10 Practical Tips to help cope with depression

Depression is often a symptom of a mental health condition such as Bipolar, PTSD, or BPD for example.

But sometimes depression can be brought on by our environment, trauma we’ve experienced or just the simple stresses of everyday life.

If you’re suffering from depression because of your environment rather than it being biological, then it’s important that you know this does not make your depression any less valid.

Even though I have Bipolar and I always will have Bipolar, sometimes depending on my mood I can try practical methods to alleviate my depression and sadness. They don’t always work, but sometimes they do and if you’re suffering with depression too, then trying some of these methods could help you.

So here they are, my top 10 tips to help ease depression!

Nature

There is nothing better than nature therapy! Whether it’s a windy walk in fresh sea air, or a challenging trek up a mountain, you will always find peace in Nature. Nature has a way of showing true beauty and simplicity allowing us to really take in the wonderful way the world works. The trees, the wildlife, the fresh air, being in nature has a therapeutic quality. Even though sometimes it’s the last thing you probably feel like doing, if you can push through the sadness, try getting outside. Don’t let the rain put you off either, wrap up warm, get some wellies on and feel the rain on your face.

I love walking in nature, these are some of my favourite spots near where I live:

Music

Music can be a great motivator and mood elevator! I listen to music when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m stressed, mad. There’s a song for every situation! Music speaks to the soul, and when yours is feeling a little bit broken playing your favourite tune can sometimes help put you back together again. Whatever your musical tastes, grab a pair of headphones, turn up the volume and escape for a while.

Kindness

It might sound ridiculous but being kind to others really helps me feel better about myself. I’m naturally quite a giving person when I’m able to be, and often I find when I’m focused on doing things for other people I briefly forget about my own problems. There’s nothing quite like seeing you’ve made a positive impact to someone’s day, it’s infectious.

So if you can, do something kind.

Conversation

Talking, whether it’s face to face or even online, can really help when you’re feeling helpless. You don’t even have to talk about your problems, though my mum always said that a problem shared is a problem halved and I agree. I spent years scared to open up about how I felt and it did me no good! Now if I feel crap, I’ll put it out there. If you just talk about it, I can guarantee you’ll find you’re not alone. The blogging community is a great place for starting conversations and I really don’t know what I’d do without the lovely words from fellow bloggers! So start a conversation today, whether it’s a tweet, or sitting with your best friend with a cuppa – don’t keep it inside, that’s when it becomes problematic!

Distraction

This is pretty vague I know, but if you can find something, anything to distract you from negative thoughts then it can really help. My distraction is my children and I’m lucky in that respect because they do keep me going. Them being my main focus stops me from giving up, and no it doesn’t always work especially on the really bad days, but focusing on something other than my thoughts can usually alleviate my depression.

So whether it’s your kids, your job, reading, art, endlessly scrolling through memes or going to sit with your grandma for an hour – find a positive distraction!

Taking a bath or shower

A simple self care solution, but sometimes that’s all that’s needed. I actually don’t really like baths, I prefer taking a shower, but whatever floats your boat! Gather together some of your favourite pamper products, or a good book and indulge in some me time! My go to thing is to have a hot shower with my music blasting and having a good old sing song (Sorry, neighbours!).

Animals

I’m not allowed pets in my house because of my tenancy agreement, but I’ve always grown up around animals and for me being around animals cheers me up tenfold. Like kids, animals have this way of finding joy in the simplest of things, and the majority of animals will give you nothing but unconditional love. If I want cheering up then I’ll visit my sister, she has two french bulldogs and they’re always so happy to see me! Gorgeous aren’t they?!

If you don’t have animals, you can volunteer at a local shelter or farm – there’s always animal charities looking for volunteers.

Writing

It doesn’t have to be prize-worthy or poetic, just put pen to paper and write whatever comes to mind. They say music speaks when words can’t, but for me writings speaks the words I cannot say. So if there’s ever anything on my mind that I’m struggling to come to terms with I usually write about it. Start a blog, keep a journal, even if you just scribble notes on a the back of a napkin. Give your pain an outlet.

