Feeling your heart beating – Exercise and Mental Health

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If you’d have told me 5 years ago that I would fall in love with the gym and it would become a kind of therapy I would have laughed at you. I was the clumsy kid who was awful at sports even from the first year of school…I look like a chicken when I run. I also get red, sweaty and gross whenever I do any sort of exercise and so when I tried to go to the gym at my college and beautiful skinny girls were draped over machines posing rather than working out I decided that maybe I wasn’t meant to  do sport, that’s cool. In fact I was more than fine with that fact.

Fast forward to when I found horse riding, I’d been told exercise was really helpful for people with depression but, let me tell you, in my darkest times I just saw myself as a chubby teenager with dodgy knees, you don’t like yourself and you don’t want to be around other people. I basically could go to the school gym, then the college gym, full of kids who couldn’t stand me and the thought of exercising in front of them sent me into a tear filled panic attack at 16. I looked into sports in the first year of university and found nothing that interested me, honestly I think I was so anxious about everything I didn’t let myself even think  about joining a team. By second year I felt more comfortable, signed up for horse riding and fell in love. I worked hard, only ever missing one lesson because I was sick and would always come away feeling lighter. That was a solid 30 minutes of the week where my troubles disappeared I had to work on my body, the horse’s body and making them work together. This was my first taste of exercise making me feel mentally and physically better in a long time.

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When I broke my spine and knew I probably wouldn’t be riding again it broke my heart. Not only had I lost the connection with the horses and my hobby, I’d lost a way to make my mental health better. I was scared, on a lot of painkillers and not ashamed to admit that I did slip back into depression after the accident for a long time. I’d gone from feeling like Jessie the Cowgirl, ready to try jumping and hack across Richmond park in the near future to the news that riding wasn’t going to happen. I still don’t know. It wasn’t until I was fit enough to start going to group physiotherapy in the rehabilitation gym that I found another way to get the hormones pumping and kick my negative thoughts back into gear.

In physio gym no one cares what you look like, everyone has their own struggles and a lot of us had pain while working out. Everything was very slow and most people were 15 years older than me and above. I could try and get into some kind of groove again under the watchful eye of a physiotherapist so my spine didn’t freak out, that was all the way back in November. Now I try and go to the gym weekly, I have the best gym buddy and although I’m still not very fast I’m getting there step by step. I left the gym after a session today with the biggest smile, in part because of my dazzling company and the other because I was covered in sweat and happy that my body had gotten a workout (my back can only sometimes manage a light walk but today, thankfully, was not one of those days.

Feeling my heart beating reminds me I’m going to be ok, just like the Sylvia Plath quote – ‘I am, I am, I am’. Sometimes you just need reminding that your head doesn’t control everything, because on a day here or there it can feel like that. I know that for some reading this, they might not be in a place where they feel they can exercise, getting out of bed is difficult enough and I understand, I’m not here to be preachy, just to say I was like you and keep going. Exercise isn’t going to have this result for everyone and it’s not the only thing I use to keep myself going, it’s’ a combination of talking, writing, exercise, being creative and working… keeping busy.

What helps you guys? Do you exercise or spend time doing something else? Let me know!

 

Be sure to check out my other posts for Mental Health Awareness Week on the home page!

Todays mood update: Tired and a little overwhelmed this afternoon due to a flat visit but right now I’m feeling pretty chilled out and happy, the gym session obviously worked!

Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 on chloemetzger.com

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This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, as my regular readers know I’m really big on promoting awareness, sharing my own experiences with mental health and just generally getting mental health in every day conversation. Whether we like it or not there’s still a stigma attached to mental health issues and it’s not the way it should be BUT with weeks like this we can end the stigma sooner rather than later.

This week I’ve decided to relate all my posts to raising awareness of mental health. I’ve got posts planned around my experience, opinions, books related to mental health, motivation – it’s all going to be going on over here! As always I’d love to hear for you in the comments, on Twitter. I’ve found that when I’m really not doing well Twitter is one of the places I can talk to people to understand and generally be in a better mood.

I also want to do an honest mood update each day, because sometimes I can go a few weeks of feeling fine and then it’ll go downhill, it’s the ways of having Depression. For today I’ve been really sleep deprived so my mood hasn’t been the best, I’m at a really overwhelming point in my life and everything’s changing so I think that’s to be expected.

I can’t wait to write this week and raise as much awareness as possible! As always leave comments and questions below!

Depression Awareness Week: What You Don’t See

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This week it’s Depression Awareness Week, and of course I’ll take any opportunity I can to get involved and spread more awareness about the mental health condition I’ve been living with for about six years. Of course, for this blog, writing about Mental Health is nothing new, I frequently write about my own experiences, struggles and triumphs so that other people can see that they’re not alone, because that’s what I felt for a really long time.

Every single person reading this blog knows or had known someone with a mental illness, in the UK 1 in 4 people have a diagnosed mental illness, and those are the people willing to talk about it. It can be a really huge and scary thing to think about, let alone talk about. It took me a really long time after my diagnoses at 18 to be able to say the words ‘I have Depression’ out loud. For some reason, somewhere along the line mental illness was percieved as a person being weak, which is definitely not the case.

