Mental Health Awareness Week: How singing helped me during my poor mental health.
How singing & performing helped me when I experienced poor mental health.
Each and every one of us has “Mental Health” . People only think about their mental health or others discuss it when it becomes what people call “bad mental health” As we all have it, it all varies from person to person, and each person’s coping level and triggers are as unique as the colour of our eyes. That person that seems to have their life together and fit so much in and copes with anything Has mental health too, as well as that person who has Bipolar, Social Anxiety, or Borderline Personality Disorder: they too have mental health. What sets them apart is a person’s awareness and care programe to ensure they stay well, or start on their own journey towards getting well. There is a lot of discrimination and judgement that surrounds its, and what we think we know about mental health: surprisingly, isn’t a lot.
As it’s mental health awareness week, I wanted to share a story which is personal. I can write this from a place of recovery and healing now, so I can say it out loud, I can write it down, and I can even stand up in front of people in mass and talk to them about it. a year ago this wasn’t so easy and I couldn’t even say it. Some people describe depression feeling like your gagged and being held hostage by your own mind.
In 2018 after lots of painful operations & various life events; I suffered a relapse of depression and anxiety caused by an Adjustment Disorder. for those that need a label they might recognize: it’s Similar in some ways to PTSD. During this time functioning in everyday life was a battle and time stopped. The one thing that kept my head above water was my singing and my band. Being up on stage helped me forget for a while and show me how powerful I was, and that I was still in there. I didn’t look like me or feel like me but i’d get myself up on stage and even if it was just for 45 minutes as the set rolled by. It’s almost like Mo came to life and held my hand for a while, I stood behind her as she expressed herself on stage, banged about, and gave some badditude up there. I was angry and that was the only way I was allowed to express it safely . It was where I was at home and felt close to normal me for a while. Even though I had trouble remembering lyrics, my insecurities were through the of due to my body image and presence but I knew that people could never “see” that your mentally unwell. I used this. Being an unseen illness was coming in handy as I hid it . My body struggled with standing up for longer than 30 minutes due to my back operation in the previous months. What followed was the hardest recovery from an operation, with the added bonus of recovery from my poor mental health. When you are in the midst of a mental health disorder, you are faced with some truly appalling judgmental words and people who have intentions of helping but do the complete opposite due to their lack of understanding. I was reluctant to take medication at first, but was in the hands of a very skilled psychologist . we worked together on different techniques: ACT, with some CBT, and compassion focused therapy and diffusion techniques.
Mindfulness played a huge part in my recovery and I practice it every day. Mindfulness isn’t clearing the mind, it’s observation of your minds thoughts, be they bad, toxic, good, erratic, or irrational. It’s impossible to clear the mind as that’s not it’s job. You practice being the compassionate watcher. The observer: noting where your mind has gone or staying with that feeling for a while and watching it move, change you physically or hopefully drift on. Tuning into your breath. Mindfulness is easy when you have nothing going on and your day is relatively drama free….Unfortunately real life doesn’t really do that. Real life is up and down, people pushing your buttons, things p****ing you off. People cutting you up during your commute. challenges at work. It teaches you to cope in the chaos around you and stay present with it. Below I’ve given you a short exercise to try. put on your headphones and follow the instructions.
“Mindfulness is easy when you have nothing going on, and your day is relatively drama free…..
Unfortunately real life doesn’t really do that. “
Medication combined with Therapy & Counselling is a must.
After some time in therapy we decided that medication was necessary. I understand when people are frightened of the idea of medication as they don’t understand what they do exactly. (yup, that was me) The first type I was given wasn’t right for me, so I was given another type and they are absolutely fine. Within about 4-6 weeks I started to feel human again, and I couldn’t believe the difference. I was starting to realise how very ill I was and how much I had been through, and why i deserved to be happy. The medication helped my brain chemistry to balance and I was in a position now to learn new techniques and create new neurological pathways.
What can you do if you are concerned about your own mental health or someone you care about?
