When the dark clouds loom

It’s been a while since I felt this way. By “this way”, I mean walking around numb with no interest in doing / watching and reading anything. It’s that kind of state where you’d rather crawl into bed and sleep for days. You know the kind… or maybe you don’t. Anyway, it’s not much fun and being in this place again has got me anxious and incredibly on edge (though it would be hard for you to tell if you were with me right now).

You see, the feeling of impending doom isn’t completely unwarranted – not that mental health needs a reason – but I recently lost my cousin. Lost is a simple term and doesn’t do the situation justice so let me start again. My cousin was brutally murdered the day he was meant to come to the UK with his family for a festive visit. Days before my 30th birthday and before Christmas, some idiot (unbeknown to any of us) decided they were God and tied him to his car seat and strangled him with cable ties. That’s not the end of it. They left him for dead in a cemetery. What kind of sicko and disgusting human being does that – let alone any of it?

I go through the stages of grief, pretty rapidly, on loop. It’s exhausting but the level of shock and disbelief is beyond anything I’ve experienced before. It’s just made me stop in my tracks and ask myself a series of questions, ones that I’d probably get penalised for on one of those depression quizzes given to you by a psychiatrist. “How often have you felt little pleasure or interest in doing things?” or “Have you had trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much?” My response: “Nearly every day for both.” I am struggling beyond belief to fall asleep as I replay the headlines (sometimes false) in the media about my cousin’s death. Stupid I know, but it’s really brought home the question of “What’s it all for?”. This life, the work we do, the money we make, the attachments we form… what’s it all for? Yes, I am aware everyone has to die at some point – hopefully more often through a peaceful death in old age but I know that’s not always the case and diseases like cancer can ravage the body or heart failure etc. But to lose your life in such horrific circumstances when you had everything to play for and a wonderful life ahead of you, that’s just stumped me. Life is unfair – I’ve always known that, but what was done to my cousin (and our family) is cruel. We may never know the names of the perpetrators at play and I’m not sure it would really help any of us – unless it was a punishment they were faced with. But, even that, will never bring my loving, kind-hearted, fun-spirited cousin back – and that harsh reality will never be something that can be erased easily – if at all.

So really, what is it all for? What’s the point of any of it? Why do we strive for anything when any element can be stripped away from you with little to no notice? Here’s what I think – life is to be lived because we are fortunate enough to have it. We are living, breathing, extraordinary human beings. We were made for connection, with a purpose and hopefully we will contribute to making the world a better place some day. But above all, we are learning – how to love, give and receive. That is something I believe can help to make sense of it all.

In this place of utter doom and nothingness, I hold onto the hope that one day I’ll be reunited with my cousin and he’ll no doubt ask me what I did with my life after he went. I’d rather not give him a pathetic answer and instead live a life he would have lived – full of joy, peace and laughter – all in the present moment…and with no regrets.

On that note, as we begin 2023 – not in a way I would have liked and some of you may be feeling the same – let’s be thankful for the life we have and those who are in it. With love, support and a little bit of grit, we can rise up from the ashes and build a stronger version of ourselves with renewed optimism, faith and hope. With three months to go till I embark on the London Landmarks Half Marathon again (a story for another time) I’ll use the goal to supercharge myself and give me something to focus on – one day at a time. What habits can you start cultivating today?

Take things slow and fly a bit at a time,

The Confused Butterfly

PS. Happy New Year!

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.

The art of letting go

Following a post I did a while back on acceptance with dignity, I wanted to revisit this, particularly focusing on the letting go part.

It’s a hard thing letting go; whether it be of a person, thing, place, memory or something someone has said to hurt you. Letting go is probably one of the most difficult mental challenges we face as humans, because it’s in our nature to want to control our thoughts, things, people, outcomes, events and so much more. But, sometimes, life forces you to let go, because holding on to something which no longer serves you does more damage than good. Sometimes, it takes an outsider to notice the compulsive cycle you’re in for you to really understand how damaging your actions are, not only to yourself, but to others too. As a friend of mine once said “it’s like pouring acid on yourself expecting not to get burnt”. I mean, wow. How’s that for a jolt back to reality?!

When I step back and really consider this phrase, I’m able to see things more clearly. My efforts to hold onto something that no longer serves me is futile – it is an example of abandoning myself, devaluing myself, but above all, disrespecting myself. When it comes to a certain person you’re trying to get to like you and approve of you, the holding on until your knuckles are white can end up pushing them away as they can see with clarity that you have no self-love or self-respect. Spoiler alert, it’s a turn-off and that determines the way they will treat you in the future, knowing that you will accept anything, including abuse.

