MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK 2019 – What I’ve Learnt From CBT

Hello and welcome to my final thoughts for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Sorry I forgot to post yesterday, but it’s given me a bit of extra time to think about what I’d like to talk about today.

So, as you may or may not know, I’ve had a few rounds of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) now. Initially I was undergoing treatment for OCD a few years ago, and at the time I didn’t think it was helpful. Looking back, it was! A lot of my behaviours have slowly changed over the years since then and my OCD is now under very good control. I also had high intensity CBT last year into this year for anxiety and depression. It’s very weird how therapy works; in the moment it doesn’t seem as though it’s doing a lot. I’d go along every week, tick numbers on a sheet and talk about my feelings and what I’d like to achieve in the next week whilst learning different techniques to help with this. Some were far from useful – I don’t like mindfulness and find that my brain is always far too busy to effectively get it! For pretty much all the mindfulness exercises I didn’t take a lot away. However, there are some things that were very useful, and it’s these that I’d like to talk about a little bit more today!

Linking into the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week which is Body Image, my therapist and I found that low self esteem was a big trigger which would then become a bit of a circle as I’d then feel worse. Over the years with various counsellors we’ve got to the bottom of a lot of why I feel so negatively about myself, but that’s half of the solution. I still needed to learn how to deal with those negative thoughts. One of my pieces of homework was to write down all my positive qualities and what other people saw that was good in me. It’s a pretty challenging task, thinking positively about yourself, and it seemed quite big headed at times saying “I’m good at my job!” or “my boyfriend thinks I’m beautiful!” because I really don’t see it that way! But, as I was told, in the future if I’m feeling low about myself, I can go back to that and see that okay, maybe I’m not so bad! 

Another piece of homework was to take time for me. I didn’t realise quite how important this is, and it doesn’t have to be anything big. I was down about the fact that I didn’t seem to enjoy anything I used to and just couldn’t get motivated. We decided that my weekly task from then on would be to make time for myself, even if it was only ten minutes, and combining two of the things that I used to love was a good way to start. My homework was bliss; it was to have a bath and do some reading to relax and make sure that I take that little bit of time for me! I found this to be achievable and it really helped with getting me back into reading.

The final thing that I took away was monitoring my moods. I found it so useful throughout my course to see how my moods were fluctuating through the depression and anxiety scale that’s used (for anyone who’s never filled one out before, you’re given about 7-8 statements and have to circle how often it’s affected you in the past week and it ranges from very mild symptoms such as lack of motivation to the most severe). Because I found that so useful, we decided that I would try to keep a mood diary and we tried out a few different ones. I found the smiley face system to be the easiest – it took just a few seconds out of my day where I would draw a smiley face to show my mood! If I wanted to I could write a little bit about why and it was interesting at the next appointment to see how something that had made me really upset in the week was actually forgotten within days and wasn’t actually a big deal!

I know that CBT isn’t for everyone, but for anyone that’s struggling with mental health I would highly recommend trying it if it’s something that’s offered to you. I was signed up when I was at a low point, but my appointment took a few months. By then I was feeling a lot better but on the encouragement of my doctor I still went; sometimes it’s easier to learn the techniques when you’re not necessarily suffering too much. Time will tell whether the skills I learnt will work if I dip majorly again, but I’m hopeful that I’m a lot stronger and have a good knowledge about my moods to be able to handle them a little bit better!

kayleigh

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MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK 2019 – Reducing My Meds

After over six years of being on anti-depressants, this year I decided that I was stable enough to attempt to reduce them with the aim of coming off them entirely, and a lovely triggering newspaper article about side effects set off my anxiety and pushed me to come off them. This time last year, I was on 200mg of Sertraline and 5mg of Aripiprazole (an antipsychotic) but as I write this I am now on 150mg and 2.5mg respectively. I thought that for today’s post I’d just share a little bit about how I’ve found reducing medication that I’ve become so dependent on.

