Journaling for Mental Health

Writing and journaling is a cathartic, therapeutic experience. I started a journal when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. It helped me accept the illness, and work through the ups and downs of living with mental illness. It gave me a better understanding of myself, and encouraged me to be proactive and find coping strategies for everyday life. Basically, writing about our experiences, feelings and worries helps our overall our mental health. Why would you not want to start one.

Journalingyour thoughts and feelings, is like decluttering your mind. It can feel like we have so many files filled with negative thoughts and emotions, it’s always a good idea to sort through them from time to time. This where a journal can help. It’s a helpful habit to get into!

Why should you journal?

Keep a notebook with you, or even sticky notes, it doesn’t matter, as long as you have some paper and a pen or pencil. You can journal on your phone, laptop or computer, whatever feels comfortable for you.

Process difficult emotions

Journaling will help you deal with difficult emotions and events. Having something written down can help us our feelings and emotions. It might be you discover how you really feel, or it brings up emotions about an experience you didn’t realise you had. It can help us understand why we react to events in a certain way, and it can help us realise coping strategies and triggers.

Help in difficult times

If you’re going through a rough patch, writing keeps your mind occupied and focused. Anything creative can help when we’re having a difficult time, but writing can also help you make sense of what you’re going through. Journaling can help you during uncertain times, when you’re feeling isolated, or when you’re going through a stressful period. Write down all the concerns, worries and stressful thoughts that you’re experiencing. Putting it all down on paper, helps you process your emotions and feelings. It can help you get to the bottom of why you feel the way you do – and what you can do about it. If you can’t do anything about it, it can act like a release. Writing down, getting those negative thoughts and feelings out of your head and reading them through, is really beneficial.

You might just want to rip up the notes you’ve made, and throw them away. It can feel that those thoughts no longer have any control over you. And it’s cathartic just to write, rip up the paper and move on!

Journalingcan also be challenging mentally. It can bring up difficult emotions and feelings. It’s important to take care of yourself if you’re exploring difficult topics. Let someone close to you (in real life or online, they both count), know that you might need to talk to them about difficult emotions this has brought up for you.

I’m finding there’s great power in journaling – it helps process difficult emotions and make sense of them. I’ve found things out about myself I didn’t even realise, after reading back old journal entries.

We’re being told to ‘reach out’, but what does this mean, and how do we do it?

When you live with mental illness you’re often told to ‘reach out’ for support. But how do you actually do this? 

I’m a mental health writer and advocate, and often find myself telling people to ‘reach out’ when they’re struggling. I stress how honesty and openness is important, that you can’t move forward without sharing your story with the people closest to you. I tell people it’s ok to show vulnerability, and that by doing all of this we’re defying stigma. But I’m realising ‘reach out’ is such a vague statement, people don’t know how to actually do it. It’s this hopeful statement that people throw around, without ever really defining it. What are we asking people to do or say? It’s not exactly clear.  

It’s just too vague. It’s the same as when somebody says, “tell someone how you’re feeling.” Great, yes you should. It seems like a simple request; but how do you do it? It also comes with its own form of stigma. Knowing what we know, apparently, means we should be talking, we should be sharing. When we don’t, we’re seen as at fault. You’ll hear after, or even during a crisis from people in your life, “Why didn’t you tell me?” This is a loaded question, and isn’t asked to show someone cares, but often as an insinuation that you didn’t do your job. You didn’t ‘reach out’ like you’ve been told to. We’re expected to know how to do this, and we’re scolded when we don’t.

It goes without saying, that we all need to normalise asking for help. But it doesn’t end there; we need to explore and understand how to ask for help. I’ve put together a few key phrases that explain exactly what you need, why you need it, and what’s going on for you right now.

“I’m depressed/anxious/suicidal right now. I’m not sure what I need, but I need someone to talk to.” 

This explains simply how you’re feeling. Most importantly, it doesn’t put pressure on you, or the person you’re talking to. You’re explaining that they don’t need to fix you, or solve the problem, you just need someone to chat to. I like this, because often when I’ve been very depressed, I can’t pinpoint what I need to feel better, but I know human connection will help.

