Category Archives: Anxiety

Spent – When You Have Nothing Left To Give – World Mental Health Day 2020

October 10th is World Mental Health Day, and 2020 needs one.
Twenty-twenty has been a year like no other, and with years since 2016
 getting progressively more difficult, this one really took the proverbial biscuit.
Our state of mind and mental health is paramount,
and sometimes all you can do is look after yourself.

Mind points out: According to our research, with over 16,000 people, we know that more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) said their mental health got worse during lockdown. We know that many have developed new mental health problems as a result of the pandemic and, for some of us, existing mental health problems have gotten worse.

Personally, lockdown was a relief, a moment out of time when my mental health thrived. Staying at home, going out only for necessities and spending time in nature worked wonders on my emotional state. It’s the mixture of chaotic messages, ideas, rules, hypocrisy, and out of control official governmental plans since lockdown ended that have wrecked my mental health.

I suffer with severe anxiety and panic, depression, self-harm and self-destructive behaviour including dermatillomania and eating disorder, and I’m waiting ASD assessment. I live for routine, so any changes are difficult to deal with. When supermarkets introduced one-way systems, masks, social distancing, queues to get in, I took my daughter with me for support. Panic rose every time I went for the first few weeks, with panic attacks inside the shop, and even outside when I was asked why there was more than one person shopping for my household. I will add that Tesco was very supportive when I explained my daughter helping, plus I was also shopping for my elderly father who was shielding. Once I’d got used to it, I then struggled when restrictions were lessened.

Mask © Lisa Shambrook

I had problems wearing a mask to begin with. Sensory issues meant that anything covering my mouth created an unbearable urge to panic. I had to retrain my mind to accept that wearing a mask was a protection for me, and when I added that to my fear of contracting Covid19, and practising wearing a mask, bit-by-bit at home, I was able to wear one.

There are other problems, this year has been especially generous with complications and troubles, but I won’t dwell on them. This year has left many with heightened anxiety, depression, stresses and much more.

So, how do you deal with it? How do you deal with emotional exhaustion, both mental health related and in normal life – because nothing has been normal this year.

This is what I posted yesterday:

Autistic shutdown is often caused by emotional and/or physical overload, meltdown, overwhelm, change, and other situations that become too much. It’s like having a dead battery. Many people, neurodivergent and neurotypical, can experience the sensation of being utterly spent, a lack of spoons (Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino), and emotional exhaustion. Sometimes you have to give in to it. You can watch circumstances overtake you, your battery runs on emergency, and you desperately claw at the edges of the cliff you’re clinging to. Sometimes, if you’re not careful, you fall.

What can you do?

Take it easy. Take it one step at a time. Rest, Sleep, and allow yourself to recharge. You might bounce back quickly – a nap might be all you need – but you might need time to readjust, reassess your position, and small steps are fine.

I washed my hair and felt stronger, but aside from eating chocolate, yes, that counts, I didn’t do much until my brain had quietened and I’d been able to shut out some of the things that were shouting at me.

Family © Lisa Shambrook

Words of encouragement help, and here I will link an article I read the other day which made me cry because it was so true. This is How You Love Someone With Anxiety by Kirsten Corely. You can’t ever say “It’s okay,” too much, we answer texts immediately and panic if our texts go unanswered, we read too much into everything, and if it all gets too much, and it often does, we need to be held and be told “It’s okay.” Being hugged by someone who loves you can cure or help the worst things you fear. Real life hugs and virtual hugs are important. Your family can be your biggest support.

Nature is my saviour. When things get too much I get out. I have a dog, Kira, who has severe panic and anxiety, and cannot be walked near people or other dogs, so we go to the forest. I am blessed to live close to Brechfa Forest and there are multiple trails through woods and forest that we can take Kira without seeing anyone. This is a life saver, both for me and for Kira. When Kira’s walked locally by the road on pavement, she’s hyper-alert, aggressive, and full of panic – it’s not fun for anyone. Even a local dog trainer who trains guard dogs, admitted defeat with Kira, she’s a damaged rescue, who has only known real love from a few people in her life. In us, she’s found trust and unconditional love and her mental health thrives in our home. In the forests she is in her element and becomes a soft-natured, fun-loving, relaxed and adventurous pup. And that’s how nature works for me too.

