hefty amount of my water supply already, mistake number one, but the pace was steady and we were making good progress. Whilst the prospect of climbing Nevis is daunting it's actually incredibly enjoyable, and not nearly as difficult as it may seem. The views are so beautiful that you almost forget that you're on a challenge and working within a time frame because it's so tempting to just stop to admire everything and take a thousand photos. I had climbed Ben Nevis about a year previously so I had already stocked up on more than enough photos from that trip, and I could focus more on the trek itself this time round, but I couldn't resist a sneaky few.

It's definitely beneficial to pack your bag in order of the things you'll need as you go up, such as having your waterproof near the top if you're not already wearing it, and having your water and snacks in a side pocket so you can just grab them quickly. It just saves the hassle of having to take your rucksack off regularly to fish through your bag to find whatever it is you need. A waterproof bag cover is also essential, I made the mistake of not using one on Ben Nevis and a lot of my things got absolutely soaked, which was entirely my own fault but ever so frustrating.

A downfall to this climb is that it's rare to catch Ben Nevis on a clear day and the peak is more than likely hidden by fog. And it's bloody freezing. So the 4 layers I had previously thrown off earlier on in the walk were quickly thrown back on as we got closer to the summit. Quick tip to anyone who may be planning to climb Nevis: Gloves are essential. And definitely more than one pair, because if you are greeted with drizzle as we unfortunately were, your first pair will already be soaking (if they're not waterproof) before you reach the top which is when you will really need them. I would also recommend wrapping up well before reaching the top because you won't want to spoil your time on the summit by just wishing to hurry down again because you're so bloomin' cold, and didn't take the time to wrap up before hand. Mistake number two.

Something I adore about climbing a mountain is how encouraging everyone is who you pass, whether you know them or not, they will go out of their way to say hello and to wish you good luck. Ben Nevis is somewhat of a tourist attraction so there were plenty of well wishers on our walk and it was just lovely. I remember the descent being relatively easy, until we got about half way down and my legs had already started to become quite tight and sore. This must be a joke I thought to myself. And another downfall was that I had realised my phone had broken on the way down due to getting wet in my pocket which I was absolutely gutted about because it meant I couldn't take any more pictures of the challenge. Very trivial and un-important in comparison to most things, but nevertheless, a reminder to invest in some form of waterproof casing so photo taking opportunities don't go a miss.

We made it down the mountain and gave ourselves a big pat on the back knowing that we had finished what we thought was the hardest peak of the challenge. Climbing a mountain gives you the most amazing feeling of triumph and elation, even more so when you're doing it for a purpose. I think doing an activity or a challenge like this when you suffer with a mental illness is one of the greatest things you can do because it is so much more than simply walking to the summit. For me it was both an emotional and physical victory and reminded me of an inner strength that I had forgotten I had and hadn't seen in myself in a long time.

I think the only major setback we had on this part of the challenge was that the backdoor windows smashed on one of the minibuses out of the 3 we had, which meant we were slightly delayed in setting off to our next peak. Although a little while after we were off for part two of the challenge, Scafell Pike in the Lake District, my home turf.


SCAFELL PIKE

I can't remember exactly how long it took to get from Fort William to the Lake District but it was enough time to have something to eat and also sleep for a while because we were due to start our next peak before midnight. Mistake number three was not packing nearly enough yummy food for the trip. I had plenty of snacks but they didn't quite suffice like a tupperware box full of lovely pre-prepared pasta would have, for example, which is what a lady sat across from me was tucking in to. I had just forgotten how much fuel I'd really need for the challenge, which I will definitely take into account next time. Also what I remember is that my sore leg situation hadn't improved at all really, and sitting on a mini-bus for a good few hours just added to the overall stiffness. Despite the leg issues, I have to say, I was really looking forward to this one because I hadn't climbed a mountain in the dark before and was quite excited about the prospect of only having a head torch to guide my way. I'm actually quite scared of the dark in most cases but that sort of added to the mysteriousness of it.

Oh my goodness my legs, was my immediate thought after we set off walking. I hadn't realised quite how much they were hurting until we started to walk at an incline. It was manageable for the first half an hour but the terrain was ever changing, and we were soon climbing over big rocks and boulders. In normal cases that doesn't sound particularly difficult but every step I took brought tears to my eyes because the pain in my legs felt like I had badly pulled something. Thank the lord it was pitch black so no one could see that I was fighting back many a tear. And just to moan even more, if I remember correctly it was raining quite heavily which just added to the disastrous turn of events.

