Getting My Eggs Frozen: How It All Went Down! (Plus A Treatment Update)

Getting My Eggs Frozen: How It All Went Down! (Plus A Treatment Update)

Hey there little bears,

I did a poll on Instagram earlier today about what topic you would like to hear about most when it comes to how my treatment has gone so far and seeing as though my radiotherapy isn’t finished yet, most of you wanted to hear about how my egg freezing went!

Incase you’re wondering why I had to have my eggs frozen, it isn’t because I have cervical cancer or may have to have a hysterectomy. This is a crazy rumour and I have no idea where it came from but I don’t have cervical cancer and I will be keeping my womb.

For those who need a recap, the type of cancer that I have is a sarcoma. There are a set of muscular tumours in the wall of my vagina. The cancer isn’t what will leave me infertile, it’s the treatment. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are incredibly damaging for both male and female reproductive organs and cause infertility in most cases. So, before my treatment started, I was advised to have my eggs frozen.

I was treated by the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin and I do have to say that the customer service and level of professionalism was brilliant. I was offered counselling services and monitored closely by a team of lovely nurses who were so accommodating (for the most part- we’ll get to that later). The process itself is quite bleak, though. What I mean by that is if you don’t like injections or needles, you’d be fecked. The version that I’m gonna give you of how it went down is going to be fairly simplified. I’m not going to give you the drug names or dosages or anything like that. And at the end of me explaining everything that happened, I’ll give a little reflection on how I felt about it all- especially the infertility part. Sound cool? Cool.

First of all, I got brought in for an internal ultrasound. Basically, a rod gets put up your vagina and it allows the nurses to see, onscreen, your ovaries and the current state of your reproductive organs. Also, bloods were taken to check that I had no viral infections before we began. Obviously it wouldn’t be safe to freeze eggs that could potentially have AIDS. I obviously was all clear!

NOW, a bit of background and context on an understandable level: on a regular period cycle an ordinary woman would produce ONE POTENTIAL EGG for fertilisation. Because the nurses need more than one egg for the case of trial and error (sometimes that egg won’t fertilise or be healthy enough etc),  you are prescribed a course of hormone injections that encourage egg production for your retrieval.

So for two weeks straight, I had to inject myself with hormones into my tummy every evening. On the second week, a morning time injection was added to correlate with the other one, except this one was injected into my thigh. Every second day during these two weeks, I had to visit the hospital for the internal ultrasound that we talked about above to monitor my eggs and get my bloods taken to check my oestrogen levels etc. The eggs were measured and counted every time I visited and based on how they were doing, the dose of my injections may have changed.

When my eggs were at a decent number and a healthy size, I was prescribed one last injection (which was different from the other two) that induced the eggs for retrieval. I popped this into my tummy two days before my scheduled procedure and discontinued all other hormone injections.

With all of these hormones being injected into my system, I thought that I would be stupidly angry and difficult to deal with. I thought I’d be hormonal as hell. But to be honest, apart from my tummy being a little bit tender and bloated, I was grand. I had a cry once or twice… BUT HEY, I’m going through cancer treatment! So, I bet it’s more to do with that and less to do with the injections.

The procedure itself wasn’t the best- in my experience. It’s a small enough procedure. They basically use a large needle to drain all of the fluid from your ovaries so they can retrieve the eggs. It takes about thirty minutes in total and you’re sedated for it so you’re not supposed to feel anything or know anything about it. HOWEVER, there was a bit of an ordeal because I was promised a valium for nerves in advance and then not given it. I also woke up in the operating room but was immediately put back under. For that reason, I was distressed and upset about how it went. BUT, 9 HEALTHY EGGS WERE RETRIEVED! So, can I really complain?  The more eggs that are retrieved, the higher the chance of producing a baby in the future. So, nine is pretty good.

I wasn’t in pain before or after the procedure. I came around from the sedation and my mom was by my side. It’s an in-and-out kinda thing so I arrived that morning and was let leave by lunch time.

After the procedure, my boobs were really tender and my tummy was bloated. I had a little bit of spotting and some period-like cramps. They also didn’t need to take my coil out for the procedure which was great! I used lavender oil and some other natural remedies to help with these symptoms. I also kept well hydrated (or tried to) through the duration of this treatment and afterward, too. Another side effect was that I was extra sleepy some days so needed more naps than usual. For the most part, none of the side effects were nothing that I couldn’t handle at home or hadn’t been through before. Baths helped. Lavender helped. My hot water bottle and Netflix helped. BIG TIME.

Now, my feelings. If you remember the video that I did with Emma Lou, you will know that I claimed in it that I didn’t want children or to get married. If you haven’t seen that video, CLICK HERE. WELL, be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. When you actually find out that you CAN’T do something, your mind changes quite fast. I was a bit upset when I found out about the infertility. However, the same day that I found out about the infertility, I found out my cancer wasn’t terminal. So I was pretty relieved and willing to pay the price!

To be honest, I have always been really open to adoption. Why not give a child a home that does not have one? And because I have now gotten my eggs frozen, being infertile isn’t necessarily a huge thing- I can still have children and carry my own baby. It just won’t be in the conventional manner. There are so many options nowadays and so many different supports available. Sometimes, you aren’t even aware of them until you’re faced with something like this. But I am hopeful and happy that if I do decide I want children, I have many options. Whether I end up adopting, or having a surrogate, or carrying my own eggs or even having children at all is unknown. But I will have many options to choose from and I will be alive to make the decision.

I did worry that my value as a woman would be questioned. But as a feminist, I know that this was just my insecurity speaking to me. My value is not lessened just because I cannot naturally reproduce. I am still a hella strong, independent, smart and confident person that wants to help people whenever possible. I try to be kind. I try to be honest. I work hard. I am still me. I am still Jade. And nothing that may change about my body will change that. I’ve been learning a lot of lessons throughout this whole journey and they have not been easy to digest or pleasant to stumble upon. Luckily, I’ve been accepting them quite fast because things haven’t necessarily been going at a slow pace. I’ve had to accept things in order to move onto the next stage and keep up. I have a feeling that when everything is over and done with, I’ll crash. But for the moment, I’m in fight mode.

I’m currently ongoing my radiotherapy. After four more weeks of daily treatment, I’ll have a little break and then my surgery will be planned. I’m sorry guys but I’m still not ready to talk about the surgery. Many of you thought that the permanent effect of the surgery was infertility and that that was what I was so upset about. Unfortunately, infertility is only the tip of the iceberg. Parts of my body around that area will probably be damaged beyond repair, leaving me with permanent repercussions that I am just not ready to speak about. I know in time I will be open and hopefully strong enough to share it all and maybe help somebody else. Maybe this could make me or be some kind of sick silver lining. But right now, I’m taking it a stage at a time.

So to recap: I have been told that I am now, due to my radiotherapy, infertile. However, I have had my eggs frozen and have that, along with other options, as a positive outcome. I have started radiotherapy and am fine. I’ve had a little bit of sickness but am being looked after well and kept a close eye on in St. Luke’s. I will be having surgery that will possibly change my life but I am not ready to open up about that just yet. I hope that when it happens, I will be strong enough to help someone else by sharing my experience. But for right now, I’m focusing on keeping myself as strong as I can through radiotherapy.

If you would like to actually know how the scientific elements of IVF treatment work, CLICK HERE.

And also, a little disclaimer: just because I have had my eggs frozen it does not mean that my eggs are suitable for fertilisation. They will be stored until I decide otherwise and if I do ever decide to match them with sperm, it might not work. I am aware of this and was informed of this before I started any treatment.

And I just want to say a huge thank you for all of the kind messages and support online. As well as a huge thank you to my family and friends who have been looking after me and keeping my spirits up on a daily basis. I will be forever grateful.

So, as usual, if you have any more questions please feel free to get in touch via Instagram or messages below!

