Category Archives: Anxiety

Inside Looking Out… – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Luis Serrano Mid-week Flash Challenge - Inside looking out

Photo: Luis Serrano

The moth bumbles and fidgets, dusty wings flapping, growing in earnest panic, but the electric bulb remains lost to it behind the window pane. Light floods the room, seeping through glass, throwing shapes and shadows out onto the lawn, but the moth is incapable of seeing the freedom within its darkness. It only sees light, shining like a beacon, magnetised like love, and it lurches and pitches at the glass tossing its tiny body at the one source of everything it wants.

Soon, exhausted, it will stop, simply cling to the window and gaze. It has no choice. Until the light goes out the moth is committed, imprisoned on the wrong side of a cell. All the world exists open and free, but until the light is vanquished the moth is bound.

How sad to be trapped within desire for one true thing.

Light is not always the answer.

Sometimes darkness and adventure, failure, excitement, desire, and longing live in the shadows. What does a moth know if it spends its entire life staring at a flame behind glass? Sometimes you need to get burned.

I’m in that room. Light blinds me. I am saturated, full up to the brim and ready to escape to the shadows. The moth believes the light will answer everything, but I need the gloom of the penumbra to ponder and hide.

So I press my nose to the window backlit by light, my sweaty palms flat against the glass, condensation dripping like tears. Fingertips curl and claw as panic rises up into my throat and the bright light burns like fire on my spine. The moth continues to flutter and tap against the pane, its desperation and craving matching mine.

The light behind me is clicked off and my eyes take a moment to adjust. Black obscurity, behind the glass, opens up as my sight adapts and the moth takes off into the dusk. How I wish, trapped behind the glass, prisoner of light, I could switch places with the little winged creature and explore my dark places, the twilight world, and flit between realms and spheres – utterly free…

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I’m melancholy right now and very introspective, so Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge and photo from Luis Serrano, hit home.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

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Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 – Stressed Out

Mental Health Awareness Week is this week 14th – 20th May
This year’s chosen theme via the Mental Health Foundation is
Stress and how we’re coping.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 – Stressed Out - The Last Krystallos

Stress is generally our reaction to being placed under pressure, and how we cope when control is either out of our hands or maybe we are losing control of a situation.

Mental Health Foundation - Stress - The Last Krystallos

© Caitlin Shambrook

I recently blogged about control issues, so if losing control is what puts you under stress, take a look.

Stress is like fog. You might be watching it looming in the distance, or you might wake up to it, or it might descend without any notice.

If you can see it looming it may be easier to cope with, you may have time to prepare or make plans that could help allay the stressful situation.

If you wake to it, like fog on an autumn morning, you may find yourself having to deal with stress without any warning.

If it suddenly descends it can often feel like you’re drowning and out of control.

Misty Meadow - Mental Health Awareness - Stress - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Everyone suffers stress to some level. Some people deal with stress easily, some relish it and work better under pressure, some struggle hugely and then it can affect their mental health adversely. We’re all different and no reaction is the right or wrong one.

I don’t deal well with stress as it exacerbates and intensifies my anxiety and panic disorder. It will affect my IBS and cause nausea, stomach aches, upsets, and pain. People can suffer other physical symptoms too such as headaches, tiredness, insomnia, chest pain, sweat, clenched jaw, and a higher risk of colds and infections. Symptoms that affect your mental health can include irritability, panic, depression, exhaustion, self-harm, and anxiety.

If stress is affecting your life then take whatever steps you can to reduce it by removing the cause if you can. This isn’t always possible, in which case you need as much support and understanding as you can get, but if it is at all possible then take action.

Misty... Move away from the box... the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Stress often induces the Fight, Flight or Freeze reaction, and these are physical responses. When you know your response you can learn to deal with your reaction. My instinct is always flight. Stress causes anxiety which leads to panic and finally a panic attack. A panic attack will either lead to flight or self-harm with me.

Just the other day I was at the Dr’s surgery and had to wait, after my GP visit, to see the nurse. I was there early and the waiting room was almost empty, but as I waited for an hour the number of patients grew and the room filled up. The noise level rose, babies, children, coughing, crackling chests, and lots of people. I don’t deal well with crowds, and finally people sat either side of me and I tried to ignore everything. I was prepared with a book, and I kept my head down reading, but it got to the point when my anxiety swelled, panic began to bubble beneath the surface, tingling in my veins. The receptionist assured me I’d be seen within five minutes, and she was lovely, but it was too late. I had no control over the panic attack that had brewed. I sat back down, trying to convince myself that five minutes was nothing, I could make that, but as tears welled there was no stopping the onslaught of full blown panic attack and I ran. With the help of CalmHarm, an app I’ve been using on my phone, I calmed down within a few minutes, enough to return and get called into the nurse. Once with her I dissolved and she talked me through the panic attack.

