"What do you really want to do with your life?" - Anstia Vesperman

Anstia is our first resident guest blogger, who is helping me keep on top of the website as my own workload continues to grow. I'm really pleased to have her onboard! In this piece and a selection of other pieces, she's going to be revisiting some of the questions I've answered, and answering them from her perspective.

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This is a big question – fortunately, I think that you often get the chance to answer this question more than once in a lifetime.

When I was 10 years old, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to become a doctor, and have a husband and a wife (I’d look after them both with my amazing income).

When I was 20 years old, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Mostly, I wanted to be able to hide from my life. Stay at home, read fantasy books, and pretend that my anxiety and my depression didn’t exist. Suffice it to say that I did not study medicine at university.

When I was about 30 years old, I started wanting to make a difference to other people’s lives. While far from stable in mental health, I was desperate to change other people’s futures, to be a counsellor (or some other type of talking-therapy person), to blog about my experiences, whatever. I wanted to reach out to people, to help them. But at that stage I was unable – I couldn’t focus enough to complete any studies, or to write effectively.

Now I’m 40 years old. My condition is stable (meaning that I routinely experience depression, mania, and anxiety, but not psychosis, in the main), and I’m able to write blog posts, and come up with ideas for projects that I can see through to completion. That ‘want’ from my 30s has finally been realised, in some way. However, I also have more desires for myself, too. I want to perform more self-care, to cultivate friendships, to make more jewellery and improve my skills there.

I don’t expect it all to end there. My parents, as excellent examples of people in their 70s, have changed tack many times in their lives, and are still doing so. Primarily, they teach in areas they are interested in themselves: astronomy, jewellery-making, gold detecting, geology.

What do I really want to do with my life? Help. Teach. Make people smile. The rest is all details.

"I shall love myself despite the ease with which I lean toward the opposite."

This is, of course, a Shane Koyczan quote. I had the utter pleasure of meeting Shane in Dublin last week; he's my favourite spoken word artist, and to be able to thank him for how his work has helped shape the direction of my life was magical.

So let me start by once again saying thank you, Shane - time meant I couldn't give you the full spiel about how your work (amongst others', of course) has helped me, but I hope I was able to convey how life-changing it's been for me. I hope it isn't too long before you're over this way again!

A couple of days after Shane's gig, I fell ill once again. This time, I spent a good deal of the week in bed, unable to eat, struggling to drink, and crying with pain. I can honestly say that I'd take a dodgy gallbladder over flu any day of the week!

On Thursday, I woke up from a nap to see that my first piece with The Mighty had been published. Wow. I cried once again; only, this time, it was because I was so overwhelmed with joy. While I continue to recover from the flu, I'm continuing to get my head around the number of people with kind words to say in response to my most successful piece to date.

I can't help but wonder if Shane, and other artists I admire so much, have the same reaction when something of theirs starts reaching thousands of people in countries all over the world?

It's been overwhelming, but all-in-all I'm overjoyed. I had a magical week, and I can't wait to have a similar week in the not-too-distant future!

Thanks again Shane - this is one of the things I didn't get to tell you about. There's more beauty in how you tell your story, no doubt about that. However, people like you are who have inspired me to tell mine at all.

Megan x

 

How far we've come. | #MHAW17

A couple of weeks ago, I had the utter pleasure of slowly sizzling in the sun whilst cheering for marathon runners at the top of my lungs.

"C'mon Dave! Keep going, Chris! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HENRY!"

It was truly an incredible experience, especially as so many of the runners were doing so to raise funds for mental health charities. From Heads Together to Mind to MQ, there were countless crucial charities represented on the streets of London that day.

We've come incredibly far. A handful of years ago, we could never have imagined members of the royal family having an emotional conversation about mental health on-camera. And yet, that's exactly what we're seeing now.

Something else that's sparking conversation is the controversial Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. It's taken me quite some time, but I've come to be deeply uncomfortable with the series, especially now that a second season has been announced.

Not everything that boosts conversation is beneficial. Especially if it's as insensitive towards real people with real issues as that series is.

In conclusion, we've come a long way, but we still have so far to go.

"Is it ever acceptable to use a mental health slur?"