Sending you so much positivity and love,

Jay xx

CLICK HERE for my Instagram

Email jadeshannonmccann@gmail.com for business enquiries.

 

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My Cancer Diagnosis: From The Beginning To Now

My Cancer Diagnosis: From The Beginning To Now

If you didn’t already know about this, I’m sorry to shock you and I’m sorry if we are friends and I haven’t gotten around to telling you. I’ve been in a state of complete shock and ‘fight-or-flight’ for the last two weeks. But basically, as the title suggests, I have cancer. And no, you aren’t confusing me with my Dad because he has it, too. This blog post will clear up most of your questions, I hope. But of course, contact me on my Instagram page if you’ve any more and I will do my best to get around to them. Click here for my Instagram.

I suppose a large extent of the shock has worn off and I’ve begun to accept that some kind of twisted, unfair fate has landed me with a pretty hefty cancer sentence. But that doesn’t make the process any easier.

As you all know, Dad was diagnosed about four weeks ago with Stage 4 Prostate Cancer. His treatment has begun and his prognosis is good. He’s currently undergoing hormone replacement therapy, then he’ll go on to radiotherapy and chemotherapy (the order is unknown as of yet). But we’re looking at a long year for his recovery and with a bit of luck, his remission starting at about Christmas time, hopefully sooner. His spirits were relatively high, of course, until we found out about me.

Basically, and I’m going to be very basic and brief in all of this, I found a lump on the left wall of my vagina (which could be also felt in my groin area) at the end of December 2017. This was around the time that Melanie’s Blog Life (a beautiful Irish blogger that I follow) launched a campaign for all of her female followers to check their areas and encouraged people to get smears. I followed suit, gave myself a check and ran a similar campaign on my Snapchat. You might remember it.

Following the finding of the lump, which at this stage was about the size of a small marble and firm, I went to my GP who advised me that it was a Barthalion’s Cyst. Apparently very common in young women and that it would go away and I would be fine. I was prescribed antibiotics. After a week, nothing changed. In fact, the lump grew. So, I went straight out to Holles Street as an outpatient (Ireland’s National Maternity Hospital- also known for their gyno unit) for further investigation.

Long story short, following months of tests, many conversations with many nurses and doctors, and antibiotics that did not work, nobody could figure out what it was. Under the belief that it was probably the cyst that was mentioned before, I was operated on and a biopsy was taken. I was called back in to the hospital a week later and told that what they found was, in fact, sinister. I was then diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer called Sarcoma. Trust me to get the rare one.

Understanding Sarcomas are difficult because there are over 50 different types and all require different treatments. And what I’m about to tell you is nothing I’ve found online because I’ve really done my best not to google anything. I’m basing my knowledge on what my oncology team have told me- which is particular to my case.

I have been diagnosed with a type of Sarcoma named Leiomyosarcoma, which is really unlikely to happen to someone my age. It normally happens to women a lot older- in their 50s or 60s. Sarcomas generally develop in tissue, bone or blood. The type that I have develops on smooth, soft tissues. For example: the bowel area, the womb and the vaginal walls. I know this is a lot of information but bear with me.

For the most part, it looks like it’s been caught in time. The MRI shows that, although it is in a delicate area, it is still regional. This means that it basically, based on the tests we’ve done so far, they reckon it hasn’t spread. Which hopefully means that a major surgery will be planned, possibly some radiotherapy and probably no chemotherapy.  However, this is not a concrete plan. My treatment plan is yet to be decided, there will be more tests undergone and I will have to have more scans. This is just what we’ve been told is the likely route that will be taken. And although this sounds like a positive outcome on a terrible situation, there are extreme, permanent side-effects that will come with this treatment plan. I will more than likely be left infertile, for one, and there will probably be difficulties around me using the bathroom and a plan will be needed to put in place there. This is what was discussed at this morning’s oncology meeting which is why I am in shock all over again and finding it a bit hard to process things right now. To be honest, I’m actually extremely devastated. I was a lot more positive over the last week because, me focusing on the positive, I was coming around to the idea that I might get away scott-free following some treatment, but apparently not. I will talk more about this when I come out of shock and feel more comfortable with it. Obviously, the region that the cancer is in is a bit uncomfortable to talk about anyway but for the purpose of awareness, I don’t really give a fuck about my dignity anymore.

Sarcomas generally travel or jump to the lungs or chest if they have jumped or moved at all. So I had a CT scan this week and it was discussed at my meeting this morning with my oncologist. There are markings there that need to be further investigated. If it comes back that they are sinister, I will probably need chemotherapy. Again, not set in stone but something that has come up in conversation. As I said above, for the most part, they reckon that it hasn’t spread.

To say that I am terrified is an understatement. When I first got diagnosed, the shock was absolutely unbearable. At just 22 with the world at my feet, how could this happen to someone like me? I’ve never even broken a bone. I had no idea how to react. I was just absolutely heartbroken and terrified. Especially because for the first week, I had no idea whether or not it had spread or whether or not I would live.

At this stage my fear is not around life or death, but rather how the treatment will affect my life both when I’m going through it and after it. I wish I could just jump ahead of time to when I am on the road to recovery. At the moment, everything is up in the air, the treatment plan is still yet to be decided and I’m just praying and hoping it will be effective but with the least amount of pain.

If you haven’t already guessed, I am no longer moving to New York in June. Hopefully in a few months, maybe in a few years. But for the moment, I have moved home to my parents and am waiting to undergo treatment and get well. For the most part, I was feeling positive. I’m taking this as a sign from the universe (or something) that I need to slow down and focus on myself for a while, really get well and tune into my health. But as mentioned above, my meeting today has knocked be a bit off whack.

I know in a few days that I will come around, once again, from the shock and that I will be feeling positive all over again. I also just want to take this opportunity to thank each and every single soul that has been there for me over the last few weeks. THIS INCLUDES the followers that have written in and sent love, positivity and heartfelt messages. Of course, my family who’ve rarely left my side. People have been so kind and really just reached out in so many ways, too many to count. It really is true that at times like these you find out who your friends are, your true friends. People that I never thought would be close to me have stepped up and provided simple things like a bit of company, or support at meetings. And unfortunately, some friends that I’ve known my whole life are nowhere to be found.

I am trying my best to turn this whole experience in to that of a learning one. I have also gone back to a 100% plant based diet, which has been scientifically proven to fight and prevent cancers and other diseases. I’ve been sharing my meals on Instagram if you’re interested, actually. I also want to raise awareness around this. Because in all my research, I have found that there are actually other people my age that have been diagnosed with sarcomas. Although they are not generally linked with youth, it is becoming more common. I found a guy my age down in Cork that has written a blog post about HIS sarcoma diagnosis and although it’s a different story to mine, it’s equally as important for awareness purposes. CLICK HERE to read his story. (It’s not too long, he gets right to the point!)

So if you take anything more than the gossip away from this post, let it be this: just because you are young, does not mean that you are immune to things like this. Do you want to know what my main regret was the moment my consultant said cancer? The amount of time I spent working toward getting it. All of the alcoholic drinks, party drugs, sun-beds, cigarettes, the amount of time I spent WORRYING and STRESSING about things that don’t actually matter. The damage I let my body undergo, always assuming that ‘something like that wouldn’t happen to me’. I’m not saying that these things caused my disease, but I sure felt like a gobshite wasting time on them when I could have been traveling, exploring, laughing, eating good food and hugging people for longer.

And if I have to be an example to save someone else’s life, so be it. But please do not cross yourself off like I did. If you find something strange on your body, get it checked. Do not stop until you get a solid answer and diagnosis or the problem has been entirely resolved. If you are smoking, eating unhealthily or abusing your body in anyway, rethink why and maybe try work toward a more positive outlook on life. Or you can wait until your diagnosed with cancer (or something worse) like I did, and feel like a total nob-head all together.

