Siobhan Emma

Lifestyle. Mental Health. Adventure

Thursday, 7 February 2019

It's Time to Talk


**Trigger Warning - There is talk of suicide in this post.  Please avoid reading it if you feel this is something that may affect you**

Oh hey what’s this?!

Two posts in one day?! Who even am I?!

But yes, here I am with another post to close this wonderful Thursday evening because do you know what today is?

It’s Time to Talk Day.

It’s only because an absolute babe of a lady in my office sent an email around the office yesterday that reminded me. An email offering an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on if anybody needs it today, or any day in fact. Just like me, she told us all how she has suffered with her mental health, and although she may be no expert, she knows how her depression has affected her, and can offer advice drawn from her own experiences.

Receiving that email really warmed my heart. This is the first time ever I’ve seen an email distributed to an office where somebody has basically said “Hey, mental illness is real and it sucks so here I am just opening myself up to meaningful conversation about mental health so nobody has to sit and suffer in silence”. It makes me so proud to say I work in an office where mental health is acknowledged and is deemed a real and worthy issue to discuss openly without any stigma surrounding it or judgement from others.

I know that I’m incredibly lucky to be in this position, and believe me when I say I’ve worked in some pretty shitty offices who really don’t get mental health. In fact I was once told I don’t even know what it’s truly like to suffer with mental illness by one of my old managers. Of course I don’t boss lady; my doctor just thought he’d put me on anti-depressants for a laugh…

In all seriousness though, Time To Talk Day is so important, now more than ever. Over the past several years now we’ve lost some huge names to suicide, including Robin Williams, Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, to name just a few, and they’re the well-known names who made it in to main stream media. Then there’s all the normal people like you and me, who aren’t famous enough to make it in to the news. Just how many people have taken their own lives because they felt there was nobody to turn to and no way out?

The simple answer is too many.

The media only seem to have really started to pick up on the huge issue surrounding suicide rates over recent years, but in fact, it’s been an issue for far, far longer than this. I think back to being a young girl, when my Mum worked in a pub in Sheffield around Kelham Island. The Land Lord of the pub, who was also her manager and good friend called her regularly, threatening to take his own life. My Mum being unbelievably good at calming people down always managed to talk him out of it. She always knew it was a cry for help, so no matter the time day or night, she would answer the phone and be there to listen. Unfortunately as time went on, my Mum moved on in her working life and their friendship drifted.  They lost contact, so I don’t know how he is now, but I hope he found somebody else he could open up to in those difficult times, and got the help he needed to move forward in life.

Then there was my Mum’s colleague when she started her career with Midland Mainline, or East Midlands Trains as it is known now. A male colleague of hers who she got on with incredibly well seemingly had it all. A loving wife, a new born baby, a good job, and a happy life. Then one morning my Mum received a phone call. He had taken his own life. She was gobsmacked, and heart broken. How could he possibly do this? His life was wonderful.

But behind the rose tinted glasses, was a man drowning in debt. Debt his wife, family and friends had no idea he was carrying. The weight of his situation became too much for him to bear. He had hidden his debt from everyone for so long; too ashamed to tell the truth, that in his own mind the only solution was to take his own life.

This is a problem that has been apparent in my life stretching over the course of 26 years, but I have no doubt in my mind that people have felt the only solution is suicide for much longer than this, and sadly, I can't see suicide rates going down any time soon.

And yet, for some of those people who have lost all hope, all it might take is a conversation.  My Mum's friend who was drowning in debt?  If he just felt he could open up and have that conversation with somebody, that somebody could have helped him see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The story could have been completely different.  He could have worked his way out of his debt problem, lived a long, happy life with his wife and watched his child grow up.

That one conversation could have saved his life.

As somebody who suffers with depression, I know just how hard it is to open up to people, and ask for help when life feels overwhelming.  I've grown up in a generation where so much stigma has surrounded mental illness, that although those stigmas are slowly breaking down, my guard is so high from the fear of judgement I tend to bottle everything up.

This is why I feel what my colleague did yesterday was so important.  That seemingly small gesture for a chat, a shoulder to cry on, or even a conversation over email if talking face to face seems scary; that could be the difference between somebody feeling like all hope is lost and getting the help they need and deserve.

If I only ever ask one thing of you, it's that you ask your colleagues, friends and family from time to time how they really are.  Start that conversation, because things aren't always what they seem, and by asking that simple question you could save a life.
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Reflecting On Veganuary


Veganuary.

What a roller coaster that was!

