'Tis The Season #4 – More than just the winter blues by @HorrorLoverAbbi

Seasonal depression is more than just the winter blues. My world becomes filled with problems that seem so very hard to lose. Seasonal depression is exactly as it sounds. Thoughts in my mind of worthlessness and uselessness go around and around, telling me it would be better if I wasn’t here. The sun who was once my good friend has disappeared and the world around me has turned cold and dark, and nothing seems fun anymore, and so I stay inside, pushing through thoughts of suicide, and not doing anything due to the lack of motivation that begins to crawl into my mind. I have no interest in doing my favourite things, and my sleep is always disrupted, like being on a swing, back and forth, in and out of sleep. I begin to struggle with eating, but I feel like not eating is cheating, that I’m giving into my evil mind that is telling me that to win the winter, I must starve my body.

I become exhausted, but my mind still tells me I’m doing a good job and that winter will be over soon. The lack of sun, food and activity causes me to be nauseous, which further makes me sleep till noon. I become snappy and agitated, because this is what my depressed mind has created. A body that no longer responds positively to food or sleep, but instead forces me to stay in bed and grieve, over a positive mind I used to have a few months ago. A positive mind that told me that I was worth something and that I was enough. Christmas presents are easier to unwrap than unwrapping the part of my mind that tells me that nobody loves me and that everyone is against me and I’m unworthy of feeling cared for. Eating up my vitamins seems easier than eating the Christmas meal at the table in front of my family, where they are all talking and laughing and having fun, describing how it’s been such a great day. My anxiety works with my depression, trying to force me to go upstairs to lie down, but I must fight back against them.

That’s why I know there are ways to deal with this.

I don’t take medication because it’s not on my preferred treatment list, though there is absolutely no disgrace to those who do take it.

I always make sure that as soon as I wake up, I get out of bed before the depressive thoughts start, because if I stay in bed too long, the thoughts come marching in, and it becomes so much harder for me to get up. This also includes staying off twitter for the morning instead of grabbing my phone and clicking on the app as soon as I wake up, because twitter can sometimes trigger my depressive thoughts. I always go downstairs, get a nice cup of tea and a good, healthy breakfast that will support me during the morning when I go for a walk. Going for a walk helps to clear my mind and reminds me that even though dark nights are here, I can still enjoy the beauty of the world during the day, and when the dark nights cloud over me, I can tell myself that I have seen the beautiful frosty grass and the shiny iced pavements that glitter in the little sun that we have during the day. I remind myself constantly that I am enough and that all the love I give to others, I can also give to myself. I make sure that I talk to my friends and stay close to my pets, and I also write down how I feel after every day has passed. I fill my days with self-care and self-indulgence, such as warm, nice smelling baths, hot chocolate and a nice book to read. I tell myself that brighter days will come soon as I read through my self-help books, and use objects in my self-help box such as my stress balls and my stress teddies. A favourite night-time activity of mine is switching on my glitter ball globe and lying down on the floor, watching the glitter flutter around in the ball as it lights up in colours of blue and green, red and orange, making it look like thousands of fireflies, or even quickly moving stars, are flying around me on the walls, floor and on the ceiling. It’s easy for the mind to attack once you’re still and quiet, but the firefly effect of the glitter ball fills me with peace and hope for something beautiful to happen in my life.

To all those who suffer with depression during the cold, dark days, just know that you are not alone and we will get through this together.

I hope you enjoyed my blog on seasonal depression! If you like what I wrote, check out some of my socials where I write and talk!

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1/366 – Happy New Year! Reflections and plans

So, here we are. A brand new year, a brand new decade. Personally New Years Day is just a day like any other to me. Yet, I cannot help but fall into the endless rabbit hole of reflections and resolutions and this is what this little blog post will serve as.

Looking back at 2019 I am not sure whether I should laugh or cry. There have been many ups and many downs. There have been times where I didn’t want to exist anymore and times where I was greatful that I still was.

One of the best things I did in the last year was to start this blog. Although a lot of work it has given me the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful people all across the world who share the same ideas as me and who believe in fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness just as much as I do – and for that I am so thankful!

Another big thing was finding a job after so so many months of being stuck in unemployement. When you’re out of work and your mental health is already crap to begin with, sometimes all you’re looking for is to get back into something. And of course the additional money helped with a lot of my financial worries too. I’m in no way in a position where I can go and recklessly spend my money, but not having to count every penney twice is a nice feeling. Getting back into work has also helped me put a lot of my newly learned boundaries to use. I clearly stated that I only wanted to work a certain amount of hours each week and that I had certain bus times that I needed to stick to – and my employer has done their best to accomodate all that. Which to me is a clear indication that my boundaries are necessary for the sake of my own sanity and that they are working. I learned that I don’t have to work myself to complete burnout just to please someone else. Which is probably one of the biggest lessons that I learned in 2019.