Exercise

I know it’s not for everybody but if you can manage a bit of exercise, even if it’s nothing more than a gentle swim or a brisk walk, I promise you it will do you the world of good. I’m going to be touching on the benefits of exercise more when I speak to my virtual friend Dave Howlett, who along with his wife Barbara, is taking part in his 20th Ironman competition this year in Austria. Dave and Barbara exercise regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle and they are inspiration for me and many others. Here’s Dave combining nature therapy, animal therapy and exercise – all in one go!

Routine

When I’m having particularly bad spells of depression, I find making regular plans really helps me stay focused. I make sure I always have a plan for the next day, or something to aim for. Procrastinating can lead to overthinking which can lead to more negative thoughts – so I try to keep myself as busy as possible, and if I make regular plans even better, I know where I am and what I’m doing and it restores some calm in me.

So, there you have it – my ten most practical tips when dealing with depression. Sometimes though, these methods alone won’t be enough, so if you’ve tried all you can but you still feel sad then Id recommend you go see your doctor who can give you more help.

Love, Laura xo

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Hard times reveal true friends!

Yesterday I visited a friend at her house for the first time. We knew each other through mutual friends but had only met up once prior to this at a soft play. We kept in touch though, and kept promising each other ‘we must do it again soon!’

Over the the last year or so I’ve been pretty much non-existent in social circles. Some friends have been understanding, but sadly many have not. I decided this year I would focus on the friends who have been there, so even though I still feel a bit wobbly in my moods I was determined not to cancel.

I was anxious anyway (as would anyone be going somewhere new) but luckily my best friend was coming along too. We all have kids around the same age so we thought we could all catch up whilst the kids played/caused carnage. I had arranged to follow my best friend so I wouldn’t get anxious if I got lost, & all seemed well.

Except it wasn’t.

What started out as a lovely afternoon with lovely company ended with me ruining it, as usual. I know it’s not my fault, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Sitting on the sofa with a cup of coffee mid conversation, and I just. I don’t even know. I had to leave. I started to sweat. I knew I was going to burst into tears.

Fighting back tears as I rushed around getting my things I failed to notice Max was losing his balance, he then fell and made me feel a million times worse.

They think I’m crazy

They think I’m a bad mum

I can’t remember if I said bye. Tears fell rapidly onto my steering wheel as I tried to drive home. I kept stalling. Everything was just wrong and I didn’t even know why. Why have you got to do this all the time Lau? Why can’t you just be normal. You’ll have no friends left at this rate.

But that is NOT true!

When we feel low, we don’t feel deserving of friends, but the times we don’t deserve friends are usually the times we need them most. I focus too much on the negative when I’m in a low mood. I can’t see what I have in front of me.

Wonderful, patient, kind friends. Friends who know I’m not perfect but stick by my side anyway. Friends who get pissed off with me but don’t abandon me. Friends who understand I might cancel plans, I might not be myself sometimes. Friends who love me, unconditionally.

When I got home my best friend rang me. I didn’t answer at first but my god is she persistent. Half an hour on the phone to her did me the world of good. I went from not wanting to be here, to feeling alright & that was all because she gave me the time.

So this ones for you! My best friend- for always being on the end of the phone, for rushing to my side when I’m feeling hopeless, for including me in everything, for listening to me and wiping my tears, for still making plans with me even when I’ve cancelled a million times, for not judging me when I say how I feel.

I know it’s not easy being my friend, and I’m sorry sometimes I can’t be the friend I want to be but I’m forever grateful for all that you do, and I love you more than you’ll ever know.

Your friendship gives me hope when I’m hopeless, put a smile on my face when I want to cry, and makes me want to stick around. I owe you a lot, I owe you my life.

And even though I thought I’d lost a friend before I had even made one, my new Mum friend was just as understanding and kind. So here’s to next time, to better days, to friends and to being kind – because you never know what battles people are silently fighting.

Love, Laura xo

Gratitude

It was a windy Wednesday morning and my GP surgery was full to the brim. I arrived just after the doors opened but usually there is a queue down the road waiting, so I knew that there would already be a few people in front of me. Prepared for the wait, I arranged for Ross to stay home with the kids and I took my book.

