Lessons From Mental Hospital

Lessons From Mental Hospital

Hello lovelies! I hope you are feeling happy and content within yourself when you have stumbled upon this. I truly pray this doesn't come across as a cry for attention, pity or sympathy! I hope you may learn from what I have learned while I also hope this post helps to illuminate the unjust myths, defy the unfair stereotypes while also shut down the shame associated with mental illness. Perhaps writing this may help one soul out there and to me that would be worth all fears.

When I was seventeen I was admitted into St Patrick's adolescent unit in Dublin, I was an inpatient there for three months. I was then admitted to the eating disorder ward of St Patrick's hospital for adults, I was the youngest patient the hospital had ever had! I spent over four months there as an inpatient and a further three months travelling up and down as an outpatient, (click here to read my story). I could write essays upon essays on how drastically different psychiatric hospitals are to that of the stereotypes represented in horror movies, tv shows and social media but I hope you will trust me when I say that they really are not scary places; so many people, perhaps someone you know, will spend time away for help. Mental hospital saved my life! This is just a glimpse into my little experience over the past few years, an experience of which with every day on the twisty path to recovery is getting less painful and more beautiful! Everyone's story is different but also all too similar. This is what mental hospital has taught me.

'Don’t hide your hurt, beautiful soul. Grab a hold of it. Run it through the purifying flame of your heart and mold it into something beautiful. Allow the depths of your pain to expand the breadth of your compassion. Gather up your stumbling stones and build a bridge for someone else. Remember what it’s like to be lost in darkness so you can be someone else’s much needed light. Don’t deny your pain or bury it away. Let it rise to the surface. And then transform it into something that makes it worthwhile.'

Mental hospital taught me the true meaning of power. While the process of any form of treatment is the slow regaining of your true power and not that of your addiction or illness, in the beginning of treatment I felt so incredibly powerless. Nothing strips you of your human dignity more than being told that you aren't allowed to walk or that you have to put more than a milligram of porridge on your spoon at a time. The pain and shame that came with having a nurse hold your hand as you cried over more blood tests and the humiliation and confusion that came with having a flashlight pointed at you every half hour to check you are sleeping, is both degrading and humbling. Such moments of intense helplessness and a screaming suppressed ego helped me to analyse my true definition of power and dignity. I felt like a puppet, my strings controlled by psychiatrists, nurses and doctors. On reflection I can see that it was exactly what had to, and in some aspects still needs to, occur in my life. I now believe that true power is being able to control ones thoughts, emotions and actions. I believed I lost every ounce of power when I first began treatment, however I can realise now that I lost my true power a long long time before that; the very moment mental illness infested my mind. In order to learn how to gain true power, I believe we must start from scratch. Like a weed, in order to cleanse the soil, sometimes you have to dig up the whole garden, including the beautiful flowers. I used to believe that power was going three days without food and running until you collapsed. However, my true self also valued that power was freedom, self expression and choice. Yet, just like the weed, in order to cleanse the soul, sometimes you have to strip away all of your power including your core beliefs in order to rebuild your true healthy self. I am still understanding that true power is perhaps being able to admit that you feel powerless within certain aspects of your life. True power is opening up about your suffering and reaching out for help. 'The ultimate human freedom; the power to choose, to respond, to change'.

Kindness Is Everything
Mental hospital taught me about the transformative healing powers of compassion and kindness. 'Kindness what a simple way to tell another struggling soul that there is love to be found in this world'. A specific memory of true kindness and love will forever and ever be with me. I had a secret hiding place where I would go to escape. One evening I felt so upset and I rang my mom crying. I was two hundred miles from home, tormented by my thoughts, lonely, hopeless and truly felt no longer able to continue to fight; all I wanted was for someone to take me away from all of the pain and fear. A stranger appeared like a guardian angel, she squeezed my hand and held a tissue to my eyes and then disappeared. I have tears in my eyes just thinking of this moment, it may sound like a small gesture but her kindness and compassion saved me that night. She was suffering too, she was a patient with all of her own issues, scars and battles yet in that moment she chose to remind me of our common humanity, our united suffering. I wish I could tell this woman how much her care meant to and still means to me. Thank you.