It can be so easy to get caught up in the same cycles, hoping for a different outcome. But ultimately, we end up losing our sense of self in the unhealthy pursuit of the things we think we can’t live without. However, I talk from experience when I say, that using this warped logic as a basis for action, is deeply unhelpful.

There will be plenty of situations that won’t allow you to go any further, no matter how hard you try. The door can be closed on you at any time – often without warning, but it’s up to you as to how you respond. Are you going to sit there knocking, banging on it and waiting there, hoping that by some magic, it will open? Will you use force to knock it down – through a metaphorical sledgehammer? Or will you sensibly walk away knowing that you tried your best?

I can’t tell you what to do, nor is that my aim with this post, but I can tell you honestly, that from my experience, trying to force open a door that is firmly shut is high up on my list with some of the dumbest things I’ve done – and I’ve got the scars to prove it. As cliché as it sounds, when one door shuts, an even better one opens and I’m not just saying that. You see, that when something’s not right for you, no matter how hard you try, the outcome won’t be what you want it to be and I hate to say it to you folks, but there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. Zilch. As frustrating as that can be, look at it as an opportunity for growth.

That’s not to say, that I’ve had the sense or indeed the patience, to look for the open doors whilst in the thick of a painful situation. But, when I look back at my life with open eyes, I can see that all the distressing setbacks I often saw as failures or disappointments, were actually the things that propelled me into situations I could never have imagined – positive ones that left me far better off than those I was relentlessly fighting for.

Whether this was my Higher Power at work behind the scenes, the universe or just sheer luck, I’ve come to realise that, when I loosened my grip on things and took a back seat, going with the flow of life, the positive outcomes materialised far quicker. In other words, it was simply because I wasn’t trying to force a certain outcome and instead, let go – whether wilfully or not.

Situations like these, require us to detach ourselves so as not to get caught up in the mess of it, the emotions surrounding it and the need to be heard, because ultimately, none of that matters. Detachment is a conscious choice you have to make in order to separate yourself from something and in the context of letting go, it means transcending beyond the problem in front of you, by not letting it define you.

One way in which you can detach is by viewing your situation as if it were a movie, visualising the main character (you) as someone whose appearance is so contrasting to yours, but whose life is reflective of your own. It is from this perspective that you will be able to objectively consider your upbringing, your beliefs and subsequent choices, without labelling them as right and wrong. It’s akin to self-compassion in some ways as it forces you to look at things differently, removing the personal aspect from it. In a similar vein, you may also find it helpful to think about what you could say to a friend who is going through difficulties in their life. Often, it is far easier to show compassion to others than it is to ourselves.

I know letting go is hard and it feels impossible sometimes, but it can be done – with more patience, compassion and a deeper understanding of yourself. Letting go doesn’t have to be in hate, sadness or disappointment. Believe it or not, it can be done with love, humility and with the knowledge that whatever happens, you will be okay.

Stumbling along with you,

The Confused Butterfly

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.

Fighting to be heard

There are often times when I feel that I try so hard to be seen, to be heard, to be understood and ultimately, what tends to happen instead is that my words or actions end up pissing people off. I know it’s not my duty to make people understand me or get my struggles, but when I’m trying so hard to consistently put my best foot forward on a daily basis, it can be demoralising when that’s not recognised and I’m labelled negatively. Until recently, I experienced feelings of shame, failure and defectiveness. Whilst I’ve always been an open book, this has often landed me in trouble and is met with invalidation of the feelings I face. I’ve often been told by those closest to me that I’m overreacting, I should think about those less fortunate and I should stop making everything about me. Yes, there are often times – for insignificant things – where I find myself wishing I hadn’t responded so dramatically but more often than not, I am hurting and I’m genuinely in pain whether people can see it or not. I shouldn’t need to cut myself to be heard, to be validated or understood. Everyone deserves empathy and that includes me too.

Whilst I’m moving away from the addictive need of wanting to be validated, I still struggle if I feel like I’m self-sacrificing myself for the sake of others or if I don’t have sufficient alone time. I want people to like me and frankly, who doesn’t? However, I take it one step further and act codependently with the expectation that if I try really hard, people will see that and appreciate the great efforts I have gone to in order to make them happy. Where this becomes a problem is when I volunteer to attend things, meet someone or give more of myself than I feel comfortable but end up feeling depleted, drained and burnt out.