I gave my name at reception and searched for a seat amongst the sea of people, but there wasn’t one, so I sat in a corner on the floor and began to read. I pulled my jumper over my face as more sniffly noses and spluttering coughs filled the room. Sighs escaping from their mouths and the occasional eye roll, intermittently glancing at their watches before letting out another one. Engulfed in the pages of my book I barely noticed how long I was there, only lifting my head now and then to observe the madness.

As the hours went on the sighs got louder, and people started to approach the reception desk asking how much longer they would be. The woman behind the desk looked fed up too, but she assured them it wouldn’t be much longer whilst trying to sort out prescriptions, and rushing back and forth to one doctors office.

Then one doctor poked his head out of his office, door only slightly ajar as if restricted to that room, as if whatever he was dealing in inside could not be left,

‘Can I have a bit of help in here please’ He called out to staff with desperation in his voice. The sighs continued. People began to file in and out of the other offices as various doctors called different names. Each person sitting there like a baby bird waiting for a feed. Necks stretched eagerly every time a doctor swung open the door.

Then in came the ambulance crew.

The sighs became silent and the huffs and puffs filtered away as a man was brought out of the doctors office on a stretcher. One of the ambulance crew joked ‘Ay mate nothing like travelling in style’. The fed up expressions were nowhere to be seen as people glanced up gingerly from their laps at the man on the stretcher, feeling guilty that they had been so impatient. But we had all done it at one point, even me. By the time I was seen I had waited four hours, but seeing that man on the stretcher and wondering what was in store for him made me realise, right now I have time to waste.

At the moment, sitting on the floor of the germ infested GP surgery I wondered. The atmosphere had changed, the tension had left the air replacing it with a calmer almost somber feeling. As much as the stresses and pressures of the world divide us, there is a lot more in this world that connects us. Whilst it maybe won’t last and we as humans revert back to being hard done by, in that very moment the entire room was grateful.

My untold story

Last night whilst scrolling through Twitter, I found a tweet from a fellow writer Hattie Gladwell that really got me thinking. Hattie writes for the Metro & like me and many more of us, suffers with her mental health. I see a lot more people talking broadly about their mental health but before last night, I had never seen such a raw, detailed, and real account of what living with mental illness is like.

I immediately related to what she said, and aside from feeling really sad and wanting to give her a big hug, it also made me feel, well,… normal. I’ve had similar experiences over the years, but I always felt so alone. I never talked about it openly before I started blogging, only close friends knew what I was going through. Now I talk about it, but I still find myself omitting details, I still find my self hitting the backspace button furiously and thinking ‘fuck that, people won’t understand’.

As much as things have improved in recent years surrounding the stigma of mental health, there are still people who aren’t convinced. These people I refer to as lucky. If someone doesn’t understand mental illness, its highly likely that they haven’t been through it. I recently had an argument with someone like this who told me the pills I was taking were the reason that I’m psychotic. He put up a status on Facebook comparing poor people in Africa to ‘depressed’ people, asking the question of why people with depression can’t just ‘get on with it’ but people in third world countries can?

I got angry at first because of the way he put depression in inverted commas, implying it’s not real. Whilst I am usually pretty laid back and calm in debate, I get defensive about these harmful comments because sufferers already feel that their thoughts and feelings aren’t valid, it takes a lot of courage to speak up about mental health, to then have people dismissing it as a valid illness is infuriating and down right dangerous.

I thought about removing this person from Facebook, it would be easy to judge him as a complete arsehole and go on with my life, but I didn’t. In his mind he was asking a genuine question, because he didn’t understand, and why would he? Think about it.. Mental illness is complex, end of. It’s complex for the sufferers, it’s complex for the professionals (hence the long process of diagnosis) so imagine how complex it is for people that have never suffered? It’s a valid illness but it is irrational. People who have mental health issues can exhibit challenging behaviour, can be difficult to deal with and if you have no experience or knowledge of mental health then I imagine it’s easy to develop the attitude of ‘Oh just get on with it’, especially if you are dealing with trauma in your life and coping. It would be hard to comprehend.

As much as I’m passionate about mental health I could still see his points, I put myself in his shoes and imagined that perhaps you would look at everything going on in the world, and question it. I mean, what on earth have you got to be sad about? All I could do in this situation is counteract his ignorance with facts and my own experiences, in the hope he would come around one day. There’s no point in blocking out all of the people who don’t understand because in my eyes that’s counterproductive. It’s not so much the people who understand we need to reach out to, it’s also important to reach out to the people who don’t, even if they are rude.

