Living With A Narcissist By Naina Ramavrat

*** Trigger ⚠️ warning ***

“Her once home sweet home, the place she re-treated to for solace, comfort, and serenity soon changed into a pit of chaos, torture, and mental torment. Her soul in chains, her heart fresh and ripe in danger, attacked by a powerful parasite that slowly rotted away at her deep from the core bruising her within. Even burning sage could not cleanse this type of monster”

-Hidden Hurt.

Home sweet home at last I thought after a tough day, I sat watching the news hearing about a landmark case that looked into Georgina Challan’s (known as Sally) murder conviction being overturned under new domestic abuse law.

A woman who killed her husband in a hammer attack after 40 years of being ‘controlled’ and ‘humiliated’ by him. This case has increased our growing understanding of domestic abuse and in particular the mechanism and impact of ‘coercive’ and ‘controlling behaviour’. Emotionally I could relate as I know of a ‘Sally’ who pretty much went through similar experiences. Luckily enough, she managed to escape the clutches of such cruelty and abuse.

However I must admit, it could have been very different if she had not freed herself from bondage, meaning she was on the cusp of either ending her life or that of her perpetrator. I remember speaking to the ‘Sally’ I know after her ordeal, she perfectly picked lines from one of her favourite songs by Sade sung I believe during the 80’s:

“He’s laughing with another girl and playing with another heart,  

Placing high stakes, and making hearts ache. No place for beginners or sensitive hearts.

His eyes are like angels, his heart is cold. He’s a smooth operator.”

I knew exactly what she meant.

Unlike Sally Challan she wasn’t married, neither had children, only in a what she thought was a civil relationship. They were introduced by a mutual friend where things became very serious very quick. He was exceptionally charming, made her laugh, was protective and shared similar views about general facets of life. They both were in their early twenties with so much going for them, both were in employment and had somewhere to live.

They fell in love very quickly, experiencing life to the fullest by making plans amongst themselves without seeing friends. Within 5 months of dating they starting living together.

She was and still is kind hearted always giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, she was vulnerable in many ways she just didn’t know that. She focused greatly on her job that was important to her as well as her home, it was her ‘sanctuary of peace.’

That ‘sanctuary of peace’ soon became a place of hell for her. She would find out that her home would become a torture chamber where the secrets of what happened would remain only behind closed doors.

The cracks started to show, after a hard day at work the routine would be to wind down not having to go out every night nor to have a drink. That was something her partner then enjoyed doing and seemed never to tire from it. He would stroll in at whatever time he wanted banging and clanging around, demanding affection on his terms to the extent of refusing NO as an answer not wanting to understand that it was inappropriate.

Arguments would unfold where she would be blamed for every little thing that went wrong.

He lost his job – it was her fault,

He was stressed- something she did, she was not affectionate enough- as she shouldn’t be tired.  

If she was not compliant, she would face all night torment of questioning and interrogation with no resolve, having to prove her whereabouts through providing access to all her passwords and codes for social networking sites where he would vigilantly monitor her.

This caused great isolation with her privacy being taken she fell victim to shame and guilt. (something many abuse victims feel).

The love that was once felt was lost and she wanted the relationship to terminate. The events that followed after, no one should ever go through. Not everyone knows about domestic abuse, they sometimes are in a trance not really knowing what is happening to them or why – many place blames on themselves as they are conditioned to feel that way. It is paralysing.

The ‘Sally’ I know suffered, as we know that one thing Narcissists loathe is ‘rejection’ .

He followed her to work, threatened to cause scenes wherever she went if she did not agree oncile. Non-stop messaged and called her, sat outside her house waiting. She refused trying desperately to stay strong using many masks to hide her bleeding heart.

Being forced against your will is terrible.

He never was remorseful for his behaviour and lacked empathy. I remember her going to the doctors once for a check-up, as she waited before being called, she looked around the sterile waiting room, her attention fixed on a poster, that described exactly what she was going through – it was ‘the cycle of abuse’ and it listed the following:

. Power & control

. Using Intimidation

. Emotional Abuse

. Humiliation

. Possessiveness

. Threats

. Coercive behaviour

. Manipulation

“I knew then my situation was abuse, I needed to break free, I needed to get out! all of those points were what was happening to me” said my friend ‘Sally’.

She became brave and confided in her doctor thankfully, who reassured her that help was available and to access it.

“I was told to seek help immediately, things won’t get better, they will only get worse”… those words are chilling.

She had supportive friends, even though she had not confided nor kept in contact always making excuses. There was enough evidence to show harassment and controlling behaviour.

On many occasions she reported her perpetrator to the police it made no difference as he still found a way to bother her.

That night she made it clear, she did not want anything to do with him and just wanted to get on with her life, he refused to leave, verbally abused her, threatened her, blocked her way so she could not escape.

She had no choice but to take the punishment the monster had to offer. He was unleashed, she begged and pleaded for him to let her go, she covered her ears, as the screaming and torment was too much, crouched in a foetal position she buried her head, tears flooding her ability to breath properly.

He took her phone so she could not contact the authorities.  This torture went on for what seemed hours, she knew from prior experience he would not stop, there was no one to help, no one heard her plea for help or could hear her cries. She wanted to escape but there was no way out!

