Let’s talk about mental health

Another aspect of my life I want to focus on is my mental health. This is another subject I find people don’t talk about, like money, and I want to change that in my life. I want to speak out and be an advocate for better care and de-stigmatisation in the ways I can. This feel really important for me this year.

For the last few months I have felt myself struggling more and more even though everything was feeling really good with work and home. I knew something was wrong and have been working ever since to find out what and I think it was the reduced amount of contact with friends that I hadn’t realised was happening. I’ve been very focused on my job and I love it, but I do need to make the time for proper self care, beyond going to therapy every week. There are other things I know are important to creating a healthy life and I have needed to remind myself of them recently, which is why it feels important to take stock at the the start of the year. I’m not looking to track any of this or make goals out of it, but rather for it to serve as a reminder to myself of what I need to do and let others know someone else is working on this too.

I’m not a mental health expert (disclaimer!) and so I am just sharing my story so that more people are talking about it. There is no right way to support mental health, you have to find what works for you. It might change along the way too and that’s okay. Last year was about letting go of my belief in diets and focus on creating a non judgmental relationship with food. I had to let go of something I’ve held on to as a support mechanism for so long. It’s not been easy, but I have felt so much better for it.

So my plan for the foreseeable future is focus on the following things:

Go to therapy

This has played important part of my life for the last year and I am going to continue to make time and put money towards this. In time I may be able to talk to others about the things that I talk about in therapy, however right now I working through long standing, deeply embedded beliefs that are causing pain.

Focus on self care

These are the other aspects of my life that I think are important to my mental health. Before last year I would have focused on the first two alone, but they are only part of the story. Our lives are made up of so many moments that we need to make them count and saying no is just as important as saying yes.

  • Eat well and what I want
  • Stay active through fun ways
  • Dress how I like and makes me good
  • Feel good and even sexy in makeup
  • See friends regularly and suggest to do things
  • Say no without guilt and apology

I am also thinking about volunteering for an organisation that supports mental health like Samaritans or Mind. This would be a commitment and I would not enter it lightly, which is why I am going to take more time to consider it and look into properly before taking it on. I would like to give back in some way and this sounds like a way to help people, but also the organisations that talk about mental health openly.

I feel quite passionate about this for this year. Depression has been part of my life for probably longer than I realise and although it sucks, I’ve been learning to deal with it. When I get complacent it reminds me and I learn to catch it quicker than before. I want to help others and let people know they can live amazingly fulfilling lives even with depression creeping around. I’ve found ways to fight it and I want to help others do the same.

Let’s talk about money

This year I have made a few deals with myself that I know will pay off in the long term and a few of them revolve around money.

I do find it quite weird how in general people do not talk about money openly. It is a subject we find emotive and personal. Everyone is in a different situation and has different priorities in the their life that mean different spending habits. It’s too easy to compare to external views of people’s lives though as we only see part of the story. I admit I am the same and very people know an detail about my incoming and outgoings. I also know I can be really judgmental about other peoples spending habits when I only know limited this information (this is family related, not friends). But for the most part I think it doesn’t matter what other people do as long as they are happy with their lives and how they are living. I want the same in return, as I can probably seem quite selfish when it comes to some of habits, for example I will budget socialising so I can save for a holiday and that works for me.

So the last few months I have been reading the blog The Financial Diet and have become obsessed in making my money work differently in ways that will be less stressful and more fulfilling. It has made me set a few goals for this year to get myself in a better position financially and set myself for a future I want to live.

Firstly I am paying off my credit card!

I’m not a big credit card spending, but when I bought my house and had a few years of lower salary than before I ended up with £2k on credit cards. Ever since I have been paying the minimum and moving it round for the 0% balance transfers. This is more annoying than anything else. I am frustrated at myself for keeping it hanging around for so long. So this year I am going to get rid of it! I’ve budgeted it out and any additional income I get will go towards getting this gone. I will then seriously consider how I take credit cards forward. I would like to earn air miles so I am tempted to get a card that will allow me to do that, but I need this gone first.

Secondly I am creating an emergency fund!

This is one I have specifically taken from The Financial Diet and it makes so much sense. Next year I will have been in my house 5 years and all my warranties will be ending and so having a fund that will cover anything going wrong will be a lot less stressful than relying on emergency credit cards.  I am going to start by building up to £1000 in a completely separate account to everything else by the end of the year. Then I will continue to build up a nice amount that could cover me for a period of time if the worst happens with a job or illness. It feels extremely important to me that I am set up to be self-sufficient. I’ve always had my parents as a safety net, but they are getting older and I want to be fully able to take care of my own life going forward without that net. I also don’t want to be like some family who continue to depend on others to supplement income. It makes me angry to see it and I don’t want to be that person. So this makes good sense, but is also a personal value/belief I hold.

Thirdly I’m focusing on travel!

Being able to go to Japan last year was amazing and reminded me how much fun and experience you get from visiting completely different parts of the world. I feel in a place financially where this will be possible as long as live within my means and spend my money efficiently and effectively. This means making short term sacrifices for long term gains. This has to be a big part of my life and as I want to go away for Christmas this year the timing works out well. I can get my credit card paid off and save up an emergency fund and plan a nice trip for the end of the year.

