Sunday, 14 May 2017

Mental Health + Relationships - with This Stuff Is Golden!


Every so often, I discover a blog that I fall in love with, and I wonder to myself, "How in the hell is this person not a household name?!" I genuinely feel this way about Lauren from This Stuff Is Golden. Her blog is one of the most beautifully written that I've ever seen, and I regularly find myself nodding along with her writing. If you're looking for a witty, honest and deeply personal blog that has a tagline we could all relate to - "Learning how to be the best kind of human" - then look no further. I kind of wish I could keep her blog to myself as my own hidden gem, but she deserves to be recognised for her unreal writing.

Lauren's blog feels like talking to your closest friends. The writing is so intimate and paints such a clear picture, that it has honestly helped me in my darker times to remember that I'm not alone. Lauren is so open and doesn't shy away from the absolute realities of living with mental illness; there are highs and lows, and she covers both beautifully. Her blog is actually a wonderful resource for anyone who might be trying to understand what a loved one is going through. I also really love Lauren's Instagram feed for the same reason - instead of the over-stylised feeds I often see, hers is a genuine and authentic representation of her life. If you have already fallen in love with her (and how could you possibly not have?!), go say hi to her on Twitter - she's bloomin' lovely!

Just a quick CW: while this is a wonderful interview that I hope you'll enjoy, please be aware there is some mention of suicidal ideation.


1. Introduce yourself! Tell us about your blog, tell us which post you're most proud of, and tell us about your mental health story!


I'm Lauren, and I am the owner of the blog This Stuff Is Golden. I struggle with depression, anxiety and body dysmorphic disorder. I mostly use my blog to try and express myself as well as connect with others - I try to be helpful in everything that I post! A mental health post that I'm particularly fond of is My History With Mental Illness - it was one of those blog posts that poured out of me one afternoon, and I think it resonated with those that read it.

2. Have you discussed your MH with your loved ones? If yes, how did you start that conversation, and if not, why not?


I remember the first time I told my SO about my suicidal thoughts - I was a little drunk (so a little more confident) and we talked for a while, crying together. Since then, my SO has been there for me whenever my mental illness is poor - he will lay beside me in bed when the bed feels like my only safe place, I can cry on his shoulder. He's the person I go to when I need support.

3. How have those closest to you reacted? Any particularly positive or negative feedback?


Sometimes it is hard to talk to even those who are close to you about mental illness. I actually recently posted a blog post about Opening Up About Mental Illness, which describes how I spent one evening telling some of my family members about my depression and suicidal thoughts. Most of the time, people have the best of intentions and just want to help - unfortunately though, without that empathy/understanding of mental illness, sometimes they can say the wrong thing. Even something as innocent as "just try thinking good thoughts" can make you regret telling them there was anything wrong in the first place.

4. How has your mental health affected your relationships (whether with a partner, friends, family)?


With my SO, it's been very tough at times but has probably made our bond stronger. With family, as I discussed above, it has been a mix of bad and good. With friends, I only really talk about it to those I know have been through something similar - I don't even bother opening up to those who haven't because in a way I know that they won't really understand. It's a shame really. 

5. In the reverse, how have your relationships affected your mental health?


In a way, my relationship with my SO has enabled me to really address my problems. My depression was triggered just before I met him, when I found out that I was a victim of revenge porn. I had carried on with life as normal - busy with work and a social life. I thought I was okay, but then slowly realised that I was drinking a lot more (and alone), and thinking about driving my car off the road when I was commuting to and from work. When I met my SO, I wasn't even thinking about a relationship - but I knew I had found a good'un and we became serious quite quickly. As he is a kind and compassionate person, I was able to finally express how I was feeling without fear of judgement.

6. Is your mental health something you actively talk about with your loved ones, or do you prefer not to discuss it? Are there any pros or cons to your approach?


As mentioned, I do talk about it as often as I can with my SO. I know that talking (and crying about it) does actually help me feel some relief from my thoughts, so I try my best to open up as much as I can. It is still hard to do though, especially when negative thoughts have been swimming in my head for hours. I also talk to my brother sometimes, as he knows what it's like, as well as my best friend, though I find that hard if we are not face to face. 

7. Is there anything you wish you could tell those closest to you or wish that they understood? What is stopping you from telling them?


I wish that my mum and older brother could understand what it feels like to want to kill yourself. I would never wish depression on them, obviously, but I wish they could realise that thinking positively isn't going to stop my depression. I wish they could understand recovery from mental illness.

8. What advice would you give to people who want to tell their loved ones about their mental health?


Be as open as you can be. And if the person you have decided to talk to isn't being as empathetic or understanding as you need them to be, then try to find somebody who is. It's really important to have that support in your life, even if that person is a Twitter friend.

9. What advice would you give non-sufferers who want to support their loved ones with their MH?


Listen. Don't offer advice, just listen and comfort that person. Look up mental health charities and read their advice and tips for family members/loved ones. 

10. Are there any support systems (other than loved ones) you use that you'd recommend for those who may need them?


One support system that took me by surprise was the blogging community! The amount of mental health advocates and just truly supportive people on there is wonderful - really helps to know that there is somebody out there who you can have a chat with.

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I'm not sure I've ever related to someone as much as when Lauren said she wishes she could explain suicidal thoughts to her family. It is definitely a situation where, unless you've experienced it, it's really hard to understand. I think it's a good thing, of course, that people want to help, but this emphasis on providing a solution immediately is not the way to do it. 

I think it must be hard for loved ones - if you told them you were physically hurt, they more than likely have a simple solution: "get a plaster/see your doctor/go to A&E". The majority of these interviews I've done have said the same thing - other people just don't get it when it comes to mental health. As a society, we not only need to improve access and availability to mental health services for those suffering, but we also need to work harder at teaching non-sufferers how they can help us. Lauren's tip of utilising services like MindSane, and the Samaritans in order to learn how to offer support is so helpful - you don't need to have all the answers!

As Lauren said, we need support systems. It's brilliant that Lauren met someone so supportive and understanding when she needed it the most, but unfortunately, that won't happen for everyone. If the people in your life aren't supporting you, aren't being respectful, or you are unable to talk to them, get online! As Lauren said, there's a massive community of mental health bloggers and advocates, and they are the most supportive bunch. Heck, if you want to DM me on Twitter for a chat, please feel free! 

A massive thank you to Lauren for this interview, and for not holding back. I really, really appreciate the honesty and bravery - and I really hope that her words of advice can bring comfort to someone out there!

LAUREN'S LINKS:

To check out the other interviews in this collab series, click here!

If you'd like to be involved in this project, feel free to email me, chat to me on Twitter or leave a comment below.
 
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