You see, the thing about depression is that it can significantly affect your ability to do simple things like being social, washing, cleaning or cooking. These can feel like massive mountains to climb. I appreciate this can feel alien to those who’ve not experienced a struggle with mental health, but trust me when I say, that when the black dog is very much following me everywhere I go, I have no energy to live the life I want to lead. The thought of waking up, working and coming home feels like an insurmountable challenge and yet I do it, because I’m also a high-functioning depressive who suffers from anxiety too. So whilst I may put on a face of bravery, wear a cloak of courage and act in a bubbly and friendly way, underneath the facade, I’m crumbling and sometimes I wish people could see that and hear what I have to say rather than perceiving it differently. Yes, I may cancel my plans with you or I may never be able to give you a straight answer when you need it, but I’m struggling and I know I’m not alone in this.

I rarely let people into this part of me because it’s ruined friendships, relationships and above all, it can make me, like so many others, vulnerable to attacks from people who barely know me, nor take an interest in my welfare, but also the ones closest to me. I think I also give up with getting people to understand me having been party to conversations where they’ve unconsciously said things about others whose behaviour often resonates with me. Yes, I might not want to go out drinking with you or flake on a dinner plan, but I’m not doing that intentionally. For example, those with social anxiety may prefer to go for a coffee or walk over something like a three-course dinner and my thinking is if you can’t understand that or can’t be with me when I’m at lowest, do you even deserve to enjoy me at my highest? Insensitive comments and the lack of awareness when it comes to tricky things like suicide, self harm or social anxiety can make us shut down.

I haven’t mastered the art of communicating with others in a way that is assertive about my own needs yet respectful of their wishes too. However, I am trying and take action to continuously improve this skill on a daily basis. Please bear with me as I attempt to escape the grip of the black dog and grapple with the things I struggle with. All I, and so many others, need is a non-judgmental shoulder to lean on and an ear who will listen to the pain that’s inside of us. Sometimes, we don’t need you to fix it or find solutions, we just need you to hear us – loud and clear.

I’m struggling and so are a lot of people, all it takes is a little kindness and patience to help lessen the pain.

As hard as it is right now, I encourage you to rise from the ashes, spread your wings and fly,

The Confused Butterfly

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.

Dancing with suicide

There are often times when I find myself wishing I was dead and had never been born. These times are more frequent than they used to be and strike me with such vengeance that I often find myself questioning how I’m still standing after all this time.

Suicide for me has never been idealised and instead it’s always been a route I’ve considered as an escape from this world. An escape so that I don’t need to live the life I’ve got here on Earth, an escape from everything that pains me and a respite for all the challenges life has chucked my way. You see when I talk about suicide, I don’t need nor want you to have any pity for me nor feel a deep sorrow for the anguish I’m feeling, I need you to understand how truly isolating, frustrating and energy-sapping severe depression and other mental health disorders can be. When I contemplate suicide, the truth is I honestly don’t really want to die either. I just want a way to live harmoniously without chains keeping me locked and clouds above my head sapping what little energy I have on a daily basis. I want to feel joy for the little things and I guess a part of me wants to not face the things that cause me the most distress – unprocessed feelings, shame, failure and guilt for all the things I couldn’t do.

Suicide, in my opinion, is never contemplated from a selfish place, nor is it ever considered through an act of selflessness. It’s more often than not, a last dash at happiness when all else fails and an escape from situations and circumstances that feel too much to bear. When life feels like it’s hurtling me down a motorway at frightening speeds or when I continuously feel misunderstood, unheard and isolated is when I grasp tightly onto the idea that suicide is the only way out.

I hate that the first thing someone says when an individual commits suicide is “oh what a selfish, self-centred human being for causing me inconvenience on my commute to work” or “how could he/she do that to their family?” or “did they not think about anyone other then themselves?”. Comments like these are insensitive, ignorant and downright stupid because I can guarantee you that anyone who has contemplated killing themselves or made attempts to do so were in very dark places when considering all their options. Though it might be difficult for you to hear, they would have painstakingly considered all avenues and meticulously planned their death to the nth degree – the top thing on their mind would be to cause as little pain as possible to their loved ones and ultimately reduce the burden and impact of their disease on their loved ones’ lives. At the end of the day, it’s not nice always sapping the energy of those you love and being the downer in a group of friends right?

When everything is profoundly overwhelming and I feel like there’s nowhere else to turn, that’s when suicide asks me if I’d like to dance. The dance is not pleasant, it’s very painful and grips me tighter with each step. However, I’d be lying if I said that the thought of starting afresh by ending my life and being born again wasn’t the least bit attractive. Of course, I know that on the other side, there’s no guarantee. Suicide is not the answer and never will be, but I guess for me it offers a hopeful alternative to my present reality.