Pen y bont Elan Valley - Mental Health Awareness - Stress - the last krystallo

© Lisa Shambrook

There are many ways to deal with stress and you have to learn what works for you:

Stay positive, do all you can to keep positivity in your life.

Try meditation, breathing exercises (CalmHarm has helped me greatly with using breathing to stop a self-harm urge or panic attack), relaxation techniques, mindfulness and many other CBT cognitive behavioural therapies.

Ecotherapy (that’s a new name for nature!) go on walks and spend time in nature.

Keep a Mood Diary see what triggers or causes your stress.

Develop a strong support network, family and friends can be there for you when you need them.

Be honest, especially with your employer, teachers, friends, and family. In general people will want to help and support you.

Good sleep and exercise can be very beneficial. If stress is causing insomnia see your GP for help.

Accept there are some things you won’t be able to change, but help might still be available. (At the Dr’s surgery I had to wait my turn to see the nurse, but she explained that I could in future ask to wait in a quiet room if I’m feeling too anxious.)

Eat well and stay healthy.

Know your limits. Sometimes you need to say ‘No’.

Try not to rely on drugs if you can, but also know what drugs do work for you. (I am currently taking Propranolol and it’s working wonders for me. I am waiting for counselling, but while I’m not coping drugs are the right thing for me.) Anxiety medication or antidepressants, or sleeping aids can work and help reduce stress.

Rain - Mental Health Awareness - Stress - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Life is full of stress – that’s not something we can change, but how we deal with it will define us and help us to cope. Learning coping skills and ways to deal with stress will enhance our lives. Perhaps the best thing we can do to help alleviate stress is to help those around us to feel support and love, and if we are in a position of authority – as an employer for instance – then compassion and understanding will help improve relationships. Respect, compassion, and support will work wonders.

How do you cope with stress?

Focus on ‘small wins’ don’t chase big achievements.
Do the little things and use it as a springboard
whatever you can do be proud of it! – Mind

How to Conquer Overwhelming Control Issues in Your Life

Taking control, being in charge, lacking trust…
How do you find freedom and relinquish control?

Picture of a locked castle door for the How to Conquer Overwhelming Control Issues in Your Life - The Last Krystallos blog post
Over the years I’ve struggled greatly with control issues. I was anorexic during my teens. Not excessively, but enough to control my weight and keep it low, bordering on an unhealthy level. I felt food was the only thing I had control over in my childhood, and being a perceived fussy eater or anorexic meant I had control. Once I had children the anorexia faded, there were many other things that my mind forced me to control instead.

Severe anxiety, panic, and depression as a teen fed into feelings of helplessness, which expanded into adulthood. It took a long time to understand my own mind, and I’m not there yet! But I do appreciate where my mind has taken me and I understand much more about overcoming the compulsions my mind feeds me.

Dr Martens boots and the image of a woman with elbows on her knees showing anxiety

© Lisa Shambrook

What are and what causes control issues?
Trauma and/or abuse can trigger them. Anything that causes a lack of trust, any betrayal or fear. These emotions can trigger fear, damaged self-esteem, perfectionism, acute sensitivity, feelings of abandonment, panic, anxiety, and feelings of low self-worth. An addictive personality could result in coping with control issues through alcoholism, drug use, and other self-damaging actions.

Are you a control freak?
Do you seek to control others? Do you try to limit others freedom to ‘keep them safe’? Do you have rituals and rules you need to follow? Do you often offer unsolicited advice? Is it hard to admit that you’re wrong, or relinquish control of a situation? Do you need to ‘take over’ or be ‘in charge’ in a given situation? Do you feel you can’t trust anyone else to arrange events without your help? Does giving up control cause you anxiety or panic? Do you micromanage everything in your life? Do you over analyse?

If you answered yes to several of these, you may have control issues.

Control issues which result in curtailing others’ freedom can lead to bullying, gaslighting and very unhealthy relationships and you should seek help before anyone else is affected. Domestic abuse is often a result of unhealthy levels of control, and if violence – physical or emotional – is present from either partner help must be sought.