As this Facebook debate ensued I took comfort in the knowledge that others came to my defence. I realised at that point, that his views are thankfully very few and far between, and there is actually lots of support out there within our community. It was the first time, in anger, that I mentioned the word psychosis on my personal Facebook page. I spent the entire night anxious because I had written it, and I didn’t even go into much detail. I kept wondering what people were thinking. Oh bloody hell, she’s a right nutter. I shouldn’t have done that, I shouldn’t have done that – those thoughts played on my mind the entire night.

Then last night I read Hattie’s tweet.

I decided, that I would be doing myself and others an injustice if I wasn’t honest. I saw Hattie’s story, and I identified with it. If I share mine, then maybe other people will think ‘I’m not alone’, and that in itself makes it worth a shot. So whilst my story is at times, embarrassing, it’s important that I know my behaviour is a result of a real illness that I cannot control without medication. So here it is, my first hand account of mental health services in Wales.

NB – Before you read this and think it’s an attack on health professionals, it’s really not. The NHS and the people who work for it are stretched, underpaid, and often undervalued. These frustrations are shared by mental health workers, who I know wish they could do more. Aside from a few, the majority of professionals I’ve worked with have been incredible. Those people are absolute angels, and they save lives everyday and I don’t want this post to deflect from that.

I’ve suffered with my mental health for as long as I can remember, but the first time it became problematic I was just 11 years old. It was really hard for me to get a diagnosis at that point for two reasons;

  • I was at an age when hormones are naturally all over the place. I had already started my periods, and young girls that experience a wide range of emotions can sometimes have it dismissed as puberty.
  • There was a lot of instability in my life, a lot of problems at home and with my family. Mental health can be biological but it can also be circumstantial (the latter is just as valid may I add) so for a long time my problems were put down to my environment.

At the age of 11 I had started to self harm, and had thought about, and acted upon suicide. I went to various counselling sessions but they always had the focus on my family and environment and no one really questioned that it could be anything to do with my mental health. Between the ages of 11-17 I self harmed on and off, usually cutting at my arms and legs with a razor or broken glass, but sometimes I would scratch at my face and chest during episodes, and bang my head repeatedly with the aim of hurting myself as much as I possibly could.

My reasoning for this was when I had physical pain to focus on, it would briefly give me a release from the pain in my mind. I wasn’t doing it to end my life, that’s where people got it twisted. When some of my friends found out in high school they accused me of attention seeking, but it wasn’t a suicide attempt, it was my way of coping.

From then until now I had a lot of trauma in my personal life, which didn’t help the situation but I always felt there was something more. The patterns in my moods were not mirroring the events in my life, sometimes I would experience trauma but be happy (manic) and dismissive, and insistent there was nothing wrong. I strongly believe that if I had the ‘perfect’ upbringing, it wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference but unfortunately I had to go through hard times that made my illness even harder to deal with.

I’m not giving a sob story by the way, I know people who have weathered greater storms and have coped perfectly, and hats off to them, if people find ways to cope that’s great, but I wasn’t one of those people. The last time that I seriously self harmed I was 17. I was having an argument with my then boyfriend which resulted in police being called. I locked myself in the bathroom and started to cut down my arms. Later on in the night I went to town with friends, but I ended up breaking down in the middle of the pub. Like full on crying like a baby, in public.

I was taken to Whitchurch hospital that night for an assessment. That night I opened up to the doctor in ways I had never done before. They promised me I would get help. Six months later with not a word from them I received a letter offering me counselling. As my moods were rapid cycling, intervention often had to happen at the point of crisis. By the time I received the letter I had already convinced myself, I didn’t need to go. That was the first of the many times I was failed over the years. Waiting lists of six months or more for proper, lasting treatment, was more common than I had ever realised. I wasn’t the only one waiting.