"You needed closure. I agreed to talk with the understanding that I'd be left alone when you got what you needed. If what you needed was for me to confess undying love...well, that's not going to happen. I'm not being drawn into an argument. I'm calm right now (proof that my meds are working). I'm not letting anyone get a rise out of me, be it you or anyone else."

This was the moment that I got fed up of someone from my past pushing for details regarding my love life and trying to get me to accept them back into my life.

Apparently, it was enough to warrant being on the receiving end of a mental health slur for the first time in my life. 

"I'd say the meds aren't working. There was nothing remotely provocative in any of my messages yet you have gone full fruitcake."

This from a man who only minutes earlier had openly admitted that he was asking leading questions in an attempt to ascertain whether or not I was in a relationship. A man who had also asked, "is there any point in me trying to worm my way back into your heart or should I give up?". Seemingly, the several messages in which I'd clearly stated that I had no interest in a relationship with him weren't quite enough to get the message across.

So, is it ever acceptable to use a mental health slur? If I had indeed been abusive to him, as he seemed to think, would it have been acceptable then?

What if I were to tell you that this person is a founding member of a newly formed group that is adamant that the stigma surrounding mental illness must be tackled? Unfortunately, despite this person's behaviour being raised with the group in question on two occasions now, they see fit to continue working with him. It's disappointing, to say the least.

Priding yourself on advocacy work whilst dishing out some of the vilest abuse there is behind closed doors is sinking rather low, in my opinion. What do you think? How might you respond to this situation if you were in my shoes?

Tackling issues in a graphic manner on-screen? | 13 Reasons Why

In the last couple of weeks, I've watched two worlds collide; mental health and Netflix. I can't say as I ever thought I'd see that happen! However, it has happened, with Jay Asher's book Thirteen Reasons Why being adapted for the screen in the form of a 13 episode series for Netflix.

Having read the book in my early teens, I was torn as to whether or not I ought to now watch the series. I'm not in the best place right now in terms of my mental health, so there's always that worry about being tipped in the wrong direction by something I read or watch.

After some thought, though, I decided to watch. I could always skip the really troublesome scenes, right? Well, in theory, yes. In reality, though, I was glued to the screen.

The content warnings at the start of the particularly graphic episodes were a welcome sight. I've long thought we could use such content warnings for episodes of series that hold distressing content, I've just never been sure how it might work. 13 Reasons Why showed that they can work.

However, when it came to scenes involving sexual assault/rape – something I don't remember being present in the book, though I could be mistaken – I regularly found myself either watching through my fingers or pausing and walking away to catch my breath. It was difficult. I often found myself shaking when I stopped seeing Hannah on the screen and started seeing myself.

And still, the hardest was yet to come. Episode 13. If you've watched the series, you probably know what I mean. The suicide scene.

I'm swinging back and forth in my opinions on this. Was it necessary? I understand that it causes the viewer to be shocked, and to realise that this is a reality faced by too many of our young people. But the blogger in me thinks...well, we're advised not to use graphic details when talking about suicide because of the proven risk of “copycat” suicides in the following weeks. I'm concerned that we may see a similar fallout as a result of this scene.

At that point, I paused, closed my laptop, and gasped for breath between sobs. Here I am, someone who talks about her own suicide attempts openly, and there I was, in desperate need of a hug and somebody to talk to. It was difficult, to say the least. I worry for others who watched that scene who are more vulnerable than I am.

All in all, I'm torn. I'm truly torn. This series is creating conversation, which is important and completely fantastic. However, I'm not altogether convinced that it was done in a way that was sensitive to real people living with these thoughts. Is boldness really what we need right now? Maybe it is, or maybe we need to think about how we can deal with these issues with compassion.

"Do you ever experience depersonalisation or derealisation?"

The truth is, I've been experiencing periods of depersonalisation and derealisation for years. It's just that I've only recently realised it's not "normal", after speaking to people who were baffled when I explained my tendency to "disconnect" from the world around me.

My understanding of these things is that they cause you to feel spaced out, or disconnected from the world around you.

It's been a while since I've recounted experiences like this, so I think it's time to go back to my roots a little. A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to go to London, a city I've been falling deeper in love with since my first trip when I was 16.

