Give Depression the Bird

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Give Depression the Bird

Let’s get one thing straight. Depression is real. It is not something to be trivialized, snapped out of, or sucked up. In fact, trying to do this often makes it worse. I know, because I’ve been there. I would have loved to have been able to give myself a shake and a rueful smile and reset my mind. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just instantly be happy? Like those heat packs you snap, shake and they heat up? Super cool. And totally ridiculous.

Depression appears in many ways, shapes and forms, and no two people get it exactly the same. Not only does this make it hard to treat, it makes it hard for people to understand. It can’t be put in a box like other illnesses and diseases. There are symptoms, but responses to those symptoms vary. It isn’t a disease, so medication doesn’t work as well as we wished it would, although it does work well for a lot of people.

Not only is depression very real, but it is incredibly misunderstood, and surrounded by an almost palpable stigma. People who have depression are labelled. Crazy, lazy, not trying hard enough, weak. It doesn’t matter if the people wielding these words are trying to help or not, they are all labels, and they are stopping people reaching out for the help they need.

The very way we think about, and react to depression needs to change. And it needs to change fast!

When you think of depression what picture springs to mind? I see a girl curled into a foetal position in a darkened room, sobbing. And this picture is what I thought people with depression did all the time. I was so incredibly wrong.

Last year my husband gave me an ultimatum. Be happier or go and talk to someone. And by someone he meant one of those freaky head shrinking people…

I know that sounds harsh, but he was trying to make me see what he did. You see, up until that point I was convinced I was fine. Tired, but fine. I wasn’t crazy. And I couldn’t have depression! Everything I knew about depression said you had to be constantly sad, crying on the sofa, or suicidal, and I was none of those things. Oh I cried a lot, but more often I was irritable and cranky. (Did you know that was a sign of depression? Me neither)! So the couple of times ‘depression’ crossed my mind I quickly dismissed it.

Was I tired? Absolutely! Sad? Frequently. Did I feel like I wasn’t achieving much even when to others I was doing incredibly well? Only every day. But I wasn’t depressed! Heck no. Depression was for weak people. For people who had suffered massive loss or pain in their lives. For people with a rough childhood, or adulthood. I hadn’t had any of that. I grew up in a loving family. I have an amazing husband and a healthy, happy (albeit very stubborn) child, and I have had a relatively pain free life. And yet the more I looked at it, the more I realised the truth.

I was depressed. And I had been for quite a long time.

During a discussion (on why I couldn’t possibly have depression), my husband told me I seemed to be sad from the minute I woke up, till the minute I went to bed. It took me a while to process that. I couldn’t imagine what living with that must have been like. And that was the moment. Right there. That was the moment I decided I was going to be happy. Whatever it took.

I started researching depression, and working out what made me tick. I found ways to head my bouts of sadness off at the pass, to make sure I focused on my responses to different situations, and how I could react to them differently, and I used any hacks I could to make sure each day I was choosing happiness over sadness.

Scientists have proven that just like paths in a forest, the pathways of the mind can be worn in, the more traffic they get. And when sadness has been your companion for a long time, then those paths of sadness are the well-worn ones. They are straight and wide, and you are comfortable there in an odd way, because it’s familiar. The happiness pathways by contrast, are like little deer tracks. Narrow, precarious, and easy to fall off.

The biggest key to battling depression is to make sure the path that’s getting the most traffic, is happiness. Ever heard the expression ‘fake it till you make it’? Well, that’s how I started. When I woke up, and whenever I thought about it during the day, I smiled. It wasn’t a true smile. I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t want to smile, but smile I did.

Some days I even pushed my mouth upwards with my fingers, all the while wanting to cry. I must have looked as crazy as I felt. But you know what? It got easier. I got better at it. And I started feeling happier.

Your body is a pretty amazing thing. Did you know that every time you smile your brain releases feel good neurotransmitters – dopamine, endorphins and serotonin? Endorphins act as a natural pain reliever, serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant, and smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress.

Smiling literally makes us happier.

