I can’t get my head around mental health issues

I have been reading, watching and listening to a lot about mental health issues recently.

I read Bryony Gordon’s Mad Girl in which she talks about her OCD, her depression, her bulimia and her anxiety.  Her style of writing is incredibly comical and it is not until you put the book down that you pause to consider the crippling effects of mental health issues. 

Bryony Gordon describes her relationship with a violent boyfriend and how her low self-esteem, caused by her OCD, led her to believe that she was lucky to have him.   She describes how her tooth simply corroded after years of making herself sick.  She describes the scorn she received as a result of her alopecia as a teenager.  She describes how she thought she was dying and how she thought she might have killed someone. 

If your mind is telling you those lies, and you believe them, then every second of every day must be a living hell.

mental health issues

I have also been listening to Bryony Gordon’s new podcast Mad World.  Mad World is a ten episode podcast focussed on mental health issues.  You probably heard about her first episode in which she interviewed Prince Harry.  Prince Harry described the impact of his mother’s death and how, only years later, he finally received some counselling.

The podcast episode that hit me hardest was the interview with Mandy Stevens, an NHS Mental Health Director who herself was hospitalised for three months with severe depression and anxiety.  Listening to this podcast episode had me sobbing on the train on my commute into work. 

Listen to her interview.  Mandy has some really good tips for how to ground yourself when you are feeling anxious (square breathing).  I particularly liked her recovery plan from depression because she is focussing on all different aspects of her being.  As Mandy says, we are sexual, psychological, physiological, physical, mental, spiritual, social and financial beings.  Her recovery plan recognises all aspects of her being.  The drugs have a supporting rather than the central role. 

I am now reading Sane New World: Taming the Mind by Ruby Wax.  Ruby Wax has suffered a number of really serious bouts of depression which prompted her to learn more about mental health issues.  She now has an MA from Oxford in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy.   Mindfulness was one of my resolutions for this year. I am hoping Ruby Wax will help me along.

I read two articles in The Sunday Times last week.  Remember how I was feeling frazzled, so allowed myself a morning reading the newspaper, including the supplements, in bed? 

The first article was an interview with a woman who had suffered from anorexia following the divorce of her parents.  She described her family’s frustration and how they shouted “why don’t you just eat?”  “Why are you doing this to yourself?”   That’s just it though, mental health issues are not logical and rational, that is why they are so difficult to understand.

I then read an article about mental health in men.  Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.  Generally men are not very good at talking about their problems and there is a big stigma around mental health.  Men often turn to alcohol instead.  I have seen this happen. 

I have also been reading a lot about post-natal depression and anxiety.  The BBC Women’s Hour podcast is doing a series this week about perinatal mental health issues. 

mental health issues

I just can’t get my head around mental health issues.  I don’t understand what causes mental health problems. I don’t know what causes the switch to flick on.  I don’t know how to recognise the symptoms.  I don’t know how to prevent the crippling effects.  I guess this is why I am reading so much about mental health issues at the moment. 

I know we should talk about it.  I know we should open up.  I know we should be kind to ourselves.  I know that we should take time out every once in a while. 

But is that enough?  Are we doing enough for each other?  Are we doing enough for ourselves?

If I could give my son anything it would be the emotional strength to get through tough times and the emotional sensibility to recognise that tough times are approaching and that he needs help.  I would also give him the courage to ask for it. 

Are you worried about mental health issues?  Are you worried about what is in your head?

P.S.  A personal note to a special person and We are all a bit mad, especially after a baby.  Oh and Guilty mum, there’s no need to feel guilty.