This was a trip I took in order to rebuild that love after it had been damaged by an incident at the end of my last trip, and it was incredible to fall in love with this magnificent city all over again. Say what you like about London; it may be grubby, but it's beautiful.

During one of the days that I jumped on the tube with my earphones in and got off at a random stop to explore, I noticed something didn't feel right. I was walking through the city, and I was seeing some incredible sights, but I wasn't fully immersed like I usually am. I felt as though I was behind a pane of glass. I was seeing everything, but I wasn't feeling any of it.

I lost a big chunk of the magic of that day to that feeling of disconnection. That is why I know that this isn't "normal", or "healthy". That's a day I'm never quite going to be able to get back.

In the past, derealisation hasn't bothered me. This is simply owing to the fact that I've never been in the middle of a week of independence and pushing my comfort zone when it's struck. Normally when it occurs, I'm just going about my day-to-day life, and it passes without having had an impact.

So whilst this has been going on for as long as I can remember, it's only now that it's become inconvenient.

"How does your mental illness affect your ability to communicate?"

Recently I sat down and started having a conversation with a friend. After about 20 minutes they started talking about books, and I sat and thought about what they'd said, but when it came to actually verbalising my thoughts, all I could respond with was "hmmm".

Unsurprisingly, this stumped my friend.

My thoughts had disappeared the moment I went to put them into words. When asked, I likened it to trying to grasp a bubble, only for it to burst.

So there we go, my thoughts have turned into bubbles. Not the kind you have in the bath, either, where you can scoop up a whole mountain of them at once. No, these are the kind of bubbles you get from the cheap little bottles of bubble mix you get in the corner shop during the summer.

Truth is, this happens to me on a regular basis. Including during meetings, which can be frustrating. I dread to think about how many ideas I've lost to this brain hiccup. You'd think it's bad enough when anxiety interferes when I'm trying to communicate with somebody new! I think in this instance it's a case of the depression gremlin sneaking in and stealing my thoughts when I'm not looking.

Either way, it's infuriating. So now you know, if ever we're chatting and I suddenly go silent, I've probably popped all my bubbles!

"How do you accept / respect where you are in recovery?"

Over the weekend, I decided that it was time to sit down and write again. I've been on a few adventures this year, and the blog has fallen on the back-burner. This has partially been accidental, and also a little bit intentional. Accidental in that I never intended to leave a gap of several weeks between blog posts; intentional in that I've decided to only write when I truly have something to say.

So, when I put out a call for questions, a friend got in touch to ask about accepting and respecting where you are in your recovery. It's certainly a hefty question, but I'm going to try to give it the attention and care it deserves.

For me, a large part of accepting and respecting where I am in recovery is trying not to count the days. For the first two weeks, I kept a running tally of my recovery streak since I last self-harmed, but at this stage? I only have a rough idea as to how long it's been. That's okay.

You see, the thing is, where you are in your recovery is where you're meant to be in this moment. It's a process, a time-consuming one at that. You can't skip the line, and if somehow you do manage to reach the finish line without jumping all of the hurdles, you will be sent back to those hurdles later on.

In the past, I've described recovery as being like surgery. You have to open up the wounds and get a good look around to see what the damage is, then you have to fix that damage, and eventually you have to heal. Trying to rush this process is like closing up a patient without repairing all of the damage. It could prove to be more damaging in the long-run.

So whilst I recognise that it can be frustrating to feel as though your recovery is moving slowly, or even not at all, know that things are moving. They're just moving slowly. And that's okay. Let yourself recover.

"Why don't you slow down?"

If you've been following my social media, you'll know that this year has already been busier for me than the last three years combined. I've been throwing myself headfirst into every available opportunity, be it public speaking, writing a book, or planning my re-entrance into the scene of education.

It's been quite something.

Understandably, it's raised a few eyebrows. I'll admit, my life this year hasn't been typical of a person who's battling anxiety, depression, and a potential mystery illness.

However, tell me this: what is typical of such a person? Does this image of your typical mentally ill person resemble the silhouetted figure sitting with their back against a wall and their head in their hands that so often makes an appearance in news pieces? Because I know a lot of people with mental illnesses, and it's rare that we look like that person.