Smiling is one of the most well-known, and easiest to implement, of many ‘happiness hacks’ out there. My books ‘Finding Happy’, ‘Choosing Happy’, and ‘Keeping Happy’, due out mid-2017, will focus on discovering many other hacks, and implementing them in your life. Some are great for people with clinical depression, others are better for people who struggle with sadness, but all the books will be available for free on kindle when they are first published.

I was lucky. Thanks to my amazing husband I was forced to face my sadness before it became the crushing force that so many people have in their lives. I still had the energy (most days), to work on myself, and to focus on choosing better ways. Many people don’t. And this is where medication helps. Because when you can’t move off your bed, can’t shake the feeling of despair and overwhelming sadness, and you think about death far more often than you should, choosing to be happy is just not an option.

Medication provides your mind with enough space to see those fraudulent thoughts for what they are- thoughts not facts, and to look at options to help you heal. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not without its side effects, but it does provide relief from the worst symptoms of depression.

Medication is not the only thing you can try either. There are the talking therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which is a type of psychology that helps people change unhelpful or unhealthy habits of thinking, feeling and behaving. It is practical and involves self-help strategies. And research suggests that if you do 13 or more sessions it can work just as well as medication for some people. You can even do CBT at home.

Even things like routines and goal setting, eating healthily with lots of omega 3 fatty acids, getting enough sleep, walking in nature, and challenging negative thoughts can help with depression. Exercise (yes the dreaded E word), can even have similar effects on the brain as anti-depressants.

There are so many options out there for anyone suffering from depression or sadness, that sometimes I think just diagnosing depression is the hard part. It certainly took me long enough (5 years I suspect..) and even then it was only my husband intervening that really pushed me to see it- and fight it.

These are some of the main symptoms of depression. How many did you know? Some people get a few, some get them all. Everyone is different. But they are certainly not as cut and dried as I used to think.

• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
• Fatigue and decreased energy
• Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
• Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
• Irritability, restlessness
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
• Overeating or appetite loss
• Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
• Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
• Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, or self-harm
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

Beyond Blue says ‘you may be depressed if, for more than two weeks, you’ve felt sad, down or miserable most of the time, or have lost interest or pleasure in usual activities, and have also experienced several of the signs and symptoms listed (on their page).

Depression symptoms can also be caused by conditions such as thyroid disease, vitamin D deficiency, and other medical problems. Make sure your doctor does full blood tests to rule these and many other things, out first.

Recognising I had depression was a turning point in my life. I’m smiling as I write this, and I can see the myriad ways in which I’ve changed over the past year. I choose to laugh when my daughter does something silly instead of scold. I’ve learnt ways to make myself happy on a daily basis-before the sadness and apathy take hold, and I’ve learnt how to block that annoying voice in my head that wishes me anything but the peace and happiness I so desire.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days where I have to remind myself to smile. Where I chant my mantra like an actual crazy person to stop my mind turning over conversations that haven’t happened, and futures that will never be. I still have to think about my reactions, swallow my retorts, and examine my thoughts, to see if I can choose a happier path, but it is getting easier and I am getting better at it all the time.

Because I refuse to live my life in sadness. I refuse to let something as intangible as depression steal my laughter, my dreams and my love of life, and turn them into endless days of melancholy.

I choose to be happy!

And I desperately want you to choose happiness too.

I know life sucks sometimes. There are usually patches where it sucks a lot! But when you’ve had depression or even been ‘down’ for an extended period of time, I think we forget how to focus on, and choose those things that make us happy. We forget to try. Because being happy doesn’t necessarily come naturally, and as spontaneously as people make out. You have to strive for it, search for it, and grab it with both hands when you find it.

But you don’t have to do it alone. If 350 million people worldwide (almost 5% of the worlds population), suffer from depression, how many of those around you do you think may also be silently struggling?

Please, if you, or someone you know is struggling with depression, reach out and talk to someone. There is help out there. And for every person who says #ihavedepression another person will find the strength to seek help. And slowly but surely depression will become just another cold to be cured.

