Tuesday, 28 February 2017

My relationship with exercise

I am currently sat in bed with a belly full of 3 huge pancakes, plus I have three more to eat in the morning for breakfast, and I'm ironically about to write a post about exercise... (If you're not interested, please just enjoy the photos of our amazing pancake stacks instead).

I find exercise hard - I always have done. It's not something that comes naturally to me, and it's not something that I particularly enjoy doing. However, whenever I actually do exercise, I feel so good afterwards and always wonder why I don't do it more.

Personally for me, exercise is a bit all or nothing. Once I get into it, I could do it almost every day and I get a spurt of productiveness. However as soon as I get out of the routine, I find it really difficult to get back into and I can go weeks without breaking even the slightest sweat.

I have been swimming the past couple of weeks, but recently I have found myself putting it off and making excuses. I was supposed to go last night, but I felt too tired. Then I was going to go today, but I scoffed 3 pancakes with my housemates instead. I washed my hair tonight, so I can't go tomorrow because it's not hair washing day... etcetera.

I actually don't feel too guilty for exercising, I feel more bad about having paid membership fees for the pool and not necessarily using it to its full advantage. I feel like I get a bit blase about it and don't think of it as a huge priority most of the time. I'm also not really doing it to change my body or get fit, but more for my mental health as I always feel so good afterwards; plus it helps me sleep better. Since feeling better in myself I have stopped worrying so much about how my body looks, and that has made me feel even better. For me, my mental health is much more important than how I look.

I think exercising is all about finding something that you enjoy doing. For me, that's swimming and dancing. I haven't particularly found any classes for dancing that I have been really interested in doing, partly because they're often too expensive but also because I don't want any competitiveness to be involved in it (I am one of the least competitive people you'll ever meet!). On the other hand, I have been swimming - and once I'm there I really, really enjoy it. It's just finding the motivation to get myself to the gym that I find the hardest - I think it's a lot easier when someone comes with me because it pushes me into going.

I'm not really sure what point I wanted to get across by this post, but I guess I just wanted to point out that it's okay to struggle with exercising. It's okay to not be a gym bunny or to enjoy lazing around a lot. And it's especially okay to stuff your face with pancakes once in a while.
It all  begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to has power over you, if you allow it.

Monday, 27 February 2017

MH Monday: The day after the weekend before

I always find Mondays hard, but I especially find Mondays hard when I've had a great weekend before them.

I had such a busy few days this weekend just gone, and I saw quite a few different people so I really enjoyed myself, but I woke up this morning feeling, well, flat. The thought of getting out of bed made me feel sick, and the thought of talking to anyone felt horrendous. I felt like any little thing would make me cry, and I knew that I could not get myself up to get into placement.

Days like this don't happen very often for me anymore, so when they do they make me feel awful. I wouldn't exactly say that I felt depressed, but I felt very fragile and like any small thing could push me over the edge. So I decided to stay in bed.

The good thing about days like these is that I now know how to deal with them - I know that I need to take it slowly and have some time to myself doing things that I enjoy. I eventually got up and out of bed, and I spent a couple of hours watching TV and eating lunch. After that I felt mentally strong enough to do some work, which then made me feel better as I was being productive.

I think the main reason that I get days such as these is because it is a Monday. I've noticed a pattern, whereby after a really good weekend I just feel like I can't function normally, and I can't shake this negative feeling off. I was also probably quite tired after doing a lot of driving which really doesn't help with my mood. Maybe I need to stop having such fun weekends!!

I guess what is important is that I know how to recognise my symptoms and what to do about them. I know that I am going to be much more productive staying at home and trying to slowly make myself feel better, and I realise that it's okay to take a mental health sick day. I feel much better this evening and have been able to interact with my housemates and make myself some dinner.

Monday mornings are not fun!
The first step to getting what you want is having the courage to get rid of what you don't.

Sunday, 26 February 2017


This weekend I travelled down to Cheltenham in Gloucester to visit my friend Jenny, who is now living there. I haven't seen her in ages, so it was so nice to catch up and finally view her lovely flat.