Still, my behaviour is uncharacteristic, so why has it become my typical if I'm really struggling as much as I say?

It's simple really, but it did take some time in therapy to find the answer.

I'm running away. I'm hiding by putting myself in plain view. I know, that doesn't really make sense, does it? What if I say that it isn't people I'm hiding from, but everything I don't want to feel?

The truth is, this year has already had its fair share of ugly moments. They've all carried with them their own bundle of emotions that I'm not quite ready to feel yet. And so, I'm hiding from them. I'm hiding from them under mountains of notes for the book I've dreamed of writing since about three months into running this website. I'm hiding from them in crowds of people who know what I mean when I talk about my mental illnesses. I'm hiding from them in every opportunity I say "yes" to.

It's exactly the kind of behaviour I usually discourage. However, the nature of my work means that I can sort through my emotions without ever actually feeling them. I can talk about them and come to understand them, and come back to them with open arms when I feel strong enough to experience them.

That doesn't mean these feelings don't pop up and make themselves felt at inconvenient moments; they do. But for the most part, I'm keeping them in check, and keeping my head above water in the process. All the while, I'm achieving some of my biggest dreams. I don't think that's too bad, myself.

"Anxiety and alcohol?"

There are a few people I've met this year who have witnessed what happens when I've had a glass of wine...or three. A transformation takes place. I begin to talk comfortably (and endlessly).

Alcohol crushes my anxiety and I find myself able to laugh.

Now, though, I'm waiting to see if the Dr can provide answers as to why I collapsed recently. In the meantime, I've been given instructions not to drink, and to hold off on applying for my provisional licence. I can't decide which one annoys me more.

This month, I'm preparing to meet a few more new people. Generally, I can have a glass of wine to help me relax and engage in conversation. So, now, I'm going to have to learn how to overcome my anxiety without the aid of self-medication. I'm going to have to stop using alcohol as a crutch on which to lean when the weight of being engaging weighs heavily on my chest.

I'm going to have to learn how to swallow that lump of anxiety that resides in the bottom of my throat, without using wine to loosen it up first.

Am I looking forward to this? No. No, I'm not. However, do I think it's a good thing? Well...yes, I do.

I'm not foolish enough to kid myself that my behaviour recently has been healthy. I've slipped into a habit of using alcohol to counter anxiety, and it's damaging, both physically and mentally.

You see, not only is alcohol dreadful for your liver, but it's also a depressant. So in using it to counter my anxiety, I've also been feeding my depression. To put it another way, I've been rocking one gremlin to sleep whilst poking the other until it bites. And this year, my depression has most definitely bitten hard.

So yes, I'm going to spend a few months sobering up. I've done it before, I can do it again. If nothing else, it'll be an interesting exercise in learning how to manage my anxiety in a healthy manner.

"Stop putting yourself in dangerous situations." | Reflecting On My Life

Recently, in an intense battle with a former friend, I was told, "stop putting yourself in dangerous situations". In spite of the white-hot anger coursing through my veins, I stopped for a moment.

I was immediately reminded of the thoughts that went through my head following my first experience of assault. "I should really stop being so reckless", I would say to friends. "But I don't think I ever will. Recklessness reminds me that I'm alive."

The same is true today. I look back at the last few years of my life and I can't help but notice that nothing great ever came from playing it safe. Rather, some of the most incredible moments I've ever experienced have been when I've turned my back on the rules.

Yes, I'll admit that in being reckless I've been burned a few times. However, I wouldn't trade moments such as singing along with one of my favourite artists at a gig whilst holding hands with my friends; not for the world. That particular moment wouldn't have happened had I not got on a coach from London to Berlin and stayed in a flat with a bunch of "strangers" (or, as I like to call them, friends!) off the internet.

The thing about being burned is...yes, it leaves me with scars. And sure, I spend a few months dwelling on regret. However, that is far outweighed by the fantastic experiences.

The memories of the great times I've had because of the risks I've taken are very often the things that keep me going. They remind me that I am alive when I've spent months incapable of feeling, and they remind me why I'm alive when I feel like I can't get through another day.

Those memories have saved my life.

So while some may view a lot of my actions in life as dangerous, I view them as necessary. They are both life-changing and also life-saving.