“I’m struggling with my mental health, can we chat on the phone/Skype/etc and come up with a plan?” 

This is a good one for the people close to you, because it gives them a sense of purpose. Just saying the words ‘I’m struggling’ can feel massive when you’re ill. Leaving it hanging there in the middle of a conversation can feel oppressive and way too much to handle. But following it up with coming up with a plan, feels positive and that you’re willing to deal with the feelings your experiencing.

“Can you help distract me, let’s talk about anything.” 

This is often what I need when I’m in a crisis, or hearing voices. It’s a simple statement that explains your state of mind, without having to go into detail. Distraction helps you focus on the conversation. It doesn’t matter what it’s about – often it’s just hearing that other voice, watching someone as they speak that helps.

“I’m having a difficult time taking care of myself. Can you help with a few things?”

When we’re having a difficult time, everyday tasks can feel insurmountable. They build up and we feel like we can’t cope. Asking for help, however small, can make a difference to our mental health. It might be just picking up some essentials from the shops, giving you a lift to a doctor’s appointment, or something more, like helping you sort your finances.

“I’m really not feeling very good, and I’m worried about staying safe. Can you stay on the phone with me/stay with me/come over until I feel better?”

This is for when you’re feeling suicidal and having intrusive thoughts. It’s a way of telling someone you’re feeling this way, without actually saying the ‘S’ word, which might freak some people out. Telling someone you trust them and want them to keep you company until the feeling passes, will make them feel you value them, and it explains how serious the situation is.

Of course, it’s also so important that people ‘reach in.’ Again, it’s a vague statement, and can feel overwhelming. I’ll do a follow up post about how you can do this.

No, that person you disagree with isn’t delusional

As someone that experiences actual delusional thinking, it’s difficult to hear people using the word to describe someone they disagree with. By using this term all you’re doing is insinuating our symptoms are synonymous with badness. 

I live with Bipolar disorder, with psychotic symptoms. When I have an episode of bipolar mania, I might become delusional. This means I often experience delusions of grandeur. I’ve experienced this since my late teens, with it first surfacing at University. I wasn’t diagnosed until my mid twenties. Delusional thinking means I lose touch with reality. A recurring belief I’ve had is that I’m not only invincible, but that I’m incredibly important. I’ll believe it’s impossible for me to be hurt by anything or anyone. I’ll also think that this power extends to people keeping me out of harms way. It doesn’t make sense and it’s not supposed to! In the moment though I’m convinced I’m right, and any evidence to the contrary wouldn’t change my mind. Delusional thinking has caused me to be run over. I would just walk out into busy roads without looking, believing everything would be ok. Luckily I came away with just bruises, which further fuelled the delusions. I’ve also be in quite a serious car crash because I decided I could drive in the middle of the road, because cars would move out of my way. Again, somehow, no one was hurt. 

With elections, Brexit and Trump, I’ve heard more and more people use the word as a slur. I’ve even had someone from my extended family use it, when they know I suffer with delusions. When opposing sides are arguing, or even just having a debate on an issue, the go to word seems to be ‘delusional’. I’ve heard phrases in the media, by experts in their field, by politicians in interviews all along the lines of;

“This policy is delusional”

“What they’re suggesting is delusional.”

“This delusion will harm the public/economy/our country etc.

It’s insensitive, lazy and a gross misuse of the word. “But delusional means different things!” It may do, but it’s obvious what meaning people are trying to convey when they call someone delusional when they deeply disagree with someone. It’s hard enough trying to explain what delusions are to family and friends, without them constantly hearing the word in a negative light on the news, on social media and by the people running our country. The more people hear the word used in this way, the more likely they are to use it in their day to day language.

Why does it matter what words people use? It’s just a word isn’t it? Well, it portrays delusions, and the people that experience them, as bad. It fuels the idea that people that experience delusions are dangerous. It’s deeply hurtful to the individuals that experience them. We’re human beings and are affected by an illness that can completely overwhelm us, cause damage to our relationships and our lives. We deserve to be listened to when we say a word used in this negative context is hurtful.

