An Introduction

Welcome To A Jackals Voice. The intention of this blog is to be an outlet for myself and others on topics that are not generally discussed...

Monday, 4 December 2017

The things we don't see

Hello and welcome to A Jackals Voice.
I'm sorry I've been away so long, there were a few things that had to be done. Things like; testing my body's limits, going out on small adventures, nothing really of note, but essential nonetheless. During this time I've learned two things. The first is that I am able to have a life, and a good one to boot. The second is that I really must slow down, or risk burning myself out as I have done this past week. So, sitting at home, hiding away from the world, I thought I'd share with you exactly what I'm hiding, and why so many people with mental health conditions do so.


In my recent posts, I've been talking about getting back out into the world. Enjoying life and trying to live a, relatively speaking, 'normal' life. It's been going fairly well I'm happy to report, I've seen my friends a lot more than I have done over the last year. I'm walking better, I have a much cooler walking stick (walking sticks are cool, and I don't care who thinks otherwise) and I've recently started Physiotherapy. Things have been looking up, ben, for every high there is a low, and now I've been stuck at home for almost three days due to pain and exhaustion. This is nothing new, and I tell my friends and family I'm just having a few 'rest' days. In truth, it's not restful at all.


I can't speak for everyone, but 'rest' days are not a new part of my, mental condition. Granted, they are now longer breaks than I used to take when my anxiety flared, but in essence, they are the same thing. These are the days when it's just got too much. These are the days when the symptoms get worse and easy to spot, and so, like many, I hide away.
When the term invisible illness is used it refers to the mental conditions we can't obviously see. However, in my experience, there is another reason that these conditions or illnesses are invisible. It's because we make them invisible. On my bad days, I feel like every muscle in my body is fighting against one another. I flinch at even the slightest noise, and my vocalisations are worse than normal. I can't even make myself a cup of tea without informing my neighbours that; 'I NEED MILK!!!'. I ache, and all I want to do is go to bed, but I can't sleep. I worry about stupid things, things that really don't matter. I can't help myself, and so I hide.
My invisible illness is not just because it's in my head, it's because I don't want people to see these bad days, the ones I call 'rest days'.


Now to be clear, I'm not writing this for sympathy. I've too much pride to ask for that. I suppose that means I've got a bit of an ego, but then I think everyone does. I don't want people to see this because I feel weak on these days, and I'm grumpy due to the pain. I am writing this to try and explain why most people don't see others having massive panic attacks. Why people don't see others struggling up the street because their legs are too weak to carry them. Particularly, why you don't see me gasping for breath because I can't stop shouting random words and phrases.
For many people with Mental illnesses, hiding the worst of it is second nature. I suppose it doesn't really help our cause. Back when I only had anxiety to worry about, I often heard; 'I'd never have guessed that', after telling someone about my condition. The reason people never guessed, simple. they never saw, and I know I am not the only one.
To be clear, I'm not calling for change here. I know I'm not going to start forcing myself outside on bad days just so the world can see that I am genuinely ill. I shouldn't have to, and neither should anyone else. All I'm really trying to say is that the next time your friend says; 'I'm a bit tired,, maybe tomorrow', just consider that maybe they need a break.


It's not all doom and gloom though. My good days are starting to get even better, and I certainly feel like I'm improving. I'm always going to have bad days but that's okay. I know that it gets better, and I know that I'll learn to cope better. I'm a work in progress, but everybody needs a break now and then.

Over to you now. Do you have 'rest days' like me? Perhaps you know someone else that struggles. Leave a comment and please remember to share this with your friends on facebook.
Thankyou to everyone that's been reading my Blog and sharing it. I hope that it's helped in some small way for others like me.
Until next time, this has been,
A Jackals Voice.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

A Jackal Walks

Hello and welcome to A Jackals Voice.
It's been almost 13 months since my Panic Attack that started all of this. 13 months since my arms and legs stopped doing what they were told, and my voice stopped cooperating. Whilst I'm by no means better medically speaking, in terms of coping with my condition I've come a long way since those early days. Sometimes I forget how long it's been, other times it's all I think about, but as I said in my last post, I'm not just going to wait around for my doctors anymore. Today was the first day of my new life, and it was a bloody good one.



Friday, 27 October 2017

The Hope of a Madman

Hello and welcome to A Jackals voice.
Today's post is going to be a little different than the rest, you'll have to let me know how it goes.
Whilst I've shared a lot about myself and my condition, the effects it had on everyday life, it has all be rather impersonal. Today I would like to change that. I would like to share a little part of my own mind with you. I do this to honor of a friend, to thank another and hopefully help at least one person. So humor me if you will, as I detail the thoughts of a strange man.


Thursday, 19 October 2017

Pick a Diagnosis

Hello and welcome back to A Jackals Voice.
For those of you that are new to this blog, it was created shortly after I became unable to work due to a rather sudden onset of mental illness. Almost a year ago I had a panic attack at work which set of a chain reaction within my body. At first, there was some small involuntary movements and a stammer, but this escalated rather quickly. The movements got worse, and I developed a gait which limited my walking. The stammer became more complex, I developed trigger words which I would repeat over and over, along with the occasional grunting noise which I had no control over.
Prior to this none of these symptoms had ever really manifested, except for a stammer when I was particularly nervous. Now I use a walking stick in order to keep my posture straight and, whilst my voice has improved a lot in recent months, I do now shout words or phrases without meaning too. For the most part, I'm able to laugh it off as it can be quite funny. However, I've recently been seen by another specialist who has given me a diagnosis which contradicts everything that I've been told before. Once again I am thrown back into uncertainty and that's what today's post is about.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

'Triggering Content!'