As always with any challenge I take part in, I start with all good intentions, enthusiastic and excited to see the results of taking part in said challenge.  Two weeks in though is a different story all together.

This post right here shows my enthusiasm for the challenge, even claiming that I may be willing to continue beyond January.

Ha! 

Who was I kidding?!

A couple of weeks down the line from writing that post I was hella grumpy.  I missed chocolate so damn much!  I'm aware that there is vegan chocolate, but honestly?  It just doesn't do it for me like milk chocolate does (Although shout out to vegan Magnums that taste just like normal chocolate!  You were my saviour!).  I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't cave on a few days throughout January and have a triangle or two of my jumbo Toblerone, because I did.  I absolutely did; and I regret nothing.

I'm glad I took part in the challenge.  It's helped me to see how much rubbish I was feeding my body with, and I have felt better in terms of not feeling sluggish and lethargic (Feelings I suffered with throughout December when I ate my emotions away), and for that I will definitely continue eating in a similar way as I have been through Veganuary.  Just without the being a vegan part.

The truth is, I hated being restricted from eating some of my favourite treats (Hence why I caved on the chocolate front on more than one occasion!).  Telling me I can't eat milk chocolate is like telling me not to push the big red button.  I want it so. much. more.

You know how I spent the majority of January ill?  I think that may have been as a result of going full on Vegan over night.  I guess going from eating animal produce to vegan in the space of 24 hours as a 32 year old is pretty intense and a pretty big shock to the system, and wow did I know about it!

I also suffered in the Vitamin B12 department.  A blood test showed last year that I am naturally deficient in Vitamin B12, and as a result have been taking supplements to help with this.  I also before January was eating meat and eggs on a regular basis, which are full of this.

Last month my hands became incredibly sore.  I believe it was a mixture of the cold damaging my skin and the lack of Vitamin B12 in my body.  I had so many sores and open wounds around my nails, and I'd put money on it being down to the low levels of Vitamin B12 in my body.  B12 is responsible for helping our skin to repair after it's been damaged, and without getting enough in our system our body can't protect us from open wounds amongst other things.

So yea; a month long cold and sore hands didn't really sell the whole vegan lifestyle to me.

And in all honesty, I really missed meat.  I know I know; it's not cool to admit that.  Veganism does seem to be the new clean eating (But you know, actually a sustainable lifestyle choice unlike the clean eating movement!), and everybody else seems to have jumped fully on board with it, but it's just not for me.

Taking part in Veganuary has helped me to see the environmental impact our consumption of animal products has, and for that, I will definitely be working on reducing our animal produce intake.  I'm also impressed with how much more energised I've felt over the past month (Despite dying from colds), and I want to continue feeling this way throughout 2019.  I'll be implementing these things though without restricting myself from the foods I love.

You see, I'm pretty passionate about food.  I love putting food in my mouth, and I love trying new cuisines from around the world even more.  I just can't bring myself to restrict myself from those simple pleasures.

When I challenge myself, I measure my level of happiness whilst taking part in said challenge.  This past month, I'm not exaggerating when I say there were times I felt pretty miserable at the restrictions I'd placed on myself.  That's how I knew switching to this lifestyle completely wasn't for me.

With that being said I have absolutely nothing against veganism, and as I said earlier I will continue to implement aspects of the lifestyle in to my day to day diet.  I would never dream of dictating to another person what they should or shouldn't feed their bodies with, and I'd like to think others respect what I choose to feed mine with, despite us potentially having different beliefs.

Now please excuse me whilst I go and devour an entire cheesecake.
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Sunday, 3 February 2019

Journalling for my Mental Health


At the end of 2018 I had a huge shock to the system that for a while honestly turned my life upside down.  I felt like everything I'd believed was a lie, and I'd never felt more betrayed than I did in that time.

Initial shock will do that to you.  Although after a while those feelings subsided and communication with the person this whole situation involved eventually helped me to come around (I realised I still wanted this person in my life, and their apologies felt more than genuine to me), I felt off for quite some time afterwards; not quite knowing what the future was for me going forward.

The problem was, this really wasn't a subject I felt all that comfortable talking to my friends about.  It wasn't like I had been cheated on and I could go to my friends who would rally around me and tell me what a scumbag my other half is for betraying me like that (Just FYI, Spencer has not cheated on me and is not a scumbag, just a bit of a pain sometimes!).  This was a much more delicate situation.

