A new beginning

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It is the start of the academic year and I am officially now a student with the Open University! My module in Creative Writing starts this week and I have already been learning about clustering and free writing, completing exercises and reading up on the course. It’s so nerve wracking but also really exciting. It might be almost October but the weather is so mild, it has been described as an Indian Summer. I love this time of year and I haven’t experienced it for a few years as I have been in Thailand. There is a lovely smell in the air and the colours and crunchiness of the autumnal leaves is just wonderful. I have asked work to give me less hours so that I can fit in my studying. I had my meeting with my psychiatrist last week and though he advised me to stay on the meds, he agreed to give me a plan to come off them. So I have a nine week plan to reduce them as slowly as possible. I’m really happy about it as I will be completely med free by the end of November! Starting with taking 10mg on alternate days and 5mg on the other days. Hopefully this will give me more energy and creativity to use on my OU course and also stop the restless leg syndrome that persists! I have a busy week coming up; working at the York Uni freshers fair on Saturday, going to the anti-austerity march on Sunday in Manchester and then working at the cinema Monday and Tuesday. The rest of the week will be fitting in all my studies! I’m excited and nervous about the changes happening in my life but ready to embrace change.

Getting back on track

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote my blog. I have been busy but the main reason is that I totally forgot! Yesterday I moved into Caroline and John’s house and so far so good, they have made me feel very welcome. This is to coincide with coming off my meds which I am to discuss with my psychiatrist this week. Ellie is going to be moving house soon so it is better for me to avoid the stress of all that. Last week I went to see Straight Outta Compton which was epic and this week I saw Legend with Matt who thought it was quite boring. I, on the other hand found it quite brutal! Both films are definitely worth a watch though. I have received my course materials through for my Creative Writing module which I am really excited about and have started some taster exercises already just to prepare myself for what is to come. I’m really nervous but I have to have confidence in myself. Yesterday I went to an Inner Discovery workshop at Kyra, the women’s group. I really enjoyed it and was interested to learn that the autumn equinox, which is happening tomorrow, is a great time of year to declutter your life and make changes to the way you want to live. We had to choose our values from a page of lots of words and mine were joy, love, health and freedom. Another fun activity we did was to take a magazine and cut out any words or pictures that resonate with you and then stick them to a mood board. Physically visualising what you want in life can be very effective and in fact a lot of athletes put pictures of themselves winning medals around the house in order to help them win! I’ve asked to do less hours at work now; just twenty a week. This is so I can fit in my studying but also to coincide with me reducing my meds. I have no idea whether the psychiatrist is going to be on my side or not so wish me luck!  

Brighton Rocks

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This week I have been in Brighton visiting Lee. He has a fabulous new flat on the seafront in Kemp town and I was very lucky to have some sunny days down there. On Friday night we watched ‘Pictures of Lily’ by Mark Banks, which is a brilliant film set with beautiful Brighton as its back drop. On Saturday we went on the pier and nearly died on the waltzers. Sunday we played pool in the Marlborough and sang karaoke in Poison Ivy. We completely murdered Tina Turner’s ‘what’s love got to do with it’ and danced to a mega mix of Rupaul’s greatest hits at three in the afternoon. Then it was home and fish fingers for tea. I feel really well for getting away for a few days and still have one more day before I’m back at work. I have been reading Matt Haig’s ‘Reasons to stay alive’ and he mentions travelling and getting away from it all to be a good way of combating depression. It is comforting to know that once you have hit rock bottom that the only way is up. After reading this book I can say that I don’t think I have ever been as depressed as he describes but I do suffer from extremely low self esteem and lack of motivation. In the past I have turned to marijuana as a coping mechanism but now I have to find another way. Today is the final day I have to apply for the open degree at The Open University. I am so nervous and suffering severe self doubt. I hope I can do it.    

First BBQ of the year!

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Summer may nearly be over but I’ve only just had my first BBQ! Over the bank holiday weekend, I have been to Otley to see Matt and Jam in their lovely new home. The garden looks over the river Wharfe and we went out in an inflatable boat which was quite scary! Otley town is so quaint and it has some lovely shops where I found an antique glass bottle for my mum. The town is surrounded by beautiful Yorkshire countryside at its best. I was sad to leave but had to work yesterday. Today I am going to see Pixels with Drew and her friend, which sees Adam Sandler fighting against Pacman and other computer games to save the world. It’s the first rainy day of the weekend so perfect for a trip to the cinema. I had a bit of a set back with the Open University. I didn’t get any credits transferred to the degree that I wanted to do but they did offer me some credits for a different course. I need to wait until Thursday to speak to them about it as they are closed for the bank holiday and I am working Tuesday and Wednesday. I will also need to speak to The Student Loan Company and see how my funding will be affected. I’m almost two weeks into the Thai course I have been doing and I can actually read and write some Thai! I am a long way off knowing the whole alphabet though and am still putting in a bit of time every day.  

