Taking A Break

Taking A Break.

Let’s talk about stopping, taking a pause on life. Life can slip into an unusual pattern within a heartbeat, with many feeling like the floor has been pulled from beneath them. We can go from feeling reasonably well within a pattern to an out of sync rhythm. Taking a break for many is near impossible due to elements ranging from their own personal lives, to work, finances and more. It’s something that for years society has laundered over as weak, lazy and unnecessary yet of more recent times has been recommended as key from psychiatrists, psychologists and key workers. Taking a break has become marginally more accepted and encouraged. It is something now seen as key to the balance of one’s life and mentality. This notion for me took years to understand. Years to change my own mentality of believing if I stop I’m unwell and that I’ll be unable to either keep up or worse fall into a place where I can’t build momentum again. It plagued me for years to the point I was enthralled in a pace that was ultimately not only destroying me mentally but physically. 
As someone who suffers with a range of challenging mental health conditions, from 12 years of Bipolar, years of addiction (now 5 years clean) to more recently PTSD I found over the years it difficult to find a balance between my physical life such a work, patterns and social life and how to maintain better mental health. For years I didn’t associate how my mental health directly affected my physical health from panic attacks, exhaustion, side effects to more recently seizures which are dissociative. I think I felt admitting the struggles it had on my physical health would be admitting defeat in all areas, which was something I just couldn’t muster or do. 
Since being diagnosed with PTSD from a traumatic event completely out of my control I had to start to acknowledge the physical strains my body was under from these events. It wasn’t something eased upon me, overnight I went from coping to physically falling apart with the physical symptoms from my lack of sleep, panic attacks and more. These ranged from tremors and uncontrolled movements to temperature changes, to almost coming out of my body when panicking and unresponsive. With these changes, which were widely different to my physical symptoms associated with my Bipolar it was key to find the right support and help and to put new strategies into place to help me manage. This for 2 and half years included the medication Pregablin which sadly had its own side effects, mass weight gain which was not helpful alongside my already tricky relationship with food, addictive properties and more. Don’t get me wrong it saved my life after the initial incident and kept me functioning to an extent at the time but it wasn’t the only change I had to initiate and get used to. Within the first few months following the event I had to take time off work. Anyone who knows me knows how detrimental to me this was. From being a workaholic for years unable to put my emails down, It left me feeling a failure, lazy and judged and the least human I’d ever felt. I couldn’t for some reason take what I’d say to someone else in  my situation as something that was necessary to recovery and completely understandable and apply it to my situation. To this day being unwell and having to have a break still troubles me, BUT I’ve learned it is key and necessary to take a break no matter the length, time or intensity. Taking a break is key to being well in yourself. 
Currently I’m writing this from respite. This is my third time having respite in a year. All of which have been short stays to slow down, think about how I’m feeling and how I want to proceed. Last year I spent time in respite following a reasonably long bipolar manic and then a rather brutal medication change. This time was a bit more of a surprise as I got an Uber down to The Royal Free Hospital. I thought I’d been coping. I thought facing the symptoms of my currently temperamental bipolar alone was the best thing to do. So I hadn’t mentioned occasional hallucinations, whirlwind of thoughts from high to low or much else to my health carers, family and friends. I’d well and truly tried to lock it in cupboard in the hopes it would disappear.  

Once I’d arrived at the hospital it all became rather clear that 3 months of keeping it all relatively quiet with a smile on my face hadn’t been my best plan. After starting to have seizures related to my trauma I all of a sudden had to deal with not only that, coming off Pregablin, coming off a medication making me stable but causing a rare blood reaction, anxiety and another reaction from a new medication. I think deep down I knew I wasn’t coping but I’d taken it upon myself to ignore the signs and just carry on persevering (something I’d not normally ignore). As I found myself as the respite house I couldn’t event think of the next week let alone the next few months or years. So I did what I’ve learned and practiced. Taking a deep breath and toning down the speed of my life. Spending some real quality time writing out my frustrations and thoughts, slowing down with activities like my usual yoga, puzzles, therapy checks and more. I gave myself finally time to accept the situation I’m in and then tackled the idea of how I’m going to imagine getting not around it but through it. Little actions like this may not sound like they would have any effect but it’s all these little practices that build the bigger picture and then beneficial changes to life. I gave myself some time to be truly frustrated, scared and low before focusing on my pace and how I was going to make progress and move forward. A week later I found myself in a moment sat on a sofa having a variety of positive thoughts: “I know I’m going to be able to get home”, “take on these predicaments step by step in an organised methodical fashion”, “focus on how I’m half way there in comparison to 3 months ago at the beginning” and most of all “getting life back on track”. By slowly accepting feelings of all the mentioned above allowed me to check back in and begin to get back to a healthier pace. 