Pain Is Connection  
Mental hospital taught me that there is no greater connector and soul bearer than pain. 'If I tell these private thoughts of mine, it is because I know they are not mine alone, and that practically everyone is trying to say the same things and that the writer is only a man who says out loud what other people think or whisper.' Sitting down for dinner with the six other patients on the eating disorder ward taught me how pain transcends all genders, ages, ethnicities and people. We all had different stories, different backgrounds, different lives yet one thing connected each and every one of us; we were each in turmoil, we all used food and our bodies as a way of escaping our inner pain and we were all fighting really really hard. I now believe that suffering supersedes all outward projections and inner beliefs. When I found myself being held by a lady 30 years older than me as I cried because the nurse had poured my milk just slightly above the required line, I finally felt understood and accepted. She understood the thoughts, the pain and the irrationality of the eating disordered voices; she had the exact same monster in her mind telling her the exact same things. We were so different yet so exactly the same. We would later spend the next five months being each other's daily cheerleaders as we came across challenges like a horrific St Patrick's day dessert that only we will ever understand and still giggle about to this day heheh...(long story including screaming at nurses and disgusting green (?!?) cream). I learned that pain strips back all outer facades and reveals the true vulnerable, scared yet sacred soul beneath. Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, young or old...we all have pain and we all endure suffering. How refreshing and reassuring to know that you are not alone.

Vulnerability Is Courage
Mental hospital taught me that you have to open your hands if you want to be held. We all just want to feel connection, acceptance and love but how can we let someone touch our heart if we have built up impermeable walls around it? Vulnerability is terrifying, allowing ourselves to be seen as our true messy and unique selves is scary. Even finding the willingness to say 'I love you' first without any guarantee of a return is terrifying, however, such vulnerability is the only key that unlocks the gate to pure love and heavenly happiness. 'What happens when we open our hearts? We get better.'

Mental Monsters
Mental hospital taught me that mental monsters are real. Perhaps the greatest crux of all mental illness' is the resolute belief in the sufferer that there is no illness at all, that we are all perfectly ok. I don't think I ever believed I would write this but...I escaped from a mental hospital heheh. It sounds like something you would see on an advert for a horror movie...it's true but not as dramatic as it sounds I promise! This incident helped me to somewhat understand and believe the seriousness of this illness. During my second admission I wasn't allowed to leave the ward without a wheelchair in the beginning. On my second night I felt so guilty, I needed to walk, I had to burn calories and so I ran for the hills. I bundled up in layers of jackets, covered my face and sneaked past the nursing station. I crept through the winding corridors and ran out the gates into the freezing February evening. I kept going and going until my rational mind decided to finally kick in and I realised just how much trouble I was going to get myself into as well as the risk I was putting my body at. This moment helped awaken me to the sheer power and threat of the monsters in our minds! The illness didn't care that my biggest values in life are kindness and honesty; it made me hide crusts up my sleeves, scrape custard under my nails and scream at poor dieticians who were only trying to help me. Mental hospital proved to teach me that mental monsters are not quirks or ways of being; they are infectious vicious weeds that will poison and contaminate each and every part of you, willing to do anything to survive and hold you under their thumb.

Simple Is Sweet
Mental hospital taught me how to truly love and appreciate the simple things in life. No gift, holiday or amount of money could measure up to the joy of waiting by the window and finally seeing your parents driving in the hospital gates on a Friday night or a message from a friend asking how you are doing or feeling the wind brushing through your hair after not being allowed to leave your ward for so long or snuggling up in bed reading your favourite book or watching the cherry trees coming into full bloom in Spring. I learned that these are the true jewels in life. There is beauty in simplicity. Today please try to appreciate the small treasures that surround you. 'The earth has music for those who listen'.

You Are Transforming
Mental hospital taught me that to suffer is to grow, to unfold, to bloom. 'Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a beautiful butterfly'. When you alter your perspective, suffering can be viewed as a beautiful transformation, a form of metamorphism. I learned more about myself as a human being during my time in hospital than I have ever at any time before. I learned that I can be strong, I can endure pain and I can survive a lot more than I ever thought; and so can you, it's our fearful minds that make us believe we can not! 'Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape.'

It's Up To You
Mental hospital taught me that nobody can save you from your pain, it's up to you. I learned this after being discharged from the adolescent ward; my favourite nurse held my hand as she said she was sorry for not being able to help me enough. She could see through the facades of fake happiness and knew I was falling hard and fast down the dark hole of relapse weeks before I had even left. Six months later when I met her on the corridors of the adult hospital she hugged me and kissed words upon my soul that were simultaneously earth shattering and liberating; 'You didn't choose to get this illness, but unfortunately and also fortunately Lauren, you are the only person who can choose to fight it and get better...it is all ultimately up to you'. 

'Pain is a sudden hurt that can't be escaped. But then I have also learned that because of pain, I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing. Pain feels like a fast stab wound to the heart. But then healing feels like the wind against your face when you are spreading your wings and flying through the air! We may not have wings growing out of our backs, but healing is the closest thing that will give us that wind against our faces.'

