Friday, 24 February 2017

Washed Away: From Darkness to Light by Nikki DuBose

I've been a bit AWOL from my blog the past few days, partly because I haven't really done much so I haven't had much to write about, but also because I felt like I needed a bit of a break from writing. I think it's actually the longest I've ever gone without posting! But I'm back from my short blogging hiatus and wanted to post about a book that I was kindly recently sent.

Washed Away: From Darkness to Light is a memoir by Nikki DuBose, an ex-model and actress. The book follows Nikki's life, from childhood to the present, and documents all of her struggles with anorexia, bulimia, drugs, alcohol, depression and psychosis. It reveals the darker side of the fashion and modelling world, and the lengths that some people go to to be 'beautiful'. Nikki's childhood was, quite honestly, horrendous - she had to deal with sexual and physical abuse, an alcoholic mother, and a very early onset of an eating disorder. Nikki talks us through how she came through the other side of her addictions and mental health problems, and her determination and honesty is both admirable and inspirational.

I really enjoyed Washed Away, and it left me feeling very thoughtful and inspired. Nikki has had such a hard life, and if she can come through the other end then I feel like anyone can. As you know, I am very interested in mental health, and the majority of this book is focused around problems like eating disorders, psychosis, self-harm and depression. I found Nikki's story really fascinating, and it was interesting how her childhood shaped her adulthood and her mental health. 

If you are having a hard time yourself, or if you have had your own mental health problems, I feel like you could relate to Nikki's story and I would definitely recommend having a read. Some parts were quite difficult to read about (like the childhood sexual and physical abuse), but it opened up my eyes to what goes on in the world and how you don't know what's going on behind closed doors.

A very inspiring and thought-provoking read!
I hope you know you're capable and brave and significant, even when it feels like you're not.

Monday, 20 February 2017

MH Monday: Should mental illnesses be labelled?

No automatic alt text available.

Should mental illnesses have a label? Ie should 'depression' be labelled as 'depression', or should a patient be labelled as 'schizophrenic'?

This isn't really something I ever thought about until recently, when my psychologist housemates came home from a lecture discussing it a few days ago. For me, I just accepted that I had a label of 'depression' and that was the illness I was being treated for.

The argument is that giving someone a mental illness label may do more harm for them than good. Giving someone a label may instantly stigmatise them for a collection of behaviours and symptoms that they are experiencing, and that doctors have decided should be given a certain label. Public perception of illnesses like schizophrenia is generally negative, and it could actually worry the patient  and their family more if they are given a diagnosis such as this. The psychological labelling theory suggests that the patient is given a new identity, and it may take them a long time to come to terms with this (during which time the patient could become more unwell).

Psychiatric labels are also fluid and may change as time goes on. For example, someone may present with low mood and be labelled as having 'depression'. Later on, they develop symptoms of mania, and their diagnosis will change to 'bipolar disorder'. This change in label could be very distressing for the patient, as they are having to come to terms with a new diagnosis and a new stereotype and stigma around that diagnosis, as well as a completely new management plan.

Personally, when I was given my diagnosis of depression I actually felt relief. For years I had felt really low in mood and could not stop crying, and when I was given a label it all started to make sense. I was able to see that it was an illness, and not my fault. I was able to focus on the treatments that would make me feel better, and I felt like I just understood myself more. I also think it was a bit of a relief for my family, as they too were able to understand why I had been feeling so awful, and there was a light at the end of the tunnel through therapy and medication.

I also think that, from a doctor's point of view, labelling an illness makes it easier to treat. For example, when someone is given a diagnosis of depression, you know what you are working with and which anti-depressant to give them, as well as which therapy to refer them to. It also is easier to handover to colleagues, as the label can be stated, rather than having to run through the patient's symptoms and long history, which takes a lot of time that doctors don't often have. All physical illnesses have labels (eg breast cancer, leg fracture), so why shouldn't mental illnesses?

However, I also think that the diagnosis of depression or anxiety is very different to the labelling of a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. Depression and anxiety are much more common and therefore seem to be more understood and accepted, especially in recent years, whereas schizophrenia still has a certain stigma around it. I think it would therefore be much harder to accept a diagnosis of schizophrenia than it would depression.

I guess my view is that the patient should decide. They should be given the option of whether they would like their mental illness to be labelled or not, and if they would like to know the doctor's opinion of what they are suffering from.

