Changing The World: One Book Date At A Time

PieLiving with a chronic physical and mental illness had led me to spend a lot of time managing feeling poorly and struggling. Having spent time in hospital, including a year as an inpatient on an eating disorder ward, I learnt a lot about self care and soothing myself when things are hard. Gradually I realised that I could come up with an idea that combined my love (and the boost it gives to my wellbeing) of craft, vintage and reading to come up with something that might help others who are going through a challenging time. #DateWithABook was born and it has continued to grow from there onwards.

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me– C.S. Lewis.

Illness can lead you to feel really isolated. You can face days where you are really limited in the amount of energy you have, or motivation to do the things you would love to be doing. This was one of the starting ideas for my book dates. I wanted to reach out to people who might be finding things tough and offer them something to help them through that moment. I’m a lover of everything old and vintage and the idea of rehoming a beautiful old book felt like the best way to go. Giving these books a new lease of life whilst helping others just seemed perfect! The idea is that a book date is a way to reclaim date night and rest and rejuvenate with a hot drink and a cosy homely coaster with your set.

We read to know we’re not alone– William Nicholson, Shadowlands.

So, what do I hope to achieve with my little book dates? Well… quite a lot! I believe that sharing a #datewithabook can be a huge act of kindness, offering someone who is struggling a piece of calm, distraction and an excuse to have a night off. Or it can be a perfect piece of self care for yourself, to help with the stresses that we face day to day. A date with a book can be a way of reconnecting with someone who needs some extra love or showing you care when you can’t ‘fix’ a situation someone is going through.

Praise for #datewithabook

I absolutely loved recieving my date with a book parcel in the post. Kate made one up based on my likes for me to enjoy on maternity leave. Good value for money and such a wonderful idea for a treat to yourself or for gifts to others. Will be ordering from her again in the future.- Jenny

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I received my date with a book yesterday and it’s wonderful. I almost didn’t want to open it as it looked so pretty. I’m currently about to sit down and start reading. I will definitely be using you again. It is such a lovely idea.– Lindsey

Fantastic idea. Love this. Date with a Book. Something really different, original & unique. Brought for a friend, who Loved it to & has been showing friends. Whole thing arrives Beautifully packaged in soft tissue paper. Makes a Wonderful gift for Any occasion. Or No occasion at all.. Just to say, Thinking of you. Hello. Etc.– Annette

Such a unique idea! It was very exciting to receive the package as you don’t know which book you will get and I was not disappointed! I received a book from an author who I’ve never heard of, and I cannot wait to read it! Prompt delivery too!!– Bisma

There are lots of different #datewithabook sets available in my Conscious Crafties and Etsy stores. I’m just in the process of a big restock to make way for a beautiful array of Christmas gifts, ideal for the person who has everything. Use the discount code BLOG10 to get 10% off any orders over £10. I also have a #datewithabook advent calendar full of literary themed items.

 

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Beautiful Autumn Finds

In my spare time, I do a lot of crafting. As we head into Autumn (my favourite season), I’ve been thinking a lot about beautiful seasonal products to add to my Etsy and Conscious Crafties sites and channeling the beautiful seasonal colours and cosy feels. 

Now, I may be a little biased, but tis the season for #datewithabook! My novel-tea gift sets are beautiful and special; whether you’re looking for a unique and beautiful gift for someone special or a little something to give you some self care time, I have the solution!

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#datewithabook was the brainchild of time spent dealing with chronic physical and mental illness. Having been unwell and isolated at times, I learnt that self care was a huge part of my recovery. I wanted to create something that could be a small piece of special self care or a really thoughtful and unique gift for someone who was going through a challenging time. #datewithabook has evolved outside the realms of chronic illness into a more mainstream personal gift idea. But the original sentiments are still there, with me often creating book dates when I am poorly.

I’ve been looking around and have found some totally beautiful Autumnal makes that I would love to share with you all.

I have recently started selling on the wonderful Conscious Crafties website which is full of crafted items, made by incredible people with chronic illness and disabilities or those who are carers.

Here are some of the beautiful Autumn makes you can find on the site: 

Of course there are book dates!

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The next of my craftie features is from the incredibly talented Stephanie; a crafter who has made me feel extra welcome in the Conscious Crafties community. Crispy crunchy autumn leaves come to mind when I look at this beautiful handcovered notebook.

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Connie sells the most beautiful autumnal shawls, this one is called ‘The Phoenix’ and I can totally imagine feeling like I was rising out of the ashes in this glorious piece!

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Next up is a beautiful fairy created by the super talented Dee, I am already eyeing up these beauties for my Christmas tree!