Until she gave up “my mind shut off I could no longer take it I wanted out, and I said there is only one way”.

She got up drained and weary walked to the drawer where the knives were, picked one up stood toe to toe with him, her eyes solemn and said “You choose me or you? I cannot take this anymore if you do not let me go and stop, I will finish you, but if you persist, I will finish myself -now let me go!”

“I had never been more serious about anything in my life until that point, I was willing to kill, and willing to die at the same time, not because I wanted to kill or die, I wanted the torment to stop”

The monster released her. He took it up onto himself to leave and reported her to the authorities, she was arrested provided her reasons with proof it was evident she was a victim of domestic abuse, she needed support and the perpetrator needed to be punished. A court order was issued protecting her it has been so precious as it has allowed her to live freely.

“I’ve got my life back, I still have issues with self-confidence, but I am working on being kind to me, I’m doing well and know I will get there. I am happy to feel secure in my own home, it feels amazing to come back to a peaceful calm home again”

Her situation could have easily ended up just as Sally Challan’s. The truth is there are many ‘Sally’s’ out there who are going through domestic abuse usually only receiving help when it becomes too late. Many victims have died by committing suicide, have murdered, or have been murdered by the hands of their perpetrator.

I have read many stories where victims could and should have been saved but their cries were not heard clearly.

Many live with domestic abuse for years just as Sally Challan did as they do not see any way out and are in love so in essence put up with the hurt more so for the sake of their children. We all know that is not right or conducive to one’s health and wellbeing.

Many are afraid of living independently alone as they have developed security by being co-dependant with their abuser.

“ The narcissist creates a dynamic abuser victim relationship through a cycle of abuse resulting in traumatic bonding that makes it hard for their partner to leave the increasingly abusive relationship”.

“What was so disturbing was the fact that he could lie to the extent where he believed his own lies, making others believe him too. He was arrogant, cocky, and so self-assured, he would act one way with others and another with me. As if I didn’t deserve the respect he gave out to others. I’ve have never met anyone who could lie as he did and get away with it, he did that so I would lose myself and be totally dependant on him, his game of control, felling powerless a ‘puppet on strings’.”

Even though she felt free, she still had the dark cloud hanging over her a big contrast to when they first met.

She recalls the early days as, “during that time I use to feel the sun was hung out in the sky only for me, the sky would be the colour of love & happiness. A wonderful feeling and now an unwanted dark cloud just hovers wherever I go.”

“It is not the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.”

Recovery takes time, it is a slow process.

Knowing that the right support and care is available only speeds up the healing process, your soul can be restored!

Along the way you learn so much as she did, she learned about abuse, love, and self-love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong.”

Along her road to recovery she started learning more about her experience by researching as a form of therapy also to appease her curiosity. She came across a woman based in America; Dr Ramani Durvasula (Ph.D.) is a licensed clinical psychologist who has specialised in the field of narcissism and has published a self-help guide for those who are in abusive relationships, marriages, or who are just wanting to know more.  

It is called ‘Should I stay, or should I go?’ Please recommend to others or have a look.

I read this myself and became hooked on this lady, her videos on YouTube are amazing! She really hits the nail on the head with Narcissistic abusers – please check her out!!

“A relationship with a narcissist is a gradual indoctrination. You slowly become inured to their lack of empathy, their rage, insults, entitlement, lies, and challenges to your reality. Their insulting words slowly become your self-talk and before you know it, your new mantra becomes ‘I am not good enough’ “- Dr Ramani

Good old Dr Ramani really helped with her healing process.

She says “I count myself lucky now, to think there are so many who are going through what I did is unbearable and not only women suffer but men do too, we can unlock the chains that keep us imprisoned especially within our own homes, we have the key, we must be strong we must speak! The more silent we are the more the chains become entangled around us. No one should ever be a prisoner in their own home, we need to speak against abuse.”

“The abhorrent crime has no place in the UK”- Theresa May

The Prime Minister this year has pledged a new legal duty for local authorities to provide secure homes for those affected by domestic abuse/violence. Councils in England are currently under no statutory obligation to house those fleeing violent or abusive relationships, meaning that victims and their families face varying levels of help depending on where they live.

However, in a statement she said “we are ending the postcode lottery by placing on local authorities a legal duty to deliver support, including secure housing, to survivors of domestic abuse and their children.  

‘whoever you are, wherever you live and whatever the abuse you face, you will have access to the services you need to be safe”

The new duty would be backed by government funding to ensure the councils have the resources to deliver.

We need to make sure victims and their families are being supported appropriately. When the ‘Sally’ I know of was going through her horrendous situation she was referred to a charity within her borough that helped women who experienced domestic abuse, they were very accommodating and helpful.

There is more awareness, but we must use that awareness to help properly without many victims falling through the net or becoming lost within loopholes in the system.

Help is available and we must not suffer in silence.

Narcissists are empty hollow individuals hence lack empathy, nothing can or will ever fill that hole they have within.  

Do not suffer in silence remember love doesn’t hurt.