Changing up your vocabulary isn’t difficult. Try using words to convey how you feel about what someone has suggested, such as; unrealistic, fantasy, pipe dream, confused, wrong, ignorant etc. Think about that difference of opinion, and the emotion or belief that first pops into your head, and use that word.

I’ve heard people saying that awareness raising has had its moment; that people understand what depression and anxiety is now. I think the way delusional is used shows that stigma, and a lack of knowledge and understanding is still rife when it comes to certain mental illnesses. The less palatable it seems, the more stigma exists.

Before you say it, think about the person behind the word. Think about the ordinary person, like me, who experiences delusions. Think about how you would feel if something you live with was thrown around to attack, discredit, and insinuate someone is bad and cruel. I don’t think you’d use the word in the same way again.

How To Deal With Imposter Syndrome

That feeling you get when you’re doing well, achieving and everything is working out, but somehow you feel like a fraud. You tell yourself over and over,

“I’ll never be good enough”

It’s called imposter syndrome and it makes us feel insecure as hell.

It leaves us feeling as though we’re not worthy of our success, that somehow we haven’t earned it. We feel that no-one is interested in what we have to say and any attention we do receive is unwarranted.

So often we have feelings of failure that pop up to ruin our day. It stops us from sharing our ideas and applying for opportunities that deep down we know we’re capable of.

I’ve been struggling with this recently. I’m being commissioned and published regularly in magazines and on websites. I have some long term contracts do curate social media feeds. I’m writing a bloody book. Sounds super awesome right? But I can’t seem to enjoy it. When I first started out as a freelance writer, I celebrated every little win. Now though, I can’t seem to. I have this feeling of dread that I’ll be found out as a fraud, and it’ll all come crashing down. 

So how can we deal with this feeling?

The first thing I do is to talk about it. I’ll sit down with my partner and get it all out of my system. It doesn’t mean I need a response, or supportive words. Sometimes just verbalising the feelings is enough. 

If you suffer from imposter syndrome, it probably means you’re a bit of a perfectionist. Learning to let go of perfectionism, and everything being just right all the time, can leave you feeling more contented with your work. 

It’s important to realise that it’s inevitable that we will make mistakes. You can’t go through life without making them. What’s important is that we learn from the mistakes we make. 

I like to look at things logically. I might feel a certain way, like I’m a bad writer. I’ll look at this objectively and logically. “Have I been told this?” “Where’s the evidence?” “Why would my work be published if it wasn’t good enough?” 

What I’ve also learnt as I’ve got older, is many of us are just making it up as we go along. I thought by my 30’s I’d be this in control wonder woman who had all the answers. I was very, very wrong! You’d be surprised how many people feel the same way, and don’t really have everything sorted, even if it seems they do! 









How to help someone before and during a manic episode

Make a Plan. Before an episode of mania starts, make a plan together. First off, they’ll be more receptive to your ideas. They’ll be more in control and be able to look objectively at previous episodes of mania. Decide together what will help them, and what support and help they want when they are seriously ill. Write down your decisions, and keep them in a safe place for when you need them.

Focus on triggers. You could look at their work commitments and any other projects they have and offer your own opinion on them. It may be you feel they’ve taken on too much, which could lead to stress and burnout, that could then lead to an episode. Be calm and gentle with the suggestion, so they don’t feel you’re being overly protective or critical.

Stick to healthy routines. Again to keep them healthy, and during an episode, you could help them stick to a routine. Making sure they have regular meals and a sleep routine will either help to keep them well, or be in a healthier place when the hypomania/mania ends. 

Join in with their activities. During an episode you could do things together with them. If they are being creative, join in. It shows you’re interested in what they are up to, and means you can make boundaries on how long they spend on the activity. Again, don’t force them to stop, but remind them of other things they need to do that day, or that they need to eat, sleep and look after themselves.

