Guest Bloggers Wanted

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I recently did an interview for another blogger and one of the questions was: where do you see your blog in 5 years’ time? My response was: I obviously want to still be blogging, but I want to make my blog less about me and more about mental health as a whole. I don’t want my blog to be all about me, for a number of reasons. One of them is, my readers will only get one perspective on mental illness; when I want to cover all mental illnesses.

This is where you come in. I’ve already had a wonderful guest blogger on here (you can read Sandra Charron’s guest post here), and I want to invite more mental health bloggers to write for Silent D And Me.

So to cut a long story short, I’m extending an invitation to all you mental health warriors out there. If you’re interested in writing for my blog, you can either drop a comment below, or email me on: caroline.murphy70@googlemail.com

I hope to hear from you soon.

 

 

Photo by Alexis Brown, courtesy of Unsplash

Catching Up

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I have an apology to make. I’ve neglected my blog over the past two months. I hope you’re all well and have had a great Summer. You’ll probably be pleased to hear that I’m in a slightly better place, than I was when I wrote my last post. Things have been hectic, but productive; here at Silent D And Me headquarters. We spent the Summer visiting museums, sitting in the sunshine and generally spending quality time as a family. Oh, and we had our garden re-landscaped. It isn’t quite finished yet, but when it is; it will be our new sanctuary.

I haven’t totally neglected my writing, over the Summer. I’ve been working on one of my many other writing projects, and I’m currently trying to commit myself to a realistic deadline for completion. I’m thinking either January or February. I’ve also been doing a lot of reading, recently. I finished two books, and I’m halfway through reading the third. One of the books was a mental health book, which I will be writing a review for on here soon.

On the Family From Hell front, they’ve had a very eventful Summer. News filtered through to us, that one of my uncles was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Just like my uncle Alex, he passed away very shortly after the diagnosis. Although we would have liked to have been there to pay our respects, we didn’t attend his funeral. The sad thing is, in the act of trying to pay our respects; the whole thing would’ve become disrespectful. The family wouldn’t have kept their distance, or allowed us a quiet, dignified presence. As it turned out, one particular family member misbehaved at the funeral; without us having to be there. It was a strange feeling, to be honest. The faint strands of connection to my uncle’s passing were there, but we were also disconnected from it. My Dad felt it more than we did. After all, he’d lost another brother. So we grieved and paid our respects, in our own way. We haven’t heard from the rest of the family, and hopefully it will stay that way.

When my blog was last live, I wrote about the need to insert damage limitation measures into my life. As everyone who lives with a mental illness knows, we are permanently sitting on a narrow ledge; and the slightest thing could potentially throw us from it. To prevent this from happening, I’ve been aiming to bungee myself to the cliff behind me. I do this, by building positive things into my life. It’s hard to plan your suicide, when there’s so much to wake up for. It goes without saying, that my children are the main reason I wake up and face another day. But lest we forget, that depression is a pathological liar. When things get particularly bad, depression tells me that my children would be better off without me. It tells me that I’m a terrible mother, and I’m making my children miserable. Then I look at all the negative things around me, and agree that depression’s case is stronger than mine.

By building positive things into  our lives, I’m strengthening my case against depression. My garden was a mess, my children couldn’t play in it and depression enjoyed rubbing it in my face. Now my garden is on track to be a beautiful haven, filled with the soundtrack of my childrens’ laughter and sizzling steak on the barbecue. Depression has had to strike that from her list. My husband and I are redecorating the kitchen, dining room and lounge. By the end of this week, depression will have to strike that from her list too. I resumed my exercise regime yesterday and each endorphin my brain is releasing, is another middle finger in depression’s face. I’m hoping to book a family holiday for next year and I haven’t yet found a holiday company, who will accommodate depression in their baggage allowance. She’ll have to stay at home and tend to my weeds, instead.

I’m signing off for now – I have to prepare another bungee, to add to my collection. Thank you for reading this, and for being so patient with me. I promise I won’t leave my next post as long as I left this one.