Nature and Dog Walks © Lisa Shambrook

This year, with its trials, has taught us some of the most important things that life has to offer, and family and nature seem to top that for me. My friend Jessica Maybury wrote this piece The Greatest Travel Adventure Of 2020 and it resonates with me. Get out and see where you are. Since first having a dog, twelve years ago now, we’ve explored locally, and it’s a revelation. I haven’t discovered many new places this year, but it’s been a relief to know my locality and where I can go for peace. Go explore!

Sometimes medication can be the best help. Go and see your GP and get professional advice, there’s a place for medication, and there should be no stigma around taking meds that help you. No one blinks an eyelid when someone takes medication for diabetes or heart disease, or medication for thyroid issues because your thyroid is not producing what it should. Mental health issues arise because your brain isn’t doing or producing what it should and sometimes medication can put that right. I have taken antidepressants for periods on and off throughout my life, and I currently take medication for my anxiety attacks.

Cracks © Lisa Shambrook

The same goes for getting diagnosed with any mental health or other condition you might have. It’s tough to get a mental health diagnosis these days, the NHS is severely underfunded and many resources are difficult to get, but please fight for them. I’m about to begin counselling and hope it’ll give me some relief. My adult daughter received her Autism diagnosis just two months ago, after a 30 month waiting list and many years being let down by child and adolescent mental health services in her teens. The resulting diagnosis was definite and a huge relief. Validation can go a long way to finding peace or at least coming to terms with who you are.

And, perhaps, that’s the most important thing, coming to terms with who you are and what your needs are. You are you, and you’re enough whether you are in perfect health, or whether you have physical or mental health issues. Find what works for you, find support, and I hope you find what you need.

What helps you when life gets too much? How do you recharge?
I wish you all peace of mind in these tough years.

The Simple Things that Lift your Spirit

Sometimes the small and simple things are the things that lift us,
and in times like these where many of us are in lockdown and
missing our normal lives, the simple things are often the big things.

The Simple Things that Lift your Spirit - The Last Krystallos

My anxiety has been sky high since this pandemic struck, and finally I’m feeling able to release some of the tension and allow myself to relax. The change in daily routine has been a struggle for me, routine gives me safety and order, and any change makes my brain spin out of control. So, in addition to health worries, stress over income and work, and those immediate alterations we’ve all had to deal with, my mind has been rushing about like a wild rabbit.

We’ve tried to keep as much of our lives as constant as we can, but we’re also embracing the situation to positively change things where necessity demands. And it’s the small things that are enabling this.

I’m missing walking my dog in the forest. Brechfa forest is ten minutes away, but we’re trying to adhere to the walk locally ethos without travel, so we’re revisiting some of the walks we used to do with Roxy. We’ve been walking Kira up in the solitude of the forest because she’s a rescue and because of her history she can’t deal with people, dogs, or cars. She’s relaxed, happy, and inquisitive on woodland paths, but as soon as you hit local streets with her she’s on high alert, nervous, and anxiety ridden, barking at every vehicle, person, and dog. It helps that the streets are more empty, and Sunday mornings are perfect, but walks can be an ordeal for her, so we’re trying different times and locations, in the hope to find the best conditions for her.

Blackthorn blossom and Primroses - The Last Krystallos

Blackthorn blossom and Primroses © Lisa Shambrook

When we’re out walking I’m noticing the beauty around mewildflowers pushing up through cracks in walls and pavement, forget-me-nots and violets spreading across verges, and spring primroses bringing sunshine to the roadside. Birdsong has increased, louder and more prevalent now there are fewer cars and people about. And, yes, I know we’re in lockdown, but the weather has blossomed just like the blackthorn hedgerows!

Walking, in itself, and exercise is something that helps lower anxiety, so finding calm walks helps us all. And talking of dogs, can you think of anything more simply beautiful than the love of a dog? When my anxiety spikes Kira is there to rub against me and love me, and when she’s anxious we scritch behind her ears and that softest of soft fur comforts both of us.