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  1. May 7, 2017 / 7:45 pm

    Metal health issues are so hard to get your head around, whether you suffer or not. Sometimes the hardest thing for those suffering is knowing that the way you’re feeling isn’t rational but still not being able to switch it off. #RV&HT
    Aleena recently posted…#Im_PerfectShot: Share Your Perfectly Imperfect Shots!My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 7, 2017 / 8:25 pm

      Thank you Aleena. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      May 8, 2017 / 8:13 pm

      Very true. Different people do have very different reactions to circumstances.
      thanks for your comment.
      Pen x

  2. May 9, 2017 / 9:49 am

    I love how it is becoming an acceptable topic. So many people completely dismiss mental health as something you should just ‘get over’. It’s seen as a sign of weakness if you admit to it which is ridiculous.

    • thesingleswan
      May 9, 2017 / 9:57 pm

      Absolutely! thanks for your comment. Pen x

  3. May 9, 2017 / 12:30 pm

    I have depression and anxiety – and I’m not gonna sugar-coat it, it’s tough. A great book for mental health – and, most importantly, an open one, is Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.

    I’ve also written more than a few posts on it myself (shameless self-promotion, coming up!) they can be found on my blog under the ‘mental health’ tag.

    It’s also important to remember that everyone has mental health, just as everyone has physical health. 🙂

    Cee Arr recently posted…Review! (Poetry Edition!) – The Princess Saves Herself In This One by Amanda LovelaceMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 9, 2017 / 9:56 pm

      Most definitely not shameless promotion. i will check out your posts. Thanks for sharing. Pen x

  4. May 9, 2017 / 4:34 pm

    What if the answer is to simply observe not to jump straight in and question. We are constantly learning, evolving and discovering more about mental health. I’ve done a Mental Health First Aid course and have merely scraped the surface. #mg
    Helena recently posted…The Gruffalo Trail at Westonbirt ArboretumMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 9, 2017 / 9:54 pm

      Hi Helena,

      That is really interesting and probably more akin to my natural response to things – wait and see if it goes away. thanks for your comment Pen x

  5. May 10, 2017 / 1:05 pm

    My work has put on various events for Mental Health Week – a shocker in itself . I couldn’t imagine them doing that a few years ago. Being able to talk about things and know you’ll not be judged or laughed at is really helpful.

    • thesingleswan
      May 10, 2017 / 8:31 pm

      My work has as well. I think it is really good. Pen x

  6. May 11, 2017 / 11:59 am

    There is so many factors that contribute to mental health problems that you can not assign to one thing, as we all different. But sometimes having a mood diary is a good way to track feelings even if you don’t know what it is, it can help see for any different patterns of feelings you have had over a period of time X #brilliantblogposts

    • thesingleswan
      May 11, 2017 / 8:02 pm

      good tips. I find that my blog is my mood diary… Apologies to all of my readers for subjecting you to my highs and lows. Pen x

  7. May 11, 2017 / 7:47 pm

    Very thought-provoking. Thanks for recommending those podcasts, and I’m interested to read the books you mentioned too. #RVHT

    • thesingleswan
      May 11, 2017 / 8:01 pm

      Thanks. Let me know what you think. Pen x

  8. May 12, 2017 / 10:40 am

    I’m a psychologist and while I understand the causes of mental health issues, what maintains them and what can help them, it does not make it any easier. I am an anxious person and have also struggled with depression for about 18 months. I am currently trying to practice mindfulness while incorporating CBT but it is hard work. Exercise is one thing that certainly helps me but there are so many facets to mental health. It’s what makes it so complicated. I’ve blogged about my own mental health on my blog, as well as general mental health topics. But, I still struggle. I must listen to these podcasts you’ve mentioned. They sound interesting.
    Sanchie @ Living my Imperfect Life recently posted…A letter to my future self #FridayReflectionsMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 12, 2017 / 7:32 pm

      Thanks Sanchie. I am really sorry to hear that you have been struggling with depression too. Thank you for sharing your story and I will check out your blog. Loads of love. pen x

  9. May 12, 2017 / 7:28 pm

    I think it’s really hard to get your head around it when you have no experience of it yourself or even in your nearest and dearest. That podcast sounds so interesting- I’m definitely going to check it out. Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