 

Photo by Neslihan Gunaydin, courtesy of Unsplash

 

 

Please Don’t Be Kind To Me

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Please don’t be kind to me -unless you have tissues. Whenever people show me any sort of kindness, I break. You see, I was brought up with a Mother who hated me and an extended family who put me in emotional debt, whenever they showed me any sort of compassion or kindness. The message I took from this, growing up was: I don’t deserve kindness. Kindness for me, was something I had to earn. It wasn’t a birth right, or even a basic human right. If someone was kind to me, it meant I had to be in their debt.

I view other peoples’ kindness as a commodity. Not in the sense that I can exploit it, or make a gain from it. I mean in the sense that other people have a limited supply of kindness, and they have to spend it wisely. Whenever anyone is kind to me, I view it as a waste of their kindness quota. They haven’t invested their kindness wisely. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll get a return on their kindness investment. It’s just that their return will include snot and tears – and lots of it.

As you probably already know, I’ve recently been through the mill. I cut off my extended family, who had a lot of influence in my life. In cutting them off, I and my immediate family have been subjected to abuse and harassment, on a worringly epic scale. I won’t lie to you. My recovery from depression has taken a nose dive, in the last 4 weeks. I’ve gone from the strong willed, middle-finger-flipping survivor of recent months, back to the broken mess of yesteryear.

The latest incident of harassment ( I wrote a post on it, entitled The Cold War), left me completely shattered. I had to face facts – my own family don’t love me. That’s a hard pill to swallow. And it’s an even harder pill to swallow, when you have depression. Depression brings an internal narrative with it, which tells you constantly that you’re a horrible person who deserves to die. Add to the mix a family who hates you, and you have the perfect storm.

Since the incident with my family, I’ve felt even more, that I don’t deserve kindness. I’m damaged goods – a flawed human being, who should be out cast from society. If even my family don’t love me or like me, then I’m an unlovable, unlikeable person. I felt that everyone knew how unlovable I am, and they believed the lies that have been spread about me and my husband, by my family.

Here’s an example of my emotional fragility, right now:

Last week at work, I had a rare emotional outburst. Our labourer brought me some work, as he always does; but on this occasion he said to me “I’ve brought you a good pallet. (he’d brought me a pallet of work, which would make hitting my target easier). You deserve an easy pallet.” As he said it, he winked at me in a “I’m on your side” kind of way. Well, that was it. I burst into tears. How ridiculous. What is the matter with me? The poor guy thought he’d upset me. I tried to explain that he hadn’t, but as English (mixed with bodily fluids) isn’t his first language, he didn’t get a word I tried to splutter to him. Poor bugger. He’ll probably keep the good work away from me now.

Whenever anyone has shown me any kindness over the past few weeks, they’ve been met with tears and all round pathetic -ness. What the hell is wrong with me? All I know is, I want to get back to the strong-willed, middle-finger-flipping woman, I once was. 

 

 

Photo by Evan Kirby, courtesy of Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

When Two Bloggers Met In The Flesh

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Last Sunday, my husband and I attended a Holy Communion party, for a friend’s son.  Around an hour in, my husband introduced me to a friend’s sister. He had mentioned in passing, a while back, that she was a blogger too. He introduced us as fellow bloggers, and I felt very self conscious. I’m not at the stage yet, where I can talk openly to strangers about my blog – not in the flesh, anyway. I’m perfectly fine promoting my blog to strangers online; but you won’t find me circulating a function room, saying “hi, I’m Caroline and I write a mental health blog.”

Andrea asked what my blog is about, and I could’ve sworn the music had stopped and everyone in the room was staring at me. It hadn’t, and they weren’t, but my social anxiety likes to convince me otherwise. Oh, shit. I took a big gulp of my drink, and told her. My social anxiety cackled in my ear, and told me that she thought I was a social pariah. In reality, Andrea didn’t bat an eyelid. Unflinchingly, she asked me for the name of my blog. I gave it to her and asked her about her blog.

