A Personal Bloggers Are Us Challenge – What Is The Post We Are Most Proud Of?


The blogging challenge we set for the Personal Bloggers Are Us (#PBAU on Twitter) group this week was this:

Share with the group the post you are most proud of / the post you have written that is your favourite?

Easier said then done. Does one go with the most meaningful post, the well-written one, the most popular one, or the hardest one to write and share with the blogosphere?

Since we are sharing 2 of our favourite posts this week, I though I’d firstly go with my most popular all time post with 754 hits – which surprised me incredibly! Aside from the popularity, the subject is extremely close to my heart. I do hope you can get something from it again.

How Do You Maintain Your Mental Health?

I’ve battled with depression for over half of my life, therefore maintaining my mental health is incredibly important to me.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that:

  • Depression is common, affecting about 121 million people worldwide.
  • Depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide.
  • Fewer than 25 % of those affected have access to effective treatments.

These numbers are disturbing, so with the increasing prevalence of depression in society, how one deals with their mental health is becoming integral to daily living. I’ve tried a whole load of things to help me get through, some previously tried and tested, some things that worked, some that failed dismally.

Here are some things I’ve done, or presently do, to help maintain a balance:

  • Burn incense and natural oils when at home. I find certain fragrances such as Sandalwood, Musk and Lavender are relaxing.
  • Listen to music. Late last year I started listening to jazz and chants. I also started to rediscover some of the music I used to listen to – but had stopped through sheer laziness. I find it helps to take the edge off.
  • Don’t take drugs. Most are a depressant – after the initial buzz and high are followed by the lowest of the low. I learn’t this – not by choice – one night after my drink was spiked whilst out with friends at a club. I have never felt so low before in my life then I did after that night. The memory loss did not help things. It took me over a week to start feeling normal again.
  • Get a pet. Before doing so though, you need to realise it is a commitment, and they do require love and care. My dog was given to me as a present, and at times dragging myself out of the house to take her for a walk has been hard, but without her I would have been lost.
  • Write lists. This helps to get stuff out of your head and onto paper. I have many journals with copious amounts of lists on all kinds of things from what makes me happy, to what I want to do in life, to why I hated my job or felt so sad. This is also good to look back on years later – to see how far you have progressed, or to really ‘see’ your patterns of thinking throughout the years.
  • Allow yourself to rest. I have moved between the extremes. I have either rested too much, or I have gone like a bull at a gate, and ended up exhausted, sick and depressed. Allow yourself time to recoup, but try not to just sleep your life away. It’s a very easy habit to slip into.
  • Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is the more relaxed, slower paced yoga style focussing on relaxation and breathing. I didn’t actually expect to be able to relax, as I had tried other types of yoga such as Ashtanga, and ended up stressed! But alas! The effects from Hatha Yoga were instantaneous, and I really must take it up again.
  • Say no. I still struggle with this, but you must learn to say no, and realise that it is okay to do so. Dealing with the guilt you feel from doing it is not easy, but you must remember that if you are exhausted, you are really no good to anyone (Note to self).
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol. I should be saying ‘don’t drink alcohol’, but I can’t do that as a few drinks relax me. You just need to remember to not let it become a habit, and to avoid binge drinking, as like drugs, the high is followed by a real low.
  • Exercise. Easier said than done when you are sad, tired and frustrated. I struggle with this as I’m either all of nothing. I become obsessed with something, such as weight training at the gym, but then I become so reliant on it for the way it makes me feel, that it turns into a type of addiction. And then I force myself to stop. And then I just don’t exercise.
  • Get out and spend time with friends and family. Sometimes it takes a lot to get out, but when you do it’s worth it. Even if you just sit in silence with someone. Knowing they are just there really helps.
  • Read. There is a wealth of literature on depression, on self-help, on writing and art therapy to help with depression, and of course comedic fiction, or really whatever you fancy reading. It takes your mind off of the seemingly never-ending internal battle within your mind.
  • Talk to a professional. You may need to try a few first – councillors, psychologists, your GP, and so on, but once you find the right person, major breakthroughs can be made. Most countries have organisations or initiatives that can help with the cost these days also – so hit google and don’t let money, or the lack of, be an excuse.
  • Take anti-depressants. From experience you are either pro or con anti-depressants. I have moved between the two, but as someone explained to me once, it’s like taking medication for diabetes, or cholesterol. Sometimes you just need to do it to have a better quality of life. It’s important to note here that not all types will agree with you. I tookZoloft many years ago, and weened myself off of it as the side-effects freaked me out. I managed okay for a few years, but then ended up in the lowest of the low of my depressive states, and after trying everything – diet, counseling, exercise, mediation, Pilates, yoga, and so on, I realised I could not do it myself anymore. After being open and honest with my doctor of years, we decided to try Luvox (Movox) and thankfully it has helped dramatically. The thought of possibly being on them for the rest of my life terrifies me when I think about it, but I would rather take a pill every day, then not live.

