Posts Tagged ‘Self Harm’

Don’t Lose Your Grip Zimbabwe

Those of you who are crazy enough to read my blog on a regular basis will know that I moved to Zimbabwe this year because I’ve loved the amazing culture of hope since I was 12 years old. You’ll also be aware of Don’t Lose Your Grip and our friend Lacey Crawford.

For those of you who might have missed it: Don’t Lose Your Grip is a charity concert and fashion show aimed at raising money [along with much needed awareness] for eating disorders, self injury (aka cutting aka self harm) and mental health issues such as depression. We’re relying on Musicians to volunteer their music for a good cause and to help us show that charity really doesn’t have to be boring. Our models are ALL normal people who want to help us promote positive body image or simply those who are recovering from / trying to live with an eating disorder. DLYG is aimed at ending the judgement and rebuilding self confidence.

We live in a tough world where you are criticized for believing in yourself and told you are a failure because your hair is the wrong colour or your figure doesn’t resemble Barbie or whatever the latest super model’s name is. In Milan this year, they were using MEN to model WOMEN’s clothes!!! So now we’re supposed to look like men in order to look attractive?! Come on!! This mess the media and our society has created over the ‘perfect image’ is not just leading to total confusion and terribly dangerous eating habits, it is also causing a lot of self hate and building on existing depression.

Cutting, eating disorders and suicide, very different symptoms of the same problem are gaining on us. The problems being alienation and depression; the symptoms: cutting and suicide. Personally I don’t know one single person who does not at least know of 2 such victims. This is a global problem and we are ALL affected! Chrisselle started DLYG because she’s tired of seeing her friends suffer in silence and feel so helpless that they take their own life. And so am I!!!

That is how DLYG Zimbabwe was born. This global problem of ours needs our attention right now! I know that Zimbabwe has a lot of other issues that some may say take precedence and to some extend I agree but that doesn’t mean we can ignore mental health and wellbeing. If we are dumb enough to ignore these problems right now, it will lead to devastating affects we, as a country, have no means to defend against.

Living with disrupted power supply; limited communication with the world outside Zimbabwe unless you use technology from down South; driving down roads where there are more potholes than actual tar left; looking at fields that use to be known as Africa’s breadbasket only to see wild flowers and dirt there instead of maize; walking into any shop in the country and seeing the face of The Man who has forgotten what the word ‘president’ means and being the last of your family still remaining in a country most of the world has written off can be very depressing!! You cannot honestly tell me that you are not saddened by what you see. But the amazing thing about Zimbabwe is its people! The hope that exists in their hearts is second to none! Zimbabwe is a rich country not by monetary standards but by heart!

So I urge all of you, to stand with me and acknowledge that you see the person standing next to you; that you see their suffering [depression]; that you see their cries for help [cutting, eating disorders] and that you help me raise awareness so we can help each other.

Keep your faith in humanity strong,

AM

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Antidepressant Tips

This month (May) is Mental Health Month and as glad as I am for the opportunity to discuss these issues more openly, I wish we lived in a time where we didn’t need a month to remind us to be aware of those suffering in silence.

In honour of Mental Health awareness, I’ve been testing out a few anti depressant *tips*the last 10 days [and will continue to try out for the rest of the month]. These have all been accredited by varies medical research clinics and depression foundations but I would like to have a bit more proof. I’ll be sharing my experiences with you over on twitter. Here are the *tips*

  1. Get out more!

Firstly getting sun increases your body’s natural production of Vitamin D which in return lifts your mood. Also, a change of scenery might just do the trick and allow your mind a much needed break from all the worries of the world. Also, light regulates or body clocks so when it gets cold and dark early we go into hibernation mode and psychologically withdraw. Engaging with people should lift your mood and self esteem, which is why I’m organizing a dinner out with friends once a week, tea with friends twice a week and instead of watching the rugby at home, I’m making a day OUT of it.

  1. Eat more fish

Fish is rich in Omega 3 and according to a bunch of ‘almost vegetarians’ people who eat fish are much happier. So I’ll be giving it a go. My diet does not really have fish scheduled in it so it’s been a bit of a shock to my system so far but it does seem to be working [although we’re only on day 10 so let’s see if it lasts]. I’ve have some form of fish every second day of the month so far. Some of it was a whole meal, others were just a tuna sandwich and I’ve discovered this dried out tiny little fish thing that’s quite salty and I actually enjoy eating a lot and since it’s not something I have to prepare, just a snack, I think it works really well.

  1. Other diet changes

Vitamin D in eggs and oily fish increases serotonin (via www.galennaturopathic.com ) which lifts your mood. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are rich in Folic Acid and Zink (via UK Mental Health Foundation) which improves the mood of depressed patients. Vitamin B for breakfast like oats increases serotonin production and again: it leads to good chemicals in your body. These are simple things most of us have in our diets anyway but it might be worth increasing when we feel those dark clouds headed towards us. Besides, it’s an action we can take and that in itself gives us back our power [and self confidence to some extend].