Can We Talk About Periods? By Sarah Crook and Kelly Grehan

Recently we came across the picture above and loved it.  We talked about copying the wording and using it for an art exhibition on women we are involved with. We decided it was not suitable for a family audience, which got us thinking about why periods are such a taboo subject?

Why aren’t they freely discussed?

We remember our own mothers being shocked when sanitary towel adverts were first allowed on TV in the early 1990s.

In fact in 1993 an advert featuring Claire Raynor for Vespre Sanitary towels was banned following 700 complaints that concerned matters such offence being taken ‘about the format in which lots of women talk freely and easily in their own words about the product.’

Comments included things like ‘I didn’t know where to look when it came on and my husband was sitting beside me.’

The complaints led to sanitary adverts being banned between 4pm and 9pm.

More recently the advert above was banned on the New York subway because of the language used.

The first-time menstrual blood was depicted as red in an advert (as opposed to as blue) was in October 2017!

Why does the mention of periods remain a taboo?

Why does a perfectly natural process, one which without which we wouldn’t exist, still cause embarrassment and shame?

Does ‘discomfort’ come from ancient beliefs that menstruation is dirty?

This belief continued in numerous cultures and religions and was one reason why women were deemed unfit to hold positions such as priests.

The Old Testament makes numerous references to bleeding women being unclean (see here http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/unclean.asp)

Given that they are experienced by half the population, women are likely to bleed for between 2,250 to 3,000-plus days across their lifetimes and a quarter of women of reproductive age are menstruating at any one time – So why are periods still such a taboo?

From the time we start menstruating; girls are taught that periods are something to keep a secret and that sanitary towels are to be kept hidden.

Research has found that women go to lengths to hide their period — from concealing tampons and pads at the bottom of their shopping basket, to putting a used pad in their handbag when there is no bin in a bathroom.

We recall trying to work out the least conspicuous way to go to the toilet at work with a tampon, is it to take our whole bag, hide it up our sleeve or squeeze it tightly in our fist and hope no one sees?

Some women experience their first period as young as 8 years old now. Feelings of shame or embarrassment at a completely natural process are reinforced before they even hit being a teenager.

If it’s not openly discussed and spoken about honestly by all in society then how are we supposed to allay their fears and feelings of shame?

Only when periods are openly and honestly discussed in the media, at home and at schools can we set about change.

Education for all that enables women to feel empowered and comfortable by the natural processes of their bodies is needed.

We have both started using moon cups and it is astonishing how many women view them as a “bit disgusting!”

Of course, this stigma continues into other female associated words, with most women terrified to use the word vagina, often using euphemisms like ‘mini’ or ‘nunny.’

Very rarely do we hear the word vagina used in conversation or the media.

We would guess this avoidance to talk about our own bodies leads to the gynecological cancers being often undiagnosed until it is too late.  

Women suffering in silence or too scared to speak to doctors with health issues related to vaginas. We don’t tend to have nicknames for other parts of the body like arms and legs!

We believe stigma around menstruation is a form of misogyny. Negative taboos condition us to understand menstrual function as something to be hidden, something shameful.

This leads on to the issue of period poverty.

Anyone who has seen the film I, Daniel Blake will recall the harrowing scenes where Katie, played by Hayley Squires is driven to shoplifting sanitary towels, having been sanctioned by the benefit office and having found there were no sanitary products at the food bank.

Hayley Sims, ‘I Daniel Blake’

A recent survey of 14 to 21-year olds by Plan International found that 15% of girls have struggled to afford sanitary care at some point, with one in ten girls admitting to borrowing or improvising with sanitary products.

Shockingly, 7% of girls described using socks, newspaper or fabric to get through their period, in place of tampons or pads.

Plan International’s findings highlight that there are a significant number of girls in the UK whose daily lives are impacted by period poverty, both physically and emotionally, as taboo’s around menstruation are impacting girls’ self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

Scotland has taken a step forward to becoming the first country to outlaw period poverty as Labour plans to formally introduce the legislation at the Scottish Parliament.

Monica Lennon’s member’s Bill has won the backing of each of the five parties at Holyrood, giving her the right to press forward.

Her proposed Sanitary Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill would create a statutory duty for free provision of sanitary products.

We recently started running a Red Box Project in Dartford (https://www.facebook.com/RedBoxProjectDartford/).

This is a project where women set up drop off points for sanitary products and then give them to schools to give to girls in need.

All the effects of poverty are cruel, of course, but there is something particularly desperate about a girl trying to learn whilst worrying about bleeding through her school uniform, feeling unclean all day and the dreadful impact this has on a girl’s self-esteem.

The fact that periods are treated by taboo by many will reinforce those feelings for that girl.

The response we have had from the community has been fantastic, although we have received criticism, including one woman calling us ‘pseudo feminists’ trying to solve ‘a non-existent problem’ and ‘favouring women over men.’

Of course, this just spurred us on, but it showed the disdain some people hold those unable to afford sanitary products in.

We believe girls, dealing with the misery that puberty almost inevitably brings, as well as all the stresses of school, friendships and modern adolescents, should be spared the embarrassment of period poverty.

We hope our Red Box Project makes some difference.

A Collaboration of Poetry and Art Expressing Mental Health By Various Writers

To mark World Mental Health Day 2017, we have produced a collaboration of poems, art and commentary from various writers and artists. We feel these contribute to raising awareness of what it feels like to have mental health issues.