  10. May 13, 2017 / 11:32 am

    I think mental health issues are so hard to understand because there doesn’t need to be any particular trigger. Like if you eat something questionable and get a dicky tummy you know what caused it, where with mental health, you could be having a lovely day and suddenly anxiety hits and you have no idea why. This makes prevention so much harder.
    It also doesn’t help that there is still a stigma attached to mental health and people often feel like they will be judged as weak if they seek help. Personally, I think it takes a very strong person to accept that they are having trouble and getting help for it.
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes 🙂
    Random Musings recently posted…7 Secrets to Balancing Family and Career by Kristi: Guest PostMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 13, 2017 / 8:37 pm

      Hi Debbie,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree, there is still a stigma attached to mental health and this does make it really difficult to tell others and to get help. I also agree that mental health issues can creep up on you and seemingly come out of the blue. I’ve heard that mindfulness is good to help us to identify mental health issues early. Pen x

  11. May 14, 2017 / 1:51 am

    It’s always in the back of my mind. The fact that it could strike at any second- like the severe anxiety,depression did when I was pregnant. One day it was all good and the next day I was crippled.


    • thesingleswan
      May 14, 2017 / 9:12 pm

      I am sorry to hear that Kristin. My sister has severe PND and depression. It is really hard to understand and has been so tough for all of us. Pen x

  12. May 14, 2017 / 6:41 am

    I love the way you write Pen. Readable, intellectual and entertaining. Mental health is a part of my life via a friend who suffers and I’m one of the few people who know. I’ve been doing reading because I felt out of my depth. Empathy gets me through mostly because my knowledge is limited. Thanks for joining #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      May 14, 2017 / 9:10 pm

      Thanks Becky for such a lovely comment. Pen x

  13. May 14, 2017 / 1:49 pm

    I’m not worried about mental health issues. That is to say, I’m not anymore. I’ve been on and off anti-depressants for quite some time, but I know my brain a bit better now and I find it easier to tell when things are going downhill again. I too like reading books about people who are dealing with mental illness. Some I can relate to, others I’m glad I can’t. I’ll check out the book and the podcast. Thanks for sharing!

    Jenny (Accidental Hipster Mum) recently posted…Running A Family Car Without Driving Up Debt!My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 14, 2017 / 9:05 pm

      Hi Jenny,

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your story. Pen x

  14. May 14, 2017 / 6:49 pm

    I worry a lot about my son developing any of my mental health problems. I understand mental health problems really well, a lot of people who suffer from them do go out of their way to learn as much about their condition as possible because they don’t understand why it started, what flicked that switch, why it’s happening to them. It helps, it helped me, to know some of the ins and outs of BPD and Depression. #kcacols
    Bread recently posted…Nine Months OldMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 14, 2017 / 9:03 pm


      thanks for your comment. I would like to understand a bit better. I have been reading a lot, but I need to read some more I think. Pen x

  15. May 14, 2017 / 8:12 pm

    I have been suffering with depression since my died got ill and then shortly after died. Although I had my kids and hubby, I felt like my life had ended. I couldn’t imagine my life without him and it didn’t seem right. I am much better now, I still have bad days, but more good days now. Mental health problems are irrational, but so real.
    Ali Duke recently posted…My Empties: Men’s Special #2My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 14, 2017 / 8:59 pm

      Hi Ali,

      That doesn’t sound irrational to me. Bereavement is incredibly tough, one of the toughest things that you can go through. I am really lucky because I still have both of my parents. I can’t imagine life without them. Stay strong. Loads of love and virtual hugs. Pen x

  16. May 14, 2017 / 11:02 pm

    I have also read the books you mention in this post. I can also recommend, reasons to stay alive- Matt Haig, great read!
    Great post, #kcacols
    keepmum recently posted…Makeup: Do I Consider it Childs Play?My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 15, 2017 / 9:17 pm