This year along with #sicknotweak, people have been sharing their stories of what you don’t see. We’re at a point in time where we share our lives online all the time BUT we often forget that these are edited. It’s rare for someone to share a picture of themselves at their lowest points, we create something that people want to look at, and most of the time that isn’t pain or suffering. SO, as a social media addict I thought it would be good to share 10 of my experiences of what isn’t seen when dealing with my illness.

What You Don’t See… is my mind going into overdrive while I’m trying to sleep and I’m tossing and turning.

What You Don’t See… is the days when I can’t get out of bed, because even having a shower is a mammoth task.

What You Don’t See… Tears, all the bloody tears sometimes for no reason, sometimes for a list of reasons.

What You Don’t See… The exhaustion is real, especially in low points.

What You Don’t See… Is the lack of motivation before going to the gym and taking those selfies.

What You Don’t See… My life when I’m physically sick and can’t take my medication for a few days…not pretty.

What You Don’t See… is the struggle to write day to day when my head is buzzing.

What You Don’t See… when I have an anxiety attack about things that I cannot control.

What You Don’t See… is the scenarios that my brain creates to induce me into another panic attack/ anxiety attack, over situations that will probably never happen.

What You Don’t See… what I don’t want you to see.

IBS Diagnoses

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As most of you know, since December I’ve had some problems with my health that have kept coming back, it’s not the best time for it to happen especially as it kicked off just before the first lot of my assignments were due. For the past 4 months I’ve continued to have problems and so a load of tests, one IV drip and a lot of medication later, I finally have a diagnosis, IBS, which means irritable bowel syndrome. Basically your insides aren’t very happy and take it out on the way you go to the toilet, which can be incredibly painful and there isn’t really a cure.

So, you might be wondering why I’m sharing my toilet habits with the world, because we shouldn’t be embarrassed. I get it, talking about your bodily functions isn’t always pleasant, especially when it means not being able to leave the toilet for a few day, but it’s actually quite a common problem. I’ve always had these issues, I have been this sick with it since I was at school and there’s a common factor that makes me so poorly, stress. Being in my third year at university has meant I’ve been on high levels of stress since October last year, that much exposure to stress, and some problems in my personal life have made me sick. That  said, now I know what’s going on and I have the right medication to help with my symptoms I should be able to live a relatively active and normal life, as well as knowing when to look after myself.

Like the mental health, IBS is an invisible illness that is very real for the sufferer. So, I’m being honest about it, just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it can’t be crippling. It doesn’t mean that I can’t have a full life, I’ve proven that I already can and now that I have the diagnoses, some medication and the right guidance on how to manage it, I think I’m going to do just fine.

 

 

 

STRESS and what you can do about it

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Today I woke up early with butterflies in my tummy to go to my doctors appointment. I’ve been so nervous about getting these test results back after being ill on and off for the past month.  The good news is that it’s none of the things they were testing for like Crohn’s, Celiac disease, Diabetes and general bowel disease. The not so good news is that my body isn’t dealing well with the stress that I’ve been under and it’s made me sick. I read somewhere once that we shouldn’t talk about stress, that it was a very british thing to say when we are and we shouldn’t do it. I thought about that for a long time and I think it’s part of the reason I don’t like telling people I’m stressed, I don’t want to seem like I’m whinging.

After hearing from the doctor what being stressed is doing to my health though (and this isn’t the first time), I realised this IS something that needs to be spoken about. Especially with students, I’m in my final year at university and the stress is unbelievable. There is so much pressure to do well, work out what I want to do, find jobs, apply for jobs,  socialise, enjoy all the ‘lasts’, apply for postgrad schemes. On top of all that I have my spine stuff and my mental health. As my mentor said to me, it’s no wonder that I’m getting stressed out at the moment.

So I did what I always do, I wrote a list of things to help me deal with stress and hopefully some of them can help you too

  • Write things down, what you need to do, things that are worrying you, things to look forward too. Everything is a lot better when you write it down. I usually do it in fun colours.
  • Be honest with the people around you.
  • Learn to say no, when things are too much or you don’t want to do them. Saying no is ok!
  • Listen to your body! That’s probably the most important
  • Find a stress reliever, I always feel better after a workout if my spine would let me I’d be in the gym every day.
  • Try and get a good nights sleep.
  • Whenever you can, be around people who make you feel good!
  • Treat yourself to something you want
  • Allow yourself to be a little selfish.

I plan on doing all of these on my week off to try and recharge my batteries and get ready for the final 6 weeks of lectures (!!).

Let me know what some of your stress busting tips are in the comments.

Book Review: Extraordinary Means – Robyn Schneider

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The life you plan isn’t the life that happens to you’ 

Lane’s a hard worker, he’s getting perfect scores, in the model UN and looking at a straight streak into Stanford, internships and Wall Street, that is until he gets a drug resistant form of TB which gets him sent to a boarding school for sick teens. While Lane thinks his life is over, it’s really just beginning and it teaches him something he’s never encountered before. Meanwhile troublemaker Sadie has has more than enough of Latham House and thinks that nothing will change until a past face catches up with her.

