"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!

Theresa May | Talking the talk, but when will you walk the walk?

As per usual, everything is happening at once. Northern Ireland is heading into an early election, meaning that once again mental health is going to be a topic of radio silence as far as our executive goes.

Meanwhile, in England, Theresa May is saying that she will make mental health a priority, contradicting every action the government has taken so far.

You see, for months, if not years, spending for CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) has been slashed. Today Theresa May has announced that she plans to ensure that schools are trained in mental health first aid. Effectively, the responsibility is being shifted from healthcare providers to schools.

Schools, regardless of the amount of training provided, will never be in a position to provide adequate care for students with mental illnesses. The training specified by our Prime Minister is fantastic when used alongside services such as CAMHS, but we're going in totally the wrong direction.

The ratio of students to staff in schools means that children cannot possibly receive the one-on-one attention they need when struggling with mental illness, which is why services such as CAMHS exist in the first place.

So whilst I would love to be excited about today's headlines, I'm actually just rather sad.

Our governments are continuing to fail young people at every hurdle. Mental health first aid should have been implemented in schools long ago, and it should never be used as a substitute for mental health services as I believe we are going to see happen next.

"Are you content?"

No, no, no! I'm not content. Am I happy? I'm getting there. But no, I'm not content, and I'm okay with that. I don't want to be content.

The day that I'm content is the day that I stop aspiring to be more, to be better than the person I was yesterday, to help more people than I already have. Why would I ever aim to be content?

You see, to be content is not the aim. As far as I'm concerned, I can save being content for my last day on this earth. And I'm hoping I've a while before that day arrives. Until then, I'm going to keep aiming for bigger and better things. You should too.

At no point throughout life should we find ourselves ready to settle for where we are. When we do, we've stopped dreaming. Where's the fun in that?

Hello to a New Year | Goodbye 2016

Music. Fireworks. Glasses being raised. Kisses being exchanged. Screams echoing. Tears falling.

Okay, so I could either be describing a Bond film or the scenes that play out at midnight at the end of each year. I promise it's the latter.

What a year. I've watched so many peoples' lives playing out around me. I've lived through another year of my own life. And it's the first time I can honestly say I lived rather than simply surviving.

I took the leap and launched the website. I've been telling my story in its entirety. I've met so many incredible friends, hugged so many wonderful people, and grieved so many beautiful souls. I've been handed unbelievable opportunities. I've been sober, and I've also been drunk. I've collected countless more books. I've even had a few books signed.

It's been quite the year.

But I'm ready to say goodbye to it. This year brought more experiences of sexual assault and harassment as I attempted to travel for the first time since my first assault. Whilst none of those experiences have been nearly as haunting as that first experience, they did shake me, and they seemed to open up the wounds created by the first one. It's time to let those wounds heal again.

Most importantly, though, I'm still here. I've arguably had more reason than ever to give up this year, but I've kept fighting. I've had friends holding me upright, and I've tried to hold those same friends upright when they've needed it. There are a few people in particular who have been incredible, supporting me despite the fact that they were going through their own pain.

Perhaps most significantly, the majority of the people I've shared my life with this year have helped me learn how to let myself lean on others. In the last three years, I've come to rely on myself, never trusting anyone enough to let them help me stay afloat. Now, though, I'm very much a person of community. I wouldn't have stayed in recovery this year had I not had the support of my truly remarkable circle of friends.

This year has been a year of healing and growth.

"What have you learned in 2016?"

Some of the biggest lessons I've learned throughout this year have been related to who I am, what I need to do in order to stay safe from my mind, and the things I want to go on to do in the future.

Don't get me wrong, I still lie awake at night, plagued by the question "who am I?". I look in the mirror and I don't always recognise the woman looking back at me, but unfortunately it's not always because I've grown into a better person. Sometimes I don't recognise myself because I've put on a mask without realising it.

I was talking to a friend recently about one of the things that was bothering me and said, "y'know, just last night I lay in bed, crying, and I realised that this isn't me".

I'm not entirely sure who I am, but I'm getting closer to finding out through a process of elimination!

As for staying safe from my mind, I realised towards the end of this year that I was passively suicidal. A scary realisation for anyone. A bit of research confirmed what I already knew; the slightest trigger can flip the switch and push someone to becoming actively suicidal.