And if you are a model of health, that doesn’t cross you off either. Of course, you should be incredibly grateful that you are healthy, fit and on the ball. But unfortunately these diseases don’t discriminate. One of the questions I had for my consultant was whether or not it could have been inherited, seeing as though Dad has had cancer twice and is currently fighting, too. The answer was no. Sarcomas are random. There is no reason and it is not fair. So just be really mindful of your body, get checked regularly and be persistent if you really feel that something could be the matter.

Also, people seem to think that once someone is diagnosed with cancer, they are  a complete write-off and sit like a skeleton in the bed. This is not true. I am fit and healthy and in no pain whatsoever. Which is the annoying part because I had no idea I was as ill as I am. All I can say about my physical state is that every now and again, I get a bang of fatigue that leaves me horizontal within minutes. This has been happening for a few months but I put it down to working mad hours and being stressed with college.

Oh, but on the bridge side, it looks like I might graduate on time! I’ll need a few extensions on projects and some things will have to be moved around, but for the most part, I should be graduating in September.

So, I tried to fit as much of an update in there as I could. Of course, my head is absolutely fried and I’ve just been sitting beside a salt lamp and dosing myself in Lavender Oil hoping that some God might appear to tell me it was all a lesson and I’ve been magically healed. I know that’s not going to happen, though, so I am living moment to moment, constantly praying for the best outcome. Spending as much time at home and with positive people as possible.

Tomorrow morning, I have a 6am start with The Happy Pear for training- which generally is yoga, flexibility or a sea swim. Although the cards are stacked against me, we all know how tough I can be. So even though I don’t feel like leaving my bed, I’m going to. Because this is not going to win. I might be left with some life changing effects but my mind will still be the exact same. I will still show up and do my best. I will still find humour and strength in even my darkest days. Because if I even consider letting this take over my mind, you can put your money on it that my body will follow. So although I don’t feel like swimming in the sea at six in the morning, I will because I know sea water is healing. And I know The Happy Pear crew are positive people that do not judge and want to help me. Although I would rather a McDonalds and an easter egg, I’m going to eat seaweed and spinach because it provides me with an opportunity to fight this. Although I would rather cry into a pillow and cuddle my dog until this all goes away, I have to show up at hospital appointments with courage and trust my oncology team enough to do their job and save my life.

I understand everybody has a lot of questions, as they’ve all been booming on my social media accounts and I totally appreciate that. I am doing my best to reply to them all and stay on top of emails etc. However, on bad days my phone is being turned off. And as much as I love blogging, my health comes first. Awareness campaigning, blogging, sharing, posting… there will be time enough for that when I am on the road to recovery and feeling much better.

Thank you so much, again, for all of your love and support. My Instagram is getting updated, for the most part, DAILY at the moment. So if you don’t follow me on there, my username is ‘jaydamccannx’. I reply to all messages and post Instastories too. And believe me, considering my current situation, they are mostly positive!

So to confirm: Yes, I do have cancer. Yes, they reckon it is treatable. Unfortunately, there will be an aftermath of the surgery that has to take place, we don’t know exactly what that is yet. Yes, my Dad also has cancer. Right now my life is on hold. But I am trying my best to keep positive and get on with daily things in order to keep myself sane.

Sending you all my love,

J xx

 

 

 

 

Raising Awareness, Getting Real: Dad Has Cancer.

Raising Awareness, Getting Real: Dad Has Cancer.

Aloha,

So, a lot has happened over the last few weeks and my social media accounts have been practically deserted. If you’ve been following me a while, you will know that I went through a breakup last year, moved out on my own and have been recording all of my ups and downs in the meantime on Snapchat and Instastories. It’s been an adventure. But just as I kind of found a rhythm, of course, life has a lemon. My Dad has been diagnosed with cancer.

I am currently sitting on a mattress in my childhood bedroom that I am in the middle of moving back into. I am needed at home now so my ‘independent woman’ lifestyle is gonna have to be put on hold. Also, ya’ll know I’m supposed to be moving to New York in June. I don’t know what’s gonna happen there yet. I would rather stay and be with Dad. Dad would rather me go. It is yet to be decided…

BUT would you look at that? I’m back again with another positive, happy-go-lucky, exciting blog post that’s probably going to bring your mood down like a lead balloon. Not exactly a topic I thought I’d be writing about- EVER. Not because it’s a private matter, which it is, and I’ll get to that in a second. But mainly because I didn’t think it would happen to my family. This blog post is basically a recap of all that has happened over the last few weeks just to touch base with where we are at with treatment, emotions and life in general. I will also leave awareness links at the end for you all to check out and I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE IT if you actually did because THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT.

And before anybody gets curious, I asked Dad for his permission to share our journey as a family on my blog. He understands how open I am to you guys and was totally okay with me updating everybody on our current situation. By being open about how we are all getting on is purely motivated by the possibility that we may help somebody else somewhere along the line. Which as you all know, is one of the reasons I started this page in the first place. Also, it will hopefully raise awareness around cancer, the affects of and some of the support systems there are for families in Ireland.

I don’t want to go into too much mad detail about how and when exactly we knew, or what exactly happened and where because to be honest, once Dad got diagnosed it’s like every single significant moment that led up to that moment completely melted away. But I’m gonna share the key moments, that I can recall, just so you know how we got here and understand the journey that we are on.

Basically, Dad & I were having a movie night and all of a sudden, he got like a wave of pain over his bladder and abdominal area. The pain was so bad that he actually threw up and went this grey colour. Of course, me, I started slaggin’ him! Mainly because this was a completely weird thing to happen and I just thought he was over-reacting a bit.

If you’ve seen pictures of Dad or if you know Dad, you would know that he is 52 years of age (looks about 38), is incredibly fit and healthy, handsome and strong. He’s a super slick and stylish traditional skinhead, who loves music more than anything in the world. He’s covered in beautiful art-like tattoos. He trains like a mofo & eats clean. He does not smoke, is not an addict and does not harm himself in any way with chemicals, extreme activities or anything else for that matter. He lives a relatively normal life- goes to work, eats right, exercises, likes to read, loves his dog and the family… So for him to just collapse like this was a bit of a red flag. After I’d finished laughing with him about how weird this situation was, I asked him if he wanted me to bring him to the hospital. When he said yes, I definitely knew something was wrong. Dad hates hospitals.

Now, about a year ago Dad had some issues with his prostate count. But the doctor told him it was nothing to worry about and that it would go back to normal with some antibiotics and multi-vits.  Nothing more was thought of Dad’s prostate until Dad reached Vincent’s hospital and they began to run really serious tests. Then, we became concerned- especially because they kept him in for a week until the tests had been done thoroughly and he had been monitored. In the mean time, the pain didn’t leave. He was put on medication, though. A point to make is that Dad has also had cancer before. When he was 29, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in his chest. He responded well to treatment and was given the all-clear when I was about two.

So after a week in hospital, Dad was let out and told to take it easy and to keep taking the pain relief- which he did. Then we were called back in for the test results. Dad and Mom went into the room to speak with the doctors while I recovered in the waiting room from a peanut allergy I’d had about an hour before the appointment- typical me. I knew by Dad’s face as he walked out from that appointment that something just was not right. Dad followed doctors to another room and Mom came over to fill me in.

Dad has been diagnosed with Stage Four Prostate Cancer. It’s aggressive. We don’t know what type of treatment is the best option yet, but he has gone to meet his team of nurses now.

For some reason, it didn’t sink in for me in that moment. And to a certain degree, it still hasn’t. We had to wait a week to hear back about which treatment would be the best option. Because of the level of aggression, they won’t operate. They have chosen to do chemotherapy and radiotherapy instead. Dad has his first appointment for treatment this week, so we will know a lot more then. He was really upset that he has to do chemotherapy because it made him so ill the last time. But that’s why I’ve moved home. We’re just giving all of the support that we can and surrounding him with as much love and comfort as possible.