And that’s why I’m writing this post. Even though I’m scared of what people will think. Even though it’s taken me a month to hit publish. Even though I don’t want to be labelled. More than anything, I want to give people the courage to choose happiness for themselves. Someone did it for me, and I hope you can do it for someone you know.

I would love to hear your thoughts on depression (whether you have it or not), as part of research for my upcoming books. Please complete the anonymous survey, and then share it on your Facebook or Twitter page, to help raise awareness, give depression the bird, and #endstigma for good.

If you don’t feel you can talk to friends or family, there are some wonderful organisations who can help – even if you want to remain anonymous. The sites below will give you information on depression, hotlines to ring to speak to people who know what you’re going through, therapist directories, and self-help activities you can do at home.

Hold onto hope. You are not alone, and you can beat this!

This is a guest post written by Heidi Farrelly. You can find out more about her here: Heidi Farrelly

Don’t stay silent

 

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Don’t stay silent

“Don’t stay silent!”…yes, I know this goes against conventional advice but times they are a-changing. Being mindful means living in the moment and living less in your thoughts. All too often, I listen to my clients talk about what they wish they had said or how they let an opportunity slip by because they didn’t say what they felt. The less you keep bottled up, the less chaotic your mind will be.

Silence is overrated, chances will fade and you may regret not saying what was on your mind. I am referring more to talking about your inner feelings rather than expressing negativity or being mean. We all need to slightly filter what we say to others but when it comes to living an open honest life where you say what you feel, you should go for it.

Often, we suppress our feelings and stay silent out of fear.  However, the more you assert yourself and ask for what you want, the easier it gets. Start small and work your way up. I have been brave and told someone how I felt or let them in on a truth that I thought might freak them out in the past. Amazingly, people have reacted remarkably well.

So, don’t hold your tongue – express yourself, get it out and know that you haven’t let an opportunity slip through your fingers.

Mandy X

 

Photo by Dan Zen

5 Signs of a Good Dating Chat Room

 

 

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5 Signs of a Good Dating Chat Room

Some people will hear the words ‘online,’ ‘chat room,’ and ‘dating’ and immediately run screaming in the other direction. There has been a stigma attached to online dating in the past, but over the last decade, that stigma has lifted and the online dating community is thriving. Finding a good dating chat room can seem daunting, given that there are hundreds of websites out there, and the thought of being cat-fished is a shadow lingering in the back of most people’s minds.

So, here are some signs of what to look for when searching for a good dating on chat room.

1. Is it for You?

There are good chat rooms, and there are good chat rooms for you. A good dating chat room is subjective to your own interests, and finding the niche that suits your tastes is important. There are chat rooms especially for LGBTQIA+ individuals, for women, for men, for naughty chat, for people looking for flings and those looking for longer relationships.

Figure out what you are looking for, and that will help narrow down the pool of possible chat rooms available to you.

Now, some chat rooms are general and don’t cater to specific interests. These aren’t necessarily bad, but finding one that, for example, is explicitly for young singles looking for long term commitments will make finding a potential partner an easier process. Keep this tip in mind for the rest of the article.

2. Profiling

Even if you can’t find a site that tailors to what you are looking for, a good chat site will have some sort of profile system. Fleshing out your own profile makes it easier for people to find you. This works both ways. Knowing a few key facts about someone can help you decide whether or not you are truly interested in starting a conversation with them.

3. No Creepers Please

You knew this one was coming. Yes, there are people out there who are catfishing, or are just creeps in general. Almost any website with a chat or comment forum will have a ‘report abuse’ or blocking function. Before signing up for any chat room, look for how to report or block creepers and, if possible, find out how admin deals with them. If it is not in the FAQ or About Us section, then maybe pick another chat room.

No one likes dealing with creepers, and a chat room that does not let you block them is one you want to avoid.

4. Free or Subscription-Based?

There are pros and cons for both free and subscription based chat rooms.

