Monday, 19 June 2017

Mental Health Mondays #5 : "You'll grow out of it..."

So it's my birthday tomorrow and I'm turning 20, which is terrifying because I certainly don't feel big enough to officially be an adult forever! But anyway, this got me thinking about how often when you're demonstrating mental health issues as a teenager people think that it may be a phase or something that you'll grow out of. I don't know whether scientifically there is any evidence for this kind of thing but I suppose the onset of puberty can lead to mood changes etc. and perhaps this is why people think it may be such a temporary thing.

As someone who has now been struggling with chronic mental health issues since I was 16 it seems clear to me that this cannot be a "teenage phase" and I have less than 24 hours left in order to get over it if that is the case!

I'm not trying to suggest that there is no way to recover from a mental health issue and that me and others like me will necessarily struggle every single day forever for the rest of our lives. It just occurred to me that thinking this way can be very harmful to young teens who are trying to reach out. Just because someone is young it does not mean that they shouldn't be taken seriously and treated with care and respect. Opening up and reaching out for help is an incredibly brave thing to do and this should be thought of in the same way regardless of your age.

As I've mentioned before, more than once I've not been taken seriously when talking to healthcare professionals about my problems, once the doctor even told my dad she thought I was skiving school when I explained how I felt unable to get out of bed, just thinking back about that makes me feel so disheartened - especially to think that there may be others like me but much more vulnerable being told the same thing. This particular occasion was much earlier in my life and at the time I didn't think it was a mental health thing but looking back at it, it seems likely that it was but yeah, the response I got from healthcare professionals as a scared 13 year old was not helpful and it's really quite upsetting to think about.

I guess that by writing this post I'm hoping that it'll give readers a chance to think about whether they may be guilty of putting someone's struggles down to their age and treating them differently because of this. I suppose what I would encourage is that, regardless of whether you think it's just a phase someone is going through or not, if they come to you asking for help and acceptance don't tell them you think it'll pass off. Doing this risks making them feel worse and at the end of the day, everyone's experiences are valid and people deserve love, care and support for as long as they need it whether they "grow out of it" or not.

Have any thoughts based on what I've said? Whether you agree or not please feel free to leave a comment with what you think!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Rating: 8/10
Published: 1st June 2017
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 368
Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.
Sports star Cooper only knows what he's doing in the baseball diamond. 
Bad body Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.
Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life. And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious gossip app at Bayview High, won't ever talk about any of them again.He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it's no accident. All of them are suspects.
Everyone has secrets, right?
What really matters is how far you'll go to protect them.

A big thanks to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this book for review.

Warning: I'm going to try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible but it's going to be tricky so tread carefully if you've not yet read it!

Now I like to think of myself as quite a good detective when it comes to murder mystery books, it's very rare that a book actually surprises me with it's plot but One of Us Is Lying did just that and I loved it! I'm also secretly cross with myself because I'm obviously not as good at deductions as I thought I was but we'll move on...

One of Us Is Lying follows the events unfolding after the death of a boy named Simon in a high school detention. The narrative is split between four different characters each with completely different lives but each who has a secret that they're trying to hide. Initially I was worried that I would find it very difficult to get to grips with a narrative split between so many characters but once I got into the storyline it became much clearer who was who and I honestly think successfully writing a book with this many characters is quite an achievement!

It's very difficult for me to write much about my thoughts on the story without posting major spoilers but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read which ticked almost every single box I have for a good book! I really enjoyed the beautiful development shown by all characters, but especially that of Addy who becomes a super strong woman and I'm just really so proud of her!! I mean, there's also some really cute romance and the epilogue made me feel so warm inside and it was wonderful.

There was only one small thing which bugged me and that was the way in which the characters referred to a girl who'd had a suicide attempt and the phrase that was used more than once to describe it (I shan't quote because I don't want to use such a phrase tbh). However, I think this is more a case of something which I find personally upsetting but also something that's a common description and would very likely be used by teens such as those in this book. So it's not like a negative of the book but more a negative of how insensitive people are to mental health issues in real life? I'm not sure if I've put this point across very successfully or not but oh well!