I reduced Aripiprazole last year; it was making me so sleepy which wasn’t helping me! It was suggested by my pharmacist that I try halving my tablets so as to reduce it (luckily I was on a low dose anyway!) and I’ve found that that made such a difference. It’s helped enough to keep my moods in check a bit more, but I’m not as sleepy as I was.

Sertraline I only started reducing a month or so ago. Because I’m on such a high dose, I’ve been reducing it by 25mg at a time. I initially wanted to reduce my dose every two weeks, but I really started feeling withdrawal effects after that time so we decided to continue to make it a month. The first effects that I, and everyone around me, noticed were that I was very agitated and angry, which is so unlike me! I then crashed and went all emotional. It was a bit of a rollercoaster two weeks. However, after the first couple of weeks it all settled down a bit and I was able to continue with reducing. I’m now on my second month and taking 150mg daily. I thought it was all going plain sailing until this week; I’ve been feeling very light-headed and dizzy and getting headaches, which is unusual. That said, I have noticed these side effects in the past if I’ve ever missed more than one dose, so unfortunately I think I’m just going to have to ride it out.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking medication. In fact, I fully support it. But I also recognise that it’s not always the only solution and I don’t have to be on them for life; I can come off them and be okay! This is just my experience so far of reducing my medication, and it’s a process that I’ll be going through (if all goes to plan) until about September. Whilst I’m not particularly enjoying the side effects, I’m relieved that I’ve not struggled that much with my mental health, and it’s been more physical symptoms. It makes a change to feel like I’m in a bubble because I’m light-headed, and not because I’m on the verge of a meltdown!

All of the above is not going to be the same for everyone, and it’s also okay if you’re not ready to come off your medication. It’s taken me a long time to decide and it’s not a decision that you should feel under any pressure to make!

kayleigh

 

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK 2019 – Body Image and Books

I didn’t realise that the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Body Image, and this is such a good theme to get everyone thinking and talking about! Personally, I’ve really struggled with body image for well over 15 years, and it’s led to disordered eating and depression on many occasions, and I’ve also seen the destruction it can cause to people’s lives first hand. Most people will at some point not feel good enough, or feel insecure about their body, and I think that raising awareness of how it is normal to feel these things but how to cope with those feelings in a safe way is really important.

One way that awareness can be raised is, of course, through books. Young Adult fiction in particular is fantastic for showing struggles with body image at a time when our bodies are changing and many issues arise. I’m going to share below some of the titles that have really helped me to understand that I’m not alone in feeling so insecure over the years. I will say, however, that if you’re triggered by anything to do with eating disorders then please do use your judgement on whether reading these books is right for you. Also, there is definitely a lack of books about male body image out there! All of the books I’ve read have been about girls and that’s not to say that boys don’t have difficulties too, because they do. If anyone has suggestions of ones that I’ve not come across, please do mention them in the comments!

Wintergirls (Paperback)Wintergirls – Laurie Halse Anderson

A beautifully written and riveting look at anorexia from acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson. Cassie and Lia are best friends, and united in their quest to be thin. But when Cassie is found dead in a motel room, Lia must question whether she continues to lose weight, or choose life instead.

Mates, Dates and Chocolate Cheats – Cathy Hopkins

When Izzie returns from the school trip to Italy, she tries to put on her jeans, but they won’t do up! It looks as though she has put on eight pounds since Christmas and all her clothes have become very tight. Izzie then goes into the horrible spiral of becoming obsessive about her weight.

Girls Under Pressure - Girls (Paperback)Girls Under Pressure – Jacqueline Wilson

Magda is tall and glamorous, Nadine is willowy and ‘gothic’. And Ellie . . . well, Ellie is just plain normal. The three girls have been best friends forever, but now Ellie is convinced she’s fat, Nadine wants to be a model, and Magda worries that her appearance is giving guys the wrong idea. The pressure is on for them to change the way they look – but can they learn to love themselves, just the way they are? 

