Recovery, Matt Smith

Matt Smith, from Grimsby gives us an insight into his sudden streak of happiness

Three weeks ago to the day as I write this, I tweeted this:

That’s three weeks of feeling good/happy/positive. Yes, there has been the odd sleepless night or down day but nothing, and I mean nothing to like how I have been in the past. And if I’m being honest, and I am because that’s a part of recovery, it’s scary. I’ve spent more than enough time wishing to be ‘normal’ again and here I am at 3 weeks of happiness but in the back of my head…impending doom! But why? Why should I sit around with an umbrella waiting for it to rain?!

But here’s the catch to recovery – you know you can have good days and the fact you know the signs/signals/triggers doesn’t alter the fact that there’s a high chance you won’t feel like this for too long. This is where a big part of my recovery comes into action; my mind-set.

This has been one of, if not the hardest part of my recovery. Changing a mind-set that had been moulded over 30 years then attacked for the last 2 years by depression. You make so many assumptions when you’re in the midst of depression; everything is negative. Its cliché but true that you don’t see a way out of this constant living hell that living with depression is; these feelings can last for days/weeks/months.

This is tough for me to write because it is new to me with this new mind-set of mine but again it’s part of recovery and recovery isn’t easy – self-praise!! Who likes bigging themselves up? Definitely not me, that’s for sure. But you’ve got to look back at the things you’ve overcome, when you thought (cliché alert) there was no light at the end of tunnel and see where you’re at now; and feel proud. You’ve smashed it, you’ve come this far, now bring on the next obstacle. You’re stronger than you think you are.

A big part of my recovery is mindfulness/meditation and yoga and a big part of the changing of my mind-set.

Now, getting to this point in my recovery has been a long hard road (clichés all over the shop!) and I’m under no illusions there’s further to go yet and it’s taken a lot of help and persistence from mental health professionals, family, friends, twitter friends!, myself (bigging myself up), and I best give a shout out to my new meds. Changed from Sertraline to Mirtazapine.

If you’re anything like me and on Twitter, which itself has been a huge part of my recovery; being able to ‘meet’ so many amazing and inspiring people, you come across many other stories and hear people have fallen out of touch with friends due to this illness, which has made me thankful to have friends like mine because during your recovery it’s important to keep talking. I’ll always have an ear that’ll listen but as well as my old friends I’ve also made new friends, some cyber-friends, some real life friends, both help my recovery. A big part of my recovery is mindfulness/meditation and yoga and a big part of the changing of my mind-set. I don’t want to sound like a warped cult member but I’m totally sold on this and think it should take some part of a school curriculum. I wish I didn’t wait to start it until 35.

I mention it takes hard work in recovery and I take a 45 min – 1 hour walk everyday, sometimes 2 walks if I feel I need it. I use that time to compose myself, take a bit of time to sort my thoughts out and plan my attack on whatever’s in front of me. Some people may be thinking – hard work?!! Going on a walk?!! But a ‘normal person’ could not be arsed and not bother with a walk today and everything’s fine, if I miss a walk it can turn into “wish I wasn’t here”. The mind’s a wonderful thing! So I take my walks come rain, wind or shine.

So here I am feeling good for 3 weeks now, showering regularly, doing lots of cooking and baking (always a sign I’m feeling good), keeping on top of house work – if you can wake up to a tidy room/house it gives a boost for the day (well it does me), going on my walks, practising my mindfulness/meditation and yoga and pushing myself more and more. Currently running for a Community Representative position at my local health organisation, Navigo. They looked after me for a period last year and are still very supportive in my recovery so the least I can do is help others try to see (cliché alert) there is light at the end of the tunnel and for this position I had to do some public speaking, which is so far out of my comfort zone. But I was so unhappy with my life I tried to take it and I definitely don’t want to think like that again so if doing things like this, which ultimately make me feel better and give me a purpose, it’s what I’m going to keep doing. This may well be easy for me to say at this point of recovery but there is help, there is a way out, good thoughts can overcome the negatives ones, it may take some time, keep fighting.


Written by:

Matt Smith
Follow him on Twitter: @dremds
Read his blog: What?! You want to kill yourself?

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Anxiety and me, Fern Condon

Fern Condon, 19, a blogger and shop assistant from Essex, tells us how having separation anxiety all her life has affected her

From birth I have suffered from separation anxiety from my father. He was a stay at home dad while my mum went to work. He was there 24/7 and I was never without him. I would jump if he left the room from as young as 2 months old, then as I got older my anxiety became more apparent. I would scream on the way to nursery and scream until he picked me up at the end of the day. My separation anxiety was clear for everyone to see.