It Really Is Okay-   A poem By Rosie Meyer

Two days ago I was taking big steps
That day I reached my goal

I was able to cover a lot of ground

And I felt in control

Two days ago my goal was achievable

And I had quite a bit of help

I was well prepared and I took my time

And I felt good about myself

Yesterday I stumbled and fell

And I was overwhelmed for the whole day

I tried to get ahead of myself

And made no progress along the way

Yesterday my goals were ridiculous

And I had no help at all

I expected far too much of myself

And it slowed me down to a crawl

Today I’m taking baby steps 

I’m just going with the flow

I’m making more progress than yesterday

But it’s going kind of slow

Today I haven’t set much for goals

Just one-to make it through the day

And even though I haven’t worked much

I still feel okay

Some days I’ll feel like I’m on top

I’ll feel tall and my steps will be long

Some days I’ll feel like I’m crawling

And I just need to be strong

Some days I’ll feel scattered

Unaware of where I’m going

And some days I’ll be inspired

With creativity and knowledge flowing

On the days I need to catch my breath

I need to realize, I can’t run all day, every day

And when I need to slow down a bit

It really is okay.

🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚


Words by Rachael Lamb


🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏


A Poem By Anonymous Writer 

That crushing feeling in my chest,

Never gives itself a rest.

Constant thoughts race through my mind,

Why can’t I relax, unwind?

Anxiety affects me every day,

Why won’t it just go away?

The panic, the feelings of despair,

Those irrational thoughts, they’re always there.

Why am I filled with so much dread?

I want these thoughts out of my head!

Such an awful feeling of unease,

Anxiety; just go away, please.

🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏


Art by Caitlyn Johns


🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏


A poem by an Anonymous Writer
Mental Illness 

No one understands or knows our pain, why do we feel like this again? 
We toss and turn, we can’t sleep at night, we always think of giving up the fight. 

Yes, the demon is certainly back, it makes us helplessly steer off track. 

We say and do things we don’t mean at all, sometimes we feel good but most times we fall.

That’s what feeling this way does, we always end up thinking ‘why is it us?’ 

But we’d never wish it upon anybody else, because depression is well and truly hell. 

This black cloud lingers above our head, we lie at night wishing we were dead. 

Lonely, scared and worthless too, negative things we think are true. 

Because depression feeds on our hopeless thoughts, it wraps us up until we are caught;

Among the hell we call our life, it sometimes makes us reach for the knife. 

So we can feel a release of pain, it’s the only thing that keeps us sane. 

It makes us feel we’re in control, makes us feel like we are whole. 

Other people think that we are mad, but they don’t know that we’re just sad. 

Until the day we start to grow stronger, we find our happiness is lasting longer. 

All we need is a little glimpse of hope, that will help make us realise that we can cope. 

Depression is an illness people hardly understand, so let’s get together and make a plan;

We need to make people more aware, so they can support us and just be there, 

To help us through our darkest days, as depression affects people in many ways. 

Young or old, boy or girl, anyone can be subject to this hell. 

So please help us get this message through; We’re normal people just like you.

🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚
 


Art by Taylor ~ Sixth Circle Art


🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏


Freedom To Be Me 

A poem by Lisa Mulholland 
I am the one who isn’t enough
And
I am the one who is too much

The one chastised for things I didn’t mean
So much so that now I have no self esteem

Always apologising, taking ownership
Of responsibilities that aren’t mine
Maybe it’s because it’s easier than being wrong all the time 

I stand a better chance of being liked
When my mask is on and I pretend to smile

But what about what others don’t see?
The tears and the turmoil 
The fear of being me

I cannot and will not prove everyone right 
So
I swallow my words and sit tight

I sit on my hands so no one can see 
That I pick my hands until they bleed.     Pulling the strands of my hair,                  surely that would make people stare?

That’s not acceptable in this day and age
Not the way a mother of three
Should behave 

So I put my mask on.                                          I push down the tears                                    And hope that no one notices;                        my long list of fears

No one can see,                                                 my cough helps disguise                                The bile rising from my throat,                     the stinging in my eyes

When someone looks at me with a frown
I just say “I’m tired”
And I smile                                                       And it works for now

It covers the terror, the panic
And the fear.                                                       Of all the things I can’t make sense of.             Or don’t want to hear

I don’t understand what their expressions mean
So I’ve learned to smile and look keen

And replay it all while I’m alone.                     All the bits I did wrong,                                        I hope it didn’t show

It’s too much sometimes
And I want to hide
I need to be better tomorrow.                         To work on my disguise

Right now my transformation
Is almost complete
From shy anxious girl.                                     To woman of the world

There are two me’s
The one you that you see 
And the other for those                            Unlucky enough to get close

Maybe one day 
I’ll fully be able
To transform myself                                        And in private be stable 

Tomorrow will be better
I tell myself each night
Tomorrow I will learn
How to get it all right

To calm those butter flies
To stop those skipped beats

Until next time
Until I am free
Free to be brave enough to be me

🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏


Art by Taylor ~ Sixth Circle Art


🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏 


Life – A poem by Rachael Lamb
Life is tough 

The days the nights

The long darkness of my mind nothing can override

The days too are long but they are light nothing can erase the fright.

