Three women who ‘process pain’ by sharing physical and mental illnesses online

STRUGGLES with physical and mental illness were once kept private – but these women found strength by sharing all online.

From depression to incurable cancer , having an illness can make you feel isolated and online, so Taneesha, Saima and Lara turned to blogging as a source of hope and purpose. Getty Images Blogging has become a way for three women to express themselves and inspire others with their stories ‘My blog saved a stranger’s life’

Taneesha Jayne, 21, is a student and lives in Northampton. She blogs at Positivi-tee.co.uk about her mental health .

“Recently, I received a private message that blew me away. ‘I didn’t kill myself because of your blog. You helped me get through the night,’ it read. Taneesha was diagnosed with depression at age 14 "It reminded me I’m not alone, and that blogging can make a difference to other people’s struggles.

"I was first diagnosed with depression aged 14 as a result of being sexually abused as a child. I began self-harming, and despite being prescribed antidepressants, my mental health spiralled.

"Aged 17, after taking four overdoses in a year, going days without sleeping, being verbally aggressive and drinking heavily, I was admitted to the adolescent ward of my local hospital.

"I spent 10 months there as an in-patient, having psychotherapy and taking medication. But I continued self-harming and attempting suicide after being discharged in March 2015, so 10 months later I was re-admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act . Taneesha attempted suicide a number of times by taking medication "I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and was moved to a specialist unit run by the mental health charity St Andrews Healthcare.

"There, I underwent dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) – which is similar to CBT but also focuses on accepting who you are – and I found it really helped.

"For four years I lost my life to mental illness. Aside from family and friends, my only comfort was writing a diary.

"Finally, last February, I was discharged and I moved into my own flat. I wanted to carry on writing to help my mental health, and also to give hope to others. Readers have told me the blog has inspired them to get treatment for the first time, or even encouraged them to reunite with family members Taneesha "Before I published the first post for my blog in March 2018, I thought long and hard about revealing something so personal.

"Understandably, my loved ones were also worried whether my health was robust enough for me to be so open about my condition.

"Thankfully, most of the reaction has been positive. Readers have told me the blog has inspired them to get treatment for the first time, or even encouraged them to reunite with family members they’d cut themselves off from because they were struggling with their mental health.

"When a psychiatrist posted in the comments section praising my blog, it felt incredible.

"Sadly, abusive comments go with the territory. I’ve been accused of blogging for money, seeking pity and even been called fat with a big nose. But I accept ups and downs are inevitable, just like with my health. Readers of Taneesha’s blog have told her that she has inspired them "I always have to be mindful about the subject of my posts. It’s a fine line between making sure you don’t gloss over the reality of what you’re going through and triggering someone else.

"My readers are often fighting their own battles with mental health conditions, so the last thing I would do is mention my own suicide attempts in detail.

"While I continue to take medication to manage my BPD, I’m at college studying for a higher education diploma in social sciences and I’m going to university in September to start a degree in occupational therapy.

"Before I started my blog, I felt so alone, but it’s had 3,000 views now, and people read it across the world, from the UK to Russia and South Africa. Taneesha says that her readers are going through some of the same struggles she is "We’re in the grip of a huge mental health crisis among young people, but I hope my blog helps some of them see that even when you reach rock bottom, there is a way back up.” YOU’RE NOT ALONE

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support: CALM, www.thecalmzone.net , 0800 585 858

Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk

Mind, www.mind.org.uk , 0300 123 3393

Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org , 0800 068 41 41

Samaritans, www.samaritans.org , 116 123

‘I write as a way to process my pain’

Saima Thompson, 30, lives in Kent with her husband Gareth, 37. She blogs at Curryandcancer.com about living with incurable lung cancer.

“It was never my plan to share my feelings about having incurable cancer. But what started as getting my thoughts down on paper has grown into something I’d never dreamed of. Saima was diagnosed with stage 4 non small cell lung cancer in last year "My life changed in April 2018 when, six weeks after I started to feel tired and found a lump in my neck, I was diagnosed with stage 4 non small cell lung cancer.

"I was told that without treatment I could expect to live for six months and with treatment I’d have two or three years. It was absolutely devastating, so I began to write as a way of processing all my pain and upset.

"Until then cancer hadn’t even been on my radar. I was 29, planning my wedding to my fiancé Gareth and running a restaurant with my mum Nabeela Muqadiss, 52.

"After my diagnosis I suffered panic attacks, and my mind was overwhelmed with questions, fear and confusion, so writing became a brain dump for me. Clairepepper.co.uk Saima got married four months after being diagnosed "I only showed one close friend my writing, but she urged me to publish it. At first I was unsure because it felt so personal, so I only posted on my private Facebook page.

"After an overwhelmingly positive response, my courage grew and I began to wonder what a bigger audience might think. I didn’t have the first clue how to start a blog, but after some trial and error I set up a WordPress site, and in August 2018 published my first blog post.

"Since then it’s attracted over 25,000 views, and I also have 7,000 followers across my social media platforms."I don’t just blog about the disease itself. I’ve written about my family, getting married four months after being diagnosed, mental health and self-care, as well as my love of food and cooking. Gareth has been really supportive – last August I published a love letter to him on the blog. Saima writes about her disease as well as her family, mental health and self-care Clairepepper.co.uk Saima’s blog has attracted over 25,000 views and she has developed a big following on social media "My biggest motivation for blogging is to add a ‘brown face’ to the conversation about cancer. When I was diagnosed, the majority of people I saw sharing their experiences were white."I understand why, though. In some BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities, it can be taboo to talk about illness publicly. Worryingly, it can hold people back from getting diagnosed and treated, as well as sharing what they’re going through."Hopefully my blog might change this narrative. I’ve had 10 sessions of radiotherapy to my neck and lung, and I take daily medication. The cancer has grown, so at the moment I’m waiting to see what the next step is in my treatment."Blogging has played an important part in helping me come to terms with my diagnosis, creating a platform to work through my emotions and giving me a new focus and purpose. When I die, my words will remain as a record of this time in my life to help others – and comfort the ones I’ve left behind Saima "It helps me live in the present and not focus on my plans for the future that I’ve had to set aside, like having children and growing […]

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