Years went by, I was a quiet child: often silent or spoke in whispers even to close family. I never had friends and often played on my own or parallel to other children. I just wanted to blend in. I often got upset that I didn’t have any friends and I played on my own a lot. However, in truth I didn’t want friends or to play with others. I was scared and I thought this was normal.

By the age of 11 I had one girl that I could consider my friend. She helped me come out of my shell and I looked up to her. I wanted to be just like her, I remember telling my Nan. I was pleased that I was no longer on my own however I could not be happy. I was forever worrying that she never liked me and was constantly in a state of paranoia.

I couldn’t let anyone know that I couldn’t cope. I needed everyone to think I was normal.

I was lucky to get into the same secondary school as my friend. To me this was comforting and it made the transition from primary to secondary school smoother. I was growing in confidence and hormones took over my body. By this point it was as if I was a new person. I was loud cocky and outspoken, often getting into trouble with teachers for talking back to them. I started to have a wide circle of friends and on the surface I was happy, but inside I was breaking.

My mind continued to fill with paranoia about every situation I was in, I was anxious and scared but I put a brave face on it. I couldn’t let anyone know that I couldn’t cope. I needed everyone to think I was normal. During the same time, I was being bullied by older students and girls I considered my friends. I continued to come across strong however when I got home I would break, often crying myself to sleep and wishing I was invisible. I stopped going into classes during my GCSE years as it was just too much for me. I couldn’t pretend anymore. I was broken.

College came around and my anxieties grew, after being bullied again by another group of girls I considered to call my friends I was put on my first lot of anti-depressants, offered weekly counselling and was diagnosed with socialised anxiety disorder. College was tough but I got through it. My family and boyfriend was so supportive and thanks to them dragging me into college kicking and screaming I passed my course with a merit.

Two years went by and I continued putting a brave, happy confident face on but inside I was slowly shattering into a thousand pieces. By December 2016 I had a breakdown. I could no longer cope anymore, all the bullying, anxiety and paranoia that I had ever experienced erupted, I felt weak and I was in a very dark place. I knew there were people there to help but I didn’t want it. My brain was telling me I deserved it and I believed it.

I made it my mission to find happiness in everything I did, push myself a little every day and reward my small achievements.

By the February I was suffering with a multitude of anxieties including acrophobia. I was placed on four different kinds of anti-depressants and the NHS offered me cognitive behavioural therapy but none of it worked. I felt as if I was ill, I felt I was never going to get better and my brain didn’t work properly. After five months of feeling this way I needed something to change.

In May 2017 I went on holiday with my partner and his family. This was the first time I felt truly happy and that had a domino effect on my anxiety. I felt my happiness was stronger than the anxieties which enabled me to start engaging with the waiting staff and talking to the cashiers at the shop. My social anxiety was being managed by my happiness, and this was something I planned to continue.

From then on I made it my mission to find happiness in everything I did, push myself a little every day and reward my small achievements. Little by little I was leaving the house on my own and doing simple tasks such as going to the shops. With every small milestone I achieved it motivated me to do more. It was hard and at times I would cry and revert back to the dark times but I felt strong and finding things that made me happy made all the difference. I started to live a healthier lifestyle and lose the weight I had gained during the dark times and this gave me even more motivation. I felt on top of the world and although my anxiety was still there, it was in a locked box under control.

Mental health isn’t talked about enough, it’s a part of life that most of us at some stage will experience. So let’s talk about it as openly as we would talk about our favourite TV show or what we are eating for dinner. My mission is to normalise mental health and to change society’s outlook of it, and together we can do it. So talk to your family, friends, children and neighbours and spread the message that mental health is normal. Being mentally ill has made me a stronger and more motivated person that I could have ever imagined and for that I am proud. I am proud to be mentally ill.


Written by:

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Fern Condon
Follow her on Twitter: @LifeWithFernie
Read her blog: Life With Fernie

The benefits of opening up about your mental wellbeing, by Andy Walton

Andy Walton, 33, a community psychiatric nurse with Combat Stress from Newcastle Upon Tyne tells us why being open is the key to stamping out stigma

In 2017, it has been apparent that an open conversation around mental health is progressively becoming part of our everyday culture.  More and more inspirational individuals are sharing their inner struggles in a positive, proactive and purposeful way and it is clear that support, inspiration and solutions are arising from the sharing of our different perspectives via chats over coffee or posts on social media.

