Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My annual bucket list for 2015

2015 bucket list
2015 bucket list
2015 bucket list
2015 bucket list
2015 bucket list
2015 bucket list
ASOS slush puppie top

2015 bucket list
2015 bucket list
2015 bucket list slush puppie top
2015 bucket list
Milk carton bag
2015 bucket list
New Look silver shoes

Slush Puppie T-Shirt - Asos
Skirt - H&M
Bag - eBay
Shoes - New Look

I, like most people, have a list of places I want to visit and things I want to do before I 'kick the bucket'. However I think it's really important to have goals for the next year, no matter how big or small, that can make you enjoy it and create amazing memories. So this is a list of my 'annual bucket list' for 2015 - some are a little bit silly, but are things I've wanted to do for ages.

1) Have afternoon tea at Panoramic 34, Liverpool.
2) Learn how to use my camera settings confidently.
3) See the sunset and sunrise from the Wrekin, Shropshire.
4) Dance in the street (because who doesn't want to feel like they're in a film, joining in with a flashmob?)
5) Read The Book Thief and The Fault In Our Stars.
6) Learn a few more words of Italian.
7) Practise mindfulness and meditate regularly.
8) Do some sort of watersport, even if it's only banana boating.
9) Be a little more active.

So I guess this list is like a sort of new year's resolution, to complete these before 2015 is out. On my main bucket list I also have skydiving, paragliding, and visiting Australia and the Caribbean, but I don't think these will be able to happen this year! I think dancing in the street came into my head on a long train journey when I thought, "oh, wouldn't it be great if we could just dance in the street and not care what people think about us?"... I will probably regret this one when the time comes. I would love to set up a flashmob and raise some money for charity though - perhaps for Mind or some other mental health charity? Anyone with me? (Silence from everyone who isn't stupid enough to embarrass themselves...) I would love to take my camera up the Wrekin and get some shots of the sun setting/rising, and I've always wanted to learn some Italian. We're going to Italy on holiday again this year so I will have to try and learn some before then!

I hope this post inspires some of you to set your own goals for 2015, and I wish you all a happy and healthy new year! I will be celebrating with 16 members of my family tonight, trying to win at Grandad's quiz and various board games. This morning I was at work in the care home I work in, and was looking after some really inspirational ladies. One was 106 and the other was 99 and still insisted on wearing lipstick - I hope I'm like that at that age!
Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.

PS If anyone has any ideas or ways to help me with my list, they would be deeply appreciated!!


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014

2014 mental health blog

Seeing as it's New Year's Eve-Eve (that should definitely be a thing, so we have an excuse to celebrate more) I thought I would do a quick round-up of my 2014.

This year there have been hospital admissions, my Nan passing away, relationship changes, and I once again started suffering badly from my depression. My family and I have been through some really rough times in 2014 - I even saw my dad cry a couple of times (a very rare occurrence).

But I refuse to call 2014 a 'bad year', as there have been some amazing aspects too. In one day I had over 7000 blog views and hundreds of likes and shares on Facebook, due to my post on changing the stigma around depression. I moved into a new house at uni with some incredible people, that I now would call 'home'.  I went on holiday to beautiful Puglia in Italy with my family, a place that I have wanted to visit for years, and got to see some trulli. I got into my third year of medical school, despite being so low around exam time, and set up this blog that is (hopefully) helping people understand more about mental health, or helping those with mental health issues. I also started Project Smile, my small initiative to try and make somebody's day.

I feel like my life has changed dramatically in 2014. I have found ways to overcome my depression, and am beating it every single day, whilst learning important life lessons from it along the way. In the wider world, 2014 may have been the year that the stigma around mental health started to change, and I'm proud to be a part of that. I have made new friends and relationships with people that I didn't have last year. I've grown in confidence with what I can achieve and how I can help people, as well as trying out new things that I wouldn't have done before, such as practising mindfulness and decorating our summer house. I have explored more of what Liverpool has to offer in the last few months, including eating my body weight in food at the food festival and gazing in wonder at the lantern parade. I've also learnt lots of new things - I have recently switched my DSLR camera from 'automatic' to 'manual', and have learnt technical jargon for my blog. I have been lucky enough to be able to learn lots of knowledge whilst studying medicine, as well as meeting lots of inspiring patients along the way. And you know what one of the best parts of this year has been? Having all of the support from everyone about my blog, and seeing how much of a difference I can make to peoples' lives. I never thought I would be interesting or knowledgeable enough to write to but you have all proven me wrong. I love hearing from you all, so thank you so much for writing to me!