Whether someone is given a label or not, all mental illnesses are valid and should be treated with the same respect as a physical illness. Sometimes patients don't want to be told that they have cancer, and perhaps psychiatric patients should be given this choice too. Just something to think about, medic friends...
Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90... time is a concept that humans created.
                      - Yoko Ono

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A meal out with the family

Goldfish Print Shirt - Zara
Jeans - Topshop (Similar)
Pink Mules - Primark

Today my family met up with our extended family for a meal out. We met my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins at The Bell in Trysull for Sunday dinner, and this is what I wore. This shirt is so me - I love printed shirts, they are one of my smarter staples in my wardrobe and I have quite a few different ones. So when I saw this goldfish print shirt, I kind of had to add it  to my collection. I love the shape of it, as it's more oversized than most of my shirts, and it's made of a really soft material.

I paired it with my well-loved black jeans and my pink mules that I got from Primark, to dress it up a bit. A very comfy outfit that allowed for my huge food baby!

The Bell Inn, Wombourne Road, Trysull, Wolverhampton, WV5 7JB

The Bell Inn is a country pub on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. We had the Sunday lunch menu, and I chose the Greek salad for my starter. The dressing was honey and mustard and was delicious. I also love feta cheese, so this was an amazing way to start off my meal.

Then I chose the vegetarian cottage pie. Most other people had meat, and The Bell is very generous with portions. Our end of the table basically had a huge bowl of vegetables each! The cottage pie was lovely - it was just what I wanted for dinner on a Sunday. I then finished it all off with a chocolate fudge cake (which, in my opinion, could have been slightly bigger...!).

Afterwards we all piled outside to have obligatory family photos.

And Fergus, our cousin's dog, had to get involved too!

I had such a lovely day and it was really nice to catch up with my family. We don't live that close to each other, so whenever we meet up we always make the most of it. It's so difficult to get everyone together nowadays, so when we do I think we all appreciate it!

I hope you have had a lovely weekend too :)
I have come to understand that inner strength comes from receiving love as much as it comes from giving it.
                             - Donald Miller

Friday, 17 February 2017

Friday Favourite: Daffodils

The past couple of days I have been so excited for Spring! Today has been beautiful outside, and I really enjoyed my drive back home in the sunshine - it definitely does wonders for your mood. It's really made me look forward to Easter, baby animals and spring clothing. I can't wait until I can stop wearing a thick winter coat!

I also came home to a vase of daffodils on the dining table, and it made me so happy. Daffodils were my Nan's favourite flowers, so this time of year always reminds me of her, and they are also one of mine, too - I love how bright they are, and that they pop up all over the place (we have one that always grows just outside our front door every year at uni and it's so lovely). Yellow is one of my favourite colours (it reminds me of happiness and positivity), and sunflowers are actually my favourite ever flower.

This afternoon I have just sat by my open window and read my book with a couple of candles lit, and it was so peaceful. All I could hear was the birds chirping in the trees across the road, and I could feel the gentle breeze coming in through the window.

Roll on Spring!
Never suppress a generous thought.
                - Camilla E Kimball

Thursday, 16 February 2017

6 things that have made me happy today #14

1) Simulation course
Today I wasn't on placement, but I did a simulation course instead. Basically this is a mannequin in a room that breathes, talks and responds to medications - and us, as medical students, have to work out what is medically wrong with it and fix that problem by responding to its symptoms. For example, in one of my scenarios the 'patient' was losing consciousness, and we worked out that it was hypoglycaemic (had low blood sugar, ie diabetes). So we had to treat this by giving the patient glucose, and kept monitoring his breathing and circulation until he woke up. It was a really fun day and I felt like I learnt a lot about emergency situations!

2) Working with other healthcare professionals
During my simulation day there were also some nurses and pharmacists in our group, and I really enjoyed working alongside them like we were a proper multidisciplinary team in hospital. It made me really appreciate the skills and knowledge of the other healthcare professionals, and I found it really useful to have them there working alongside me to make the patient better.

3) Sausage casserole
Tonight I made a sausage casserole and it was delicious. I've really got more into cooking recently, but this was one of my favourite recipes so far. And the best part is that I made plenty so I have some more to eat next week!

4) 100% Hotter
Tonight my housemate Sarah and I sat down and watched 100% Hotter. I used to be obsessed with Snog, Marry, Avoid and it's basically an updated version of that. If you're not aware of either programme, they are both makeover shows and the transformations are incredible. It's one of those guilty pleasures that I love to watch each week (Wednesday 8pm, 5STAR).

5) YouTube
I've been watching some YouTube videos this evening, and Joe Sugg and Shane Dawson never fail to make me laugh. I've really gotten into watching daily vlogs, where people record their day-to-day lives - I think it's really interesting and entertaining!