Second Star to the Right – Deborah Hautzig

This is an honest and moving account of a girl in the grip of anorexia nervosa. On the face of it, Leslie is a normal, healthy, well-adjusted fourteen-year-old girl. She goes to a good school, has a great friend in Cavett, and a mother who loves her to the moon and back. She should be happy, yet she’s not. She would be, she thinks, if only she were thinner. But ‘thinking thin’ becomes a dangerous obsession and Leslie’s weight drops to five stone, threatening to destroy her and the whole fabric of her family life. Only by realizing that this condition is an illness – and one that has its roots in a deep problem – can Leslie hope to survive.

Holding Up the Universe (Paperback)Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed ‘America’s Fattest Teen’. But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world – theirs and yours. 
Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are – and seeing them right back. 

Just Listen – Sarah Dessen

I’m Annabel. I’m the girl who has it all. Model looks, confidence. A great social life. I’m one of the lucky ones. Aren’t I?
My ‘best friend’ is spreading rumours about me. My family is slowly falling apart. It’s turning into a long, lonely summer, full of secrets and silence.
But I’ve met this guy who won’t let me hide away. He’s one of those intense types, obsessed with music. He’s determined to make me listen. And he’s determined to make me smile. But can he help me forget what happened the night everything changed?

Eleanor & Park (Paperback)Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.
Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and – in Eleanor’s eyes – impossibly cool, Park’s worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by.
Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is funny, sad, shocking and true – an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.

kayleigh

 

 

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK 2019 – Where Am I Now?

A year goes so quickly! It seems like no time at all since last May, and Mental Health Awareness Week 2018.

As you may or may not know, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I like to share a few of my thoughts over the week about various topics to do with mental health. Today I thought I’d just give a bit of an update on how I’m doing with my mental health. If you’ve followed my blog or Twitter for a while, you’ll have read about or seen how my moods and conditions fluctuate. However, I’ve actually been fairly stable for about six months now! So much so that I completed my course of CBT and am currently in the process of reducing my Sertraline tablets (admittedly that’s been spurred on by anxiety, thank you Daily Mail!) and my melt downs are much less frequent!

The one thing I will say is that it’s not all been plain sailing. I still have down days, and I still struggle with anxiety fairly often. But I know better how to manage it and how to recognise the signs. I also have a really good support network at work and at home which really does make a difference; my boyfriend especially knows all the signs that I’m dipping and is there waiting with a big hug!

I’m really proud of how far I’ve come; I genuinely can’t remember how it feels to feel so low like I did before. When I first started my CBT, I was answering a very high score for depression and feelings of wanting to harm myself, but by the time I’d been going to sessions for a few months, I noticed it gradually start to decrease and get to a very low score by the time I completed the course. Even now I still think my answers would be pretty low! I really hope I can continue this trend, but, even if I do dip, I know that I can pull myself back up.kayleigh

Check out my posts from last year’s Mental Health Awareness Week:

My Mental Health and Social Media
Book Recommendations
Meds…good or bad?
Mental Health and the Workplace
Stress

What A Month!

March is coming to an end, and I am aware that I’ve been fairly quiet on here for which I can only apologise. If you’ve read some of my previous posts or on Twitter, you may know that I’m in the process of buying my first home – WHICH IS SO STRESSFUL! I’m so excited and pleased with how I’m coping with it all though; I’m trying to take everything in my stride and just be organised and keep things going smoothly. So yeah, that’s taking up a fair amount of my time at the minute!

That aside, I’m also working hard on my mental health. Work has thrown up a few challenges in recent weeks and is likely to get a bit tricky soon as we have a crossover of maternity leaves in the room, but I’m coping okay and venting when I need to which really helps. I can’t work out whether I’m just more agitated than usual because of hormones, the situation or…

I’m finally coming off my antidepressants!

I’ve been on Sertraline on and off since the end of 2012, so it’s a long time to have depended on it, and for the past year I’ve been on the maximum dose of 200mg. Coming off it is making me feel a bit more tired than usual, but other than that I feel like I’m doing really well! On the advice of my pharmacist at work, I am alternating doses each day so that I come off it in 25mg doses rather than jumping down 50mg each time, so it will take a little while but I’m really hoping that soon I’ll be tablet free because once I stop that I’ll also stop taking Aripiprazole which I’ve already halved.