What do you do?
Where do you turn?

When you your living a lesson no one can learn.

You get up each day
Prepared to fight 

Prepared to battle

Prepared to win 

But all you want is peace

Is that such a sin?

You make others smile
But don’t own your own

For your smile is broken 

Its not coming home .

Who do you turn to?
Where do you go?

When you’re feeling so lonely and don’t feel at home.

Your body is whole

But your soul incomplete 

If only people could see

The invisible wounds on your feet ,

Your hands that are broken

From holding on tight

Because of the terrors 

Taking hold in the night.

Your eyes they smile

But behind your eyes

Are floods of tears 

That you cried in the night.

It takes time they say
To stop feeling this way

But when will it happen

Nobody knows what to say.

🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏


Words by Rachael Lamb


🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏


Commentary
 
Why Are You Tired?

By Rosie Meyer

Chances are, you know someone with a mental disorder or disability and you’ve probably asked them this or thought this before.

This statement, “I’m tired” is not a complaint or pessimistic.  It’s merely a fact of life.

Allow me to explain why a person who is constantly battling their own brain and societal expectations feel so drained.

These are people whose brains are stuck in overdrive and have a great amount of difficulty unwinding to fall asleep at night.  For the average person, it takes 7 minutes to fall asleep.

Imagine crawling into bed exhausted and it takes an average of an hour to fall asleep instead of 7 minutes.  Every nap and bathroom break and the brain relaxation delay begins again.

These are people whose sleep is frequently disturbed and who spend their nights tossing and turning instead of resting.  Sometimes they’re awoken by noises, pain, an inability to keep body parts still, by loud noises inside of their heads, vivid dreams and many other reasons.

These are people who wake up feeling, at best, slightly more rested than they were when they crawled into bed in the first place…like a battery that has been damaged that never seems to recharge properly.

These are people, who for decades, don’t feel rested after their slumber.

These are people who put an immense amount of effort into focusing on the task that they’re supposed to do or perform while their minds are trying to carry them down other paths or while they are struggling to remember just what those tasks are.

These are are people with working memory issues who from school age on into adulthood, lack the skill to remember multi-step instructions in a world where they’re just expected to know how to do it.

These are people who are in a constant war with their own brain.  People who are battling their own thoughts and fears; hearing every day from their brains that they aren’t good enough, strong enough, skinny enough, that people don’t like them, or that they should have done better…just to list a few things.

These are people who are in a constant war with other people’s judgement and lack of understanding.  

Who are often asked questions or who hear comments like “Why are you always tired?”, “Just suck it up and deal with it.”, “It’s just a lack of discipline.”, “It’s all in your head.”, “Stop being so pessimistic.” and “Stop being so lazy.”

These are people who experience sensory overload that mentally exhausts them.  From the clothing they are expected to wear, the food that they are expected to eat, the noise around them, the sights engulfing them and the odors surrounding them, these people’s senses are constantly under attack.

These are people who are exhausted from self-advocating to people who don’t understand and don’t care to understand.

These are people who spend most of every day dealing with fears that others find silly and irrational.  

It’s like living on a rope bridge swaying in the wind over a canyon while you’re afraid of heights and hearing “I don’t understand what you’re complaining about, the bridge is secure.  Suck it up and deal with it.  I can do it, so you can too.”

These are people who are struggling to communicate their experiences because communications is a skill that needs to be taught and exercised.  It’s like those who don’t have a strong artistic talent being instructed to create a sculpture using the items around you to present how they currently feel within the next five minutes.

These are people who expel a large amount of energy trying to understand body language and emotions which is another lagging skill.  It would be like showing you a picture of my cat and expecting you to identify what he’s feeling based on his facial expression and pose within minutes, multiple times a day.
How is this kitten feeling?

These are people who are tired from the side effects of medication or self-medicating to cope with the symptoms of their diagnosis and the expectations of society.

These are people who are struggling with their brain to differentiate what’s real and what’s not because their brains present everything to them as reality.

These are people who are likely to be struggling with relationships, drug abuse and alcoholism.

These are people who have physical manifestations from their mental struggles because being on high alert takes a physical toll on a person.

These are people whose muscles ache constantly or whose muscles are tired from being tense too often, who get frequent headaches or migraines, who’s appetite is affected and whose immune system becomes impaired…just to name a few things.

So please, dear readers, the next time someone with an invisible disability says that they’re tired, don’t treat them as if they’re lazy or irrational.  

Instead, imagine living your life on a rope bridge over a canyon, or imagine how you would feel if someone jabbed you and woke you up several times a night for just one year and the physical and mental impact it would have on you.



Is he about to attack?

I beg of you, on behalf of all of us fighting our own silent battles, please be patient and empathetic.  Just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean that it’s not a reality for someone else.

🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏

If you would like to know more about World Mental Health Day or get involved please visit:

https://www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/world-mental-health-day/

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/
 

 











My Masectomy Experience By Kelly Grehan

Kelly Grehan is the Co- Founder of The Avenger UK. Today marks the 3 month anniversary of her double masectomy. To mark how far she has come we are publishing a blog she wrote soon after the operation.