To say that Andrea’s blog is about her life with cancer, would be a huge injustice to her, and her blog. Her having cancer, was the reason she started her blog; but it isn’t just about that. She also writes about all the beauty she has in her life: her family, her friends, her children and some very naughty bunny rabbits. Her blog is her way of keeping everyone who knows her updated, so she doesn’t have to repeat herself; every time she sees them. She finds that some people are even afraid to ask her how she’s doing, in case they upset her. So there’s an elephant in her room too.

I left the party, not even expecting to have gained a new reader. But when I logged into WordPress, the next day; I found that Andrea had followed my blog. Then I really did feel self conscious. My blog isn’t pretty, and I write about all the ugly demons in my head. My posts have a lot of profanities in them, so to have someone read it, who’s met me in the flesh; is a very nerve racking experience. It’s like having a dream that you turn up to work without any clothes on, only to find out it isn’t a dream. She must think I’m Queen Batshit of Crazyville. Or worse, that I’m the Duchess of Filthtown. Yuck. Why didn’t I start a twee little craft blog, or a fluffy baking one; complete with photos of a gingham print tablecloth and an air of smug housewifery? Anyway, I hope she doesn’t think I’m a complete nutjob, with questionable morals. If she does, she’s probably not too far from the truth; if I’m honest.

I’ll draw this self pitying monologue to a close and leave you with a link to Andrea’s blog. Go and give her, her blog and the naughty bunny rabbits some love. You won’t regret it.

 

Photo by Alexis Brown, courtesy of Unsplash

 

 

The Cold War

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When Silent D And Me was last live, I touched on the subject of my abusive family. I downplayed the situation, as I was still under the influence of their denial and minimisation (I’m not even sure that’s a real word, but it sounded OK in my head).

I decided to cut all contact from my abusive family members last year, after 30 years of the most cruel emotional and psychological abuse and torment. They’re my extended family on my Dad’s side, so cutting them off will be simple, right? Wrong. Over the past year, we’ve been stalked, harassed and subjected to further nasty attacks. The latest two incidents, have changed the direction of how we will deal with their behaviour, going forward. Continue reading

You’re Not As Depressed As I Am….

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Ahh judgemental people. Us “head cases” are the frequent targets of their ridicule and ignorance. We’ve thickened our skin and narrowed our ears, so that the thoughtless comments can’t penetrate us.  But what happens when we’re stigmatised by the people who should know better? What happens when we let our guard down, to try to help someone who’s suffering and they use our kindness to invalidate our experiences and pass judgement on us?

A couple of years ago, my husband and I were out with some friends of his. There was an individual in the group, whom I didn’t know very well. As the night went on, this guy became increasingly melancholic. He spoke openly about his depression and suicidal thoughts. I shared my experiences, not in a one upmanship “my pain is greater than yours” kind of way (well, I hope it didn’t come across in that way). I shared my story to demonstrate that I have first hand experience, therefore my sympathy wasn’t superficial. It was a “you’re not alone” gesture.

It was obvious that this person wasn’t interested in what I had to say, because he’d already formed an opinion of me. His response was, “but the difference between you and me is, I have low self esteem.” Pow! A low blow which rendered me speechless. I retreated back into my shell. I felt kind of betrayed that someone who was supposed to be on the side of “us” had labelled me, had turned native.

What annoyed me the most, was his opinion was based on the mask I wear – my alter ego. Public Me, is outgoing and takes the piss out of myself and life. The dark circles around my eyes are buried underneath layers of concealer, my fake smile distracts people’s attention from the sadness in my eyes, my tear streaked cheeks are coloured in with blusher, my laughter replaces my earlier sobs. I dress the body I hate in dark colours and thick tights. If I can’t fade into the background, I hide my pain in plain sight instead.