"One sign that signifies a deterioration in your mental health?"

A few months ago, I was talking to a friend and I said, “I think the depression's coming back”. They asked why, asked me if I was feeling particularly low. The truth is, I wasn't feeling all that low at the time, in fact, I actually felt kind of numb. But I'd looked around as I was sitting in my room and realised that the mess was slowly piling up.

A similar thing happened last night. I looked around and started to cry. There were only tiny portions of carpet visible. The rest of my floor was covered in rubbish, dishes, empty envelopes, books, CDs, clothes...and despite my room actually being quite large, I found myself feeling claustrophobic. My anxiety rose. I looked at Hazel's cage (Hazel being my hamster) and cried all the harder. It was desperate for cleaning. My mental health was effectively endangering another living being.

When I calmed down, I marched myself down to the kitchen to get two bin bags and a roll of kitchen roll. I came back upstairs and put Hazel in her ball to run around (as best she could given the mess), and began cleaning out her cage with disinfectant. Half an hour later, I put her back in her cage and sighed with relief.

Next, I continued filling up the bin bags with rubbish from my own living space. It was time to create a safer environment for myself. Within an hour, I'd filled a bin bag, sorted out some mail into piles, binned some now irrelevant mail, placed books on shelves, and started returning CDs to their stand.

Today, I'm able to stretch out fully on my bed. I've not been able to do that since before Christmas. Half of my bed had become filled with rubbish, books, make-up, and dishes.

The thing is, when I start to get ill, I begin walking through life with blinkers on. I mentioned to a friend that it's like I develop tunnel vision; a lot of what I do revolves around my laptop or trips to London, and I stop noticing the things around me.

I don't know if my realisation of this fact indicates that I'm improving again. I'm not holding out a lot of hope, as the last month has been indescribably stressful. However, with that being said, I am making an effort. Next month I'm going to London for a week to be a tourist. I'm going to stay in a hostel and I've booked tickets for some of the main attractions around the city. I'm forcing myself to notice the things that I've walked past so often.

I'm determined to feel something.

I'm also determined to be able to walk through my bedroom without twisting my ankle.

"Campaigners' duty to reshape language?"

During my recent trip to London to speak on a panel at the MQ Science Meeting, I briefly touched on my belief that anyone involved in mental health, either as a campaigner, a clinician, or a service user, has a duty to reshape the language we use. As is generally the case, time meant I couldn't get everything out that I wanted to say, so I made a mental note to write about it later. And so here we are.

It wasn't until 2015 that it was pointed out to me that mental health and mental illness are not the same thing. Since then, I've made an effort to check myself when I'm talking and ensure I'm not using mental health in place of mental illness. Here's the thing; everyone has mental health. The difference is, some people have poor mental health, and others have good mental health. Those with poor mental health may have a mental illness and may find that they go on to receive a diagnosis as such.

Recently, I've noticed that people are becoming better at using the correct terms at the correct times, but occasionally people still get mixed up. It's mostly people who are new to the world of mental health and mental illness, but it always strikes me as bizarre when I see things like “mental health is such a massive issue”. These days such statements seem alien to me. Mental health is not inherently a bad thing, the issue is with mental illness.

Following on from that, I also believe we have a duty to gently remind people that sadness does not equate to depression, and that nervousness does not equate to anxiety. You see, to mix these things up for a long period of time only serves to make things harder for people who are actually living with anxiety or depression.

There are already a plethora of people who tell us that we only have to make a choice to be happy, when the reality could not be much further from these bold claims. Reinforcing the idea that illness and emotions are one and the same is damaging.

So next time you want to make a statement about how big an issue mental health is, check yourself. Do you mean mental illness?

Next time you're feeling sad or nervous and feel inclined to hyperbolise the situation, consider the damage it can have for people who are living with the illnesses you're trivialising.

We all have a duty to check our language, and if we pull together, then we will one day reshape language. I believe that's a big chunk of the battle in tackling stigma surrounding mental illness.

"Internalised stigma?" | Holding on to my voice.

This is a term I heard for the first time last year, and at the time I didn't really know what to make of it. It's only in recent weeks that I've truly come to understand what it is, and how the impact of it can quickly become devastating.