 It really is such a cliche, but I feel like my family is stronger and closer than ever after all we've been through this year - there really is a silver lining to every cloud. At the end of the day, all of the bad things are now in the past, and let's hope 2015 brings even more happiness and joy to our lives than this year has.
For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.
                               - T.S. Eliot




Monday, 29 December 2014

What I got for Christmas

I thought I'd show you a few things I got for Christmas this year - most of the things I'm showing you here are beauty stuff, but I also got a few bits of clothes and homewear.

Christmas presents MAC Sleek

This is my second MAC lipstick that I have - I love how easily they go on, and they stay put for ages. Kinda Sexy is a coral nude colour in a matte shade that really suits my colouring and has a lovely texture. The Sleek Matte Me Lip Cream is a vivid orangey-red that is also matte. I don't usually like reds on me but I love how bright this one is, and have worn it a few times since Christmas (see it on my Instagram here). It stays on for absolutely ages (and I mean ages - I brushed my teeth whilst wearing it and it was still intact afterwards). You can eat or drink with these lip creams on and they don't budge; I want the nude and bright pink ones next!

Benefit Cheeky Sweet Spot
Benefit Cheeky Sweet Spot
 Benefit Cheeky Sweet Spot Set

I adore Benefit make-up, and when I saw this in the shops I loved it, but then soon forgot about it until nearer to Christmas, when it had sold out everywhere. It was such a surprise to open a present from my sister and reveal this - I think it's probably my favourite present! It has 6 different coloured blushers and one highlighter, along with a brush to apply them all. They are beautiful colours and look lovely when on - I can't wait to use them more in the future!

Christmas presents Urban Outfitters nail polish
Christmas Presents Urban Outfitters nail polish
 Urban Outfitters Nail Polish in Dark Night
Urban Outfitters Nail Polish in Snowstorm

These nail polishes are both beautiful shades. Dark Night is a dark forest green with a slight shimmer, and dries in a matte shade. Snowstorm is a white glitter nail polish with little snowflake shapes in - beautiful for this time of year. Both apply really easily and so far haven't chipped (after two days of wear).

Body Shop Christmas Presents
The Body Shop Shower Gel in Vanilla Brulee 

Ahh The Body Shop, how I love you. I have so many of their body butters but I think this one is one of my favourites. It was brought out specially for Christmas, so is not online any more, but you may still be able to get it in the shops. The Body Shop also has a good sale on at the moment (this gorgeous shower gel is only £2) - definitely worth taking a look at!

Soap & Glory Perfect Ten
Soap & Glory Perfect Ten Eyeshadows
 Sleek i-Divine Eyeshadow Palette in Garden of Eden

I think these eyeshadow palettes are absolutely gorgeous. I love the green and purple shades of the Sleek one; it will definitely get a lot of wear. The Soap & Glory one was brought out for Christmas, so I'm not sure you can still purchase it, but it reminds me of the Urban Decay Naked palettes, both the shades and the presentation of the eyeshadows. Perfect for daily eye wear.

Urban Outfitters Bamboo Tea Candle

I think this candle is the most beautiful thing I have ever smelt. It has a blend of musk, oak, jasmine and rose and 50 hours of burning time, plus the jar is really cute and vintage-looking. I also want to buy the fig and patchouli ones now I know how good this one is!

Today has been spent taxiing my family around and experimenting with my camera. I had to take Buster to the vets as he's got a poorly tummy (yes, that is a technical medical term) and ferry my sisters around to various places. I've recently learnt how to create an image with bokeh (sounds fancy, but it's really just blurring the lights in the background when they are out of focus, as with the images above) which is actually really easy to do. I have also reached my lifelong goal of looking like a chocolate, due to gorging on my Christmas presents. Yay.
The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
                          - Walter Bagehot




Sunday, 28 December 2014

Guest Post: Depression and anger

Depression and anger

This guest post is written by a fellow medical student who was brave enough to share her story with me, and now wants to share it with you. It is very honest and deeply personal, and made me understand more about anger - I am honoured to feature it on my blog as I know how difficult mental health can be to write about. Thank you very much for writing this for me, you are amazing!


Imagine you’ve fallen accidentally into a deep well, you’re in shock but then it hits you that you’re drowning, you know you are actually going to die and you have been overcome by panic, you fear losing your life and not being able to say goodbye to the people you love, this is it. The best and worst moments of your life flash across your mind in an intense disorganised slideshow and you think of them half wondering the meaning of it all and what could have been different as you desperately gasp for air, with your mind racing looking for a solution, thrashing like a mad animal searching for something to hold onto but its black and there is no life jacket.