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Now, once you’ve chosen your #datewithabook, make sure you have a beautiful coffee cosy to keep your cuppa all hot and delicious. Jenny’s cosies are adorable!

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Linzi creates gorgeous beaded jewellery in seasonal colours. This necklace would look so beautiful teamed up with some earthy coloured knitwear!

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Now, Autumn is also a super cute season, with images of woodland critters preparing for the winter everywhere! Alyson has designed some adorable little hedgehogs who are getting ready to hibernate for the winter… I might be joining them when it gets cold!

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To overcome the chilly days ahead, Morag has you covered! These beautiful made-to-order Celtic cowls come in any colour you desire and look so snuggly and warm.

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Samantha-Jane’s shibori flame necklace has me thinking of bonfire night with it’s fiery colours. It’s made from beautiful shibori ribbon which is a traditionally dyed ribbon from Japan.

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Last but not least, spread the autumn feels all around the house with a beautiful canvas made by the talented Karen! Check out her facebook page to see when this beauty is listed!

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Then, over on Etsy… I’ve found some more lovely items to add to my wish list and treat myself too on payday! 

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Amelie Renee Designs have super cute rustic door wreaths.

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Daisy Chain Makes has the most beautiful autumn pumpkin garland.

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And I found these super cute leafy fairy lights made by the talented Melanie Porter Design.

 

Of course, I have a whole lot of love for anything that encourages a good bit of snuggling, so this beautiful reclaimed wooden sign definitely has a space in my heart. You can find it in Kindred Kraft By Louise’s etsy store.

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You can also get some beautiful Autumn themed cards from Peony Design.

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These will be so perfect for all of my snail mailing!

Then how about a beautiful piece of glasswork by A&D Creations, such a cute piece that would really make the house look beautiful all year round!

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Finally, no autumnal house would be complete without a set of these adorable vintage patchwork pumpkins by Amelie Renee Designs.

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Sending cosy wonderful autumn vibes to all of my lovely blog readers. Writing this blog has been a wonderful mindful activity for today. Now back to snuggling with my little Tortie.

A Message From Your Chronically Ill Friend

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I’m the friend who has to cancel at the last minute, the friend who’s always ill and often not very specific about the exact reason I’ve had to cancel… so I thought I ought to provide a bit of an explanation! 

22251271_10155262155554531_1328950934_oWe’re due to be meeting up, I’m excited, we’ve made plans… it’s going to be awesome. But at the last moment, probably become quite predictably, I’ve sent you a message to cancel… again! It’s not ok, I should have given you more notice or not even made plans if I wasn’t going to be able to keep them. The truth is, I was ready to go. I’d showered and dried and straightened my hair; spent ages picking out something to wear, got excited about seeing you but then my insides rebelled and I was suddenly too sick to come and see you. I’ve ended up spending the rest of the morning sat on the bathroom floor being sick/trying not to be sick. It’s nothing you’ve done wrong. My body just has the most awful timing.

It’s now 3:45am and I’m wide awake. It seemed like the perfect time to write about chronic illness, when it was once again impacting on my sleep. My physical health has been really kicking my butt recently. But it’s hard, when it’s been flaring up for a while, because I worry that people will get sick of hearing that I’m sick. I’m equally sick of FEELING sick too! But unfortunately it’s what’s happening right now and I have had to adapt my life to fit around my broken body until it’s feeling a little better. Being chronically ill isn’t what it looks like in films; people aren’t able to drop everything to come and look after you and the reality is that my Mumma is over 200 miles away… so when I threw up all over my own socks at the weekend, all I could do was cry a little and man up to clean everything up whilst all I wanted to do was curl up on the sofa with a sick bowl and Mum hugs.

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Despite being poorly, I have a job! Working from home is a godsend at the moment and I would have probably needed to take sick leave if I didn’t. Again, despite the common misconception that working from home means you lounge around in bed watching tv all day; I’ve still got to go to meetings, meet deadlines and manage my wonderful team of four. It’s been flexible so I can work my hours around when I’ve got the most energy or feel the least poorly, but it’s still really hard. I have to put on a brave face and nap in my break or collapse at the end of the day needing to go to bed at 6pm… only to wake at about 2am everyday when the pain and antiemetic meds wear off, until the next dose kicks in and I can get a couple more hours sleep before I need to get up for work again. It’s exhausting and sometimes work is pretty much all I have the energy for. Plus, my week is full of regular medical appointments which can increase when I’m not very well.

