Monday, 31 July 2017

Mental Health + Relationships - with Becky from Stronger Together!

Isn't the internet amazing? This platform has given us somewhere to share how we feel, help and support each other, and really achieve things that will make a difference. Becky, who runs the blog Stronger Together, is a brilliant example of this. Not only does she blog, she also runs a Twitter chat which offers help and advice, and has her own charity project that sends out boxes of treats to people who deserve them. What a truly special lady she is!

Becky's blog is my favourite type of blog - full of in-depth and personal accounts, focused on mental health and wellbeing. I absolutely love her writing style, and I feel like every post teaches me something, which is so rare. Becky is also absolutely lovely, and one of the most supportive people I've met on social media. She is always offering help and wise words to people on Twitter, and she is truly remarkable, with the kindest and most generous nature. She's a really wonderful person - so go have a chat with her!

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!

Hi, my name is Becky and I'm behind Stronger Together. I started blogging earlier this year when I started the charity "stronger together". I hoped that sharing my own experiences would make it easier for people to understand mental illness or people would feel more comfortable talking to me if I had also been open and honest. It has also helped me understand my feelings a lot more and I find it really helpful to keep note of certain times and events and how I was feeling through blogging! I chose the name of the blog and charity as I wanted something that would make people feel united and to remind people that you are not alone because one of the worst feelings is to be lonely and I wouldn't want that for anyone! 

I created "stronger together" because when I was ill, it was a complete shock to my family and friends who had never experienced anything to do with mental illness before. They didn't know what to say, how to help or what on earth was going on so I wanted to create something to provide them with information, experiences and support for them to be able to help! I had noticed that this information wasn't there and that most people were thrown in the deep end, the support is there for the 'patients' but nothing at all for everyone else who is going through it with them! 

I created "stronger together" to send out self-care boxes, not only to the patients but the people supporting them, as they have dark days too and it seems like people don't see how important they are! Without those people looking after us, we wouldn't get through ourselves so I wanted to show them we do realise everything they do and that they are important too!

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

Yes, I have now 5 years in but, to begin with, I did struggle with it. These days there are some things I'm comfortable talking about, for example, mental health in general and what I have been through in the past, but when I'm struggling, I still do have a tough time opening up to my family and friends as I feel like it makes me look weak. I tend to text them, even from the next room as I struggle to start the conversation, so if they can start it, I usually find it easier to speak about.

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

Some have been wonderful and some not so much... To start with I think it was a shock for everyone I told. I can't say there has been any particularly positive feedback, but not everyone is as negative as you would expect. I have had a lot of support which I'm really grateful for, but have also lost a lot of friends and relationships over it. I think a lot of that is a lack of understanding. I had my closest friend telling me "she didn't know how to be my friend anymore" after 10 years of friendship, and my parents barely spoke to me for a year due to some things I said or did at the time, some things they said and did, and it was generally something no one knew how to handle.

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

Personally, I have a lot of friends and relationships where I've expected too much from them. Some people aren't strong enough to be able to help and I shouldn't expect them to, but I think it's natural, especially for those struggling with MH to want those who love and care for us to help us! I think overall they can't win. I don't want them walking on eggshells around me as it makes me feel like I'm weak or a failure, but when they treat me normally, as they would anyone else, I sometimes wish they took my MH into consideration a bit more. It can cause a lot of tension and extra stress for them and can put a strain on relationships.

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

It can confirm your insecurities and make everything feel worse which hurts so much more when it's someone that's close to you. For me, I have a problem with trust, so every little thing made me feel like I was paranoid, always looking over my shoulder and constantly on edge which makes MH so much worse. It's important to focus on yourself and accept things before you take on someone else's emotions, whether family, friends or relationships. I think it's so difficult to get the right balance of looking after yourself and still considering someone else in that too.

6. 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 they really knew what it felt like so perhaps they would be a little more sensitive with what they say, however, I would never wish this feeling on anyone so maybe I'm glad they don't really know.

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

Communication is so important and as difficult as it is, it's so much worse to keep it inside and try and deal with everything yourself as people will be there to help. Asking for help in any way isn't a sign of weakness, we all need help from time to time. Try writing things down and try to explain how you feel before it reaches a crisis point as it will be too overwhelming to actually probably tell anyone what's happening in the middle of a crisis. It will also appear a lot scarier to someone who doesn't expect it and they will be more likely to run - and not because of you, but because they don't know what to do for the best, so if you can have something in place before that, hopefully it won't reach the worst!

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

I thought I would know what to say for this question, as over the years I've been thinking "I wish they would do this" or "I wish they wouldn't do that" but I don't know what to say as, on the worst days, there will be nothing that will help. Just remind them they are loved and love them just as much on the bad days as you would on the good days.

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

I would say Twitter can be a great support system as sometimes it can be easier to speak to people you don't know as well as you don't have the same emotional response. It can also be very good for speaking to others with an understanding of what you are going through or that have been in similar circumstances where as your family and friends may not have the same experiences. I think you can learn a lot from others.


So much of Becky's interview had me nodding along - there was so much I really agreed with. I thought it was really interesting how she pointed out that you have to be in a good state of mind to be able to take on other people's emotions as well as your own. I think a lot of us can really relate to that! I have always been 'the listener' in my friend groups, and sometimes that added pressure is too much to bear. If you're having a hard time, it's totally okay to take the time you need to put yourself first for a bit! You aren't a bad friend if you need to step away from relationships that are causing you emotional pain - and you can only support someone else when you're feeling strong enough to do so.

I really saw a lot of myself in Becky's advice to non-sufferers who want to help. I have definitely experienced the feeling of frustration that you're not getting the support you need, but also not having a clue what kind of support that would actually be. It's a catch-22, and it can be hard for both the person suffering and their loved ones. It's definitely about communication, as Becky said. I also love the concept of writing about your feelings - for instance, I know that my husband actually learns a lot about how I really feel from this blog, which is brilliant. I couldn't say half the stuff to his face that I say on here.

One of the worst parts of having a mental health issue, or going through a period where you're finding things hard, is that feeling that no one will understand. There's a little voice at the back of your head that tells you that you're a burden, or weak and that no one wants to hear about it. I can't stress enough how far this is from the truth. In fact, almost everyone I've mentioned my feelings to has had their own similar experience. Being the one who opens up the dialogue and starts that conversation - even if you can only do it by writing things down - is so brave and so beneficial. Every time you make the choice to speak up, you're helping break down barriers and teaching all those around you that talking about mental health is a necessity.

Thank you, Becky, for taking part in this series, it was really amazing to have you involved!


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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