Help with finances. You might have to manage their money when unwell. This can be organised beforehand. Doing things such as putting a site blocker on their phone or computer – that only you know the password to. It’ll stop them from spending money on websites you know they use often. You may need to take their cards from them, and have access to their bank account. If they need money for something, they will then have to ask you. It might feel like you’re infantilising them, but believe me, they will appreciate it when they are stable.  

Sometimes when someone is very ill, their behaviour can be challenging.  It’s difficult to understand and to deal with. Often when someone is manic/ hypomanic, they can be very disinhibited. Their behaviour could be embarrassing for you. It might be strange and they act oddly around you and others. It could even be upsetting or aggressive. It’s important that you talk about this, and don’t let it fester. It probably isn’t the best time to talk to them right there and then, because in a manic or hypomanic state they might not listen to reason. Actually, they almost definitely won’t. They won’t be able to see your point of view. So, its best to wait until they’re stable. Write down what you want to tell them, so you don’t forget what it was they said or did. Writing it down can help you cope with your own feelings, without reaching boiling point. Calmly discuss their behaviour, and how their words or actions made you feel. Try not to judge or be overly critical. Remember that they were ill at the time, and would not have been aware of how much they upset or concerned you. Tell them how their actions and words made you feel. Don’t accuse them of acting in a certain way or generalise; instead turn it around and explain how you felt at the time.

When someone is manic, they might lash out at the people closest to them. You’re allowed to be upset if they’re pushing you away or upsetting you. Remember why they’re acting that way; they are ill and dealing with difficult moods and emotions. When things start getting too difficult, it’s ok to take time out. If you’re worried what will happen if you need some time away, then talk to friends and family to help out. It could also help to talk to other people in a similar situation.

Ideas To Help Someone With Psychosis

I’ve listed on the blog before about what not to say to someone with psychosis, and although that’s important, I realised I didn’t go into much detail about what helps. As I’ve mentioned before, psychosis covers experiences from hearing, seeing, or feeling things that aren’t really there, and delusions. Delusional thinking causes us to believe grandiose ideas about ourselves, or may make us paranoid and secretive. Here’s a list of 6 things you can do to help.

Be gentle and calm. It’s easy to get frustrated with someone when what they’re saying doesn’t make any sense. You might feel like calling them out and confronting them. Don’t. What they’re experiencing is very real to them at that moment. Challenging their beliefs could easily push them away – if they’re paranoid it could even fuel the delusion.

Listen and try to understand. Listen to what they say and stay calm. You don’t have to agree with what they’re saying. Don’t encourage a delusion as this can make things worse. Ask them what would help, and if you’re struggling to understand educate yourself a little more about what psychosis is.

Focus on their feelings. It’s important to talk about how someone is feeling rather than the experience they are having. If they’re feeling stressed or worried, this could be the reason for why they are having an episode of psychosis. Making them feel safe and secure can help guide them through the experience.

Show them respect. Don’t be critical of what they’re going through or over protective. You might feel that you know better, and telling them what to do will help. However, it often creates a divide. You can respect their wishes to an extent. For instance, if they want to be supported in the home, rather than in hospital you should respect that, unless they become a danger to themselves or others.

Put a crisis plan in place. A crisis plan involves deciding on treatment options and hospital visits. You can also put together an informal plan with your loved one, where you set boundaries. By this I mean, what you can and can’t deal with when they’re in crisis. It’s helpful to be honest and have a plan in place before a crisis hits.

Look after yourself. It can be challenging, upsetting, and sometimes distressing looking after someone going through psychosis. It’s important to take care of your own wellbeing and health during these times.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, only what I would find helpful and how I’d like to be treated when experiencing psychosis. Ultimately, everyone who goes through psychosis has a different experience of it and their needs will not look the same as mine. This is why it’s vital you talk to that person to get an understanding of their unique experiences, before they become ill.

To all the people that pulled me through a mental health crisis

Through the years I’ve had many mental health crises. I’ve been on the brink of ending it all, of no longer wanting to fight, of no longer wanting to exist. Although I owe the NHS a great deal, they’ve also let me down when I’ve been at my most desperate. But there are people in my life who have been there, every time. It hasn’t always been easy for people to support me. I’ve upset family and friends during mania, and been rude and irritable when depressed. They’ve supported me without hesitation and I want to thank them.