I’m lucky to have a large support network who do their best and mostly succeed in pulling me out of the dark pits but for those of you that don’t, know that suicide is not all it promises to be. I know that if you continued to give life your best shot, there would be plenty of support and resources available for you to use. People are more open about mental health now and the stigma is much reduced. Talking helps and it’s okay not to be okay. Your life is valuable, precious and means more to those who love you even if they might not always show it nor express it appropriately. Who you are matters, what you say matters and you matter. You are a unique individual destined for great things. Even when things seem bleak, have a look at the world around you, notice how many wonderful things there are to be grateful for and look to the person sitting next to you, because chances are they have been through what you may be going through and wouldn’t want to see you dead either. The world is a brighter place with you, you deserve to shine bright – just make sure you’re kind to yourself and compassionate towards others in the process.

You’ll be absolutely fine. We’ve got this.

Spread your wings as tired as they may be and soar,

The Confused Butterfly

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.

My anxiety is not something I put on when the shoe fits

I’m sick and tired of being made to feel that my anxiety is a show, something that comes and goes when I will it. If anything, it’s far from that. The cloud of anxiety and depression always hangs around regardless of what I am doing and despite how well put together my life looks at any given moment.

I have so many fears – fear of people I love dying, fear of getting on tubes, fear of eating and choking, fear of being abandoned – the list is endless and sometimes living feels like the worst place to be. To be in a state constantly paralysed by fear is not something I’d wish on anyone let alone my worst enemies. It’s debilitating and horrific for someone who has to go through that every day.

I’m a high-functioning depressive who is nearly always anxious. This works well for me because I have a demanding job which I love and it always means that I try my very best at whatever I put my hand to. However, the downside of this is that I care too much about what people think, how I look, how I’m performing and I am nearly always trying to be a perfectionist. When my depression and anxiety is at its worst, I forget to take care of myself in ways I know work. This ends up in all my self care habits going down the drain and in me becoming hyper vigilant and constantly triggered for days on the trot – causing anxiety and frustration to those around me. I am trying to work on it, but it’s a journey – one that’s long, windy and downright tiring. I recently started intensive treatment for depression – attending sessions three times a week and whilst that really helped, the guilt of taking time out of work to do this, was too much for me to bear. I hope to go back soon now that a big project at work has finished, but I do feel having the right structure and dedicated support in place helps.

For me, something as small as going out for dinner which is anxiety-inducing for me anyway can become a full-blown evening of hell governed entirely by my thoughts and how I might look chewing a tiny piece of bread slowly or swallowing soup at a snail’s pace to other people. Ensuring I don’t choke when eating is something I’m so careful of because it’s happened before, at my music school on a piece of mozzarella. It was absolutely mortifying and thinking back to the day and countless other experiences when similar issues have happened makes me shudder. That feeling of being out of control and fearful your life is about to end is scary and possibly a reason as to why I like everything to be planned to the nth degree so that I am in control.

So anyway, back to my point, when I go out for a meal in a group or even just in a foreign environment, not only is it one of the most fear-inducing situations I allow myself to be put in, but to counter it, I have to force myself to chew profusely, focus on that fact it’s only food and imagine one of my old therapists talking me through eating some spinach as I chew what’s on my plate little mouth by little mouth. As you can imagine, just doing that expends a great amount of my mental energy, but trying to shut down the negative voice in my head telling I’m going to choke so be careful is more than I can even begin to explain. It often leaves me feeling unable to continue and therefore hungry having watched everyone else devour their food with no issue.

Whilst my issue around eating is not something you’d typically call an eating disorder – I actually want to eat and enjoy food – it’s still an illness of sorts that makes doing ordinary things like spending time with family and friends or even going abroad, really hard. I’m not a picky eater by any stretch of the imagination, nor am I ungrateful for the food I do have, it’s just that me and food have always had a somewhat strained relationship. I can’t pinpoint the exact time at which it reared it’s ugly head but believe me when I say this, I’ve been trying to fix it and I’m still trying. My Dad has suggested I try hypnotherapy so maybe I’ll give that a go – who knows? Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised and be a changed person!

My eating issue has destroyed relationships, caused unnecessary arguments and left me feeling more isolated than one might imagine. In writing this post, I hope I can help people better understand the demons we all face; either silently and unnoticed or publically and prominent. People with poor mental health aren’t acting a certain way to get sympathy, garner pity or get a rise out of you, they’re being vulnerable with you because they trust you.

So, the next time you see someone struggling, instead of shouting at them, snapping at them due to your own inability to deal with a difficult situation, take a deep breath, calm down and ask them what you can do to help. There’s always something and I can guarantee you, what they’re feeling is hard to explain and feels 10 times worse than it actually is in their head. And above all else, they’re the ones living the hell. But, it’s also important to note that the thing with mental illness is that at times, it is completely irrational and a silent killer. It can make people feel like giving up when life gets too overwhelming or pop a tranquilizer to help them gain some perspective. You walking away, cursing them and being angry, only does more to exacerbate the issue.