I love Cheltenham - I think the Georgian-style houses with huge windows and pale brick are gorgeous, and it's one of those quirky little towns where there is lots to see and do, with little shops selling gifts and lots of independent cafes, bars and restaurants. I adore the Cotswolds in general and have always thought that I could see myself living there in the future, especially as I'm such a country girl at heart.

The weekend, naturally, mainly revolved around food. We started off with a cheeseboard, wandered around a few shops, stopped off for a hot chocolate and cake, and ended up at a Thai restaurant for dinner. I actually didn't take that many photos (partly because it was raining and dull most of the time), but we spent so much time chatting that I just forgot to get my camera out of my bag. It felt like we had a lot to catch up on!

Last night we ended up in Jenny's flat, drinking hot chocolate and watching Mean Girls. This morning I drove to my aunt and uncle's house, who also live in the Cotswolds, and they cooked a delicious mushroom risotto and garlic bread for me. It was also lovely to catch up with them!

I feel like I have had a really nice, but fairly busy, weekend, and I feel really tired this evening. I'm going to go to sleep soon and try and get a refreshing sleep before another Monday morning.

Monday, let's do this!
Don't be in such a rush to figure everything out. Embrace the unknown and let your life surprise you.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Washed Away: From Darkness to Light by Nikki DuBose

I've been a bit AWOL from my blog the past few days, partly because I haven't really done much so I haven't had much to write about, but also because I felt like I needed a bit of a break from writing. I think it's actually the longest I've ever gone without posting! But I'm back from my short blogging hiatus and wanted to post about a book that I was kindly recently sent.

Washed Away: From Darkness to Light is a memoir by Nikki DuBose, an ex-model and actress. The book follows Nikki's life, from childhood to the present, and documents all of her struggles with anorexia, bulimia, drugs, alcohol, depression and psychosis. It reveals the darker side of the fashion and modelling world, and the lengths that some people go to to be 'beautiful'. Nikki's childhood was, quite honestly, horrendous - she had to deal with sexual and physical abuse, an alcoholic mother, and a very early onset of an eating disorder. Nikki talks us through how she came through the other side of her addictions and mental health problems, and her determination and honesty is both admirable and inspirational.

I really enjoyed Washed Away, and it left me feeling very thoughtful and inspired. Nikki has had such a hard life, and if she can come through the other end then I feel like anyone can. As you know, I am very interested in mental health, and the majority of this book is focused around problems like eating disorders, psychosis, self-harm and depression. I found Nikki's story really fascinating, and it was interesting how her childhood shaped her adulthood and her mental health. 

If you are having a hard time yourself, or if you have had your own mental health problems, I feel like you could relate to Nikki's story and I would definitely recommend having a read. Some parts were quite difficult to read about (like the childhood sexual and physical abuse), but it opened up my eyes to what goes on in the world and how you don't know what's going on behind closed doors.

A very inspiring and thought-provoking read!
I hope you know you're capable and brave and significant, even when it feels like you're not.

Monday, 20 February 2017

MH Monday: Should mental illnesses be labelled?

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Should mental illnesses have a label? Ie should 'depression' be labelled as 'depression', or should a patient be labelled as 'schizophrenic'?

This isn't really something I ever thought about until recently, when my psychologist housemates came home from a lecture discussing it a few days ago. For me, I just accepted that I had a label of 'depression' and that was the illness I was being treated for.

The argument is that giving someone a mental illness label may do more harm for them than good. Giving someone a label may instantly stigmatise them for a collection of behaviours and symptoms that they are experiencing, and that doctors have decided should be given a certain label. Public perception of illnesses like schizophrenia is generally negative, and it could actually worry the patient  and their family more if they are given a diagnosis such as this. The psychological labelling theory suggests that the patient is given a new identity, and it may take them a long time to come to terms with this (during which time the patient could become more unwell).

Psychiatric labels are also fluid and may change as time goes on. For example, someone may present with low mood and be labelled as having 'depression'. Later on, they develop symptoms of mania, and their diagnosis will change to 'bipolar disorder'. This change in label could be very distressing for the patient, as they are having to come to terms with a new diagnosis and a new stereotype and stigma around that diagnosis, as well as a completely new management plan.

