#atozchallenge: B is for Birds

BirdsThings that help …

There are few things in life that give me more pleasure than watching birds. The apparent simplicity of their lives attracts me just as much as the beauty of their plumage. I can lose minutes at a time, standing at my lounge window, watching the blackbirds, robins, sparrows and bluetits flit happily about my garden. I can while away whole hours lying on a beach watching the gulls wheel above my head.

RobinOf all the garden birds, the robin is my favourite. They are such friendly creatures, hopping around on their spindly legs, looking for whatever grubs my spade unearths. I never feel alone in my garden; I always have company, especially at this time of year when the baby robins are leaving their nests.


titRecently, the  National Trust commissioned vocal sculptor and beatboxer Jason Singh, to put together an album of tweet music in celebration of spring. Apparently, research has shown that listening to birdsong not only makes people calmer but boosts positivity too. Three quarters of the people surveyed felt more connected to nature in spring than at any other time of year, while, for many, the sounds of spring brought back happy childhood memories. Other studies have shown that natural sounds have restorative qualities; the call sounds of songbirds and other natural noises help people recover more quickly from stress compared with the noise of urban living. I can get on board with that!

When I’m feeling stressed, when the little niggles start to take hold and make my heart beat faster, simply walking into the garden can help me calm back down. There is definitely something peace-inducing about the sound of birdsong and the whisper of the wind in the trees, especially for a tinnitus sufferer like me. But that’s a whole other post …


An explanation of my AtoZChallenge theme can be found at Me and My Mental Health – It’s Time to Talk.

#atozchallenge: A is for Anxiety

BlessingOr how it all started …

It was ten at night, and I’d been having contractions since five in the morning, but nothing was happening, so the midwife decided to hook me up to the foetal heart monitor ‘just to make sure everything’s okay.’

But everything wasn’t okay. With every contraction, my baby’s heart rate dipped.

‘Your contractions are still relatively weak,’ said the doctor, ‘but baby doesn’t like them, and I’m concerned that baby won’t cope well when they do get stronger. I recommend you have a c-section as soon as possible.’

‘Okay,’ I said, leaning back on the bed. ‘That’s fine.’

The doctor gave me a sideways look. ‘You seem very calm about this.’

‘I’m always calm in a crisis,’ I replied. ‘I’ll fall apart later.’

And that’s exactly what happened; fifteen months later, I was on medication for depression and anxiety. But it wasn’t just the drama of my second child’s birth that had triggered my mental illness; I’d lost my dad a year before she was born, and since she’d been born I’d been battling baby-induced sleep-deprivation. Controlled Crying hadn’t worked and after five months of it, it had left me a quivering wreck. I’d become obsessed with her sleep and my own lack of sleep, and the thought of upsetting our precious routine would send me into full-on hair-pulling, hand-clapping, rocking-backward-and-forward panic attacks.

Antidepressants helped. Talking helped. Having a loving and sympathetic circle of family and friends helped. Eventually I relaxed, let go and more-or-less recovered, but I’ve been left with a strange sensitivity to stress. I’m still calm in a crisis, but the tiniest things can trigger the old reactions: the palpitations, the irrationality, the obsession with routine. Happily though, this doesn’t last long anymore because I’ve learned to recognize anxiety’s approach, and I’ve assembled an arsenal of weapons to use against it. I’ll be writing about those in future posts. Stay tuned …


An explanation of my AtoZChallenge theme can be found at Me and My Mental Health – It’s Time to Talk.

#atozchallenge: Me and My Mental Health, It’s #TimetoTalk

Time to TalkI’ve never made a secret of the fact that I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. I believe that being open about my mental health problems has helped me to recover from them. I also believe that the more people talk about it, the more society will recognise that anyone can suffer from a mental illness and that there should be no shame in it or stigma attached to it.

That’s why I’m using this AtoZChallenge as a Time to Talk. Over the course of April, I will be posting about my experiences with mental illness: the bad times, the good times, the things that help, the things that hinder. As well as writing, I’m looking forward to talking, but I’m not an expert on mental health, so I won’t be offering any advice. With that in mind, here are some links where you can find out about:

See you tomorrow for A is for Anxiety …