With World Mental Health Day having only just passed, remind yourself that tomorrow, it could be your mother, father, brother or sister who is suffering from an illness you can’t seem to understand. Ask yourself how you’d feel if you knew that someone they loved treated them so inhumanely and belittled their struggle by telling them it’s all an act and they’re having a tantrum. That might just be the thing that knocks them over the edge. Why take a tough love approach when you can just be compassionate and show love instead?

My message to you therefore is that whoever you encounter, however put together they might seem in one instant, behind closed doors the story could be entirely different. Have some compassion, try to understand and above all, be kind. You’ll be helping them more than you might even know.

Spread your wings and fly,

A tired, but still Confused Butterfly

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.

Just because my pain isn’t visible, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I’m tired of people not taking me seriously and by me, I mean my pain, my journey and the suffering I’ve endured throughout my life. I don’t need pity or sympathy, instead what I’d like is to be heard. Often, it can feel like I’m banging against a glass jar – trapped in intense pain and feelings of being misunderstood. It’s far too easy for people to look at me and make judgements on how my life appears to be, than to spend the time getting to know me and offering compassion. This has happened time and time again, but guys, it really must stop.

I’m not writing this post to garner support and pity, or have a thousand people convey their thoughts and prayers towards me. I’m writing this to be heard, to be understood and to communicate the frustration of never being taken seriously because of how “well put together” I appear because let’s be honest, I’ve become a master of that. I’m writing this post to speak up for the countless individuals who are fighting unimaginable battles that no one can see. Whether that’s in the mind or other illnesses (such as Crohns or ME) that aren’t as obvious as broken legs or cancer, we matter and our story is worth hearing. Over the years, people have told me how grateful I should be for having a roof over my head, food on my plate and a life that so many have dreamed of. People have often told me that other people have been through far worse so what in the world do I have to be sad about?!

Whilst that’s all well and good helps with gaining some perspective, the act of comparison does nothing but shame me and so many others into keeping quiet and facing our battles alone. I’ve found that during my short life thus far, very few take into account the battles I’ve faced and the strength I’ve had to muster time and time again to face demons like no other. I might not be deaf, blind or paralysed, but my pain is my own. No one has stopped to think that maybe, just maybe I suffer too and just because I’ve not lost a parent or suffered an incurable disease, that doesn’t mean I’ve not faced some difficult challenges during the course of my life. It’s easy to look at me and see a high-flying 28 year-old with a good job, a loving family and a nice home. But, looks can be deceiving. The old saying of “never judge a book by its cover” applies to my life and countless others all over the world.

I’ve often been told how resilient I am, how quickly I bounce back from setbacks but that’s premature in a way because most people don’t know how I feel when I turn in for the day, they don’t know how much effort I’m putting in just to keep one foot in front of the other and they certainly don’t know about the chatter inside my head. I make living look easy sometimes, but my feelings are far from that. There are days when I have to gather every ounce of energy I have, to get up and face the day.

There are days where I’ll cry uncontrollably on the kitchen floor and there are days where I see no alternative but to overdose on a concoction of pills. But you see, the thing is, it’s far easier for people to make comments on the visible and compare hidden illnesses to something they can witness. It’s simpler to bury heads in the sand.

Rather than taking the time to understand one another, why is it so easy for us as humans to jump to conclusions without knowing the full story? In an age where everything is about ourselves and how we can live our most fulfilling life, we’ve lost compassion for others. We’ve lost the ability to truly connect, to share in grief and sorrow – blocking ourselves from feeling anything for our neighbours. In an era of “me too”, why is it so hard to widen our circle of compassion to include the notion of “you too” so that we are able to appreciate that other people are also struggling? Why not validate someone else’s feelings instead of comparing it to your pain and diminishing it? I’ll tell you why, it’s because in a society that relies on smartphones to do everything for us and enables communication through technology, we have become less patient and increasingly selfish. It’s become easier to block someone, ignore them or fail to reach out because of how little patience we have – for ourselves but more importantly, for the struggles of others. I often question why it’s so hard for people to show up instead of turning away and focusing on one’s own self? I don’t have all the answers, but I know that visibility is a strong part of it. What people can’t see, doesn’t hurt them and therefore makes it non-existent. I’m not visibly struggling so therefore it’s easier to assume I’m not. There’s an aspect of fear and avoidance at play too.

