Sunday, 30 November 2014

Things That Help at Christmas: Giving your Recovery Skills a Christmas Twist

This is the forth post in our series called:

Things That Help at Christmas

4. Giving your Recovery Skills a Christmas Twist

Whether you like it or loathe it, Christmas is going to be stuck in our faces for the foreseeable future. It can be such a difficult time of year for many people who struggle with emotional distress. Maybe this year you could learn to find the joy in Christmas, as we may as well try to create some fun for ourselves. It's never ever too late to create new ways of thinking about this time of year. It's just a matter of changing how you approach it. 

There are plenty of skills you need to learn when you’re recovering from emotional distress or mental illness. Many of these skills need to be practiced daily until they become more natural. And MANY of these skills are just begging for a Christmas twist!

Practicing gratitude: Gratitude helps us appreciate our situation and realise we are far richer in life than we think. Can you name 5 things you are grateful for this Christmastime?

Giving yourself credit: Credit is a tricky one to give to yourself because there’s that drone in your head saying notgoodenough. But actually you need to learn to give yourself credit for all the challenging things you do. It makes you a fighter and you’ll feel a little better if you tell yourself a simple well done me! So what 5 things have you done today/recently that you need to give yourself credit for?

Dreaming: Dreams are key in moving you out of distress. When you’re in the black hole you’ve got to dream big to motivate yourself to climb out. If Christmastime is a tricky time for you, then ask yourself how would you like it to be? Keep in mind you can only control your actions, so what can you do to improve your Christmas and bring it closer to the one you wish for? If you dream of feeling calm at Christmas, then what can you do today to get you closer to that calm state?

Monkey see, monkey do: It’s hard to think straight at Christmas when your head is so busy with negative thoughts. But all around you are people who are at least trying to enjoy the festivities. Learn from them. What are they doing that seems to be making them happy? Are they meeting up with friends? Are they walking around town looking at the lights? Are they watching Christmas movies? Are they baking gingerbread men? Look to others for inspiration and don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Films: Films are a great way to pull yourself out of your head. If your concentration isn’t great, then Christmastime is actually a great time to watch films, because many of them are geared towards children. Stick on something and pull yourself out of the gloom for an hour.

Music: I know, I know, the songs have gotten so very repetitive haven’t they?! But music is a great mood lifter. There’s even a Christmas radio station every year- Christmas FM. You can listen online, or use YouTube. There’s not need to listen to hours of the stuff, because you’d need the patience of a saint- but try dip in and out of some holiday music for brief periods.

Creature comforts: Christmastime is a great time of year for getting cosy with blankets, woolly socks and hot water bottles. Money might be tight, but most of us have a hot water bottle lurking in the back of the hot press or in the attic. Rescue it!

Candles and lighting: Personally I have found candles to be a very powerful calmer-downer. There are some gorgeous candles out there to buy, but if money is tight, then go to one of the euro shops and buy one of those huge packs of 100 tea lights. Lying in a candlelit room is very calming. I also love being in the darkness with just the Christmas tree lights glowing. If you’re not putting a tree up this year for whatever reason, then there’s lots of little LED lights to buy, which are cheap, and cheerful- and most importantly, do the same job!

Flowers or foliage: I was given a bunch of fresh holly yesterday that someone cut off their holly tree. It’s exactly like the holly on the Christmas cards. I have it all rammed into a vase on the windowsill and I must say it looks nice! I’ve never had it before so it’s completely new for me, and not attached to any memories. Can anyone give you a bunch of holly? Or can you buy some? (See our previous post about flowers here)

Fighting the pull to isolate: This one is tricky I know. The desire to isolate ourselves can be so strong, but connecting with other human beings is vital. Human connection is needed for the soul. Go easy on yourself, I’m not saying to sign up to every Ten Pubs of Christmas you can find, or host The Partaaay of the Season. But phoning someone you care about can be helpful. Christmastime is a time of great difficulty for many because the loneliness gets amplified. You are not the only one, so reaching out to others is a win-win act. Don't forget about animals too! (See our previous post about pet therapy here) You could invite someone for a coffee, a walk in the park, or a mosey about town. You could send a text to tell someone you’re thinking of him or her, or phone someone for a natter. Just reach out to the people in your life, and likely they’ll be grateful you did.

The most important thing to remember is that you have the power to improve any situation. The power is in your hands to make things a little better this year!

