Let’s Focus on the Positives…

…I hate that Chris goes away all the time, it sucks balls and not in a good way (you know what I mean). When he’s not here I get all morose and mopey, washing my hair seems like a waste of good water and eating becomes more of an optional day time activity than a necessary bodily function (I know you might be wondering why this post is called Let’s Focus on the Positives – stick with me). Chris got back from Indonesia on Thursday and I was in a pretty bad way. It’s taken me the weekend but I have managed to get my mood a little more regulated, things look better today than they have done for a good couple of weeks. But the thing is, this is Christopher’s job (and quite frankly while I’m ramping up the old freelance career it’s COMPLETELY necessary), he’s been doing it for a year and a half now and it’s about bloody time I got sodding used to it. I’m not saying that I want to be happy about Chris going away – that would be weird and quite frankly a warning sign on the whole spending the rest of our lives together thing, but in order to level out my despair at his absence I think I need to come up with a list of positives to focus on the next time he goes away.

So let’s start; Five Good Things About Being Without Your Significant Other:

  1. Underwear Times: I’m not talking about using Chris’ absence as a reason for wearing all the comfy but shit underwear I own (you know, the ones with the weird pattern that hold the memories of when you first felt all independent and free buying yourself pants as a teenager, but which have since gone a sinister grey colour and are weirdly faded in the gusset)  – we’re getting married, I stopped buying lace underwear a good two years ago, if you keep that sort of crap up they’re just going to expect it forever. I’m talking about wandering around the house in it. You might think, don’t I do that anyway (?) but really unless it’s pre or post coital I tend to be fully (or mostly) clothed at all times, especially during the winter. Wondering around in a t-shirt and my pants would feel weird if Chris was around and fully clothed too, actually if he was also wearing a t-shirt and his pants it would be even more weird. But wandering around the house in that state of semi-dress when there is no-one in it but you is perfectly acceptable and more than a little bit fun.
  2. No Food Consultations: There’s not the whole “what do you feel like for dinner tonight?” “I feel like curry.” “Curry? Urgh, what about cheesy pasta?” “We always have cheesy pasta.” “That’s because it’s very very tasty.” “I still feel like curry though.” There’s just “CHEESY PASTA YEEEEAAAAHHH.”
  3. Work Absorption: Generally I work all day and then when Chris get’s home I spend the evening with him but when that doesn’t happen I have my evenings open to write and email and all sorts, which can lead to more productivity…but sometimes just a lot of time spent watching cat videos.
  4. Cat Favouritism: Not that I necessarily want to be the cats’ favourite owner but I LOVE that I am (love’s not a competition…but I’m winning). Little Gusgus just follows me around like a feisty little imaginary friend, and these days I can just walk up to my little scaredy cat Nunney and give her a stroke, which has taken MONTHS to achieve. Cat’s are fickle and I know that if Chris was the one feeding them and cuddling them at night they’d like him more, but he’s not, so there.

    Cats getting in the way of work
    Computer Cat
  5. Keeping the Magic Alive: Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer it if Chris were here all the time, getting under my feet, telling bad jokes, generally annoying and irritating me, but in the spirit of looking on the bright side I do have to admit that there is excitement to be found in his frequent absence; I get all funny in my tummy when I’m on my way to pick him up from the train station or when I get the text to say he’s landed and he’s on his way home. In fact I get butterflies every time I receive a text from him. I plan lovely things we’re going to do when he’s back, sometimes I do buy a pair of pants with a bit of lace on (as long as they’re in the M&S 3 for 2 section). I have plenty of opportunities to miss him and this means a constant reminder of just how important he is to me, how much we love each other and how lucky we are that this is the case. Abracafrikindabra.Two lovers in Paris

If there’s one thing I know about my brain it’s that it is inclined towards the melancholy, so hopefully this will be part of the training to get my mood at a more consistent level of contentment. I’m not asking to bounce out of bed every morning rejoicing in the rising of the sun (although that would be nice), I just really want my first thought to be “Oh! Another day!” not “Oh. Another day.” – if you know what I mean. Onwards and upwards people, onwards and upwards!

