mental illness

Allowing Yourself To Rest

 

Going back about as far as I can remember I’ve struggled with sleep. I’ve never given it much thought because I always just kind of got on with things regardless of how much (or how little) sleep I was getting.

Through therapy I discovered I might have a phobia of sleep. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will regularly see me awake and posting until I basically can’t stay awake any longer. I fight it for as long as I can and I find my anxiety levels massively increase if I reflect on how long I was asleep when I wake up. This is exacerbated pretty intensely by my medication making me drowsy and needing to nap quite regularly. It resulted in a small crisis the other night when I felt like I was letting myself down by not being awake at the most opportune times for me to advertise work to people (I’m yet to find a free Twitter and Instagram scheduling app that I like using).

For months, maybe even a couple of years now, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of not needing sleep because it somehow means I’ll be less successful if I sleep as much as I need to. Reinforced by the amount of people on social media who talk about how they’re always grinding/hustling/working, I find myself comparing my perceived work rate with how those people present themselves, which is very understandably detrimental in both how it impacts my mental health and my overall motivation levels.

Shortly after my crisis, I was awake and writing the blogs I posted on Thursday and Friday until around 4am. I tweeted after finishing those that I’m starting to realising it’s more to do with how we use our time when we’re awake. The next day Gary Vee posted the image below.

gary-vee-motivational-sleep-quote

This made me realise that, at times, sleep isn’t “avoiding The Hustle” but is instead part of it. How useful am I to myself, to my creative process, to my marketing approach, if I’m depriving myself of sleep? Constantly being awake doesn’t somehow result in success. If you’re awake for 20 hours a day and can only manage to concentrate well enough to complete four high-quality hours of work, then by many people’s definition of The Hustle you’ve not utilised those remaining 16 hours.

At present I’m sleeping around 8-12 hours a day but still managing to fit in 5-8 very high quality hours of work-related output. Right now it isn’t always things my customers or followers will see, I’ll be making lists, researching new distribution channels, new suppliers, new product/packaging ideas. I’ll sometimes spend a whole day just thinking about how to act next. To me, that’s adding value to my brand. The changes I made, which I detailed the other day, came from social media engagement and a whole day of thinking of ways to act on the responses I received and conversations I had.

It’s taken me a while to reach this point, but I’m trying to remind myself not to shoehorn myself into a routine that doesn’t suit me just because it works for somebody else.

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MrCryptSwingTicket

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Shopping Smart

Last night I did a quick walk around a supermarket on Periscope to provide people with some little tips on starting your vegan journey on a budget or if your mental health means you don’t really want to spend a lot of time cooking but still want to give veganism a go. This is mainly a summary of that discussion (and a later one I also had on Periscope). I’m also considering doing a brief food diary a couple of days a week to show people what a depressed vegan eats and how I shop etc, but for now let’s get into it.

Firstly, this is working on the assumption of you having a freezer and some cupboard space, as well as being able to get to and get around a supermarket. This is purely because it’s most reflective of my circumstances and I don’t want to make any guesses about what it may be like for people not in this position, but I do have intentions of speaking to people for whom any or all of this is not true to gain some perspective from them.

The first thing is the old faithful reduced section. When I was at uni around 146 years ago we used to do our food shop at a nearby 24-hour Tesco after midnight. It was always very quiet and the reduced sections for the bakery and veg aisles were fairly well stocked. Reduced sections are generally hit and miss so you may have to get creative, and I by no means suggest always doing your shopping at 2am, but if you’re able to get to a nearby supermarket a little later in the evening (for example, if your nearest shop shuts at 10pm, try getting there for 9ish) you’ll find more items are reduced and the shop will be much quieter. It’s great if you’re anxious in busy places or if you simply hate queuing.

The next thing I brought up was brand label items compared to a supermarket’s own brand. This is most noticeable for things like tins of baked beans, chopped tomatoes etc. The product is often more or less the same, maybe a “premium” brand like Heinz use a slightly different recipe but the majority of the time the extra cost you’re choosing to pay is for the name on the packaging on the product rather than the contents. It may seem like a small saving but consider the fact that you might buy, say, one tin of beans a week. If you pay 35p for a supermarket’s own brand instead of 70p, over a year that’s a saving of just over £18. Quite often the “premium” brands are shelved at eye level, so look at the items above/below them. Those brands pay for their space at the end of aisles and their position on shelves. It’s no coincidence that the cheapest stuff is usually in the most basic packaging on the bottom shelf. There’s been less investment in the product itself so whoever makes it can afford to charge far less, but it’s the same basic product on the inside. Give it a go, if for whatever reason it isn’t for you then you can go back to what you know.

As well as reduced items, look out for discounts. At this time of year loads of veggie and vegan stuff is discounted to take advantage of people partaking in Veganuary. They want you to try their products and alter your buying habits so you purchase their items on a regular basis. If you know you like something and have the space, take the time to stock up. Last summer a supermarket by me messed up massively and had Linda McCartney sausages priced at 45p for a few weeks (they’re usually £2). Needless to say I got through a load of boxes around that time.

The next thing is to buy frozen fruit and veg when you can. Provided you have space, it won’t go off and it’s so convenient. If you have a few days where you feel awful and just eat crisps and cereal then that’s fine, but if you then feel the need to make a smoothie you’re either confronted with a trip to the shops or a trip to the freezer. I know which I’d prefer. Same with veg. Most places offer all sorts now, from frozen onions and mushrooms to avocados and butternut squash. I love getting packs of mixed veg and heating some up with some chopped tomatoes and having that makeshift sauce with pasta. It’s cheap, it’s quick and it’s pretty good for you too.