Please take care of yourselves,

Love from DareToLiveSOS xxx

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Pictures of life

If you look up, you'll notice life happening all around you. There are things to make you smile if you just look up. Take your eyes off the ground and notice the beauty.

Let me tell you about three little things that made me smile today.

1. Today while crossing a bridge in Dublin I saw a very little girl being dragged along by her Dad's hand. She was wearing a too-big-for-her Elsa (from Disney's Frozen- if you were living under a rock!) dress with colourful stripy woollen tights. She was clutching a cupcake in her other hand with green icing all over her face. She looked happy, and it made me smile.

2. This evening I put up my Christmas tree. I unplugged the lamp to check if the lights stilled worked. They worked! They lit up, and I caught myself smiling like a big child. When the tree was done I sat back and admired my work. The colours and the lights made me happy.

3. I was walking along a corridor today when I could see a young man smiling and laughing into a pram. I could see his face, but couldn't see into the pram. He wasn't speaking English so I don't know what he was saying. But eventually I got close enough to see why he was smiling. There was a baby dressed like an elf in the pram. Her little legs kept kicking into the air and she was squealing happily every time her dad spoke. It gave me a little lift to see something so simple.

Did you see anything that made you smile today? Did you notice the life happening around you?

Choose to get better

A very difficult concept I had to learn was that of choice. It's a difficult pill to swallow, excuse the pun. But there comes a time when we must accept that we have choices in life, and sometimes we must choose to do the hard thing, because it's the right thing. The easy thing is often the self destructive thing. If you've spent a long time tearing your house down brick by brick, then it's pretty challenging to suddenly decide you'll build it back up again. It seems weird and unfamiliar.

I have struggled with this choice business because I felt like the way I was feeling must be all my fault. That the destruction I had caused in my life, and my family's lives, was on purpose. But no no no, silly me. I never chose to become mentally unwell, but I did have to choose to get better.

Don't be scared of Choice. Making a choice towards wellness is one of the most empowering feelings in the world!

If you don't choose to engage with the process of feeling better and getting better, then you'll stay stuck forever. Sometimes you have to take a chance on the advice given to you, and put your trust in someone else's judgement.

"You must make a CHOICE to take a CHANCE, or your life will never CHANGE"

In recovery from an eating disorder, a lot of it is done with blind faith. I was so stuck in what I believed was right, that it was pretty challenging to back down. I found it hard to trust someone because it felt like they were telling me the sky is green and pigs have wings. But I realised my way certainly wasn't working for me. So maybe it was time to hold up the white flag and agree to try it someone else's way.

Taking chances with other people's advice is an important part of healing from a mental illness. It won't be the easiest thing, unfortunately. Imagine the negativity is like a river flowing downstream, and you're sitting in a little boat. It's much more difficult to row in the opposite direction as the water is heading. The easiest thing is to allow the river drag you downstream. It's easier, but it's not the right thing to do. You have to choose to paddle against the river. And it's hard, tiring and feels yuck- but it's the right thing.

Sometimes the choices we have are simple, like to have a shower or to stay in our pyjamas.  Other times they're much bigger- it might be to start working in a job that will give our day some structure and allow us some pride at earning a few bob. Both can seem almost impossible, but we have to choose to do the hard thing that will ultimately help us. The choices are personal to each of out journeys and they change as we progress towards freedom.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Things That Help at Christmas: Christmas Movies

This is the third post in our series called:

Things That Help at Christmas

3. Christmas Movies

Christmastime can be a time of enormous financial and emotional stress for many people. But we also have choices in how we look at the holiday period. Without a doubt there will be Christmas movies on TV for the next month. If you need to get your mind off something, or you need a little cheering up- then please consider getting lost in a Christmas movie.

It's never too late to create new memories. And nothing is ever so dark that a little Christmas cheer won't brighten it up, even a little! Let yourself feel some child-like wonder :)

Did you know that some cinemas are putting on showings of classic Christmas movies this December? For example Light House Cinema in Dublin is playing:
  • Scrooged
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol
  • Love Actually
  • Elf
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • Home Alone
  • It's a Wonderful Life
  • Frozen- Sing Along 
Google your local cinema and see what's playing! But the films the cinemas choose will also be playing on TV, so you won't miss out!