I think part of the ‘stigma’ problem in the past has been a societal misunderstanding, and perhaps a mistreating or overthinking of something that should be normalised and kept straightforward. Mental health has been treated as a separate entity with negative associations, characterised by damaging language and visuals born from both a lack of understanding and extreme negatives popularised in film and sensationalised media stories. Awareness raising campaigns regarding stigmatisation are doing wonders to reverse this, and admirable public figures being open and honest about their issues has also been a tremendous catalysts for a change in conversation.

Learning to identify signs, triggers, talk openly and offer/receive the right guidance around mental health are skills that haven’t been universally taught

By being open we are acknowledging the need to be more proactive in equipping ourselves for the challenges modern life imposes on our wellbeing.  We can see that everyone has their own issues and a struggle with mental health is not only common but normal. We are all vulnerable; with enough stress combined with maladaptive coping strategies our stress level will eventually rise and overflow and therefore we will become unwell. Some are more vulnerable or resilient than others depending on a range of factors but whether we think about it or not, we all have our own ways of keeping (or trying to keep) our stress levels in check. What we need to look at is if they are healthy, and benefitting our wellbeing in the short and long term.

Learning to identify signs, triggers, talk openly and offer/receive the right guidance around mental health are skills that haven’t been universally taught. The idea that in the past this hasn’t been part of school curriculum or embedded into a workplace culture sounds surprising when said aloud.

Progress must see prevention and early intervention as being key, ensuring development of insight into the subject is a matter of course. Encouragingly there are signs of this progress through increasingly accessible mental wellbeing education and a clear cultural shift away from mental health being a taboo subject.


Written by:

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Courtesy of Andy Walton
Andy Walton
Follow him on Twitter: @nowafterwards
Read his blog: Now and Afterwards

My blog is a personal and professional perspective of anxiety in modern times. I try to keep posts clear, simple and forward focused. I don’t think my writing is amazing and I’m not the cleverest guy in the world but when you write about something you practice in, something you have lived experience of, I feel you can offer an important voice which can inform and empower. And hopefully, inspire others to open up about their own mental health.

A milestone event, Emily Florence

Emily Florence, 21, an account manager from Birmingham tells us how being open about mental health can be life-saving

[Trigger warning: discussion of suicide]

Losing your virginity is a milestone event in your life. You look in the mirror afterwards and you still look like you, albeit perhaps a bit ruffled and bright eyed. You feel like everyone should know, that the change that has happened to you, the irreversible event should be seen as obviously as it’s felt.

But in fact it’s not a visible change at all, it’s a mental shift. Something has happened that has forever split your life into ‘before’ and ‘after’.

Surviving a suicide attempt is a milestone event in your life too, if you’re unlucky enough. You look in the mirror afterwards and you still look like you, albeit a bit haunted and dead eyed. You feel like everyone should know, that the change that has happened to you, the irreversible event should be seen as obviously as it’s felt.

But in fact it’s not a visible change at all, it’s a mental shift. Something has happened that has forever split your life into ‘before’ and ‘after’.

Losing your virginity and attempting to take your own life aren’t at all similar situations. But that feeling afterwards, when you’re sat with a group of friends or family and that knowledge, that secret, of what has happened to you is screaming inside and everyone else just carries on like your whole life hasn’t just changed. It’s the only thing I’ve ever found that is comparable.

We don’t talk about sex openly, it’s not polite dinner time conversation.

We don’t talk about mental health openly either.

But we need to.

Before I was hospitalised after taking an overdose, I was a normal eighteen year old. Or I thought I was.

I began feeling overly self conscious and insecure in my last couple of years of high school. Pretty normal I thought. My first year of college was hard. I powered through but felt isolated even around my friends. When I turned 18 in my second year we started going out drinking and clubbing and I began experiencing crippling anxiety and massive depressive episodes. Just part of growing up I thought. I knew nothing about mental health back then. I missed all the warning signs. I completely flunked my second year of college, only attended a quarter of my lessons at most. I used to spend every night desperately sobbing cause I couldn’t understand the crushing pain and depression that overcame me seemingly at random.

Maybe if I’d sought help back then it would never have come to what it did.

I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t know what was happening.

One day on my way home I got hit with the worst depressive episode I have ever experienced. I thought I was dying. I was sobbing on the bus and I felt so isolated and hopeless. I don’t remember any trigger for it, it just hit and refused to leave.