Hello and welcome to A Jackals Voice.
If you experience adverse effects to someone sharing their opinion I would advise that you look away now. Today's post is about this new culture of trigger warnings and why I think it's more damaging than helpful, particularly in the case of Mental Health. So, if you really don't want to read this stop now, but I warn you that should you stop for those reasons, you have proven one of my points. Do I have your attention? Excellent, lets begin.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Not where I thought I'd be at 23

Hello and welcome back to A Jackals Voice.
Today's post is very much a personal one. I have been thinking a lot recently about how things have turned out, and whilst I'm not upset about it, things have gone a little differently than planned. So, I'd like to talk about what I had planned, what I wanted to do and be. I also want to talk about whats changed, more importantly, what I want now. Indulge me if you will, if only for a little while.


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Mirror Mirror: Guest Post by Just A Girl



When I was a girl I loved fairytales. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella.....they all rocked my world with their "Handsome Princes" and their "Happy ever afters."
I secretly wanted to star in my own and imagined myself galloping off into the sunset with my handsome prince, jingling the keys to my very own castle......it was going to be lush. Except it didn't quite turn out that way.
Looking back, I don't remember any fairy tale I ever read having a chapter called "It will all end in tears". Shame really. If there had been then maybe I would have been more prepared for the fact that sometimes what begins as a fairy tale can end up as a horror movie. They should teach it in schools "How to cope when your Prince Charming was actually a frog all along." That kind of thing. It would save a lot of heartache.

                                                     

Sunday, 3 September 2017

A Jackal on the Ward

Welcome to A Jackals Voice.
First I must apologize to my readers and subscribers in regards to my absence of late. For those of you that follow the Facebook Page or Twitter you are likely aware that I recently had a short stay in hospital. A lot happened in those few days and I have been a bit overwhelmed trying to make sense of it all. I'm sure you can appreciate my absence, but I wish to apologize none the less.
Anyway, on to today's post. I am going to give fair warning now that if you have issues in regards to hospital procedures, alarming symptoms or anything of the sort, that I will be briefly outlining what happened and why I went to hospital. It's not incredibly dramatic, but I don't want to upset anyone. Furthermore I am in good health, relatively speaking, and I am not in any danger.
With that out of the way, lets get to it.


Monday, 21 August 2017

Dealing With Unexpected Loss and What it Can Do to a Child. Guest post by Jay Chirino


I still remember my grandfather’s favorite rocking chair, one of a pair that he and Grandma used to utilize almost daily. On the hottest summer afternoons, they would take the red-oak rockers out to the front porch, to enjoy the breeze that flowed through the high ceilings of the turn-of-the-century house. As the blue of day gave birth to a fiery afternoon, they would gently rock and talk about their days, discuss current events and enjoy watching me as I played with my toys by their feet. Once I got big enough to ride a tricycle, they would sit out there and watch me go back and forth on the sidewalk, to make sure I wouldn’t pedal too far away.
My grandparents got married young, and even though they didn’t have much in the way of material possessions, they loved each other with that love that has no surrender. Their biggest challenge came when they took their son to the hospital with a relentless cough that had lasted for days. The doctor on call ordered one of the nurses to put the one-year-old in an incubator to try to stabilize his breathing, but an unnoticed defect in the machine resulted in the child getting less oxygen, and a few hours later my grandparents were stricken with the grief of losing their baby boy.
Grandma had to receive some psychiatric attention after that and was put on a medication regimen to keep her stable. Grandpa didn’t; his regimen became hard liquor, lots of it, every day after work. He would never miss a session, he couldn’t. A couple of decades later their first-born daughter was getting married and promptly after giving birth to another baby, a boy that, especially to Grandpa, deeply reminded them of the one they had lost all those years before. Suddenly they had a second chance at experiencing what they had been denied before, but along with the gift also came an overwhelming fear, one that made Grandpa start drinking more than what he already was.
I always remember him as a happy person. As a matter of fact, if there is one thing that I remember well about him is his smile, and the way his eyes squinted when he grinned. Every day after punching out at work, he would walk to the convenience store across the street and pick up a knick-knack, something that wouldn’t allow him to get home empty handed. I waited eagerly by the door, anxious to see what he would bring me that day. He always delivered; he never failed me once.
Until one day.
I still remember asking Mom why Grandpa was taking so long; I had been waiting by the door for a while now. Even though I was only four-and-a-half years old, I very clearly remember that she sat me on her lap, and with a somber tone she told me that Grandpa was not coming home that night. When I asked the reason why, she simply said that he had an impromptu work trip he had to go on, and they didn’t know exactly when he would be coming back. That was it, that’s where she left it at.
Day after day I stood by the door on the early afternoons, eagerly hoping to see Grandpa cross the street with a brown bag in his hand and his signature smile in his face, rushing to walk in and embrace me, but he never did. For years I was still convinced that he would be coming home, until I wasn’t so sure anymore.
My parents, knowing how close he and I were, thought it was better to shield me from the sad reality that my grandfather had passed away from a massive heart attack while sleeping. He was only forty-eight. They thought that if they gave me enough time, I, being so young, would probably forget most of the things I had gone through before I was five years old. But I never did, not Grandpa, I never forgot him.
After years of unfounded expectations, I finally demanded the truth from my parents, but not before developing serious symptoms of anxiety and convincing myself that not only Grandpa had abandoned us, but that it was somehow my fault that he had. I was nine years old when I learned the truth, and coincidentally the same age when I experienced my first serious depressive episode. After that things got shaky, and as the years went by the depression led me to an addiction problem that almost killed me at one point in time.
I’m not saying that all my emotional problems stemmed from the fact that I was denied a simple, yet harrowing truth, but I am convinced that not being able to properly process my grandfather’s death definitely influenced my emotional issues early on. Although I do not blame my parents for making an uninformed decision, I do wish there would have been more resources at the time that would have helped them deal with such an unexpected and painful situation.
Today I am sober and happy with the life I lead. As a father now, I do not take for granted what I learned through my own experiences, and I put great effort in keeping a strong line of honest communication between my son and me.  There are many topics that are difficult to talk about, especially now that he is becoming a teenager, but we tackle them head on, together, and we work through them. I don’t hide my weaknesses from him; he knows both my strengths and my flaws. In return, he has no shame in sharing his with me. This allows me to really know what is going on, to be able to give him the appropriate help.