 

Why did this narrow minded person and his nasty comment affect me so much? Well, it was nasty for a start. But more than that, it was borne out of stigma and judgement. The same stigma and judgement that I’ve had to endure, for the majority of my life. He invalidated me and my experiences, merely because I choose not to conform to the stereotypical image of a “depressive.” He discredited my illness, because I choose not to be a poster child, or to wear my illness as a badge of honour. I responded to his cries for help, with kindness and empathy. He used my kindness as a weapon against me. And guess what? I didn’t counter his nastiness with nastiness back then, and I don’t now. He still becomes melancholic after a few drinks, and I still show him kindness. And he still thinks I’m some attention seeking imposter, who’s trying on mental illness, like a new pair of Louboutins. For the record, I haven’t yet found a pair of shoes that perfectly compliments my depression; and my bum does look big in it.

His, and countless other’s casual invalidation of me has got me thinking about stereotypes. What does mental illness look like? Well, I’ll tell you. Mental illness looks like the beautiful, charismatic musician. Mental illness looks like your favourite athlete. Mental illness looks like the larger than life stand-up comic. Mental illness looks like the Oscar nominated actor or actress. Mental illness looks like your doctor, your boss, your teacher, your best friend, your relative, your neighbour. Mental illness looks like you. Mental illness looks like me. Mental illness is not an exclusive club, where only the ones who “look the part” are granted admission. And if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, tell them to remove your name from the guest list.

 

Photo by Abigail Lynn, courtesy of Unsplash.com

B For Bigorexia

Bigorexia

Next up, in my A-Z of Mental Health series, I will cover the subject of Bigorexia.

Bigorexia? What’s That?

Bigorexia, also known as Muscle Dysmorphia, is a form of anxiety disorder; which has only recently become a recognised illness.

Bigorexia also falls into the Body Dysmorphia category, in that the sufferers’ perception of their body shape doesn’t match the reality. It has been dubbed by some as the opposite of Anorexia, in the sense that sufferers believe themselves to be thin and feeble, when in actual fact, they are muscular.

Who’s Affected?

Bigorexia affects around one in ten men in the UK alone. The figures could be a lot higher than this, due to the condition not being commonly known amongst non-professionals, leaving many more sufferers undiagnosed.

Sufferers are most likely to be gym goers, bodybuilders and those who weight train.

What Causes Bigorexia?

As with all forms of anxiety and body dysmorphia, Bigorexia is caused by a number of factors, including, but not limited to:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Chemical imbalance of the brain
  • Traumatic events, such as bullying
  • Pressure from society, to look a certain way; in order to be perceived as a strong masculine man

How Serious Is Bigorexia?

It’s deadly serious. When I use the term “deadly,” it isn’t an over-statement, it’s a fact.

In the same way that sufferers of Anorexia abuse medication and supplements, to make them thin; sufferers of Bigorexia abuse medication and supplements, to make them bigger.

Abuse of anabolic steriods and high protein supplements, can have catastrophic consequences on the sufferer’s health. Most of us know that steroid abuse can lead to heart attacks, but there are also some other very worrying effects of abusing steroids, including:

  • infertility and reduced sperm count
  • increased risk of prostate cancer
  • erectile dysfunction
  • baldness
  • breast development
  • acne
  • stomach pain

In addition to all of this, sufferers of Bigorexia are at an increased risk of developing depression. This can in turn, lead to suicide.

How Can I Tell If I, Or Someone Close To Me Has Bigorexia?

Sufferers of Bigorexia display the following symptoms and behaviours:

  • Compulsively exercising
  • Looking at their bodies in the mirror for long periods of time, or excessively
  • Abusing steroids and protein supplements, such as protein shakes
  • Dramatic changes in their muscle tone and build
  • Depression
  • Extreme changes in diet
  • Forgoing their usual activities, in order to spend more time in the gym
  • Verbalising their perception that they’re not big enough, or muscular enough
  • Becoming anxious or agitated, whenever they’re unable to exercise, or go to the gym

How Is Bigorexia Treated?