Some people even have fun with Christmas movie challenges. The idea is to try to watch all the movies on whatever list they find online. Obviously we all have commitments but having a look at the lists could inspire you to choose a movie you've never seen before. To make it easy for you I found a link to a list.

I'm looking forward to watching Elf. What are you looking forward to?

Monday, 24 November 2014

Accepting the more uncomfortable emotions.

Emotions can be a tricky field to navigate, for both men and women. I think it can take time for all of us to get a good grip of how to handle them. Maybe it’s their lack of logic, or their varying strength that can catch us off guard. But they have a remarkable ability to make us uncomfortable and embarrassed and just be a general pain to deal with.

Happiness is ok though, right? We accept happiness with open arms, almost begging it to continue coming in abundance. The rest however, definitely seem to exude less appeal. Who wants anger, fear or even worse, sadness?

Anger is one that has been a struggle for me along the way, and I know I’m not alone in that. I just didn’t know what to do with it or where it was coming from. It’s an emotion with a fiery energy, an explosive potential which of course can be scary. But it’s also like it has gotten bad press, we just don’t want to be associated with it and we can nearly feel guilty for even having angry feelings. But, like all emotions it’s a signal, it’s a natural reaction. It comes from the same internal system as happiness yet for some reason causes more unease than welcome.

What I’ve learnt (however slowly), is that suppressing it absolutely will not help. You can’t walk around being numb to your emotions, contrary to what you may like to be, you are not a robot. If something irritates you, express it. Get it out by whatever means works for you, even if you need to find a punch-bag or go out for a sprint.

The thing about anger is that it presents as energy and it’s up to you how you utilize that. Just remember that if you store it in the pit of your stomach and let it fester, it will inevitably explode. So find the methods that allow you to express it in a healthy manner; talk it out, write about it, do breathing exercises, or even scream into a pillow.

Sadness- Ugh sadness! This is definitely an uncomfortable one. I don’t want to look weak, vulnerable nor out of control and that’s what sadness would infer isn’t it? A certain vulnerability or sensitivity that I don’t want connected with me. As if I can escape it; none of us can by the way.

It’s a natural response to life’s experiences and it’s about time we stop avoiding it. It’s not embarrassing to get upset, but yeah I know that discomfort can arise. Irrespective of whatever we’ve been told growing up, in society or even what we assume others think, it’s worth believing that crying is not weak. It doesn’t mean you lack composure, it doesn’t mean you’re childish or ‘overly emotional’. In fact, it’s necessary and therapeutic. It’s the same as knowing that if we were tired, we’d go to sleep. If we get upset, crying is the answer. Regardless how much mascara may run, or man points you’re afraid of losing, you’ve got to let it out. And you will feel better after.

Fear- Being fearless has an attractive sound to it, an impression of confidence, of control and strength. But how often is that genuine? Fear comes into all of our lives in different doses, big or small it can just creep right in. There’s nothing wrong with that.

What’s great about fear is that it gives you something to overcome. You can meet it as a challenge and show it that you aren’t going to allow it to cripple you. At various stages, fear has ruled me and prevented me from living life to the fullest, but I now know that it’s actually just a feeling stemming from false evidence that appears real.

And you can change feelings; you can embrace them, conquer them and turn them into another feeling. Fear may be overwhelming but it’s within your power to rationalize it out and quite often realize that the cause of the fear wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought.

From someone who has engaged a litany of coping mechanisms to avoid feeling how rubbish I was feeling, I can assure you, allowing emotions to flow freely is a great step in feeling better. It doesn’t mean you’re not strong; it doesn’t affect the tough armor you may be wearing. Emotions tell us what’s going on inside, because as much as we can try preoccupy our minds, everything continues to get processed internally. Bottling it up or downing a bottle to drown it out, is not gonna do you any favors.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Bucket Lists

Whether you hope to die age 100 with a cup of tea in your hand and a cat on your lap, or die age 50 on the greatest adventure of your life through the North Pole, then this is a post for you.

A few years ago I set myself a task to at least entertain the idea that I had a future, and that it could possibly be filled with some fun.

I dared myself to dream. And it helped! I never realised that I do actually have a long list of things I'd like to do before I die. I spent 2 hours writing up this list. And it really REALLY helped to lift my mood.

Do you have a Bucket List? If you don't, would you like one?