Take my breakdown in London, for example. People were called to come and help me, and when I saw them / spoke to them, I cried, apologising profusely, saying they shouldn't have been called for something so silly. I was talking down my own crisis which eventually led to a self harm relapse.

More recently however, I've had a more “intense” experience of internalised stigma.

Since day one of this website, I've been fearful that someone would mistake my efforts for attention seeking. It's something I'd been accused of in the past, and it doesn't get less hurtful with time. Last week, it happened. Someone accused me of using the blog and my personal social media as a mechanism with which to seek attention for myself.

I'd been planning to write this post for last week, to publish on Monday 13th. I put it on hold because I became convinced that this person's accusations held some sort of merit. For a while, I felt like I couldn't speak out any more. I thought it might be best if I just go back to hiding in a corner, not sharing, because what if I was attention seeking? What other reason is there for unveiling some of the darkest corners of my mind and showing them to the rest of the world?

Here's the thing. Yes, the blog is a form of attention seeking. However, the attention I'm seeking isn't for me specifically, it's for everyone who is living with mental illness. And whilst this one person misunderstood my motives, when it comes to others who are living with the same illnesses as mine, I've received nothing but thanks.

It can be hard to explain your mind to someone. So when someone stands up and says “hey, this is my story, you aren't alone”, it's a relief. During the panel I sat on in London this month, I pointed out that when I was diagnosed, I didn't look for the figures. I looked for the people. People, for me, offer more comfort than numbers.

Now it's my turn to be that comfort for someone else. It took a week, but I've shut down my internal narrative that told me to be quiet. I don't doubt it'll come up again; it's hard not to panic when someone gives a voice to one of your biggest fears. But the main thing is, this is something I plan to fight. I am as worthy of a voice as anyone else.

Others may either feel uncomfortable using their voices or simply choose not to use their voices because it's more convenient to stay silent. However, it took years for me to find my voice, and I have no intention of giving it up for anybody.

The damage done when nudes are shared. | Anonymous

Let's get one thing straight before we start: there is no shame in taking or sharing nude photos of yourself. It's an expression of confidence and sexuality, as well as a display of extreme trust. These are all perfectly normal things. It only becomes wrong when you take and / or share such a photo of someone else without their consent.

This week I learned that my partner, now my ex-partner, had shown risqué photos of me to friends. Not just his friends; our friends. At some point I'm going to have to look people in the eye who have seen my body without my consent.

At this point I want to make it clear that I don't blame these friends – they're almost as horrified as me. They didn't ask to see these photos. The fault of what happened lies solely on the shoulders of the man who thought it'd be a good idea to pull these photos up on his phone and show them to friends while making vulgar comments.

There were several reasons for me taking these photos, all of which were made clear to my partner at the time. They weren't taken for his pleasure.

1. I wanted to improve my confidence in my body.

2. I wanted to improve my confidence in my sexuality.

3. I wanted to take back control of who saw my body following assault.

Hold onto that third point. My partner was aware of my past, assaults and all. He still broke my trust in favour of getting a kick out of showing my body to another man.

These photos were not shown in anger following a messy breakup. The messy breakup came later. This was not revenge. I would, however, go so far as to call it drunken malice given the conversations that preceded the incident in which the photos were shared.

I was made aware of the fact that these images had been shared following him lecturing me on trust after I'd shared screenshots of our conversations with mutual friends out of concern for both his and my welfare. I was accused of being “duplicitous”. The irony has not escaped me.

My emotions have gone from one to another, over and over, so quickly. I've gone from shock, to embarrassment, to anger, to hysterical laughter, to shame, to embarrassment again. This isn't the kind of thing you recover from quickly. Once again I've had my trust broken, once again by a man who knew about my vulnerabilities, and once again I've got a long road ahead of me in terms of rebuilding my confidence and trust in people.

"The low that follows the high?" | Self-Harm

Today is day 3 of my new self-harm recovery streak following a relapse on Saturday morning.

Even now, I don't entirely know what to say. I went into a bit of a meltdown on Friday night, an ambulance was called but didn't arrive, my memory of it is all a bit patchy. I just remember opening my eyes to find that I had a man I didn't recognise talking to me, and I was lying on the ground in the street. Probably unsurprisingly, I was a bit hysterical.

