I Have a Big Mind, So I Can Keep Dreaming

I have a very big mind. I don’t know if you can quantify the size of a mind seeing as it is abstract. What I mean when I say I have a big mind is that it wanders. I have high ambitions for myself, and sometimes believe in them. I think I’m going to become an award-winning author, a Nobel prize receiving nutritionist (has that ever even happened?). I’m going to run marathons and go on to running ultra’s. I want to play instruments and dance like Darcey Bussell

I don’t just want to do all of this stuff. I strive to do it all. However, one obstacle keeps getting in my way. My mental health. I can be very disabling for me. Sometimes, when I am unwell, I can’t even cook or eat properly. I can’t wash. Going to the toilet feels like a chore. Understanding and depicting between reality and fantasy can be a challenge.

I think a lot. I use mindfulness to tame my thinking – and often my mind may be empty, and still I think a lot. I can switch off, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t want all of these things for myself, along with a fantastic relationship, and friends, and above all – learning to manage my mental health.

One thing I still struggle with a lot is knowing how much I can do. I often feel like I want every waking moment of my days to be achieving something – be that studying, learning, writing, reading, running, climbing, art. Perhaps I expect too much of myself. I’m not sure.

When I’m depressed though, something I always struggle with is my inability to do very much at all – and learning to reign in my ideals of how I want to live my life. Accepting the limitations placed on me by my illnesses is something I have not fully accepted. I have accepted it more than I could a few years ago: it is a process. At the same time, I don’t want to not live my life because of my illnesses. I don’t want to sell myself short. I think most people can relate to wanting to be the best version of themselves, and to wanting to live their life as the best version of themselves.

So accepting that I can only read a paragraph at a time, accepting that I can’t go out or leave the house, accepting that I can’t run 4 times a week because quite simply, I am too unwell is difficult to adapt to each time I get unwell. Unfortunately, for me, getting unwell is still a frequent part of my life and I wonder if ever I will be as well as I hope to be. I expected to be a fully functioning member of society with a brilliant job after being off work for 6 months. That was 6 years ago. Evidently, these hopes and desires didn’t quite pan out.

There are times when I wish I was someone else. There are more than numerous times when I wish I didn’t have my illnesses. In fact, I wish this most days that I’m affected negatively by them. I think that is natural, right? So here, on that point right there I need to do some more acceptance work. By that I don’t mean stop fighting and give in. By that I mean learn when to pull the reigns in and accept that for a period of time I probably can’t do everything I want to do or wish for.

The difficulty of this acceptance I think is compounded by the highs I experience. During these times, life is bloody wonderful and I’m functioning at 200%. I’m productive beyond measure, goal orientated like a world champion athlete chasing after an Olympic Gold. I’m talented. I’m brilliant. I’m capable of anything and everything I set myself to. This is called hypomania – and the part that gets me the most is the comparison.

When I am hypomanic, experiencing myself at 200% and loving it, producing grand plans and ideas of how I’m going to become successful in every sense of the word makes the contrast between this state and being so low I cannot leave my bed a more bitter pill to swallow – and in swallowing my meds, I am to an extent, forfeiting these periods of my best self.

Overall, I know it is worth it because I get severely depressed much more than I get hypomanic – yet the contrast of the, “but I’m so brilliant” during those times is a difficult price to pay for stability. Over the years I have refused medications and not taken my medication. Slowly I have learned that this is in fact the worst thing I can do because 90% I will go down, down, down. I have learned the importance of taking my meds, and the importance of self-care in terms of sleep hygiene, and keeping calm in my overall performance, because what is the use of functioning and being my best self at 200% for a few weeks once a year or so, compared to a functioning level between 60-70% for the majority of the time? It is an equation of better odds in longevity.

But I have a big mind and I despise not being capable. I despise not being independent 100% of the time. I resent the fact that I am resigned to not working full-time, perhaps ever. At times it eats me up inside that I may never reach my full best self due to my illness – and actively accepting that going to the shop for some milk and watching Netflix is as good as it’s going to get for a few weeks is a painful realisation to find yourself in when you have such a big mind.

I know that I need to tame my mind. I may not be able to be brilliant all the time, much to my disappointment – but I can be above good for most of the time when I’m well? Is that a fair price to pay for being 5% of myself, and totally disabled by my mental illness? No. I don’t think so. Is it reality though? Is that just how mental illness goes? Yes. I suppose it is. Do I want to accept that? Not at all. Do I need to accept that? Most definitely.