By Kelly Grehan 

I’m going to digress from my usual blogging about natural living today and report about my recent stay in hospital for a bilateral mastectomy and diep reconstruction.

My story begins two and a half years ago when, following my mum’s diagnoses with what would be terminal ovarian cancer I found that she was a carrier for a defective brca 1 gene.

The brca gene is usually a tumour suppressor but when defective gives women an around 80% chance of breast cancer and 50% chance of ovarian cancer.

My family history meant I could have the test on the ‘NHS. I decided to do this: for me it was no big decision, I am a believer in knowledge so I went along to Guys Hospital for genetic counselling and testing. Two weeks later I received a personalised letter confirming I was indeed in possession of a defective brca 1 gene.

Never having really been ill, and obviously feeling fine I found it a strange experience to suddenly be thrust into a medicalised system of yearly MRI scans and blood tests.

I attended a brca awareness day at Guys and listened to the various options available to me and then went home and continued with my life.

In that time I lost my mum, started studying counselling and generally developed a ‘live life to the full’ attitude. I don’t recall ever making a decision to have a mastectomy: it was just something I kind of drifted towards.
I did waiver from this at points, but, for me, I felt it was best for my family. 

Every time I would hear of anyone suffering or dying of breast cancer I felt a responsibility to take the opportunity I had, not given to many, to take control of my health and save my children from the ordeal of a sick mum. The question then was when. 

I went for June as it gave me the summer to recover, in between courses.
I’m not a very vain person, but I will be honest and say that , ironically, the part of me I’ve probably been most proud of has been my boobs. I’ve always liked the shape and size (34D). 
Before the operation I had photos taken by my friend Kirsty (http://www.photographybykirsty.co.uk/) which I’ll put up when they are ready. I rationalised that they had had their use: I’d breast fed and my youthful wonder-bra days seemed over.
All the friends and family I spoke to, including my husband were eager I put my health first.

What makes the decision easier is that the team at Guys and St Thomas’ really do treat you as an individual and so you can make your decision in your own way and reassure you that if you are unhappy with the finished result they will make changes until you are.


What does take more getting used to is standing around wearing just knickers while the doctors examine and advise on options in accordance with your physique. Still, I suppose it is good practice for what comes later!

I decided on a diep flap reconstruction. This basically means the surgeon takes skin, fat, and muscle (a flap) from another part of your body , in my case the stomach, and made it into a breast shape. 

The flap needs a good blood supply or the tissue will die so the surgeon cut the blood vessels and reconnected them to blood vessels in the chest wall. My original nipples were kept.
I went into St Thomas hospital at 7am on 27th June 2017. I had an 8 hour operation led by two teams: first the breast team and then the plastics team.
I woke up in the recovery room where a doctor was checking my new breasts. I was instantly relieved to see that they looked normal – lovely and round! On the side of each are two scars with thinner skin, and every hour here-on-in someone would check the vein was working with a doppler.  

I also won’t deny that I had a quick smile upon seeing my newly flat stomach.

The night was then spent with my lovely nurse checking my blood pressure and the breasts every hour. I was in no pain at all, although I could have done without the (compulsory) heated blanket. 

I also must comment on my lovely hospital room, over looking Big Ben and The London Eye.
The next day was another story. I was given the task of getting from the bed to the chair, along with my four drains. A task which proved beyond me, on the first attempt as I became nauseous and proceeded to be sick. Every movement also caused horrific pain along my stomach wound, which is more or less the length of my stomach. The good news is that by the next day I was able to walk to the bathroom for a shower, albeit bent over.
I’m home now, it’s 7 days post-op. I need to swear a sports bra all day and night and in the shower. I cannot bath or wear deodorant and I’ve yet to walk further than the street alone. The last drain came out yesterday. I’m just about walking upright.

Apart from this I feel great. I honestly say I’ve had not one moment of regret yet. The gauze tape remains on my scars. The stomach scar does not bother me. It will be covered by clothing and ironically I think, moving forward, I’ll be confident in a bikini as my stomach is so much flatter than before and the scar will be hidden! I love the shape of my boobs, and do not feel as though they are not mine. 

In a few months later I can have day surgery to tidy up the scars and can have further tissue put in if I want a bigger size. I’m undecided because I reckon they are a C at present so will see how I feel when the swelling goes down.

There is not a single time in the process – from the test to when I left hospital that I have experienced anything less than great treatment from the NHS.
 

I am aware in the US I would have been at the mercy of my insurance company and that my decision may have been influenced by my policy options.

The operation would cost somewhere in the region of $200,000 there. I feel so grateful to have had this choice and to now be able to live without the shadow of breast cancer over me.

In the future I will decide about having a hysterectomy to eliminate my ovarian cancer risk too, but I will worry about that in about a decade (I’m 37).
I also want to say how lovely it was to be able to donate my discarded tissue and skin to further research and to take part in medical trials. It helped my give back to something to the NHS and medical research communities.
So that’s it. I’ll put up some pictures (clothed!!) in a few weeks. I just wanted to tell my story and thank everyone involved. Now to continue to live!

