Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Trying to Accept I Can't Solve Things I Can Solve

I think I'm a bit of a lazy person but my Psychologist disagrees. I could have curled up and hidden myself with the events of last October but instead I used what energy I could muster to fight. Rather than glue myself to a TV, which I did to some extent, I wrote this blog. At times I've set goals on how many YouTube videos to produce as well as pushed myself to be active in the community with continually improving the drama club and improving myself through my weekly radio show and through my work with Time To Change.

I hate inequality. One of the big motivators for me writing this blog is that no one should have to go through what I did either as a child when I was the sole carer for my alcoholic mother but also for the horrible treatment I've received because of my disability. And yes, my mental health condition is a disability - I didn't realise it at first but as I shared on this Huffington Post article there are quite a lot of us out there with mental health issues that affect our quality of life.


Rather than going to celebrate a very successful summer show, I ended up feeling really low. It was all because the 2nd, 3rd and 4th lanes of the M40 were closed. For a few miles overhead signs had indicated the lanes were closed with arrows indicating that lane to merge into the next lane until the red X appeared. I was in lane 1. I was stationary only to discover that it was because all manner of vehicles were storming down the carriageway, through the red X signs and then barging into lane 1. Worryingly people seem oblivious that passing a Red X is a criminal offence. It should cost you 6 points on your license and a £60 fixed fine. Yet no one, as far as I can see, is enforcing it. Enforcing it, would pay for itself and generate extra funds for 'more bobbies on the beat' as well as encouraging safer use of our roads.

As you may have seen from past posts here, I am a lollipop man and I witness all sorts of behaviour on the roads. There was a time when I reported every vehicle I saw that failed to stop when signalled to do so or where the driver was clearly on their phone. What I find infuriating is that I can see the solution to this but I cannot do it or use it. How simple would it be to have a camera that I then edit the footage for each offence and auto-generate a warning letter or fine, Such a system much exists or even if I have to do it manually, it will still be worth it. "If you tolerate this, then your children will be next". Does something hideous have to happen before we will take action and actually bring justice on those behaving likes twonks?

I cannot go into much detail about my particular incident on the crossing but to say I signalled a minibus to stop and steadily and safely it did. Within seconds I had spotted the vehicle inches from my back and was shocked to hear the driver hurling abuse at me including calling me "suicidal" and "mental". I get that the Police are overstretched but I cannot see that anything is being done. Again, I'm left with an unsupported authority with people trying to maim or kill me.

I guess my fear is that if people are not penalised for their selfish and deadly behaviour, whether it is hitting me on the crossing or hitting a Road Engineer in a closed line, then said behaviour will spread. A "they didn't get told off and it is a quicker so I'll copy" mentality. Slowly the hole level of driving is slowly dropping. Admit it, you've seen it with people on their phones texting or calling with one or no hands on the steering wheel. All it takes is an excited child into the road or a tiny sideways drift on to the kerb and people will die.

I felt really hurt and I will take this opportunity to say a huge thank you and well done to the call handler at the Police and the local Gent from the Residents Association who talked it through with me and helped me calm down and accept what had happened.

In some ways these are not situations I can resolve but they do passionately make me feel that I have viable solutions, where a CCTV operator could even fund itself and the warning letters it would mostly send. Yet, I am trapped watching things slowly get worse which combined with the threat of someone either getting out and killing me or just running me down in their van is more stress than it is worth.

I've spoken this through with my Psychologist and it seems to resonate with my unequal or unjust treatment in my pas discrimination and even with the way I feel toward my now-dead mother. I have to find ways to accept that I cannot make the changes I feel are needed and I have to accept I can do only what I can do - which is fine for minor issues but not for ones where people are going to die.

Still, I guess this isn't my biggest worry. Given I've never held, but I am entitled to, a UK passport perhaps I should be worried 'they' will try to deport me on my Swiss one. Weirder things have happened. As mentioned last week, mental illness is like a marathon and the next stage is realising this isn't something I can change correctly overnight. Just like my tattoo, this could be the end but the story is ongoing.

