Abi

This blog post was written by Abi as part of a series to raise awareness of mental health issues. Abi has anxiety and has suffered from various eating disorders and writes about why we need to start thinking of mental illness as similarly serious as physical ailments. You can find Abi on Instagram

I just want you to take a minute and think about someone you know, a friend or a family member who’s been physically hurt – maybe a broken leg or a sports injury – where you could visually see them in pain. Now imagine being that individual suffering, but suffering in silence – on the outside you may be smiling, but on the inside everything is shutting down.

The reality of mental health vs physical health is that they are just as important as one another. However mental health is overlooked due to the absence of physical symptoms. As a sufferer myself of anxiety, eating disorders and perfectionism, my mental health hit such a low that I couldn’t see a day I would smile again, laugh again or simply be happy in my own skin. Just because I may be smiling on the outside, it doesn’t mean the voices, rules and overpowering anxious thoughts aren’t crippling me from within. Just because I can’t put a plaster on it, or a doctor can’t visibly see my pain, it doesn’t mean I don’t lie in bed at night planning my meals, planning new rules, listening to this so called best friend in my head over-ruling my life, giving me the illusion of control but slowly taking everything, including control, away.

Apart from rambling on and explaining my personal journey – one which I am still travelling through today, the messages I want to get out of this are as follows…
  •  You, yes you, the person reading this. You are worthy. Worthy of help, worthy of happiness and worthy of everything you desire.
  • A problem shared is a problem halved – talking is the best medicine for mental health. You may not be able to put a plaster on it or stitch up the wound – but the more you talk, off-load and express your thoughts, the lighter, more at ease and less anxious you will feel.
  •  I like to describe my journey through anxiety, eating disorders and perfectionism like physiotherapy. It hurts, but the issue will only get better if you are persistent and battle through the pain. Ignore the voices, scrap the rules and ask for help.
  •  Finally, remember. It’s okay not to be okay.
Let’s break the stigma and all call out. Mental health is so important – never be afraid, because one day mental health will be just and important as physical health.
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Thank you to Abi for sending me this post. It’s so important to remember that just because your illness isn’t visible, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Slowly I think the tides are changing, but it takes brave people like Abi talking about their struggles to really make the change. 

If you’d like to get in touch to write for this series please email florabeverley@gmail.com. Please hashtag #MentallyWealthy in any Instagram/twitter posts and spread the word!

MHAW

Sabrine

This blog post was written by Sabrine Elouali as part of a series to raise awareness of mental health issues. Sabrine has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anorexia and writes about how this has affected her life. You can find Sabrine on Instagram

 

Be honest. Have you ever said you’re “so OCD” about something? Or perhaps that seeing a messy room triggers your OCD? If you stopped and sat down with a piece of paper, could you actually write a description of what OCD is? I can guarantee that pretty much 100% of people, if asked, wouldn’t be able to. In dedication to Mental Health Awareness Week, I am here to share my experience with OCD and how this mental illness has and continues to affect my life.

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is categorised as an anxiety disorder, so sits amongst Generalised Anxiety and Phobias. The name of the illness itself is quite self explanatory. The sufferer has obsessions, which are patterns of overthinking and worries that can surround a multitude of topics. The most common that are identified when diagnosing OCD are: Contamination (fear of germs/dirt), Harm (fear you are a danger to yourself or others) and Checking (fear of unlikely disaster based on perceived negligence to your surroundings) But there are many other single forms as well, and more often than not, these categories tend to overlap, with individuals experiencing more than one single obsession. The sufferer then also has compulsions. This is a far more broad area of the illness, and is hard to summarise the main compulsions that are participated in. But the majority centre around repetition, so repeating certain behaviours/actions/compulsions in order to relieve anxiety. Some examples include: Repetitive hand washing, Repetitive asking for reassurance and Repetitive locking/unlocking of doors. Again, this is very brief and compulsions can spread to tens if not hundreds of different behaviours that cause the sufferer to become stuck.

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I thought it was important to share what OCD actually is before I shared my story with it. I have with Anorexia and OCD, both of which started fairly close to each other, but my Eating Disorder preceding my OCD by around 3-4 months. To have co-morbid diagnoses like these are common, but not often talked about. I am still struggling with my Mental Health 7 years on from initial identification. It is not an easy thing to treat, and comes with immense challenges and difficulties. I’ve had hospital admissions for both of my illnesses in the past, and I’ve also had community treatment. Currently, I am technically under adult services in my community, but am not receiving therapy due to its ineffectiveness and am waiting on a private OCD specialist hospital referral.

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So how does OCD affect my life? In all honesty, I think a better question would be how doesn’t it. My OCD consists of intrusive thoughts and images that are focused on a fear I have. This fear is an extremely terrifying and anxiety provoking thing for me and so I don’t feel comfortable sharing what it is. However, I will still try to be as detailed as I can. As well as the constant ruminations in my mind, I exhibit repetitive compulsions. Anything for me can become a ritual/behaviour. Walking up the stairs so steps are repeated up and down, turning a light on and off, touching a door handle and not being able to let go.

These are just a few that I do daily, and so it is easy to see why I am pretty much housebound and cannot go out to do simple routine tasks that would be required in a normal life. Besides the external struggles that my OCD presents me with, we have to remember it’s a mental illness, and my internal mental struggles are just as difficult, if not a lot harder than the outward compulsions people can see. Constantly having thoughts and images flashing and replaying in my head all day of my fears. Like watching a horror movie that just doesn’t end. You watch it again, knowing what to expect, but still end up just as scared as the last time. Unbearable anxiety and living on edge all the time. Fighting to convince yourself of the logic you know is real but being deceived by the irrationality of OCD. Knowing that nothing will happen if you don’t repeat a wash/check etc. but feeling so engulfed in your thoughts and fears that you question what is real.