Kelly also has her own personal blog which you can read here for more of her masectomy diary:

https://adventuresinnaturallivingblog.wordpress.com/

13 and Autistic: How Sensory Overload Feels For Me and Some Helpful Tips By Nathan Hillman

By Nathan Hillman

What is it like having autism? 

Well, what is autism? 

Autism is a spectrum condition that can make people hear and see the world differently to others without autism. 

Everyone has struggles in their daily life and autistic people especially struggle. I have autism and so do my two cousins (who will remain anonymous).

I can definitely say it does have its’ downsides. But not everything is bad about autism.

How do I feel in busy places with autism? 

Autism can affect people’s sensory processing and not everyone with autism are the same. 

Here is how it feels for me. “It feels like my head is going to explode” “My heart starts racing” and “My ear drums feel like they will pop.” My ears are very sensitive so I cannot stand it when my mum puts the hoover on. Autistic people can seem like they are being disrespectful but they are not, They can have meltdowns sometimes because of sensory overload.
Autism is just another word for ‘little sh** syndrome’… I have heard people say this but IT IS NOT! I hate it when people say that!! 

People with autism can have meltdowns but they cannot help it. I’m sorry but it is just the way they are, there is no cure but there are coping strategies that I would like to share:

Focus on your big toe. Sounds strange doesn’t it? Nope, when you focus and move you right toe, you are concentrating so hard on your toe that you cannot focus on your anxiety anymore.
Count to 10 and breathe. This is a common one, this does help a lot.

Exercise more often. It has been proven that exercise can release happy chemicals in your body, so do some yoga or go for a run!

Meditating. This is the second easiest one (as counting to 10 is the easiest) get a meditation CD or look up meditation music on youtube and just lay or sit up straight, and breathe…. easy right?

Eat a healthy and balanced diet. This can help with mood swings and depression as well.

I hope some of these help you!

There are certain materials I do not like and this is common with most autistic people. There are a lot of parents that get worried about their child having autism and the best advice I can give is to research autism and go see your GP for advice. 

Now onto the good things! 

Autistic people are very clever, I think that autistic people should follow their dreams and do what they want when they grow up. I want to help people, that’s why I am am writing this.

I hope I have helped some of you! 


For more information on autism please visit :

http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asd.aspx

Family Life, Support and Judgement By Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

Yesterday I attended an event organised by Mums4Corbyn at The World Transformed.

It was clear that women have a lot to offer each other in terms of support. One issue that came up was that of breast feeding. The problem, in Britain at least is that the feeding of babies can often feel an issue of division rather than unification.  

The UK has the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world.
About 80% of women try breastfeeding at birth but by the end of the first week half have given up.  
Lots of new mums speak about feeling pressure to breastfeed and experiencing guilt about ‘failing.’ 
In recent decades a newer pressure has emerged, for babies to be in a sleeping and eating routine as quickly as possible and this is largely incompatible with breastfeeding and not good for milk production. Mothers are now experiencing a sense of failure if their children are not complying with this picture-perfect experience of motherhood.

To be clear if women chose not to breastfeed this is absolutely fine, what concerns me is a society that tells women to breastfeed, fails to support them to do so and then instills guilt into them for the failure.  

I’m passionate about more support and understanding for new mums, partly because of my own experience. My first child struggled to latch on, was losing weight, not sleeping. He is 10 now, but I’ve never forgotten the awful sense of failure that overtook me. It later transpired I had a tongue tie which made it hard for him to latch on. I fed half breast milk and half formula for four months, before giving up completely. Anytime I met anyone who talked of finding feeding easy or of having fed for long periods I felt jealous and the sense of disappointment hit me.  
Three years later my second one fed without any issues immediately after birth and I breastfed him for over a year. My previous guilt and anxiety about breastfeeding melted away.

What the experience of having two such polar opposite experiences of breastfeeding I have been able to observe the divisive nature many conversations about breastfeeding take, with it often causing conflict, defensiveness and separation between mothers. 

Then of course other issues start to take on the form of division and competition between mothers – weaning, childcare, controlled crying, discipline, clothing, diets, going back to work – discussions around all these things often feel like they end in judgement rather than support.

Is there something about our approach as a society that is unsupportive towards parenting and parents in general?

Well research confirms that if women receive support – whether it be from a friend or family member, a health professional, or volunteer breastfeeding supporter – they are likely to breastfeed for longer. 

Yet, Peer Support and Drop in sessions for breastfeeding services are being cut all over the country. 

In Kent where I live, the County Council was proposing to absorb the support into the health visiting service make a saving of £404,000 a year.

This week the consultation was suddenly halted until September so we await news of what will happen next. Sadly, I think we all know health visitors are too overstretched to offer the help needed.

It is a similar picture with other parenting issues. Up to 20% of women experiencing mental health problems in pregnancy or the first 12 months after birth. A Mental Health Alliance study in 2014 report found significant gaps in the detection of mental health problems in the period before and after birth, only an estimated 40% are diagnosed, with just 3% of women experiencing a full recovery. 

