World Book Day: Dear Stranger

This world book day why not check out the book ‘Dear Stranger’. All profits from the sales of these books goes to the mental health charity Mind.

Dear Stranger is a collection of inspirational, honest and heartfelt letters from authors, bloggers and mind ambassadors to an imagined stranger. Insightful and uplifting, ‘Dear Stranger’ is a humbling glimpse into different interpretations of happiness, and how despite sometimes seeming unobtainable happiness can, in the smallest of ways, become an achievable goal.

Letters included in ‘Dear Stranger’ are written by a variety of people including myself, Fiona Phillips, Matt Haig, Caitlin Moran and Richard Branson.

Music And Recovery

As cliche as this sounds, I can honestly say that I would not be alive if it weren’t for music. Music has got me through the good times, the bad times and everything in between. I will never forget getting up in my hotel room and listening to ‘I’m on top of the world’ by imagine dragons whilst getting dressed before my appearance on BBC Breakfast. I will never forget listening to Meatloaf in the car on the way to the airport before we flew to Rome. That’s the funny thing about songs they hold memories and that can be a double edged sword. Whenever I hear ‘moves like Jagger’ I am plunged head first into the memory of sitting in the lounge in a psychiatric hospital whilst a patient dances around the room. Hearing ‘cake by the ocean’ will always remind me of the cold,hard days spent in utter boredom in the secure unit. There are Ed Sheeran songs that remind me of ex partners and no matter how much I like Ed Sheeran, I cannot hear these songs without feeling like complete rubbish. Music can be therapy but there is also a danger of music being harmful to the mind so be careful.

So, music and recovery. I use music at the moment to get me through my feeds as I’m currently being treated for anorexia nervosa and am being fed through an NG tube. I have a specific playlist named ‘Feed’ which consists of:

  • I’m yours-Alyssa Bernal
  • Boom clap-Charli XCX
  • Recover-Chvches
  • Learn to live-Darius Rucker
  • Starman-David Bowie
  • Survivor-Destiny’s Child
  • On top of the world-Imagine Dragons
  • Cold in Ohio-Jamie Lawson
  • Living in the moment-Jason Mraz
  • Breathe in, breathe out, move on-Jimmy Buffet
  • Little me-Little Mix
  • Scare away the dark-Passenger
  • Superheroes-The Script
  • Let it go-Demi Lovato
  • Heroes-David Bowie
  • Chocolate-The 1975
  • Love my life-Robbie Williams

All of these songs I either find relaxing, recovery focused, feel good or they hold positive memories. I find feeds really distressing and I know a lot of recovery can be distressing, that’s why in DBT there’s a whole module called ‘distress tolerance’. For me, music is my distress tolerance. ‘Cold in Ohio’ always relaxes me whilst ‘living in the moment’ reminds me of mindfulness. ‘On top of the world’ is a proper feel good song and also reminds me of the positive memory when I went on BBC Breakfast. ‘Little me’ gives me the reminder that I want to make 4 year old me proud. Maybe I won’t be able to listen to these songs again once all of this is over but for now they are getting me through and that’s what recovery is about, getting through.

#gmAsks Q&A Session For Mental Health Awareness Week

This evening I hosted a question and answer session for Grey Matters on my twitter (@mentalbattle) on the topic of “Improving The Moment” for Mental Health Awareness Week. Here are the questions and answers:

What coping strategies have you used and found helpful?

Crochet and colouring in. Crochet helps you keep your hands busy while your brain gets a chance to rest. Colouring in needs to be intricate so you have to focus on it and not on anything else-form of mindfulness?

Do you find mindfulness useful?

Yes, I’m quite new to it, but already seeing the benefits. I take a class at the local Buddhist centre and read at home. It clears my mind of clutter, and stops me stressing about the past/future. It’s also helped my insomnia. I also practice when I’m on my bike-I focus on the countryside instead of negative thoughts. Mindfulness on wheels!

I don’t know that much about mindfulness and haven’t practiced it but I found the #healthyminds taster session interesting.

Ironically, I find it much easier to practice when I’m more well. When I’m more in need of the skills, they’re harder to use.

It’s not necessarily something to be taught but something that we all do but just don’t realise.

Have you had support from friends/family/mental health services? Has it been useful?

The best support from friends is offers of cups of tea, dinners and hugs.

It’s the small things-a text or a phone call can make all the difference to someone who’s struggling.

What do you do to improve the moment?

A few deep breaths.

Does being outside have a positive effect on your mental health?

Definitely helps me relax being outside walking dogs by sea and enjoying nature.

Being in the countryside doesn’t help me but being in sunshine or by water does! You have to find what works for you. Sun restorative, water calming.

Yes! Whether exercising, a walk in the the park or just being in the sun-all beneficial.

Absolutely-cycling is my big thing. Just disappearing into the countryside for a few hours. Fresh air and exercise.

Do you think it would be useful if mindfulness was taught right from nursery school through to workplace?

Definitely, as part of a mental education class. Children are taught PE, so why not mental education? It just seems like common sense. It would also pretty much normalise mental illness and eradicate stigma.

What does self-care mean to you?

Self-care is my aim, I want to be able to cope without relying on 3rd party help. Methods could be varied.

Looking after myself-washing, sleeping, eating properly, positive thoughts, exercise. Not always possible of course.

Self-care is anything that makes me feel a bit better. Reading, walking, colouring, showering, music!

What do you do to self-soothe?

Self-soothing-reading, writing, shouting (actually works for me, not so good for others around me though)

Yes! A world-changingly good idea.

To follow more of the conversation, check out the #gmAsks on Twitter.