Looking back, I think the scariest thing about what happened is that it shows how unwell I am right now. I've never been in such a poor state. Thankfully I was surrounded by all the right people at the time.

Anyway, moving on to Saturday morning, things didn't get any better. In the early hours, while the friend who stayed with me that night was asleep, I quietly turned the room upside down in search of a sharp object. When I found one, I locked myself in the bathroom and relapsed. For only a few minutes, I was distracted. I was aware of my breathing. I calmed down.

However, it was almost immediately after I put the object down that the reality of what I'd just done set in. 2 years and 10 months of recovery had come to an end. I sat and cried. I looked at the tattoos I'd had done in celebration of 1 and 2 years of recovery. I considered the option of hiding what I'd done, not telling anybody. Eventually, though, I concluded that I had to be honest with myself, and that meant being honest with everyone around me.

When I finally found myself alone, my mind wandered. I had my hand on the handle of my hotel room door, and was planning to go around various chemists. I had no intention of going home. At that moment, I got a text from someone who had supported me the previous night, offering to go to the airport with me that afternoon. Within seconds, I was on my knees, sobbing.

I agreed. And so, later that day, I was on a flight back to Belfast.

If I'm completely honest, I'd forgotten how bad the low was. Invariably, I end up stuck in a bubble of regret, pain, grief, self-loathing. That's one thing that never changes.

The next few months are going to be difficult. I think the best way to get through them, and in turn create a solid foundation for my new recovery streak, will be to remind myself of those seconds in which I was moments away from obtaining pills for an overdose. This was less than 48 hours after telling someone that I couldn't possibly end things this year because I was far too busy.

"Dyspraxia and anxiety?"

So, this is something I've never talked about on the blog before. I have dyspraxia. I've always said that having dyspraxia coupled with anxiety is akin to having anxiety on steroids, however, for some reason, I've never thought to write about it for the website.

That was until my friend and guest blogger, Dylan, suggested that I should!

So here we go. Dyspraxia, for me, affects my hand-eye co-ordination, my balance, and also creates sensory issues. For this post, I'm going to focus on those sensory issues.

When shopping for new clothes, I have to remain mindful of the materials that make up the clothes I try on. Why? Because there are certain fabrics that cause me to break out in a cold sweat, panic, and cry. I know, it makes no logical sense, right? But if you've ever seen me try on a faux leather jacket with all its nylon-y lined goodness, you'll know what I mean.

In school, I would pull my cardigan or jumper over my hand to write because the feel of paper would make me feel nauseous (if I'm honest, I feel a bit ill just thinking about it now). That one always puzzled my teachers.

Loud noises, or too many noises at once are also triggers. If the smoke alarm goes off, I can still be found shaking and fighting off tears half an hour after it's stopped. That one's a bit of a double-edged sword in that it's not just the volume and pitch of the noise that sets me off, but my anxiety also kicks in and causes me to obsess over why the alarm went off in the first place.

Meetings in coffee shops are something I dread. I agree to do them, arrive, and realise that I'm going to struggle. My mind struggles to distinguish between the voice of the person I'm talking to and the noise of the coffee machines. It's a bit of a nightmare! So I'll often give an answer that's irrelevant to the question asked, thinking that I've been asked something else. The same goes in cars – so if you've spoken to me and I've seemed disjointed in anyway, that's why! I can't tell you how much that stresses me out.

Even now, while I'm writing this, I can't help but wonder if anyone's ever thought to research how many people with dyspraxia also have a diagnosis of anxiety? It would make sense to me, because the two conditions seem to slip hand-in-hand very neatly indeed.

I'm going to end this post on a simultaneously funny and horrifying note: When I was in primary school, the headteacher told my mum, “Well, Mrs Haste, it is my belief that these children grow out of it.” I guess we “grow out of it” in the same way an amputee “grows out” of their predicament; we don't “grow out of it” at all, rather we learn to work around our circumstances, often at great personal cost. The world doesn't change to accommodate us, rather it waits for us to change to accommodate it.

"Do you support the women's marches taking place worldwide?"