I have to start this review by saying that I am in love with this novel and I’m kicking myself for not picking it up earlier. While some people have hailed it the new The Fault in Our Stars I think that’s a brush off, not only is this novel completely different but it also doesn’t do Schneider’s writing justice, this is not a rip off of John Green although I think fans of his will appreciate it. I picked this up in a book haul and completely fell in love with it from the first chapter. It’s perfectionist characters like Lane (our protagonist) that I really fall in love with because I recognise them and I understand them, being a total perfectionist myself.

Extraordinary Means has a host of characters you can see walking around your head while reading. There are very few books that I get this emotionally involved in, that I pour over and finish in a matter of hours rather than days. What Schneider has managed to create is not one but four lovable characters, each with their own individual personalities that you can hold in your heart from the first page they’re mentioned to the last and I for one like to imagine after the novel and what the future holds.

This kind of novel is tricky, a lot of teenagers locked up for their own good dealing with being a teenager as well as being sick. There are a lot of people who write about illnesses but TB is something we no longer considered as a threat, it’s mostly wiped out, right? In this novel it’s very real and I for one sat and thought long and hard about what it must be like living with a contagious disease, taken away from everything and having to start a new. This is the power of these types of novels they make you think not only about the plot in the novel, but also about the wider world and the people in it. Would we react as people in the novel do? Would we care about the people living without a cure? It’s definitely worth a think, especially after seeing it through Lane and Sadie’s eyes.

I have to say that was one of the best parts of the novel, having two different perspectives was a nice change to a lot of YA literature. Seeing the side of a boy and a girl and their different reactions and emotions. While Lane is newer to the boarding school and a more relaxed way of life this is all Sadie has known for a long time, the differences are what makes this novel fantastic.

I have to give Extraordinary Means 5 stars *****. I read some Goodreads reviews that I felt were quite harsh on a novel that was superbly written. I finished this book in a matter of hours, it’s always going to have a place in my heart. Beautifully written and incredible…don’t try and compare this to any other book because you won’t find one.

Review by Chloe Metzger

Living with a mental health condition at Christmas

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Ah mental illness, you little pest, of course you want to pop your head up for the holidays. I’ve been thinking a lot about mental illness and christmas time, I say thinking and I mean getting anxious about it. I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time but almost couldn’t find the words for what I wanted to say.

For most people Christmas equals joy and happiness, right? For some of us though our mental health threatens the celebrations every year whether we like it or not. Not only is it hard for the person dealing with the illness, but also the people around them and so I’m going to be frank. One day of the year doesn’t make a mental illness magically disappear, it doesn’t work that way.

In the past I’ve been ill on birthdays and ill on Christmas day and it sucks. I’d probably call it one of my absolute worst points of the illness. I was 16 and even though I loved all the gifts that I’d gotten and my family I was on a low and it wouldn’t shake no matter how hard I tried. So my family got a ‘meh’ response, I cried, my Mum got upset and my Dad was confused. It was Christmas, why was I upset?!? This was long before any diagnoses or medication and I felt like I was drowning. I hated myself for not being excitable like I normally was. A phone call changed everything though. I spoke to my Gramps on the phone and we talked, I cried again and he said not to worry Christmas can be an overwhelming time. We spoke more and by the time we ended the conversation I felt better and hugged my Mum to tell her it wasn’t anything she’d done at all.

Thankfully the further I’ve gotten into my recovery the better Christmas has been. Last year I woke up before my little sister and woke her up in our matching onesies. This year after assignments I was finally excited, singing christmas songs and getting excited about presents. Am I anxious about lows? Sure. Right now though I’m doing things to combat it, I’m getting as much sleep as I can, eating healthier and will be exercising this week at home.

I have to point out I’m at a stage in my illness where this is all possible. 16 year old me was too absorbed by it to do anything. So I guess what I’m trying to say is if you live with someone with a mental health condition they’re not doing this because they hate christmas, because they want to ‘make things difficult’ or because they’re not trying. They doing it because it’s a part of the illness. So if someone is depressed, anxious or struggling with their food just let them deal with it the way they can. If someone with an eating disorder needs to have something else at the dinner table, don’t make a fuss or judge. If someone needs half an hour of alone time because things get too much then let them. Basically they need to do what they need to do to get well.

As a message to the others who are anxious about the holidays. It’s one day ofthe year, it may seem like the biggest thing but next year there will be another christmas. The most important thing is taking every day one by one and that is what you will do. I’ve been there, when you feel like you’re going to ruin everything and people would be better off without you but that’s not you speaking, that’s the illness I promise.

So as I travel home for Christmas today, I just want to tell people to be kind. Love no matter what this Christmas and remember a hug can mean more than a million words. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas before we hurtle into 2016!

Chloe

P.S I’ll still be blogging every day over Christmas! Don’t think you’ve gotten away from me that easy!