On the other hand, there were many many days in the last year were I wish I wasn’t here, where existing alone felt like a chore. Days where getting out of bed, brushing my hair or even eating a decent meal seemed virtually impossible. Days where I thought my mental illness had gotten the better of me, yet again. Days where it seemed like there was no future, that I lacked purpose and meaning. Days of never feeling enough of anything. And those days can be hard. When everyone around you seemigly has their life together, going places, getting jobs, starting families and you’re sat alone stuck in this rut – it’s not a great feeling.

However, I now know that I made it through all this and that I can make it through other tough times as well. It’s been a year of a lot of mixed feelings, laughter, tears and confusions and I am looking forward to starting 2020 fresh, with a clean slate.

As for resolutions, I don’t have many because I don’t like to put too much pressure on myself. I want to blog more regularly and have at least one new blog post up every week. I enjoy blogging, but have been very inconsistent with it since I started and I feel like I would benefit from having some sort of schedule at least.

I would also like to get back into doing more art again. Whether that be painting or digital. I find it brings me peace and helps me clear my mind and focus on something. I’m trying very hard to stay away from the idea that I automatically have to turn this whole thing into something profitable and just want to enjoy the process. Although should such an opportunity arise in the future, that I could make money from my art, that would be pretty cool too.

Saying “No” and setting boundaries has always been a very difficult task for me. I started changing all that in 2019 and I plan to continue with this in 2020. Saying no to things for the sake of my own mental health will be a priority this year, no matter how annoying or upsetting it may be for someone else. This year I am putting myself first.

I have a bad habit of working myself to exhaustion for the sake of pleasing other people. This year I will try to rest more and I will try to enjoy resting without feeling guilty. I deserve to rest and recharge, I cannot function on low battery forever and I should not feel bad for that. I’m only human, I need time out and this year I will honour my body and my mind when they tell me they’re tired and try and take some time off from it all.

As a last “resolution”, I’d like to put away and save some money. I don’t know what exactly I would like to use that money for. Maybe a vacation, maybe a car. But I do know that it’ll be a good investment either way.

So there we have it, my resolutions for this year. If I’ll stick to all of those… I guess only time will tell!

Do you have any resolutions? Anything you’d like to do differently this year? Anything you’d like to reflect on? Let me knownin the comments!

Much love, Kerstin

How to survive Christmas when you're feeling anything but festive

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

Surely, for many people out there Christmas time is truly wonderful. Snow, Christmas markets, the smells of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine, decorations that light up the dark winter nights. It’s easy to see the appeal of Christmas, it really is. And when the first Christmas songs start playing in the shopping centers you’re just bound to get into that festive spirit.

Or, are you?

For many people Christmas time can be hard. Some may quite literally dread it and want nothing to do with it. Others may feel obliged to take part in festivities and gatherings and very quickly get tired of all the festive cheer. There are many reasons as to why some people may dislike Christmas. Those reasons could be that maybe they lost someone close to them around Christmas time, or they’re not on good terms with their family and have no one to celebrate with. Maybe their mental illness acts up more during winter time and it’s hard for them to even get out of bed, let alone be festive and joyful. Maybe they don’t celebrate Christmas, because they are of a different religion or maybe, like me, they simply don’t like it.

I grew tired of Christmas a few years ago, when everything started to feel more and more like a competition. Who can buy the most presents and who has the best decorations up and who can cook up the most lavish Christmas dinner? I felt like the true Christmas spirit got lost somewhere along the way and consumerism more and more dictated our behaviour during a time that was meant to be filled with love and giving and warmth. I also felt that for me, Christmas time was always a time in which I had to prove myself to my family. All the big family gatherings were filled with the same old questions. What job do I have? How’s my love life going? When am I going to lose weight? … Every Christmas for me felt like a mountain of expectaions that had accumulated throughout the year and that I now had to climb to show my family that I was indeed worth their time and effort. I always felt like I spent more time explaining my life choices to my family than actually enjoying being together and spending time with them. And I got really really sick of that.