Now I’m aware this is a luxury (which of course it shouldn’t have to be) most can’t afford but I don’t necessarily mean we all have to stop life completely. It’s about applying small notions to your life that in time will bring a benefit. Whether it be taking time to talk about you’re feeling head on with a loved one,  attempting regular meditation, reading, to simply taking even 5 minutes to yourself. Obviously it’s not as simple as taking time off or having the luxury to take a week out or even some of the suggestions above but this is here to highlight that being kind to yourself is key both physically and mentally. It’s allowing yourself to get out of the stream not by fighting back against the current but rather removing yourself/climbing out to breathe even if for a few minutes before then attempting to get back into the stream in your own time at a new composed pace. It’s ok to not be ok all the time. It’s ok to throw your hands in the air and cry you can’t cope no matter the extent. It’s ok to take that time which will build the path to  help look after number one, you.

A x

My Top 9 books of 2019

Welcome to our first “Keeping Up With Us” post! With our site updated and us being the busiest we’ve ever been we felt it only right to share some extra content with you. We are going to be sharing blog posts all year round with regular content showing you what we get up to, our work and events, behind the scenes and things that make us, well us. 

Each year I have that moment where I almost panic; feeling I have to change something or commandeer to the whole new year new me theme or resolutions we all fall victim to. Now that’s not to say new years resolutions don’t work for some, but for me I find small attainable goals much more successful and easier to stay focused on especially with our busy lives. When I have large resolutions sometimes they fall pity to life, especially mine, one that seems to be forever winding with hidden surprises at each turn. My small attainable goals allow me to focus whilst planning ahead in a manageable fashion. Saying that, I have had many new years resolutions which although seemed unlikely to happen on the outside have worked out. One example being a few years ago I tasked myself to do something new or exciting each month. Amazingly, I managed it, and looking back or even thinking of it now the memories bring a joyful smile to my face from my horrific roller skating at a disco in Oval to Scuba Diving in Greece. 

Last year, 2019 brought in what was going to be a tough year with my Bipolar. Although at the time I didn’t realise it was going to be a rough one with a lengthly recovery I did seem to acknowledge I wanted a goal to aid the process.

 I love reading. Always have. However, like I’m sure many of you understand it can be really hard to find the time to settle down with a good book. This time I recognised that possibly putting my phone down earlier at night and trying to tackle my anxiety would be easier by getting into a really good book. My aim was to read 5 books within the year around all my meetings, appointments and work. Boy did I blow that out the park reading 12 books in 12 months, and it was bliss. I thought to start off our blog, sharing 10 of the books I read, what too expect (without ruining the finale) and why I’d recommend them not just because switching phone time to book time improved my night routine but it was also nice to have some more quality time to myself.

This Is Going To Hurt , Adam Kay

This is a great book for me to begin with, as someone who spends a lot of time in hospitals, appointments and more I love everything medical, I guess that explains why I wanted to be a doctor for some time. This book follows Adam from working in his F1 & F2 years to climbing the ranks further into the NHS. When I first picked this up in January last year I wasn’t sure the approach Adam would follow whether it would be extremely clinical, sad or witty. Much to my pleasure it incorporated all of these amongst other formats including the harsh reality of an underfunded NHS (I promised myself I was not going to go into my personal political views on this but I would be letting down the side if I didn’t mentioned the constraints I’ve seen constantly being in hospital and how our government under funds and underestimates the need for such a platform). I found myself wizzing through the book, literally unable to put it down you wouldn’t of seen me anywhere without it in the days it took to read. Mostly I was in hysterics at Adam’s natural comedic voice, from the stories over the years to the occasional moments where I was choking on my tears at the most overwhelming heart felt human stories. You’d be mad not to give this book a try even if you’re not a fan of hospitals and stories there after. 10/10