If you find you are micromanaging your family, becoming too overprotective, or becoming increasingly critical, it is time to search for answers and help.

a fairy trapped within a cage

© Lisa Shambrook

Many of us have personal level issues and the only people we hurt are ourselves. This can lead to self-harm, addictions, and OCD. I have never been OCD, those that truly suffer Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have a very serious condition that does not lend itself to the societal mocking it’s often given. I used to think I had OCD tendencies, but if people really understand the condition no one would ever joke about it or take it lightly. I have control issues, which can be part of OCD, but is its own problem.

My own control issues have surfaced as harsh levels of personal control. I have self-harmed, felt immense guilt, and judged myself. Like with my anorexia, I put limits on myself, hurt myself, and throttled my own self-esteem. It’s difficult to turn around from self-destructive behaviour, but that’s one thing I’ve been working on for many years. I have seen changes.

closed rusty doors in a brick wall

© Lisa Shambrook

When I was a young mum, I would limit my own happiness, being sure I didn’t feel happy unless the rest of my family were happy and well-looked after first. I refused to replace my own broken shoes until everyone else had new shoes first. I would let my own food get cold while everyone else ate straight away. I wouldn’t allow myself to do fun things while my husband was at work, because I wasn’t out working myself. I permitted myself to feel guilt but not contentment.

At thirty-three years old after a sexual assault I sought help. I’d spent my childhood being the ‘good child’, being ultra-aware of my family’s emotions, feeling responsible for my parents’, especially mum’s, happiness, and putting myself last. I went into my first relationships with the same issues, and didn’t learn how to put myself first until I went into therapy with a sexual health therapist in my thirties. I switched, but it took a good decade before I was able to put my control issues into a box and close the lid.

moss trapped within a glass sphere as a necklace

© Lisa Shambrook

How do you overcome control issues?
I have spent the last few years relinquishing control. It’s been good. As my children reached their teens I learned to step back, to allow them space. It was horrendous in my head, but both revealing and essential to them. My children have a strong sense of self and their worth, and are adults with healthy confidence and lives.

Sometimes my issues seem foolish. For instance my mind often told me that I could choose one thing and once chosen I had to stick to it. Change was something I struggled with. I laughed this week as I spoke to my daughter about the hot chocolate I drank at home. I recently switched from dairy to plant based and embraced almond milk on my cereal and in everything that needed milk. The only thing I wasn’t happy with was my hot chocolate. I make homemade hot chocolate, and almond milk wasn’t working. Bekah told me to switch to soya milk for it. My mind told me I’d chosen almond milk, why on earth did I need a change? Yep, this is my mind… I bit the bullet and bought soya milk. I had a carton of both almond and soya milk in the fridge. It felt decadent – and wrong. Lol. Anyway, I am sticking with both. My hot chocolate tastes so good with soya, but my cereal better with almond! I let go.

the scree and sides of Cader Idris mountain

© Lisa Shambrook

Letting go is the answer.
Buddhists
have learned the art of Surrender. I am learning it. Control is rooted in fear. Surrendering, or letting go, is allowing yourself to release or confront your fear. Don’t worry about what will be – Que sera, sera… Accept what is and what will be, deal with outcomes as they happen, and let yourself relinquish control.

I am letting my husband completely organise a trip away for the two of us. Ten years ago I would have needed to be involved in every decision, every booking, every tiny thing. I would have micromanaged the whole thing. Right now, I am for the first time, enjoying going with the flow, throwing in my ideas, my desires, but allowing someone else to make the decisions, plan the trip, and take me away. It’s liberating!

The other week I wrote about letting go It’s the best thing to do!

You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway  –
Steve Maraboli

How do you deal with control issues? Can you let go?  

Dragons, Stars, and Works in Progress

Look at the stars look how they shine for you and everything you do…
this is my stargazing year.

Dragons, Stars, and Works in Progress - The Last Krystallos

This post is perhaps more for me than anyone else, but it means I have something in writing which makes a difference.

Goals that are not written down are just wishes – Fitzhugh Dodson - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

My plans for this year encompass change and small steps, but steps that will take me to the stars – to reach them and write about them.

I have a few secret projects involving art and writing and marketing, and the continuation of The Seren Stone Chronicles. So, to fit my mental health I’m taking small steps, one thing at a time.

small steps - dragons, stars, wip - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

A Symphony of Dragons is doing very well – if you’ve read it I could do with more reviewsreviews help us reach much larger audiences – and my marketing is concentrating on this beautiful book of short stories, though my marketing will expand again later in the year.