Life is short and pain is inevitable so why not live in harmony with one another? Why not help alleviate the suffering of a loved one or friend? Why not show up for someone you care about whether they express their feelings or not? If that feels too hard, start with yourself. Charity begins at home, and only with compassion for yourself can you have empathy and understanding for another.

Living to fly another day,

The Confused Butterfly

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.

“But you were fine yesterday?”

I can’t count the number of times people have showed their ignorance when trying to support someone who’s struggling with mental health. Whether it’s been a comment said to me directly – or to my friends – I find it shocking that mental health is still one of the most poorly understood diseases globally.

We’re all human and we all experience bad days, but illnesses like depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder are not just ‘one-time’ diseases or ‘bad days’; instantly fixable and curable if you attend numerous therapy sessions and pop countless pills. Recovery from mental illnesses is not linear – and in all honesty, I don’t feel one can ever overcome it completely when they’re pre-disposed to it and have battled with it for most of their life.

It’s the lack of understanding and empathy people give to those with illnesses they can’t see that really gets to me. A person suffering from poor mental health doesn’t have had to experienced a life-altering event – it can be as a result of anything from chemical imbalances, trauma to a core belief system that wasn’t set up in the right way. Whatever it is, I can guarantee you that the person going through it didn’t wish this upon themselves and are probably trying the very best they can to keep moving forward and putting one foot in front of the other.

I never asked for the raft of illnesses I’ve faced during the course of my life and trust me when I say this, but some of the people you’ll come across, who are battling illnesses of the mind, are probably some of the strongest people you’ll ever meet. I have watched friends and loved ones struggle with what appeared to be insurmountable problems, but the strength and resilience they displayed is more than what I’ve seen in some of the top leaders of the world.

Instead of saying to someone, “but you have so much to be grateful for”, “you’re absolutely fine and you will be fine” and “get a grip love” – why don’t more people ask “what can I do to help?” Or better yet, “I hear you, I’m with you and we’ll get through this together.”? The sad thing about mental health is that because it is all literally in the mind, it can be a very scary and isolating place when you’re in the throes of it. Feeling like no-one understands you and like there’s no evidence of the pain you feel can be one of the hardest things a mental health sufferer faces. The feeling that you’re crazy, that you shouldn’t be sad and that your pain isn’t physical is the reason so many people feel the need to end their life.

I’ve been in that spot – more times than I’d like to admit – and I can tell you that when a person is feeling that low, they’re not doing it from a place of self pity with a victim mentality. Sure, they might be doing it as a cry for help, but is that so bad? The sad thing is, I don’t ever feel that mental health will be treated in the same way physical conditions are and that’s okay. Everyone’s on their own journey and it’s not my job to make people understand, but it is my duty to speak up when I see stuff happening that is not conducive to a more compassionate and understanding society. It’s my right to speak up when I feel that not enough consideration is given to people who are fighting debilitating diseases that you can’t even see. I’ll continue to use my voice to spread awareness of mental health because ultimately, if we can just make one more person feel less alone, then isn’t that half the battle?

Recovery is not linear but what in life actually is? The journey to wholeness and wellbeing is bumpy and the management of mental health conditions can be far from easy, but it’s not impossible. You see, I don’t think the world needs to be rid of it. It would be fabulous if it could, but the reality of the situation is that the world we live in is broken and without the pain, feeling joy would be redundant and without darkness, how could we shine a light? Life is paradoxical and everything is interdependent. Spending time in the valleys of loss, heartbreak and sadness provides you with a better perspective, strength and fortitude. It ultimately allows you to enjoy the view when you do get to the top. The journey however, can come in different forms for everyone – just because it’s not the same, doesn’t mean it’s wrong and just because it’s not continuously upwards, doesn’t mean that person’s not trying.

So, next time you want to throw a careless comment at someone or offer some advice, think twice. You have no idea what the person might be going through and what if the thing you said could be the ticket that throws them over the edge?

Be kind, spread love and fly,

The Confused Butterfly 

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.

Yes, the stigma around mental health has reduced – but it’s still there.

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that not everyone ‘gets’ mental health nor fully understands the impact it can have on someone’s life and their ability to see things in a ‘functional’ way. I use the word ‘functional’ mainly due to the way in which we are told to describe ourselves in a 12-Step Fellowship Group I attend, but also because there really isn’t a wrong or right way to view things and the sooner we can realise that, the easier getting along with others and not judging becomes. I can’t count the amount of times people have used the words ‘crazy’, ‘mental’, ‘hyper-sensitive’ or ‘over thinker’ to describe me in haste and whilst sometimes, my behaviour may seem a little erratic and disproportionate to the situation at hand, I can, with 100% certainty, attribute them to overwhelming feelings that are real, painful and mentally destroying.