Thankfully, it’s not all bad. There are days when I don’t feel so poorly and times when I am not having a flare up, that I can be a relatively normal human… even if I do have the hobbies of a 90 year old. I’m used to being poorly now and am good at adapting and listening to my body (occasionally). I have a brilliant supportive army of friends, professionals and cats of course. And life is always good when you’re under a pile of blankets, with a cat and surrounded by wool or paint.

Things I’d love to be able to tell people when I’m struggling with my chronic illness:22217831_10155262157739531_533723081_o

  1. I’m not unreliable, my health is. Yes, this can mean that I AM unreliable, but I feel as awful about it as you feel frustrated with me. I am beating myself up about it already and have been worrying about having to cancel and hoping it doesn’t mean you hate me!
  2. I really wouldn’t cancel unless I had to and it’s probably better than me throwing up on you or having to spend the whole time leaving you to run to the bathroom or being unable to do anything because I feel so unwell.
  3. Please don’t stop inviting me, I feel so lonely with my chronic illness a lot of the time. Even though I often won’t be able to come or commit to seeing you. When I do see you, it means the world to me and I have the best time ever!
  4. I still really love you! Having to cancel plans is no reflection of how much I care about you. It’s really easy for friends to drift away from me because of how pants I am, but it’s really isolating and I miss you.
  5. Please be patient with me! 
  6. I want to be normal. I would give anything to not have to have the problems I am struggling with. It massively sucks for me as well as those around me. I would definitely prefer to be spending time with the people I love than having to be at appointments, being poorly or even in hospital (as happened recently).
  7. My health is unpredictable. So I may have to cancel on you one day, but feel a little better the next and be able to see someone. I have to take opportunities when they arise, it doesn’t mean I like someone better than you, often it’s just that there’s been a little respite from being ill so I have taken the opportunity to try and have a life!
  8. Social media doesn’t always reflect how I am! Sometimes my social media can show me having a relatively normal and fun life, I don’t often post about being poorly because I don’t want to bore people or seem like I’m fishing for sympathy. I’m not the type of person who’s likely to post ‘hospital selfies’ as I often feel ashamed of being ill or embarrassed. On days where I spend 50% of the time hanging out in the bathroom or curled up sleeping, I’m unlikely to post pictures or let everyone know (unless you’re my Mum, then you tend to get a play-by-play account of my misery and sadness 😉 ). I also don’t always post pictures on the day I take them, I might be reflecting on something nice that has happened recently but not necessarily post day-to-day pictures… or I just post pictures of cats, crochet and art journalling.
  9. I’m sorry if I don’t reply! I’m a bit useless at replying to messages on a good day, but on a bad day, it can be impossible. I appreciate people contacting me and it brightens my day so much, but sometimes I’m just focusing on not throwing up on myself… so I might be a little delayed in replying to you!
  10. My illness is pretty invisible! Sometimes I might look fine, but inside I’m really feeling unwell or my mental health is difficult. Please don’t judge me by my outside appearance. Plus… makeup is a mighty fine cover up!!
  11. Let’s alter our plans so we can still meet up! Sometimes, I might still be able to see you if we can change our plans. Coming over to mine is often much easier for me. It means I don’t have to worry about driving and if I suddenly feel unwell, I’m in my own home and it’s easier to manage compared to being out and about. If I’m not well, a crochet and coffee date can be a lot easier than meeting somewhere or walking for a long time. I get really fatigued when I’m poorly and sometimes I can manage going out for the day, but it wipes me out for a few days afterwards. So, talk to me and see if we can arrange something smaller and easier, so I can still have hugs and company!

It’s now 4.45am. I’m still fairly awake, but my insides are starting to settle a little. I’m fairly sure my bloodstream must be about 50% antiemetics by now. Hopefully I’ll get another hour or so asleep before I start it all again tomorrow. It’s hard being ill. I’m sorry for being unreliable. I’m sorry I’m not better by now too. I’m sorry I don’t look ill enough… but most of all, I’m sorry I have to be sorry all of the time. I’ve not asked for this and I would give it away in a heartbeat. I’m not asking for pity or sympathy. I just hope reading this helps with some understanding that I’m being crap for a reason, and I am trying my hardest not to be.

Shoutout to all my badass chronically sick friends, especially my Mumma, who’s the baddest badass of them all.

 

Project Parent Book Swap

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It’s been a very long time since I wrote a blog, and I’ve had the most perfect opportunity to talk about something really exciting I’m involved in. I’ve recently started volunteering for Project Parent, an amazing organisation that makes up gift boxes for parents of children who are in hospital over Christmas. 