A Symphony of Dragons - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Last year I completed The Seren Stone, and it’s almost at its beta reading stage. I have a couple of changes to add, then it’ll go out to my readers, before arriving back and going through more changes (see, I said this is a year of change!). While The Seren Stone is out in the hands of its betas I’ll be working on paintings and hopefully have some news for you in the Spring.

I can’t wait to begin working on the first draft of the second book in the series. It’s all mapped out and ready to go, and as the daffodils and tulips bloom so will the book. The third book of the trilogy will hopefully get its first draft late in the year, and once I am sure all three work together then plans to get The Seren Stone out there will move forward. I’m planning on releasing it Spring 2019, with its sequels in 2020 and 2021.

I also plan to write more flash fiction, writing exercises that promote inspiration, skill, and fun. My life feels very tight and restricted right now, so, letting loose with my words will be cathartic.

Look at the stars look how they shine for you and everything you do – Coldplay – The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Life hasn’t been easy and though I’m currently off medication because the side effects were so severe, my anxiety and panic attacks are still spiking. I’m trying to work through this year by removing the main triggers for anxiety, anything to stop the urge to run, and counter the waves of panic that build within my chest. Part of that is learning to put myself first for a change. That may mean I’m negligent in other areas, but sometimes you need to go right back to the basics and learning to accept yourself is part of that.

I’m planning to fly with my dragons this year and reach the stars.

Blades – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Blades - Photograph Sarolta Ban

Photograph: Sarolta Ban

They were my weapon of choice.

Words cut deep, words wound, but mix words with blades and you have the perfect weapon.

They say Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me – they’re wrong.

It wasn’t even what others said, lost amid my world, inside my own head, is what brought me down.

There were words, plenty of them, but they were mine. No one else uttered them; no one else spoke them, but me. Words simmered below the surface, whispering and murmuring, digging and muttering, piercing and cutting. They moved through my bloodstream, through my veins, seizing and taking hold inside my brain – until they cut like knives, like blades determined to bury themselves deep within.

Nothing could dislodge them and their commitment to destroy was flawless, and they worked into my wounds like burrowing wasps brandishing scalpels. No parry was enough to deflect and I was soon forced to choose my own weapon.

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Blades - Photograph Andy Bate

Photograph: Andy Bate

I would dig them out, thrust and plunge, and drive my own blades deep. And I did.

I gouged and lanced and met those words until they flowed like red silk, until they ran and poured like rivers of crimson, until they gushed in cascades of scarlet ribbons, and I could hold them no more.

They say words don’t hurt.

They do.

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Another great picture for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge, from Sarolta Ban. This hits home.

The second picture, by Andy Bate, was last week’s prompt and certainly sat alongside this week’s for me.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

 

Understanding Depression – The Truths and Myths

Depression does not discriminate. Depression is not a choice.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are becoming
much better understood, but we still need to be clearer.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos

Depression can hit anyone – it does not discriminate. Depression ignores your gender, race, age, and any other excuse people can throw at it. It doesn’t matter your financial situation, or your degree of education, or your place in this world. It doesn’t care if you’re fulfilled, or happy, or desperate and suicidal. It does not discriminate.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Weeping Geranium

© Lisa Shambrook

Types of depression

There are several types of depression including – Clinical DepressionPost-natal DepressionBi-polar Disorder (Manic Depression)SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)GriefSituational Depression – and they range from mild, moderate, to severe.

The NHS website explains that ‘There’s no single cause of depression. It can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers.’ Depression can be caused by circumstance, events, or medical conditions, or family history, or through chemical imbalances.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Pensive Raven Cat

© Lisa Shambrook

Situational depression is perhaps the easiest (a misnomer if there ever was one, no depression is easy) to deal with as its root cause trauma, trigger, or event, can often be located and treated or understood, the same could be said for depression triggered by grief. A trauma or loss often brings on acute sadness and depression, which may need treating medically or psychologically, but is a condition that can be worked through and hopefully overcome with time.

Other types of depression are harder and maybe impossible to ‘cure’.

Yet, there are still people who claim you can change your life, become more positive, appreciate your blessings, and then you can beat your depression. Maybe, who knows, for some people with situational depression, maybe they can overcome and ride out the bad times, maybe they can ‘pull themselves together’ (I hate that term), maybe they can recognise and make changes in their life and beat depression. Maybe, but also, maybe not.

I’ll add a caveat here: depression (and mental illness as a whole) is not ‘one size fits all’. My experience will be different from yours, and where some people may find depression a blip in their lives, something to overcome, many don’t and will fight it their entire lives.