Do you give up or don’t you?

I often feel I am being ‘drowned’ like this by my thoughts, the control and intensity they have over me that I can’t seem to shake. Some days are better than others but my low mood is out of control at the moment. I had studied this condition from textbooks a few years ago and although it seemed bad I could never comprehend what it actually was to not enjoy life, I didn’t understand how it was possible for someone to feel that way.

Sadness is a normal part of life, we’ve all experienced it at some point, but it doesn’t last forever in most cases. When that mechanism becomes jammed the result becomes problematic, depending on the intensity some people can function although struggling internally and I often wonder about the statistics, more than often when I’ve opened up to someone about how I’ve felt I have been surprised to know they feel the same or know someone close that does. It is comforting in a strange sense to you are not alone, there is a bond in knowing you are understood.

Why can’t we talk about it or why don’t we. I used to feel abnormal (I still do at times which causes me to self loathe), I didn’t think the thoughts I was having were right so I felt I shouldn’t tell anyone in case they would worry or think I was a weirdo. How do you tell someone you’ve wondered how it would feel to die by being hit by a speeding train, or to splatter to death off the top of a high building, I could kill myself now, grab the nearest knife and cut my throat, I think of the pain, would it be successful? I feel so much internal shame at these thoughts (though I know I shouldn’t be so hard on myself) and death scares me still, It makes me sick that these things even enter my mind. It’s very isolating to feel like this which feeds into the negative cycle of low self esteem. I often wonder what makes some of us more ‘resilient’ than others, we know that some people are more likely to develop depression due to genetics, so is the rest is environment? How much of that do we actually have a control over? We can’t undo the past and it’s hard to accurately predict the future. Life is full of pleasant and unpleasant surprises. There are so many factors that determine our personality, again the nature Vs nurture but who controls our thoughts?

My counsellor said something that I found very interesting, (I had told her I get many unwanted thoughts, often degrading and negative which have violently ripped my self esteem to shreads), but we don’t choose our thoughts they just sort of come into our minds, and actually the majority of people get unwanted thoughts, but the ability of their progression is how much attention we give to them. This means we have the power to change how we feel which is really cool (but can obviously be quite difficult if you have spent a number of years feeling powerless). I try extremely hard to challenge my thoughts everyday but do find it very difficult and more so now that my mood has dropped.

I found myself in the local AnE department last week, I asked my dad to take me as I was having very intrusive thoughts of harming my GP. I WAS SO ANGRY, my referral had been messed up and I was in uncontrollable rage, I am not an aggressive person at all but I have been struggling badly with intense outbursts of anger over the past year, they have been getting bad and as my depression gets worse so does the ability to rationalise and control my mood. It gets to the point that I wish a painful death on people in my mind, but I know this is wrong and It makes me feel very aware that I am having an extreme response. And although I know I have the ability to ‘not pay attention’ to my thoughts I am often left feeling powerless and overwhelmed. When my observations were measured my heart rate was 144 beats per minute (norm is 50-80) and BP 145/90 which is quite high, this is how mad I had become, and I was ‘sick’ with rage and anxiety. Externally I looked controlled but felt as if this was bubbling inside me. I was trying so hard to calm myself, so I practiced some techniques, such as deep breathing, mindfulness and picturing a calming scene, I was also given a benzodiazepine hahah! (It didn’t help too much, I laugh now but it wasn’t as funny at the time). Imagine how hard it is to calm yourself when you are having such a strong physical reaction. I was seen by a nurse and then a psychiatrist (and they assessed my risk of harming myself or others) and determined that I could go home but did need referral into some services to help with my current mood and anger problems which is what I have been waiting for, for a while now hence the anger.

Out of all the emotions anger is one of the most bitter and dark, it rips through rationality and sense. It destroys anything that comes in its way, relationships, friendships, any sense of calm that was present. It is so consuming and deadly. I never realised how lucky I was before that I never used to become angry, but now the smallest thing sets off an atom bomb response in me. The adrenaline gets me ready for fight or flight, my hands shake and then the anxiety comes in which heightens the physical side. At this point I am raging, but mostly I do not have an outburst, yet this is all happening in me, I want to kill someone, forget seeing red, I am all red now and this feels like it won’t end so I breathe deeply and imagine a serene beach. It doesn’t bring the comfort I expect it to. This is what I live with and it becomes more and more unhealthy each time and I need help. There are former issues to resolve which will be a big job, but I’m willing to do anything to put this beast to rest for good before it kills me.