  • get married
  • have a baby
  • meet Ellen DeGeneres
  • learn to belly dance
  • learn to do the rubicks cube
  • do a colour run
  • bob about in the dead sea
  • fly first class
  • visit a haunted house
  • get to shoot a gun. a real one
  • send a message in a bottle
  • go to Eurodisney and Disneyworld
  • walk on the great wall of china
  • see pyramids
  • ride on an elephant
  • go to a wax museum
  • see the northern lights
  • be woken up by a rooster
  • rope swing into water
  • sleep under stars with no tent
  • snorkel the great barrier reef
  • stay in an icehotel in sweden
  • visit the REAL santa in the North pole
  • make my own fizz bombs for the bath
  • see a firefly
  • put my hand into wet concrete
  • learn to ride a unicycle
  • ride a zip-line
  • go skiing!
  • go to South Africa
  • get kicked out of somewhere for laughing too much
  • go on safari and see a real life lion/tiger/rhino/giraffe/elephant/zebra
  • own a real diamond ring
  • have a mudfight
  • rescue an dog and keep him forever
  • ride in a hot air balloon!
  • fly a plane, even for 30 seconds - one of those little ones
  • ice skate in central park in new york
  • learn to drive
  • crush grapes with my feet in a vineyard
  • have a food fight
  • have a paint fight
  • try on my friend's ballet pointe shoes
  • milk a cow
  • ride in a helicopter
  • see the Taj Mahal
  • see the Grand Canyon
  • go to Yellowstone National Park
  • go to a Post Secret event
  • go to platform 9 3/4 a la harry potter
  • save someone's life
  • go scuba diving
  • see something in The Olympics
  • see a firefly tree!
  • go to the glow worm caves in NZ

*Want to write your Bucket List? Ah go on :)

Entertain the idea of a future! 

Friday, 21 November 2014

Things That Help at Christmas: Being Social Media Savvy

This is the second post in our series called:

Things That Help at Christmas

One of the main things I realised about social media at Christmas was that I was going to have to open my eyes to the idea that many human beings have a tendency to pretend that their life is glitzier than it really is. They fill their Facebook pages with 'proof' of how popular they are and how busy they are. I can feel quite overwhelmed when social media becomes flooded with groups of 'happy' people in Christmas jumpers having their 12 Pubs or whatever other group activity is a) in vogue and b) provides a public platform to showcase one's shiny social life.

2. Tips for Being Social Media Savvy

1. Cut yourself a break. If you're struggling with merely breathing at the moment then it is more than OK to go easy on yourself. In fact, it's necessary. There's always next year :)

2. Remind yourself you have nothing to prove. Sometimes people are so  caught up with checking into places that they forget that life is for living, not just for documenting. You do not need to fill your Facebook with statuses about glitzy Christmas parties. Nowhere will you find that a requirement of life.

3. Feel free to say you don't enjoy something. Even if it seems like everyone else does! Own your individuality! Personally I find crowded pubs too overwhelming. And if a group arrives in and it's their 10th pub then it's no wonder I feel a pull to go hide under a table and wait it out.

4. Get curious about what you do like! Do you like Christmas lights? What about strolling around town with a cup of novelty Christmas-themed coffee? What about going to a Christmas panto? What about watching some of the free choirs around? What about watching a Christmas movie in your PJs? Figure out what you enjoy. Trial and error!

5. Stay switched on as you look at social media. Keep reminding yourself that Social Media World is not The Real World. You're not seeing the whole picture. Remember people show you what they want you to see. Keep reassuring yourself when you feel yourself starting to compare.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Things That Help at Christmas: Cards

This is the first post in our series called:

Things That Help at Christmas

Sorry the photo isn't great quality but sure I never claimed I was a photographer. I just wanted to share something simple that really helps me.

1. Christmas cards!

I got these ones in Paperchase

I know I often feel very alone, like I could poof into thin air and nobody would even notice. But if I think about who I'd like to send a Christmas card to then it's hard to deny that I feel a little better. You could even send anonymously if you want! You can send cards very cheaply these days. Most pound shops, or should I say euro stores, have packets for next to nothing. 

I know many people think Christmas cards are old fashioned in the age of electronic Christmas cards but sometimes it's worth resurrecting old traditions

Every year I write the cards for my parents to send to all their neighbours. I write them and my Dad plays postman. In school I used to buy the miniature ones and give everyone one. I'm sure there are a few people who felt a little better to be thought of. Human connection is very important in life. The giving and receiving of Christmas cards helps with this connection!