What does this mean for daily life?

In essence not much will change as I have just divided up how I was saving for Japan last year into different pots. I have a spread sheet with this all in and I am going make sure I open it everyday, just as a reminder, to keep myself accountable. I have reduced my monthly budget a bit to ensure I think my purchases through more than last year. I know this will mean saying no for money reasons more often, but I know the long term pay off will be worth it. This is also goes hand in hand with another aspect of my life I want to focus on, which is having people round my house a bit more instead of going out. I am also debating going to a cash based system for a while as it seems with contactless I have become a bit loose with my spending and I do not like it, I’ll let you know how that goes!

So I have set myself a few rules for the next year:

  • Books – no new books until I have read the ones I have (I have 30 unread!)
  • Eating out – reduce eating out and when I do it has to be with others
  • General spending- do not buy replacements until the previous one has run out

Money makes life easier, but it can also make things very difficult. I don’t want my life to be about things and so I will be getting rid of more stuff over the next year. I doubt I’ll ever be minimalist, but I would like to reduce the clutter and only keep the things that hold meaning or purpose. I want my life to be about the simple things that make me happy and feel peaceful – travel to new place, reading great book, fluffy cats, restful space, and knowing good people.

I’m not setting new year resolutions

It’s coming to that time of year again, the time to look back and look forward. There have been lots of comparison trends popping up on Twitter and Instagram and I cringe every time I see one. I think it because I’m working so hard on not comparing myself to to other people and also comparing to the ways things used to be, including my self. Looking back can help you grow and shape your future, but right now I that does not work for me I’m afraid. That just means I pass those posts by and continue on my own journey. However I do like this time of year for thinking about the things I want for the upcoming year. However I want to do it differently this year. I don’t want to set resolutions or goals, but rather make sure I am focused on the things that matter to me and each little bit adds up to a better whole.

Travel –  I would like to travel more in the future and need to plan for that. That means looking at my spending habits and looking at ways to book last minute or budget friendly deals. I also want to ask people to join me on trips and not assume I have to do it all on my own, although I will still go if no one else can make it. I get a lot from travel and always feel amazing experiencing new places that I want to make this a regular part of my life. It doesn’t have to be exotic, as being able to grab a hotel on a weekend to explore somewhere a bit further from home would be amazing!

Finances – I did really well this year saving up for Japan, but I did not tackle my credit card beyond the minimum required. I don’t like that I’m left with debt this year and I would like to get rid of it. I also want to create an emergency fund going forward as I am aware I am coming up to 4 years in my house and all my warranties run out at 5 years and therefore if anything goes wrong I need a fund to use, rather than emergency credit cards. I mainly want to be less stressed about money and know I am leaving fully within my means and have a buffer as well.

Health – my physical and mental health are also super important to me. I’ve been working hard on the mental side of things this year and know I have lost fitness and I would like to re-balance my efforts. I want working out to be fun and at the moment love going to the lake with that group of friends and also love circuits classes with a different friend. I would like to get walking more and heal my plantar fasciitis. I’m continuing with therapy and have made great progress on the ditching the diet mentality, but I still have deeper embedded issues to deal with. I’ve also been cooking more and would like to continue that with the weekly boxes and upping my Japanese repartee.

Work – I’ve had a fantastic year at work and have thrived in my new role. I am getting the freedom, responsibility and experience I have wanted for a while and am making the most of it. I know want to progress in the next couple of years so am going to keep working hard and seizing the opportunities as they come along. I need to make sure I keep a sustainable work/life balance and that is something I will keep thinking about. I want to be flexible and acknowledge I enjoy my work and so do not mind working long hours when required, but also I want to make sure I have enough energy to enjoy my down time.

Home – I love having my own space and am very protective about it. My cats are also super important to me and I want to spoil them. I’ve created a space that suits my needs, but I also fancy a change. I have thought about moving, but I am not sure about doing it just because I want a change, but would prefer to move for a job. It’s something I will keep thinking about. I think there are smaller things I could do to make my home feel refreshed. I might change up the curtains or add some colour to the walls or move furniture around. I’m quite excited to think about, but I do wonder if I’ll actually change things!

This feels like a nice way to approach 2017. I have things that are important to me, but none of which have to to reach a destination. I can’t really fail any of them and there is room to change things up if something becomes more or less important with time. I want to create a life that allows me to grow, learn and change over time. I don’t want to stay the same as I am today!

Getting my science on

This year I finally got tickets to go and see Brian and Robin’s Christmas Compendium of Reason after seeing so many tweets and blog posts about it over he last two years. It was amazing and this blog post is really for me to keep a record of all the acts we got to see on the night as I am rubbish at remembering these things. So here goes…

First up was Jack Liebeck’s quartet.

The Public Service Broadcasting who were so different it was good.

They even bought out a dancing astronaut/cosmonaut.

The Brian and Robin did a bit of an introduction to the night and as you can see we had great seats just back in the stalls.

Then we saw Helen Czerski with her pet globe.