Somethings I can solve and don't need stressing over as I can solve them later but these issues feel like life or death yet I cannot fix it. Part of me doesn't want to 'accept' that.

How do you accept 'solveable' issues out of your control? How does Brexit affect you and your mental health? Tips or tricks for me? Please share and Comment :)






 
http://mattstreuli.tumblr.com/post/146351364167/earlier-today-a-man-shouted-at-me-that-i-was
 



#mentalhealth #discrimination #disabilities 🎭 #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthmatters #medicatedandmighty #BPD #depression #blogger #london 🇨🇭🇬🇧 #mind #stigma #timetochange #timetotalk #imnotashamed #sicknotweak #InTheMind #endthestigma #eupd #ExploreMH

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Up&Up

Where does time go?
Welcome to my new look blog! I've spent the last day or two tweaking its facade as everything needs a refresh from time to time; so welcome to it. Unless of course you are new to my blog and didn't see the last look - I mean you are still welcome but it is all new. Or perhaps you are visiting in the far future and the blog has gone through one or more updates still. Either way, I'll wipe the dribble from my chin and welcome all of you to my blog.

If you are new to the story, or just in need of a recap, I'm Matt. I'm 26 and lucky enough to live in my own flat with my cat and my girlfriend who has just moved in. We met as teenagers and drifted apart over senior school until a few months ago our paths crossed again. Despite being apart our paths have similar parallels. I mostly blog about my adventures and battles in life; the biggest one being with my mental health. My diagnosis has evolved since my teenage years from Depression to Bipolar Disorder to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and most recently onto EUPD or Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. Depending on the specialist and their field of study there is some debate over nature and nurture as to the source of my mental illness. Perhaps it is inherited or it is the breakdown of my parents' marriage when I was 7 and 8 which lead me into being the sole carer for my alcoholic Mother until her demise when I was 13. I've had good and bad: I've achieved 12 GCSEs and 3 A Levels but I have also suffered from Workplace Discrimination.

Whether you have just joined us or you've read a few of my past posts (or you are a star and read them all including clicking on adverts hehe!) then you can see how understanding mental illness has been a key part of my life. At times it has lead me into darkness - my suicide attempt a year ago and the scars I bear from past Self-Harm. In other times it has given me power and strength - I've written for The Guardian, spoken publicly on stigma and discrimination in workplaces for charities on mental health and stress. It even helped introduce me and connect me to my partner. For quite a while now, I've dabbled with the thought of a tattoo until on Saturday a chance tweet from my best friend Aidan ended up in the three of us getting the Semicolon Tattoo.
"The semicolon is used when a sentence could have ended, but didn't."

Post continues below video: 


Within 90 seconds the permanent, matching and deeply meaningful marks were done. They still need a bit of care with some moisturiser but they look pretty good - except for the obvious shaved patch where my tattoo lives! I felt incredibly anxious about the pain which is why I needed the group mentality to ever do it but like with so many things I over worry about - it wasn't all that bad. Caroline, my girlfriend, is interested in more but I have no intentions.

When I'm not blogging, I am the proud Chairman of a local drama club which helps install confidence and social or community ethics into our youth - as it did for me. I like to make a few YouTube videos, mostly of drama shows and unboxings. I also present a weekly radio show as well as stop the chaos as a Lollipop Man. Recently, thanks to the support of my amazing Lady, I have become more active in a local primary school which has included making snails from pipe cleaners and pruning the outdoor area while on a treasure hunt.