6) Getting excited about holidays
I have two holidays coming up this year with uni friends - to Iceland and Greece. I was chatting about them today and I'm so excited! The landscape of Iceland looks incredible, and I can't wait to visit the blue lagoon. And Greece will be a really fun island hopping trip for a couple of weeks.
Your life is your story. Write well, edit often.
                        - Susan Statham

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood

Where I Lost Her is a story about Tess, who visits some friends in her hometown in Vermont. She is driving at night when she comes across a half-dressed toddler in a tutu and ladybird wellie boots, who is on her own in the middle of the woods. The girl runs away from her, Tess notifies the police, and the town start the search for the missing girl.

However there are no other sightings of the missing girl, and everyone starts to doubt Tess and whether what she saw was real, as details from her past and another young girl start to surface. Tess' marriage to Jake is also going through a particularly hard time, and flashbacks to the past start to reveal why they have grown apart so drastically.

Is the missing girl real? Is Tess mentally unwell and imagining everything? What happened in Tess' past?

The one thing that I really liked about this book was that it was relatable. Apart from the little girl going missing, the book reveals some of the difficult times that Tess has had to face in the past, and how this has affected the relationships around her. I really felt like I got to know Tess as the book went on, and I felt empathetic towards her emotions and inner turmoil. The heartache that she experiences is something that anyone could go through, and I liked that it wasn't completely 'happy ever after'. T. Greenwood also reveals some of the uglier parts of life, such as drugs and alcohol, in a very realistic manner.

I did not quite get into this book as much as All The Missing Girls and Everything You Told Me (they were exceptional books and would take some beating!), but it was a really enjoyable read and I would definitely pick up more of T. Greenwood's books in the future, as I really loved her descriptive style of writing.

Where I Lost Her kept me gripped throughout - I was constantly questioning what was going on, and the end was really unpredictable. It was quite haunting because it involved a little girl, and the actual ending was shocking, but could happen in real life. The novel is a real compelling psychological thriller, and I would definitely pick it up if you get a chance!

Where I Lost Her is out March 2nd.
Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.
                    - Coco Chanel

Monday, 13 February 2017

MH Monday: Friends and mental health

So today I thought that, whilst I show you photos of myself and my gorgeous friends at our ball over the weekend, I would also share with you some thoughts about friends and mental health.
 My friends are some of the most important things in the world to me, and they are also one of the reasons that I have got this far with regards to my mental health. All of your relationships in life affect your mental health and coping mechanisms, and my friends gave me the support I needed to pull through my depression and come out the other side.
It has been proven that the quality of your relationships affects your mental health - which is quite obvious when you think about it. The better your friendships, the more support you are likely to receive, and the better you are likely to feel. I think it also boosts your self-esteem to be around people that genuinely enjoy spending time with you, which again is another positive factor towards your mental health.

I remember that when I was depressed, I used to doubt my friendships (although they gave me no reason to do this). I was quite self-loathing, so I would always wonder why anyone would ever want to spend any time with me, except if they just felt sorry for me. My friends made me see the error of my thinking, and they always made sure that they showed me that they enjoyed spending time with me because they liked me, and not because they felt like they had to. They always gave me the reassurance that I needed, usually without me even having to ask for it.

I think there was a point when I was very down and quite young where I used to rely on my friendships quite heavily, and I was very dependent on them. It used to really affect my mood if one of my friends couldn't see me, or if they said something slightly critical - I would become very depressed at this point.

Whilst I was down I also found it harder to make the effort to see friends, as all I wanted to do was lie in bed and wallow in my low mood. But they all stuck by me and made sure that they popped in to see me whenever they could - and my housemates were incredible, always checking on how I was and making sure I was safe and had the support around me that I needed.

However now I feel much more independent within my relationships and I'm also a lot happier in myself, so I understand that people enjoy being around me, and want to be my friends because they like the person that I am. I also feel like I appreciate my friends so much more because of what I have been through, as they stuck by me throughout, and for that I am very grateful as I know it can't have been easy to see me so unwell.
 I also feel like I rely on different friendships for different things. For example, there are a few friends that I know I can always talk to about my mental health, and they won't judge me for whatever I'm thinking in my head. There are other friends that I perhaps wouldn't go to about my mental health, but I would talk to them about other problems, such as boys or work. All of my friends are just as amazing as each other, but they are my friends for different reasons because they are all completely different people and good at different things.
My friends have been one of the most stable aspects of my life throughout my journey through depression, and for that I am most grateful. I honestly couldn't have got this far without them, and I am so happy with all of my relationships in my life. My uni friends have been through almost 5 years of hard work with me, and my friends from home have been so incredibly supportive along the way. I can't wait to see where the next chapter will take us!

Thank you all for listening to my irrational ramblings, wiping away my many many tears, and giving me a kick up the bum when I needed it. Oh, and for those many cuddles and words of support. I love you all lots xoxoxox
In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you.
                      - Andrea Dykstra