Sometimes, in my dreams, I go back to being that little kid, eagerly waiting by the door for Grandpa to come home. Then I see him as he crosses the street, and smiling he opens his arms and runs to embrace me, happy to see me after returning from his long trip. He then whispers in my ear. “I am proud of you,” and I smile. Yes, I know. After everything, you would have definitely been proud of your grandson.
Bio: Jay Chirino is a writer and mental health advocate, soon to publish the novel The Flawed Ones, a in depth exploration into the struggles of mental illness through the eyes of the patients. You can register to receive a free copy now at http://www.theflawedones.com
Take a look at the Authors Page to learn more.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A Debate on Psychology vs Neurology

Welcome back to A Jackals Voice.
Today I would like to talk about the difference between Psychology and Neurology in terms of Mental Health. Now I am no doctor, but I have been doing a lot of reading into this subject due to my current condition (muscular spasms, vocal tics etc). In the time since I became ill I have seen both Neurologists and Psychiatrists, and whilst I still don't have a confirmed diagnosis, my current symptoms are categorized as Neurological. In spite of this, my psychological conditions still aggravate my symptoms, so whats the connection? This is what I would like to explore today.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Why do I write about Mental Illness?


Welcome back to A Jackals Voice.

Since I started this Blog back in January, I've shared a lot of my own experiences in regards to Mental Health and how it has effected my life. In fact, since I was made unable to work I've done more writing and research than I did at university (To be honest, I did most of my essays the day they were due so not really much of a comparison). Especially in terms of the topics I have been writing about. So today I just feel like sharing a bit about what has happened since I became ill.

At this point it's been almost ten months since I stopped working. There was a short period early on when medication enabled me to work a little, but eventually the pills couldn't keep my symptoms at bay anymore. To be clear I'm not just talking about my anxiety here, mainly about my still un-diagnosed condition that I now have. If I knew back then what I'd be spending my time doing now I doubt I'd have believed it. I don't know what prompted me to think about it, but I think it's very strange how quickly things can change.

Monday, 31 July 2017

What it's like to have Anxiety when you're working.

Welcome back to A Jackals Voice.
I've covered this topic briefly before but today I'd like to go a little more in depth in regards to my own experiences. Whilst most, if not all, mental health conditions can have an effect on your career, I'll be focusing mainly on my own anxiety. I'll be talking about my work life prior to my current condition, along with what I do now in regards to blogging.

Before I became ill back in November last year, I worked as a barman in a local pub. Typically the pub was quite busy. Whether it was for food during the day or drinkers at night, we rarely had a dull day. I was both a waiter and a bartender, and so I would interact with the majority of our customers every day that I worked. This meant taking orders, making small talk etc. In any other scenario I would have avoided being in a crowded place such as that, but when I was at work I dealt with my condition quite well. Or rather I ignored it.

My anxiety had started to become a problem before I got my first job. I would steer well away from bars and restaurants if I had a choice, and if not, I'd likely be getting myself a little tipsy just to get past it. It wasn't a healthy way to cope but it worked. The reason I ended up as a bartender was purely out of a need for money and chance. A friend of the family had taken over an establishment and so I went to work there. It wasn't a busy place, but I think that's why I found it easier to adapt. By the time I'd started work at my pub of choice, I already had experience in stifling my anxiety.

                                        

Monday, 24 July 2017

Mental Health and Social Media

Welcome back to A Jackals Voice.
Today I've been wracking my brain trying to think of something to write about. It's not that there is nothing to talk about, there are many topics that I could throw a few thoughts at, but I couldn't decide where to start. Then, being the massive procrastinator I am I thought I'd just surf the web for a while. I found a couple articles, all talking about Mental Health and how technology is a problem. This then lead me to Twitter, where people were talking about said articles, which ultimately resulted in several people furiously sending messages to news outlets for various offense's. A topic I kept finding topic was an argument that social media has promoted Mental Illness, and whether or not people agree that Mental Health should be talked about in such an open format.
I expect a few of you can guess which side I favor, but it is an interesting argument, so today I'd like to share my own musings on the subject.