We must be non-judgmental, compassionate, and understanding in our dealings with those who live with depression.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Within the Ocean Cave

© Bekah Shambrook

How Depression is treated

Depression is treated in many ways. Mild depression can be treated with a ‘wait and see’ approach, exercise helps ease depression – and I can bear witness to that – as can diet, psychotherapy, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and counselling. More serious depression needs a stronger approach. All of the above can help, talking and counselling can be a godsend, but medication can also be necessary. Antidepressants work by increasing neurotransmitter chemicals in your brain, if these chemicals are out of balance they can affect many aspects of your body and mind, including mood. There are several types of antidepressants, and the most popular of these SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) increase the levels of the chemical messenger in the brain – serotonin. Serotonin is an amino acid that is found in food, and it helps run much of your body, and deficiency can cause depression.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Sertraline-antidepressant

© Lisa Shambrook

I have written about Antidepressants and my history, and about Coping with the Stigma of Antidepressants, but I still get people telling me that I ought to be more positive, or count my blessings, or that I’m lucky to have everything I do, or that others would be happy with a tiny bit of what I have in my life…

There are a multitude of posts and lists out there online that list the things no one should ever say – and what they should say – to someone living with depression – but people still say them! Get over it, they say, choose to be happy, count your blessings, there’s always someone worse off than you, don’t be selfish, it’s all in your mind (actually, yes, it is – but it’s physiological and psychological, not made-up), try to be happy… If it was as easy as that we wouldn’t be suffering with depression.

Depression is not a choice. Being sad can be a choice, making changes that help you get over problems in your life is a choice, being positive is a choice, but being depressed is not a choice.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Clifftop

© Lisa Shambrook

I am a happy person, I’m a positive person, but I also have clinical depression and have had it since I was fourteen-years-old. I was diagnosed at eighteen, and have lived with it ever since. I have taken courses of antidepressants, had counselling, had psychiatric help, seen a psychologist, seen a therapist, used exercise, and I still live with depression.

Thirteen months ago I stood on a bridge at 2am. Life seemed too much. I was overwhelmed. Depression drowned me. I got help and have had counselling and antidepressants since. None of that, or of my history of depression, panic, and anxiety, changes the fact that my life is fulfilling, I adore my husband and children, I love who I am. I have self-harmed since I was twelve-years-old (when I didn’t even know what self-harm was), but that doesn’t change that I know I’m blessed, that I’m happy with my talents, and I love my life.

I know that depression will haunt me throughout my life, but I will manage it. Antidepressants will ‘fix me’ short term, until the chemicals in my brain misalign once more. I will make use of the services available to me, which are getting better.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Steel Rainbow Sky

© Lisa Shambrook

But the point of this post is to help understanding and appreciation of what depression truly means.

Depression is not a choice, and it does not discriminate.
It is a condition that those who live with will manage to the best of their ability.
We deserve support and compassion, be the person who seeks to understand.  

Tomorrow, October 5th, is the National Depression Screening Day in the US,
and October 10th is World Mental Health Day… please show your support…

Coping with the Stigma of Antidepressants

Why is it still difficult to remove the stigma of medication
for depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles,
while so many are experiencing these disorders?

Coping with the Stigma of Antidepressants - The Last Krystallos

When we talk about eradicating stigma we’re trying to normalise or accept something that has been deemed a sign of social unacceptability: the shame or disgrace attached to something regarded as socially unacceptable. In general, society is becoming much more compassionate and educated about mental health, and the stigma is relaxing. However, we still have a long way to go and even those of us fighting to remove the labels can have trouble accepting.

I’ve lived with clinical depression, anxiety, and panic for most of my life, and dealt with it in many ways. I’ve had success overcoming it using natural ways, and I’ve had many times when I’ve needed medication. Accepting medications has always been difficult. Nobody likes to admit they’re not in control of their own bodies, let alone their own minds.

Sertraline-antidepressant-Coping-with-the-Stigma-of-Antidepressanthe-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I know many people on antidepressants, and many who refuse meds, so how do you know if medication will help you?

I didn’t want to be on antidepressants for the long term and I believed meds would only offer the placebo effect after so long. I chose to take six month courses, weaning myself off by nine months, believing the serotonin, the meds, and my biological body would work together to rebalance.

tears-Coping-with-the-Stigma-of-Antidepressants-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

So, what happens when your plans don’t work, when your body doesn’t do what you want it to?

Sometimes you have to allow your body to take its time.