So, if you’re like me and don’t really like Christmas, I hear you. And I know it’s hard during this time where everyone seems to be so cheerful and happy. But just because you’re not particularly fond of this time that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it. There’s many different ways to still have a nice end of the year without getting sucked into something you don’t like. Here’s a few:

Set clear boundaries:

I absolutely cannot stress enough how important this is. Christmas is often a time where members of your family or friends may feel entitled to know and ask about every aspect of your life, whether that makes you uncomfortable or not. If you celebrate with someone or are invited to a gathering make sure you set clear boundaries for yourself and others. These boundaries can be asking people not to comment on your weight or refusing to answer questions that are too personal. But they can also be not going to a Christmas party because you don’t feel like this, or leaving a place early if you’re not enjoying yourself and just having an evening on your own. Figure out what works best for you, and remember you are under no obligation to feel or be festive or compromise your own comfort for the sake of others.

Do something for yourself:

Christmas is often all about presents. People with have endless lists of things they need to get for every member of their family, plus friends and it can get overwhelming really quickly. So overwhelming that people often forget about the most important person in their life, themselves! So take some time out, get yourself a present if you like. Have a self care evening and try to forget about all the stress for a little while.

Don’t get yourself into debt for the sake of Christmas:

As I already mentioned, a lot of the times Christmas can feel like a massive competition. Don’t feel obliged to take part in this. There is no need for you to spend your last penny on presents or even go into debt to pay for them, that’s certainly not what Christmas should be all about. You don’t have to prove your worth to someone by buying them the most expensive gift. Hell, don’t buy any gifts if you don’t feel like it. And if people don’t agree with this, maybe it’s time to reconsider why they are in your life. I mean, of course it’s nice to get presents for people you love, but it shouldn’t be the standard that determines whether or not you’re enough or do enough. Take it easy this Christmas.

Have a celebration that isn’t Christmas:

Sometimes just the word “Christmas” puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on us. You can still have a little get together with your family or friends, but maybe just having this little celebration not on Christmas eve or Christmas day might just take the edge of things a little. I very recently did this and it was so much more relaxed than celebrating on actual Christmas day. There was less stress and we were all just happy being together and enjoying our evening far away from presents and trees and things that sometimes seem to be so scripted at Christmas.

Spend Christmas somewhere else:

Now, this is of course only an option if you are well enough and able to afford it. But if so, try spending the Christmas time in a different town or even country. Maybe go for a day trip and just spend some time on your own, away from what may seem too familiar by now. Try to explore something new and break out of this old force of habit that may make you feel miserable around Christmas.

These are of course only a few things you can do to get through this time of the year and I am sure there are many many more! Just know that not liking/celebrating Christmas is just as okay as absolutely loving it! And whatever you do, make sure you stay safe.

If you have any other ways or tips on how to get through this time if you’re not particularly fond of Christmas, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

And to all those of you who are feeling festive, Merry Christmas.

I hope you all have a great start into the new year.

Much love,

‘Tis The Season – #3 Guest Post by Anxiety_Sugarr

During the darker, colder seasons I noticed that my mental wellbeing and BPD gets affected a lot. The weather change tends to mess with my routines (like sleeping schedule and energy levels) plus I tend to eat and drink more as my routine isn’t in order.

I’ve realised that I need to keep a to-do list more often around this time. Sometimes I’ll even include on there “eat lunch/shower/brush teeth” just to try and encourage me to set a better routine.

However, I must admit that the hardest part is the holidays/Christmas. For someone who has no contact/negative energy with family members, the holiday period tends to set off a lot of negative emotions and memories. Now I try to combat that by focusing more on new years. Creating goals and wishes for the new year to create a new start. It helps distract my focus from the negativity of Christmas.

I’ve been spending the holidays with my boyfriends family and it’s really helped. If you’re like me and need help during these times, stay with whoever you can to ensure your mental wellbeing stays intact.

In conclusion, focus on what brings you joy around these times. Hot chocolate, candles, blanket on blanket snuggles. Those little things are good for when negativity is building and combat that. On the larger scale, the bigger situations need clear analysis and changes. Delving deeper into what in particular brings on negativity and finding alternatives. This is always good to do with someone so you have a second opinion. Don’t be afraid to have a helping hand during the holidays.

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‘Tis The Season – #2 My experience with low moods and dark thoughts during winter by @TheAnxiousTeac2

CW: Mentions of suicidal ideation and abuse in this post. Please proceed with care.