I’ve been wanting to get back into volunteering for a while now. There has definitely been a bit of a fundraising gap in my life that I’ve been wanting to fill. During Uni I was heavily involved with RAG (Raising and Giving), including being one of the Uni RAG officers, throughout my time at York. It was such a fun and rewarding thing to be involved with and left me feeling really useful and like I was helping others. I’ve really missed that feeling and creative outlet. So I was delighted when I saw the opportunity to apply to be the Leeds Leader for Project Parent.

Project parent was founded by the incredible and inspirational Kate Stanforth in 2013. The first year involved making up gift boxes for parents of children in hospital over Christmas at the RVI Newcastle, but has since expanded to other hospitals across the UK.

Over the festive period, there is lots of festive fun arranged for the children who are in hospital; whether it’s a visit from Santa or gifts, there are activities in place to help them feel the Christmas spirit. However, there is often nothing arranged for their parents. Project Parent means that parents can have something of their own on Christmas morning, and the boxes are geared to offer them comfort and support.

I’m so excited to be part of the project and am buzzing with enthusiasm to get started on my fundraising. I am working towards a goal of £500 and I’ve already got a couple of things lined up!

The first is the Project Parent Book Swap. It’s a great fundraiser that everyone can take part in. Whether you are ill or well, you can take part in this book swap from the comfort of your own home, helping to share the joy of reading and help others to feel less isolated.

I am arranging a book swap, run in a similar style to a ‘secret santa’,  but in the summer! I am hoping that lots of people will want to get involved and swap a book with someone else in the UK, whilst donating £2 to Project Parent. You can spend around £5-7.50 on your book, or you can pick one of your own favourites to send (you can rehome an old book if you want!) and then post it directly to your match. I’m really excited about this event and everyone is welcome to take part!

If you want to be involved please fill in this form and donate your £2 by Wednesday 20th September to take part in this event. You can pay your £2 by clicking on the Donate Now button on our Facebook page or using Paypal projectparent@hotmail.com. Please select ‘friends + family’ so we don’t get charged. If you do not have paypal, please get in touch for bank details.

You will receive you match by Friday 22nd September and we ask you to send your book by the end of September. Everyone who enters the swap will be entered into a draw to win a #datewithabook, which I am donating from my Etsy shop.

 

If books aren’t your cup of tea, then I am also selling some one of a kind art canvasses on Etsy and £5 from the sale of each one will go to my fundraising total.

Any additional donations would be gratefully received! Drop me a message if you would like to know more about anything in this blog!

 

A Message of Hope In Difficult Times

Just over a week ago, the world felt like a different place. Things felt a little less sad and scary than they do today. We are in the aftermath of great tragedies both close to home, Nationally and Internationally; and surrounded by the uncertainty of an election where it feels as though many people are feeling alienated by the politicians who are meant to represent them. Looking at the world feels terrifying, there is so much hatred and suffering right now and we seem to be in the midst of so much change, that it feels really unstable and messy. People around me are hurting and struggling and it’s hard to always find the positivity and hope to get through the tricky bits to a new day. What is the use in powering through if it’s going to just feel the same? In the depths of my struggles and battles with mental illness, I have felt really hopeless at times; I’ve had times where I’ve not been able to imagine a life without my demons and it’s felt awful, to say the least. But, despite the hard times, there were always little glimpses of hope. I think Dumbledore said it best:

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In times of difficulty, it’s so important to take stock of everything around you that is good. Look out for the tiny positives, wherever you can find them because the little things can build up and grow to a much larger amount of hope and goodness. Once you start recognising the good around you, your mindset can be shifted and things can feel a little easier and more positive. When I was in inpatient treatment, we completed a task of noticing positives or negatives during the same day and reporting back to the group. We found that it was much easier for people to find negative things about their day as opposed to those who were looking for positives, however those who were trying to purposefully find something good in their day generally had a better day and noticed the little things that were good. People who were looking for negatives tended to slip into a spiral of catastrophizing everything that was happening around them and assumed their day was going to be bad anyway. Despite it just being a short and non-scientific experiment, it was impressive to see there was a difference between the two groups. Now, the effects of positivity and gratitude are

Now, the effects of positivity and gratitude are widely discussed, with examples of improvement health, happiness and wellbeing demonstrated.  Whilst looking for a little positivity or gratitude, or even trying to create a little for ourselves each day won’t fix the world around us or protect us from some of the horrible, unfair and upsetting things that life can throw our way; it can help to create the resilience and strength we need to find a way through the dark times and back into the light. These good bits of life are like the little glints of sunshine getting through, add them all up and you might find your days get a little brighter and you feel a little stronger.

We are in difficult times at the moment and it is so important to seek support from those around you or professionals if you are struggling. You deserve happiness and healthiness and you deserve whatever support you need to get to that place. Stay strong everyone.