Teddy-suicide-Banksy-Coping-with-the-Stigma-of-Antidepressants-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The last few years have been tough, culminating in a psychotic episode almost exactly ten months ago last week. An episode I wasn’t sure I’d return home from. It scared me and my family. The following week got worse, and eventually my GP prescribed Setraline and got me on a waiting list to see a counsellor.

I was scared of where I was and with a history of self-harm and suicidal tendancies I sought out private counselling. This helped greatly with learning coping skills and discovering how to deal with my demons. However, medication does a funny thing. I saw an initial counsellor who saw me in a terrible state, tears, panic, and reflections of the psychosis, and she referred me to a therapist closer to home. By the time I saw my new counsellor, I was a couple of weeks into my antidepressants and despite the side effects they were working. I was calm, relaxed, intelligent, and totally understanding of my mental health state. We worked hard together for seven months – and I felt fine.

Demon-Coping-with-the-Stigma-of-Antidepressants-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

You know you often hear about people stopping their meds because they’re okay now? Yes, that. You truly believe you’re fine, and sometimes completely forget that medication is what’s at work.

Granted, I had many more tools in my mental health coping strategy tool belt, but I didn’t realise how well the antidepressants were working. I spent my seven months on them and (disliking the side effects) decided to lower my dose (with my GP’s say so). I halved my intake and within days I noticed the difference. My proposed weaning off from seven months didn’t go to plan. I became erratic, anxious, and paranoid. And when I experienced my second psychosis, my GP insisted I upped the dose once again.

I am now in what I call ‘no-man’s land’. I haven’t ever been here before and I don’t like it. I feel reliant on medication and I don’t want to be. I feel like I failed. Why didn’t my mind/body stick to my usual plan, the six month – nine month course that always worked before? I don’t want to be dependent on medication and I am stigmatising my own mental health.

Barbed-wire-Coping-with-the-Stigma-of-Antidepressants-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Here I am, championing mental health awareness and trying to eradicate the stigma, yet I’m scorning my own need. There’s truth that mental health conditions mess you up – it’s what they do. And accepting that you’re not in control is incredibly hard. I’m a control freak, so there’s that too. I know that I need to be on medication to stabilise, and I don’t know how long it will take for my brain and my biology to do that. I can’t treat it like a broken arm. I can’t time it, or give myself expectations, and I can’t hurry it up.

So, instead, I work on myself, I work on acceptance. I work on loving myself and giving myself time. That’s all we can ask for. For ourselves and those around us also living with what seem like insurmountable health conditions. It doesn’t matter if you have mental health issues, cancer, a broken limb, or any other health condition, nothing should stigmatise what we’re each coping with. Compassion, education, understanding, and love should flow. More so, when governments are assessing and stigmatising conditions and people who need help.

I have no idea how long I will be on medication for, and that’s okay. While I’m on it, I’m fairly stable, and I’m mostly me, and that’s what matters.

Many health conditions are tough to deal with
when all we want are bodies that work the way they’re supposed to.
How do you deal with your health problems when they don’t go to plan?

Losing your Armour – Breaking Down Walls – Embrace YOU

If I’d been a fairy-tale princess, I’d have been Rapunzel – not because of my hair –
but because I keep myself locked away in an impenetrable tower…
Have you lived behind walls – a self-imposed fortress?
Is there really a way to break down those barriers?

Losing your Armour and Breaking Down Walls - Embracing You and Becoming who you should be - The Last Krystallos

Living with anxiety, panic, depression, and low self-esteem lead me to seclusion. I only had a few really close childhood friends. I was open and friendly, but also detached. I was very hurt when in one of my school reports my class tutor wrote that I was aloof. I was about fifteen and though not shy, I was reserved and quiet, and the thought that anyone believed I was unapproachable or lofty was painful. If you truly knew me, I opened up, and was as fun and as giggly as the next teen, but you had to fight and get past my demons before you were allowed into my space.

As clinical depression hit in my late teens, I withdrew. My husband soon became all that I needed, especially after I cut the proverbial apron strings. I brought up three children in my twenties and hit a major crisis in my thirties. Except for my husband I had no one to fall back on, and I felt increasingly lonely. This loneliness lead me to build walls, and when friends I made generally moved away, I stopped making close friendships. My family became my life and my sole focus, even to the detriment of knowing myself.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are -E.E.Cummings - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

An assault took me to medication and therapy, and finally I began to take time for myself. My psychiatrist once told me that women in their thirties made the best psychiatric patients as they truly work hard to know themselves, and can make changes in their lives. My children, then teens, also encouraged me to know who I was and to venture from my tower.

To be nobody but yourself - the last krystallos- lisa shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Midlife can be the best time to work on you – to truly learn who you are and what you can become.