If you are suffering from any pain, please reach out for help. You do not deserve this pain and your suffering should not be in silence. It's ok not to be ok but it is absolutely NOT ok to do nothing about it. As a species, us humans are not doing too ok and that is ok! If we were we wouldn't have overflowing psychiatric hospitals, countless therapy centres and numerous mental health campaigns. Your feelings are valid but that doesn't mean they are true and deserving of inflicting pain. If you or anyone you know is in pain, scared, suffering, lonely, sad, angry, addicted or hurting please please please do not suffer in silence. Reach out for help, talk to someone. 

I hope this post may have helped open your mind and lift your heart. Please leave any suggestions or questions below or anonymously in the 'ASK' section of my blog. Click here to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on new blog posts. Thank you so much for reading!

 lots of love & peace & happiness
Lauren x

Self Care

'Self care is giving the world the best of you instead of what's left of you.'

Self care is defined as any activity that we engage in to protect and nurture our physical, mental and spiritual selves. The idea of self care can be tricky to accept..why should we give to ourselves when there are so many things that we should be giving to and helping instead?! I, with you, am trying to learn every day that self care isn't selfish, it is rather in fact a critical necessity to our basic modern day survival. In order to give to others, we must first fill our cups so we can pour. 'When you take time to replenish your your spirit it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.' 

Below are some of my ideas on how you can self care and tips on how you can create your own self care routine.

Back To Basics
A common myth surrounding self care is that in order to be caring towards ourselves we must have a bubble bath with candles and roses while listening to Bon Iver. While that sounds so beautiful, self care can actually be very simple yet extremely worthwhile and effective. During my time in hospital I recognised one recurring piece of advice that was driven into each and every patient no matter what their diagnosis, and that was the importance of carrying out ones routine necessities. When someone is down or sick, one's very basic needs can be neglected and the thought of catering to them can seem really hard. There are some activities unique to each and everyone of us that we need to undertake every single day, week or month in order to lay the basic foundations of which we can fully function and thrive. Tending to your basic requirements often and regularly can do such magic for your self love and mindset. Have you ever felt just horrible within yourself to realise that you haven't drank a glass of water all day? Or perhaps you may feel really disorientated and confused to only then recognise that you haven't cleaned your living environment in a week? When you ensure that your basic human needs, specific to the unique lovely being that you are, are met you may just be able to proactively prevent future sadnesses and lows. I would suggest getting a sheet of paper and dividing it into three columns. In the first column write out what you need to do every day in order to ensure you are granting yourself the opportunity to live your optimum life; it could be to have a shower, brush your teeth, feed yourself regularly, make your bed etc. On the second column think about what traditions you need to carry out each and every week; perhaps it is to go grocery shopping, attend your appointments, take out the bins etc. Use your last column for monthly requirements that you believe will benefit your basic existence; maybe you need to ensure you get your health monitored or deep clean your house each month. It may feel silly at first to write out such seemingly simple activities but you would be astounded at how our own minds can trick us into avoiding such practices and thus make us suffer due to their lack. I found a gorgeous self care planner here on Etsy that may help you towards creating and organising your specific requirements.

When I think of self care I imagine solitude and confinement which at times is so well needed and lovely, especially if you're an introvert like me lol! However, we are a human species and we need connection. Many studies have proven the benefits and human requirements of love, affection, companionship and friendship. My beautiful boyfriend always reminds me that 'no man is an island', we can't enjoy nor survive this journey called life alone! Real human connection is such an important aspect of self care so try your best to mingle at musters a few times a week; meet up with your best friend for a coffee, pop over to your neighbours for some sugar and a catch-up or plan a school reunion! Of course while social media is so amazing for staying in touch with those we love and adore, it is important for us all to remember that we are a species that need real physical human unity. Did you know that the physical act and connection of hugging someone for at least seventeen seconds releases special endorphins in our bodies? Snapchat selfies can't do that sadly so if you live far far away or don't get to see those you love often please try and connect somehow. Join a new club or perhaps instead of taking your coffee to go, sit down and relish in the human spirits surrounding you!