A year later I had my first child, and my mental health declined again, this time it was post natal depression, but in fear of having my baby taken away I suffered in silence. I remember one time walking back to my flat from my mums and thinking how easy it would be to push myself and the pram in front of a bus. I can already hear the outrage from the lucky ones, ‘ anyone who considers harming a baby is sick’ Well yes, you’re quite right – they are sick, and they can also be cured. Post partum psychosis is terrifying, and the mums who have gone through it are absolute warriors that love their kids no less than anyone else. What I didn’t know is that I was more likely to develop it as I had suffered with depression before but at the time I wasn’t aware of this, I just thought I was an awful mum.

Please note, I’m only talking about the pivotal moments I can remember but this has pretty much been the basis of my life on and off over the years. A lot of my experiences I will have to write about separately, as I feel I’m skimming over some important issues.

Life continued with bouts of depression followed by mania, a huge crash due to the stupid arse decisions often made in mania, followed by depression, and so that was my life for a long time. By the time I had my third child I was not prepared to put my mental health on the back burner. I explained my history to the midwife (who was shit and told me that Bipolar was problematic & maybe I don’t have it – you know because apparently everyone’s a mental health expert) and luckily I was referred to a specialist midwife, and got on board with the perinatal mental health team. During my pregnancy I had real reservations of taking tablets, I used to be team anti tablet up until fairly recently so it took a while for me to accept and it was only when I ideated suicide whilst pregnant that I accepted the risks of tablets were far less greater than the risk of harm to myself. This particular time I went awol. I can’t remember much, apart from the fact it was raining, I was in my pyjamas, I was six months pregnant and I sat next to the river taff for hours contemplating ending it whilst my family frantically searched for me. From then on, I have had the best intention to take my tablets, although I’m still convinced I’m not on the right ones.

Everything since that moment was a blur, I feel like I’ve been living in the twilight zone, existing but not living. Going through the motions of day to day life with little to no enjoyment apart from my kids. The peri natal team were alright, but by this point I had been involved with them since pregnancy, and Max was almost 6 months and nothing seem to progress. Everything seemed slow, and by then I had other problems that had stemmed from my illness (Debt, mainly) and I needed more practical interventions that I was offered a little too late. When it came to breaking point, it seemed to me like they had their hands tied with what they could do, so I just felt stuck in limbo. Then a doctor on there team said a throwaway comment whilst on a home visit that put me off seeing them, followed by an appointment with no prior notice which I missed, the fact I had no phone because of my financial situation – all this contributed to them ultimately signing me off from their service (even though they were fully aware how complex my situation was, and in my opinion disengagement should be something that’s anticipated with their service users.)

It was really unfortunate that whilst they withdrew the support I experienced a terrifying episode of psychosis. It all started whilst out shopping on Black Friday. I woke up as normal albeit a bit wobbly in my mood, but nothing to suggest today would be different from any other day. I went to buy an outfit for a night out I had planned so I headed to TK Maxx in Culver.

All I remember is being in the shop and starting to panic, my hands started to sweat, my thoughts began to race and I started to think people were after me. I drove over to M&S to try and connect my phone to some wifi so I could contact someone, all the while experiencing the most horrible thoughts and feelings that made me feel scared of myself.

Through tears I looked down at the little baby who relied on me so much, what am I doing? I can’t do this anymore. My kids deserve better. I drove straight down the my GP surgery, broke down in reception and pleaded someone to take my baby. I was a total mess. The GP responded as well as they could have given the situation. I was seen pretty much straight away, although not offered a room to wait in so my breakdown was witnessed by other patients. I heard a little boy say to his mum ‘Mummy why is that lady crying?’

Whilst sat with the GP I listened as he frantically tried to reach the right department to help me. He made various phone calls, being passed from pillar to post whilst trying to find someone who was willing to see me. He didn’t have to say anything, his expressions said it all. He was just as frustrated as I was. Eventually I was referred to the Pendine, the community mental health service. I was told to make my way there, and so I did baby in tow. I got there, and there was more waiting. I was assessed for around 20 minutes. More waiting. Me and Max waited in rooms the day for hours, I was lucky I still breastfed so at least he was able to eat.

I was then referred to Hafan Y Coed, which is a fancy new building dedicated solely to mental health. They let me drive there, knowing my state of mind, knowing I had my child with me. This hospital was on the other side of Cardiff, it wasn’t around the corner. I don’t know how but I arrived at the hospital in one piece. Still frantic, I could find nowhere to park and so parked illegally outside and put on my hazards.