Anyway, One of Us Is Lying is a super fun book with a really good mystery which will keep you guessing (if you figure it out you're much cleverer than me, good job!). It has fab characters and it's just really enjoyable so you should add it to your TBR if you haven't already!

Have you ready One of Us Is Lying? Did you guess 'whodunnit'? If so you should comment so I can bow down to you Sherlock Holmes...

Monday, 12 June 2017

Mental Health Mondays #4 : Some thoughts on Mindfulness

Here's a little personal life update before I jump into this week's post:
In my first MH post "Mental Health and Me" I explained that I was on the waiting list for a Clinical Psychologist. Not long after sharing that post I was finally contacted after months of waiting and I started to get help.
I've now had four appointments and I'll be honest, it's really tough, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by this but talking about my difficulties in this kind of setting is much more difficult than I ever found the previous counselling I received.
Anyway, in my appointment on Thursday we were talking about how I could deal with stuff over the summer as moving 250 miles back home to the middle of nowhere for 3 months could be good or bad, that remains to be seen. My psychologist brought up the concept of mindfulness, suggesting that I might find it helpful. I've been giving it some thought over the past few days and I thought it might be a good idea for me to write this week's post on my thoughts, feelings and what Google can tell me about mindfulness. Basically what you're about to read is me processing what I've been asked to try out and rambling about what I think about it, enjoy...

My initial thoughts:
Okay honesty time, my first thoughts when my psychologist mentioned mindfulness was "oh no" because I've given it a little bit of a try in the past and it's just not been helpful. As far as I know it's meant to help you focus your attention away from the thoughts you're having and stuff but I've found the quiet is anything but helpful doing that. Having said this, I've maybe tried it three times in total over the last three years of battling my mental health difficulties and I appreciate maybe I've not tried it enough to truly say that it doesn't work. Maybe I've just been doing it "wrong" anyway who knows!

What does mindfulness even mean though?
After giving it some thought it dawned on me that I wasn't even sure what mindfulness really was. I know from my degree that it's something which has a growing place in the psychological field but I didn't really know much besides this. My psychologist recommended I try this three minute breathing exercise on YouTube as a starting point and I'll admit I've not yet had a look into it. But is that all there is to it? Just learning to breathe to help you?

Several minutes of aggressive googling later...
Following some research I have reached the conclusion that mindfulness is a state which is achieved by focussing on the present moment, acknowledging and accepting your feelings. The NHS informed me (not personally I mean like, I went on their website) that I can become more mindful by:
  • regularly noticing and paying attention to everyday stuff
  • trying new things - initial thought is that I have tried a lot of new stuff in the last 3 years and it hasn't helped my mental health in a way I can see anyway, hmm.
  • watching your thoughts -interestingly the top quote about this is referring to how some people find it really difficult as the "thoughts and worries crowd in" as soon as they stop, aka me? Does this mean it won't be helpful for me or that I'll just have to get past the initial difficulty?
Mindfulness can be achieved through practices such as mediation or yoga, which I kind of already knew but it's cool to have it confirmed. As well as the breathing exercises etc. that I mentioned earlier

But is it for me?
It's certainly an interesting concept but even after my research I'm just not convinced if it's the sort of thing that will benefit me. I know a lot of people swear by it but I just know how difficult I can find it to shut out my thoughts and I really don't know if doing Yoga is going to help me with that or not?
I suppose I can't really form an opinion until I really try it so perhaps I'll try and commit to some sort of mindfulness practice several times a week for a while to see what happens.
I'm interested in the idea of mindfulness journals which I know are something people use so maybe this is a form of mindfulness I could try out and that I might be more inclined to engage in.
The thing I'm most unsure about regarding mindfulness is whether I'd actually be able to actively get myself to sit down and to do it? Because focussing on my feelings and stuff sounds pretty difficult so I'm not sure how I'd get on with it. But as I say until I try I won't know I suppose!

Perhaps I'll get on with it and give this mindfulness thing a try and give y'all an update on how I get along in a later post, we'll see what happens!