But it’s like the calm before the storm. I think that’s why it hasn’t hit me yet… because the actually hard graft of it hasn’t really begun. Dad still hasn’t become extremely ill. Emotionally, it has taken it’s toll on the family. My family unit consists of Mom, Dad, my brother, Eoin (who’s 28 but acts 21) and me. The dynamics are interesting, to be honest. I’m a lot stronger than I thought. I’m a very ‘get shit done’ kinda person when things are under heat. My Mom worries a lot, understandably, and Eoin is, at this moment, not his best. But we are and always have been a really honest, open, close family and have always managed to keep each other strong. I do honestly believe that things will be okay, no matter what the outcome. We will always have each other in some way.

So, this is why I haven’t been on Snapchat or doing my daily videos. I have been moving house, spending time with family, trying to get through my final year of college, show up for work, stay fed and watered, be strong and stay positive in the mean time. And I know I don’t have to share everything with you guys. I understand that this is a really personal issue and that maybe you don’t want to know. But someone out there might really need to relate to this. And if my family are strong enough to share it, I don’t understand why we shouldn’t. We have managed to keep an extremely positive atmosphere in our home. We laugh everyday. We make fun of the situation, we make fun of each other and we are staying as hopeful, yet grounded and realistic, as we can. It’s a really bittersweet thing because in a very sad way, it’s making us all a lot closer.

Anybody who knows me, knows that I am 100% Daddy’s little girl. We have always been so close. I’ve always been a bit of a tom-boy and it has been because I’ve just loved spending time with him so much. From boxing to fishing to football… We’ve been best friends. Don’t get me wrong, we are also very alike. Which means we can hold down a good scrap if we have to. BUT nonetheless, our relationship has been a bond like no other since day one. These next few months are going to be really tough for my family. But it’s so important to remember that it’s not even about us. It’s about Dad and making sure he’s as comfortable as he can be through all of this. St. Vincent’s hospital have been absolutely brilliant and are hopeful that the treatment plan they have decided on will be successful. We are all completely optimistic and believe that Dad will have no issue overcoming this. Yet, we are all very aware of how life works. We are not stupid. We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. Not because we don’t have faith, but because we just can’t know how life will happen. Nobody does. Sure we never thought this would happen!

Disclaimer: I do not want the documentation of this journey to be a negative one. It is a pillar of strength for anybody going through the same thing and we, as a family, are completely open to any advice that anyone else may have. I have always openly shared my mental health, feelings, life and emotions openly and really did not want this situation to be hidden or kept in the dark.

For those of you that know Dad and are wondering how he is, he is actually doing fine for the moment. The treatment hasn’t started and his pain relief seems to be keeping things manageable for now. And if you are a family friend and this is your first time hearing about it, we are genuinely sorry. Things have been so crazy and we just haven’t really known how or when to tell who.

I will be sharing our journey- the ups and downs- as we go along so if you want to follow how he is and how we are all keeping, Instagram is your best bet! CLICK HERE to follow my Instagram for daily Insta stories & posts.

Now- the important stuff. As mentioned above, our openness is in hopes to inspire or help people going through something similar, but more importantly to RAISE AWARENESS.

Cancer is linked, a lot of the time, to ill health. My Dad is a perfect example of someone who is completely healthy but incredibly unlucky. It can happen to ANYBODY. If you have not been to the doctors recently- go. Get a check up. If you have an ailment you have been putting off getting checked- go. Get it checked. Life is just too short and we genuinely just never know what is around the corner.

I’m gonna link some things below that I really would urge you to check out. If you have any questions, all of my social media accounts are always open and I will reply to everybody.

  • CLICK HERE to read about PROSTATE CANCER. What is it? What are some of the indications? How will I know if I have it? How do I get checked?
  • Some men do not want to get checked because the actual procedure of prostate checking isn’t exactly glamorous. GET CHECKED. Do not be sorry.
  • CLICK HERE for more information on some of the earlier signs of Prostate Cancer.
  • CLICK HERE to visit the Irish Cancer Society’s website. They have been amazing in providing resources and support to our family at this difficult time. And if you have it in your account, even two euro a month goes a really long way in helping families get through times like these.
  • Last week, we lost a very close family friend to their battle with cancer. He was cared for, also, by the staff in St. Vincent’s hospital. They do tremendous work, day in day out, to look after all of their patients. If you have a spare minute or a fiver to spare, CLICK HERE to donate to St. Vincent’s Foundation. Funds go to patient care, research and education.
  • CLICK HERE to follow my Instagram- where the updates and information on Dad’s journey, my journey and the rest will be.

If you take anything away from this post, let it be that just because you think something won’t happen to you or your family, doesn’t mean that it won’t. Appreciate everybody in your life and PLEASE stay on top of your health. Do not ignore your body, do not ignore the signs.

Also, a huge family to all of the support we have gotten from friends and extended family. Tough times show true love.

Until next time,

Jay x

 

 

 

 

Why Mental Health Week Is Important FOR EVERYONE

Why Mental Health Week Is Important FOR EVERYONE

Hello there ducks,

For those of you following me on Snapchat, you know I’m just back from a weekend break in Liverpool and I am feeling SO good in myself at the moment. It was definitely a well needed break. For anybody following me regularly, you’ll know that I don’t always feel so good.

The reason being that I suffer with my mental health and everyday is not a good day. And I’m not embarrassed to say that. I video blog daily on Snapchat and sometimes, all I can do is cry to whoever is on the other end and struggle stringing sentences together. Other times, we share laughs and talk about interesting topics and cool things I’ve found. I try to be as real as I can on Snapchat and the reason I do that is because I want to convey what suffering with mental health is really like. It isn’t always doom and gloom and it isn’t always rosey in the garden. I get a pretty-packaged surprise every morning when I open my eyes, a gift that lets me know what my day is going to be like. Sometimes I wake up with the world on my shoulders, a body caged with anxiety and worry, depression and fear. Other times, I’m free from that. But I cope as best I can and share my journey with anybody that would like to come along.

For those of you that are unaware, it is Mental Health Awareness Week this week. And that means a few things. It means that people are more willing to speak about things that I exhaust myself speaking about daily, 365 days of the year. Which is refreshing because as you can imagine, dedicating yourself to something can be consuming and for people to recognise that topic (even if it is just for a week of the year) is just nice. It also means that organisations and media outlets put more content out that relate to these topics. So for this week, we are bombarded with people sharing their stories, places you can get help and just general awareness around issues surrounding mental health in Ireland. For example, the Minister of Mental Health, Jim Daly, was on Ireland AM this morning speaking about the stigma surrounding mental health in Ireland- which was a brilliant segment and is definitely worth a watch on 3player if you get a chance.

I do believe that this week is an important week and I don’t want to downplay it but, me being me, I obviously do have a few issues with it. One of the issues being that it is built around mental illness a lot of the time and not mental health maintenance. So everybody wants to talk about the mainstream mental diagnostics (like depression, anxiety, bi-polar etc) which are obviously extremely important illnesses that do deserve coverage and awareness. But I feel that not many people want to talk about mental health maintenance- like how to prevent your mind from reaching such stages of desperation. See, I believe that mental health is just like physical health in a lot of ways. We need to mind it, we need to keep it fed with nutrients, vitamins and hydration. We need to keep an eye on it and try to stay as in tune as it as we can. And when it starts to decline slightly, we need to make sure we speak to someone about that and access the resources that we may need. Now, I understand that sometimes mental ailments are just chemical and there’s not a lot that we can do but spiral. I have been there so I totally get it. But it is important that we are taught how to mind ourselves, primarily, and then, secondly, how to deal with issues after that that may not be preventable. I also feel that there is not enough coverage on addiction during the course of this week, which as you all know I believe is a mental disorder/disease. Click here to read my last blog post which speaks about that.

Moving on, when I say mind ourselves, I mean the basic stuff that might seem really obvious to some people but is just a lot harder for others. Like eating correctly, sleeping for the right amount of time, balancing exercise and a healthy social life, being aware of healthy (debatable use of the word) alcohol intakes and working on having at least one person that we can confide in.