Then we had computational biologist Andrew Steele who took us through research spending (I want his powerpoint presenting skills!).

A better photo of Robin and Brian.

Then Festival of the Spoken Nerd and I definitely want to see these guys again!

The we had a great presentation on genealogy by Adam Rutherford.

Followed by a talk from Steve Backshall.

 

Then Chris Lintott went through gravitational waves (I was lost!).

Then the next one I wasn’t sure about from Alice Roberts and Ben Garrod.

Then James Acaster performed his stand up routine.

Then before the break we had more music from Nitin Sawney who has a beautiful voice.

During the break we found that Steve Backshall was now sat in front of us and taking selfies with fans (I did not ask for one).

Then we had more music from the quartet from the beginning and The Hackney Colliery Band.

This was awesome and again I would look to see these guys again.

Sophie Ellis Bexter then joined them on stage.

Then Clifford Slapper and David McAlmont performed and were amazing!

Next was a panel that was most like the podcast I love – The Infinite Monkey Cage – I would have loved more of this, but it was a great show anyway!

The Lucy Cooke came on and really bought the science and comedy together.

The Greg Foot came on for some experiments and this was great fun!

The Ben Goldacre was fantastic and the fastest talker I have ever seen! This was really interesting as well as it was all about the trials that do not get published.

Milton Jones who is famous for his one-liner stand up, which I find funny to begin with, but then it gets old fast. Sorry Milton.

The we got to hear a brief talk about his time in space from Chris Hadfield.

Then the night ended with Duran Duran – who I totally did not have to ask my sister who is 10 years older than me who there were, definitely didn’t happen!

Overall this was a fantastic night and I hope to get tickets for next year!

Winter Blues

Yeah, so I’m ready for January to be be here already.

I’m really struggling at the moment and since November I’ve been all over the place emotionally. I’ve been doing really well at work and focused on my mental health around dieting and food, but other things have snuck up on me and caught me off guard. My doctor passed away and he was the one who listened and looked beyond my weight. Then a colleague passed away and that was a shock. Then there are some stupid things going on within my family that no one wants to have a proper discussion about as it ends in arguments.It’s all built up to a point where a feel really overwhelmed.

It’s felt really sucky (totally a professionally recognised term!) and having had to miss two weeks of therapy also has not helped. I’ve found it difficult to talk about as it just feels like I’m complaining and people try to fix it by telling me to ignore it of care less – not helpful! I am an overthinker and need to process my thoughts to move past them. Ignoring my feelings leads to binge eating as it’s the only way I know how to cope.

I’ve also been super tired. I am wondering if I am experiencing a stronger case of SAD then in previous years, especially as I stopped my medication towards the end of last year and maybe the darkness and weather is also taking it toll. I am in the office or inside working more than before as I really love my job and want to do more than expected. However that does mean I am sacrificing being active and this is something I need to rectify.

I have been doing breathing exercises as this is something my therapist is keen on this and I do find it really works, but I struggle to remember to think to do it in the moment and only after or when I’m in bed do I actually focus and relax. My thoughts totally wander all over the place, but it’s okay and I bring myself back to my body and how I’m really feeling. Sometimes it feels okay, other times my body is crying out for attention and the acknowledgment of aches and pains is needed. It really does work and also helps me to step away from my worries.

The big worry I just cannot seem to get away from is that I am not looking forward to Christmas at all. I would love to stay at home all day and have a duvet day rather than face being social with my family. It feels selfish to say that, but I am really anxious about the whole thing. I don’t think any of come away from forced gatherings feeling good about ourselves. I find myself slipping in the child/teenager persona and I hate it. I hate who I becomes and how I let them make me feel. One on one they are great, but together we do not fit. I am not who they want me to be and I feel resentful for them not wanting me to be myself (this may be perceived, but it’s how I feel).  I know I’m over thinking and my focus is on setting boundaries and making sure they do not expect me to be there the whole time. I am going to go for lunch and leave when I want to after. I know I’m making a bigger deal of this than I need to, but it is at front of mind and no one seems to understand.

I’m also feeling lonely for the first time in long time. Maybe it’s my friends all getting married. Maybe it’s hitting 32 in January and still not having met anyone I want to spend my life with. Maybe it’s just time for me to starting looking rather than waiting. It’s odd and I don’t like it. I’ve always been independent and joked I would do a christmas card like the one below as I find it so funny, but if I’m truly honest I don’t want that to be forever. But then part of me says ‘fuck that’ I’m independent and selfish and it means I can do whatever I want!

I am so ready for January. I am glad I am working over Christmas so I have something to focus on. Next year I am definitely going away. Maybe with friends, maybe on my own. All I know is that I need to do something different next year. I don’t have all the answers when it comes to depression and it definitely catches me off guard sometimes, but I know and believe it is only temporary. I just need to do everything I know works to get through this period of time. Expressing my feelings is something I find I can only do in writing. I’m not looking for suggestions or advice, I’m just looking for a place to share my thoughts and hopefully let someone else know they are not alone as I know what that feels like and it still gets to me now, even when I know it is not true.

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