It's a nice distraction to shop for Christmas cards too! There's even lots of charity cards these days, so you can feel like you're supporting a good cause. 

I know that I will send far more than I will receive, but that's OK. I enjoy decorating the envelopes with Christmas tape. I enjoy writing in my red glitter pen. I like thinking of the people in my life and how I'm grateful for them, and practicing gratitude is always a helpful thing!

I love opening up a Christmas card, admiring the picture on the front and enjoying the sentiment inside. I also love displaying them in my sitting room- so much colour!

An Post even brings out Christmas stamps every year. This year the national stamps are of a little girl wearing an angel costume. It only costs 68c this year to post a card, and it's free if you deliver it yourself! Are there elderly neighbours on your street who would love a card? There is definitely someone in your life to send a card to!

I'm lucky enough to have penpals so I will send them a card too. It feels really satisfying to seal an envelope and think about the person who will then rip it open. 

If people in your life don't send Christmas cards, then that's OK. Gandhi had some wise words that usually apply to much deeper topics than cards, but it's still relevant here- be the change

Maybe you will start off a new tradition among your friends :)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Why words like 'good' and 'bad' are unhelpful

Everywhere we turn, we hear people adding moral tones to everyday activities. In lunchrooms individuals are 'being good' by depriving their bodies of substantial nourishment as various financially-driven-diets vilify certain food. People in gyms are 'being good' by pounding away on a machine in a stuffy monotonous hell. Why are we dividing everything up into these two very small boxes?

What does good even mean? What about bad?

Is it making us feel happy to use these words all day long? This ping-pong between pride and shame.

People everywhere are completely overusing, and misusing the words 'good' and 'bad'. Believe it or not, most things we do every day do not actually require a moral judgement. If you turn down a mince pie, that does not suddenly make you a good person- whatever that is!

What I've learned on my journey is that overusing the words good and bad is unhelpful.

If we totally scrap the words good and bad, and instead use the words helpful and unhelpful, then we'd be much more content, not to mention productive! If you think you're bad, then you end up feeling bad. And that's not helpful for anyone! Remember your thoughts create how you feel. If you keep telling yourself you're bad, then it's no wonder really that you're not feeling very happy...

It's not a bad idea to read negative news stories. But it is definitely unhelpful! It's not bad to stay in your pjammas all day, but again it's pretty unhelpful to your state of mind. You're not a good person if you decide to fight the negative dis-ease in your mind, but it's undeniably helpful. Eating nutritionally dense food every few hours does not affect your moral integrity, but it's pretty helpful to your energy levels and state of mind.

Think of a small child acting up while you're trying to get them into a pram so you can run for the bus. The child isn't a bad child just because he/she is behaving unhelpfully. Telling that child he/she is a bad child would be pretty damaging, as I'm sure you'd agree. So why do we think it's ok to call ourselves good and bad people based on arbitrary parameters that we create during the day? It's not helpful that the child is throwing a wobbly, but it doesn't tell us anything about the kindness in that child's heart!

Telling a quiet child how 'good they are' may seem like a 'nice' thing to say, but is it really? It's teaching the child that quietness makes them a good child. And the inverse- that being noisy makes them a bad child. When really, peace and quiet is helpful if you're trying to do a crossword!

And on the topic of good or bad people- how does one even define a good or bad person? By how many low fat products they eat in a day (yuck!) or by the love in their heart? Labelling people is unhelpful at the best of times, but labelling them with moral words like good and bad doesn't help anybody. When you think you're in a 'bad' situation you can end up feeling very down.

So let's change how we're looking at life!

It's not a bad day, it's just raining.
It's not a bad week, you're just struggling to cope with all your duties.
It's not a bad song, it just doesn't appeal to you.
It's not bad traffic, there's just lots of people trying to drive the same route.
It's not good or bad food, you've just heard it labelled as such.
It's not a bad idea, but there might be a simpler way to do something.
It's not bad to read beauty magazines, but it is unhelpful to your body image.

If someone tells you they have 'bad news', you end up approaching that news with a negative outlook. But if you can remember that news is just news, and that there's a solution for everything, then you'll really be able to cope with anything life throws at you!