  1. Go old school

My grandmother never went to bed without her warm water bottle. I always just chocked it up to her arthritis or ‘just something grandmothers do’ but psychological research has shown that, like a teddy bear, using a hot water bottle is incredibly soothing to the soul. So when you feel alone or just need a hug and there isn’t anyone around to give it to you, hug your warm and cosy water bottle.

  1. Go on vacation

Negative ionizers act as antidepressants as it increases serotonin levels. These negative ionizers are naturally found in places like waterfalls, beaches and forests. This in itself is a great medical reason to go on holiday. Plus, you get to take a break from all the everyday stuff that piles up and leaves you feeling overwhelmed or depressed. However, not everyone can afford to go on holiday nor do we have the time. So if you are lucky enough to live close to any of these places, go for a daily walk or even a weekend camping trip. If you happen to live in the middle of nowhere, try listening to sounds from these places or flipping through photos of them, it might just relax you too.

  1. Exercise releases endorphins

Like most of us know: running or playing sports or basically any type of exercise has a way of lifting our spirits [along with our bum line]. Besides the fact that it gives you a reason to get out of bed and face the world, it also releases endorphins [like with chocolate] it helps us feel more confident, energized and enthusiastic. So try to get 40min to an hour of exercise in a day. Doing it with your friends or a partner tends to be more effective [in my opinion].

  1. Staring into a live fire

This is an interesting one! Apparently staring into a live fire for an hour will be calming. Since it’s still too hot here to sit by a fire every night, I’ve decided to do a little experiment. I’m watching a video of a live fire [with sparkling twitches and crackling mini-explosions included] on my laptop while I fall asleep. The aim is to test whether it is the CO2 levels of the fire that trick you into being drowsy leading you to believe you are relaxed or if it is the heat [like the water bottle] or if it simply the colours. It might also just be the lack of other distractions but I’ll test that with meditation at a later stage. Also a great excuse for a romantic evening [you can even include a meal of fish and mash followed by an evening stroll down to the beach] followed by an early morning [getting up with sunrise, going for a jog together and eating a breakfast rich in Vitamin B].

  1. Fresh flowers

Again something my grandmother took the time to do: fresh flowers in every room, every single day. Even though none of us really appreciated it back then, we still maintain that tradition, which might be why that house has some of the happiest memories of my childhood. It ties in really well with the belief that smells with happy memories attached to it will lift your mood. I’m taking the opportunity to go run outside in the rain [like I use to when I was little and care free] and also got my grandmother’s cook book and started cooking all those lovely smelling food that makes my mouth water while I smile remembering all those amazing memories attached to each meal.

  1. Add a little colour

Orange lifts depression and yellow brings optimism. So I’ve changed my curtains to yellow along with my bed linen and my pillow and duvet are both orange. I’m also attempting to wear something yellow or orange every second day… surprisingly I have a lot of items in those colours in my wardrobe. Granted, it sounds like a makeover from hell but I have to admit that is really does seem to be working, I love being in my room again and I feel oddly more confident in those colours than the usual blues and reds I tend to wear.

So these are the things I’ll be trying out along with the most important TIP when it comes to any mental illness [or disorder for that matter] which is: to talk about it! I know it’s hard and most of the time when you feel depressed you really don’t know why but taking an hour or two to acknowledge that you have emotions about something is vital! This will probably be one of the hardest *tips* for me to try but from experience I know how well it works. I’ve picked 5 really sad movies [including Pay It Forward, My Sister’s Keeper and The Ultimate Gift] and stocked up on some chocolates and tissues for those moments I want to cry but don’t know why. My theory is that by watching a sad movie, I subconsciously give myself permission to be sad and fall apart and eventually acknowledge my own feelings, without having to discuss it with someone.

I know discussion is key in ending the judgement and helping to change the stigma around depression, self harm and even suicide but sometimes you really don’t know how to express what you are feeling or thinking and it scares you. How can you expect someone to understand how you feel when you yourself have no clue? For me watching a movie and spending an hour crying has a way of either lifting my mood when the end credits start to play or at least allows my brain to bring those issues bugging me to the forefront so I can actively deal with them. Knowing what the problem is lifts a huge weight off my shoulders.

I have also found an amazing comfort in all of my twitter friends and the support group I have built there. It is wonderful to know that halfway around the world there is someone feeling the way I do and who really understands me, even when I don’t, because they have been there and they have gotten through it. If you’d like to join my amazing twitter family, you are welcome to @am_mf.

I would love to hear what you are doing for Mental Health Month so feel free to contact me either on twitter or by leaving a comment on here. Also, if you or anyone you know suffers from depression or have suicidal thoughts, you should check out the Don’t Lose Your Grip charity benefit and organization / support group or TWLOHA who deal with self injury [cutting].