Trying to stay focused

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I can’t believe another week has gone by. I have been so busy. This makes a nice change. Through my CBT session this week I learnt that I get down or anxious when I don’t have a focus. As it is my day off today I am trying to focus on learning Thai. After going to the cinema with Matt last week, he asked me why I didn’t use the time I have now to learn the language? I thought this was a very good idea and have purchased an online program from learnthaifromawhiteguy. It’s a good package and teaches the Thai alphabet along with the sounds they make. Try the first lesson for free, it’s actually really fun! I have to admit I’m struggling with the further lessons even with my basic understanding of Thai. But I am committed to putting in at least twenty minutes every day. Brett (the white guy) is confident you will be able to read Thai in just two weeks if you put in this time every day. I’m skeptical but I’m going to give it my best shot. It would be really great to be able to communicate better with my husband and his family. My negative automated thoughts of course kick in and tell me I can’t do it but I have to ignore them and think, ‘I am strong, I am powerful and I am loved!’ In other news this week, I spoke to the Student Loans Company and I’m glad I didn’t listen to that negative guy at the open day because they have said they will give me two years funding! That means I just have to fund the first year of the course myself.

Getting stronger every day

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I am almost too tired to write this blog. I have been so busy working and seeing friends and family that I have not had much time to myself. This is a sign that things are a lot better than they were a few months ago but I don’t want to burn myself out! How do you get the balance right? I think as long as you are getting enough sleep, which for me is ten hours a night, then being busy is a good thing. On my day off this week I went shopping with Caroline and then saw ‘Absolutely Anything’ with Matt. This film sees Simon Pegg getting struck down by aliens and given the power to do anything he wants. It was really funny and got me thinking about what I would do if I could do absolutely anything. Of course I would want to help other people but it would be hard not to be selfish and lazy too! I would definitely travel the world and see all my friends in America, Australia, Sweden, Thailand, Taiwan and China. It would certainly be hard to bother with mundanities like washing, cleaning and emptying the dishwasher! But maybe its these simple things that keep us grounded and sane? Now that I am feeling so strong I feel like I can do anything and I hope that I will get funding to do a degree at the Open University. I went to an open day in Leeds and was given conflicting information on the likelihood of it. If I don’t then I won’t let it get me down. My future is looking bright and I am excited to see what will happen.

Making positive changes

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I am feeling a lot better this week. Through my CBT I have learnt that my reflex way of thinking doesn’t allow me to do new things or take risks because I automatically think I can’t do it. I am trying to make positive changes for my life. For example, I want to apply to the Open University to do a degree in Creative Writing but I fell at the first hurdle. When I downloaded the seven page form to send off for credit transfers I looked at it and cried – I felt defeated straight away. I think things are too difficult for me when in fact I am perfectly capable. I just need to focus and apply myself. When I looked properly at the form I realised it wasn’t that bad. I had to contact my old university to dig out my transcripts but it really wasn’t that difficult. Now I have it all ready to send off and await the next step in applying. It’s all about taking small steps. My defeatist mind is telling me ‘what are you doing? You can’t do a degree!’ but if I never apply then I won’t even know if I could get a place or not. I am also feeling good this week about losing two pounds! I put on two stone when I was on Olanzapine and am really unhappy with my weight right now but all my hard work is obviously starting to pay off. I still feel demotivated and have to really push myself just to do the small things like doing the laundry and brushing my teeth but I am on my way to a healthier mind and body.

Sadness

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This week I saw Inside Out with Caroline. Joy and Sadness go on a journey around Rileys head, who is basically, having a breakdown. Joy learns that she needs sadness in her life in order to be happy. I have so much sadness in my life right now that I can’t really handle it. My eyes hurt from crying. Every time I see Tam on Skype it makes me break down in tears. I want to come off medication but my psychiatrist has recommended that I don’t. I tried to install anti virus on my computer and now it won’t work so I am at my mums writing this on hers. No one at work knows about my sad secret. I am becoming a master at hiding tears. I’m depressed about the weight I’ve put on too.  It feels like I am still going through my breakdown where in fact I am actually just trying to recover from it. It may take a lot longer than I had hoped. I’m sorry to write such a depressing blog but this is part of my journey and I have to embrace it. I need to accept sadness as part of life so that I can be happy too. I don’t know when that will be. Work is going well and I have to concentrate on that. It is the only thing I can be positive about right now.