* Paid services

Pros:

Paid services will most often have professional staff behind the scenes, which is good for when you are having issues with the aforementioned creepers or something as simple as tech trouble. Constant staff also means that the website itself will be kept in good order. Further, a paid service will root out most of the people fishing around for a lark, and those that are not old enough for a credit card.

Cons:

You have to hand over some hard earned cash.

* Unpaid services

Pros:

It is free, which is always a glorious thing.

Cons:

Free online services usually also mean that there isn’t a thorough screening process for signing up. Anyone can join. And boy, do I mean anyone.

Side note for both paid and free sites: There is also the fact that paid services will usually have smaller pools of active members and unpaid services will have more. Depending on your point of view, these can be pros or cons. If someone has paid to use a dating chat room, they are likely more invested in finding a partner – though someone equally eager for a relationship may simply not want to pay for such a service.

5. Chat options

Finally, a good dating chat room will have options for private conversations. It might seem self-explanatory for a chat room to have such things, but you would be surprised at how diverse peoples’ tastes can be. Some like throwing their profile into a crowd, others like browsing through listings and searching for someone who strikes their fancy.

Really, it is all about finding the right chat room for you. There are plenty of options out there, and there are just as many fish in the virtual sea. Don’t rush, take your time, and you’ll find the right fit.

Mandy X

Dealing with dread

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Image: Courtesy of: https://pixabay.com/en/users/MasimbaTinasheMadondo-1388843/

Dealing with dread

There are many times when I feel dread. Often, it emerges prior to the expectation of something unfamiliar. When there is a fear of the unknown, dealing with dread effectively can be a huge asset in life. The feeling of dread often arrives unannounced, feeling like a knot in my stomach or a feeling of fear and anxiety. Dealing with dread can help you to feel braver and approach life more than avoiding situations that you fear. ‘Approach behaviour’ leads to greater resilience and confidence.

Identify the thoughts

Invariably, a feeling of dread comes from the thoughts we have. These thoughts will be negative in nature. Thoughts such as, “I am not going to cope” or “I won’t enjoy myself” will lead to feelings of dread.

Change the story

Once you have identified the thoughts, get in the habit of challenging them. Thoughts aren’t facts – you can choose to tell yourself a different story. Instead of thinking, “I am not going to cope”, you could choose to think, “I will find a way to manage whatever comes my way. I have managed something similar to this in the past”. This will automatically life the feeling of dread.

What we think determines our quality of life. Choose your thoughts wisely.

Cultivate optimism

It serves no purpose to worry unnecessarily about the future. Wherever possible, assume a position of positive expectancy and you find this difficult to do, at least try to be as neutral and objective as possible about the future. People often assume that worrying about the future will keep them safe but this is a fallacy. All worry does is keep your ‘mental torture’ going.

Create goals

Instead of unnecessary worrying, create SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Goals create a structure to work towards and inject purpose into our lives. Goals can help to alleviate dread as they help us maintain direction in life. A clear sense of where we are going and what we would like to achieve can effectively limit dread in our daily lives.

Believe in yourself

Self belief can neutralise dread. When we have faith in our ability to cope, we feel more capable. Believe that you can overcome difficulties in life. You will surely have had to deal with challenges in the past. Use these past triumphs to strengthen your belief in yourself. Talk to yourself positively and remind yourself of your strengths regularly.

Life is more about perception than about the actual events we experience. We can reframe things and change the story in our minds and make anything in life seem less scary. It takes practise but it’s well worth it.

Mandy X

 

Money on the side

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Money on the side

Having money on the side no matter what your circumstances, is vital for freedom and independence. Many clients come to me, unhappy in their relationships/marriages yet fear leaving due to lack of financial means to support themselves. I have come to realise that wherever possible, it is important to have a separate saving account with spare money in it. To some, this may seem cynical but I just see it as being practical. Savings never go to waste anyhow and I have seen how beneficial money on the side can be when someone has had enough of a miserable relationship.

The amount of people I know who are stuck in unhappy circumstances purely due to financial constraints is startling and worrying at the same time. Having money on the side allows you stay with someone because you want to be with them, not because you need to stay out of lack of other options. What a sad place to be!