 Initially I was petrified of any big working commitment. As I've mentioned in previous weeks - why risk what I have now? Whether you look at my mental or physical health, I am better today than I have been for years although having no full time job or support in state benefits means the contrary for my bank balance. Just a few days here and there at the school and instead of being overwhelmed or flooded with depression and anxiety, I find myself excited to be there more and sad when I'm not. Even if it is just supervising or hovering around, our youngsters are bright and imaginative each with a unique personality of cheekiness and charm. I've been with Caroline to a few open days on teaching and Primary Education and I can tell you that despite it being a slightly bizarre world, it is a beautiful and intelligent one.

I've prattled on enough for one post so as one youngster said to me recently: "Zip it!"
#TheCheek! #Kids...who'dhave'em!

Oh and I didn't even mention how amazing Coldplay were - big thanks to my Bestie Aidan for organising that fantastic event. Their latest single is Caroline and my current favourite - hence the title for this week. With Caroline potentially off to Uni and I'm getting better and well enough to volunteer more and more - things are going Up and Up.

Thank you for reading, sharing and clicking all over my blog. Please do have a look at the links above and the social media fun below.
You are stars! xx



A video posted by Matthew E Streuli (@matthewstreuli) on






Wednesday, 15 June 2016

#Stress can mean Death or Success - #MHW2016 #MensHealthWeek

Sometimes I feel an enormous sense of a frustration. It can feel like I'm screaming. I'm not the only one but it can feel few and far between and ineffective to say the least. There was a time when the screams were for cancer. The horrible pain, high death rate and inexplicable stigma; yet everyone knew someone close who was suffering or suffered. Over time, charities along with institutions like the NHS and the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) have rallied the screams and presented a united front line.

So where is that rally call for mental health? Slowly the stigma is being tackled yet in 2016, suicide remains the biggest killer of men aged under 45 and teenage men. Meanwhile, more teenagers are self harming than ever before. Gradually support in schools is improving but still falls far short of basic levels found as standard in the US. If you have been reading my story then you will understand that I found myself trapped in a job as my mental health deteriorated until, 12 months ago, I tried to kill myself. I had been choosing my job over my own health and as we've discussed before, with a unsupportive employer this nearly killed me.

Stress is a key theme this Men's Health Week and sometimes stress can be good. It is perfectly reasonable to feel some stress as you are heading towards a deadline. A prime example for me is the work I've been doing with the Iver Heath Drama Club. For the past 5 months, I've been in charge of the Youth efforts. I've been coordinating with Scenery designers, painters and builders. I've liaised with the director of the Adult team's production. I've enlisted the help of our costume team, make up and tried to help run the box office. I've lead the way on the club's social media. I've done all of this with the help and support of some amazing friends and comrades. I've done all of this on top of actually planning, producing and directing a show with 15 people in it who are mostly aged 7 to 15 and a mixture of abilities and disabilities. I've felt stressed. I've seen some bad rehearsals. Yet when the curtain closed on our first performance to a big applause, I felt a huge wave of achievement. Stress was there to keep pushing me on, ensure I appreciated the task and its burdens and strive for the best I could do. To those fantastic youngsters on the stage and to those behind you, you did me and your club proud.
Life is full of stress but there are many different kinds. For example, did you know an average officer worker is more stressed on a busy commute than a stunt pilot? There are different kinds of stress and while no one can deny a stunt pilot is under pressure, he experiences the stress as a positive adrenalin rush. Where as Mr MiddleManagment's heart is exploding as the traffic again slows to a crawl on the M25. - My Blog on my Pessimism from early June 2016
However, too much stress can also cripple you. You might just be pushing on but physical pain can appear in your back as a sign of your hidden stressful burden. In fact, in 2013 the HSE recorded 9.9 million sick days due to mental health. The biggest culprit of those days was stress.

Sometimes stress can be really short term - building up to a project or a meeting. Sometimes it can go on forever and getting worse along the way - my experience as discussed on this blog is that staff were not replaced and workload steadily increasing and becoming more complicated without adequate support despite asking and getting a Doctor's support for it.