Lisa and Kira Brechfa and the softest soft fur - The Last Krystallos

Lisa and Kira Brechfa and the softest soft fur © Lisa Shambrook

I didn’t panic buy, just trying to keep to our usual routine, but I did buy extra chocolate. Like I said, the simple pleasures… We’ve made bread, chocolate-chip cookies, milkshakes, and hot chocolates.

I’m not a social being, I’m the archetypal introvert, but I have enjoyed messaging conversations with friends as we check up on each other, and social media has been both a blessing and a curse. It’s a wonderful way to keep up to date with the news and in touch with friends, and probably the only way I socialise, but the amount of misinformation that has been passed around is both stressful and frustrating. Add in a great deal of judgement and shaming, along with the constant link to the pandemic, and you have to know when to turn it off and get away.

Milkshake, Hot Chocolate and cookies - The Last Krystallos

Milkshake, Hot Chocolate and cookies © Lisa Shambrook

My favourite weekend was one where we turned off everything and marathon watched The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings – extended versions. It afforded me the luxury of escaping reality, of getting away and immersing myself in fantasy and beautiful cinematography. It made me stronger, happier, and more able to cope with current everyday life. The availability of entertainment, games, books, movies, and streaming services to watch has been a great escape for most of us, giving us time to leave reality behind for a few hours and fill our minds with something different.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings - The Last Krystallos

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings © Lisa Shambrook

I have been playing with my crystals and bracelet beads, losing myself in the simple beauty and energies of crystals and rocks. I love the natural world and crystals fascinate me. My daughter even put together an anti-anxiety spell for me: salt for protection, rosemary for both protection and cleansing, sage for mental strength, and cloves to release negativity. Lavender and rose petals for peace and calm, amethyst to soothe emotions, and a sigil to be calm and clear headed, and sealed with the wax of a protective black candle. She also drew a tarot which fitted perfectly offering calm, peace, and renewed hope even in darkness and difficult and unexpected times. The simplicity of magic can be found when you need it.

Crystal Grid and Anti-anxiety Spell - The Last Krystallos

Crystal Grid and Anti-anxiety Spell © Lisa Shambrook

Time spent with my family, doing anything, binge watching TV, dog walking, playing board games, talking, or just general house tidying, is good! Fewer hours at work and outside commitments has let us lounge about in bed with lie-ins and extra sleep.

Maybe once this is all over and we try to return to normal, we’ll have learned that not everything is about money, the economy, or capitalism. That sometimes we need simplicity, time, and relaxation more than a twenty-four hour seven-day-a-week society. Spending time out, either alone, or with family, or friends is important, and if we can get out of a society that values cold hard cash and profit more than families, health, and humanity, maybe, just maybe, we can make life better and more rewarding – with the small and simple pleasures.

The small and simple things are, more often than not, the big things that matter.  

When your Dog is your Soul Mate

No one can fully understand the meaning of love
unless he’s owned a dog – Gene Hill

When Your Dog Is Your Soul Mate - The Last Krystallos

We often find parallels in our lives with each other, but what if it’s with your dog?

My dog, Kira, loves deeply, has panic attacks, is needy, anxious, and completely unsure of herself and I seem to have chosen a dog that I mirror to an extreme extent.

Lisa and Kira - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

They say you shouldn’t/can’t *project human emotions onto a dog, but if there is ever a dog that is me – it’s Kira! Dogs, animals, can often have psychological issues. Maybe I have an autistic dog? Who knows?

Anyway, although we have similar physical issues with daily meds and needs, and that might have been what drew me to her, I had no idea we’d mirror each other so completely.

Kira and me April 2019 - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

It’s strange and revealing watching reactions to her knowing I conjure so many of the same ones. I know I overshare a lot, and if she could be understood I’m pretty sure her constant vocalisation would be the same. She trills, purrs, whines, and chats all the time. She and I need to be heard, to put our thoughts and emotions into words. We need constant reassurance. She needs to feel our love even when we’re so loving she cannot possibly misconstrue our affection. She doesn’t always do as she’s told, or follow demands, because (and yes, I’m guessing) they don’t always seem common sense to her – they often don’t to me, but, like me, she tries to please to an extreme degree. She’s well trained and conditioned, but needs to reach out of it to find herself. She struggles to let go but when she does she’s a free spirit and bounds through the forest with utter joy and thrill!