                                               

Friday, 21 July 2017

Self Diagnosis

Welcome back to A Jackals Voice.
Today I'm gonna talk about self diagnosis. Pretty much everyone will or has researched their own symptoms from time to time, even with physical conditions. I have to admit that I have done this repeatedly, the research part anyway, and I'll like to address why people do this in the first place, whilst also pointing out how silly it is to do so.

First off, when we notice something strange about our body, we tend to look it up on the internet before we speak with a Doctor. Why do we do this? Well my guess would be impatience. Getting an appointment with your doctor can take weeks, especially if it's only a minor symptom. Sure you could just wait for fourteen days for your doctor to tell you everything is fine, or you could go online and search for yourself. Granted it's much faster, but given the majority of us don't actually have much medical knowledge, we often end up finding the worst possible condition we could have. However, no matter how bad of an idea this really is, it makes sense that we would try to figure it out on our own now, so we can tell the doctor what we think it is. Something my Father used to say still makes me laugh. Whenever he was ill, he'd call the doctor, though he was quite rarely ill. However, every time he called he would try to make an appointment and would be told it'd be two weeks until he got one. He'd hang up the phone, look at me and would joke about it. He'd say; 'Two weeks? I'll either be dead or better by then!'.
It used to make me laugh, but in all fairness he had a point. Of course you had the option to call first thing in the morning to get a same day appointment, but that irritated both of us even more than waiting. I mean, why is it, if I call at 10am I have to wait two weeks, but if I call at 9am I can go today? It doesn't really make sense. As a result, you either make that call, or you search the web for a cure.

                                                

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

What is Anxiety?


Welcome back to A Jackals Voice.
Since I made this Blog I've been writing about my own problems, including anxiety, because I wanted to address mental health on a more personal level. I've reached a point now where some people are contacting me, and most of it is very positive so please keep writing! However, those that don't suffer from anxiety, or have trouble understanding others that do, don't seem to understand the difference between being anxious and having Anxiety, so that's what I would like to talk about today.
Just before I start I want to say that this might upset some people given the metaphor and sarcasm I use. Whilst I personally don't believe in 'Trigger Warnings' (Topic for another time) you have been warned.

Now then, I have previously said that I wouldn't go into all the specifics of anxiety as a condition because those that suffer anxiety tend to get tired of reading it. Or at least I do. However, to try and explain to others what anxiety as a condition is like, I think it is a necessary evil.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

When you can't see what is wrong

Hello and welcome back to A Jackals Voice.


Many mental conditions are referred to as invisible illnesses. Conditions such as social anxiety and depression are recognized as this. I myself have talked on how, as a barman, no-one suspected my anxieties. Conditions like that can be hard to handle because, well how do you convince people of something they can't see. That is what I'd like to talk about today.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Truth of my Anxiety

Welcome back to A Jackals Voice.

First off a big thank you to all my readers. There have now been over 2,000 visits to this site. It might not sound like much but it means a lot to me. So thank you all!!

Today I am going to talk about how my own anxiety problems have effected my life. I know previously I've described how my anxiety manifests, but I haven't really explained how this effects me on a day to day basis.
I've had to cope with anxiety for a long time, though this wasn't always the case. When I was younger, maybe 7 or 8, I don't think anyone would have suspected that I would develop anxiety issues to the extent I have today. At that age, I was very outgoing. Probably too outgoing to be honest. Once I was out with my mother and she had to make a withdrawal from the cash point. Without an hesitation I struck up a conversation with the man waiting behind us, and proceeded to tell the man my mother's bank balance.
Further examples were in school. I loved Drama class when I first went to secondary school. I'd quite happily be the loudest person in the room and had no fear at all. Making friends wasn't hard for me, I found that just striking up a conversation with everyone meant you ended up with a lot less trouble later on. I never stuck with just one friendship group, I bounced between them.


Friday, 30 June 2017

My list of Self Care

Since I first created this Blog I've shared a lot about what my experiences of mental health have been like. I have talked about the negative effects, stigma, medication and so on. However I have left out something important. How I try to stay happy and the ways in which I cope, well the healthy ways anyway. Today I'm going to talk about some of the things I do to feel a little better. Hopefully, some of you could make use of this and maybe come up with some ideas for yourself.


1: Music

I love music, and I challenge anyone to say they don't like at least one genre. Personally I don't really have a favorite. I can go from Country to Metal to Electric Swing (Look up that last one it is awesome!) all in one sitting. Whether it is deafening me through my headphones or just coming out of my little Bluetooth speaker it always helps. Granted I can't dance like I used too given the muscular twitches, though I try. Singing is something I prefer to do alone due to my tendency to add random words. I don't encourage blocking the world out for long periods, but if I need a pick me up, music is the best thing for it.


Saturday, 24 June 2017

Enjoying the Little Things

It is very easy to get stuck on the bad things that happen. At some point or another everyone can struggle to see clearly through the bad times. However, it is at these times that we need to step back and look at what we have. Welcome back to A Jackals Voice.