Have you tried mindfulness? Anything I've not mentioned that you think I should know? Let me know in a comment below if you'd like!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

TBR - June 2017

Last month I only managed 1 of the 5 books in last month's tbr post (I was also distracted by other books but shh). Now that my exams are over, nothing can stop me and *fingers crossed* I'll be able to read all of the books which I neglected last month too and I now officially have zero things to do.💃

The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas
Honestly I am so excited to read this! I'm very aware that as someone who aims to read diversely I've not yet read a book with a character with an ASD before and I'm just really really looking forward to it!

How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne
This has been on my shelf for a while and I need to return it to it's owner before the summer holidays (shoutout to Bella for loaning it to me). I don't know why it's taken me so long to get around to it because quite frankly everything by Holly Bourne seems to be amazing as yay!

Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie Israel
I think this is going to be a really beautiful and important read, I've heard nothing but good things abut it so naturally I can't wait to read it! I'm intrigued by what the storyline will be like from the synopsis but I'm sure this book and I will get along well.

Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz
Okay I'll be honest I was a big fan of Melissa de la Cruz' Blue Bloods series when I was about 15 and this book (although sounding very very different to vampires!) sounds like it'll be really interesting, I bought it ages ago and I'm excited to finally pick it up!

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
So I'm very aware that it's pride month this month and so it's essential (as with every month!) that I include at least one LGBT+ book in my tbr! I'm hoping I'll be able to read more than just one but I'm putting Carry On in this post because a) it's been on my list for SO LONG and b) it's the only LGBT+ book that's currently on my bookshelf that I haven't yet had chance to read!

I have high hopes for June being a month of lots of reading! Have you read any of these or are you planning to read any of them this month? Let me know in a comment, I'm nosey and want to know what you're planning to read!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Mental Health Mondays #3 : The Thing with Depression...

Last week I didn't write a post because it was my main week of exams and I was Cramming As Heck but the exams went okay so yippee! This week, honestly I have very little motivation for anything and I can't keep myself focussed on anything for more than about 10 minutes. For this reason, this week I'm going to embark on a depression-related ramble and just see what happens. I'm hoping it will help me clear my head slightly and maybe someone will read it and gain something, who knows!

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm quite an organised individual, I LOVE lists, I love structure and it's for this reason that I function much more successfully in times when I have stuff that I need to be doing.
As I said, exam season has just come to a close for me but the past 3 or so weeks have consisted of almost constant revision, and although it has been spectacularly boring, it's given my days structure and has been a bit of distraction from other things which have been lurking in the back of my mind.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Mental Health Mondays #2 : Things not to say to someone who's struggling

So this is something that should be obvious and yet I (and I'm certain I'm not alone) have several experiences of people 'helping' when they find out I have mental health difficulties. Here's my top 5 of Things Not To Say To A Mentally Distressed Person, along with a few tips on what might be the correct thing instead.

"Just talk to people!"
As someone who experiences social-based anxiety, particularly in group situations, I've heard this a lot but honestly that's the whole point. If I felt able to join in with the convos I would do, but I?? Can't??
Pro tip: if you have a friend who has this problem take the step to introduce them into the conversation so that they don't have to do it themselves, for me it's the first sentence that I feel unable to initiate and it gets easier once I'm involved.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Mental Health Mondays #1 : Self Care with Sar

Disclaimer: These are a few things I've learnt through my journey with mental health issues, please be aware that these are from my experience and they often help me but this doesn't mean that they'll work for everyone as each person is different! Also, by no means am I trying to imply that mental distress can be "fixed" with these methods, only that these things help me to cope with my mood changes.

It's no surprise for me to say that looking after yourself is very important, and when you're struggling with your mental well-being even very basic self care can seem like the hardest thing in the world to do. As someone who frequently experiences very sudden drops in mood and difficult thoughts I've learnt that certain self care practices can really help me to distract myself in these times by doing something positive. Therefore, this post is simply a list of things that I find helpful and which may help you to think about what you can do to help yourself.