Go Natural
Nature boosts happiness levels, aids creativity, reduces stress, eases anxiety, boosts concentration and performs a million more miracles. Many believe that nature is intrinsically connected with the rhythm of our bodies, spirits and minds. A breath of fresh dewy morning air, a splash of cold ocean water, a prickle of a sharp rose thorn and a gaze at the evening's sunset remind us what it is like to be rawly and truly alive. Every little problem seems so small and insignificant when we look up at the sparkling night sky. Through organic natural self care we can feel both humble and content while also treating each of our senses to the earth's delights.
Treat Yo' Self
Did you know that under government law, the most reasonable and basic standard of living is one that meets not only your physical, psychological and social needs but is also one that meets your leisurely recreational needs too?! That basically means we kind of have to treat ourselves or else we're denying our rights and that just wouldn't be fair heheh! Seriously though, you deserve to really splurge on yourself every once in a while to truly take care of yourself. You deserve to buy those really nice pair of shoes and you deserve to have a few drinks with your friends and you deserve to get your hair done. If you can't be kind to yourself who can you be kind to? 

'Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light'. There are much darker things than work, study, labour and chores but perhaps they may be the most gratifying part of a self care system. You may hate spending hours completing maths homework, walking home in the winter hail showers and getting up at 6 am for your morning commute but yet you still do it...because each of us loves the light that comes after such darkness. That first sip of tea after a hard day at school, that moment your head hits the pillow after hours of never ending travel, that sparkling clean floor after hours of scrubbing...they all make any agony and pain worth it! In terms of self care, perhaps if you incorporated one thing you absolutely hate to do into your routine, you may just transform into a happier more wholesome being. 'Eat the morning frog', a famous idiom commonly used by motivational speakers today, meaning to make the very thing you least want to do, the first thing you do each day. I promise it will reward you with pride, gratification, motivation and a productive self care routine!

Be Childish
'By staying open minded and listening to the needs and desires of your inner child, you open yourself up to the possibilities of anything and everything.' Would you deny a little baby the right to play, rest, cry, eat or sleep? Why are you denying your inner self that? Many philosophers believe that we hold within us our young soul and continue to harbour its desires, beliefs and responses. When creating your self care routine imagine a small child and think of all of the things that that little boy or girl deserves and needs. Just because you may be an adult doesn't mean you should not be allowed to play and rest and maybe even throw tantrums every once in a while! We are so hard on ourselves to be busy, as a society we have almost come to measure one's self worth based on their levels of productivity and hence we are running ourselves too thin and burning out. It's difficult but we really must try to allow ourselves to be human and listen to our inner child's needs. Run if you want to run and colour if you want to colour.  You many not be able to paint like Van Gogh but oh my gosh if swirling colours fills your heart with love then I beg you to listen to that little child within and give to it what it wants and needs. 

With every act of self care your authentic self gets stronger, and the fearful, critical mind gets weaker. Every act of self care is a powerful declaration: I am on my side. I am on my side, each day I am more and more on my own side.

Do you have a self care routine? What do you like to do to care for your beautiful self? Feel free to let me know in the comments below or anonymously in the ASK section of my blog (it makes my day getting such kind lovely messages from you, it means the world that these posts are helping people). I hope this post has helped you to understand the importance of caring for yourself while filling you with inspiration of how to too!
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on new blog posts. 
I hope you enjoyed!
lots of love & peace & happiness
Lauren x

Compare To Despair

Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy

Hello my lovelies! I'm sorry it has been so so long. I hope you understand but sitting the leaving cert and life in general has made writing and finding free time very difficult. Luckily the stress of exams are all over now and I am so excited to get back into writing, creating and hopefully helping others as much as this outlet honestly helps me! Today's post is all about comparison; something of which people of all ages, ethnicities and genders sadly feel burdened by. Comparison is the thief of joy but how can we stop ourselves from destroying our happiness and inner peace of mind?

Here are my top tips on overcoming the comparison complex.

Your uniqueness is your magic.

The Big Picture
'Stop comparing your behind the scenes to everyone else's highlight reels'. I woke up this morning and spent the first fifteen minutes scrolling through Instagram. Within seconds I found myself negatively comparing my body, face, personality, skin, clothes, hair and life in general to boomerangs of cocktails on the beach and perfect pictures of midnight summer swims. My life suddenly seemed so boring, dull and pointless compared to everyone else's! It took me a moment to remember that they are just snapshots, tiny glimpses into a full 24 hours of a person's life. When ever I find myself negatively comparing myself to photos and videos I see online I always think back to a memory I have of a party a few years ago. I remember so many people were there, the very people of whom I would spend my Saturday night's replaying their snapchat stories and wallowing over my perceived pathetic life; where everyone else would be having so much fun living the teenage dream yet there was little me wrapped up with envy and self-pity.  At this party I saw something happen that still replays in my mind over and over as proof that sometimes we don't always get to see the truth! I watched someone ask their friends to do something funny for a snapchat story while they then proceeded to sit back down in the corner editing and captioning it to look like they were having a good time. That person stayed in the corner for almost the whole night and didn't look like they were enjoying themselves, however the next morning when I scrolled through my stories and watched that exact clip, it appeared that they were having the time of their lives! Even I know I am guilty of this, we all are at times yet we still forget to apply that knowledge when we are viewing others. Sometimes what we see isn't always true or accurate. When we zoom out and adjust our focus we realise that sometimes our vision is skewed. We may be comparing ourselves to a false reality thus creating unrealistic and untrue standards of which we feel we must live up to. If we all try to readjust the focus, alter the brightness and zoom out to see a bigger, beautifully truer picture we may just be able to be ok and happy with who we are and what we have.