I sat and thought about this, wondering what I could do to keep myself safe.

Accountability.

I posted in a group of friends and asked them a question. "Is it okay if I come here and tell you all if I flip and become actively suicidal?". The reasoning behind this was that a lot of these people knew me quite well, and know my reasons for sticking around, so they were the perfect people to remind me that I can't leave this world yet.

Thankfully nothing has changed and I've not flipped to actively suicidal so far.

As for what I want to do in the future...well, a lot of that was covered in yesterday evening's blog post. There is more, but what can I say? I like to keep my cards close to my chest!

"What are you going to do in 2017?"

This year has been quite the year, mostly due to the fact that on 21st March I launched this website. I'm pleased to say that I'm still here, and plan to expand my presence somewhat in the coming year.

So whilst I've not entirely mapped out 2017 yet (because, really, what's the point?), I have planned how I'm kicking it off, in that I'm going to be reducing the number of blog posts I publish each week so that I have time to draft a submission for a literary agent. Who knows, maybe 2017 will be the year that One Day At A Time becomes something bigger, not to mention physical.

I'm also going to be making a day-trip to London to work alongside some lovely folk at a charity. That'll happen four times throughout the year, and I'm really, truly excited about it all!

Other than that I've no plans, but I think both of those are pretty huge in their own right.

The darkness of this year only serves to push me to do more next year. We've lost so many incredible voices, it stands to reason that those of us who are still here need to raise our voices and ensure that we don't stand by as silent witnesses to the goings-on that have shaken the world of late.

"Why is contrast important?"

I'll be the first to admit that this year has been tough. I don't think I've ever cried so much in the space of a year. Now, a lot of that could be put down to the fact that when I first began suffering from anxiety and depression, I almost trained myself not to cry. If I'd let myself cry every time I felt like it back then, I would have been in a near-constant flood of tears. I think this year I finally broke through that barrier and began crying again.

However, I think the number of tears can be attributed to the fact that this year has been an overwhelming roller-coaster.

From memory, the first thing I did this year was to send my assaulter a message to wish them a happy new year. I was still a victim of gaslighting at the time, and my memory was still pretty foggy.

As for what the last thing I do will be, well, I've yet to figure that one out. However, I'm thinking I'll raise a glass and breathe a sigh of relief. I survived 2016.

So, back to the point of this post. This year, I had a breakdown at a concert. It happened for a lot of reasons, probably the most significant being that I'd experienced assault for the second time in my life less than 24 hours earlier. It was hell on earth.

I later went on to see one of my childhood heroes, Michael Morpurgo, reading his book, War Horse, alongside Joanna Lumley. I sat approximately 10 feet away from these two incredible humans, and I cried with gratitude. I wouldn't have been there had I turned back and gone home following the breakdown.

The following day I boarded a coach to Germany, and a few days after that I saw the same singer in concert that I'd been listening to when I broke down a week ago. That was one of the most incredible nights I've ever had, for several reasons.

In summary, those final few experiences would not have been as important and wonderful to me as they were if I hadn't broken down at the first concert. The bad only served to make the good that bit better.

That is why contrast is so important.

It's okay to be "busy". | A Hug From Me To You

There was no blog post yesterday. I was "busy". No, I wasn't out doing things with friends or even interacting with family. I was sitting in bed, and from the outside, it looked as though I was doing nothing.

The truth is, I was sorting through my head and trying to quiet each panicky thought. I was busy trying to stop myself from drowning in my own mind. It's left me feeling pretty guilty because I'm planning to reduce the number of blog posts I publish each week starting in January.

But the thing is, it's okay to be busy. I've learned the hard way that if I don't take the time to look after my mind it leads to a longer period of absence down the line. So I've fought the guilt and I've taken the time to make sure I'm a bit more stable before throwing myself back into writing.

I'm planning to write a little extra in the run up to the New Year in an attempt to make up for this latest absence. I've become a tad nostalgic in the last few days, so it should be fairly "easy" to rustle up a few extra pieces. In my nostalgia, I've been able to put my finger on a few lessons I've learned throughout the last twelve months. It's been quite the year.