I set up this Blog to try to make a space for people to talk about mental health freely, along with a space for myself to talk about my experiences. A lot of what I write about is relatively negative and so I wanted to address that. Having a mental condition doesn't make life stop. It doesn't mean that you can't enjoy anything ever again. On the contrary, I think a lot of good things have come to light because of my illness that I wouldn't give up for the world. Today, I would like to share some of the things I am grateful for, and I hope this may help some of you view things a little differently.



Wednesday, 21 June 2017

For the Love of Medicine

Welcome back to A Jackals Voice. Today I would like to talk about medicine, specifically about my own treatments and experiences. For the most part, I have been in relatively good health my entire life. I've never broken a bone or become sick enough to require hospital treatment. For this, I am blessed. I have been incredibly lucky in comparison to many of my friends, and I am truly thankful. However, as my current situation has progressed I find myself at a loss. How can it be that modern medicine has progressed so far, and yet the brain and mind are so often overlooked?



Friday, 16 June 2017

Lost in Welfare

It has now been over eight months since my condition worsened. Prior to my current condition, I worked full time as a Barman doing up to 50 hours a week, more on some occasions. I took pride in my work, and despite my anxiety, at that bar I was home. Nothing and no-one could intimidate me there. I felt like a valued member of a very close team. In all honesty, I probably loved my job too much and should have made more time for other things. I justified it by saving to go abroad on my first holiday in many years, and certainly my first holiday that I would be paying for myself. I was happy and overly proud of myself. When I got ill, I lost that security and sureness of self, and was left with nothing to show for it.

Currently, I am unemployed. Given the state of my condition, working in a regular capacity is pretty much out of the question. Aside from running this Blog I have very little to keep me occupied. I am now living of ESA payments and am applying for PIP. Whilst the logical part of me is saying that this is only temporary, and that I am entitled to receive help, the old me is ashamed.
I've never been one to accept hand-outs. I am a terribly proud person, and up until now I have prided myself on being self-sufficient. I refused help before because I would rather struggle than accept defeat. In my own mind, accepting help was a weakness, and I didn't need anyone else. If I had been asked a year ago if I would be living on benefits, I'd have laughed. Yet here I am.


Friday, 2 June 2017

The NHS and Mental Health

'Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the burden of disease worldwide.1 In the UK, they are responsible for the largest burden of disease– 28% of the total burden, compared to 16% each for cancer and heart disease.' - https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/fundamental-facts-15.pdf :Page 7.

Hello everyone. Today I am going to try and shed some light on how Mental Health is combated by the NHS of the UK. I've done a little research and most of what will be discussed within this post I will leave citations to. I have found a number of very interesting documents and articles that I believe many of you may find interesting. Obviously I couldn't possibly cover everything in one post so I will be creating a new label for these posts.

Mental Health has been slowly gaining recognition in recent years. Current statistics in the UK say that one in four people will develop a mental condition within their lifetime. My own situation is still under investigation, and in all honesty I am not convinced I am going to be back to 'normal' any time soon. It has been over six months since my condition surfaced and I still have not met with a neurologist.
Whilst my own situation may not be resolved so quickly, I am pleased to find out that there has been some increased spending on Mental Health in recent years, although it is focused on particular groups. The Initiative I am referring to is IAPT (Improved Access to Psychological Therapies). The program was supposed to dramatically increase funding for Mental care in order to increase access for patients and potentially enable a greater number of people to re-enter the workplace. From 2008 to 2011 the spending was supposed to reach £173 million, and 3,600 new IAPT therapists were to be trained. Whilst most of this is directed towards helping those with anxiety, depression and OCD, I do feel this is a step in the right direction. However, whether or not the goal was achieved is somewhat hard to determine, the website itself noted that, according to the Guardian, only 400 therapists had been trained in the first year, but notes that official statistics showed the contrary.
More details of the objectives of IAPT can be found on their webpage at :https://www.ocduk.org/iapt.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Mental Health Awareness Week


This week has been Mental Health Awareness week. The theme this year has been 'Surviving or Thriving?'. It's an interesting topic to explore as it encourages people to look at themselves and others to see just how well they are coping. Of course, Mental Health Awareness Week is not just about helping those that have Mental health issues, but to broaden ideas and reduce the associated stigma.

For me, this week is a time when people from all walks of life should be able to come together and talk about the issues which are so often ignored or avoided. It is a time for sharing thoughts, and an opportunity to step out of the shadows. Anyone with Mental Health issues can tell you that discussing their problems can be a very daunting task. You can never know how people will react, or if they will even believe you.  However, during this time I would like to think that people can be more open about themselves, or at the very least expect to be heard. More importantly, I would like to think that this week has prompted people without mental conditions to ask questions. I know a lot of people and one thing that I can say for certain is that people without conditions feel bad asking about someone else's condition. I can understand this, and I also understand some suffers simply do not want to talk about their troubles, but at this time it is incredibly important that everyone, on both sides of the spectrum speak up.
Nothing can change until it is acknowledged.



Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Changes

Change is an unavoidable aspect of life. Whether we like it or not, eventually some things will have to change. Today's post is my opinion on how change effects me, as a person with Mental Health conditions and also as a stubborn fool.