Another thing I’d suggest is using things like coupons and loyalty cards. It gets a little bit 1984 but using a loyalty card means that a supermarket can track your buying behaviour. They’ll see which stores you go to most and what you buy from them (if you have a bigger store for your “proper shop” and a smaller one a bit closer to home where you go and get a few bits every few days etc), they’ll also know if you’re loyal to specific brands or if, like me, you bounce from offer to offer. They use this information to tailor your coupons and shopping experience. I highly doubt everyone who shops at my local Sainsburys gets coupons for money off or bonus points when they buy Alpro products, but I do. Alpro will probably have paid Sainsburys to give me these discounts to keep me as a loyal customer because it’s on their database that I’m a shopper who buys whatever non-dairy milk is cheapest. If your local store sees a shift in the purchases of “free from” items or sees a maintained high level of “free from” purchases, guess who’ll be getting the new products and expansions on those sections first.

Not only that but you’ll build up points as you shop, and at some point you’ll be able to use those points to pay for your shopping. Back in November I spent less than £2 on food shopping because I decided to use up all my available points and start afresh.

One thing I forgot to mention last night was the inclusion of lists. I know a lot of people always make lists for everything, and it’s something I’m still getting used to. My short term memory is pretty terrible and I wish I had £1 for every time I’d gone to buy food and come home to realise I forgot something because I forgot to take a handwritten list with me. I’d recommend making the list on your phone if you can, purely because it’ll probably be with you when you’re out shopping. Most smartphones have an app for notes or Word documents etc so it won’t cost you anything extra to set it up and it may end up saving you quite a bit of time.

It’s also a good idea to do some product research before you go. On most supermarket websites now you can search “vegan” in their products and be provided with a list of things you can buy in store, some of which you may not have known are vegan friendly! There’s also an Instagram account called accidentallyveganuk which lists snacks and new products released by loads of supermarket chains across the country. Give them a look to make the list and see how you get on.

I’ll do another post later this week about specific tips for people who are new to veganism and may be struggling, and for products and recipes. As always my DMs on Twitter are open to anyone who has any questions or suggestions 🙂

The boring mental health one

I always find talking about my mental health weird and difficult, particularly in this kind of capacity. I’ve been meaning to do this forever though, and I guess some form of insight into what I’m like in my head wouldn’t go amiss. It’s often pointed out to me that I’m quite a closed off person so it’s going to be a bit of a push for me to open up.
I think one of the most difficult things is to say what exactly is “wrong” with me. I’ve been diagnosed with depression and anxiety but the longer I’ve gone, the more I’ve researched and the more treatments I’ve tried I’ve begun to realise they’re probably part of a wider spectrum of things. Before I was discharged from therapy I asked my therapist if they thought I had OCD as, from reading into it (the invasive thoughts among various other behaviours), it seemed almost certain to me that it was the case. We did a brief assessment, agreed it’s more than likely the case but I manage to control it to a decent level the majority of the time. The little things I do to control it go largely unnoticed now.
So to reiterate, I know some of the symptoms but I’m not totally sure of the exact illness. I’m ok with that, I don’t think it needs a label aside from if anything goes horrible again and I end up back in therapy. Don’t get me wrong, I benefitted a lot from therapy, I’d just really rather not go through it again. And that isn’t even really for the actual therapy element. My main issues were based in having to deal with my GP. They weren’t mental health specialists, which I understand. But my initial meeting was about anxiety attacks, feeling suicidal etc. You know, that old chestnut. They nodded along and wrote a prescription for Citalopram. I didn’t react well with Citalopram. It made my invasive thoughts a lot worse and I had uncontrollable urges to harm myself in a variety of unorthodox ways. After a couple of weeks of freaking out, hoping I’d settle into it, and doing my own research I discovered that with OCD and other “control based” mental illnesses, Citalopram is generally quite a bad fit. So I went back to change my medication and had to tell the GP what I needed, which was Fluoxetin/Prozac. I still didn’t get along with Prozac, it basically turned me into a zombie for about a year and I have very little memory of my time on it, but I wasn’t having panic attacks or freaking out every day so I stuck with it. In that time I was on a waiting list for therapy.
Therapy was good for me, even though I’ll admit I get really paranoid of people knowing things about me so I held back a fair bit of information. It’s odd but even though my therapist was there to help I still didn’t want them to know how violent my invasive thoughts can sometimes get. That’s the other thing, I’m not a violent person so to have thoughts like that really scared me. The line between what is just an invasive thought and what is an urge is sometimes very blurred and it’s distressing to think I was/am capable of such creative and aggressive thoughts. Right now those thoughts are very much under control because I’m generally in an ok place in my head. At the moment I’m just the kind of standard depressed person who doesn’t have the energy to do things I need to do (I write a to do list almost every day, with little things like household chores and even reminders to shower and eat included in it) but also never wants to sleep. I’ll literally stay awake until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore. I’ve found Pokémon Go helpful with that, it means I’m out walking a lot so I end up more easily worn out and sleep better/more.
But yeah, I don’t really want to waffle on too much but I guess if you have any questions just ask? I’m usually quite open about it but I don’t like it being all over social media, so where possible I prefer to do it in private.