Plan for the future, care about your freedom of choice and independence.You may never need to money but it is prudent to have spare savings just in case. It will give you a sense of choice and confidence. Start saving now.

Mandy X

If you want to know more about being financially astute, have a look at Tony Robbin’s products. I have recommended his advice to many clients and it has helped quite a few avert a crisis! I am also currently reading the book below and finding it very informative. X

Tony Robbins’ Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook

unshakeable

 

Pros and Cons of euthanasia

 

Pros and Cons of euthanasia

The story below was featured on BBC news today and it isn’t an isolated case. I believe everyone should have the choice about how they die if they suffer from a terminal illness that is progressive. I wonder when the law will catch up and make it legal.

Of course, the law could be abused and it could open up all sorts of problems but I still believe it would do more good than harm…what are your thoughts?

Mandy X

A terminally ill man has begun a legal fight for the right to die.

Noel Conway, who’s 67 and has motor neurone disease (MND), says he fears becoming “entombed” in his body as his muscles gradually weaken.

Mr Conway, from Shropshire, wants a doctor to be able to prescribe a lethal dose when his health deteriorates.

The case will be the first High Court challenge to the existing law since MPs rejected an attempt to introduce assisted dying in 2015.

It will also be the first such case since right-to-die campaigners lost their appeal before the Supreme Court in 2014.

The campaign group Dignity in Dying is supporting the legal bid.

Its chief executive, Sarah Wootton, told me: “Noel’s experience sadly echoes that of hundreds of other terminally ill people in this country – choice and control at the end of life is something that everyone should be able to have.”

But Baroness Campbell, a disability rights campaigner, said the current law – the 1961 Suicide Act – was already compassionate and changing it would be “highly dangerous”.

“Disabled people want to be valued by society and would see any legal change as a real threat.”

Incurable condition

Noel Conway, a retired college lecturer, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of MND, in November 2014.

It is an incurable neurological condition that causes weakness and wasting in the limbs.

He is dependent on a ventilator overnight, requires a wheelchair and needs help to dress, eat and with personal care.

Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Mr Conway said he had been given a life expectancy of less than 12 months although his death might come sooner or later.

He told me: “I fear I will reach a stage where I am entombed in my own body as my ability to move gradually reduces – that would be unimaginable.”

Mr Conway, who lives with his wife Carol and son Alex, used to be very physically active and enjoyed climbing, skiing, walking and cycling.

Noel Conway

ABOVE IMAGE: Noel Conway was very active before his diagnosis of ALS

 

He told me he was not in any pain at present, but feared what would happen in his final weeks and that he might die by suffocation or choking.

“I have a right to determine how and when I die and I want to do so when I have a degree of dignity remaining to me,” he said.

‘Slippery slope to hell’

Carol Conway told me: “Noel’s diagnosis was devastating. I do support him and think he should have the right to say enough is enough rather than fighting for breath and not being able to move.

“I can’t help him end his life – we need the help of medical professionals to ease his passing.”

ABOVE IMAGE: Noel Conway with his wife

Mr Conway has signed up with Swiss suicide group Dignitas but is concerned that when he is ready to die he might be too ill to travel.

He said: “I want to live and die in my own country. The current law here condemns people like me to unimaginable suffering – I’m heading on a slow, slippery slope to hell.”


What is the law?

Noel Conway is seeking a judicial review of the 1961 Suicide Act, which makes it a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison for anyone to assist in a suicide.

His legal firm Irwin Mitchell, will seek a declaration that this is not compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998, which confirms that individuals should have respect for a private and family life.

This is the latest in a series of challenges to the law on assisted dying.

In 2014 the Supreme Court rejected an appeal concerning three disabled men who wanted doctors to be allowed to assist patients to die.

They had used similar legal arguments. Five out of nine justices concluded that they did have the power to declare current law breached the right to a private life.

They did not make a “declaration of incompatibility” but two said they would have done so.

The Supreme Court made it clear that it was up to Parliament to deal with any decision on amending the law.