Costs of perinatal mental illness in the UK are estimated at £8.1bn per year, or almost £10,000 per birth. Yet fewer than 15% of areas provide effective specialist perinatal services for women with severe or complex conditions, and almost half provide no service at all.
Sure Start appeared to be making some progress with a culture change, but more than 350 Sure Start children’s centres have closed in England since 2010, with only eight new centres opening over that period. Spending on the centres in the 2015-16 financial year was 47% less in real terms than in 2010.

Childcare remains a deeply expensive and stressful thing for many parents, as work and money compete with family pressures compete, causing terrible stress and anxiety for parents. 

There is nothing I can find to indicate any progress has been made in aiding parents with this.  

It seems that family life, feels very unsupported in this country.
Judgement and pressure reign and support is hard to access and what is available is diminishing.

I think this culture is damaging family life and impacting upon the happiness of parents, children and everyone else. 

 The lack of support undoubtedly impacts on emotional well being across the board. We need better services, but we also need to look at our attitudes towards each other and to create more supportive dialogues and attitudes. 
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Isn’t It About Time We Tried A Holistic Approach To Mental Wellbeing? By Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

Mental health problems are the scourge of our time. 

Around one in four adults in England is diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives. This includes depression (3.3 million people are currently diagnosed with this), eating disorders, psychosis, personality disorder and anxiety. 

The NHS spends around £11.7 billion on mental health, including £400 million on drugs every year. But all indicators are that this is woefully inadequate and terrifyingly 57% of Clinical Commissioning Groups planned to reduce their spending on mental health services this year.  

I fear we will make no progress in improving the overall mental health of citizens in this country whilst we continue to rely solely on a heavily stretched medical model to fix the problem. 

That is not to say that I am not absolutely in favour of increasing the mental health treatment budget (indeed I am a trainee counsellor). However I think we need to start looking at mental health in a holistic way. 

To quote a well known leaflet by charity Mind “good mental health isn’t something you have, but something you do.”

So I am cheered by the publication of the report Creative Health: 

‘The Arts for Health and Wellbeing from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing http://www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk/appg-inquiry/

The report found that arts-led alternatives to conventional therapy and medicine could serve as effective treatments for many mental health issues. 

Some of the findings conclude that:
Music therapy reduces agitation and need for medication in 67% of people with dementia.

● An arts-on-prescription project has shown a 37% drop in GP consultation rates and a 27% reduction in hospital admissions. This represents a saving of £216 per patient.

Arts therapies have been found to alleviate anxiety, depression and stress while increasing resilience and wellbeing.

● Visual and performing arts in healthcare environments help to reduce sickness, anxiety and stress.

The heart rate of newborn babies is calmed by the playing of lullabies. The use of live music in neonatal intensive care leads to considerably reduced hospital stays.

● A 10-week art and craft programme with mothers experiencing anxiety and their children saw a 77 percent reduction in anxiety and depression and an 86 percent reduction in stress. The bonds between mothers and children improved, and the emotional, social and cognitive development of the children was stimulated.

None of these things sound unattainable to roll out across the country do they? 

I suggest that rather than finances being the problem, what is needed is a change in culture and an acceptance that mental wellbeing is something that requires investment and that should be addressed through multiple disciplines. 

Is one reason that mental health is not addressed in this way because the Ministry of Health works in a silo? 

Could an approach of working with the Department of Culture could have greater success?  
Is it possible this problem is compounded by an attitude that persists that art is something to be enjoyed by the privileged?

The proportion of GDP spent on the arts by the government remains below the European average

This was recognised in the Labour Party manifesto with a promise to rectify this and introduce an arts pupil premium for every primary school pupil, in line with the existing PE pupil premium. 

Announcing the policy Jeremy Corbyn said :

“There is creativity in all of us but we need to give people the opportunities for this creativity to flourish.”

Art based activity (including drama and music) is repeatedly shown to cut stress even if the person is not good at it!!

Therefore it is logical to assume that a if society gave people of every age access to art then they would have less mental health issues.  
Continuing with the theme of looking at holistic approach to wellbeing, last year Natural England published a study which reviewed the benefits and outcomes of approaches to green care for mental ill-health. Nature is known to be one of the most reliable boosts to mental health.

However it has strangely become less accessible to people as we spend more times in offices, cars and generally trapped indoors. 80% of people in England agree that the quality of the built environment influences the way they feel yet our environments are typically becoming more urbanised and our leisure time increasingly spent inside. 

It is unsurprising that as people live in increasingly overcrowded housing and towns that mental well being suffers. We know access to parks, rivers and natural improves lives: people who live in the areas within our cities and towns that have more green or blue space have better mental health.
 
As with art, a new approach is needed to ensure people of all ages are able to access and enjoy outdoor living. The evidence for this being of benefit is plentiful. For example:
Spending just 15 minutes a day in nature can boost focus and ease anxiety.

● From a mindfulness perspective being in nature helps us to become present.

Children who play outside are more physically active, which helps prevent obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues

● Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.

It is a failing of our society that mental health remains so neglected in terms of recognition, treatment and approach. 

Let’s see a truly comprehensive integrated approach, across government departments and across all organisations including employers, aimed at improving emotional wellbeing. 

It is quite evident that such an approach and investment in relevant projects would save money and would lead to happier people, surely that should be the real goal of our community?


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