Personally, when I was given my diagnosis of depression I actually felt relief. For years I had felt really low in mood and could not stop crying, and when I was given a label it all started to make sense. I was able to see that it was an illness, and not my fault. I was able to focus on the treatments that would make me feel better, and I felt like I just understood myself more. I also think it was a bit of a relief for my family, as they too were able to understand why I had been feeling so awful, and there was a light at the end of the tunnel through therapy and medication.

I also think that, from a doctor's point of view, labelling an illness makes it easier to treat. For example, when someone is given a diagnosis of depression, you know what you are working with and which anti-depressant to give them, as well as which therapy to refer them to. It also is easier to handover to colleagues, as the label can be stated, rather than having to run through the patient's symptoms and long history, which takes a lot of time that doctors don't often have. All physical illnesses have labels (eg breast cancer, leg fracture), so why shouldn't mental illnesses?

However, I also think that the diagnosis of depression or anxiety is very different to the labelling of a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. Depression and anxiety are much more common and therefore seem to be more understood and accepted, especially in recent years, whereas schizophrenia still has a certain stigma around it. I think it would therefore be much harder to accept a diagnosis of schizophrenia than it would depression.

I guess my view is that the patient should decide. They should be given the option of whether they would like their mental illness to be labelled or not, and if they would like to know the doctor's opinion of what they are suffering from.

Whether someone is given a label or not, all mental illnesses are valid and should be treated with the same respect as a physical illness. Sometimes patients don't want to be told that they have cancer, and perhaps psychiatric patients should be given this choice too. Just something to think about, medic friends...
Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90... time is a concept that humans created.
                      - Yoko Ono

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A meal out with the family

Goldfish Print Shirt - Zara
Jeans - Topshop (Similar)
Pink Mules - Primark

Today my family met up with our extended family for a meal out. We met my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins at The Bell in Trysull for Sunday dinner, and this is what I wore. This shirt is so me - I love printed shirts, they are one of my smarter staples in my wardrobe and I have quite a few different ones. So when I saw this goldfish print shirt, I kind of had to add it  to my collection. I love the shape of it, as it's more oversized than most of my shirts, and it's made of a really soft material.

I paired it with my well-loved black jeans and my pink mules that I got from Primark, to dress it up a bit. A very comfy outfit that allowed for my huge food baby!

The Bell Inn, Wombourne Road, Trysull, Wolverhampton, WV5 7JB

The Bell Inn is a country pub on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. We had the Sunday lunch menu, and I chose the Greek salad for my starter. The dressing was honey and mustard and was delicious. I also love feta cheese, so this was an amazing way to start off my meal.

Then I chose the vegetarian cottage pie. Most other people had meat, and The Bell is very generous with portions. Our end of the table basically had a huge bowl of vegetables each! The cottage pie was lovely - it was just what I wanted for dinner on a Sunday. I then finished it all off with a chocolate fudge cake (which, in my opinion, could have been slightly bigger...!).

Afterwards we all piled outside to have obligatory family photos.

And Fergus, our cousin's dog, had to get involved too!

I had such a lovely day and it was really nice to catch up with my family. We don't live that close to each other, so whenever we meet up we always make the most of it. It's so difficult to get everyone together nowadays, so when we do I think we all appreciate it!

I hope you have had a lovely weekend too :)
I have come to understand that inner strength comes from receiving love as much as it comes from giving it.
                             - Donald Miller

Friday, 17 February 2017

Friday Favourite: Daffodils

The past couple of days I have been so excited for Spring! Today has been beautiful outside, and I really enjoyed my drive back home in the sunshine - it definitely does wonders for your mood. It's really made me look forward to Easter, baby animals and spring clothing. I can't wait until I can stop wearing a thick winter coat!

I also came home to a vase of daffodils on the dining table, and it made me so happy. Daffodils were my Nan's favourite flowers, so this time of year always reminds me of her, and they are also one of mine, too - I love how bright they are, and that they pop up all over the place (we have one that always grows just outside our front door every year at uni and it's so lovely). Yellow is one of my favourite colours (it reminds me of happiness and positivity), and sunflowers are actually my favourite ever flower.