Dot and Lucy Engagement Photoshoot

 

Oh my God I forgot one! What I fool.

6.   Sometimes I get to go too! Now THAT’S a pretty good deal.chilling out in vietnam

See, once you look for one positive, you’ll find many more!

How to…

…create good things from bad.

Sometimes I see mental health issues as some kind of weird blessing. Couple of reasons: because my bad can be really, really bad I am able to truly appreciate how good the good really is. I used to envy the people who seemed to drift, freely and lazily through life but now I almost feel sorry for them, I have the experience of extremes to draw from, and it benefits me greatly, they do not.  Also, because my fight with anxiety and depression helpfully highlighted some changes that I really needed to make to my mindset and my living and this essentially freed me from a situation in which I was completely stuck and deeply unhappy.

Somedays I feel like that, but not today. Today feels shit. Yesterday did too. Suppose you can’t suffer from depression without getting depressed sometimes – bugger.

So today I made a decision! I’m absolutely happiest when I’m creating things. I like reading, and drinking wine in front of the telly really can feel blissful, getting dressed up to go out for cocktails can be fun, but really I am my most excited, content, joyful when I’m in the zone and making something from not much (mostly just thoughts – and sometimes a bit of old curtain). The only problem is my slightly malfunctioning brain; instead of waking me up in the morning and saying “go forth Milldred! Create things of such wonderment that people will laugh at you until they’re blue in the face and you’ll bloody love it!” It says, “oh look, it’s the day-time, we don’t like that do we? No, let’s stay in bed, shall we? Yes. You know it’s really not safe out there, you’re better off in here, with the cats…and Facebook.”

old curtain for making new things!
Wasn’t lying about the bits of old curtain…

But I’m taking charge! I’m going to create something, anything, at least one thing a day. And by saying to my brain every morning, ‘back off you old grouch, we’re making knitted pom poms today and we’re going to like it, aren’t we? YES.” I’ll be able to take back my mood and turn the day into a positive one, instead of a negative one. It can be anything; a blog; a short story; the chapter of a book; a tea cosy; a table runner; a great opportunity; a treacle tart (sounds like a good one for tomorrow). And I’m going to challenge myself. I mean for starters I’m already trying to create a whole self-employed business thing out of thin air (also a great deal of passion…but mostly thin air – if it keeps everyone else alive I can work with it). Yesterday I sewed part one of my bridesmaid dress for my best friend’s wedding (it’s currently see-through, part two is the slip – would be bad if I forgot that bit). I’ve signed up to do a craft fair, to try to sell some the nonsense I make, because I love the idea of the things I have so much fun creating going into someone elses’ home and becoming part of their everyday lives (plus I have my half of the mortgage to pay). I’ve never sewn a shirt before so I bought a cheap pattern and some £2.99 a meter cotton and I’m going to try to make a shirt, probably going to turn out really badly but at least I will have tried and you can’t get take-two without doing a take-one. Today I’ve created this blog post, tomorrow I’m going try to pitch some freelance articles and create an opportunity to get my work published.

creating one thing everyday
And I did make a pom pom today!

Once I’ve gotten out of bed to create one thing, who knows what other things might present themselves during the day? I’m taking charge! And I urge anyone else who’s pesky brain is keeping them down to do the same. And I’m going to need picture evidence of all that is created…

create one things every day, knitted pom pom
Now there’s one for the craft fair
create something new every day, knitted pom pom
Not bad…POM POM

By the by I shall be posting a daily picture of whatever I’ve created every day on my social media so follow me on Instagram or Twitter for the #createaday low down!

#FashionFridays…

…got mental.

First of all I have to issue a severe WARNING of selfies. Normally I get Chris to take pictures of me in all my finery but he was away for like 3 weeks which forced me to do the unthinkable – stand in front of a mirror and take a picture of it, which I have thus far avoided because it makes me feel like a complete tool. I do this only in the name of humorous blogging so dear readers – please do not judge me too harshly.