In September 2015 MPs rejected plans for a right to die in England and Wales, in their first vote on the issue in almost 20 years.

Noel Conway is the first terminally ill patient who is going to the High Court to argue for a right to an assisted death based on the failed vote in Parliament.


This case, which is expected to be heard at the High Court within a few months, will reopen a debate which has impassioned voices on both sides.

Those opposed to a change in the law argue that this issue has now been resolved for good by Parliament.

Baroness Campbell, who has spinal muscular atrophy, founded the organisation Not Dead Yet.

‘Frightening burden’

She uses a powered wheelchair, is fed through a tube and can now move only two of her fingers.

She told me: “If the law was changed it would feed into society’s fear that being very disabled like me is a state worse than death.

“We already have to fight to live; a right to die would be a huge and frightening burden.”

But Sarah Wootton from Dignity in Dying said the government had “ignored the pleas of terminally ill people” and said “Britain was being left behind”.

Canada, California and Colorado all introduced assisted dying in 2016 and later this year the government in Victoria, Australia, plans to introduce legislation to allow doctors to help the terminally ill to die.

Meanwhile, in Shropshire, Noel Conway says he may not be well enough to travel to London for his High Court case and he realises it may not be resolved until after his death.

But he said: “Other countries have shown that assisted dying can work – it’s been happening in Oregon for 20 years. I want to ensure that terminally ill people like me don’t have to suffer, and have a choice about their death.”

Original BBC article written by Fergus Walsh: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38500873

 

6 Remarkable Things to Know About People Living With a Chronic Illness

 

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6 Remarkable Things to Know About People Living With a Chronic Illness

Life is tough for people with a chronic illness, but through the pain and the fatigue and all the other symptoms and side effects, they show an extraordinary passion for life and try to achieve as much as possible. With help from themighty.com, we’ve compiled a list of eight remarkable things to know about people living with a chronic illness.

They possess a profound strength. 

Anyone who has a chronic illness must be able to manage their daily lives regardless of being in acute pain or feeling extreme fatigue. Many work, have families, run the home and some are even caregivers for others with chronic illnesses.

They don’t give up no matter how hard it gets, they dig deep and fight through each day.

They are empathic to the pain of others. 

Knowing what it’s like to live in constant pain, those with a chronic illness tend to have more empathy and understanding for others in similar situations. They’re often the first to lend a helping hand when needed.

They often suffer in silence. 

Acutely aware that others may not want to hear about their pain, many people with chronic illnesses will suffer their hardships quietly. They may miss social engagements because they are too ill to attend, but will downplay their non-attendance.

They become very good at pretending to be well and often don’t look ill. This may be because they have made an extra effort with their appearance to mask how they really feel, or they are managing their symptoms with medication so they can get through the day.

They have a different take on life. 

When you’re faced with a chronic illness and possibly your own mortality, you tend to place importance on different things. They will jump at new opportunities, try not to put things off until tomorrow or sweat the small stuff, and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

They may miss social events without warning. 

With a chronic illness, symptoms can come and go. Just because a person is feeling well one day doesn’t mean they’ll feel fine the next. The unpredictability of their disease will mean that they too are unpredictable. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t show up to your event—if they could be there, they would be.

They need your support and understanding. 

People with chronic illnesses have enough to deal with in life and they rely on family and friends to be able to understand their circumstances and support their needs. Offers of help are not expected but are certainly appreciated. Even just taking the time to ask how they’re feeling will let them know you’re there for them.

You’ll also need to understand that issues like depression, anger, frustration, and self-pity can all present themselves from time to time. Allowing people the time to work through these emotions is essential; be there to listen and offer unconditional love and support.

The symptoms of cystic fibrosis will vary from patient to patient, but there are commonalities in the way that CF affects the body. Learn more about them here.

Mandy X

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It will all be okay

 

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It will all be okay

Sometimes you just need someone, somewhere to tell you it will all be okay. When you feel lost and lonely, read this quote below – it’s one of my favourites.

Mandy X

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