Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Let's Talk About Recovery

I had to take a sick day today (yay vomiting bugs!) so I've had far too much time to think and one of things that's been playing on my mind all day is the subject of recovery, specifically recovery from a mental health perspective.

Yeah we all see articles about how important it is to speak up and get help and trust me, I'm not knocking that at all, I just think we need to start a dialogue about what comes next and what you should expect.

I'm not an expert in this field nor do I claim to be one, obviously there's an extremely large range of mental health problems out there, each with their own treatments and therefor they each have a different type of recovery associated with them. As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder who has gone through periods of depression and battled issues with eating and self harm, I can only offer advice based on my experiences and for want of a less cheesy expression, my journey. So here's some tidbits that I think are important and apply to the majority of cases. Even if your mental health is relatively good but you've hit a bit of a bad patch or you're having a bad day, these will hopefully help.

First off, do yourself a favour and quit the amateur dramatics. Yeah it's a tough situation but you're only making it worse with the 'Woe is me!' bullshit. Grow a pair, ovaries/testicles, your call. Life doesn't stop just because you're having a shit time, it keeps moving and you have to at least try to keep moving with it. If you've raised your hand and said 'Hey I need help' then that's half the battle, that is brave as hell so use that new found bravery to get rid of the dramatic attitude and start acting like an adult. Shit happens. When it happens, we work through it and we get on with it.

Second of all, this one is kind of hard to hear but it's the truth; you will never be the person you were before you started suffering with depression/bipolar disorder/schizophrenia/whatever is ailing you. You simply cannot go back to who you were. Instead what you're gonna be is an amazing, new & improved version of the old you. Wiser, stronger, smarter and fully equipped to deal with whatever bullshit your brain comes up with. Whether you like it or not, this illness is and always will be a part of you but that's ok and it's nothing to be ashamed of.

Third, I highly recommend rewarding yourself for the little accomplishments each day because whether you recognise it or not, the little things are so important when it comes to recovery. Recovery is not great, bounding leaps, it's teeny, tiny, shuffling steps that slowly get bigger. You got out of bed today? Hell yeah! You showered? Fab! You ate a healthy, balanced meal? Or you just ate something at all? Well done! You remembered to take your meds? Fuck yes! The little steps will get bigger and bigger with each passing day, it takes time but eventually the accomplishments get bigger and more significant and ultimately, more rewarding. If you can do the little things and recognise them as significant then you are most certainly capable of the bigger accomplishments. Be proud of the achievements you make every day, even if they're small, and you'll build the strength to keep going.

Fourth, friend cleanse, this part is something that you might not be strong enough to do for a few months. I know it took me about a year and half into the recovery process before I did this. People can be wonderful, they can be great friends, until you sit them down and say 'Hey I've been struggling lately, I'm going to get help but I'm going to need your support while I'm going through this difficult time.' Then all of a sudden they go from being the best people you've ever known to strangers who check in once a month out of obligation because they 'can't handle your situation.' Admittedly part of this is a society thing because we're not exactly trained in how to deal with friends who have mental health issues but it's mostly got to do with people being assholes who bow out when the going gets tough. Fuck that. You don't need that bullshit in your life! So your friends suck and you feel lonely, I get that but I guarantee you are so much stronger than you realise and you can get through this. Those idiots don't deserve you. We all deserve friends who are there for the good times and the bad, not assholes who will gladly get you drunk and bitch about love interests but bail when you're having a bad day. Dude fuck that noise, those people need to go. They are to be pitied because a) they've lost out on you and your awesome friendship and b) they're immature as hell and won't get anywhere in life with such stupid attitudes. Repeat after me, I got this. And say it again. Say it twenty times. Say it until you believe it. You've got this.

Fifth, this stuff gets harder before it gets easier so prepare for that. Working through your issues sucks but it is definitely worth it so speak up. Sort your shit out now or let it ferment and get worse, your call. It is by no means easy but it is possible. You are strong enough and you'll be even stronger for it. Hell you've made it this far so why give up? Keep your head up and keep moving, one day at a time is still progress.

Be your own cheerleader. You're badass. You're fucking great. Screw what anyone else thinks or says, they don't know shit. You are a radiant little sunflower my friend so own that.