Love to everyone,
Megan xx

"Why does suicide prevention need to extend to social media?"

Last night a good friend of mine sent me a like to an article on The Frisky regarding Instagram's new mental health support features. Much like the feature recently rolled out on Facebook that allows users to report concerning posts anonymously, it will cause a prompt to be sent to the person whose post was reported. This prompt encourages them to speak to friends, provides the person with contact details for local helplines, and even offers tips.

"Suicidal thoughts and calls for help or posts about starving oneself oddly find a home on social media. It’s only responsible for the platforms and users to have everyone else’s back." -Karen Fratti for The Frisky

What we have to understand is that we are living in an ever-changing world. Much of our lives now end up played out online. I've been both the person reading a concerning post, and the person making the concerning post. It's not unusual for people in dark places to lash out at those expressing concern for their well-being, and as such, it's incredibly useful for concerned friends to be able to report these posts anonymously.

It's also a comfort to know that when we're struggling and our mask slips, there is someone out there listening. How many times have you felt isolated and alone whilst going through a rough patch?

At the end of the day, as Karen Fratti and so many others have said, social media platforms do have a responsibility to their users. It's time for mental health support to come into line with the world we're creating, we need mental health charities to create a presence on social media, and we need platforms to be receptive to an increasingly apparent need for integrated, instant support.

"What do you do when you can't sleep?"

Recently I've stopped waking up frantically gasping for air and crying hysterically. However, I am struggling to get to sleep, often finding myself still awake at 5 am. It's far from ideal, because often when I wake up, it's too late to get anything done outside of the house. I've missed final postage dates before Christmas, I'm possibly not going to get my last benefits payment of the year, etc., all because I keep oversleeping.

But despite the fact that I end up oversleeping, I'd rather not just lie in bed tossing and turning for hours until I eventually fall asleep. After all, I'd probably still oversleep and be exhausted the following day. The only difference would be I'd have more work to do.

So generally what I do is I work on projects, write blog posts, or watch the odd film. I'll flick through news sites to see if anything new has been said about mental health. In the past, I've even sat up through the night and re-branded the website. I'll check exchange rates to get an idea of whether my bills to U.S. companies will rise or fall, and I'll check flight prices out of sheer nosiness and the hope that one day I'll be able to travel again.

Or I'll have a night like last night where I watched Billy Connolly talking about Robin Williams, and how he kept phoning him to say "I love you" before he died. I ended up sobbing, heartbroken all over again. As much as I never knew Robin personally, his death shook me to my core.

Most of the time, though, I sit and wonder "what else can I do to improve the experiences of future generations?"

I'm doing the best I can right now, yet I'm always wondering what I can do next. What constitutes my best right now isn't always going to be my best, because I'm going to continue growing and gathering new experiences. I need to grow my endeavours in correlation with that.

"How do you feel about the approach of a new year?"

In the past, I've found myself having a panic attack in the minutes before the clock struck 12, heralding a new year. I vividly remember one year, I was hysterical and telling a friend I wasn't ready for a new year yet. I had things I wanted to fix, mistakes I'd made in the year that was about to end.

This year couldn't be more different. I said recently "I have a feeling I'll arrive in 2017 breathless, feeling like I've run a marathon, and looking for the next challenge". Well, I've found the next challenge(s). I'm pleased to say that next year, I'm going to be taking my work to England once again. More on that another day.

I'm also planning to start quite the writing project next year. We're in the region of 200 posts on this website now, and I want to grow. I've spent the last couple of weeks researching publishing agencies. Take that information how you wish.

Of course, with this new writing project looming in addition to the odd trip to England, I'm going to have less time to write for this site. So, the plan is to possibly reduce posts to three times a week. I hope you're all okay with that. There are plenty in the archives, and a search bar at the base of the website. I'm sure you haven't read all 200 posts yet! And at the end of it all, I shall hopefully have something bigger and better for you all to read.

In short, I've decided to make 2017 "my year". 2016 has been a rollercoaster, with lots of incredible opportunities, but it's also thrown more than its fair share of punches. So next year is going to be the year that I get up and fulfill a couple of dreams.

I'm glad to have had you all by my side this year. Thank you.

M xx