Over the last few months, many things have changed for me. I used to work full time at a rather busy town bar. My employers were incredibly good friends of mine, as were the entire staff as far as I'm concerned. Going drinking was a weekly occurrence at the very least, I always enjoyed going out for a few and having a good dance, terrible as I am. I've gone from having a serious relationship to being single again, although in the long run I suppose this gives me an opportunity to focus on myself.
Whilst not all of these changes are terrible, I've found them hard to process at times.

                                    

Monday, 20 March 2017

What is 'Normal'?

Up until recently if I had been asked; 'What kind of person are you', I would probably have come up with a variety of characteristics that I thought applied. I used to think of myself as a happy person. Fun loving. A good friend and a hard worker. I loved to dance and sing. I was a social person in spite of my anxiety. To be honest most people never even knew I had anxiety. I had adopted a coping mechanism of Hiding in Plain Sight. 
That has all changed now. I'm still a happy person don't get me wrong, but I'm nothing compared to who I was. I can't sing or dance with people anymore because of the muscle spasms. Going out socially is hard because of the physical pain. I can't hide anymore, the physical symptoms of my condition have left me exposed. For a while this really bothered me. I felt like I couldn't be myself anymore. As time has moved on however, I've grown somewhat accustomed to it. I know what I can and can't do and I have accepted that this is how it is going to be for the time being. This is my new 'normal'.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Remembering who your friends are

Whenever a life-changing event occurs it can promote feelings of isolation. Whether it is a location change, a death in the family or illness is irrelevant. The reasons for this, in my own opinion, is that when something dramatic happens in our lives we expect everybody else's lives to change as well. This is not how the world works. Life carries on and a bad day for you is simply a bad day for you and you alone.

Since I became ill I have found myself becoming increasingly withdrawn. It's a natural response to hide away when you feel weakened. However, in the early days I did become rather upset when I didn't hear from certain people. I suppose I expected to hear from them simply because I wasn't around as much as normal. I assumed that they would have found out. I assumed someone would come looking for me. As this continued I became angry, and felt that I didn't have as many friends as I once thought. In response I simply shrank back further still into my own little bubble.
This, in hindsight, was completely unfair of me to do.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Hidden Strength

What is a Strong person? How do you define that characteristic? Is it physical stature? Is it resilience? Is it that 'stiff-upper-lip' I've heard so much about? Or is it something more? Today I'm going to explore what I think makes a person strong and try to explain why I believe there are different forms of strength.

I am a very proud person by nature. It is not that I feel like I have accomplished a great deal in my short time on earth, but more the way I have dealt with things. Throughout our lives we come up against challenges. Whether its losing friends, the death of a loved one or a tough day is irrelevant. Regardless of the context, it happens to us all. I take pride in independence, even to my own detriment. I have always tried to solve my own problems, particularly if I created them. Whilst I have not always been successful, I have always had that behind me. Every time I have failed I have taken solace in that at least I tried. I've failed a lot. However, a failure in my eyes is not always a failure to someone else. Pride has kept me going through a lot of things. When it came to university it was Pride that got me through my second year, along with an distinct interest in my topic. By the third year I'd lost my drive. I no longer felt that I needed to prove anything to myself or anyone else. I lost interest and eventually dropped out with a Diploma for my efforts. Maybe not the wisest of my decisions, but I wouldn't trade that time for the world.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Frustration

It has now been almost four months since I was made unable to work. In that time I've been referred to a Mental Health Team, I've had various blood tests and I've had an MRI scan performed. The pills that have been prescribed are not working as they used too as I am becoming tolerant and I require more to get the same effect. I am not improving as I'd hoped and I still do not have a confirmed diagnosis for my current condition. My anxiety and hallucinations are still issues, but I have learnt to cope with them. Not knowing what is going on with my mind right now is starting to get to me. For someone with anxiety I would like to think I am relatively calm, but I can't help but get frustrated.

Diagnosis is difficult when it comes to Mental Health. Every condition has various spin-offs that make it difficult to pin down. Before I knew I had anxiety I went to the doctor and ended up taking anti-depressants. I wasn't depressed, I'm still not now, but the pills were prescribed due to my symptoms. As it turned out I had to stop taking them, I found they made me feel disconnected from reality. Strangely I'd still rather have anxiety than feel like that. Eventually it was concluded that I was having panic attacks because of my anxiety and more appropriate medication was given. The point is that there is a lot of trial-and-error as it is difficult to know exactly what is wrong with any given person. It takes time to get treatment, and even then it can still be wrong.
Anyone that has a condition can tell you that it is a long process. I wasn't officially diagnosed with psychosis until I was 20. I knew something was wrong but I tried to just ignore it. Only after some light pressure from friends and family did I go to get a diagnosis but even that took over a month. Until someone has a diagnosis there is little that can be done, aside from possibly masking the symptoms. With a diagnosis at least you know what to tell people and you can start to work with it.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

The Unknown

Not knowing the outcome of a situation is stressful to me. I don't like not being in control of my own circumstances. I think its a mixture of Pride and Fear mostly. These last few months have been tough, and I know it is not yet over. I'm happy to report that my closest friends and family have rallied around me, even if sometimes it can be hard for them to see me in my current state. I'm thankful that I have these people in my life. Although, as much as I appreciate their help, I can't but feel like I've lost some of my independence. I'm incredibly stubborn, and that probably hasn't helped things.