Keep On Keepin' On
Can't find yourself escaping the comparison trap? What if it's ok to compare but to instead use those comparisons to build us up instead of tear us down? I don't know if this will make sense to everyone and maybe it still is not the best thing to do but I believe it may help us to transcend from the darkness into the light. They're faster than you? Wow what a good motivator to work on your running times. They're unable to pay their rent? Perhaps you could use your superior living conditions to give to those in need! They're able to travel around Europe while you're at home? Why isn't that such an inspiration to save your money! You get the drift. Of course this technique can not and should not be applied to all situations. They're prettier than me, they're skinnier than me, they're lovelier than me...I'll just *something that is really bad for you* then I will finally be like them. I promise you it doesn't work, I've tried it and still sadly find myself doing unkind things to myself everyday in the hope that I'll finally feel enough. It doesn't work. It begins from within not from doing without. 

All Or Nothing
'If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back'. How many times have you found yourself saying 'I wish I could be them/I wish I had their life'? I absolutely and truly believe if you were suddenly now that person you would do anything to be yourself again. Often when we compare ourselves to others, we pick and choose what we want to contrast. We want her hair, his eyes, that person's skin, another person's fortune...the list goes on. We can't cherry pick what we desire from another. If you feel the need to compare yourself to someone, compare everything not just one tiny thing. Perhaps you believe that one person may be societally prettier than you, but are they you? Are they as kind as you? Do they have a family? Can they be completely engulfed by their passions? Are they happy? There will always be someone who is better while simultaneously worse than you when considering all aspects. We are all just doing our best towards creating a happy, loving, fulfilling life. We are all one, neither less than nor above another.

Create V Compete
'You are obligated to understand that you are unique in the world. There has never been anyone like you because, of there were, there would be no need for you to exist. You are an utterly new thing in creation. Your life goal is to realize this uniqueness.' Each human is so unique, different, valuable and undoubtedly impossible to truly compare and contrast. It can be hard for us to really believe this. When we adjust our efforts towards creating instead of comparing, we can recognise that it is very hard to compare anything we ourselves uniquely create. I really love this blog as it is my own. I love writing, photographing and editing this to create a work that is a perfectly uniquely mine. It is perhaps the one thing in my life that I don't use to measure my worth against others as it my creation and expression. Every word, photo and idea is unique to me therefor I have never found or felt the desire to compare it with anyone or anything else simply because there is nothing to compare it to. What is uniquely yours, your purpose, your creation? Perhaps you like to cook your own meals, maybe you like to sing your own songs or possibly you may even paint your own sunsets. There are so many creations just waiting for you to conceive and craft. (I would highly recommend reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert if you are embarking on your creative journey). Through kindling the creative imaginative sparks in your heart, you may just grow to love and accept the beautiful, unique creation that you are.

Self Love
Is it really a peachy blogpost without mentioning self love?! Perhaps its lack is becoming the biggest heartache in our world today. I feel like a fraud when I write about self love and self acceptance. I truly believe that it is the way forward towards ending all pain and suffering yet I personally find it the hardest most difficult thing to comprehend and embrace. If we truly love and accept of ourselves, how could we ever possibly hurt ourselves and wish to be in another body or life? (I have written an in-depth post about self love here). Repeat after me, 'I am worthy. I am beautiful. I am whole. I am loveable. I am enough'. I hope you believe those words to be true for you because they are. You are not worthy of comparison, only true love, happiness and abundance!

Are you a victim of comparison? What do you do to realise your innate value and worth? Feel free to let me know in the comments below or anonymously in the ASK section of my blog (it makes my day getting such kind lovely messages from you, it means the world that these posts are helping people). I hope this post helps you to escape the comparison trap and realise that there was never anything to compare in the beginning!  
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on new blog posts. 
I hope you enjoyed!
lots of love & peace & happiness
Lauren x

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