The usual course of treatment for Bigorexia is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, alongside a course of anti-depressant medication.

If a sufferer has developed a steriod addiction, they will be placed on a drug rehabilitation programme, which includes drug counselling.

What To Do If You Suspect Someone Close To You Has Bigorexia

As with all mental illnesses, the first thing you need to do, is try not to rationalise it. Many mental illnesses occur without a tangible, or logical reason. Laying blame, or demanding answers from the sufferer, will only cause more harm.

Get as much information and support, as you possibly can. Consult your doctor and the organisations listed at the bottom of the page.

Understand that there is no one-size-fits-all quick fix. Everyone is different, and what may work for one sufferer, may not work for another. Recovery is a long process, which requires a lot of patience and empathy.

Where Can I Get Help And Support?

There are many sources of support available to you. I’ve listed some helplines and organisations below, who offer help and support to sufferers and their families.

Sources of Support In The UK

Mind Charity: 

Telephone: 0300 123 3393

Email: info@mind.org.uk

Anxiety UK:

Infoline: 08444 775 774

Email: support@anxietyuk.org.uk

Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation (BDD Foundation)

There is a wide range of information, and details of online and face-to-face support groups, on their website.

The link is: BDD Foundation

OCD UK

As with the BDD Foundation, their website is a good source of help and support.

The link is: OCD UK

Narcotics Anonymous

For sufferers who have an associated addiction, Narcotics Anonymous can offer help and support.

Telephone: 0300 999 1212

Sources Of Support In The US

Reach Out

Telephone: 1800-448-3000

Website: Reach Out

Narcotics Anonymous World Service

Again for those who’ve developed an associated addiction, the link below offers information on drug rehabilitation treatment

Narcotics Anonymous World Service

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Anxiety and Depression Association of America Website

 

This list is not exhaustive. Your doctor may be able to help you access other sources of support and help. If you live in another part of the world and are affected by Bigorexia, I will be more than happy to help you access sources of support in your area.

Photo by Christopher Campbell, courtesy of Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I Wrote A Piece For Dropping Keys….

 

A couple of months ago, I submitted a piece of writing to Dropping Keys. I didn’t hear anything from them, so I assumed they weren’t interested and forgot about it.

Last night, I came home from work to an email from an editor at Dropping Keys, informing me that my piece had been published. Yay! I excitedly opened the site up on my browser, and found my submission.

Seeing my name on a published article, gave me goosebumps. I wonder if published authors ever get used to seeing their names in print? Feeling a little giddy, I scrolled down to read my work (I’d forgotten the exact words I’d written) and my excitement fizzled out. It has to be one of the worst pieces I’ve ever written. I’m very disappointed with myself.

Deflated, I sought two separate, albeit subjective opinions. I showed the article to my husband, who read it and made all the usual encouraging sounds. That’s what I love about him: I could write two words on a sheet of paper and smear dog poo on it, and he’d still think it was Man Booker Prize worthy.  

I sent a link to my Sister, who responded with “good job Sis! A nice simple piece, that gets the point across.” Now my Sister is a little less convinced that I’m the next Charlotte Bronte. Don’t get me wrong, she thinks I’m a capable writer and she encourages me; but she’s also brutally honest.

If I’m unsure of a blog post, I send her a copy to proofread. She then gives me some feedback – cut that out…keep that in…elaborate on this….rethink that. So to have her say that the article is good after just one read, is a rare moment. But I’m still not happy with it.

I feel that I rushed it a bit. The result being, that the pace of my article is quite fast and scatty. That’s what I think, anyway.

I spoke to some of the lovely members of a Facebook  writing group, I’m a member of and the general consensus is, that my feelings of disappointment aren’t uncommon. They all feel that same way, whenever they read an article they’ve published. They gave me some great advice, and put my mind at rest. If any of you are reading this, thank you.

If you want to read the article, here’s a link: When Depression Came To Stay

If you do read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.