The important thing to note is that these may not work for you. Just because it works for someone, does not mean it will translate to others easily. It’s a matter of trying, and then watching yourself closely to see what the effects are.

It is also important to stress that there is nothing wrong with seeking help from medical practitioners, or in taking medication to ease things. From personal experience I have gone through this. I have avoided speaking to my doctor or seeing a psychologist, and battled with the thoughts of taking anti-depressants. But, sometimes that added assistance helps. It doesn’t mean you are a lesser human being. It just means that you are human.

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Anxiety


I found the following piece of prose in a travel journal from 2001. These were dark days for me as I was suffering from bad depression and anxiety – I know that now. At the time I was overseas on my first European trip and loving it. I finally felt free – I was tasting independence and happiness, and I was dreading coming home.

I’ve had a go at tweaking it slightly, so that it now flows better. I thought I would share with you, as an insight into the mind of someone struggling with anxiety.

The thoughts circle each other…

Round…and round…and around.

I want them to stop but my mind is trapped.

There is no escape route or ‘off’ switch,

Just the constant whirring of the cogs in my brain.

At times the effort seems too great,

But as I breathe, life goes on.

Janine Ripper 2001, Revised 2011

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Berthold Auerbach


Music has such an amazing effect on me when I let actually relax and let it work it’s way into my body and brain. I love the feeling of the bass throbbing through my body. I love the liberating feeling of singing loudly to no one. I love the surprise the iPod brings as it shuffles the songs and delivers the next surprise…and then the memories that come flooding back with that song.

Today I found myself driving along the highway, sun shining, blue sky, car windows down, hair blowing madly around my head, music blaring, singing at the top of my lungs to songs I hadn’t heard in ages. I felt happy and I felt free.

Fall to Pieces, Velvet Revolver. As the name of the song says, it’s about someone falling to pieces after a relationship ending. This song stuck a chord with me at a time when I thought Denis and I were going to break up. I literally felt as if my life was falling to pieces…and every time I would live the gym in winter to go home, I would play this song loudly, sing, and cry, cry, cry.

With or Without You, U2. This always reminds me of my last night of my first trip overseas. I was in Singapore and had finally been given a taste of what I had always wanted – travel – and I loved it more than I had imagined. I did not want to go home to my miserable life. I was in a club called Chimes with a good friend, new friends, new experiences such as a dentist chair in the middle of a club where people were getting drinks poured down their throats, cool music and life…I was having the time of my life…so I cried.

Nights In White Satin, Moody Blues. This song was chosen by my Mum to play at my Grandad’s funeral (her Dad). Apparently he had loved the song, and it was then that I realised I had never known he had actually liked music. Normally, Nights in White Satin touches me – the peaks and troughs that bring with it a change in intensity. But at a funeral…I believe we all cried.

Grace, Jeff Buckley. This song, and Jeff’s voice (RIP), touches my soul. If I am happy, it makes me feel happier. If I am sad, it comforts me. Now I realise how depressed I actually was in my late teens, and I credit Jeff and his music for getting me through. It is such a shame that he is no longer with us – but for the time he was, he provided us with such incredible beauty.

Are you a music lover?

What songs have touched your lives?

Maintaining Balance


Lady in the sea

The thing about living with depression, or having had depression, is that it’s always in the back of your mind that it will get worse or that it will return.

I’ve had a rough few weeks. I’m tired and I’m run down. I feel low. At the moment it’s not a relapse, as I know exactly what’s getting me down, I don’t want to sleep all of the time, I can eat, I haven’t pushed every man and his dog away, and I can still genuinely laugh (and I’m not a total bitch to live with). But the thought is there. The what if…what if this is the beginning, again. What if something else happens and I lose control. I know – I’ve been there a few times. I remember what it was like. It scares me.

It IS different this time, as I do now know and recognise the signs. I have an awareness of my triggers, and I know what coping mechanisms help for me. I am also already on anti-depressants – so my blessed brain already has some added assistance to help keep balanced. It’s like my security blanket. The thought of staying on these bloody pills forever is a daunting thought, but it’s one I can live with. It’s like people with diabetes – in order to maintain their blood sugar levels they need insulin. For those with high blood pressure, they need tablets (and a healthy diet). For people with depression, some of us need a daily pill – accompanied by exercise, fresh air, relaxation, good food, and a whole lot of laughter.

The other notable difference is that I’m still writing. During all of the other times, I couldn’t. For years I had lost the ability to create, to string words together, to do what I love…and there is no way in hell that I’m letting it go now that I’ve found it again!