My Mental Illness Is Real: Stop Making Me Prove It

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I read an article on The Guardian website a couple of weeks ago that got me thinking. The article talked about society’s apparent need to conceptualise mental illness as a ‘real’ thing, in a way that is physical and material. It’s something that has bothered for a long time; there seems to be such a divide between mental and physical illnesses and as someone with mental health problems, it can be exhausting trying to validate an illness that others can’t see.

The article describes society’s need to find ways to present mental illness as equal to physical illness and it’s something I’ve faced frequently during periods of struggling with my mental health.

Simplistic biological explanations tend to increase stigma, not least because they cement a division between ill and well people. Many people have felt silenced and traumatised by such accounts, feeling that the illness model shuts down their truth.

There is an implicit suggestion here that mental health problems have to be viewed as being equivalent to physical illnesses if they are to warrant society’s care and funding.

The Guardian Website

It’s no surprise that it can be challenging for people to understand something they cannot see, as humans we often need something tangible to hook into. But there seems to be a great focus on people with mental illness to need to prove that it’s there, something that seems less apparent with physical health problems. When was the list time you needed to demonstrate you had asthma, for instance? People tend to accept your condition at face value without needing to have proof of it.

I asked people with mental or hidden illnesses to share what they wished they could tell friends around them about their condition: 

  • Just remember. Ask but not push. Learn about it. Learn the signs.
  • When you say “Yes I found X hard too, then I did Y and it was better” in response to me saying I cannot do something, it is hurtful; it shows you believe I could do it if I wanted it enough or if I was more like you. There is often a hint in there that you are finding it frustrating. If you want me for example, my room to be tidy that much, you could just ask if I would like it if you helped me to do it. Otherwise, you can accept that what I am saying is the truth: cannot, not will not. No matter how much you may think “if she can do X, why can’t she do Y?”
  • Knowing that the unknown can panic someone, like not knowing if food is involved, how long you’ll be doing whatever it is, who’ll be there etc. Be understanding if someone is too freaked/anxious or uncomfortable being there!
  • Simply believe me. Just because you cannot see it, certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. When I am bad, the world doesn’t see me, only my bed does. So please believe me in every way. If I say I am not up to something today, it’s true. I shouldn’t have to justify myself to my friend.
  • Don’t give up on my as a friend because I’m always cancelling or having to leave early. Don’t think I’m lazy because I need to sleep lots.
  • It’s not ‘just a crumb’, it’s poison to me
  • Just because I cancel at the last minute every time, it doesn’t mean I don’t value our friendship. It means I just couldn’t that day.

So what can you do to support someone you know who is struggling with a mental or hidden illness: 

  • Please understand– sometimes I need a nap in the day. I am not lazy, I cannot always sleep at normal times and everyday activities exhaust me.
  • Please still include me– I cannot always participate but I feel good when included and will participate whenever I can.
  • Please don’t judge me– sometimes I go silent and hibernate, sometimes I express my pain through status updates or messages. I’m very vulnerable when I do this and appreciate kindness.
  • Please forgive me– when I’m not there for you as a friend, because I’m struggling to keep my head above water and survive.
  • Please understand– my medication sometimes makes me sleepy/out of sorts/upset etc. I may seem over the top at times, but at that point, I’m just needing a comforting response.
  • Please be patient with me– it’s difficult living with an illness. There are days when I’m not myself and not up to all the things I might have once done. Please give me time and patience and maybe we can do those things once more.

Hidden and mental illnesses warrant the same support and respect from friends, family and those around them. It can feel challenging to have to prove you’re unwell if you condition isn’t obvious from looking at you, but it doesn’t make it any more valid. Perhaps try and discuss why proof is necessary rather than feeling the need to provide it.

40 Things To do When You Feel Dark And Twisty

So you’re in the dark place, but what can you do to pass the time while you’re there and ultimately help you to get out of it and back to an adequate level of humaning? I’ve come up with my go-to list of dark and twisty activities, that can be used at varying levels of commitment, motivation, energy and willingness to participate in any form of life. 

The feeling of ‘dark and twistiness’ was brought to us by the incredible Shonda Rhimes, the amazing creator of Grey’s Anatomy, who has also been described as a ‘life ruiner’ for her heartbreakingly wonderful yet emotionally wrecking writing. I’m a bit obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy, partly because I generally love most medical dramas, but also because the lead character Meredith Grey seems to channel a lot of the inner turmoil and deal with a whole lot of life shit that connects with me on a spiritual level.