More waiting,

More uncertainty,

No answers.

The same process, I was assessed for around 20 minutes, and sent on my merry way. The only silver lining being I was now under the care of the crisis team. And so, the next few days I had the most wonderful people visiting me daily, helping me access my meds, I had a medical review with a doctor, they even bought me a phone with £5 credit so I had means of reaching out if I needed too. All of this was appreciated, like I said, staff are angels doing their best under shitty circumstances.

But unfortunately I was still rapid cycling, so it was hard to determine if I had got better or not. I think around a week later I reached breaking point again, I rang the crisis team and told them I couldn’t go on anymore. This time I was picked up by the police. Who even said to me they step in for the ambulance service as I would be waiting hours. The police were amazing, but it was still embarrassing having to get into a riot van outside my home in sight of neighbours, frantic, crying and feeling like a criminal.

I waited four hours in a room with a support worker for another 20 minute assessment. I felt helpless, I felt angry, I felt ashamed. I was told to wait in reception, to which I objected. I asked if I could wait in a private room as I knew from previous experience that the reception could be busy, and I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to sit in a room of strangers.

They insisted I did. As I walked around the corner to reception a festive book sale was taking place. I took a glimpse of the cheery people with their Christmas attire and I freaked out. I fell to the floor in a heap, sobbing. Staff walked past (from different departments) without a word, in guessing that it’s part of the job seeing people in that state so not much of a shocker. Eventually a lovely lady working in the ECT department helped me. I explained why I didn’t want to go into reception. At this point I could hear my taxi driver concerned about taking me home (he had heard me screaming and sobbing) as soon as I knew I had a method to escape and leave, I ran through to reception and insisted everything was fine (it clearly wasn’t) so I could just get home to my family. So they sent me on my way in the taxi. The most awkward journey ever, poor driver. I heard nothing from the crisis team, or anyone, until 2pm the next day, for all the know I could have been dead.

This is just a snippet. A glimpse. A flash of the lightning that has been striking my life since I was 11 years old, and people wonder why am so frustrated? Why I get so angry? This is real for so many people but the nature of mental illness prevents people from speaking out. Because they are too ashamed. I’m done with being ashamed. People are dying, people are suffering and unless change starts to happen at government level, it’s only going to get worse.

There should be a dedicated mental health expert working out of GP surgeries to take pressure off doctors, processes should be smooth, waiting lists of six months need to be a thing of the past, but it all comes to one thing – funding. Which is why I’m making it my mission to fight tooth and nail to change policy and bring about changes for the better. It’s not going to happen overnight, but stories like Hattie’s, and stories like mine will hopefully encourage people to make the changes needed to make service work better for us.

Thank you for reading.

Writers block

I’m really struggling to write anything decent lately. I have zero inspiration and it’s starting to agitate me. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to write amazing things though. I need to remember what blogging is about and try not to get lost in the blogging hype on social media.

So, with this in mind. I’m going to keep writing, even if what I write is complete and utter garbage. Writing gives me focus, and I need to remember that’s the most important thing. I don’t need to write something prize worthy as long I get something down!

Congratulations, you’ve survived another year!

With our waistlines slightly fuller and our wallets less so, we’re now approaching the twilight zone between Christmas and new year where we struggle to recall what day it actually is. The festivities are in half swing, but the leftovers are still edible and there are toys that still need assembling. There are gifts still yet to be given and parties still to attend, but perhaps the biggest party is the one we’re all waiting for, the end of year party, good old New Years Eve.

Ah, news year eve! The night where a large proportion of the population will get dressed up to the nines, only to be crammed into a sweaty club and pay way over the odds for the privilege, probably ending the night shivering their tits off standing in a taxi queue.

Not all of us though, some of us will be choosing the safer option of a house party, some of us will be snuggled up on the sofa with our families, and some of us will be working. This year, if our childcare arrangements allow, me and Ross are going on a little road trip. Nowhere fancy, just somewhere in West Wales. We’re going to jump in the van, bring a few bottles along and park up somewhere with a decent view of the fireworks, and that’s fine by me.

In fact I honestly wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to celebrate New Year, but as I get older I just want to celebrate it, in my own way. I was once part of the majority that saw the occasion as nothing more than an excuse for a piss up, but a new year drawing in actually really means something to me now.