The issue that arrises with only raising awareness for mental illness rather than mental health maintenance is that when an awareness week like this comes around, a lot of people feel like it doesn’t apply to them. That it doesn’t really have an impact on their life. But WE ALL NEED TO MIND OURSELVES. We all need to make sure that we are giving our bodies and mind the correct basic human needs. And we all need to be looking out for each other, too.

So the point of this blog post is just for me to bring some awareness to you. Yes, you, reading this post. You might not have been diagnosed with a mental illness but you still have mental health and you still need to check in on yourself and make sure you are in tune with how you are doing. And from that, check on your friends and family. See if they need anything, ask them how they are. We all deserve to be content and happy in ourselves, with our lives and in everything we’re doing. We all deserve to have good mental health, the same way we all deserve to have good physical health. Understanding that somethings aren’t preventable, we should just try our best to deal with those problems when they arise. But before we jump to self-diagnosing with depression and anxiety, we should check that we are treating ourselves with respect and fuelling our bodies correctly.

So, mental health awareness week may have flaws but it is crucial that we recognise how important it is. Listen to the radio this week. Watch television and read the articles that you wouldn’t normally take pride in reading. We are being given, freely, information that is so needed in our society and that could have a huge impact on our own lives. Because unfortunately, you just never know what’s around the corner. And the information that is given to us this week could save our own life or the life of someone we love. Everybody has mental health, just like everybody has physical health and mental illness (as well as physical illness) does not discriminate.

That is all I wanted to say on the matter, to be honest. I’m gonna leave my links below so don’t be shy- come say hi!

Until next time,

J X

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It’s time to talk about ‘junkies’

It’s time to talk about ‘junkies’

This blog post is probably going to be the most honest I’ve ever written. And it’s definitely not like anything I’ve written before. But I have a serious passion inside me about this topic, among many other liberal views, and I actually can’t hold it in anymore. I’m ready to speak about addiction.

If you follow me on Snapchat, you know a few more personal details than you would if say, you just knew me from Facebook or Twitter. For example, you’d know that I don’t like spicy food or that I just moved house. You’d know that I love dogs. You’d also know that I am a recovering addict. And that was a curve ball, right? Because I’m a young, confident, outgoing female with very little indication that I’d ever even tried drugs. And when I say drugs, I include alcohol. Because alcohol is a drug. I say that in nearly every mental health blog post I publish- and the reason I say it is because I know.

See, I don’t look like the stereotypical ‘junkie’ and that’s why people are so confused. I bet you’ve already thought: ‘she mustn’t have been that bad’. And maybe so. But the reason I’m writing this post isn’t to share my story of addiction and recovery- I’ll save that for a book someday. It’s to break down some of the stigma that society has burdened onto people that do not want to end up like that. I wanted to be honest about my identity because not only does it give me a bit more credibility, it allows me to connect and let you see where I’m coming from. I have a few main points to make. And I, honestly, could talk about this for a very long time. But I understand that in order to get my point across, I need to be exact.

This argument is based on my opinion which is based on my first hand experience that was then shared and identified with other people that have been through similar things. I can’t speak for anyone else. I can’t tell you how other addicts feel or how they got where they ended up. But I’ve learned enough in the last two years to know that addiction does not deserve to be brushed off, exiled and looked at in disgust the way that it is. And I wanted to talk about that. So here goes.

I believe that addiction is a disease or a disorder that can be stripped back to a chemical imbalance. I believe that a person can be an addict from the day that they are born. And I believe this because I know that I always felt alien. The disease of addiction is almost like another person in your mind. A person that is dressed as your friend but doesn’t have your best interest at heart. It’s like a friend that wants instant fixes. It’s a friend that doesn’t want to talk about your problems. It’s a friend that would rather block them out. So, when I say that someone can be an addict from birth, I mean that this friend can be active from a young age. However, drugs at that point don’t have to be the form of escapism.

Have you ever met a kid that is just so obviously insecure? That can’t sit still? That can’t be quiet? That can’t focus? That feels inadequate all the time and that uses external things to constantly distract themselves from themselves. Well, I know how that kid feels. From a very young age, I was really self-aware and I was really sensitive. I compared myself to other kids, their lives, their families. I hated who I was. And this is where it gets tricky because usually at this point, someone would say that they were abused or that their family was broken or their home life made them that way. But me? Nope. I had a bedroom that was decorated annually however I liked it. Your stereotypical four person family, parents that were hard-working, any toy I ever wanted, birthday parties every year and a beautiful home. Nothing happened to make me the way I ended up. Now, that’s not to say that things don’t happen to change peoples perspective or lead them to drugs. I’m just saying that that is not always the case. I think that I have something in my brain that wants to see me dead. It wants me alone and it wants me to be miserable. It wants me to block out reality, not deal with my problems and hide away forever.  As a child, I distracted myself with the likes of television, movies and most importantly, obsessions.

Obsessions allowed me to escape reality. And I’ve suffered with this since I was a small child. And just because I’m in recovery now, they do not stop. If anything because I’m aware of them, they can be worse. Obsessions can vary but when I was a child, I’d replay songs or print posters of the same picture and put them all over my room. I’d watch the same movies over and over. Or develop crushes on boys and simply not have the capacity to stop thinking about it. As I got older, these obsessions only got more dangerous: drug use, self-harm, men, gambling, friends, locations, money… the big boy stuff. Stuff that can get people in a  lot of trouble. Stuff that left me in a lot of pain.

So, at the age of twelve when I found vodka, you can imagine the absolute field day that was had. And the point I’m trying to make here is that alcohol was the first drug I look, the first high I had, my first love and the drug that brought me to my knees. And I know you’re wondering if I took other drugs because that would define an addict, right? Well, before I go any further I want to note how important it is that it does not matter what drugs I took. It was about my mental state. And it was about why I took them. So, I could sit here and type a list of narcotics and the effects they gave me, how often I used them and what things I’m not proud of but that would be pointless. It simply does not matter. I’m an addict because of why I took them. I’m an addict because I could not control my use once I started.

On the note of how often I used them, I don’t want to disclose much but all I will say is that I managed to hold down jobs, degrees, relationships and and much more in the course of my active addiction. I did not use drugs everyday. Some might argue that that would mean I wasn’t physically addicted to drugs. But that does not define an addict either. An addict is someone who’s life is centred around drugs and other forms of escapism. And mine sure as hell was. I went out on Friday night and went solidly to Sunday, then spent the rest of the week thinking about how I’d end the mental torture of shame, regret and secrecy. And then I’d do it all again and torture myself over that. I couldn’t understand why I was the way I was. I could see that my drug use was very obviously affecting my life. I was anxious, depressed, struggling to leave my house and in the end, all of the external stuff did suffer. Relationships ended, I lost a job, I deferred college. At one point, I begged my mother to sign me into a mental institute. I thought I had something really wrong with me. I couldn’t see why I kept doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results.

I would promise myself and everybody in my life, genuinely, that I would not use. I would tell myself that I would go out for one or two drinks and come home. I would really mean it when I’d look in the mirror and swear that I didn’t need drugs or men to have fun. And then I’d put myself in the most degrading of situations as a result of everything I said I wouldn’t do. And I’m not proud of these situations. Actually, even two years clean, I’m full of shame sharing about them. I wanted to put this work off. I didn’t want to start fighting this stigma because I would have to, in order to have any kind of credibility, be really honest about why I care. And some of the things that I did were so beyond disgusting. I hurt people. I had no self-respect. But today I can see that I didn’t have any control. And I’m not like that now.