Here's a shocker: Yes, I fully support and stand by the women, men, and everyone in between who is marching in defiance of Donald Trump this year. If you weren't a follower of my blog at the time, or if you simply don't remember, the extent of my trauma resulting from sexual assault first came to light when Donald Trump's words “grab them by the p***y” were being played on a loop on virtually every digital news outlet.

So is it really that big a surprise that I stand behind the people who oppose the man who brought back so many painful memories for me?

Let's get one thing clear: the people taking part in these marches are not “sore losers”. Donald Trump lost the popular vote by approximately 3 million votes. Meanwhile, approximately 3 million people marched through various cities in the USA the day after his inauguration. These people are not “sore losers”, these are people who believe in democracy, equality, humility, morality, etc..

And before anyone tries to say “well at the very least they can be peaceful”, the majority of people marching have been peaceful. Compare this to the protests that took place following Obama's inauguration (egged on by Trump, remember), and I may be so bold as to say that the people who voted for the current President haven't a leg to stand on when opposing the current protests.

This blog was never intended to become political. This is about my experiences as a person living with mental illness. However, as a friend of mine recently pointed out, politics often intertwines with personal experiences, whether those experiences be mental health related or otherwise. As such, I make no apology for stating my vehement opposition to Donald Trump on my website, let alone my passionate support for the people who have been marching against him for the last week.

These marches and demonstrations send a clear message: Grab us, and we will grab back. You will either come to respect us as you respect your fellow male millionaires, or you will live and die on the wrong side of history. Continue down this road, and you will fall over those who have fallen before you – and we will not be taken down with you. Understand that we do not want to see you take this path, however, if you do, then we will fight you, and we will use our last breaths to do so if we must.

It's been a while.

Heck, it's been too long. I've just not been in the headspace for writing lately.

Life has been strange lately. There are aspects of it that I can't talk about on the blog at this moment in time, and that in itself winds me up! I've said before now that I missed having some kind of private life, but I stand corrected.

However, there are bits that I can talk about! A couple of weeks ago, I flew to London to go to an MQ Young People's Advisory Group meeting. Remember that post written from a 24 hour bar with a cup of tea? Well, I did eventually sleep, then had breakfast, followed by a bit more sleep, and consequently a late checkout! The meeting that followed was incredible though, and I'm looking forward to attending the next one in April!

In the meantime, I'm making another trip to London next week. It's a privilege to be able to say I'm attending the MQ Science Meeting, let alone that I'm going to be on a panel alongside some incredible people. Cue guided meditations for overcoming anxiety surrounding public speaking! (I'm not even kidding.)

Next week I'm also making a return to therapy. Yes, I've recognised that I'm struggling again, and I'm getting help and speaking openly about it. Why? Because where's the shame in asking for help when you need it?

It comes down to the fact that I'm tired of not being able to get a good night's sleep any time I've been reminded of the events of December 2015. Why should I be tied down by nightmares?

Anywho, I'm going to finish this post here. Please, if you have any questions I can answer in future blog posts, leave a comment! I miss writing, a lot. Help a girl out!

Hope and hugs,
Megan xx

"How do you cope with traveling when you're anxious?"

Up until very recently, traveling was one of the things that kept me sane. I'd sleep better and feel happier when I was away from home. Tonight, though, I'm realising a few things have changed.

I'm in London to do some voluntary work today. I'm excited! But I'm also completely exhausted. I've slept for about 2 hours in 48. I'm nauseous, and every time I lie down I feel like I'm about to be sick. So, at 2am, I'm in a 24-hour bar in my pyjamas, socks, and a coat, filling up on cups of tea. Money's quickly running out, but I'm a bit lost as to what else I can do.

Nobody's batting an eyelid at the girl who clearly can't sleep so decided to come down to the bar. I'm getting the guest discount without any questions being asked, because who in their right mind would go out of their way to go to a bar in their pyjamas? Thing is, I'm not sure I am in my right mind.

If anyone watched me too closely, I'd quickly be branded the "crazy girl". I keep staring off into space, and occasionally there are a few tears. I stare at nothing in particular and shake my head. I check my emails every few minutes. I check my bank account every few minutes.

So for all traveling used to keep me sane, on this occasion, it inexplicably seems to be the very thing draining my sanity. But hey, at least I've got a blog post out of it!