The idea of dark and twistiness came to the world from Grey’s and explained the type of person in life who is generally dark and pessimistic but also has the ability to perceive a situation to be the worst it possibly can be. The reason for becoming ‘dark and twisted’ is having lived through difficult times that have in fact prepared you for the world, rather than being someone who is bubbly and positive and therefore clearly doomed to hit unhappiness and reality out of the blue. Ok, it may seem like it’s negative to be ‘dark and twisty’ but I see it as quite the opposite, it’s a kind of understanding that life is shit but actually you can be ok with that and sometimes allowing yourself to be in the ‘dark and twisty’ place means you can hit those feelings head on and deal the crap out of them!

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So, often it seems, I reach my dark and twisty max level and want to grab Stitch and spoon under my duvet until the end of time. Whilst this is a totally good use of time to just sit with the feelings, it can also be less than ideal when you are required to be an actual human. It’s important to remember that it really is ok to have real dark and twisty moments, real life is full of difficult times and the key is to be able to get through them rather than pretend they’re not real or try to do everything you can to never have them.

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So you’re in the dark place, but what can you do to pass the time while you’re there and ultimately help you to get out of it and back to an adequate level of humaning? I’ve come up with my go-to list of dark and twisty activities, that can be used at varying levels of commitment, motivation, energy and willingness to participate in any form of life.