I feel as if my mind, body and soul turns into that Sean Bean #WinterIsComing Game of Thrones meme every time the season changes. As if I need to not just physically prepare myself with hot water bottles, woolly blankets and socks oh and the extra cosy thickened jumpers just to survive the lacklustre central heating at work. I also find myself needing to mentally prepare myself as well.

I remember a previous employer saying that winter turns us all into depressing monsters cause of the cold, everyone is infecting everyone with sickness bugs and lastly, it gets darker earlier. The one thing I took from that lecture? That I was a monster, yeah cool thanks! No wonder you tried to force me out of my job due to my Mental Health.

I have borderline personality disorder and I will admit I do struggle a lot with changing seasons, well change in any format to be honest. As soon as it becomes 5pm and its pitch black outside my inner thoughts just scream out: ‘Oh hell noooo!’ kind of like Kevin Hart when Jimmy Fallon forced him onto that roller-coaster. I do not like change.

Don’t get me wrong I really like Christmas, I love everything to do with that holiday, the presents, the tree and decorations, the markets, the food, the movies, the music, the television specials.

Everything else about winter? Not as much.

Looking back over the years and to even how I’m feeling right at this moment with regards to the changing of seasons, winter brings me a lot of personal pain. Last Christmas in particular as soon as the presents were handed out all I wanted to do was to hide away, I didn’t want to fake holiday cheer, throughout that winter I was constantly battling my darkest thoughts because all I wanted to do was to end it all – I wasn’t sleeping at all during November/December/January etc. and I was battling with constant threats of violence and defending myself from physical abuse at work.  

So maybe my ex-boss was right in her assumptions, winter turned me into a depressing monster.

When you don’t see or feel love or even have access to that emotion it only makes sense for the mood to disperse. I remember when having to go up to my in-laws at the time and all I wanted to do was slit my throat with the turkey carver, my mind could no longer cope or handle the abuse being said towards me. 2019 has been one pretty shitty year for me, so I feel as if I do need to prepare myself for Christmas and Winter this year.  I honestly don’t think I can survive another horrible event.

So how am I going to do this?

  1. Start Christmas shopping early, I mean I love shopping so this isn’t really that big of an issue for me
  2. Remind myself the things I previously loved about this season by watching classic Christmas movies and to not question myself or listen to hate when I decide to put my tree up at the start of November
  3. Take zero work home. Home is to relax, it is supposed to be a safe place and if I want to go to sleep at 6pm so I can be fully refreshed for the next day: I CAN!
  4. Remember to wear thicker clothing, pick out work outfits the night before that way its ok to hit snooze a few times in the morning
  5. Treat myself to a hot breakfast treat from McDonalds or Greggs on the way into work on a super cold day! Turn the chilliness into a positive
  6. Families love you unconditionally no matter your faults, sometimes it’s best to cut negative people out of your life and to focus on those who do care
  7. EAT AS MUCH FOOD AS I WANT!!!! You can always go back to the gym after Christmas, those chocolate variety boxes just will not eat themselves anyways
  8. Treat myself to something from the sales, I deserve it for surviving another year
  9.  Remember to take your meds! Something I ALWAYS struggle to do
  10. Just remember that its ok to ask for help or to just talk in general, if you can’t do it in person reach out via texting apps or even social media

So hopefully, by following those steps maybe I can survive this coming winter and to tackle those low moods and dark thoughts head on!

I hope you enjoyed my guest post and I want to say a massive thank you to Kerstin as well!

Leo x

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‘Tis The Season – #1 Being sick and mentally ill by @MadSocialWerker

Every year without fail, I get sick. And I mean sick; a long dragged out cold or flu where I have a fever, night sweats, gunk covered throat, clogged ears, and fever hallucinations.
This cold or flu slowly creeps on me and then unleashes itself on me and my system.
If you are thinking ‘system’? Does she mean her immune system? Well, yes, but I’m also talking about the five other people I share my body with.

                        Six people one body – sounds like the premise of a bad porn skit.

I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. A disorder that is characterised by the disruption of identity in which there are two or more distinct identity states (dissociative identities or streams of consciousness [personalities]) associated with marked discontinuities in the sense of self and agency.  This is a very roundabout scientific way of saying, the brain compartmentalised to cope with trauma(s) that occurred between the ages of 2-9.

I currently have five alters; Zacherie, Heinrich, Shoshanna, Alis and Roux. And as you can imagine, we all have our own experiences and mental health struggles. While I can talk about my experiences of being sick and mental health struggles with season changes, I cannot speak for them. So this article will be divided into six perspectives. We are starting with mine.