The things that I did when I was active, I would never dream of doing or saying them things if I was clean and in my right mind. And by clean, I don’t mean sober. Or just not under an influence. I mean long-term clean, working on myself, following a twelve-step programme and practicing prayer, gratitude and love toward myself. Staying off drugs for a week at a time never helped me. I always went back. I needed something more solid. I needed to be taught how to live properly- take care of myself, do my own washing, wash myself, feed myself, speak to people accordingly… all that stuff that to so many people seems easy. It isn’t for me. Even today I can struggle with these things.

And the reason then that I am telling you all of this is because recently, I’ve realised how people refer to and think about addicts. And I am so hurt. The mainstream medias portrayal of addiction is a lot to be desired. In films we see the stereotypical ‘junkie’ that ends up homeless, is branded a criminal and exiled from society (Transpotting is a good example of this. The narrative is based around drug addiction and at some points, makes a joke of it). Plot narratives don’t really give any closure on this in mainstream media and it’s just accepted as what addiction is. We see domestic violence on screen and the drug user the culprit. We, then, also see it glamorised to the point where it looks attractive- money, women, sex, cocaine and boats. An obvious example of this is The Wolf of Wall Street. And I am not saying that this isn’t how some addicts carry out their journey in reality. A lot of the time, addiction in reality is exaggerated and crazy shit does happen. But the issue with constantly having these representations in media is this: everyday people that find other methods of addiction their reality (such as codeine use or marijuana use) cannot identify. Young people starting their journey as addicts do not relate themselves to that person. Any addict that is unaware of their problem, and is yet to learn the extent in which this progressive disease works, does not think that this will happen to them. Because we are creating an image of a ‘junkie’ or of a ‘legend’. And that is so wrong.

In turn, that’s how we view everyday addicts. Admit it, homeless people are in most cases assumed to be almost deserving of their fate, assuming that they’re on drugs and have created this life for themselves. We look at addicts that leave syringes in children’s park areas and automatically fill with anger, disgust and hatred. And I’m not saying that this is okay to do but if we had a different societal approach, it might not happen. We see young people smoking weed everyday, trying to escape their mind, probably in a lot of pain and don’t really think too much about it. But marijuana is still a mind altering substance. Heroin users are still people. And it all boils down to what level of compassion others can offer. Nobody wants to end up like that. I know because I sure as hell didn’t. And just because my addiction did not progress to the extent that some other addicts might travel, does not make it any less. And that means that theirs does not mean any more. An addict is an addict. And it is not a moral affliction, it is a mental and spiritual disintegration. One that is not helped by being exiled from society and branded a ‘junkie’.

In Ireland, there are efforts there to help these issues and I am aware that the likes of Safe Injecting Houses have now been approved and I am hopeful that we can start to move forward in how we deal with issues like these. I am strong mental health advocate and whether it’s a good or a bad thing, I have more compassion for someone than I do hate when I see them on the ground, strung out, crying, desperately wondering how their life got to this. Not only because I can identify as an addict, but mainly because first and most importantly, I can identify as a human.

I know there are people reading this that have been affected by an addict. And yano what? Me, too. Addiction runs in my family and I have been hurt by another addicts inability to control their using. I’ve been put in all sorts of predicaments and left wondering why I’m not good enough to make them just stop on many occasions. So I know how that feels, too. There is an entirely other piece of work that could be dedicated to that topic. It’s hard to not hate someone who is so selfish, right? I’m still working on this topic because I have been both people. I have been the selfish one but  I have also been the one hurt by it. And I’m still confused. I’m still a little bit hurt, actually. The best thing I learned was to distance myself from people that could not look after themselves, let alone me. And I learned to do that with love. I did not distance myself with hate, name-calling, fights or violence. I decided that I loved this person, perhaps too much, and that their fate was not in my control. And I prayed they’d get well but I decided to move on with my life and that I’d be there when they were ready.

This post isn’t about personal dynamics and families plagued by addiction. It’s more about society. I just want people to be more aware. I just want people to practice more compassion. Just because someone is homeless, doesn’t make them an addict. Just because someone is young, doesn’t mean they can’t be an addict. Just because someone doesn’t use drugs everyday or hard drugs at that, does not make them exempt from addiction. Just because someone is anything between working to upper-upper class, does not mean that they cannot become addicted. Not all addicts are criminals. The best people I’ve ever met in my entire life, the nicest people, the kindest and the most warm, loving people in my life are recovering addicts. ADDICTION DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE. IT IS NOT A MORAL AFFLICTION. IT IS A DISEASE/DISORDER OF THE MIND AND NOBODY WANTS TO END UP LIKE THAT.

So next time you watch a film and cocaine is made fun, or next time you hear someone say ‘junkie’, remind yourself that addiction is a serious mental illness that deserves more than to be made into a narrative drive or left on the side of the street because people think that it’s deserved.

Unfortunately, many addicts die. Drugs ruin and end lives. It is hard not only for the addict but the people around them. That’s how I know that it is important for me to conduct this work. I am a lucky addict that made it out alive. I found my voice and I am going to use it.

If you need help or know anybody struggling, here are some contacts:

HSE Drugs & Alcohol Helpline
This confidential service has both a freephone Helpline (1800 459 459) and an email support service (helpline@hse.ie)

Narcotics Anonymous Ireland
Tel: +353 (0)1-6728000 (Information line only)
info@na-ireland.org

 

 

WORLD GRATITUDE DAY FEATURE POST: The Power of Gratitude and How It Affects Your Mental Health

WORLD GRATITUDE DAY FEATURE POST: The Power of Gratitude and How It Affects Your Mental Health

Aloha lovers! 

I hope you’re all doing alright & loving yourselves accordingly. I haven’t done anything like this in a long time- I think the last feature blog that I posted was a skin condition post, actually. And as far as I remember, it went down well. I love posts like this because it allows you to identify with not only me, as the medium, but the feature blogger. It also allows them to meet all of you wonderful readers & maybe share some experiences with you, too. 

Today is World Gratitude Day. And when I ask myself what exactly that means I get a little bit irritable. Why do we need a day to appreciate what we have? Or to say thank you to the people that love us- just for being who they are? Or for being healthy? Or for being unhealthy and still alive? Shouldn’t we be doing that everyday? I suppose it works as a reminder. And I definitely need a reminder. It’s not easy to do. We live in  a society that tells us constantly that we need more, we need something else, we’re not good enough, our lives aren’t good enough. We are conditioned. And we all have problems in our lives, in our minds. And as much as I love sharing with you my deepest, darkest… I’d like to start shining the light a bit more, looking at the silver linings. 

I met Karen out in TV3 when she appeared on The Elaine Show to talk about her new book, The Gratitude Attitude Journal. I can’t give a background on her because it is so much more powerful coming from her- so just scroll down. But I know you’re going to love her. But sure come visit me on Snapchat (jademccannx) and let me know what you thought of this feature post! I also post daily vlogs over there, so if you’re in anyway interested in following me on adventures & stalking my life… that’s where it’s at! 

Oh & before I forget: Karen has taken time out of her busy schedule to pop by and say hello to us, gracing us with some home-hitting wisdoms so if you’ve got a second, her links are down below. Head back over and say thank you! 


Ever look around and know that you should be having a great time, but you are just not feeling it? Like an outsider, like you shouldn’t be there, feel like there is something wrong but you can’t figure out what? I have been that solider! If I could have given myself the tips I’m about to give you back then, I would have been so grateful! This is one of the many reasons I am publishing ‘My Gratitude Attitude Journal’. It can be easy to fall out of love with oneself, never mind life. I spent so many years disconnected from myself, living the life I thought I ought to have been living. Saying yes to people, situations, jobs I should definitely have said no to.

By practicing gratitude, I learned how to say ‘yes’ to myself and put myself first unapologetically. By taking the time everyday to make note of what really makes me happy, I started to learn about myself more. Sounds a little stupid but it’s true. I got so caught up in living up to other peoples expectations on how my life should be lived that I didn’t think to question or change it.