  1. Open the curtains– if you can’t go out, let some of the world in. Sunshine can help you feel a little more like you can do some of life and if the weather is miserable it can help give you a good reason to hibernate and focus on self-care for the day. Open them a little way if you can’t face the whole word at once. Sitting in the dark isn’t good for your mood, let in some light and see if it helps you feel a little better.
  2. Call in sick– just because the feeling is in your head, it doesn’t mean it’s not an acceptable reason to take some time off to feel better. Sometimes it’s better to give in and accept you’re feeling dark and twisty than keep pushing through until you crash. If you had flu, you would take time to recover and mental health shouldn’t be different just because you can’t see it… well I mean if you’re only able to lie like a starfish on your bed, it’s pretty obvious you’re not doing all that great!
  3. Lie like a starfish on your bed– for me, starfishing is very therapeutic. Sometimes I will set an alarm and allow myself a period of time to just feel sad, angry, frustrated… whatever it is and take up the position of starfish face down on my bed while I feel those feelings. It doesn’t have to be done in starfish form, but giving yourself a set time to be sad can be so helpful as you give yourself permission to do it, let it out, and then in some mental way can often move on from that feeling and allow yourself the brain space to do something else.
  4. Find a new project or learn something– I’ve recently taken up crocScreen Shot 2017-02-14 at 19.01.11.pnghet. Being a massive perfectionist, I tend to hate the beginning of new hobby as I dislike being ‘rubbish’ at something intensely. Thankfully a patient friend persisted with me and taught me the basics of crochet… I’m now officially hooked! The benefit of crochet is I can do it when I am lacking in brain power. It doesn’t matter if I’m not feeling great, I can get a really satisfying feeling of making progress with a project, as well as it being fantastic as a distraction from the way I’m feeling.
  5. Watch a whole lot of Netflix-of course, other streaming platforms are available! Netflix is full of all sorts of films and tv shows etc; that can be a real escape from a difficult mood or stressful feelings or emotions. Netflix can make it easy by playing the next episode automatically for you to save brain power!
  6. Spend time on Pinterest– Pinterest can be really useful if you’re struggling. It’s full of positive inspiration, interesting ideas and tutorials and general distraction. I have created different boards to suit different purposes and emotions. Pinterest is one of my go-to distractions.
  7. Turn off your phone– when the world is overwhelming, the constant ‘on call’ nature of modern technology can be exhausting. Whilst it can be great to be available, the presence of read receipts and notifications that you’re online can mean you don’t get a break from people. If you’re feeling a little peopled out, take some time with your phone turned off, or at least in another room. It can be really freeing to not feel the need to check it all the time.
  8. Avoid social media– similarly, it can be really soothing to have a social media free day. Social media is an amazing way to connect with people, but it can also be a real stress if you’re not feeling great. Feeling the need to keep up with everyone else’s perfect lives is not only exhausting, but it’s not necessarily real! People often present their lives on social media as ‘instagram perfect’ when they may not really be as happy and perfect as they seem. Taking a social media break can help you focus on you and also help you stop comparing yourself to other people.
  9. Keep hydrated– dehydration can have an impact on mental health as well as physical health; such as causing anxiety, difficulties in focus and concentration and generally cause lethargy which can lower your mood. Keeping hydrated can help you feel a little more energetic and if nothing else, may stop you feeling worse!
  10. Morning pages-a fantastic ED nurse Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 10.30.51.pngintroduce myself and a friend to
    morning pages. I’d never heard of them before, but now I’m an avid morning page convert! It’s a really simple process. All you need is a blank notebook or sketchbook and some pens or pencils. The idea is to write or draw whatever is in your head first thing in the morning before you do anything else. The benefit of getting ‘out’ what’s in your head, is it can help you to realise what you’re thinking and act as a healthy way to let out difficult emotions etc. Morning pages can be a really good addition to your routine or something you use when you’re feeling dark and twisty. The key is to not look back over the pages. Once the thought it out, it doesn’t need to be revisited as this can cause you to feel the same emotion again if you’re reminded of it.
  11. Blog or journal-another way to try and get out difficult feelings is to write in a journal or write a blog post. There are lots of journalling prompts on Pinterest and other sites, or you could free write to get whatever you’re struggling with ‘out’ on paper.
  12. Crafting– one of my favourite self-care acScreen Shot 2017-03-27 at 11.00.57.pngtivities is craft. Whether it’s
    drawing, painting, sewing, crocheting or anything that allows me a little bit of downtime, craft is so essential to maintaining good mental health. Craft can be something that’s really personal to you. You don’t need to show anyone or need it to be perfect. It can just fulfill a purpose; whether it’s as a distraction, as something you enjoy or as an outlet for the way you’re feeling.
  13. Sleep or rest– sometimes, all you can do is rest and build up your strength to fight on another day. It’s important to keep an eye on your sleeping patterns, in case you are using sleep as a way of avoiding rather than in a more positive way. Listen to your body, it’s so wise and will let you know if you need to have some rest. When you’re struggling with your mental health, you will probably feel it physically too. Listen to what you’re body tells you it needs and think about resting as a bit of self-care.
  14. Try and read something– even if you lack concentration and can only read a page (or the same page about a million times), a little escape into a book can be a way to help lift your mood or distract you from the way you are feeling. Children’s books, poetry or your favourite classics can be easier if you’re lacking concentration and still feel like an achievement when you complete them.
  15. Surround yourself with comfy blankets/cushions/snuggly things– self soothing is a key part of distress tolerance techniques. Finding things that help you to feel safe, calm and comfortable; can really help you to feel a little better or more grounded. Experiment and find the things that help the most.
  16. Put up some happy pictures on the wall– again, pictures can really promote wellbeing and remind you of the reasons you’re getting through the hard days. Photos are also a brilliant way to feel closer to people who you’re away from, such as family and friends.
  17. Get out feelings with paint– recently my life has been all about art journalling! Art journalling is a great way to express yourself, get out difficult feelings or emotions, motivate or inspire yourself… and all the while be really creative and experimental.
  18. Throw something at the wall (ping pong balls are good)– sometimes you just need to get an emotion out quickly. Often this can lead to unhelpful or harming behaviours. But a similar effect can be gained from doing something that can feel destructive but is essentially a safe activity! For example throwing a ball at a wall, shredding newspaper or screaming into a pillow.