You see, the thing which makes mental health difficult to talk about stems from the historical perceptions of it in society and the fact that poor mental health is not visible like more physical diseases such as diabetes, cancer or a broken leg. From the Royal Family and the hiding away of those that had significant mental health issues in their family back when the Queen Mother was alive, to the way in which people like Caroline Flack was treated, it’s evident to see that mental health or the absence of a healthy mind is not something that people feel comfortable talking about; either from a lack of true understanding or ignorance of the extent to which this disease can be so debilitating.

I will hold my hands up and say that prior to being diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety back in 2013, I too fell in the category of ignorance. I clearly remember a point in my life where I couldn’t fathom how someone who looked fine from the outside could also be fighting one of the hardest battles they’d ever have in their mind and invisible to those around them. It just didn’t make sense, until it did.

Again, when I heard about self harming, I wondered how anyone could do that to themselves when they’re so lovely, kind, beautiful and incredibly cherished. However, when facing excruciating feelings of pain and a lack of control over situations around me, I too, though ashamed to admit it, have found cutting to be the only way in which I can get out of my head and focus on a pain I can fix.

Whilst the pandemic has raised awareness of mental health issues and also reared its ugly head in people who previously experienced nothing of the sort, I still feel a stigma exists. I still feel uncomfortable talking about my deepest darkest feelings with some people because I know that from past experience, they prefer the version of me that is ‘fun’, ‘easygoing’ and not having a ‘meltdown’. But the sad thing is, if we as a society can’t accept people for having real, genuine and authentic feelings, nor provide some empathy when they are being vulnerable with us, then what hope do we have for creating a better world; one that’s more inclusive, accepting and content with the way things are?

People are going to experience all kinds of emotions in life; happiness, sadness, joy, pain, anger, fear and hurt. But if we can’t show up for those that we love when they’re going through the more darker emotions, then how can we expect people to show up for us if we find ourselves in a similar situation? If we can’t accept someone and love them unconditionally when they need it the most, how can we expect to develop friendships, relationships and bonds based on honesty, integrity, authenticity as well as empathy? The blunt fact of the matter is, we can’t.

Yes, the pandemic accelerated de-stigmatisation of mental health to an extent, but it hasn’t completely removed it. The statistics regarding mental health are still staggering. When 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year, 792 million people are affected by mental health issues worldwide and mental illness is the second-largest source of burden of disease in England, why aren’t we taking more of a stand? Why aren’t we stopping to think how our words and actions may impact another person? Why aren’t we trying to be the best versions of ourselves and support our friends and family?

I don’t have any answers to that, but one thing is clear, whilst we have come a long way in the last 10 years or so, there’s still more we can do. Poor mental health affects everyone; it doesn’t discriminate and it definitely doesn’t just go away because you engage in therapy. It’s a continual process to get to a better place and a battle that never stops – only rises and falls like most things in life. I therefore urge you to try and develop your ability to empathise with others and be a friend, whilst considering how you might feel if your mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, partner or friend decided to end their life and there was something you could have done to help alleviate their suffering?

We only get one shot at life so use it to spread your wings and fly,

The Confused Butterfly

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.

Acceptance with dignity

Given everything that went on in the United States yesterday, I feel it’s appropriate to share with you some thoughts about a topic I’ve wanted to talk about for a while – acceptance. Specifically, acceptance of: what was; what is and what will be. You see, the thing about acceptance is that it’s pretty much the easiest thing to do when you’re faced with a situation or person that aligns with what you’d hoped for and wanted. However, it can feel next to impossible to accept a situation when it appears (on the outset) to be unfair, unjust or not representative of your efforts.

I have no shame admitting this, but in the past, if something hadn’t gone according to my plan, I really struggled to accept it and let it go. For example, when I’d put every ounce into my studies only to get mediocre grades in secondary school at the final hurdles, or when I’d lost friends through my depression or even, loved ones to illness – acceptance has often been my biggest battle. Now, it’s not to say that I’m spoilt and expect things to go my way (because if you know me by now, my life has been far from the perfect fairytale) but I really had a hard time accepting endings, outcomes and feelings when something major happens in life. When I feel that my efforts have been wasted, or saddened that my life needs to take another course which couldn’t be further from what I’d planned, I’ve often been beside myself with helplessness. Have you ever felt this way too? I’m sure you have, and if you haven’t, way to go – you’re steps ahead!