My wake up call came in 2012 in the emergency room of The Beacon Hospital when the ER doctor uttered the words “If you were 80 years of age, the number of lesions on your brain and spine would be normal…..”- I was 31 years old. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis that very day. Fear and relief were the prevailing emotions that pervaded me that day. Fear that I wasn’t exactly sure what Multiple Sclerosis was and how it would affect me and relief that I finally had a name to put on the symptoms I was experiencing. The next 4 years were spent fighting my way through what can only be described as a very challenging period. Sick, fat, tired and angry is a good description. I spent the majority of my ‘feeling good’ time in work, with my career getting the best of me then arriving home reluctantly to take injections.
To an outsider, I was happy, bright & positive, yet I had such inner turmoil. I was trying to keep up a façade of being ok, because I actually couldn’t admit to myself I wasn’t.

My mental health was at an all time low and the only way I was finding solace was through eating my emotions. As I’m sure you can imagine, this didn’t work out too well. Dec 2014 came along, medications were having a detrimental effect on my health and I decided to give up the only identity I was proud of in order to look after my health, my job as a Media Sales & Marketing Manager. I had to try something different. I could no longer cope with the side effects of the medication so I stopped taking all of it against the wishes of my neurologist and family. What should have been a joy staying at home with my kids and not having to work was the polar opposite. I resented giving up my career and relying on someone else financially.
After a break up, a house move, and a visit to see Tony Robbins – I made a decision I was going to be happy no matter what I had to do and face my health issues head on. I started to put myself first, finally. I said no to people or events I didn’t feel were in my best interests, even cutting out some gossipy friends and generally anyone negative. I practiced gratitude every single day, meditated even more, studied a Mindfulness Diploma & invested in personal development as well as facing inner demons.

The results were astounding, as soon as I started respecting myself, my body started to mirror that. I felt like a better person. I was at peace and my body and illness finally followed suit. I started doing things that I wanted to do. I learned to know when my body and mind where getting stressed and I knew how to calm it and take control again. By cultivating an attitude of gratitude on a daily basis, it scientifically strengthens your brain and fires up cells that ordinarily might not be in use. It’s the same as going to the gym and working on whatever muscle group. According to a Harvard University study “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships”.

I’m living proof that a daily practice of writing what your grateful for, whether its past, present or for an optimistic future, has monumentally positive effects. In January of this year I got incredible news that my MS had in fact ‘burned out’ i.e.: gone!

You can invest in your own mental health and gift yourself or someone you are grateful for by buying ‘My Gratitude Attitude Journal’ from today on World Gratitude Day:  www.mygratitudeattitudejournal.com
With gratitude,

Karen X 

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How I Manage My Mental Health (Requested Topic)

How I Manage My Mental Health (Requested Topic)

 

Hi there little readers,

I hope you are well and minding yourself. I’ve been struggling with basics but we can get back to that later.

This topic was supposed to be a podcast but unfortunately my schedule has just like tripled in capacity. The people that requested it have asked a few times and I realise that with topics like this sometimes there’s a sense of urgency. I’ve put off the podcast for almost three weeks now and I am so sorry for that but hopefully we can put all right with this blog post. I know that I won’t be able to fit the same amount of information into a blog post as I would a podcast BUT I’m gonna try. And of course, if you want to chat further or would like me to talk more about it- hit me up on Snapchat (jademccannx) and I can elaborate on my story or write to you personally. Whatever ya like.

Before I start, I just want to refer to a blog post that I put up a few months ago. It talks about what exactly mental health is. And it’s important to note that everybody has mental health, just like everybody has physical health. So, before you think this blog might not apply to you because you have good mental health- think again. Illness does not discriminate. So mind yourself. And click here to read more about that.

Managing my mental health isn’t exactly easy. I generally suffer with whacks of depression, stress, anxiety, paranoia and obsessive thinking.And they have not left me yet. I don’t feel one bit sorry for myself and I don’t argue the fact anymore. I’m actually so relieved to say that I have a certain level of acceptance around these things now. That, and I have picked up tools over the years and because of this it has gotten a lot better.

The first trick that I learned, and I always stress this, is that I stopped putting mood altering substances into my body. That includes weed/hash and codeine based painkillers, alcohol and all recreational drugs (not that I ever took all of them, but you get the point). And there’s a very good reason for that, just hear me out. Not only have I got an addictive personality and do these things get me in a bit of trouble, they also interfere with my emotional and spiritual growth.

Imagine a snow globe. Every time you get a certain length of clean/sober time, the snow globe is still. It begins to collect itself. You can think clearer. You are more connected with yourself. You have a little bit of raw emotion and that can be hard but at least you can feel. But when you use something mind altering, the snow glob is shaken. It gets disrupted. It doesn’t know where it’s going or how it feels. You’ve knocked yourself off whack. All parts of you become confused. And that’s the best way I can explain it. If you’re susceptible to mental health struggles and find it hard to tell how you feel anyway, why would you make it harder? You can probably relate to this if you go into a depression after a night out with huge anxiety and panic attacks. That used to happen to me a lot. I hated it. I used to think that I used drugs (alcohol being a drug) because of my mental health state. I never questioned whether or not the drugs were interfering. Until someone explained the snow globe analogy. And that’s why I’m sharing it with you.

By staying away from mind altering substances, it gives us the opportunity to connect with how we are really feeling. It allows us to feel how we really feel. Which can be really difficult if we don’t want to face it. But it’s like ripping a plaster off. If you feel it now, you won’t have to feel it again. If you deal with this stuff now and talk about it, let it out and come to terms with it. You can bury the hatchet. Don’t get me wrong, staying clean can be extremely testing. And unfortunately, not everybody can get clean in one try. But there are programmes and places that provide support if needed. And if and when we are supposed to stumble across them, we will. I do not regret getting clean at all. It has given me so much. Not only superficially- like the jobs of my dreams and a beautiful car and life- but emotionally and spiritually- I can connect with myself and faith. I know that I’m going to be okay and I am able to make decisions based on how I really feel- most of the time. That’s not to say that I’m perfect and can see everything clearly because I’m clean. But I’m one step closer. There are also other positives: like being more hireable because you’re not a liability, learning how to have fun sober, remembering nights out and other events, being the one that your friends can depend on and of course, being able to depend on yourself. Drop a comment if you’d like me to write a post about the pros and cons of being clean- that could be a could one!

Now, when it comes to mind-altering substances, there is the whole other topic there of anti-depressants. If you’d like me to put a blog post up about my experience with anti-depressants then let me know. For the most part, I have no objection. but I do believe that they should be suggested and prescribed by a doctor. And I don’t believe they entirely resolve the issue. I think they work as a good temporary tool but can cause problems long term- that’s based on my experience.

Unfortunately as clicheéd as it may sound, in my experience I’ve learned that the most important way to maintain your mental health is to maintain your physical health first. I’ve learned this through my experience of not eating, not sleeping, not communicating, not showering, isolating, not drinking enough water- and basically doing all of the things that basic human beings need to do in order to feel safe. This kind of behaviour has never helped my case. And I understand that when we’re in that mind set, it’s almost impossible to get ourselves to move. But we just have to. It’s literally like forcing yourself to do something that you don’t want to do. No matter how I feel, I get up, dress up and show up. Even if I have nowhere to go, I just go. I get in the car. I get on the bus. Somedays I do it crying. Somedays I do it with my heels dug into the ground. I have gone out some days with my face raw red from a night of not sleeping and crying but brought face wipes and just constantly wiped tears away as I sat in a cinema. I’ve taken breaks at family meals to go into the bathroom to cry. I’ve sat in the most happiest of environments with family and friends trying to cheer me up with the sole thought of ending it all. But staying locked away in isolation has always made me worse. And I do not want to be ill. I want to be well. I’ve spent too much time ill. It is not easy to do this. Leaving the house when everything in your entity is telling you to hide is probably the hardest task I face regularly. But I always feel better when I’ve done it. And I’ve started to see the rewards of doing it. When I get promotions in work or make new friends or meet a reader… I know that it’s important for me to keep trying.