This afternoon I have just sat by my open window and read my book with a couple of candles lit, and it was so peaceful. All I could hear was the birds chirping in the trees across the road, and I could feel the gentle breeze coming in through the window.

Roll on Spring!
Never suppress a generous thought.
                - Camilla E Kimball

Thursday, 16 February 2017

6 things that have made me happy today #14

1) Simulation course
Today I wasn't on placement, but I did a simulation course instead. Basically this is a mannequin in a room that breathes, talks and responds to medications - and us, as medical students, have to work out what is medically wrong with it and fix that problem by responding to its symptoms. For example, in one of my scenarios the 'patient' was losing consciousness, and we worked out that it was hypoglycaemic (had low blood sugar, ie diabetes). So we had to treat this by giving the patient glucose, and kept monitoring his breathing and circulation until he woke up. It was a really fun day and I felt like I learnt a lot about emergency situations!

2) Working with other healthcare professionals
During my simulation day there were also some nurses and pharmacists in our group, and I really enjoyed working alongside them like we were a proper multidisciplinary team in hospital. It made me really appreciate the skills and knowledge of the other healthcare professionals, and I found it really useful to have them there working alongside me to make the patient better.

3) Sausage casserole
Tonight I made a sausage casserole and it was delicious. I've really got more into cooking recently, but this was one of my favourite recipes so far. And the best part is that I made plenty so I have some more to eat next week!

4) 100% Hotter
Tonight my housemate Sarah and I sat down and watched 100% Hotter. I used to be obsessed with Snog, Marry, Avoid and it's basically an updated version of that. If you're not aware of either programme, they are both makeover shows and the transformations are incredible. It's one of those guilty pleasures that I love to watch each week (Wednesday 8pm, 5STAR).

5) YouTube
I've been watching some YouTube videos this evening, and Joe Sugg and Shane Dawson never fail to make me laugh. I've really gotten into watching daily vlogs, where people record their day-to-day lives - I think it's really interesting and entertaining!

6) Getting excited about holidays
I have two holidays coming up this year with uni friends - to Iceland and Greece. I was chatting about them today and I'm so excited! The landscape of Iceland looks incredible, and I can't wait to visit the blue lagoon. And Greece will be a really fun island hopping trip for a couple of weeks.
Your life is your story. Write well, edit often.
                        - Susan Statham

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood

Where I Lost Her is a story about Tess, who visits some friends in her hometown in Vermont. She is driving at night when she comes across a half-dressed toddler in a tutu and ladybird wellie boots, who is on her own in the middle of the woods. The girl runs away from her, Tess notifies the police, and the town start the search for the missing girl.

However there are no other sightings of the missing girl, and everyone starts to doubt Tess and whether what she saw was real, as details from her past and another young girl start to surface. Tess' marriage to Jake is also going through a particularly hard time, and flashbacks to the past start to reveal why they have grown apart so drastically.

Is the missing girl real? Is Tess mentally unwell and imagining everything? What happened in Tess' past?

The one thing that I really liked about this book was that it was relatable. Apart from the little girl going missing, the book reveals some of the difficult times that Tess has had to face in the past, and how this has affected the relationships around her. I really felt like I got to know Tess as the book went on, and I felt empathetic towards her emotions and inner turmoil. The heartache that she experiences is something that anyone could go through, and I liked that it wasn't completely 'happy ever after'. T. Greenwood also reveals some of the uglier parts of life, such as drugs and alcohol, in a very realistic manner.

I did not quite get into this book as much as All The Missing Girls and Everything You Told Me (they were exceptional books and would take some beating!), but it was a really enjoyable read and I would definitely pick up more of T. Greenwood's books in the future, as I really loved her descriptive style of writing.

Where I Lost Her kept me gripped throughout - I was constantly questioning what was going on, and the end was really unpredictable. It was quite haunting because it involved a little girl, and the actual ending was shocking, but could happen in real life. The novel is a real compelling psychological thriller, and I would definitely pick it up if you get a chance!

Where I Lost Her is out March 2nd.
Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.
                    - Coco Chanel