Let’s end the stigma,

AM

A friend of ours died before we had a chance to meet her

A friend of ours died before we had a chance to meet her… You’re probably re-reading that sentence to try to make sense of it and to be honest it’s been 4 months and we’re still having trouble making sense of it too.

Let me explain: her name is Lacey Crawford. I met her on Twitter through some of my amazing friends there including Chrisselle and Hammy. Twitter is an amazing place because everyone is equal! There is no age barrier or cultural divides, the only thing that defines you is your manners and your opinions. So we all started talking because we had one simple thing in common, generally that would be the same free time. If you’re wondering how I can call people my friends even though I have never shook their hand, then you really don’t understand the concept of twitter.

Yes, it is a social media site but it is so much more than that. It is a place where you can practically run your own news network and talk to people experiencing history in the making as it happens! It is a place where there is always someone awake and willing to talk or listen. Most of us first turned to twitter purely out of curiosity or maybe a bit of boredom but we all stayed because while we were exploring the world at our fingertips, we discovered that someone on the other side of the world understood us; faced the same problems we did and believed in the same things we believe in.

I didn’t know Lacey as well as I would have liked to… I don’t think anyone really got the chance to see everything she had to offer this world. Sadly she felt so desperate for a change that she could not figure out how to make, that she chose suicide.

There is no way I can even pretend to try and explain what she was thinking or defend her reasons for feeling that taking her own life was her only option. All I can do is remember the conversations we shared and the short time it took for us to connect. I’m also supporting her friends who are recording songs to honour her memory. The other thing I have found great comfort in is the Don’t Lose Your Grip project that Chrisselle has initiated to help prevent others from having to suffer the same type of loss we are trying to deal with.

Basically this project is not just designed to raise money for suicide help lines; it’s also there to help us fight the causes behind it. People don’t just commit suicide… it is not that simple. Generally it is a series of events that lead to that one moment when they just feel so numb they can’t help but give up. Chrisselle has always been one of those people who’ll reach out to anyone having an off day. She is still doing this but now she’s trying to do it on a bigger scale too. She’s organizing a charity concert that will help raise awareness and much needed funding for suicide help lines so that they can help more people. Another aim with this project is to change the stigma around suicide. It is not something we should ignore or sweep under the carpet; it is a real problem that won’t just go away. We need to talk about it and we need to start reaching out to the people in our lives again!

One of the main causes resulting in suicide is low self-esteem. We have trouble believing in ourselves and quite frankly I’m not surprised. Just look around you or turn on the TV and most of the time you’ll see this image of ‘normal’ being portrayed and this image the world is describing is not something we can actually live up to. Normal is not a word anyone has ever used to describe me and personally I take it as a compliment. I can honestly say that I have never felt the need to be on a diet, although when I was diagnosed with this liver thing, I did go on a total health kick and refused to drink anything with bubbles in it but that was more pain-oriented than actual food-oriented. Yet, my oldest friend was on a diet when she was only 12 years old and so was one of my little cousins who are only turning 13 this year. We live in a world where kids are being made fun of for the things they wear and the shape of their bodies to the extent that eating disorders are becoming ‘normal’. Calling kids names and making them feel like they are worthless has become part of everyday life! And we call this evolution? Think again!

We can have all the right intentions but until we actually stand up and say: “Love your body the way it is! Love yourself for who you are! And you are perfect in your own right!” we won’t have a shot at living peacefully. There is so much hatred in this world of ours and all we are doing is spreading it! You need to open your eyes and realize that you are killing our kids; you are killing yourself and all the people you love with these judgements. Sadly Lacey was just one out of millions of people who felt they were out of options; who felt that the world would never accept them and that they could never fit in. So I am begging you: for all the people you may know who have ever had even a single thought resembling this helplessness and all the people who’ll need someone to tell them they are not worthless in the future, please support Don’t Lose Your Grip.

There are many symptoms of depression and alienation: it could be cutting yourself off from the world or literally cutting yourself and resorting to self harm in order to feel something ‘real’; something to make you forget that there are mean, hateful people out there. Well I don’t want you to forget. I want to help you change those people’s minds. I want to help you realize your full potential and for me the best way to do that is to talk so [in the words of the amazing Alecia Beth Moore] if you ever feel less than fuckin’ perfect, just call me. It’s really easy to reach me on twitter so just come and hang out and talk to us, we’d love to get to know you! The best thing about social media is that we get to see the real you and we are most definitely not blinded by the silly things the rest of the world is looking at.

If you have ever had a moment when it felt like life has gotten you down, then please get involved with Don’t Lose Your Grip! And don’t even try to pretend that you’ve never felt overwhelmed: we’re all in this fight together.

AM

Also if you need help dealing with Self Harm please visit TWLOHA