Brené Brown put it like this:

”I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”

Over the past fifteen years I’ve started shedding my armour and discovered how to break down my walls.

owning-our-story-and-ourselves-bravest-thing-brene-brown-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I’d spent so long hiding that emerging was tough. It still is. But there are so many reasons to open up and become who you should be. Just watch spring blossom, or a rose, bloom – it’s worth every painful moment of development.

We grow all the time, inside us – ideas, passions, talents, confidence, courage, all these things are slowly rising ready to develop wings to lift us over our walls, bursting forth preparing to shatter our armour. We only have to acknowledge and embrace who we are.

If you cannot be the poet, be the poem-David Carradine-Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

How? I hear you say, weighed down with cares, emotions, and an introvert’s anchor plunged deep into your ocean bed…

It’s all about beliefself-belief. That armour that served you so well, keeping you safe, will eventually crush you, it will weigh you down more than your anchor, and will crush your spirit. Instead of hiding behind your walls, let those wings open like a phoenix and lift you over your fears and everything that overwhelms you. Soar like a dragon, set fire to your inner demons and 

Know that you are perfect just as you are.

Know that you don’t need permission from anyone else to be great.

Know that you are exactly who you are meant to be.

Know that you are loved and worthy of love.

Know that only you can ever be the best you.

Our deepest fear... - Marianne Williamson - The last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I still live in a tower, but I’m learning how to break down the walls, how to fly and soar, free from the anchors and armour that weighed upon my spirit and dampened who I am.

Be who you are meant to be…

Figuring out who you are is the whole point of the human experience-Anna Quindlen-Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Break down those walls and become who you are…

It's time to show up and be seen - Brené Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Albatross – Mid Week Flash Challenge

My feet moved as if they were dripping with wet cement, but they moved forward all the same.

It had been raining when I’d arrived at the lonely beach, but the sun had glazed the sky and a soft breeze had chased the rain west. Now, bronze clouds swept across the firmament and a warm zephyr caressed my hair.

It wasn’t enough and I kept walking.

Water slapped the struts of the pier the only sound above the light wind that tickled my ears, and my soft footfalls.

The boards beneath my feet echoed and I thrust my hands into my Virginia Woolf pockets. Fingers stroked stones, smooth pebbles, and balled up letters of love.

At the end of the pier I sank to my knees and peered down into the water. Burnished clouds danced over the ripples as twilight gave way to dusk. I moved to let my legs dangle, my toes dipping into the ocean.

Tears slipped silently into the water, not making a sound as they joined the vast body of sea, and I considered how it would feel to follow them.

The clouds in the ocean parted and diamond stars sparkled like glitter strewn across the water, but even that wasn’t enough.

Paper, wrapped around the pebbles in my pockets, burned my fingertips, and my tears yielded to sharp, choked sobs, and I swung my legs, gaining momentum, rhythm, and resolve. My hands moved from my pockets to grip the timber, to push, to give me strength, to urge my body forward.

The last rays of copper shifted across my legs as the sun bowed low, begging me to sink with him, to tag along on his shimmering tail sinking into the silky sea. My sigh rivalled the breeze and I closed my eyes, grasping the beams beneath cold, trembling fingertips.

Dizzy with anticipation, sick with fear, and empty of care I prepared to slide from the pier.

Behind me a soft whoosh moved through the breeze and I thought angel wings touched my shoulder. Startled amid the quiet and acquiescent eventide, my eyes fluttered open and I twisted to see what celestial presence had landed behind me.

The huge bird stared at me with eyes as dark as night rimmed with gold, and snow-white feathers quivering with curiosity. I gazed back at the ghostly creature, glowing beneath the rising moon, and wonder struck my soul.

The bird shook his head and eyed me at an angle that must have been uncomfortable, and a smile whispered across my face for the first time in forever. His hooked beak dipped and the albatross shook his wings. Soft, downy feathers spilled and spiralled about me, like lost confetti, and tears blurred.

Then far away, beyond the cliffs, over the ocean, a cry caught the wind and the bird raised his head. His answering call spoke to my heart and I knew his mate waited. Love endured.

Pebbles dropped with my heavy heart, one by one.

It was enough.

As the albatross launched and soared across the sky above me, my soft footfalls echoed through the night as I made my way back down the pier, my bare feet slapping on cold, damp boards and my hands keenly clutching a white feather of hope.

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Leaping right in early with a piece for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge over at Finding Clarity.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 – Surviving or Thriving?