I do not know what is going on with my mind right now, and I'm sure there are many others out there that feel the same. It is the not knowing that frustrates me. I have no answers for myself or anyone else at this point. All I do know is that I will be okay, one way or another. Whatever happens I'll survive. Things might be a bit different, but that is the way life works. Change happens, whether you're ready or not. It helps to know that I'm not the only one, if only a little.
I've met people with depression, anxiety, bipolar and various other ailments. All of them are different, and all struggle sometimes. The one thing they have in common is that they keep going, no matter how tough it gets. I've read stories of people with horrible conditions that I wouldn't wish upon anyone, but even these people carry on. You have High-Functioning people out there that force themselves through each day, and you have those that struggle a bit. Again, all of these people carry on.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Guilt

Guilt or feeling that I am at fault is something that has developed alongside my conditions. Now in most cases a person would feel guilty if they had done something wrong, or perhaps upset another person. I am not talking about such instances, rather I am referring to the guilt that comes with being mentally unwell. To me this guilt is worse than the conditions themselves at times. Strangely enough, I feel it more on a day when my symptoms are not aggravated. I mostly feel this way on the 'good' days.

I am the sort of person that is happiest when I am busy. Whether this means going to work, writing or getting absorbed into a good video game is irrelevant. As long as my mind is occupied, I am happy. Since my mental state took a turn a few months back and I was rendered unable to work, I have found it increasingly difficult to occupy myself. Most counselors or doctors will tell you to try and stay active, keep yourself busy: Go for walks, do your shopping, try to socialize. It's this which I find the most difficult part. Given that I have anxiety you would expect my reasons for not going out to be just that; I'm Anxious. I do not find these activities particularly difficult on most days, there are exceptions, but the reason that i do not want to go outside is because I feel guilty.
I feel Guilty that I am signed off work but I am still able to go outside. I feel guilty when someone sees me and says; "Hey how are you doing mate? Back at work soon?" How do I answer that? Yes they can hear my stutter and see that I'm moving strangely, but for the most part I feel and look relatively okay, at least in my eyes. If I do go outside it's because I need something or I'm having a particularly good day, but by the time I get home I'm upset with myself for feeling 'okay'. Living in a small town probably doesn't help, everyone knows everyone here so I can't really go anywhere private. As a result I feel guilty for going to see my friends because all I can think is; "If you're well enough for this, why can't you work?"

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Look on the Bright side

There are many things in this world that can bring a person down. At one time or another everyone will go through a period where they may feel like the entire world is going against them. There may be times that all you want to do is lay down and cry. Everyone is different in this regard, and some things that are a catastrophe to one person is of little concern to another. At the end of my first year of college I received a C grade for my Sociology exam. I was over the moon. Couldn't have been happier. However a fellow student of mine was almost destroyed when she received a B grade in the same exam. At the time I found it quite hard to relate, but I like to think I have grown somewhat since then. Everyone has their own challenge in this world, and it is important to remember that something that you consider a simple task could be incredibly difficult for another person.

I began this Blog as a way to express myself and to talk about things that are typically difficult to talk about. Yes, my anxiety makes it difficult for me to function at times. Yes, my hallucinations can have a pretty negative effect on me. The situation I am currently in is not particularly great, I'm finding it difficult to not get frustrated with myself. Having my muscles cramp up whilst I am walking to the supermarket makes me look like Igor. The stutter I  have whenever I speak to someone has a habit of turning into incoherent noises that could easily be mistaken for the mating calls of a camel. To top it off, the sudden involuntary movements of my arms and legs would have Neo from the Matrix impressed at my ability to dodge non-existent bullets. Whilst it is not always the most fun, it can be pretty hilarious. I think having a sense of humor is very important. That's what I would like to talk about today.

Around a month ago I met with a man to discuss my problem and try to determine a course of action. He told me about the human body's natural 'fight or flight' response to danger, and that this was the part of the reason I was in my current situation. The man I went to speak with however, seemed to have a slight involuntary 'tick'. Halfway through a sentence he would shut his eyes and hum. Every time he did this however, my body reacted. A five minute conversation turned into twenty minutes of me repeatedly making 'Baaa' noises and my body twisting violently to the left. Looking back on this now, I can't help but laugh, and I believe there is no reason why I shouldn't.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Back to Reality

Conditions of the mind can be incredibly hard to describe. How do you actually define anxiety when we live in a world of individuals who will experience the same things differently? This can make it very hard for other people to understand as well, for if something can't be described how can someone know what it is? In my opinion, this is one of the greatest problems those suffering with mental health conditions face. The day after my manic episode was one of the hardest days I've had since my current condition began. It wasn't because my symptoms were particularly bad or that I had a lot of triggers that day, it was because I went from feeling like the most confident person on the planet, back to my 'normal' self. It was that all the people that saw me on that day perceived me to have shown drastic improvement, when in reality I displayed another symptom. I was disappointed and it hurt.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Manic

Recently I have discussed some of the various long standing conditions that have affected my life. whilst all of my previous posts are still relevant, today I have had a rather strange experience. As I have said before; over the last 11-12 weeks I have been unable to leave my home for extended periods due to my symptoms of excessive stuttering and uncontrollable movements. I used to be quite a social person (even with my anxiety) and these last three months have been hard for me to say the least. Until today.