I remember getting home and thinking there was absolutely no chance I could carry on feeling like this. If this was going to be my life then I wanted out. I didn’t even consider there might be help out there for me cause I had no clue what was happening. I had thought about depression but it was such a taboo subject. How do you even open a conversation about it? It didn’t seem like something that could happen to me, it was reserved for people who had been through some horrific life event. Someone with such an outwardly good life like me has no right to claim it as an excuse for my pathetic inability to cope.

The reason I’m still here today to write this, is learning about mental health and speaking to others who have been through it.

I spent 3 days in A&E and it was the worst weekend of my life. I never told anyone where I was and I felt judged and alone. No one spoke to me with compassion and I didn’t even have a change of clothes or a phone charger.

I went back into my life after in a daze I don’t think I’ve ever quite shaken. I went back to work and went home, I had family meals and went out with my friends. It almost felt like I’d succeeded in that attempt because I can tell you I didn’t feel alive for weeks and weeks.

I eventually spoke to a professional and received some help, though none of it has been great. The thing that has helped me the most, and probably the reason I’m still here today to write this, is learning about mental health and speaking to others who have been through it. Finding the community of mental health bloggers and the twitter communities has been eye-opening and to be frank, life-saving.

So that’s why I started blogging about mental health, why I agreed to write this post and why I continue to have honest, open and frank conversations. Because knowledge is important and it could save someone’s life.


Written by:

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Emily Florence
Follow her on Twitter: @emflorenceblog
Read her blog: Emily Florence

Mental health in the media: vox pop

The other week, we went out in search of Nottingham people so we could ask them a few questions about mental health in the media. 

We wanted to know what the last mental health related news item they saw was, and whether it was presented positively or negatively.

Oh, and we found some pretty cool street art too!

Watch the video here:

Music credit: Evan Schaeffer, ‘Bonita’ from his album Big Splash.
Also thank you to Katherine Rodriguez for her contributions and help with filming.

Magic Memory Pills, by Katherine Rodriguez

Katherine, 25, a Philosophy student and writer from Nottingham, tells us about her experience with medication

There is a lot of talk within the mental health community about the insidious nature of mental illness. Anxiety and depression, my particular partners in crime, are described as monsters that come at you from behind. You see them (either/or) as a shadow in your peripheral vision which you dismiss as a trick of the eye. You go through the motions or convince yourself you are doing so. Skimming the surface of life, you try to maintain the façade for as long as possible: ‘Everything is fine’, ‘I’m just tired’, ‘It’s just stress.’ It adds up, the snowball becoming an avalanche, until you realise that you spent more days paralysed in bed this month than you did being generally upright. That is, if you manage to realise that at all.

However, whenever you manage to take action to become better (and I urge you to do so as soon as you can – there is light at the other end of that unending tunnel), things don’t sail as swiftly as you might have expected. You start going to counselling and get yourself a Colouring for Mindfulness book, and you start to accept the fact that you are probably going to have to manage this illness for the rest of your life. That this is who you are now, someone who is mentally ill and who will spend the rest of their life fighting that illness every day.

I’m not here to tell you that’s not true. This is an experience that you’ll probably never forget, even when you are able to get past it. Some of us will have to manage until we die, probably all of us will, because we’ll never be confident that the monsters aren’t lurking in the dark. However, I am here to tell you that managing can be amazing. It can feel like you are living. Hell, it can feel like you are cured (most of the time)! But I wouldn’t be able to say that, with all honesty, without my medication.

Most people see the need to take medication as a sign that you are damaged or that you are not trying hard enough

When I gave in to the battle, when I thought I would fight my anxiety every day for the rest of my life, I felt defeated. I felt defeated because I couldn’t remember what it was like to be conscious and not be anxious at the same time. I couldn’t remember what it was like to be happy. And this is not my All Aboard the Self-Pity Train ticket, this is, in full fact, what my memories were like. At my worst times, I’d look back to memories that I considered “happy” ones and I would almost see myself from the outside. The person who had experienced that happiness was separate in my mind’s eye from the person that was experiencing the total lack of joy (or any feeling, for that matter) that I felt at my most ill. I couldn’t remember what it felt like to not be terrified of everything. When I remembered times in which I had gone outside without fear, if I could possibly recall one, I would see myself like an audience does a movie. I could not remember having other feelings but fear. This is what pushed me to talk to my doctor about medication.