So an unexpected side effect of mental illness has been the effect it has had on my dress sense. A mixture of chronic indecision, tiredness, chemical imbalances and a certain feeling of “I actually really don’t give a shit” has led me to realise on one or two occasions that I’m dressed a little strangely. However, once I have the outfit on I can never be bothered to go through the effort of changing it, so I thought in the spirit of my current share offensive I would document these occasions for your reading pleasure.

Example No.1:

#FashionFridays

Now I’m not altogether sure what’s going on here. I look like a confused but thoroughly modern art teacher. What’s with the stripy socks? The only redeeming thing about this outfit is that I wore it to a therapy session, which proves that I am at least I’m still dressing for the occasion.

And then came this:

#FashionFridays

To which all I can really say is WTF? If you’re wondering why my legs are such a questionable colour – it’s because I’m wearing beige woollen patterned tights. I don’t even know how I came to own such tights!? They make me look like a biscuit coloured dead person. And I got that cardigan in the sale in Tescos, now up until recently I haven’t been able to go to Tesco without having a minor panic attack – which clearly explains how I ended up acquiring this particular item of clothing.

And now for the Pierce de Resistance!

#FashionFridays

I think what really makes this outfit is the accessory:

#FashionFridays

Even Gustav is looking at me like “what on earth are you wearing?” The best thing about this outfit is that I’m wearing it now! I just put this picture on Facebook and my mum rang me and said “you’re going to have to change that outfit if you want me to come to town with you today!” But it’s really really comfortable. And besides it’s on now. And besides besides I have no idea what else I could wear today (the afore mentioned chronic indecision). And besides besides besides this dress is made of 100% neoprene which everyone knows is highly effective at warming one up with continuous static shocks on a cold November day such as this. So I’m afraid it’s just going to have to stay on.

#FashionFridays

Not sure I can get away with taking my accessory with me though. I’m holding him like a bouquet. A cat bouquet. Now that’s a good wedding idea…

How to…

…Recover from a nervous breakdown (4!)

So I’ve covered medication (although I have to say that the jury is still out on that one), therapy and cat therapy and now I’m on to…

…Healing Effort No. 4: Exercise

Anxiety and Depression has made me hesitate to leave the safe confides of my little home, I gather this is a normal reaction; the stupid, primeval part of my brain perceives that I am in danger and informs me that I should be scared to go into the outside world, which is bloody unfortunate because it’s actually the most important thing in helping me out of this stupor – catch 22. But luckily therapy has educated me about how my brain works and I’ve decided that if I want to get better I’m going to have to take control over the stupid part of my brain and leave the house for some well-needed exercise. I’m not talking like a 5k run, I’m talking a little jog or a nice walk in the fresh air. Baby steps.

But its harder than you’d think, for example I’m writing this blog now and the words aren’t flowing as much as they normally do, the Citalopram is disturbing my sleep and last night was a particularly bad night – but despite not much sleep I know that if I went out on a little jog now it would help; help me feel better and help me write better, but the truth is I’m scared, scared to go outside. Sometimes when this happens I decide yoga is a better idea because I can do it in the inclosed space of my little living room. And it does help, yoga is great for getting the energy moving around your body and for settling your mind, I usually finish with a meditation practise and feel much better afterwards – better because that’s the effects the movements of my body have on my mind but better also because it’s a sense of accomplishment to have gotten my depressed behind out of bed and moved it around a bit! But I often find that by the evening I’m a bit jittery and  bit panicky and scared of the big old nothing that I’m always scared of. I may be tired because of lack of sleep but I have nervous energy roaming around my body that I don’t know what to do with and the result is a crying, flappy handed, shaky mess.

This is a further exasperated by… now this feels a little bit difficult to share, but I also seem to have developed a bit of a verbal tick- yay.