I don't like being labelled as good or bad by whether or not I do something that society has deemed a good or bad action. It's unhelpful. It does not help me reach my goals in life. It gets in the way of my dreams. It's an unnecessary. I don't go to the gym, but that doesn't make me a bad person. I like the odd cupcake, but that also doesn't make me a bad person. When I eat a cupcake or walk past a gym, my moral integrity remains untouched. I am still a person with lots of love to give. I'm still a person who values kindness and compassion. And if that doesn't contribute to what the ineffable 'good person' is then I don't know what does.

So save good or bad for situations when there really is no alternative word. If you can come up with a sentence then let me know, because I couldn't think of even one!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Begin to Believe

Within our own personal journeys, we all have our ups and downs, unfortunately sometimes more of one than the other. So we all know that, inevitably, difficult times will hit.
They can catch us off guard as we trip up and plummet into them, or they can be the result of a long time struggling. It’s those days when we want to make it all stop, want to run away or press rewind, those are the days where we need a solution.
Throughout my journey, I have found myself in these times more than I would have liked to. And I have wondered how I can possibly continue.
It’s too hard, I can’t do this, it’ll never end.
But as I’m clearly still here, there’s always been something that kept me going. That something is my beliefs, my hope. I have some strong beliefs that I can grab onto with both hands when there seems to be nothing else and I trust that they’ll get me through.
These can be simple quotes, specific words or certain ideas that really mean something to you. They can be reminders that this pain or difficulty is not forever, that ‘this too shall pass’.
They can be the simple faith that ‘everything happens for a reason’, reassuring us that this setback is just our set up for a comeback
They can be the belief that someone cares about us and is rooting for us even if we’re not rooting for ourselves.
They can be simply that tomorrow will be better, that there is always hope, that we can take control of what happens next.
Beliefs are thoughts we can truly trust and when the world feels like it’s spiraling out of control, having something to catch on to is crucial. It’s not always easy to choose what to believe in though as trust can be difficult to allow into our lives. What if these thoughts aren’t true? What if nothing actually changes and the bad times stick around? What if our mind is too dark to entertain any positive outlook?
There’s times when those beliefs don’t connect to us enough and they don’t seem to be tangible ideas. They get lost in a whirl of negativity that’s taken up residence within. After all, they are external to us and can be so broadly applicable. So what do we do when they don’t work?
Well that’s when we learn that there’s really just one solid thing to believe in. And it’s not a phrase or quote by Einstein, it’s a person. The one person you’re stuck with forever, the one person who will pick your ass up when it’s gotten cosy in a rut.
It’s always going to come down to You.
Your capabilities, your strength, your desire for change, that’s the driving fuel to find your way out and into the good place that you deserve to be in.
You are the only one who can decipher the length of the bad patch. You can make it as long or as short as you decide. And you are the only one who can pull yourself out of it every time, you absolutely have to believe that you have the strength to do that, believe that you are enough, that you can do this even though it’s hard.
While they’re great at times, a quote or phrase will only help if you can connect to it. If your mind is too clouded to let any wisdom in, of course it’ll be hard to see the light in some words you’ve borrowed from someone else.
The switch is never out of reach though, and if you can believe in yourself, you can always stretch your hand out to illuminate your next step forward.
If there’s anything I can offer for you to believe in, it’s that we’re all here for a reason and that you can get through an incredible amount if you just believe that you can.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Personal Story: 'My Story' by Murtough Ware

It's with great honour we share, with permission, a personal story by Murtough Ware. The young footballer from Carlow has some wonderful words of hope. He got through incredibly dark times and is sharing his story to inspire you to hold on. He fought through severe emotional distress, self harm and suicide attempts, and is living proof that things get better. He did it, so can you! Please stay on this planet long enough to realise that life is worth living. Thank you, Murtough!

by Murtough Ware

I was 15 years old, lying in bed I didn’t know what was going on. Everyone thought I was happy go lucky, living a carefree life. The truth was I was dying slowly on the inside. I felt numb inside and had no interest in life. I wasn’t able to get up to go to school or even face the outside world. Lying in bed all day but had no clue what was wrong with me. All I could see was darkness and all I could hear was negative voices in my head. I was my own worst enemy. I was sent to the doctors where I was given medication that only worked for a short while and then I was advised to go see a therapist. I had no idea what I was doing there and dropped out straight away. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. I was too young to admit to anything. I was filled with a feeling of loneliness and sadness all day every day.