I'm just going to be honest and say that this peak was absolutely awful and I didn't enjoy it one bit. Mainly because I was in quite a lot of pain and I really did think to myself more than once that I wouldn't be able to go any further because I was convinced that I had done something to my legs. I was thankful when we reached the summit and started the descent, although it wasn't really much better. Another member of our group was also hurting quite badly but he soldiered on like a right trooper, so I tried to pull myself together a little bit on the way down. As we got nearer to the bottom we were left to find the mini bus on our own as our brilliant mountain guide was helping our injured friend down slowly. This was all a bit too exciting and meant we actually ended up getting a bit lost. Absolutely the last thing you'd want in this case because I know we were all itching to get back onto the mini bus. I can't remember how long we were lost for, and although it wasn't long at all it felt like ages had past but we eventually made it back onto the bus after turning a few wrong corners. Phew, finally and thank goodness. Good riddance Scafell Pike.

I'd like to add a little disclaimer and say that I hope my experience doesn't put you off climbing Scafell Pike, as of course every walk is different to the next. I'm sure it's wonderful on an average day when you haven't already climbed a mountain beforehand, or when it isn't the middle of the night. And when it isn't raining and pouring.


SNOWDON

Another long bus journey, and this one was for sleeping so I was pleased that I managed to get a few hours in. Mistake number four was my lack of a pillow which meant I was sleeping in the most awkward of positions for the whole journey. We made a pit stop at a petrol station just a couple of hours outside of our destination and I remember getting out and realising how flaming stiff and achey my legs still were. Despite nearly packing it all in after the disastrous evening on Scafell I wasn't gonna let a thing stop me from finishing the challenge.

I think I managed to get a couple more hours of sleep in before we arrived at the base of Snowdon. It turned out to be a really lovely day so that certainly brightened the spirits because you could tell it was going to look gorgeous further up. Thankfully the dreaded leg situation had calmed down a bit after taking some ibuprofen so I was very pleased about that as you can all imagine. It really was a lovely walk, although I remember there being so many steps! The further we climbed the harder it got. Snowdon is the smallest in height out of the three but it certainly felt like one of the more difficult. It was very warm and I think also quite humid which just added to the difficulty of it. Our mountain guide, who had a lot of experience with mountain rescue, was telling stories of different people he had rescued, and how women have attempted to climb the mountain in heels. Heels.... Here I am struggling in my sturdy walking boots and there's women who have tried it in heels. Most likely failed but even so, it was time to man up wasn't it.

I think I had managed to keep up quite a decent pace on the other two mountains, even Scafell Pike, but I struggled with this one. Although my legs didn't seem as sore I felt exhausted and became out of breath quite quickly so regular water breaks and breathers happened along the way. I would love to do Snowdon again by itself another day so I can fully appreciate it. Saying this, the views were beautiful and I was so pleased that the weather had simmered down because it really was lovely. Instead of climbing Snowdon, you can actually take a little train up to the summit which many people do as I understand climbing a mountain isn't to everyones taste. I don't think it runs all year round but for the majority of the year it's a fun alternative for anyone who perhaps can't manage the whole hog or would like to experience a gorgeous view without working up a sweat. I can tell you now that there was many a time where I wished I could have jumped on that train on the way up.

My group already got on really well considering we had literally met just a day before but I felt incredibly comfortable being with this group and especially on this peak. I had so many chats with as many people as I could and it was refreshing knowing that I could be as open as I felt comfortable and it wasn't a problem. Every step I took was driven by the constant encouragement that the group gave to me, and to everyone. Despite being exhausted, it was saddening to think that it would all be over early that afternoon.

I felt like last leg until the summit was never-ending and I could see it but I didn't feel like I was getting any closer. It was also really quite cold which I didn't expect as it was warm all the way up but nothing a few layers couldn't fix! Even when we reached the summit, I have to admit that it didn't hit me that we had completed our last climb, in the moment I just sort of felt like I had just finished a normal walk on a normal day. Of course I was pleased that we had made it but I was admittedly rather keen to come back down again. For me, it felt like it took twice as long to descend, I think we might have taken a longer route but I'm actually really glad we did. I was quite keen to sit down by this point I won't tell a lie, but I had so many wonderful conversations with people which more than made up for it. However, mistake number 5 was that I was using an aluminium water bottle which clipped to the side of my bag and I had somehow gotten a bit of dirt in the water which meant I didn't have any drinkable water with me a good 50% of the walk. Obviously in desperate measures I'd have drank it but I wasn't down with taking the plunge this time.