When I’m feeling anxious I find myself saying “My name is Milly” over and over, which I have to say makes me feel completely mental, like straight jacket mental, but I can’t seem to help it. But this weekend I went on two very long coastal walks and on Monday walked all the way round the Welsh Heritage Museum (one of my favourite places, bit put out that I wasn’t allowed to wear my cloak but it was raining and my mum said it would ruin the velvet – killjoy) and I found that my ticks completely calmed down, I was even able to walk into a busy pub and watch a truly terrible rugby match without the hint of pointlessly affirming my own name, and whats more I enjoyed it! I enjoyed watching that rubbish game in a funny coastal pub full of farmers. That’s the amazing result of a whole lots of sweat and steps! Its like some weird form of special magic but then I guess even when it’s not fully working the human body really is quite magical.

walking for anxiety and depression
Scarf Wind Battles

So Saturday: long coastal walk, Sunday: long coastal walk, Monday: long historical village walk, Tuesday: 10 minutes of yoga, Tuesday evening: popping beta blockers and by the way, did you know that my name is Milly? I know that living in the middle of Cardiff I can’t really go on a long coastal walk every day (more’s the pity) but I do live right on a park which I could schlepped myself around. Not only did this weekend of lovely excercise calm down the more embarrassing symptoms of my mental health but it completely cleared my head, not of thoughts, just the fog that they were shrouded in; I finally decided where I’d like to go on my honeymoon – a decision I haven’t been able to make for over a year now, I also made a very important employment decision and I started, for the first time in all of this to feel truly content, and perhaps more astonishingly, hopeful.

walking cure for anxiety and depression

Medication hasn’t done this for me, it’s made me groggy, forgetful, skinnier and sleepless –  but I’m not a doctor and I’m sure (/I hope) that my chemical imbalances are being, well, balanced. Therapy has definitely helped me on this path – it was my therapist who told me to get out of my house and go walking, and to look outside of myself; to wonder where the other people are walking and what their story is, to think externally instead of internally. And Gawd love ’em my cats have offered their own unique form of faeces related exercise.

walking for anxiety and depression

So go forth! Put your hand on that front door handle, take a deep breath and get going! And don’t forget to congratulate yourself for a job well done at the end of it.

I think I’m going to go on that jog now…

running for anxiety and depression

How to…

…recover from a nervous breakdown (3!)

Healing Effort No. 3: Kitten Therapy

I should start by introducing my furry therapists; this is little Gustav:

Cat Therapy
Little Gustav

And Noori is his mum but I couldn’t get a picture of her on her own because she’s a little shy so I can only ever catch her when she’s sleeping with her baby:

cat therapy
My Little Floppsy Bunnies
cat therapy
If you want to learn how to relax, learn from some cats

Reason why cats are good for you no. 1 (it’s an unlikely one): You have to clean up their poo. Cleaning up a cat’s bodily functions is a highly distracting task and therefore it brings my thoughts outside of myself. I find depression and anxiety to be relatively selfish illnesses, I’ve been only able focus my thoughts inwards and have been internalising everything – nothing much has existed outside of the internal twisting of my own unbalanced mind – but now I have something that needs cleaning up after, feeding and loving, it has drawn me out of myself. I’m also notoriously terrible at looking after myself, Chris goes away a lot and whilst he’s gone I live off porridge and frozen pizzas or I just don’t eat (he’s the cook of the family) but I’ve found that in looking after these little cats I’m looking after myself better too. When they eat I eat, when I prepare their food I prepare mine. In a way we’re looking after each other.

Reason why cats are good for you no. 2: They are hilarious. Nothing is as funny as watching a kitten get so freaked out by its own tail that it falls off the bed it’s lying on! That sort of thing can’t help but make you happy! Plus they do things silly things like fall asleep on their faces, or on computers instead of nice soft beds:

cat therapy

They are vastly entertaining and oh so easy to love. They have at times been the only thing able to force a smile onto my lips.