Kira GSD - Brechfa Forest - May 2019 - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is scared of people and dogs. Her fear of other dogs, her own species, is so ingrained, so great that it instantly throws her into a panic attack. I understand panic attacks. We’re supposed to be training her with dog exposure, to normalise it, to show her other dogs aren’t a danger, and to a degree we are. But I cannot ignore a full blown panic attack and just leave her in the situation that fills her with terror. And possibly this is our closest moment – needing reassurance. Ignoring the panic lets it continue, growing into a monster she cannot control, but as I hold her, and soothe her, and stroke her, she calms. She does what a child in fear does leaning close, crying, needing that contact, that assurance, and the comfort softness gives. I know, because I’m the same.

My pup obsesses with her toys, loves routine, is triggered by specific small noises, and loves with complete abandon. I think we’re twins!

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole - Roger Caras - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is at her happiest when she’s with the people she loves, she doesn’t need anyone else. I laugh, because that’s been my ethos for forty-seven years! Her complete acceptance of us when we collected her and her immediate love and affection was a surprise as we’d been told she’d be slow to trust, but she met us and we became hers.

When people visit, her anxiety rises (I don’t do well with visitors either). I’m not sure she’s barking and protesting the visitor to protect us, but more to protect herself. She’ll calm around people who are more familiar, but with amusement it’s noted, that as she sniffs about them quite happily, until she realises they’re making eye contact or even daring to talk to her, she’ll spike, jump back, and bark again. When people she doesn’t know are necessary and they show authority she’ll give in and accept them, but only because she has to. Back again, with the only ones she needs she’s secure, content, and relaxed, brushing against us like a kitten craving attention, purring like a tribble, and loving like she’s been deprived.

She’s had love in her past, beautiful love, but it’s taught her that she only needs those closest to her, and breaking that cycle is something I’ve never been able to do in my own life, let alone hers!

Kira GSD - May 2019- The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I think we exist in the same bubble. I worry that I overshare, that people will tire of me, that I’ll be too needy, that I’ll do things wrong – say things wrong, that my anxiety and strangely wired brain will push people away, and that despite every single proof otherwise that love will be fleeting, floating away on the wind where I can’t catch it.

I know much of my dog’s behaviour is the same as normal dogs, you’ll recognise it in your own pup, but it’s the detail, the utter symmetry of my life and hers that throws me into wonder. I’ve spent my life fighting my mental health, my debilitating sensory issues, extreme empathy, panic, depression, and anxiety. I’m still battling them, waiting for adult autism assessment, for recognition and acceptance. Like Kira some of my issues won’t ever change, and they can’t, and possibly shouldn’t, be trained out of me, because they are me.

Kira and me April 2019. - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I wasn’t even looking for another dog after losing our beloved Roxy last year, and I have no idea why a passing Tweet from a rescue centre I didn’t even follow caught my eye back in January, a short, one-off tweet about a dog with problems needing a home, and people to love and love her back – but it did. They sometimes say dog owners look like their dogs, it appears Kira and I are much more than that, we’re soul mates, and we were meant to find her. I thank every wheel that was ever set in motion to make this happen, you know who you are.

Finding those you love and who love you back with no barriers
and no boundaries isn’t easy, but it’s what makes life worth living.

A dog smiles with its whole face - ears, eyes, nose, whiskers, mouth, tongue - Pam Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

*My brain needs to add a caveat for those who will shrug, or mock, or claim I shouldn’t push human emotions onto a mere dog. I truly believe animals can think than more than we can possibly imagine, and seeing as we cannot ever know their thoughts, don’t try to shame me. A dog’s love and empathy is inherently deeper and more totally committed than a human is, and maybe, just maybe they are much purer and greater than we will ever be.          

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…

0000. Divider

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.

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.

0000. Divider

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?