The topic of mental health and wellbeing has been gaining traction over recent years. What once was a taboo subject to society, has now turned its view on not only mental health but a range of conditions that can affect us all as human beings.
This mainly has a lot to do with people talking about their experiences, and organisations telling us about the support they offer, both coupled with the realisation that no one person is the same. More than ever, we have begun to recognise when a family member, friend or ourselves are affected by mental health or any other illness, which results in us becoming more educated, and able to exercise empathy.
This is the exciting part because, with knowledge and empathy, we can begin to make a change. Change within ourselves, and for those around us, through talking about it and, in some cases, raising money for charities or support groups.
For myself, anxiety and depression have been part of my story since my brother passed away. He was abroad on a college trip, away from his family, and it took us years to begin piecing together what happened. Unable to process what occurred, and unable to grieve, I put my energy into new projects, such as a house renovation and juggling three jobs. Needless to say, it all eventually caught up with me.
Now, eight years on, I’m finally starting to feel like Will again. That’s just a brief snapshot of my story, and I know that it’s just one of many narratives of someone juggling an overwhelming sense of depression in their day to day lives.
Not one to sit down and do nothing, I’ve written a few brief blog posts on my own personal experiences. The idea here is not to tell people how to feel or how to get better, but to voice that not everything is always seen through rose-tinted glasses.
The Big D is essentially a candid timeline of when I first admitted to myself that my mental health needed attention. Writing this gave me a vehicle to show those around me what was going on and also show my passion for talking about mental health.
Right now, I’m happy to say that the fog is much clearer and easier to navigate—through what I’ve learned and talked about. Yes, I have those days where absolutely nothing goes to plan—but don’t we all?
Whilst there are many opinions, tools, and self-help books out there, finding a tailored personal manual on how to deal with bereavement, stress, anxiety, self-confidence, work/life balance, house renovation, families, relationships, health etc. doesn’t exist. That is until you begin to make your own manual, your own positive thought processes, and your own coping mechanisms. In my case, I had to try a lot of different tools, techniques, books, counselling sessions (and six counsellors!) to find what works for me. I had to get to a place where I had no other option than to take the first step, fall back down and get back up again—but I’m getting there!
If you or someone you know relates to this short piece, a belief that this isn’t it, and a willingness to try something new to help yourself, is your first step to moving forward.
I’ve shared some of the tools, resources, and organisations that I’ve used throughout tackling depression below and a link to some of my experiences on my blog The Big D
Mind in Penarth can be found on Station Road and are part of the Vale Of Glamorgan branch of the charity. The resource centre offers 1-2-1 appointments, groups, courses and information on what’s available in the community, as well as signposting to other services.
This was a great gateway service in my experience. I used a few of the courses that we signposted to me by the team, which helped me look at different areas of mental health in a new way. I also completed a series of weekly catchups with one of the volunteers at the surgery, which was a great way to start giving my mental health the attention it needed, before I started counselling – at which point I was on a long waiting list for.
An online service which works in a similar way to Mind by signposting services, tools and courses that are available to help make positive changes to our mental health. Popular open access courses offered are Stress Control and Action For Living, which runs on various dates and venues. No referral or booking is needed – you just need to turn up on the first week.
The website also contains a great page, full of self-help leaflets on a range of mental health topics which can kick start good habits, for those who need a little nudge or for those waiting for a referral.
The service is developed by the Cardiff and Vale Primary Mental Health Support Service who offer a range of mental health services. Referral from your GP is normally needed for all other services. Contact your GP if you feel any of these services would benefit you.
If you feel that seeking professional advice will help you, your GP is a great first point of contact. GP’s are aware of any services you may benefit from, refer you to in-house counsellors, signpost you to NHS services and give you advice on how to deal with day-to-day mental health issues. They can also prescribe book services which can help bridge the gap of waiting lists.
Talking through your experiences and thoughts can have a huge impact on your mental wellbeing. In my experience, counselling was the main exercise which helped me successfully deal with what was going on. One thing I learned from my experience is that it’s important to find the right person. You’ll potentially be opening up about your thoughts and experiences, which can feel a little vulnerable. I went through a few counsellors before I was completely comfortable and I’m so glad that I stuck at it! Some GP surgeries have an in-house counselling service and there are various charity support groups that can help. I’ve recently finished a set of counselling sessions with Cardiff Concern who have really made a big difference. Prepare yourself to be put on a waiting list and when you begin seeing your counsellor, try to keep an open mind about the experience. It can take a little while to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
One of the great experiences I’ve had since talking about my mental health more is finding out I’m not the only one! Being more open has lead to others reaching out and sharing their own experiences. For me, knowing I wasn’t the only one and seeing how others manage their mental wellbeing has taught me a lot. Talking is a really great point and I’ve also found some great services through friends and family. There’s always private professional services that can be found locally as well. Talk In The Bay is a good place to start.
Book Prescription Wales is a scheme that aims to help people with mild to moderate emotional problems to make use of high-quality self-help books that have been specially selected by psychologists and counsellors working in Wales. Your GP or health professional can prescribe a therapy book which is available to borrow from any branch library across Wales. For more information please visit Book Prescription Wales.
Handy books to read
I love a good book. I have to admit though it’s normally fiction! More recently, however, I’ve been interested in reading other people experiences and self-help books on a different range of subjects. I could be here all day with a long list of books I’ve read but here are some of my favourites.
Being a magazine editor, I had to recommend a magazine! A mindfulness-based magazine, Breath is the perfect light read, full of interesting articles, features, writers who give advice and tips on dealing with stress, work/life balances, food, meditation and more.
How To Be Human, The Manual – Ruby Wax
I love it when someone can make me laugh and when you’re feeling low, there’s no better time to get a pick me up. In her latest book, Ruby Wax explores how the mind works through her own experiences and uses the expertise of a neuroscientist and a monk to help her create a manual for being human. I’m still using the mindfulness exercises at the back of the book!
Meditation Made Easy – Stephanie Brookes
I borrowed this gem from Penarth library before Christmas. It’s the perfect book to dip in and out of when needed and a great way to start meditation with simple exercises or spice up your meditation practised with different themes or focusses. Every exercise is simple and easy to follow with a step by step guide. It’s also perfect for those who have 5 minutes or those who have an hour to spend on their mindfulness.
Yoga & Exercise
I’m sure you’ve heard of the benefits exercise can have on your body. The Physical, emotional and psychological benefits of exercise can be gleaned from not only realising feel-good chemicals in our systems but also social interaction with others. We’re split for choice in Penarth of the amount of exercises classes available – just look in our What’s On guide to start a weekly dose of feel-good exercise classes!
Over the past year, I’ve tried Tap Dancing, HIIT classes, Hot Yoga, Pilates, Swimming, PT sessions, Gym, Running and even a tough mudder. I’ve enjoyed every single activity and have never once come out of a session feeling low.
Not one size fits all
This is just a little of what has helped me break down my mental wall over the past 8 years. It’s by no means one-size-fits-all list, and I strongly advise you seek professional help if you feel consistently overwhelmed – you can do it. I do hope though, that some of what I’ve written has inspired you to make a change if you need to.
If you want to read more into my journey, you can find my blog here