I think even after getting back into the mini bus after completing the challenge, it still hadn't quite registered that I had just completed the Three Peaks Challenge. I'm sure I fell asleep until we got back to Chester, where we all said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. I arrived home and I'm pretty sure I had a little weep to myself due to the fact I couldn't move my legs a certain way before having a really long snooze.

Doing this event really was the most challenging but uplifting thing I have ever done and I am so grateful that I was able to do it. My group were incredible and some of the loveliest and most genuine and inspiring people I have met, and I am so thankful. I will keep this challenge in my heart and I sincerely hope that other people take the plunge to do events like this because I promise you, you won't regret it.
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Sunday, 30 April 2017

KILIMANJARO UPDATE - FUNDRAISING, FITNESS & OTHER



I have now rescheduled my trek twice, the second time being a couple of weeks ago, both times due to my fundraising not going to plan. I am confident that this time I will reach my target and I will now be doing the trek on 11th - 22nd October this year which is actually much better timing for me so I'm putting this down to a 'everything happens for a reason' kind of situation (I'm actually just a terrible fundraiser).

Fundraising struggles

Definitely quite the struggle - I really underestimated how difficult it would be to fundraise such a large amount of money. So many people have donated and have been so wonderfully generous but I think my downfall was relying too much on only donations. I don't mean that to have negative connotations, I believe people will continue to be wonderful and donate but as I would like to raise as much as I possibly can, I should have tried harder from the beginning to source donations in other ways. Lesson learnt - start sooner. There's no such thing as too much fundraising. 

I have a few events planned over the next couple of months, and I plan to self fund as much as I can too. A couple of ideas I had over the course of the year unfortunately fell through and when things like that happen I do honestly become quite disheartened. I don't think anyone likes asking people for money even if it is for charity, so sometimes I do feel a bit like a house fly that won't bugger off. I try to raise awareness for mental health as much as I can too which is just as, if not more important, and is the reason I started my blog in the first place. I haven't written an awful lot yet but I would love to eventually have at least one post per week. Failing that, I do try to share as much as I can on social media about mental health, mostly videos and posts about other peoples stories and my own blog.

How is my training going?

Bloody terribly that's how. I always think I have a generally good level of fitness but as it goes, I don't. I was much fitter in 2015, I used to exercise a fair bit and ate a lot healthier and I sometimes still kid myself that I'm still in the same shape but I'm definitely not. I have a lot to work on fitness-wise and there is no one to blame but myself on this one. I really struggle with self motivation in any situation, especially fitness and whilst I'm not in a terrible shape, I am certainly not extreme trek-ready. Although recently I have started walking, both up fells and in flatter areas, and I track my miles on my phone which I get far too excited by. Another lesson learnt is that I should have started a lot sooner. I still have a fair few months to go but like with the fundraising, it wouldn't have hurt to have gone the extra mile to begin with.

My fitness goals are to up the miles with my walking and do more mountains, start cycling again and improve my diet massively.

Things I am nervous about

Getting altitude sickness, not reaching the summit, spiders/all insects, becoming ill before I go or getting an injury, having to reschedule for a third time because of a reason beyond my control.

Things I am excited about

Reaching my fundraising target and sending the funds to Mind, (hopefully) reaching the summit, just the trek itself as I love walking, the experience of visiting a continent I have never been to, and a whole array of other wonderful things.

Would I do another big event?

I think I would like to focus more on fundraising and raising awareness consistently in my spare time instead of just dong events. Saying that, I would really love to do Everest base camp and also cycle from London to Paris. I am also interested in volunteering for Mind or another mental health charity/other charity and it's something I am going to look into soon.

My advice to fellow fundraisers 

Start fundraising and training as early on as you can. Don't be afraid to ask others for advice, there will always be at least one lovely person willing to be of assistance, if not more. You're doing a lot better than you think you are, and never forget to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing if you start to become a little disheartened or overwhelmed. All your hard work and effort will be more than worth it in the end and every little milestone is making a massive difference to your chosen charity, so never think you are not doing enough, because you're doing so much more good than you think. Best of luck!










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