I know this is probably quite an aggressive approach but it's what I found helped me, might not be everyone's cup of tea!

I think that's about all I can offer for today, I don't know if this is in any way useful but please let me know! Tweet @EarthToNiamh with opinions or comment below if you like! Posivibes always because we got this xo

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Kenya 2015

I set out with a mission to get a million photos while I was away but when I got to Kenya, I realised I'd left my charger at home so my photos are very limited sadly! A lot of the photos were taken by the kids, they liked taking my camera and running off with it so I'm sorry for the not so great quality in some cases.
You can see higher quality/bigger versions of these photos here on my Flickr.

This is Mercy and Frieda, they were waiting for me when I came out of my room the first morning. They loved my camera, they insisted on having a go and went around taking pictures of everything and anything, end result was a bunch of pictures of half faces and the grass and the sky, A plus for effort though!

Mercy with her doll.

This is Karis, the only boy who lives in the centre. It's 100% safe to say he stole pretty much every volunteer's heart! This is him playing on the swings on our first morning, he got a hold of someone's phone and was taking a lot of selfies. In the background you can see one of the women doing the washing, no such thing as a washing machine in that part of the world!

Some of the girls playing bingo inside.

This is Biwatt, his mother Edwina runs the centre and she lives there with her family. And yes that is a Carlow jersey!

Kallum and Elizabeth.


Dianah and Elizabeth

The African Rift Valley from a viewpoint in the hills.

Wind farm.

Kenya fam <3


A traditional Maasai farmer with his cattle.

I asked could I take his photo, he said I could if I gave him money, in the end I gave him a lolly and he settled.

Our mural, Muriel!

The compounds guard dog, Chewy.  

Karis playing with the puppet stage.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Kenya 2015 - Overview

Where do I start? Such an amazing experience crammed into just 14 days! I'll keep this post relatively short and I'll make some more posts with details of day trips and stories, my head is still a bit melted with jet lag and trying to adjust to being back home so apologies if this is a bit all over the place! My thoughts feel like a big bowl of spaghetti that I'm trying to untangle to please bear with me!

I've never come across such an amazing bunch of children in all my life, each and every one them is so smart, beautiful, kind and capable of changing the world. I feel honestly privileged to have been allowed into their world.

Even though I was there to volunteer my time and energy to help them, I think they helped me as much as I helped them!

While we were there, we carried out a lot of projects around the centre including:

  • painting a mural on one of the outside walls to brighten up the place
  • weeding the garden and creating a play area for the kids, we built benches, a table & a blackboard and planted flowerbeds so the girls can utilise the outdoor space. This was quite a big project which took a lot of man power and almost the full two weeks of work.
  • cementing the paths around the centre to make it less dangerous for all the children running around (bear in mind there was no cement mixer so the cement was all mixed by hand, no easy feat)
  • upgrading the kitchen
  • adding shelving to the dormitories
  • converting one of the old storage rooms into a computer room
  • installing a library in one of the local schools
All of these projects were completed in the two weeks as well as our daily duties and activities with the children. We had a group activity with the children every night ranging from arts and crafts to movie nights. I really looked forward to the evenings when we got to spend time with the kids, they absolutely adored all the fun and games.

The children really loved any kind of physical affection like hugs or even holding hands. Everywhere I went around the centre, I had little ones holding my hands, hugging me and playing with my hair. It's a well known and well proven fact of psychology that small signs of physical affection increase bonding so you can imagine what all the hand holding did for the bonding between us and the kids! Even on the first day, they weren't afraid to walk right up to us and hang out of our arms or shoulders, it honestly made my heart flutter a little bit every time I felt a tiny hand slip into mine. Considering that most of the children in the centre experienced physical abuse at the very least, I was truly astonished at their ability to trust an adult let alone want to be close to them the way they were with us.

I've never had the feeling that I was doing anything worthwhile in my life until I went on this trip, the immediate gratification was incredible, we could see a difference being made before our eyes.

I truly can't recommend a trip like this enough, it was hard work but there was no minute of it that I wanted to give up or go home or even stop for a rest. It was a fortnight of go go go and even though it was tiring at times, I loved every minute of it!

Watch this space for more posts to come!