I suppose the next question would be, if I can’t do normal things, what can I do? Unfortunately I lost a part time job I had for two years that I enjoyed due to my OCD struggles. After a final managers meeting with 2 senior staff members and a gruelling 45 minute waiting time for a decision, it was concluded that “there was nothing more they could do” as it is “a business”. As much as I kind of knew that answer was coming, I cried in front of them as I handed over my locker key and staff discount card. It was a hard day, and was a big catalyst to my illness deteriorating further. As well as that, because my OCD is so severe, I’ve missed out on university. I’ve thought about the possibility of distance learning but the degrees are so limited in choice, and I’d rather not spend energy and time on something I’m not truly passionate about. At this point, I’m not sure what I’ll do career wise. My love of poetry and writing in general has me keen on blogging or journalism of some kind. But my connection to mental health draws me to want to work in services with people like me. I’m hoping I’ll find a way to do a mix of both as that’s where I think my heart lies.

Thank you to Sabrine for sending me this post. It is easy to see how OCD can so drastically affect your life, and talking about it will make people more aware of the realities of living with a mental illness. If you suffer too, know that you are not alone. 

If you’d like to get in touch to write for this series please email florabeverley@gmail.com. Please hashtag #MentallyWealthy in any Instagram/twitter posts and spread the word!

Almyra Hotel – Cyprus

I’d use three words to describe Almyra hotel in Cyprus: friendly, relaxing and refreshing. I had the pleasure of being invited to return to Cyprus (after my trip last year) in order to review the beautiful hotel that is Almyra. With a focus on wellness and a chic, modern interior, I knew that it was exactly where I wanted to spend what was bound to be a rainy April weekend in London.

The great thing about Cyprus actually is that it’s warm so much earlier than the rest of the med, at a warm 26 degrees everyday we were there! 🙂 In my opinion we were there at the best time of year – before everywhere else was warm and before it got too busy! Apparently September/October is perfect too.

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Rooms

We stayed in one of the seaview rooms closest to the spa, away from the hustle and bustle of the main hotel (K18 to be exact). The room looked out onto the sea with a private outdoor area with two extra sunloungers. I was actually amazed at how light and airy it was – the doors onto the outside terrace were floor to ceiling glass, letting in as much light as possible. We didn’t spend much time in the room (there was too much sunbathing and eating going on) but it was nice to come back to a large room big enough for two girls’ clutter.

Food

Almyra has a lot of options when it comes to food. It’s situated along a row of hotels and a little bit away from the main town, so the easiest place to eat is in the hotel, which usually has me a little worried, but I was very pleasantly surprised with the delicious options! The hotel itself has three main restaurants – Notios (Japanese with a Cypriot twist), Eauzone (the main breakfast and dinner buffet) and Ouzeri (a classic Cypriot restaurant on the seafront). For half board guests, breakfast and dinner at the Eauzone were included. The buffet was a fairly standard buffet – nothing special but good quality food and (thankfully) a decent selection of healthy vegetarian and vegan foods. We enjoyed breakfast at the spa one morning too and I was very impressed with the food. We got the set menu (minus pastries and cakes), which contained a pleasing amount of fresh fruit and a smoothie (of your choice). We visited the local-style restaurant, Ouzeri, for a mezze lunch – we were encouraged to get 4 hot and 4 cold dishes and couldn’t finish, so I would give a 10/10 for quantity and everything was absolutely delicious. The Japanese restaurant had to be my favourite – after all, it is my favourite cuisine. The food there was top quality – probably better than any of the other restaurants in the area, and it was a gorgeous place to sit for drinks at sunset!

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Drinks at Notios

Amenities

The hotel has a separate spa complex that is pretty serene and relaxing, with a myriad of rooms I was unable to explore in the time we had. I was told that there were many treatments that could be had, and met multiple people who had travelled from other hotels for use of the spa. The prices were not unreasonable either, and the relaxation factor was just perfect. I can’t speak for the quality of treatment, as I didn’t have any. On the top floor of the spa is a gym – basic by London standards, but with a wide selection of free-weights, a few machines (though no squat rack!), soft mats and cardio equipment. I never saw it so busy that people had to wait. It was also the best view I’ve ever had whilst running on a treadmill! If you have boxing gloves, bring them, as there’s a balcony with a bag for free use. This is also where I filmed lots of my bodyweight workouts.

In the area

Other than sunbathing, eating and gymming, there were plenty of activities to do in the area. The main town is just a short walk away (max 10 minutes) and has lots of cute, as well as touristy shops (and a strip, like any other European city). In the other direction, along the coast lies Suite 48, a fantastic bar and restaurant serving up cocktails and snack, often to live music. I went to Suite 48 last year, and was not disappointed on my return. The staff are so welcoming and many of the drinks are really special, if you pick the right ones (they have a lot of the cheap, sweet strip classics, too). My recommendation if you like G&T would be the ‘Monkey Business’, though plenty of the other gin cocktails are also delicious. A short drive away is Muse restaurant, up a hill and looking out over Paphos and the sea. 100% would recommend this restaurant for sunset – it’s a view you won’t want to miss. Don’t forget to book though – it gets full quickly! At the bottom of Almyra is a watersports shack with a new pier, offering activities such as waterskiing, sailing, jetskiing, parasailing, paddleboarding and, of course, a pedalo with a slide (a childhood favourite). I tried the first two, and got to know men runnin the show pretty well. The man who drove the boat for water/mono-skiing clearly is really passionate about teaching people, which was very helpful for me, as it was only my second session mono-skiing, and improvements were made within our two 10 minute sessions! Would thoroughly recommend if you’re looking for lessons or just a fun trip out.

Visit the website and check out Almyra’s instagram.