I tried to speak to one or two people about how I was feeling, but I soon came to realise that I was alone in how I felt, being told more or less on more than one occasion that I was overreacting, basically having my feelings invalidated.  Now that felt shitty.  I'd opened up to a few select people I thought I could trust, and I was completely shut down.

Now, as somebody who couldn't even open up to her own Mum about the teenage angsty stuff I went through, choosing to open up to people I thought I could trust was a huge thing for me, so to have received such a negative response was a huge blow for me.  There were a couple of friends that did listen and did understand where I was coming from knowing some more deep rooted issues from my past, and to those people I'm grateful for their support, but the others truly made me question myself.

Was I really overreacting?  Was I the one in the wrong?

I shut down for a little while; bottling everything up, and the rest of 2018 was bollocks.  I was happy to see the back of it.

Being so ill over the Christmas and New Year break gave me plenty of time to reflect, and I knew I couldn't keep bottling up, but I also wasn't too keen on the idea of opening up to anybody again just yer.  I know that mindset isn't the healthiest, so to help me open that door inside of me again I bought this AM/PM Journal from Paperchase, which is now on sale for £5.00.  I have wrote in it almost every day since buying it, and I'm absolutely loving it.  I'm actually a little sad that I'm almost at the end of it, and a little tempted to get another whilst it's in the sale for when my current one is finished, but I also have this Two Minute Morning Journal that Spencer's Dad bought me for Christmas, so I'll be moving on to that when I've finished the AM/PM Journal.

Anyway, I digress.  With the AM/PM journal, you take a couple of minutes out of each morning and evening to right down your thoughts and feelings in that moment.  Sometimes the journal gives you a prompt, and other times it just leaves you to let your mind run free.  I love it because it allows me to start engaging my mind early in the morning and getting any anxieties for the day off of my chest, as well as unload any thoughts and feelings I'm carrying on my shoulders before I go to bed, allowing me a more peaceful night's sleep.

Since writing in this journal I've felt calmer throughout the day.  I feel like I can meet any challenges I face in day to day life with a more level head and without flying off the handle.  I mean, I'm sure the Citalopram has a lot to do with that as well, but journalling definitely deserves some credit in this change of mindset.

For day to day tasks I've started bullet journalling.  Whilst laying in my sick bed for the entirety of Christmas and New Year, I read The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll.  Ryder Carroll is the man who came up with the Bullet Journal, and his book really took away the parts of bullet journalling I found intimidating (The artsy side of it where people were creating these damn masterpieces in their bullet journals), and strips it back to what a bullet journal is all about.  Organising your life and freeing your time to be able to do more in less time.

Since coming to the realisation that I don't actually have to be a master at typography to have a bullet journal I have absolutely loved having one.  I write in it every day; everything from my day to day tasks at work and at home, to keeping track of trips I need to pay off, films I've watched, books I've read, and my most favourite part is my daily gratitude, where I write five things I'm grateful for each day, no matter how small.  Doing this has really helped me see the good in each day, so instead of looking back at January as a snotty, miserable mess, I look back on it and remember the good times, like the weekend away with my sister, and mine and Spencer's seven year anniversary where we were sat next to Paul Chuckle in Bill's Restaurant (No I'm not over that).

Finally, I picked up Katie Piper's Confidence Journal.  Although there are some prompts here and there to write in the journal, mainly it contains positive affirmations based around confidence each day.  Kind of a mantra to carry with you every day.  I've always admired Katie Piper.  She's a beautiful person inside and out, and I'm just in awe of how she has been through hell and come out of the other side with so much positivity and love.  She's an inspiration.  Her journal is such a lovely thing to pick up each morning.  Reading something so positive as the first act of my day really makes a difference.

I realise that three journals does seem a little excessive, but for the sake of 10 minutes out of my day in the morning and evening, they really make a difference to my day to day attitude.  Being able to write my feelings down allows me to get them out in the open without fear of judgement being thrown back at me, and having them written down allows me to go back and reflect on past feelings and events; sometimes allowing me to think of ways I can deal with situations better in the future.

And just before you go, let me stress that your feelings should never be invalidated.  No matter the situation, your feelings are valid, and if that situation hurts you, then people need to accept that.  It's taken me a couple of months to realise this, but I refuse to feel bad for how I felt now.  I now know that the problem does not lie with me, but with the people who told me I was overreacting.  That maybe it made them question their own actions and it was easier to tell me I was overreacting than admit to themselves that maybe they could be hurting those they love without giving it a second thought.  Just something to think about before we judge another's reaction to something in the future.
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