TALK. this is a big one and its the most important one of all. If you’re concerned about someone close to you let them know that your a little concerned that they haven’t quite seemed themselves lately. If they decide to open up LISTEN without judgment or advice. Give them space, time and respect. If they choose not to open up (which is something you need to accept and be patient about) remind them that your here for whatever they need and they are safe to talk to you. Never threaten or get aggressive with someone you’re concerned about.
Ask for help and support. This can be someone at work you trust, a friend or family member
Visit your GP
Keep away from googling things. (trust me, the internet is full of articles, and mis-diagnosis case studies and your best visiting the professionals)
You may be entitled to free counselling and therapy. You can self refer now a days and find treatment. iTalk https://www.italk.org.uk or Steps to wellbeing https://www.steps2wellbeing.co.uk/support/southampton/
Look for local charities. They are here to help and have lots of trusted and approved resources and information that is helpful. https://www.solentmind.org.uk/
Check to see if you’re entitled to any health/hospital care via insurance. You may have something in place at work that you can use to get access to appropriate care.
Let go of self blame and comparison to those around you. Mental illness isn’t a choice, it’s not attention seeking or anything you have done. Its not your fault.
Mental illness isn’t a choice, it’s not attention seeking or anything you have done. Its not your fault.
Keep a journal, log your thoughts if you feel you would like to. Writing can be expressive to some and enough to make them feel better. if you’re in a situation in the work place keep a journal of experiences and incidents.
Call the samaritans. The are specially trained especially with suicide prevention. https://www.samaritans.org/
message me!! via facebook or the website. say hello and I’ll say hello back!
App’s That Can help.
An Exercise for you
As I mentioned: Mindfulness played a huge part in my recovery and it’s a fantastic skill to learn. You can sit which ever way you choose: in a chair, on a cushion or even laying down. try this one here that I particularly like:
Some other things to keep an eye on.
Nutrition: What’s your diet like when your feeling down? what’s it like on a daily basis? Things to avoid:
Caffine, (Tea & Coffee, energy drinks)
High levels of sugar. Both sugar and caffeine stimulate the nervous system and cause mood spikes.
alcohol. This is a depressant, which also dehydrates you.
Keep your diet full of fresh produce, a healthy amount of protein, and don’t forget to eat a little of what you fancy. Decaffeinated drinks is where I live now, and a low sugar diet is the best thing I ever did.
Sleep & Exercise. A walk outside at lunch time or walking clubs with friends or dogs can be great for morale. When your sleep deprived you find yourself reaching for that americano with an extra shot to keep you awake which isn’t always beneficial. you then may have trouble sleeping or staying asleep. Caffeine doesn’t simply come and go. It stays in the system for a long time.
Seek advice from your GP or a nutritionist before changing your diet drastically.
some people think that I am re-living my story, perhaps hanging on to my past and what happened. Well, I’ve got news for you: it’s not over, and the reason I keep my story is so I can help myself, be vigilant and look after myself. help others, speak for others if they need me to, support them when they need care and consideration. In march this year I took it upon myself to complete a 2 day course with St Johns Ambulance to become a Mental Health First Aider. I’m proud to say I’m now accredited to be a first point of call for mental health first aid. 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health condition at one point in our lives. Mental health is unique and personal to each individual. It doesn’t pick and choose or discriminate, and can happen to any of us at any time. I’m proud of my journey and now i’m happy to share it. I’m stronger mentally and i’m currently undergoing a specialist training program by Atlas Health who are expert in tailoring recovery, and strength training. I’m getting myself back to health with them and I have done things I never thought were possible again. Anything is possible if you allow yourself time, and be compassionate. Having a strong support system is important, and people who care about you will want to help you if you let them.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog and found it helpful i’d love to hear your comments. i’d love to hear your mental health experience too. lets talk and share to break the stigma.
Thank you for reading.
( I’m not a professional writer, so thanks for forgiving any grammar or spelling errors that I’ve missed. Nor am I a doctor or counselor so I encourage you to seek professional advice if needed )