This time last year, I had three months left before my baby boy was born. I remember driving up to Bristol so my boyfriend could pick up his van from a garage. At this point in our relationship things were awful. My mental health went rapidly downhill whilst I was pregnant, it was meant to be the happiest time of my life but it was far from it. I remember sitting in the car watching him unload his work and suddenly bursting into tears. When he asked me why I was crying I said, ‘Because, I’m alive’.

In the past I had always been such a busy person, very independent and very headstrong, but now come to think of it, I was also oblivious to a lot that was going on around me. I was only weeks into a new job when I found out I was expecting, I was also halfway through the 2nd year of my degree. I was so sick carrying this baby, both physically and mentally, and as the weeks progressed I was forced to give up both work, and university for my health’s sake. So let’s just say I had a lot more time on my hands, a lot less to occupy me and with that came some harsh revelations about my relationship. Towards the end of my pregnancy I had to make a decision, whether I was going to fight for us or let it go.

The year that followed was a blur. All my days seemed to roll into one long nightmare that didn’t want to end. I was blessed with the most beautiful, precious and against all odds, healthy baby boy. I was luckier than a lot of people but unfortunately depression doesn’t give a shit about gratitude. You can have so much to be thankful for and still believe in your head that life is the worst possible option. I turned into a completely different person. Anger consumed me to an unhealthy level and turned me into the most vicious, vile person you could imagine.

I remember one occasion a woman accused me of hitting her car with my car door. Well, let’s just say she wasn’t expecting the onslaught of insults and screaming I threw her way. And not because I’m an arsehole, although I did act like one, but because I was at breaking point, and all it took was one wrong look, one comment, for me to explode. The only love I believed in was the love I had from my children, and if it wasn’t for them, if it wasn’t for Max relying on me so much – it might have been a different story, or rather I might not have been telling this one right now.

I’ve suffered on and off with my mental health over the years but this was probably one of the most challenging, deepest and darkest bouts of depression I’d ever experienced. I actually don’t remember a lot about 2017, the person I was died and a right miserable bitch had been resurrected. In fact the only pivotal moments I remember truly experiencing were that of life and death, the birth of my son and the death of my nan. Everything else in between was a blur.

There was a point during that time that I truly believed nothing would ever get better. I promised myself I wouldn’t love again, I promised myself I wouldn’t trust again and I built a wall around my emotions that Trump would be proud of. Break ups aren’t easy no matter the circumstance but break ups with a new born baby in the mix tend to be a bit trickier. From the moment Max was born, Ross was overwhelmed with love and pride, you couldn’t shut him up about Max and how much he loved him. The way he looked at me from that moment was completely different, it was just a shame the way I looked at him was also different, but not because of the joy of childbirth.

Since that day he has fought, and since that day I have pushed and pushed, but as much as we tried to sabotage the scraps of relationship we had left, we eventually realised that we’re stuck with each other. We’re stuck with each other because we love each other, and some would argue that we don’t. I mean how can two people hurt one another so badly and call it love? That’s not love, that’s a joke surely? I used to think the same, I used to be super jealous of those power couples. You know the ones, everyone knows a pair like it. They’ve been together since they were teenagers, they have never been with anyone else, no drama in their relationship, no cheating and no lies. Or so we choose to believe.

I used to believe that unless I had a love like that, the love I received would never be as valid. But that’s bullshit. Love isn’t a one size fits all experience, and it’s not easy, but true love is not about perfection. Love is being pissed off he left the milk out but still hoping he gets home safe from work. Love is pushing each other to your absolute limits but still caring for each other regardless. Love comes in all different shapes, sizes and scenarios, but it comes without a script. It’s fine to go through the milestones you know, engagement followed by marriage, followed by kids and maybe a mortgage. But you know what is also fine? loving (and living) in a way that the world doesn’t pressure you into. The messy love, the love that doesn’t fit, and the love that you’ve had to fight for is the love worth having.