This morning I awoke at around 6am, unheard of at the moment as of current medications and sleeping habits. Yet I was alert and not suffering as much as I have been with my muscular pains. Although in my home I have grown accustomed to feeling relatively "normal" and didn't think too much of it at the time. I had agreed to help out a friend with a few odd jobs this morning, so I was just pleased I had managed to get out of bed. I left my house around 7:30am and didn't get home until just after noon, by which point I felt odd. I say odd as a relative term, as today I feel.... fine. In fact so much so that my stutter is non-existent and the body movements have stopped almost completely. I feel capable of interacting with the world  and even went for a haircut. Granted that doesn't sound like much of an achievement, but for someone that hasn't be able to sit or stand still around others for 12 weeks, it meant a lot.
Up until just after getting my haircut I had been riding on a wave of euphoria, it was a relief to speak again. However the over analyzing part of my mind kicked in very suddenly; my speech was incredibly rapid, my pulse was racing and I was overheating noticeably. If not for the blissful feeling I'd have thought I was going to have an attack. With this in mind I tried to take a step back to observe myself in a more critical sense, normally something those with anxiety are discouraged from doing. I concluded that I may be having some degree of manic episode.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Hallucinations

Very early in my childhood I told my mother that there were shadow people inside our house. I noticed them particularly at night, but they were still around during the day. These people would walk around or just stand silently and were not something I was afraid of, but something that simply was there. I had brought it up with my mother one day to ask what they were. There have been a couple of different explanations from different people over the years, but the older I got the less comfortable I felt talking about them. I knew for a fact that these things existed, but to my knowledge, no-one I had met had ever seen them, and furthermore I didn't want to be labeled as a freak.

The Shadows themselves rarely interacted with me, and normally the only 'issue' was that they simply existed. I didn't mind when I was younger, once or twice I even tried to befriend these things. They can't speak, but I came to associate them with emotions, and that was how I thought they talked. However, there have been a couple of incidents that have not ended well, even as recently as last year. Every now and then I find one of these people that is angry or otherwise threatening. Some  run at me and grab for my face. Others simply turn towards me and I am reduced to tears out of fear. I can't explain it, but at some point I decided to stop trying to talk to them, and certainly not to focus on them, in the event I upset one of them.

Friday, 6 January 2017

My Anxiety

Anxiety. A word I have become far too familiar with over the last few years. I have been told that it is something that everyone experiences to some degree, but I feel that the word Anxiety is too often used to describe an Anxiety disorder. This miscommunication can become misleading in my experience, as the two terms are very different.

The term Anxiety is described as; 'a state of uneasiness about what may happen', according to the Collins English Dictionary. People may feel anxious about starting a new job, moving home or even asking another individual for a date. These examples I'm sure everyone can relate to. In such cases, people tend to try to fight their fears and continue, and that is how we learn to cope with certain situations. In the medical sense, anxiety is part of the nature 'fight or flight' response in humans. Our muscles tense, our senses heighten and we prepare to deal with whatever is coming our way. this is perfectly normal, and at some point everyone will experience this response. However, what happens when this natural response misfires? Then we are approaching the realms of an Anxiety Disorder.

                                                

An Introduction

Welcome To A Jackals Voice.

The intention of this blog is to be an outlet for myself and others on topics that are not generally discussed. A lot of what is shared here is from my own personal experience and viewpoints, but I would like this blog to grow into a place where everyone feels safe to talk about what troubles them. I intend to share advice and stories that hopefully readers can relate to, along with providing a place for people to communicate and share their own experiences.
I decided to create this Blog after a lot of thought, for a long time I've felt like I have things to say, but did not feel like anyone would listen. Recently I've been going through some struggles in regards to my Mental Health, and it has brought a few things to my attention. Things such as the general isolation that such conditions can bring. The overwhelming amount of medical diagnosis sites that offer little more than a detailed description of what might ail you. The lack of stories out there from people that are suffering detailing how they feel and experience the world. Mental Health in my opinion, is not something like a broken leg or a disease. It effects personality, mood, perception. In some cases, it is just part of who you are, and reading medical articles has only succeeded in making me feel abnormal. As a result, I decided to try and make a small space fore people to talk.

Anyone with a mental condition will have heard, either through a friend or a doctor, that; 'There are many people out there that are struggling too. You are not alone'. I'd like to think I'm not the only person that has found this frustrating. It is all well and good to tell us that there are other people struggling, but the problem is those that suffer tend not to talk about it openly. This applies to many conditions of the mind. The symptoms themselves can make it challenging for people to speak openly about themselves, and the social stigma that surround Mental Health is suffocating in itself. Therefore, I intend for this Blog to be just that. A voice, so that people can talk about the things that bother them and, perhaps in the process, help others to understand.

Future posts will be a mixture of my own life stories, my own condition and how it affects my life. I would also like to put forward some views towards certain conditions. I make no claims to be a medically qualified individual, but I can say that I have at least twenty years of experience of mental conditions. I would like to stress that everything here is only my personal opinions and research, and I would encourage people to seek out other sites too as I am not a qualified doctor. I would also be open to other people sending me their own stories or views, the more the merrier.

In regards to the name, I did not choose it solely due to its similarity to my own name. I chose a Jackal because the creatures themselves are rather solitary animals. They live in secluded areas and generally avoid human confrontation. A fitting Metaphor for Social Anxiety in my eyes.

A Jackals Voice