Many brilliant minds in the public eye are tortured by mental illness, yet they manage to be really quite remarkable. Stephen Fry. Ruby Wax. Catherine Zeta Jones. Demi Lovato. When I see how successful they are, I find myself thinking, why not me? There is an element of self belief required, but the truth is, these people are exceptions. Exceptional minds and personalities with mental illness. They do not represent the majority of people with mental illness. I think society forgets that and that help me to also forget that.

I see a lot of people where I live, and amongst the services and hospitals I’ve been to who experience severe mental illness, and for them, just living in supported accommodation or volunteering 4 hours a week is as good as it’s going to get. Yet I don’t see myself amongst that population. I don’t see myself as higher or better, but I see my mind as bigger. I don’t identify with the people in my living complex who spend all day every day staring into space smoking and drinking – I see myself in the Stephen Fry’s and the Demi Lovato’s: but I just can’t sustain my abilities at a high enough level – and that is something I suppose I need to learn to accept. That is something I need to learn to live with, without thinking I may as well kill myself at the same time. That is something I am sure many of us struggle with, mental illness or not.


I just wish I could be my 200% for 100% of the time. I can dream. We all can. If I keep dreaming, and keep trying, it might become reality – until then, I need to reign in my expectations of myself again – and the heart wrenching reality of my illness hits me hard in the gut, in my soul, at my very core of what I consider to be my being. This is why I don’t work. This is why many people with mental illness don’t work and that’s OK – I just wish every person understood that without judgement. Maybe one day I too will work full-time, maybe I won’t.  Like I said though, I can dream right?


Mental Health Resources and Support.


We all need support from time to time. When enduring mental health difficulties though, those support networks become even more vital to our every day. Without them, mental illness can become consuming, overwhelming, and eventually isolating, making it more difficult to cope. Sometimes there is nothing quite like a tea and a bitch to process stresses, or perhaps you phone your best friend, boy friend, girlfriend for a rant, or maybe you’re lucky enough to be close to your mum or dad to ask for their words of wisdom. At times though, it can seem that there is no-one who understands what you want to talk about. I think this is especially true if you are enduring a mental health problem.

How can someone who has never felt suicidal relate to and understand the pain you’re in right now? How can someone who has never been scared by hearing voices truly empathise with your frustrations and fear? And at the end of the day, mental illness or not, we are human, and we all have our limits. However, there are help-lines by organisations that can be contacted who have had specialist training in mental health who can support you in a time of need. Additionally there are websites and forums run by people who are experiencing certain difficulties, so finally there is someone who can relate to your inner chaos, or someone who has ideas for how to make the current suffering better, or someone who knows which med helped them, maybe you could mention it to your psych to see if it helps you.

During my own journey with my mental health I have used a wide variety of sources outside of my personal, and NHS services support systems. I have frequented many websites, forums and phoned help-lines for support in the wee hours of the morning. Many of these sources for support are free, but where they are not there are ways around it. Samaritans for example can phone you back at no cost.

Therefore here is a list of recommended sites, help-lines and resources that I have found personally useful (In alphabetical order):

B-eat: phone, online and face-to-face.
B-eat is the nations leading eating disorder support charity. They have a lot of avenues of support including online support, support groups around the country and a phone line which is open Monday – Friday 1.30pm-4.30pm, in addition to Monday and Wednesday evenings, 5.30pm-8.30pm. They have separate help-lines for young people and adults. They also have separate online support forums for young people, and adults.
Adult Phone Line: 0845 634 14 14
Youth Phone Line: 0845 634 76 50
Online support link: b-eat online support

They also have a Help Finder for therapists and treatment for eating disorders.
Link: Find Help.

Bulimia help: Online.
Bulimia Help is an online organisation for people with bulimia. On the site there is an active community and active self-help treatment tools such as meal plans, food diaries and mindfulness tutorials on eating. I joined this website when it first launched back in 2008. It is the only site with the resources that helped me overcome my bulimia. Although you now have to pay, my personal advice if you are trapped in the cycles of bulimia is that it is worth it. It is a very recovery focused site, with helpful tools and advice to help you on your journey.
Link: Bulimia Help.

Ele Friends:Online.
Elefriends is an online support forum for people with mental health difficulties by the organisation Mind. You can post about your mental health, your life, and general thoughts. I think the idea is based on Mind’s Peer Support programmes, but in an online format.
Link: Ele Friends.

Emotional Overeaters Support: Face-to-Face.
These support groups are run by b-eat as well.
Link: Self Help Group.

Hearing voices network: Face-to-Face.
The Hearing Voices Network (HVN) is a network of support groups for people who hear voices. The hearing voices network doesn’t always view the voice sin a negative light, but also accepts them as part of our daily lives allowing for a greater acceptance. Not everyone who hears voices is psychotic, and the HVN accept that many people hear voices as a result of stress of trauma. They run groups nationwide, and can be found using this link: HVN Groups.