So as we approach this new year I can luckily say, I feel in a much better place than before. Don’t get me wrong me and Ross still argue and our relationship is far from perfect. As I’m writing this we’ve had a row, the only thing getting us to talk to each other again being the fact Max did a huge poo all over his leg and he needed me to grab the wet wipes. Glamorous I know…

But that’s the thing, I’m not glamorous, and neither is my life. I don’t need a big fancy party or exciting plans to enable me to look forward to the next 12 months. The most important thing for me is, that I survived. My relationship, eventually, survived. I’m alive, I’m breathing and everything since that experience has become more beautiful than ever.

Now that depression has loosened its grip, I am able to look at what I have around me and be thankful for it. Three insanely beautiful and bright children, a boyfriend who loves me albeit he might not show it conventionally and friends that have stuck by my side when I really haven’t deserved it. I’m luckier than most.

The only thing left to do now is make my New Years resolutions. Previous years I’ve vowed to drink more water and eat more healthily, you know the usual boring nonsense we believe we need to promise ourself for a fulfilling life. This year is different though. I don’t want to promise myself anything trivial, I don’t want to set myself up for failure like I usually do year upon year. I want more from life.

It got me thinking, what is a resolution? What does it even mean? I searched the definition of resolution in google and it came up with two answers. The first;

‘A firm decision to do or not do something’ and the second;

‘The quality of being determined, or resolute’.

I decided I preferred the latter definition, and so this year my only promise to myself is to be determined, in whatever I do. Determined to keep fighting, and living my imperfect life to the fullest. So, if you’re reading this congratulations!! You’ve survived another year on this bonkers planet and you’ve made it to 2018. Trust me when I say, that’s an achievement in itself, especially if, like me, you’ve had to fight to get this far.

So, whatever you’re doing when the clock strikes twelve and whatever you choose to do from that moment on, do it with determination. Do it because you want to, not because you think you should and don’t waste a single day of the next 365 you’ve been given.

Happy New Year Everyone – I hope it’s a good one.

With love, Laura xoxo

Failed and forgotten – The homeless community of Cardiff.

In the past I’ve talked about my city with great pride, and I am proud of it in many ways. I live in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. Post war immigration and our infamous docklands ensured that Cardiff was an ever evolving melting pot of culture and diversity. Millions of people travel to my city every year to sight see and shop, it’s the 9th largest city in the U.K and the 6th most prosperous city in the U.K (According to some report by Barclays).

So with this in mind, I really don’t understand how, whilst our city is growing and developing, the demographic of homeless people on our streets is rising, and rapidly. You don’t need any statistics to know it’s getting worse, you just need to live or work here and see it for yourself.

A few weeks ago, a 32 year old woman was found dead in the heart of the city centre, she was sleeping rough in a tent. Her name was Lindy.

Since then, the people of Cardiff have taken to the streets in protest to highlight the growing problem of homelessness in our city, and to stop the cruel treatment of those who live on our streets.

Luckily we have a wonderfully passionate community here, and grassroots initiatives such as Food not Bombs and The Coat Exchange, are just two examples of how compassionate Cardiff really is. But as heartwarming as it is, the support shouldn’t have to come from people giving up their time, it should be provided by our council. But things need to change at government level before any lasting change is made. We’ve got a long way to go.

So, in light of the cruel treatment of our homeless lately, I was inspired to write some poetry – here it is, a poem inspired by Lindy’s story and the many others across the country that continue to suffer. I’m not well enough to be pro-active and protest, so this is my small contribution to the cause.

Move along young man

Move along young man you can’t drink here,you’re far to near, to the new cocktail bar

Where people get drunk just like you, but you don’t get the offers of 3 for 2,

no happy hour, Instead you scour the floor for change, and maybe you will inject heroin in your veins.

But perhaps I would too, if it was minus 2, holes in my shoes, with nothing to lose but my body heat.

Move along young man you can’t stay here, the shoppers they fear, you. You’re putting people off their food.

Don’t you know it’s so rude, to ask for change? We have been asking the government for change for years, and they tell us the same.

Move along man you can’t sleep here, your far too near, to other human beings doing their sight seeing,

Move along young man, to the outskirts of the city, you’re not rich and you’re not pretty.

Move along young man didn’t you hear what I said?

Move along young man…

Sir, I think he’s dead.

Lindy’s story

https://m.youtube.com/watch?t=13s&v=O0eNRN3F_Bs