This continued and even though I was advised by family to go see my doctor, there was no moving me. I had a few good days here and there but felt miserable on the inside most of the time. As I turned 18 I was getting worse and fast. Insecurity and anxiety crept in alongside my low moods. I couldn’t relax in myself. I was constantly worrying about things that weren’t there always imagining and seeing the worst possible outcome in everything. At this stage my confidence was quickly disappearing. I was nervous around people. I had no belief in myself. It felt like I didn’t even exist.

I was suffering through this torture alone. Nobody else knew about it not even my family or friends. They would have probably laughed back then because they all thought I was full of confidence growing up playing sport and going through school. No one knew I was wearing a mask. It’s so easy to cover up mental health problems. On the outside I seemed perfect, on the inside I was going through hell. I was so young that I didn’t know what was really happening. I thought it would have been stupid to tell someone how I felt. How wrong I was.

The pain was only starting properly as I reached my 20’s.

Things really started to take a turn for the worst. I continued to lie to doctors and therapists. I told them I felt fine that I didn’t need any help. Around this time I started to lose my will to live. I can’t describe how it felt to going asleep at night and hoping I wouldn’t wake up. I cried myself to sleep. My one wish was to be dead. All I wanted was to be happy, something that seems so simple but yet was ruining my life. In all this I noticed something. I was so self-critical that it was killing me. I could see nothing only the bad things.

As I turned 21, things got so bad that I made an effort to take my own life. I had enough. I wanted this pain to stop. I was admitted to St. Patricks University Hospital in March 2012. I was terrified. I met my doctor and there I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This involves many things including features of depression, mood-swings and anxiety. This was also the reason I was so self-critical. Amazing and all as the staff and the hospital were, I still wasn’t ready to admit to my problems. I discharged myself stupidly and tried to convince myself that I didn’t need the help.

As 2012 went on things got worse as I began to engage in different types self-harm. This took the pain away from my head and relieved me somewhat but was only making things worse. I became suicidal on a regular basis still wishing that I was dead. People say self-harm is a form of attention seeking but those people doesn’t understand the pain and suffering that goes with mental illness. Self-harm becomes a horrible addiction and when you are so sick it feels like the only way. As the year went on I continued to play football for my club Eire Og. We played Portlaoise in a practice game one night and as the game went on I felt like I was somewhere else. I was so down on myself by this time that my confidence had completely gone. I started to cry on the pitch and asked to be taken off. I cried my eyes out in the dressing room. Suicidal thoughts and urges had taken over my life. This happened to me on more than one occasion playing football. From this point on I knew I was in trouble. Football had been my only break from my suffering but now it was gone too.

In January 2013, I made another attempt to take my life and thankfully someone was looking down on me. I had sent a few of my friends a text to say goodbye that night and luckily I woke up the following morning without any damage. Nobody deserves a message like that and I still regret it. I was re-admitted to hospital in April and spent two months there where I really worked hard but the self-harm and suicidal thoughts still continued throughout the year. The self-harm really took over my life. In August I started to attend Pieta House. What an amazing place and a life saver. But in November I was yet again re-admitted to hospital where I spent 6 weeks. This time I stuck with it till the end and eventually came out the better. There were days in there I felt like I’d never get out or return to my normal life. I was eventually discharged and got back to normality.

In the past year I’ve still been working on getting things right. I’ve gotten back to football, college, etc. I am still a long way off full recovery. Each and every day is a battle and can be a huge struggle but I keep digging in. I’ve had setbacks and will continue to do so but giving in isn’t an option.

I wrote this to let people know its ok to feel like this especially young people. We have to get rid of this ridiculous stigma and save more lives. I have no issue with my problems. I am proud for what I’ve been through. I’ve been to hell and back. Telling my family and friends was the best thing I did because I received so much support. I would urge anyone who is suffering to look for help and to tell someone how they are feeling. It saved my life. I owe everything to St Patricks University Hospital and Pieta House-two amazing places where I got all the help I needed and met some inspirational people along the way. I also owe everything to everyone that supported me throughout my battle and continue to support me-my brilliant family, the best friends in the world (whose patience I tested so much during the last few years). It’s the toughest thing I’ll ever face and nearly killed me but I’m not afraid anymore and I really want others to speak up, seek help and save their own lives. Mental illness is beatable. We don’t need to be losing people over it. It’s an illness not a weakness.


You don't have to life with 'it' forever!