My name is Bethany; I’m a 30-year-old cis queer woman. I live in Toronto, Canada, where I am a social worker, sex therapist and mental health advocate. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is my primary diagnosis, but I also struggle with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, dysthymia (which is a fancy way of saying persistent depression), obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety.

I would have to say autumn is by far my favourite season and winter is my least favourite. I enjoy the communal family-like holidays in autumn – thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, and New Years. However, it’s after the holidays, my mental health takes a steep decline, and this is when I tend to get the most colds or cases of flu. And I’m not too fond of it.

I hate how out of control it makes me feel being mentally and physically sick. Especially when the fever hallucinations start, and I know they are temporary but being that sick and unable to tell the difference between what is safe or a threat is very alarming. And when you are sick, you don’t want your brain to try to convince you that you’re still at work. In my opinion, THE WORST HALLUCINATION ON THE PLANET!

When my mental health is already a bit fragile, I’m already starting to neglect things like hygiene. So I’m just stumbling around my home in a duvet and greasy hair re-watching Bob’s Burgers until someone forces me into the shower or bath.

My name is Zacherie, but I go by Zache. I am a 30-year cis lesbian, and I am an alter. My role in our system is that of a Protector.
I protect Bethany and others from harm. I take my job very seriously, to the point where Bethany and I have had screaming matches about certain things. I suspect I have Borderline Personality Disorder, and when I have a flare-up, I feel everything so intensely that sometimes that affects others too. So if Bethany is sick and not taking care of herself, it makes me feel so much worse.

Then I have to force us to take a shower or a bath, do some laundry, eat something, and the stud you’re supposed to do when you’re sick. It’s the only way I can start to feel better emotionally and mentally, and sometimes others don’t understand.

My name is Shoshanna, and I am ten years old. I don’t really have a role, because I’m 10! But I don’t like it when it is winter, I don’t like the cold, but I love making snow angels. Summer is my favourite season because I can go to the park and I don’t get sick.

When Bethy gets sick, I get sick and then I can’t play. She and Zache get into fights about having a bath, I don’t like having baths when I’m sick because I’m always cold. When I’m cold, I’m sad, so I cry a lot.

My name is Heinrich, and I am 21-year-old, cis straight man. Shoshanna is my sister. My role in the system is that of a persecutor. Persecutors get much hate, but really we are misguided protectors.

When Bee gets sick, I’m usually ill too. And I often don’t feel like doing anything, and because I am a smoker, I’ll be coughing for weeks. And because I had endocarditis when I was doing heroin, every cold or bout of flu has the potential to reinflame the scarring in our heart valve, which could cause Bee’s heart murmur (something she was born with) to worsen or cardiac arrest.

There’s a lot I regret in my life, but this? This is my biggest regret, and every time we get sick, I worry we won’t wake up again. My addiction to heroin, while borne out of a need to stay energised through school, the consequences weren’t worth it. Please, please get your flu shot, or stay home if you’re sick.

At the time of writing this, both Roux and Alis declined to provide their perspective on what it means to be mentally ill and sick. This is not to say their stories are not relevant or any less valid. Someone you may know may have DID or any of its subsets. You can’t tell their story, even if you are a part of their story. A bit of compassion, self-awareness and kindness goes a long way for the welfare of others.

Author Bio:

Bethany Killen-Ashryver (she/her) is a forensic and clinical social worker with Dissociative Identity Disorder in Toronto, Canada.  Between her academic career, the needs of her system and her latest adventure; the Dissociative Society of Canada, Bethany is always ready to listen, especially over some iced chai. To learn more about her and her system, you can read her blog at www.themadsocialworker.com.

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‘Tis The Season – A preview

Good evening everyone,

This post will be a little different from my usual ones. I would like to introduce you to a new series that I will be starting on my blog very soon. It is very well known that the winter months and the holidays can have a variety of different effects on people’s mental health and for some these months may be harder to cope with than other times of the year.

The series, titled ” ‘Tis The Season”, will feature guest posts from various authors from all walks of life who were willing to share with me their own very personal experiences on how the cold months affect them and their mental health. The main aim of this series is to highlight just how subjective Mental Health and Mental Illness can be and that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to the symptoms and feelings that people may experience.

The series will be ongoing over the winter months, so there may be some week with more posts – others with less, all depending on how many people are up to contribute. I believe it is great to give others a chance to share their own thoughts and experiences, especially when they may not always be able to do so otherwise.

I am hoping to launch the series sometime next week and I look forward to hearing all your feedback on it!

Much love,