My girlfriend, Blue_Smudge, and I:Click here for our latest unboxing video!
My mental health disability can be a cycle. This means that when I am OK or feeling good, I pressure myself to get as much done as I can and to a high standard. This combines with other stresses in my life, other triggers, and therefore causes my condition to worse. In essence, sometimes we can generate our own stress and particulary so with the stress and stigma of mental health. Sometime I worry what people will perceive, think and feel of me that I struggle to do anything but feel anxiety (stress) over it.

One in four of you will develop a mental health problem. That is odds of 3 to 1. According to the Men's Health Forum it is the same as France or Germany winning the Euro 2016 .
"There are many things we can do to beat stress: exercise, sing, dance, laugh, play or listen to music, paint, write, volunteer, learn something new and lots more. Tell us what you do. Let's talk.
Our message to men: talk about how you beat stress, talk about what causes it. Talk to your mates, talk to your family" - Men's Health Forum
Earlier in the year I visited AWE Burghfield (link here) with Time To Change. This is one of many employers who realise that it is far cheaper, healthier and profitable to prevent serious or long term sickness caused by mental health and stress but early intervention and basic plans of support. We should champion and support these forward thinking supportive employers because far to many of us are being damaged (in terms of mental health) and left on a scrapheap. Left as a burden to the NHS and, if we are 'sick enough' to qualify for some benefits like PIP. 
Search #HelpGBWorkWell on Twitter

 Sometimes I stress about things outside of my control. Sometimes that stress is closer to anxiety. Will I ever be normal? Will I ever go back to having a relatively successful office career with a decent wage? The anxiety and stress of no benefits, little income and my mental health issues slowly bounce from one question to the next with my pessimism saying "Don't Risk It!"  In short, bad stress pins you down and exacerbates any doubts or depression you may have.

I worked in customer service and logistics. We used to say "Manage Expectations". Perhaps its time we all managed our expectations of ourselves and learnt to not only share and support our friends and colleagues who need it but also call out those building the problem stress in the first place.

The first thing you can do is take time to talk about your mental health, especially stress, and find good supportive managers, friends and family. To be that supportive friend too. By reading and sharing blogs and stories like mine, you are fighting the stigma on stress,

My anxiety says I shouldn't risk going into any work but I know most managers and employers want the best from and for you. Do not be afraid to seek professional help, speak to a manager and a GP, if you feel that you are no longer able to manage things on your own. Many people feel reluctant to seek help as they feel that it is an admission of failure. It is part of the reason why it took me so long to even get on the waiting list for NHS help - I kept trying to 'man up'.

It is important to get help as soon as possible so you can begin to get better and stay in work; not end up damaged and unable to work like me. With Suicide being the biggest killer of men, isn't now the time to issue that rally call and unite the fight?

Thank you for reading and sharing my blog. All comments and tweets are welcome xx 

A photo posted by Matthew E Streuli (@matthewstreuli) on
 Click here for my HUFFINGTON POST article: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/matt-streuli/my-amygdala-brought-my-al_b_10435194.html







I'm Matt. I'm 26 and I write a mental health blog and articles for the Huffington Post. I'm also the Chairman and dame of the Iver Heath Drama Club in South Bucks. I host The Matt Streuli Show on Southwaves Radio and live near West London. 
VideosYouTube.com/MattStreuli
Twitter : @mattstreuli
Tumblr mattstreuli.tumblr.com/

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Stressing about Stress or just Pessimistic Stress.

Did you spot @blue_smudge or the meerkat first?
The holidays are over and it is back to the world of work - albeit a simpler version for me. On one hand, media work is my main career but it is not always a reliable one in terms of income. Lollipopping has been my main income and the end of half term brings me back down to earth with a bump.

Life is full of stress but there are many different kinds. For example, did you know an average officer worker is more stressed on a busy commute than a stunt pilot? There are different kinds of stress and while no one can deny a stunt pilot is under pressure, he experiences the stress as a positive adrenalin rush. Where as Mr MiddleManagment's heart is exploding as the traffic again slows to a crawl on the M25.