Mind: Phone, Face-to-Face.
Mind is a mental health charity that has a very helpful and informative website. Their site includes information on different illness’ including symptoms, treatments and medications. They are run community projects centred around peer support, and reintegration into independent living after discharge from secondary services. These are set up locally, but information can be found on their website. Each local mind is a locally run independent charity.
Link: Find your local Mind.

There is also Mind Info-line which is a phone line for support in regards to accessing information about mental health illness’ and rights, for if you or someone you know is sectioned under the mental health act for example. They provide a text service for this too.
Phone: 0300 123 3393
Text: 86463
Link: Mind Help Lines.

PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors): Online, phone and face-to-face.
PODS online is a charity organisation supporting people with dissociative disorders. They have an online forum alongside helpful information about dissociation. It is run by Carol Springs and her husband Rob. Carol has survived dissociation, and written an insightful book about her experiences with Dissociative Identity Disorder called ‘Recovery is my Best Revenge’ which is available on Kindle.
Link: PODS Online.

Psych forums:Online.
Psych forums is an online forum for people affected or experiencing mental illness. The forum is vast and covers all major difficulties including mood, personality, dissociative, cognitive and psychotic illnesses including more. Access is free, and easy to set up. Similarly to Recover Your Life, the forum is quite active so people often respond.
Link: Psych Forums.

Recover Your Life:Online.
Recover Your Life is an online support forum originally created for people struggling with self harm. Nowadays however it is for people with a wide range of mental health difficulties from eating disorder, personality disorders and schizophrenia. No-one is excluded on the site, and it is free to join.

There is the main forum body including sections such as General Chat, General Support and Advice, Serious Discussions and Advice and Mental Health Discussion and Support.

This is a very active forum so is a good place to ask generic mental health questions because you usually get a response.
Link: Recover Your Life.

The Samaritans: Phone, E-mail, Letters or Face-to-Face.
Samaritans Phone:
The Samaritans are a 24/7 phone line for people in distress. Whatever time you phone them, and whatever difficulties you’re facing, they are there to listen. If you don’t have the money to pay to phone them, then that isn’t an issue as you can ask them to phone you back.
You can phone them on: 08457 90 90 90
You can also e-mail them on: jo@samaritans.org
Or write to:
PO Box 9090

Samaritans text line:
The Samaritans also run a text service which is free to use. It is quite simple, and suitable for if you are feeling unsure of talking on the phone, or in person, yet can’t quite put everything you need to say in a letter or e-mail. They text back, and often offer to talk to you on the phone after a while, which you may find more easy to do after texting them for a while.
You can text Samaritans Text-line on: 07725 90 90 90

Samaritans drop in:
Samaritans aren’t only on the end of the phone, they can talk to you, and listen face-to-face as well in their drop-in centres. They advise that you phone up in advance to make sure a volunteer is available to talk to you, and listen. You don’t have to be suicidal to make contact with the Samaritans, they are a listening ear for whatever is causing you distress of any form.
Link: Samaritans Branches.

Sane: Phone and Online.
Sane are a mental health charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone affected by mental illness. On their website they feature stories and blogs by those affected by mental illness. Simply reading these can help to feel less isolated and alone. Submitting them can help share your voice about your story, and this could go towards helping someone else to feel less alone. All stories are told through the eyes of non-mental health professionals, so can be quite good and reassuring to read. They can be found here: Through Your Eyes.

Sane have a few avenues through which support can be gained including:
A phone line open 6pm-11pm every day. They can be reached on: 0845 767 8000

They also provide a Text Care service, which schedules texts for when you may need extra support or help. They can send texts to your phone before an appointment you  may have, or at a difficult time of year. They are limited to one text per week for 5 weeks, but you can resubmit the form after the 5 weeks is up.
The form to set this up is here: Text Care.

In addition to providing emotional support on the phone, they also host an online forum for people affected my mental illness. On here, you can gain peer support from people experiencing similar difficulties. It is free to sign up and use and for those who are aged 18 or older.
Link: Support Forum.

Twitter: Online.
There is a large mental health community willing to be supportive on twitter. Many people use the platform as a safe place to rant and express themselves in addition to gaining and offering support. In some circles twitter is effectively an online forum for people with mental health difficulties.

In an emergency (uk) Phone and Face-to-Face.
If you are in a mental health crisis and feel you could benefit from some advice or help that is not an emergency then you can phone NHS Direct on 111. They can hive you advice, or an out of hours GP can see you.

If you are in a mental health crisis, or have in some way harmed yourself then always call 999.