To my husband, and his calming, caring persona. Never have I met someone with such unending patience and compassion. You’ve pulled me through in moments when I’ve felt like my whole universe was shrinking away into nothing. You’ve been a solid, grounding presence for the past 10 years. You’ve taught me so much about myself and I adore you for your kindness, geekiness and general silliness.

To my Mum, and her profoundly caring nature. For always being there when I need her most. For learning and educating herself about Bipolar and psychosis. For her understanding that I can’t always be ‘fixed’ but that she can help in her own practical way.

To my Dad, and his unwavering support of me. For showing me I’m stronger than I believe. For showing me I am resilient, intelligent and passionate. For showing me that family are the people that care for you and support you unconditionally.

To my brothers’ and their matter of fact attitude to mental illness. They always seem to just get it. I don’t feel the need to explain myself. I don’t feel judged by them. They see it for what it is; an illness I can’t control.

To all my family, for letting me talk when I need to. For accepting me. For listening without judgement or fear. For detaching mental illness from who I really am.

To my friends who accept me for who I am. That haven’t distanced themselves after I was diagnosed. That have stuck by me, and offer support when I struggle, and celebrate when I achieve.

To my online friends who notice when I’m quiet. Who notice when I’m having a difficult time. Who are there to talk to when I need support.

To everyone that reached in to support me, rather than waiting for me to reach out. Thank you. You’ve saved me from myself countless times.

I’m Writing A Book!



Yep, the secret is out! I’ve been offered a publishing contract with Jessica Kingsley Publishers to write a book about bipolar disorder.

The book is going to be a practical guide to bipolar disorder. I’ll offer tips and advice on how to navigate daily life and how to manage symptoms. All of this will be alongside my own experiences of living with the condition!

Now I need to just write the bloody thing! You can send me coffee to fuel me whilst I’m busy working on the manuscript over Xmas and into 2020!

And it all started here, on this blog. I’m truly grateful for each and every one of you that takes the time to read my posts. I’ve thought about giving up writing about mental health, and bipolar in particular numerous times, but the support I have online is incredible and has kept me going, so thank you!

It’s made me reflective and as we head into a new decade, I couldn’t think of a better end to this one. In 2010 I was a mess. I was constantly manic or depressed, there was never any respite from the chaos in my mind. It left me exhausted and physically ill. In mid 2012 I had a breakdown and came close to losing everything. I lost my job, and somehow my partner Jimi stuck with me, supported and cared for me, even though I was terrified he would leave.

Then I was diagnosed with bipolar type 1, but believe me, that wasn’t the end of what became the most gruelling, challenging decade. I was out of work for years, and I had to redefine who I was as a person. My career had been my life, it was me. I went on benefits, and was in a constant state of worry over my finances. I had to find a new way of living my life, a healthier way. It took years before I found medication that worked for me. A combination that didn’t have awful side effects.

2019 has been a better year. I took a huge leap and started working as a freelance writer. I write about mental health, and I’m passionate and committed to my job. I’ve finally felt in control of bipolar, rather than it controlling every decision I make. Now, at the end the year, I have a book deal. I’ve come so far and I’m so proud of myself; something I find difficult to do and admit.

The me of 2010 would never have believed what I’m doing now. She was too focused on getting through the next day, the next hour. But I made it through, I fought my way through this decade.

I can’t wait to share the book with you all. For now, I’ll be typing away on the manuscript, but I’ll still be writing here on the blog when I can!





Bipolar and Credit Cards, Loans and Debt


Mania for me always leads to overspending. I’ll spend an exorbitant amount of money on useless, meaningless stuff.

Shoes, bags, clothes, collectible toys, lego figurines (yes, really), games consoles, hotel rooms – I could go on and on. I’m not a materialistic person by nature, but with mania I just can’t help myself. It’s an overwhelming compulsion.

Overspending is a common symptom of hypomania and mania. It can have a huge impact on your day to day life, especially when an episode has ended. You realise how much you’ve spent and it can lead to debt, anxiety over money and even not having enough money to cover all the bills.