      THank you. I’ve heard of it. I will order on Amazon. thanks Pen x

  17. May 15, 2017 / 10:21 am

    It all scares me too, especially as it has affected someone very close to me and I just didn’t know what to do to help him the best. There are some great resources out there though and some of these books you recommend sound fab! #kcacols

    • thesingleswan
      May 15, 2017 / 9:17 pm

      Thanks Alex. Pen x

  18. May 15, 2017 / 10:48 am

    My best friend would have celebrated her birthday yesterday if only she hadn’t taken her life. Thank you for talking and writing on this topic! I agree what a gift it would be to give our children. Mental health has played a huge part in my life, both personally and with family and friends. The more we break stigmas the better xx #mg
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…capturing the little things #mummyshotMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 15, 2017 / 9:16 pm

      Hi Mac,

      I am so sorry. I hope you were okay yesterday, and indeed everyday, but yesterday must have been hard. Sending virtual hugs. Pen x

  19. May 15, 2017 / 1:55 pm

    I suffer from anxiety and my husband really doesn’t get it…”don’t worry about something which might be”…easier said than done. It can be really tough not being understood. #kcacols
    Amy recently posted…It’s handmade! Stunning mummy and me braceletsMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 15, 2017 / 9:14 pm

      Thank you Amy. Pen x

  20. May 15, 2017 / 8:01 pm

    I’m totally with you, particularly on that last para about giving your son all the support he needs. Mental health comes in so many forms, so many levels and so many ‘grades’. ‘Fortunately’ my experience of depression has been very mild and I managed to dig myself out of it. But those triggers you mention – I feel I can recognise mine and get myself out again, thankfully. What amazes me about mh is that no one is immune and yet it’s really still such a taboo, despite media and social media coverage. Perhaps it’s because it’s so flippin complex… #mg
    Carol Cameleon recently posted…Time for a dose of happiness in #HighlightsofHappy blog linky #43 ~ because life’s for the good stuffMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 15, 2017 / 9:13 pm

      Thank you Carol. Mental health is so flippin’ complex. I wish I understood it better. It is not like a physical illness when you can often clearly see and understand what is going on with others. There are loads of things going on at the moment, loads of charities etc, trying to break down the stigma and this is great. Thanks again. pen x

  21. May 17, 2017 / 2:17 pm

    my step daughter has issues with anxiety and depression, as does my wife. Its so difficult to be on the outside trying to understand. I don’t think that somebody that doesn’t suffer through this ever can. #kcacols
    jeremy@thirstydaddy recently posted…Conquering the Chore ChartMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 17, 2017 / 7:37 pm

      Thanks Jeremy for your comment. I agree with you. I certainly don’t understand it although I have tried. Pen x

  22. May 20, 2017 / 7:39 pm

    After spending eight years working in psychiatric services as pharmacy technician. I was led to believe mainly that a lot of mental health is down to chemical reactions in the brain. Serotonin and donoamine levels and alike. Medication obviously alters these chemicals and they effect they have on the brain, hence improving your condition. The differing categories of medications are prescribed depending on what chemical indices the condition. For example SSRI’s selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used for many conditions. One being depression. They increase the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin effects mood, sleep and our emotional state. Increasing the serotonin can improve these conditions but it’s not as simple to say low serotonin causes them. A lot of conditions are caused by life experiences. Even your birth can have an impact on your mental health. When you are admitted to a psyche unit they will find out and document if you were born via vaginal or c section birth and any complications.

    Indeed it’s a complex area and one I enjoyed working in but it served its time for me and I gave it up when I became a mum. I think it’s an area you would enjoy. You should look into support worker work in mental health.
    Cassie recently posted…‘Good Bubble’ Bathtime range – a poetic reviewMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      May 21, 2017 / 8:41 pm

      Thank you Cassie, for such an informative comment. It does sound really interesting. Pen x

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