  19. Have a mega clear out– spring cleaning and getting rid of clutter can feel really productive and help you feel like you are doing something beneficial. Getting rid of things you don’t want or need anymore can help the space around feel more calm and help centre or ground you a little.
  20. Reorganise your room– creating a nice clear space to think in can be so helpful if you’re not feeling great, once you’ve got rid of any excess clutter, perhaps have a move around and try and find a little Hygge or Feng Sui.
  21. Go back to the films and TV that give you most comfort– most people have a film or tv program that makes you feel happier; whether it’s a classic from your childhood or a series you’ve seen so many times, you know all of the words. Revisiting something that reminds you of good times, helps you to feel calmer and more content, or acts as a bit of background noise to keep out the dark and twisty thoughts can be really helpful.
  22. Listen to music– music that reflects how you’re feeling or tries to get you into a different mind frame is another way to either get the dark and twisties out, or help you feel a little better. Creating a playlist of songs for different moods can be a great bit of distress tolerance distraction and once you have them, they can be really accessible when you need a bit of a musical interlude. Explore other people’s playlist for different moods if you want to see what other people have found helpful, that might suit you too.
  23. Eat what you fancy– sometimes a little comfort food is just what you need to nurture yourself when you’re not feeling great. Tasty food that you really fancy can be really helpful for your wellbeing and giving in to a craving can feel like a real treat.
  24. Take vitamins– when you’re not feeling great, a boost of vitamins can help you feel less run down and stave off any illness when your immunity might be low. Vitamin deficiencies can cause mental health issues or exacerbate them and poor mental health can similarly cause deficiencies. The likelihood is that difficult patches with your mental health could leave your body needing a bit of help, so taking vitamins could help shorten the difficult patches or even prevent them in the first place.
  25. Spend time with your pets or with animals– Animals can be really soothing and the links between animals and improved mental health and wellbeing are widely discussed.  It can be helpful to observe that animals live in the moment, they don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow, they are content with the here and now, perhaps showing us a different way of being. Pets can reduce stress and anxiety as well as be a comfort on a difficult day. They can be a real motivation to get up and look after them and them are good reminders of the simple things that are required in life such as food and water.
  26. Have a shower and get dressed– when you’re struggling to find motivation, self-care can fall by the wayside. Sometimes having a nice relaxing shower or bath can be another way to soothe your dark and twistiness.
  27. Take a trip in your mind– your imagination is a really powerful thing. When your head is in a difficult or negative place, doing a little mindfulness or using your brain in a more creative way can be really helpful. Take a trip in your mind to a place that feels safe or special to you, or even choose somewhere you would like to go to. Remember or imagine as much as you can using all of your senses. The more detailed the image, the more distracted or calm you could feel.
  28. Spend some time in nature– finding a way to connect with nature around you can help you find some stillness and beauty within a difficult day. Find spaces of natural beauty around you and enjoy the smells, sight and feel of the nature around you. Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 11.18.37
  29. Look for inspirational quotes, literature or poetry– looking for some inspiration from others can help you feel more positive or help you find some motivation. Collect positive quotes etc in a journal or on your phone so you can refer back to them at times of need.
  30. Do some yoga– the process of learning and practicing yoga has lots of benefits for mental and physical wellbeing. The idea is to do what you can and not push yourself past your limit. A big part of yoga is focusing on breathing, which can really help if you are feeling anxious.
  31. Take a gentle walk– A nice calm walk to see something nice, visiting someone you care for or doing something like feeding the ducks can give you some respite from the difficulties you’re facing. Take a friend or go alone with your camera and make sure you notice the little things as you go along.
  32. Have long gaming sessions– whether you’re a seasoned gamer or have a copy of the Sims from when you were a teenager; gaming sessions can act as a real escape from difficult times. Getting stuck into building the best Sims palace you can, you might find you get sucked into playing which gives you a break from your head.
  33. Treat yourself– a little treat can help to pick up your mood, or act as a tool to manage your struggles.
  34. Allow yourself to not be human for a while without feeling guilty about it– it’s ok to not feel ok. Some days are a real challenge and can feel impossible to get through. It can be helpful to allow you to feel the way you feel without trying to fight it. Curling up on the sofa for the day and watching reruns of your favourite tv is often as good as a proper break. You don’t have to feel guilty about it, if you had flu you would take a day off work. Mental health struggles are still illnesses, just invisible ones.
  35. Reach out to friends who can support you- friends can be a really useful support network who can provide company, advice, distraction and understanding. It can be hard to explain the way you’re feeling to friends. But once they know what you’re going through, they are a great source of love and hugs which can help you feel better.
  36. Get some fresh air– even if it’s just sitting in the garden doing nothing, fresh air and a little change of scenery can help you feel a little better than staying cooped up at home.
  37. Make something with your hands to get out of your head– like baking, knitting or colouring. Keeping yourself busy can give your head a different focus. It can be really distracting to learn something new to keep you head extra occupied.Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 12.37.25
  38. Eat something really nourishing and tasty– A simple recipe with some mundane chopping will give you a good meal and help you feel like you’ve done something for yourself.
  39. Invite over some company– sometimes being alone when you’re not feeling great is not the most helpful thing to do. Time alone can be good, but isolating yourself can make ruminating on the thoughts and way you are feeling worse. Finding friends who understand what’s going on for you can be really helpful, but sometimes just having someone with you as a distraction is enough.
  40. Ask for some more support– it’s ok to not feel ok. Sometimes you need a helping hand from someone who cares about you and can support you. Support can come from friends or family members, but sometimes you need a little more than friendly people around you. Your GP can be a good start to getting more help, they can prescribe medication or refer you to secondary mental health professionals. Sometimes it can be hard to communicate the way you’re feeling, writing it down or using a different medium such as art can help you to explain.

 

The irony is, this blog took me a number of weeks to complete because of my own dark and twistiness. My way of managing it was to think of some of the ideas within this blog as well as reaching out to those around me to help. The feeling of overcoming a patch of greyness is amazing. It’s hard to imagine getting through it, but when life begins to brighten around you, you may not even remember the depths of where you have climbed from.