At one time, during a serious and extended bout of mania, I amassed; four store cards, and three credit cards. I maxed them all out. I found myself in a mountain of debt, thousands of pounds worth. I couldn’t afford the repayments and was threatened with bailiffs. Even though I was earning a reasonable wage, I had to give up my flat. Luckily, I could move in with my parents, but was still paying rent to them and had to try and somehow reach the repayments every month.

What upsets me is how I was preyed on by companies when I was extremely vulnerable and ill. One time, I was in the town centre, when I was approached by a salesperson on the street. I was absolutely wired, full of manic energy and couldn’t stop talking. It was obvious something was wrong, that I was very unwell. They used my impulsiveness against me, and with very little convincing, got me to sign up for a credit card. I starting using it as soon as it arrived. I didn’t check the APR before signing up, which was extortionate. Impulsiveness reigns supreme when I’m manic and I’d sign up for pretty much anything if it was offered to me. Every time I was asked to sign up for a store card, I obliged.

There must be some way of prohibiting people when they’re manic from signing up for credit cards, or taking out a loan. I don’t know how this would work, but it would have saved me a huge amount of stress and worry about money. The stress alone has made me ill, and I’ve become severely depressed because of it. I still overspend when I’m manic. Although now I don’t have access to my credit cards unless I really need to use them. I’ve handed them over to my partner, because I can’t trust myself with them when I’m ill. But what if you have no partner or anyone you can trust and understand the problem? I don’t know what the solution is, but companies and banks should be ashamed at how easy it is to qualify for loans and credit cards.

Why I’m anxious about seeing a Doctor


I’ve been putting off seeing my doctor for ages.


I’m afraid. Afraid that they won’t be able to help me. That they’ll fob me off with a ‘just keep doing what you’re doing’ response. Anxious that they’ll want to change my medication. Again.

I’ve had a difficult year with medical professionals. Long story short, I was discharged whilst feeling suicidal. I made an official complaint to the hospital, and they investigated. The outcome; the psychiatrist denied his behaviour and that I agreed and was willing to be discharged. So he lied, to save himself. I was left without support from mental health services and had to fend for myself. I carried myself through that bout of depression and I’m still here. But that’s not the point. I felt let down, isolated, alone, and incredibly fearful for the future.

This year has been tough on my mental health. I decided to go full time as a freelance writer, giving up the security of a regular wage. Mental illness has kicked my arse. A few months ago I was depressed, and suffering from tactile hallucinations for the first time. I was scared, terrified of these crawling sensations on my skin. It meant I couldn’t sleep. Insomnia is painful. It seeps through your very being and leaves you hollow. I was sleeping maybe 2 -3 hours a night. For months. I tried everything I could think of before heading to the doctors. With the help of medication, I could sleep again. The hallucinations dissipated and the relief washed over me. I felt like I could breathe again.

Despite all this, I can’t bring myself to talk about mental illness with a doctor.

I didn’t mention the hallucinations to my GP (general practitioner). I knew they would refer me to mental health services. The idea of this fills me with anxiety. The number one thought that goes through my head is,

“What if I end up with my last psychiatrist?” The same one I made an official complaint against. Surely there would be some form of animosity from them. I’d be on edge and be distrustful of their competency. So then I’d have to explain this whole story to my GP, before they referred me. I might have to wait even longer than usual to see a different psychiatrist. What if they are the only one available? What would I do? I can’t afford to go private. There are so many questions going through my head, and the process just makes my head ache, and fills me with anxiety.

I know I need to see a doctor. I’m experiencing some weird symptoms that I think might be connected to one of my medications. I don’t want to have to change meds. On the whole, they’re doing a good job. As long as I keep stress in check, they work and keep me stable. It took years to find the right combination and I’m so afraid of losing this balance I’ve achieved.

Again, I need to see a doctor. There’s no way I want insomnia to come back. I’m scared of psychosis and how it could manifest. I need to work through these feelings and book an appointment when I feel brave enough.