Many people think that medication is a crutch, that it makes you normal when the “true you” goes on untreated. Most people see the need to take medication as a sign that you are damaged or that you are not trying hard enough. They are wrong. Taking medication for me was like being given magical memory pills.

Medication has made surviving into managing, getting by into living

Now, I want to qualify my words here. Magical refers to the fact that they brought me back to a basic level where I could feel things again, albeit faintly. Essentially, they were as magical as throwing a ladder or a rope to someone trapped in a very deep hole. They were not magical in the sense that this effect came immediately after I took them. I believe it was at least a couple of months until I felt any difference. Memory, on the other hand, refers to the fact that soon after I was able to feel things again, to spy beyond the veil of fear that pervaded my world, I was able, slowly, to remember what it was like to be happy. I couldn’t feel it yet, but I could see that in future a day would come in which I would feel like I know that other me in my memories felt.

If medication did nothing else for me, it gave me hope. Medication didn’t and hasn’t cured me, but medication allowed me to feel stable enough to believe that I could be cured or that I could look forward to happiness in my life. Medication has made surviving into managing, getting by into living. It didn’t do it on its own and I wouldn’t have expected medication to be the whole answer, but it gave my mind the foundation in which to build all other coping mechanisms. It gave me the space to rebuild my personality after it had been scattered by my illness and it gave me the headspace to learn to identify when things started going wrong. It allowed me to remember what it felt like to be myself and to be happy with who I am.

And I know what you are thinking: yes, medication works differently for everyone. You might have to try different meds to find the one that helps you. This could mean months trying out something to find out if it will help you at all. It can be demoralising, it can be frustrating but it could also help you change your life for the better. To hell with the stigma.


Written by:

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Katherine Rodriguez
Follow her on Twitter: @FinallyImKath
Visit her website [under construction]: The Annotated Life

In Music We Trust: Aiden Hatfield opens up about depression

IMWT Tweet
Courtesy of Aiden Hatfield

There’s a misconception that depression means you’re lazy, or that having it is something to be ashamed of.

But for musician Aiden Hatfield, being open about depression and speaking about it to other people has helped him cope with his own problems.

Our first issue features an interview with Aiden, but as an insight it’s worth checking out his clothing brand In Music We Trust which donates 50% of profits to the mental health charity Mind.

Aiden is one half of the band Coloured in Silence, so it’s no surprise that music is medicine when it comes to his mental health.

If you want to find out more, watch the video below, and visit the website to buy some cool t-shirts and raise money for a good cause! Oh, and spread the word and get more people talking openly about having depression.

Follow Aiden on Twitter: @AidenHatfield
Follow In Music We Trust on Twitter: @imwtclothing
Follow Coloured in Silence on Twitter: @cisilence

Madness Magazine

Welcome to Madness.

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Talking about mental health is important. But to do that you need to accept the stuff that’s going on in your head, even if that just means putting a name to it.

Mostly, it means seeking help or just telling one person what you’re going through. This is a huge step, and can be scary no matter who you are.

Here at Madness we believe that to combat stigma surrounding mental health we need to talk about it openly and honestly, with no shame or hesitation. We all have mental health, just like we all have physical health. It can be a lot easier to tell someone you have a headache, than to tell them that your head just isn’t working.

In recent times, mental health is gaining a lot more coverage in the media, and getting a lot of interaction on social media sites such as Twitter. More people are talking about it, and more people are becoming aware of how many other people are going through the same thing as they are.

Madness is the place where our voices can be free to talk openly about the mad stuff that goes on inside our heads. It’s about exploring, explaning and educating people whilst being accepting that it’s okay to not always be 100% okay.

Let’s face it, we’re not all sane, not completely. We shouldn’t have to hide behind labels or stigma, and now is the time to be anything but silent.

Why Madness?

I don’t know about you, but if the mad hatter invited me to a tea party I’d probably say yes. Being ‘mad’ isn’t a bad thing, and having a mental health problem doesn’t mean you have to declare any level of madness to your family. You’re just you, but mental health can cause a lot of madness in our lives that we can’t always account for.

If we can call ourselves mad, crazy, mental etc. then who can use that against us?

Plenty of people are embracing madness…

Bryony Gordon:

Claire Eastham

Anna Williamson

Mad In The UK

Write Minds

Rae Earl

And let’s not forget Mad Pride

Look out for new content coming soon, celebrating mental health and giving a voice to people who are a little on the mad side.