So how have I managed to deal with it, and what actually works? Well it’s only been a recent phenomenon to me, but in short – surrender. Specifically, surrender and reliance on a force greater than myself. Now I’m not saying that if you don’t believe in God or a Higher Power, you’re doomed. Absolutely not! Surrender essentially means to stop resisting an enemy or opponent and give oneself up, typically on compulsion or demand. When applying it do daily life, it could look something like stopping the act of resisting a situation or thing you can’t change and instead, accepting it for what it is with faith and hope in a more positive outcome in the future. It’s when you aren’t looking to change and/or control something/someone, but instead, trusting that whatever will be, will be – cause let’s face it, control is an illusion and there’s not much we as individuals can control… apart from ourselves, our response to things and our behaviours.

Donald Trump’s resistance to concede and despicable behaviour with regards to the outcome of the US election is evidence of the devastating effects resistance can have; on not only yourself as the individual, but those around you. Resistance is powerful and can make someone behave in unthinkable ways when really, all they want is for the pain to stop and for the outcome to be more pleasing to them. All they really need is a bit of clarity and perspective, coupled with some self-compassion. However, if there’s something we all know, it’s that life might not always be what you want and you’ll not always get whatever it is you are chasing, so doing this can be hard when you feel deep in a powerful feeling. Trusting in the timing of things and the natural order of life is key. Resisting change only hurts yourself and pursuing a path of destruction to get what you want will often leave you feeling powerless or ashamed, rather than empowered and dignified.

I have in no way mastered the art of acceptance and letting things go, nor do I particularly trust anything to go the way it’s meant to. However, I am learning to accept things better, and day-by-day with practice and dedication, its becoming easier to put one step in front of the other. With the courage of knowing that whatever I’m faced with, I will be able to deal with helps and the best news is, you can try this too!

If you’re struggling to accept a situation, an outcome of an event, or simply accept how your life is right now following the pandemic that has ravaged this world, trust that there’s a time and place for everything and if you let go of the need to protect yourself through control as well as resistance, you will feel more peaceful for it.

I implore you to join me on the challenge of acceptance today. Surrendering in any form is hard, but resistance and control causes far greater damage. With this in mind, I know we can do it.

So, what are you waiting for?

Spread your wings and fly,

The Confused Butterfly

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.

Rising from the ashes

I’m a firm believer that out of all challenges in life, there’s an opportunity for change, an opportunity for betterment and an opportunity to rise again no matter how great a fall. Last year, though challenging for everyone due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it was particularly challenging for me due to some personal issues I’ve been facing. With a fresh perspective, renewed hope, greater faith and trust in a power greater than myself (reluctant though it may be) I am ready to face 2021 with my new armour. Now, that’s not to say I won’t have sad days and difficult nights (like I’m facing right now and perhaps the inspiration for this post). However, I now know that it’s all about progress not perfection. Trusting that there is a greater plan out there and having more self compassion for myself, whilst slowly reducing the guilt and shame I feel for my past transgressions, I know that I can make it…even if just for another night.

You see, the only thing guaranteed about recovery, from almost anything, is that it’s never easy. You can bet that it’ll be heart-wrenching, soul-destroying, full of tears and confusion. You’ll go through just about every emotion under the sun and possibly, will feel like you are going through Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief repeatedly. It may feel like there’s no end in sight and you may aswell give up: on the efforts to get better; humanity; the world and sometimes despairingly so, on yourself. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not worth it. Giving up because a night is difficult might feel like the only option, but is it really what you want? I’ll bet you don’t. You may think or feel like you need to make a drastic choice in this moment to alleviate your pain, but honestly, you don’t and I’m sure if you dig deep within your heart, like I have, you might find that this need to take destructive action stems from a position of unmanageability and lack of control, not because you truly want to. Trust me, I know what a bummer life can be sometimes but I’m evidence of the fact that it is possible to face it head on and whilst putting one foot in front of the other in an attempt to move forwards more positively. The problems you face, the people causing you distress or the issues you are worrying so earnestly about right now are not worth your tears and continued distress. It feel like it’s the end of the world, but in a few years’ time, you may even be grateful for what you’ve gone through and I truly believe that we go through certain things in order to make us more attuned to the pain of others as well as to give hope to those lost souls in the future.

So on this day, remember to offer yourself compassion. Look back at your life or the last year and see how far you’ve come. Despite the crazy set of cards life has dealt you with, you’re still here, breathing and a true warrior! I have faith in you! We were all made with unique qualities and strengths that make us worthy of being alive and we all make important contributions to this world. All human life is precious and that includes yours, no matter how rotten you might be feeling right now. So find that strength, be like a Phoenix who rises from the ashes and join me in my plight to meet every challenge 2021 may throw our way with acceptance, realisation and love. I know you can do it and I’ll certainly try with every fibre of my being.

So what are you waiting for?

Go on, spread your wings and soar,

The Confused Butterfly

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.