The only thing that’s not going so well at the minute is my reading! I’m just struggling to find the time and concentration needed to read, but I’m loving audiobooks at the minute as a way of still immersing myself in stories but without as much focus needed. I’m going to start trying to manage my time better though from April to see if I can start to catch up on some long overdue reads and reviews! I want to start working on my blog a bit more this month and am really excited to get back into it. I think one of the things that’s really spurred me on is some exciting news I got over on Twitter on Friday:

I’ve been longlisted for Best Newcomer Blogger for the UKYA Blogger Awards!

I never ever expected to get a single nomination, so to have been longlisted with nine other wonderful bloggers, many of whom I’ve looked up to, is amazing! If you happen to be reading this and nominated me, I’d like to say a massive THANK YOU to you; I’m truly grateful and so happy! This is such a strong longlist, making it a difficult decision to make! If you do enjoy my content though, and would like to vote, please head across to http://www.ukyaba.co.uk!

So yeah, that’s March! I’m going to spend this evening rewatching To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before…for the sixth time this weekend…and preparing some posts for April!

I hope you’re all doing well, and thank you for sticking with me during my slight quietness!

kayleigh

YOUR MIND IS LIKE THE SKY – Bronwen Ballard, Laura Carlin

img_43174.5/5

RELEASED: 07/02/2019
PUBLISHER: Frances Lincoln
GENRE: Picture Book, Mental Health

Your mind is like the sky. Sometimes it’s clear and blue – but sometimes a raincloud thought comes along and makes everything seem dark. So what can we do about rainclouds? This beautiful picture book, written by child psychologist Bronwen Ballard and illustrated by award-winning artist Laura Carlin, shows children that worries and negative thoughts are normal and helps them develop healthy thinking habits. Tips on mindfulness and extra resources for parents are included at the back of the book.

As someone who struggles with controlling my thoughts, I was very intrigued when I heard about this book. Mindfulness is something that I haven’t found useful in the past, much as I’d love it to be! So, I was really hoping that a picture book aimed at children may help me a little bit more…

Luckily, I was not disappointed.

Your Mind Is Like The Sky is a beautiful book with a powerful message; whilst you can’t control your thoughts, you can accept them and learn to deal with the different types. I love how thoughts are personified into clouds; this makes them seem less scary, and shows that, despite how dark they can be sometimes, they are only thoughts and they will pass. Unlike many books that focus on mindfulness, there isn’t too much text which made this book stand out even more. It reads just like a normal story and is just the right length to make it useful but not overwhelming.

At the back, something that’ll make this book more useful for parents and teachers is the breakdown of how mindfulness works and what you can do to help children. That said, I think that this book is useful for people of all ages who struggle with raincloud thoughts making this an essential addition to your collection of books about mental health.


Thank you to Ellen at Quarto for sending me a copy of this book.

THE TRUTH PIXIE – Matt Haig

the truth pixie

5/5

RELEASED: 18/10/2018
PUBLISHER: Canongate
GENRE: Young Reader, Mental Health

From number one bestselling author Matt Haig comes a hilarious and heartwarming story, brilliantly illustrated throughout by Chris Mould.

Wherever she is, whatever the day, She only has one kind of thing to say. Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo, The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.

I’ve wanted to write this review ever since I read The Truth Pixie, but I just haven’t quite known where to start!

The Truth Pixie is such a magical little book that I strongly believe everyone should read (I’ve bought eight copies as gifts this Christmas!) and it’s one that can be enjoyed again and again.

To begin with, it’s not a daunting read at all. It’s tiny. But, for such a small book, it carries so many important messages and provides so much comfort for people going through all sorts of difficulties from anxiety to grief. The description of it being “Reasons To Stay Alive for seven year olds” is not wrong! Then you have the fact that it’s beautifully illustrated by Chris Mould. Whilst his illustrations are not my usual type that I would go for, they fit the story and book perfectly.