This morning I came across yet another person who was told they'd have to "live with their mental illness for the rest of their lives". This makes me very angry for so many reasons, mainly because: what a hopeless message that is to receive from a professional who is supposed to motivate you! Some say they're just being realistic, but I believe it's easier to say this to a sufferer than to promise you'll never give up on them.

Recovery from mental illness, emotional distress, dis-ease or whatever way you want to phrase it, is possible for EVERYONE. Full recovery is possible. It might take you a long time but if you're willing to work at it then it is there for you.

Every time someone tells you, or you tell yourself, that you will be stuck like this forever it is just affirming something to you that isn't even true. You'd be amazed what you believe if you hear it often enough.

Some people stop trying, yes. They give up and decide to settle for a half-life. But you don't have to! You really, really don't.

Doctors, psychiatrists, therapists aren't always right. In fact, they are human which means they are definitely not always right. Sometimes our loved ones have doubts. But you can prove everyone wrong :)

I was told I'd have to live with it. I was told I'd have to work part time and learn to manage it. Well peanuts to that!!! That professional was very wrong. And so were the other professionals who told me the same thing.

Think of all the miracles you've ever heard of! People told they'd never have babies, and then they fall pregnant. People told their chance of survival was incredibly grim, and then they bounced back. Every day there are thousands of people overcoming all sorts of obstacles and beating all the odds

We can all be free! I know you doubt it for yourself, we all do at times. But look at the survivors who have come out the other side. Let them fill you with hope. You get out of it what you put in. So put in the effort and surround yourself with people who believe in your ability to overcome any obstacle.

We believe in you! You do not have to live with anything.

If you want to recover, you'll find a way. 
If you don't, you'll find an excuse. 

Be the hero of your own story and prove the doubters wrong. Join the group of people who are living proof that recovery is there for everyone!

Life is Short

In the cold and wet of November we must work that little bit harder to remind ourselves that there's a sun shining behind the clouds! But there is. And there always will be! So here is a bit of inspiration we found for this dreary Tuesday. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who came to our Evening of Hope on October 22nd. We felt very privileged to share our stories. We were full of the joys afterwards and want to thank you all for making the evening such a success.

Also, thank you to the brave souls who asked questions at the end! I think everyone benefitted from your questions and hopefully our answers helped in some small way.

If you missed the evening, don't worry, we're planning more events for the future.

Just remember, you are never alone. Others have been in your position and found a way through, and you can too. Hang in there, and never give up!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Pet Therapy

Pet Therapy

Judgement Free Therapy


Sometimes people underestimate the healing powers and effects that animals have on people. Animals can sense when someone is stressed, upset, lonely , or feeling down. There have been many times when I have been feeling very low and not myself and I noticed my dog remains very close to me and often would come over for a cuddle. I truly believe animals pick up on our feelings. It is so interesting to witness and has really helped to soothe me in those dark days of loneliness.

It's amazing the difference it makes when you simply rub your hands through your dog or cats coat. Its been known to have a calming effect on people - the simple act of petting your animal. People often say in times of anxiety it has helped them a lot. Now i know animals can not speak to you or offer advice, but they can listen. If you have a problem why not tell your dog? You might think it is a mad idea but if you feel alone and like you have nobody, it can most definately make you feel less alone, because well, you are never alone in the presence of your pet are you?

When you are feeling overwhelmed with lifes challenges and dont know where to turn, taking a few minutes down time to sit on the couch with your pet and allow yourself to relax, pet them for a while and appreciate their company can make all the difference. Why not try it? Research has shown that petting your dog or cat (or whatever pet you may have ) can reduce blood pressure and therefore decreases risks of heart attacks. The one that stands out to me the most is that it has been proven that interacting with animals can increase the production of the hormones serotonin and oxytocin - the hormones which helps us to feel happy :) :)

When you feel trapped in your house, not motivated to do anything, your pet can be a means of social interaction especially in times of loneliness. Simply bringing your dog for a walk can be a means to help bring you back out of this awful isolation. Both of you benefit hugely as it's a sure thing the dog would be only too happy to get out and it gets you out in the fresh air amongst nature and can help you to clear your head and also gentle exercise like this can do wonders for your state of mind. And if you dont have a dog yourself you can always borrow one for an hour - offering to walk a friend of relatives dog perhaps? There is always a solution !

So to summarise, animals can have a huge impact in helping us to heal mentally and emotionally and are a great source of companionship. You are never alone.