I find showering before I go anywhere helps. Sometimes when I can’t convince myself that going out is a good idea, I convince myself to take one task at a time. So I’ll get out of bed. I’ll comfort myself with a dressing gown. I’ll make it to the kettle. I’ll pick some clothes out ‘just incase’. I’ll have a hot shower. I’ll moisturise and do my hair, sometimes my makeup. And by the time I’ve done some of these things, I want to go out. I’ll have come around a bit.

I learned this trick called ‘HALT’. And basically what ‘HALT’ is is that, anytime I feel down or confused, I stop and ask myself- am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? And usually, I’m one of those things. And in the process of rectifying that, I begin to feel better. I might eat and be given energy, or sleep and feel refreshed, I might phone a friend and talk it out or realise that my angry is as a result of any of three things listed. Basic care is so important. We are human beings. We are not machines. We don’t run on coffee (although, I’m giving that a right bash) and we can’t neglect our basic primal needs. And if you watch my snapchat, you’re so aware that I cannot preach this. If I’m being one-hundred-percent honest, almost everyone I know asks me regularly if I’ve eaten today. Mainly because I find it really hard to nutritionally fuel myself. And I don’t do it consciously- honestly, I don’t. But it’s like I just put it at the bottom of my priority list sometimes. And I don’t feel hungry or in pain or anything like that. I don’t do it to hurt myself. I just don’t love myself enough to eat sometimes. I put it off. I tell myself I’ll eat later. And sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Like, in the last two days, I’ve eaten twice. And that’s while I’m working 12 hour days. I survive on coffee. Literally. And I am so aware that is not good for me. And I’m so aware I’ve to be careful because when I get like this and run on nothing for a while, my mental health eventually crashes- because as mentioned before, I’m not feeling my brain or my body. Sure wouldn’t anyone lose their mind? But important to note at this point is that I am not striving for perfection. I want progress. So although I struggle with food, I have to look at the positives. Last night I got enough sleep. I got up this morning and made it to work on time- clean, dressed and in a good mood. I want to be kind today. I can’t wait to live today. I’m excited to be in work because I love my job. And if I eat, I eat and if I don’t, I’ll get around to it. But at least I have the awareness around it and the tools to notice these things. Before, I never would have figured that this may be linked with my mental health or influence it in any way. So if nothing else, I’m learning.

H-A-L-T

Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?

I suppose the next elephant in the room is that I work a lot- y’all are like… 12 hour shifts?!? And this can be unhealthy because it fits as an escapism. When I’m working, I don’t have to deal with my problems. I can easily ignore my home life, my friends  or my own emotions. But for me, working helps. I always get around to checking in with myself eventually- asking myself how I feel physically and mentally. But work helps me to meet new people, keep active, get out of bed, stay out of bed, engage with people on a professional level and all of these things give me a sense of achievement. It helps build my confidence in myself. I challenge myself daily. I set new goals weekly. And I aim to meet them. And if I don’t, that’s okay. But when I do… I swear sometimes I feel like I am on fire. There is no greater feeling than setting a goal and meeting it. And that’s how I feed my soul. But everybody has something different. My point on this paragraph is find something that interests you and chase your dreams. Because unfortunately outside things aren’t going to fix you– as convenient as that would be. If you are struggling with your mental health that’s something that has to be accepted. Everything external is a temporary fix. Soul rewards are ones that we get when we work on ourselves internally. And I really do believe, based on my experience, that hobbies and passions can enhance confidence and help us to reward ourselves. That’s not to say it’s not testing. Trying new things can be really scary, meeting new people and going to new places can be absolutely terrifying. But that sense of overcoming something, it just really helps to remind me that I can do anything I want to and I’m stronger than I think.

I hate saying this but I always feel better when I drink water and eat healthily. I hate saying it because for some reason I have something built into me that loves to self-destruct. And if I could live de-hydrated and survive nutritionally off chips and pizza, I so would. But the problem with that is when I fall into those patterns, my mental health suffers. So I have to be really aware of triggers that I have. Exercise really helps me, too. I feel confident after the gym. I can push myself at the gym. It’s great way to let off stress and burn all of that hot, pressured energy. At the start, I didn’t like going to the gym. I felt self-conscious and I didn’t feel like I could do it. I thought I wouldn’t achieve my goals. I thought I was doing everything wrong and that I would be judged. But I got a personal trainer to teach me. I did some research and I started making more of an effort to overcome my fears. And I feel so confident in the gym now. I even allow myself to wear sports bras and leggings- I’M THAT YONCÉ. I don’t have a perfect body but that’s just an example of how by working at something and chipping away, you do reap what you sew.

As well as all of the physical elements of self-care, there are mental/emotional ones, too. I had to learn to be aware of how I speak to myself, how I think about myself. So, I had rewire my brain in many ways. I realised that if someone else followed me around telling me the same things I don’t myself, I probably would have knocked them out a long time ago. I would never say these things to anybody else. I would never call someone else useless, or tell them that they’re stupid or less than anybody else. So I have to work on that all of the time. I have to be aware. I used to spend hours telling myself how terrible I was. But now, whenever I have a negative thought about myself, I try to counter-act it with a positive. It doesn’t always work. But, it’s helps me move on to the next thought.  I have to be kind to myself. I am not a bad person. I can just feel unwell sometimes. I wouldn’t beat myself up for hurting my leg. So, why should I beat myself up for struggling mentally? It’s the same thing. It’s about health and maintenance.

Obsessive thinking is a huge thing that I struggle with: becoming obsessed with people, places, things and thoughts. And the only thing that I have learned that makes this ANY easier is to just let the thoughts come and then let them go. I used to spend months telling myself not to think about things. I’d force myself to forget or distract myself. And let me tell ya, they just come back with a vengeance. Well, for me they did. So, now when a ‘bad’ thought comes, I just question it. I meditate on it.  Why has this thought come? What has triggered it? Is there a reason it’s so irritating for me? Why am I hurt by this? And I also call a friend sometimes just to take the power out of it. Sometimes when I hold things in, they take control of my mind. They consume me. But by just saying it out loud (no matter how many times I have to), eventually it lifts. And it passes. Everything passes. Everything always has and everything will continue to pass. Life goes on. This, too, shall pass.

I’m trying to think of all of the things that I have to force myself to do that may just come naturally to other people. And to be honest, I can’t really preach these things because let’s be real, I am not perfect. I find it hard to sleep. I sometimes go days without food. I sometimes eat a 2 day calorie intake in one sitting. I get angry and I become obsessed with things and I don’t always do what I should to help myself. But I’m still alive and I’m still trying. And I’m a hell of a lot better than I was. There have been times that I honestly did not want to live. And there have been times that I definitely did not want to try. But here I am. And I understand this blog post might not have helped and it was probably really vague but my basic point is just not to give up. Don’t let this win. It’s not real. I know for us it seems real and like the world is ending and it’s never going to pass. But clouds clear. And people do come out the other side. That’s not to say the clouds won’t return from time to time. But it does get a hell of a lot easier. It can be conquered.

As always, I am going to just pop a disclaimer here and state that I do not write about these topics for attention. I write about mental health in the hope that it might reach someone suffering and also, to slay a bit of stigma around it. Not enough people have the capacity to be completely honest about their struggles and I am so grateful that I’m capable in that sense. I don’t want to waste it and allow someone else suffer in silence.

If you would like to hear me talk about this some more, let me know in the comments below or on any of my social media platforms. I genuinely love hearing from you guys because I like to identify, too. And I love to think that this kind of material is reaching someone. So please don’t hesitate to get in touch. There is so much more that I would love to say but I’m strapped for time. I will be chatting about this over on my Snapchat this week to correlate with the post so if you want to hear some more, come on over and join the Snapfam!

Until next time,

J X

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