Some stress is good. It motivates you. The stress of directing the show I mentioned last week (and the press cutting below) can be frustrating and feel like quite a burden but the reward is seeing a magnificent show come together with some really good talent given the chance to shine brightly whilst learning and growing from it. Our final dress rehearsal was not the panicking disaster my pessimistic mind tried to frighten me with. Everything slotting into place left me with a beaming smile. I know they can do it but I needed more faith in myself.

"Always remember to fight for your happiness. #FFYH #SickNotWeak "
Sometimes I push myself. Angrily too. I can do more. As a new friend said to me this week "you cannot let those A Levels and that mind go to waste!"  As I've touched on in past posts here, I am anxious and worried about any real return to the world of employment.

Why risk my health? I guess I have to, so I can pay my way in life. I've gently pushed myself and been happily impressed to where I reach. My girlfriend is moving in with me and slowly, she's helping me attack the flat I call home. Every few days we focus our efforts on something new; for example our hallway neat and cleaner than I think I have ever seen and the kitchen is close behind too. You get used to being alone. Self-isolation becomes a norm.
Having a mental health condition can also impact on how you feel others see you, and even how you see yourself. 
It feels like I'm still on holiday at times to spend so much time with her. I love her, dearly, and I'm really glad she's here. My Dad has told me he's seen a dramatic change.
Flexitime, a quieter desk, longer lunch. What can an employer do to help you at work?

That said I still don't have the faith I need in myself. Yes - I have done some fantastic things and carried some big burdens in my professional and volunteer work. Yet still that pessimistic voice argues it is never going to work again and it self stresses itself. My reliance on my anxiety medication to subside it hasn't lightened - in fact it really helped me at the first group family meal with my partner's parents and sisters. Perhaps a sign of the EUPD, it made me overwork and panic that everyone would hate me and what a fat failure I am. However, by the end of the night I think it went a bit better than OK.

Perhaps my pessimistic stress could let me be proud that I have not self harmed for a couple of weeks now, rather than anxiously worrying I will cut again.
Follow me on Twitter! @MattStreuli

Soon I should start voluntary work in the local school. It could lead to a career using that mind, qualifications and skills with youngsters who are so fantastic you can't help but smile and encourage them. On Saturday, I played Chauffeur to my girlfriend as we visited a University she is looking to study at (as a mature student) to qualify as a teacher. The whole ethos and style was really sold to me but wouldn't I just break? Even in the past few days, I felt OK yet depression has 'pinned me down'. Having my partner there to hold and support me made a real difference.


It is each day at a time. Enjoying and getting the most out of life. Rebuilding it after the suicide attempt around a year ago and the discrimination I suffered in my last career. Not all employers are backward. 2016 could be the year I move forward. Slowly though... Trying to repair the damage of my alcoholic dead mother or the flashbacks is not quick.





 
http://learner-stories.futurelearn.com/post/145199706658/i-signed-up-to-gain-a-better-understanding-of
 


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Amygdala - Your Brain's Red Alert Sensor (plus a British Beach Holiday)

Only two weeks ago, I discussed how I saw my alcoholic Mum, despite the fact she died some thirteen years ago.

That post is still steadily growing in views. I thought it would be a good place to start this week by analysing that flashback which I did with my psychologist.
My Skoda/VW/Garmin Sat Nav crashed like my mind did!


The amygdala is a small nut shaped blob at the bottom of your brain. It is essentially the caveman part of your brain. On a side note... should that be caveperson not the gender-specific caveman?