Reason why cats are good for you no. 3: They inspire gentleness. I am very hard on myself. My mama always says no one is as hard on me as I am. Lot’s of lovely people have offered the advise of being more gentle with myself in order to facilitate the healing process but it’s hard to break the habit of a lifetime. However, Gustav and Noori require gentle, loving care and I’m finding that the care and affection I bestow on my new wards, has taught me to be a little more gentle with myself too. These lovely things deserve care and cuddles and tickles, so surely I do too (not the tickles – I hate tickles). Plus every good Welsh person knows that the only true healing power in this whole silly world is a really good cwtch – so it’s doing wonders having two furry things around the house that are pretty much always up for one! Plus there is nothing so calming and relaxing as stroking a sleeping cat – unless you’re allergic.

Reason why cats are good for you no. 4: I’m no longer alone! With my fiancé off gallivanting around Asia (okay, working) and with me taking a little time off to try to get back on my feet, I could be very lonely, but all of my days and nights (we practise communal bedtime…that sounds weird) are spent in the company of these two beautiful creatures. Today I just couldn’t catch my breath so I took a propranolol and ran myself a nice relaxing bath. Gustav did some investigation of the water activities and decided he didn’t wanted to actively participate, so he settled himself in the door way and looked at me with his huge eyes, presently Noori came to join him and they both kept me company while I soaked myself calm again. Granted I could do without some of Gusgus’ knitting help but I can’t deny that it is a) vastly entertaining and b) ridiculously cute.

cat therapy
I was knitting a hat on circular needles and he popped up through the middle!

So you could sum up my advise thus far on coping with mental illness in three words; medication, therapy and CATS!

cat therapy
Writing desk cuddles

Next week: the benefits of exercise and fresh air – even when reaching for your front door handle makes you change your mind and reach for the beta blockers instead.

Click here and here to see the previous two blogs in this series.

How to…

…move house.

Let me first say dear readers that I am writing this from my sick-bed, cough, cough. But the marvellous invention of the laptop means that I don’t have to be out of bed to write things down – why do you think I want to be a writer so much?

Alas, one thing you really can’t do from the comfort of your big warm bed, is move house. So here are my five tips for doing such a thing:

  1. Do you have sherry? You’ll be needing a big bottle of sherry before you commence any part of this process.
  2. Bribe and beg those you love to help you. I mentioned in a previous blog post mental breakdowns and that I had one when facing the prospect of trying to single-handedly move all of Chris and mine’s stuff from one residence to another. After said breakdown my beautiful family rallied around me and made sure that I wasn’t trying to do such a momentous and stressful thing alone. I also had some truly wonderful friends come and lug boxes with me just out of the kindness of their own hearts (and on the understanding they would be paid in wine and oven pizzas). Don’t try to do this alone. Bets are that you have lovely family and friends, ask for their help and give it to them when they ask too. What else are we all here for?
  3. Label your boxes. If I had to choose one thing that moving house taught me, it’s that I live in a world of “misc”. The only thing I could actually specifically label my boxes as was “books”, they all went in together, everything else was “misc”. Sometimes it was specific misc (paradoxical), like “kitchen misc”, “fragile misc”, “dressing table misc”, etc. but mostly just “misc”. It really didn’t help when we came to un-packing said boxes, but I’m pretty sure that the next time we move exactly the same thing will happen all over again.
  4. Helpers like tea and biscuits. The first thing you should bring into your new home is a lovingly packed little box filled with a few cups, a kettle, tea and coffee, a selection of biscuits, a little flask of milk and a sugar for those who don’t care about dental cavities.
  5. This is my favourite one. BUY A CAT! I have been waiting for YEARS to own my own cat/s and now after almost a decade of getting misty eyed over cat videos, and friends and family buying me cat birthday cards (often, in fact, the same card) I will finally be the owner of TWO beautiful CATS! As soon as we signed on the dotted line I started looking for some feline friends and they’ll be chez CooperKelly by the end of october – I’M SO EXCITED! So I urge you, lovely, wonderful, beautiful readers – buy some cats.
Burmese Kitten
My Catbaby Gustav

These are my most important pieces of advise for buying a house – go forth and apply them as you will but always with affection, responsibility and cats.

Burmese Cats
Noor and Gustav

Can’t wait to write How To Bring Up Catbabies…