It does upset me very much sometimes that I have depression and anger, because at worst I imagine death is easier than life, yet I’m told life is so precious. I have felt dead inside, the girl from a few years ago is dead and in her place is me- this nothingness. When I think of myself I picture the weeds that have grown around a derelict building, rotting. I knew I was alive but had to pinch myself to validate this and feel real, it was like watching the world on a movie, a world I didn’t feel part of or ‘exist’ in and at this moment everything is bland and dull, I am only experiencing either anger or sadness which is difficult to cope with daily and waiting for a medication review seems like endless torture messing with my emotional endurance. I am lucky that my family is very supportive (I often feel like a burden on them) but hope that soon with some more time and help I can address these problems which are having a heavy impact on me. I feel like a different person completely to the happy, bubby outgoing girl that ‘had everything going for her’ a few years ago.

However these same feelings and experiences have changed my general outlook on life, after going through a trauma and accompanying bout of intense emotional pain I feel more free to live life without restrictions and am aware not to get stuck so deeply into achieving my goals that I miss out on the small things. I can fully feel the pleasure and happiness with simple things when I am good, when I am good I am in natural ecstasy with the world we live in. I don’t think this is completely possible until you have found yourself at the edge of and beyond sanity. I find myself even more accepting than before and have deep empathy and compassion towards human suffering (ironic as I cannot feel it for myself) without a scale of questioning of why people feel upset or down, no matter ‘how big or small’ a problem seems, I had very negative experiences of what seemed as people deciding whether I had a right to be down or not. Often hearing phrases like “you’re not starving, think of poor orphans” or “but you have so much going for you” is not helpful although I appreciate that people meant well.

Coming back to resilience, I think that people with depression and other conditions that affect mentality are exceptional. Considering this is a 24/7 problem that constantly attacks your core of self worth and has large effects on motivation, creating a negative mind-set it is a great achievement to accomplish what may seem like small things to people who have never had a problem with them, tasks like getting out of bed, showering, eating, cooking- the things that people take for granted can become such a strenuous and difficult chore. I have times where I lie in bed continuously for 18hours and more, there is just no ounce of energy left. Completely mentally and physically drained, I will eventually move, it will take a lot from me. Yet we beat ourselves up no matter what the achievement is, invalidating everything. But we still try despite the constant battles and tainting of good. When it gets to a point where these becomes impossible, I can only say that it must be unimaginably difficult, no-one would choose something like that.

I have no idea what the meaning of all this is, I don’t know if there is one, I have a brain that constantly searches for answers, always inquisitive always switched on. I don’t necessarily need an answer anymore, I have accepted that this is how it is but I want some solutions for my current difficulties, this is a lot more practical. I’d like to spend more time into engaging with something that will help rather than endlessly ponder the mysteries of the world, and the human brain, but alas I find it so interesting.

When I go on to become a doctor I know that I will come across numerous people who feel the same as I do today, and I hope that I can make them feel understood and cared for, because the little things count so much. I hope to make a difference which they will remember fondly and can help in some way towards uplifting them.
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” 
                            - Stephen Fry




Saturday, 27 December 2014

Alphabet scarf

Matalan alphabet scarf
Matalan alphabet scarf

Alphabet Scarf - Matalan
Parka Coat - Matalan
Skirt - Asda
Jumper - Primark

This afternoon I went for a walk with my parents and Buster. We're so lucky to live in the countryside and just be able to step outside and go for a walk - I really appreciate it when I'm home from university.

I love these alphabet scarves from Matalan; they're in aid of Alder Hey Children's Hospital too, so are all for a good cause. Mine was for Christmas and they're currently sold out, but should be back in stock in January. And how cute is Mum's hat?! It made me laugh all the way along our walk - her little antlers were bobbing as she walked along.

This evening we're going to our local pub for a quiz. Wish me luck (I'm going to need it)!
Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.
                                          - Coco Chanel



Friday, 26 December 2014

Boxing Day


These are just a few photos from the last couple of days. I have had a wonderful Christmas with my family and was absolutely spoilt, whilst eating everything in sight and being about 6 stone heavier this evening. Today has just been spent sleeping, playing board games and eating leftovers and chocolate. I'm tempted to do a post on a few of my Christmas presents - so watch out for that over the next few days.

I have felt really good the past couple of days; Christmas makes me so happy! However I read this post on which dog breeds are good for depression, and I think it really is true. We have two labradors (Buster and Dylan) and I always feel much more relaxed when they are around (except when one of them poos inside or eats something they shouldn't...) - it has been proven that stroking a dog can make you less stressed. They always make me laugh and are able to cheer me up like nobody else.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!
Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.