Anyway, this blob is found throughout the animal kingdom in creatures that have the almost instinctive fight or flight reactions. The amygdala is your inner caveman sensing predators and making your legs run away before 'you' know it! Analogy time... Imagine it is the computer you bought in 1999 - it even had a floppy disk drive! The issue with our modern mind and our 21st century life and stressors is that we are trying to run Windows 10 on that 17 year old computer or even running a 'state of the art' Sat Nav and Car Interface on Windows XP! The two struggle to run together.
Post continues below tweet/video:     

You spot something out of the corner of your eye. Your amygdala fires chemicals into your body putting you at alert status. The bigger the threat, the more chemicals it fires and the higher you go into Red Alert. Your rational mind turns your head and focuses on the item, comparing it to your in build wikipedia of experience and knowledge before logically deciding a response.

However, if your amygdala is already at Red Alert, your rational mind doesn't get a chance to anaylse the situation. You are hit by such a wave of stress, adrenalin and anxiety, you run. This would of been a handy instinctive-response if prehistoric you bumped into a sabre-toothed tiger. Every millisecond waiting for the rational mind to anaylse and process is a millisecond you need to run away from that deadly creature. My issue, and an issue alot of us face, is that our amygdala is putting us into the 'Red Alert' or 'Run Away' setting for situations that do not need it - such as the situation I encountered with my girlfriend in that aforementioned post (linked here for you to catch up on :) ). Rather than analytically seeing my drunk friend, my amygdala saw a threat which triggered the memory of dead alcoholic Mother. This quick recall function would be dead handy if you saw a big beast and your brain needed to quickly decide whether it is time to run from Mr Tiger or fight Mr Toad but when it is reloading and rebooting the anger and fear of my Mother and the awful situations I faced with her; it is less than helpful to say the least.
Selfcare at the beach
with @blue_smudge

I'm paraphrasing quite a bit here so I am sure some of you will argue with the details but in essence I suffered a PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) type flashback. At some point, some detail of the event, or similar enough, happened with my Mother which is why my amygdala felt it relevant to re-experience the situation or parts thereof. It was a horrible experience, something which in 'the cold light of day' doesn't stand up to my logical mind's scrutiny but then emotions and the drivers of them, such as anxiety, rarely do.

In treating PTSD, Psychologists look to identify and gradually expose the patient to the stimuli involved in an attempt to reprogramme the amygdala not to have such a high alert response OR at least to try and process and analyse the scenario through therapy. It is interesting that I have only ever seen two people 'turn' into my mother. One as a teenager, which lead me to panic and get help and this occasion just two weeks ago. Trying to analyse the 'stimuli' or circumstances of each times doesn't quite work as the only matching criteria is a very drunk female yet I have been around very drunk Ladies before from family to best friends to customers and not suffered a response anywhere near that level.

That pink blob bought my Mum
and all my fears and anger back to life.
Am I doing the right thing trying to process and correct what seems to be 'programming' errors in my system, seemingly my amygdala, or is it better to admit I will never function quite right and just try to live with life?

Psychology and Philosophy! Lucky you!

Anyway, I am going to wrap up here except to mention the fantastic holiday I just returned from with my amazing girlfriend. We were even recognised in a local pub this week! #localcelebs! :P As discussed in last week's post, please do come say Hi - never be shy!

The drama club Summer Show opens in just a week and ticket sales still need a boost. I'm out of ideas but I know I have given my show my best, as director, and the second play is also really good. It is just down to the casts to sell it better. Our webmaster Rob has just relaunched the club's website, www.ihdc.co.uk, which looks amazing so please have a browse and tweet either of us if you spot a hole.
@ Wookey Hole Caves, Somerset
 See more below on my Social Media

As the norm, below is some social media highlights. I'd love to hear your feedback on on my blog but also the video - is a buddy box worth it? Does it make friends or family feel they are helping or understanding or does it help you share the burden of your mental health?

As always - Every view, share, advert click, Facebook like, twitter or tumblr follow and Instagram heart not only supports me and my work, but helps fight stigma. Everyone has mental health but you can make a real difference in how we win the fight on looking after our minds.
Thank you once again for your support and reading my blog.