My Thoughts Exactly, Lily Allen

Lily Allen’s memoire is one of heart warming and heart breaking moments. The open and honest book approaches various areas in her life be it past or present. Lily states her book is for her children to read, disqualifying voices for example the press that are untrue. Lily wants her children to hear her truths from her mouth and her mouth only. The book leads mostly chronologically through her life from her youth to reaching fame and the spiral that came alongside being a celebrity. I am a huge fan of Lily’s but the book is home to areas of her life we don’t have access to. It is home to her emotions through traumatic times, and home to such brave truths. I found the book to touch me emotionally with such admiration for her bravery and strength. This isn’t just for those who don’t know Lily’s generally public life but it’s for those who do to be given the chance to see a whole different side of one hell of a woman. 9/10

Call Me By Your Name, Andre Aciman

If you’re looking for intimacy, a book about coming of age whilst coming to terms with sexuality then this is the book for you. I’m a big fan of a book opening up about vulnerability and love whilst exploring societies stigma and challenging boundaries. It’s beautiful written exploring the inevitable moments of sexuality pre adulthood  mixed in with complex romanticism between the main protagonists. 8/10

Conversations With Friends, Sally Rooney

Once again a book rousing conversation around desire, sexuality, seduction and love. The book navigates between multiple relationships and the complications of desire especially areas considered straight forward or where judgement resides. This book pushes the boundaries of relationships and what society considers ‘normal’. 8/10

Normal People, Sally Rooney

Another Sally Rooney book and frankly I couldn’t get enough. I adore Sally’s style of back and forth conversations. This book once again investigates intimate relationships whilst touching on areas some will have knowledge about and others more ignorance. It’s once again beautifully written flitting between different characters and lives from their true perspective. If you want romance mixed in with frustrating moments of willing the characters futures then you’ll be gripped. 9/10

My Sister The Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite

This book was a nice change in mood and tempo for me moving from more intense views of love in a intimate setting to a conversation around relationships within family. The book follows the deep intense emotions many feel for their siblings, protectiveness. It tosses and turns with idea of morality and what we would do for our loved ones whilst also exploring the complexities of relationships within families, such as jealousy, vulnerability and competition. I flew through this book, it’s an invigorating read with a pace which twists and turns along the way. 8/10

Me, Sir Elton John

For those who don’t know me, I’m a HUGE Elton John fan. Growing up on his music I’ve felt lightened, at ease and thrown to such a beautiful different place. Fun fact, when struggling with my anxiety and PTSD Sir Elton plays a huge roll. Your Song is one of my regular songs that can take me to a place of such calm. So obviously when this book was released I was first in line at Waterstones eagerly waiting to buy it. The book follows a very similar pattern to Elton’s film Rocket Man (I had to stop myself after my 8th viewing), which if you’ve seen the film (I’d hope so) then you won’t be disappointed. It follows the highs and lows of Eltons life in a more or less chronological order, the importance of healthy and unhealthy relationships alongside the truths and suffering many of us have been through. If you are not only a fan and want a book not only charming but heartwarming, then you need to get reading! 8/10

The Life Changing Magic Of Not Giving A Fuck, Sarah Knight

This was something a bit different to the other books I’d been reading. Early last year in the midst of everything I was in need of having some time to well, give less of a fuck about things. I’d read amazing things about Sarah Knights books so I decided to give them a go and see if they helped with my mentality of caring about things that I probably shouldn’t of. I’m a huge advocate of therapy whether it be CBT, Mindfulness, art or any other form. I think life is all about balance which sometimes with Bipolar Disorder can be difficult. The book had a great perspective working through things element by element, bit by bit. Something that although at times may seem pointless or delicate is extremely effective. It almost has a CBT feel to it with activities to help you practice what you want to preach or adhere to. It is a refreshing approach to combating areas of our lives we struggle with. If you really apply to it and give it a go, it really can help make mighty changes. 8/10

Everything I know About Love, Dolly Alderton

Well, well, well. I saved the best for last. Dolly’s debut book knocked many of my favourite books out the park. Dolly documents the past years of her life in a diary-noting style touching on the highs and lows, good and struggles she’s encountered. It’s a book that brings to light so many different things we all have encountered from grief, love, illness and more. The voice is like no other, it carries you through vulnerabilities with an arm to lean on, highs you’d share with those closest and eventualities that although are common are no less important. There is advice on life events like her experiences of first homes, different jobs and becoming an adult. It had me in hysterics, in tears and warm. Above all it’s an ode to friendship especially female friendships. It shows us that relationships last and guide us through the best and the worst of times. As a Sunday Times Top 5 best Sellers I’m sure many of you have read this incredible book and if not what are you waiting for? 10/10

Alice x

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