I can’t recommend The Truth Pixie enough; whether it’s for yourself or as a gift, it’s the perfect little book to have.

kayleigh

 

 

GIRL IN PIECES – Kathleen Glasgow

girl in pieces5/5

SundayYA today has involved a lot of recommendations, both books that are out already and books that are most anticipated for next year. One author that came to mind immediately for both of these topics was Kathleen Glasgow; I adored Girl in Pieces and am incredibly excited for How To Make Friends With The Dark! As I’m making my way through all my old reviews on retail sites and transferring them on to here, I figured that today is the perfect day to finally upload my review of Girl in Pieces from when I first read it way back in 2016 as a longlist reader for a children’s book award. I went on to nominate it for the shortlist, insist on copies being stocked in the bookshops where I worked, and sell sell sell!

img_3485I could not shut up about this book since I started and finished reading it; it’s an absolutely incredible debut! It’s filled with such raw emotion, but not to the extent that it is an uncomfortable or triggering read, and, although this is an extreme case of depression/self-harm, it’s one that sheds a very realistic light on the issue. For people who have experienced this, the book is inspiring and easy to relate to, but equally it’s enlightening for people who do not know much about the mentality behind self harm and suicide. One of my personal highlights is the BEAUTIFUL author’s note at the back. READ IT!

img_3483

My heavily tabbed copy!

It’s surprisingly easy to read and get totally lost in because of the way it’s written. The book is separated into parts and the chapters are all of varying length, which added to the overall feel of the book as I felt that the “chapter” lengths sort of represented the state of mind of Charlie at various stages of her mental health. It’s also brilliant how Kathleen has touched upon the problem of young adult homelessness, and how often the reasons behind it aren’t the fault of the young people themselves but more a result of their situation at home.

All in all though, this book shows how you can hit rock bottom but it IS possible to carry on and survive despite all the stuff that life can throw at you.

 

SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS – Jack Cheng

5/5

All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like.

But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.

Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?

Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down . . .

For fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.


see you in the cosmosThis book was completely out of this world; the voice of Alex was so innocent and entertaining and made it such a compelling read. This book made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me think. See You In The Cosmos is such an important read for many reasons, many of which become apparent as you make your way through the book and towards the end. As an adult reading it, it was so endearing to see the world through a child’s eyes and some of the things he was questioning were brilliant and so many things made me laugh out loud!

Alex is 11 years old (13 in responsibility years) and we are reading the transcripts of his recordings on his Golden iPod that this space-mad youngster is planning to launch into space so Aliens can learn about Earth. We join Alex on his adventure across the country, and ultimately his adventure to discover who he is.

See You In The Cosmos is hands down one of the best and most original 9-12 books released in recent years, and I can not recommend it highly enough for youngsters and grown ups!


Thank you very much to Penguin for sending me a proof copy of this book!

WORRIES GO AWAY – Kes Gray, Lee Wildish

5/5

Without a shadow of a doubt, the best picture book for children (and grown ups!) that deals with worries and anxiety.

Worries Go Away is a beautifully illustrated story that’s accessible with rhymes and imagery (in typical Kes Gray style, it’s fun to read!), that shows the progression of worrying from that little nagging thought at the back of your mind to the full blown worry and feeling of being unable to escape those thoughts, but then how just by sharing your worries or feelings with others you can deal with those worries. The story is simple enough that for younger children it helps them to open up about things that are worrying them, but it’s also so good and meaningful that older children and adults who suffer from worries or anxiety can relate to the little girl and the feelings she’s experiencing and learn how to cope from this book too.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, and have read my copy so many times! It’s a very special book to me; often I feel like I am the little girl and so having Kes Gray sign it with a beautiful message for me really means so much!

Unfortunately, not enough people have heard of this book, and as a bookseller I would throw it into so many people’s hands. Now, as a blogger, I want to figuratively do that so more people go out there and pick it up!