Feel the fear

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This week I have been reading Feel the fear and do it anyway by Susan Jeffers. It has helped me have a more positive outlook on life along with the CBT that I have started having. The book states “to repeat to yourself at least twenty-five times each morning, noon and night: I AM POWERFUL AND I AM LOVED.” I found this a little excessive but I like the sentiment and it definitely helped saying it to myself when I was flagging yesterday at work. I was so tired and didn’t know how I was going to get through the day, but I managed it. The book draws a lot on affirmations and positive sayings so I decided to find some that work for me.

I found some great affirmations at louisehay.com. Here are just a few that I like:

“Every person, place and thing on this planet is interconnected with love. I am at home in the Universe.”

“All that I seek is already within me.”

“Every decision I make is the right one for me.”

I do appreciate the last chapter of the book entitled ‘There is plenty of time’ because it assures you that becoming a confident person is not something that will happen overnight and needs constant work to improve your self esteem. She talks about the inner voice or the ‘chatterbox’ which even as I sit here writing this, is telling me “Give up! You’re rubbish at writing. No one cares anyway!” .Telling yourself “I can do it” is hard but so important and it will take time to get used to it.  

I used my free cinema tickets to see Jurassic World with Drew this week. We had both already seen it but loved it so much we had to see it again! I love the chemistry between Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. There are some really good jokes in there too. I think I like it even more than the original although it’s pretty hard to beat Jeff Goldblum being chased by a T Rex. When I was psychotic I was obsessed with dinosaurs. I had some very strange ideas about how we have evolved. I even thought I had the answer to the chicken/egg long asked question! That all seems pretty ridiculous now. Another film I have watched this week is Jupiter Ascending with Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum. I originally saw only half this film when I was in Bangkok still very ill. Tam, Ellie and I went to see it in 4D. Which is basically like being on a rollercoaster. The fighting scenes are crazy, being kicked in the back and having water sprayed in your face! Not exactly a relaxing time. Ellie got motion sickness and I was completely overwhelmed, thinking that the film was real and about me. So we left just as Mila was being discovered by Sean Bean as Queen of the world. It’s a good job we left when we did because the next bit had them both talking about dinosaurs and how they really met their demise! Apparently I told Ellie it didn’t matter at the time as I already knew what was going to happen. I loved the film, even after waiting for six months to see the second half, it didn’t disappoint. Luckily I saw it from a sane point of view this time and did not think it was, in anyway, about me. In the end, (spoiler alert) she goes back to her job cleaning toilets and everything is right in the world again. I knew everything would be alright in the end.

Is smoking weed bad for you?

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This week I used my free cinema tickets to go and see Ted2 with Ellie. My favourite part is when they find a field of cannabis and Ted smokes it out of a cock shaped bong (spoiler alert). This film got me thinking about how much I miss smoking weed. I have smoked A LOT in my life and maybe this has led to my episode of psychosis. Its difficult to say but according to The Schizophrenia Society of Canada as stated in its article titled “What Do We Know about the Link between Cannabis and Psychosis?, “Several recent studies suggest that frequent cannabis use during adolescence is associated with a clinically significant increased risk of developing schizophrenia and other mental illnesses which feature psychosis.” 
 
More specifically, skunk has been identified as the main perpetrator of causing psychosis according to Channel 4 who state that “25 per cent of all psychosis treated in Britain is associated with smoking skunk”. These are pretty frightening figures. 

Channel 4 recently ran a drug trial that had Jon Snow partaking as a volunteer. He said: “I’ve worked in war zones, but I’ve never been as overwhelmingly frightened as I was when I was in the MRI scanner after taking skunk. I would never do it again.” I have to admit that skunk has not had a great effect on me but often it has been the only weed available to buy, in fact it accounts for 80% of the market. Skunk contains very high levels of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) making it extremely potent and giving users a high that is similar to using LSD or Ecstasy.

 
There is a backlash to these trials for example; this video argues that a study done by the Kings College of London is flawed.  Seeing as he’s only had 48 views and 3 likes I will reserve judgement on his opinion. This article in the leaf online, however, has 3,000 likes and states that skunk does not cause psychosis. There is a good debate to the pros and cons of this on medical marijuana but it’s all speculation, no one really has the answer. With cannabis becoming more accepted and being legalised in twenty three states in the US. I think this can only be a good thing, because whether it causes psychosis or not, it needs to be regulated so that those who choose to smoke do so safely. I don’t regret my past. I’ve had a great time and would do it all again. Although I might steer clear of the magic mushrooms next time. That being said I will also be avoiding weed altogether from now on. I have had a lot of fun smoking it in the past but that time is over now and I need to move on to a healthier lifestyle.