This week 8th – 14th May is Mental Health Awareness Week,
and this year the Mental Health Foundation have chosen the theme:
Surviving or Thriving?

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 - Surviving or Thriving - The Last Krystallos

It’s a thin line.

Two thirds of people in the UK say they have experienced a mental health problem, with women, young people, and those who live alone affected most. The survey, completed by The Mental Health Foundation in 2017, also discovered that those over the age of 55 cope best with taking steps to make their lives better, 85% of the unemployed have experienced mental health issues, and that 3 out of 4 low income families suffer compared to 6 in 10 in the highest income positions.

4 in 10 people live with depression and over a quarter of the population experience panic attacks.

Out of 2,290 people surveyed, sadly, only 13% reported a high level of good mental health.

Mental Health Awareness - the last krystallos -happiness-and-melancholy-virginia-woolf

© Lisa Shambrook

With poor mental health in such a vast amount of the population you could ask why?

The reasons are huge and we may not even understand or know some of them. Social, financial, political, familial, religious, and medical reasons abound, let alone the mental and emotional reasons that we are working with or haven’t even discovered yet.  Our modern diet, pollution, smoking, drinking, drugs, lack of exercise – all of these may add to or cause mental health issues.

The survey concludes that ‘the collective mental health of our nation is deteriorating,’ and warns thatthe barometer of success of any nation is the health and wellbeing of its people.’ We have a long way to go, and we need to support each other to become a healthier nation.

Mental Health Awareness - rain - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Perhaps the most important thing when asking the question Survive or Thrive? is to discover what we can do to help, to support those who live with mental and emotional health issues. We can help those around us thrive, despite the conditions they live with.

I’ve blogged about many Mental Health Issues, so feel free to browse to find information if you wish. Depression, Anxiety, Self-Harm, Highly Sensitive People, Misophonia, Running Away, and I’ve written a post on How to Keep Calm and Carry On – offering advice on coping with Stress.

Like I’ve mentioned in my This is What Anxiety Feels Like post, some people have circumstantial or situational mental health issues, and thankfully, most of these issues pass in time and as situations change, but others live with constant and life-long conditions.

Mental Health Awareness - dog - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do you support those you know with challenging conditions?

Accept – a mental health condition is as legitimate as a broken bone, you wouldn’t ask someone with a broken arm to prove it, or to pull themselves together and get on with it. Be accepting and validate us with compassion and empathy.

Listen – Be there when we need you. Be attentive and intuitive, we may not always be able to tell you when we need you. Many mental health conditions, like anxiety and/or depression, often take away self-confidence and make us very insecure, and we often don’t ask for help when we need it. Offer your ear, sometimes we need to talk. Talking can be very cathartic. If you can help or encourage us to get counselling, you can help us make big steps forward.

Support – even when we shy away, or get prickly, or reject you, we still need you. Your support and love is often what helps us hold it together when things are tough. Your support is imperative because professional help can be very hard to get, and requires long periods on waiting lists for six or ten sessions of counselling. Trying to get help can be demoralising and very often we give up. We are waiting for the government to invest in mental health care and for the stigma to be erased. We need support.

Learn – educate yourself about the mental illness that your loved one is living with. It will benefit everyone. Understanding a condition helps you live with it and offer the right support.

Don’t Judge – never tell someone with a mental illness that it’s all in their head, or that they’re work-shy, or that it doesn’t exist. Don’t ever tell them that they should be glad they haven’t got *insert cancer or other physical disease*. Many mental illnesses have very physical symptoms. Educate yourself. Please, also, don’t tell them that it could be worse. It probably couldn’t to them and we all deal with our problems in different ways and on different levels. This one goes along with acceptance, but is even more important, as sometimes those with metal health issues can be living on a knife edge and your judgement or criticism could push them over the edge.

Be lenient – make allowances (but never be patronising). Like I said many conditions have very debilitating physical symptoms like exhaustion (mental exhaustion creates physical exhaustion), tremors, headaches, racing heart rate and palpitations, physical pain, nausea, inability to breathe, and more. Our medication can also cause many side effects. Emotional responses can be just as hard to cope with for those living with these conditions. When we can do something, we’ll do it, but sometimes we just can’t.

Mental Health Awareness - first aid - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The stigma attached to mental health is slowly fading and we can all do our bit to fight and eradicate it. We even have Royals, William, Kate, and Harry spearheading the #HeadsTogether campaign to end the stigma around mental health.

Let’s work together to support each other, not only to survive, but to thrive!

Mental Health Awareness - cat - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook