Do they tell you the side effects?

What a year it has been. I have gone full circle. At the beginning of this year I deleted all my blog posts on here and decided to start fresh. I felt I had perhaps over shared on my life and my struggles with mental health. However tonight I was reminded that actually me speaking, well openly and honestly about how I struggled and how I deal with things sometimes actually helps others and I often get reminded of this from people coming to me to say how I have helped them. Which is quiet nice given where I was mentally a few years ago I never for one second thought I would find myself blogging about my mental health journey and speaking so openly about it, as all I felt at the time was shame.

This post I’m going to write about the side effects of a medication given to me last year when I felt I had exhausted every avenue of help I was given. I tried the apps, the therapy, the meds and more meds and no meds were working anymore. I was seeing my nurse weekly and it was decided I was going to try Quetiapine for those who want to know what kind of drug this is I have attached a link below.

Below is a before to the left and during to the right on Quetiapine.

To be prescribed these I had to be seen by a psychiatrist first, as I had tried every other antidepressant I was willing to do this if it made me feel better. I was soon prescribed this Quetiapine medication along side my normal antidepressants. I wasn’t told of any side effects just that I could get insomnia for the first few weeks and given that with any anti depressant that is the main side effect I knew this could be one.

Within weeks my body gained rapid weight. My body ballooned in size. I went from my normal size 10 waist to a size 16, which is 3 dress sizes for a woman! I gained so much weight within 3 weeks none of my clothes fit me. I couldn’t believe what was happening to my body. It was making me worst not better. This wasn’t meant to happen. Everyone around me was noticing. I went into my normal shop to top my electric card up and the man behind the counter told me I had got chubby. I turned around and walked out crying. For weeks I couldn’t look myself in the mirror. When I say none of my clothes fit me anymore that was no lie. I began to sell all my clothes thinking this is it for me I am never going to fit back into them again. I may as well buy bigger ones to fit into. I started buying baggy tops. I wore hoodies. I lived in leggings. I avoided any kind of social activities and cancelled any that meant meeting up with friends. I couldn’t bare for anyone to look at me when I couldn’t even look at myself.

At this time I had just gotten into a relationship, and spent a lot of time around his family. I kept thinking what are they all thinking of me. I kept myself as covered up as possible. It was the height of summer and we were all meant to go swimming when all I wanted to do was lay in bed or jump on the first fucking train home! I decided to sit at the side and watch instead of taking part. Where normally I would of loved nothing more than to be taking part.

This was tearing me apart and it wasn’t the girl I knew I was. I felt mental health was really starting to change me as a person and I was actually letting it than fighting it. I was believing that medication was meant to help me. So I went back to my nurse ( several times ) and asked to be taken off this Quetiapine because I felt it wasn’t working. In fact it had the opposite affect and was making me fucking fat! Something had to give. The nurse suggested I gave it some more time to settle and work, but I didn’t have time my appearance was changing and body was changing before my eyes, my moods weren’t improving and I felt my mindset needed to change so there was only one thing for it.

Cold turkey. Now I wouldn’t advise this at home so please if you are reading this and want to come off any medication ALWAYS follow doctors advise. I felt I just had enough I had spent years and years on medications for mental health. I had therapy I tried all the apps but it was time for a real big shake up. Was I ready for it? Probably not. Was it the best thing I ever done? Absolutely.

Last summer 2019 I decided to flush all my medication down the toilet. Quetiapine, and all my antidepressants. I also decided to come off the depo injection ( no other reason than hormones can be linked to depression and I wanted to test to see if this was correct ) I will write another post about birth control. What shocked me more is days later the Quetiapine was still not dissolved down the toilet bowl. So if this was down the toilet after bleach and everything what was my insides like?

For weeks I was sick as a dog. Every single day. I was sweating, headaches. I couldn’t travel at all. Whenever I was in the car I had to have a bin with bin liners. Most journeys were very short lived including meals. At first I didn’t want to explain to people what was going on. I just let them make there own assumptions. Some thought I might be pregnant as I was sick that much. I had to cancel plans all the time and last minute because I couldn’t travel at all at one point. So yeah cold turkey really is bad. Your insides hurt. Once I got over this stage it was time to change my mindset and focus. The gym became my new drug. My focus was to get back to my weight I was before the Quetiapine. That is it.

For me the gym has been a battle for years. Like others it is the anxiety of not knowing what machine does what. It is the fear of people staring at you. The fear of using the machines the wrong way. Be seen without make up (as much as that sounds shallow it WAS an actual thing for me). If the gym was too busy. So many factors caused me to not go to a gym. I would join and pay memberships and not go. Last year I joined pure gym. Built up the courage to go walked down typed my pin in and froze at the door when I seen how busy it was. I felt people staring at me, I turned on my feet and walked straight home and cancelled my membership. I needed to stay within my comfort zone so my nurse put me on a health active mind plan which is accessible to anyone who has ill mental health and is available on the NHS. This is through Edinburgh leisure and I started to attend this with one of there trainers who worked out a plan for me to work on. The gym was small and friendly. It wasn’t too overwhelming. It was something I could work on. Daily I chipped away at the anxieties and even if I got to the gym for 20 mins and sat on the exercise bike it was 20 mins out the flat. The next day I would try do 30 mins, and each time I went I would build that confidence up a little more. My face became a regular so people began to say hello. This gave me a little more confidence too. I downloaded apps that helped me navigate the machines.

What I realised was I was pushing myself to do things I thought would help me when in fact they would make me worse. When my healthy active minds plan came to an end instead of coming away from something that has helped me find confidence and will continue to help me grow I joined as a member. It would be pointless to take 10 steps backwards for me by joining a massive gym and knowing the anxieties I have. Unfortunately I just can’t use any other gym apart from the one I use and I am fine with that because from the progress I have made I know I wouldn’t of made that in any other gym.

I have been medication free since last summer and it was for me the best decision I made. To me the drugs didn’t work. They suppress how you feel for a short while, but in turn comes a lot of side effects. I always remember at the start of seeing my mental health nurse she kept pushing the gym and being active on me and at that point I kept thinking you try being active when you feel how I do. Looking back I wish I listened and put more effort in because exercise was the only drug I needed. Now I am not saying I might not ever need to be medicated again I might and I won’t turn my back on the help however I also know when an episode is coming on because of the work I put in daily so I can reach out to those support networks I have in place and I can take a time out to connect with my nurse if needed. There is absolutely no shame in needing help. There is no shame in needing medication. What works for me is different for others. Where I am in my life took me years and years to get to the point of where I am not to be able to come off medication. I was strong enough to also come off them because I have the strong support network in place should I have an episode that does come on and I do need that extra help. It is super important that the people you are surrounding yourself with are supporting you. If the people you have around you are negative, bringing you down, are not there for you. Then let them go don’t chase them because it is these people who can be detrimental to your mental health and you matter more. This is basic self care! Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Again what works for one might not for another. So be mindful. Everyone goes at there own pace in life so if you feel yourself comparing to others stop, pause and breathe. Count to 10 and unfollow the persons social media page your on. Or look closer to the photo your looking at comparing yourself too. No one shows everything online. Life isn’t a race. Go easy on yourself.

A year ago I wouldn’t of thought I would be in this mind frame of where I am now. I have lost all the weight I have gained and more. I am down to 11 stone! Happy dance to myself. I have challenged myself and signed up to do the tough mudder this year. I am mindful of what I eat and put into my body in general health wise and chemicals. I a the happiest I have ever been. If I can get through this last however many years but more importantly this last half a year unmedicated and bossing life without meds then trust me anything is possible.


Social Bite

I can Remember my interview like it was yesterday. My nerves were so intense I had to stock up on the sugar and rely on it to get me through it. What I wasn’t prepared for was a beautiful young lady ages with me to be greeting me. She was pretty cool though, and pretty laid back which made me feel at ease straight away. Alice asked what I was doing at the moment with my time and I thought there was only one thing for it, sit back Dana and be honest. I pride myself massively on being honest. I said well I have mental health and I’m kind of just taking care of myself at the moment and that’s why these hours suit me perfectly to work around the therapy that I am doing. I told her some more about me and told her honestly and truthfully.

Soon after I started working for Social Bite within a canteen they cater for and I loved it! I learnt so so much. I had never done this kind of work before, I had only really done sales and chased the money side of things before. This was a massive pay cut to what I was used to working for but for me my focus was myself and maintaining a healthy mind. I loved learning so much and even spent £20 on a book all about coffees because I had no idea what any were or meant. I am such a social person and any my friends would vouch for this. I loved meeting all the new customers and new faces of the new people I was working with and soon I just became part of the team. I felt I was picking things up pretty quickly. Soon enough I was moved into front of house into the Social Bite shops in Shandwick Place.

At first it was a little daunting because it was completely different environments. I had different customer types but I felt I always adjusted well to any change soon enough. Not long after this big change for me my home life changed in a way I never could of imagined and I was made homeless. I felt like my world was ending around me and my mental health was at an all time low. Luckily for me I had the best team of people around me in work. Straight away I called my manager who put me in touch with the right people.

Not really knowing what to do or who to contact everything was kind of falling apart around me and it was happening in slow motion. I needed to get my shit together and fast. Thankfully I did have the right people at Social Bite to support me because if I am honest on reflection now I could of taken a completely different path to where I am now.

I was then given a new contract in work from Social Bite and put onto what is called an Academy where you get a great amount of support from Social Bite. Given that I had just lost my home and I was needing time off work for appointments, my mental health was declining, I didn’t know if i was coming or going I needed all the support I could get. I was then given this god send of a woman called Barbara who became my manager my go to counsellor my friend my everything really. She became someone who was and still is a massive part of my life.

When I became homeless I didn’t know what to do or anything which is ironic given I worked for a homeless cafe right? However it was Barbara that took me straight to the council, who held my hand and wiped away my tears. Who checked my into my hostel, who when I eventually got my council flat came with me to view it to help me answer any questions. She has been there every single step of the way. Though looking back at times I took for granted just how much working for Social Bite meant for me they were the glue that was keeping me together. I needed that constant structure through the madness that was going on in my personal life.They helped me into mindfulness classes and supported other therapies and counselling. Barbara ensured I got the right help. I was able to take up work placements with Edinburgh Remakery and Citatel Youth Club which helped me so much to come out of the constant circle of being around the homelessness environment, which when your living in it and working it as well can take its toll on you. These opportunities were perfect for allowing me to branch out and see what else was out there for me. When you are facing challenges in life you always try to keep them separate from work and remain professional, but when your living with some people that you then have to serve in work it can be a challenge in itself.

Whilst serving my normal business customers they wouldn’t suspect a thing going on. Until I was asked to speak in front of 3000 people on stage in princess street gardens at sleep in the park .

I was a little apprehensive to share my experiences with others because I was still living in a hostel and trying to figure things out for myself still, but it was a good opportunity to stand up and be counted for. To show people that you can have it all and then not. That it doesn’t matter what you look like, because I got it I heard it enough I didn’t look homeless and although I wasn’t rough sleeping I felt I was given my living conditions of a hostel. I felt the need to speak up for the other woman who couldn’t speak. In that moment I knew everyone would then know what I was trying to hide from was that I was homeless and my life was a fucking mess. I remember my first shift after sleep in the park and I was so nervous I wanted to work back of house in the kitchen rather than front of house where actually I love to work. I don’t know why I was nervous because the response I got was so so overwhelming with love. My regulars and I was even getting non regular customers now coming in to speak to me. I got a big box of chocolates off a customer to say they were proud of me, it was then I kind of felt why have I been ashamed this whole time. Everyone was showing me so much kindness just like I show my homeless customers on a daily basis.

When my lower points hit home ( I won’t touch on too much ) Barbara saved my life she stayed with my until paramedics came. She has visited my hostel room many times when I have been too unwell to leave my bed. She has supported every single decision I have made. She has helped guide me in directions I wasn’t even sure were the right ones to take but regardless she was there behind me anyway. Now not many work places can say they do all that for any one.

Through out my time in Social Bite I grew so much as a person from not only the low points I have had massive highs too I got my OWN place finally my own council flat. Yes to some its just a council flat and it isn’t a mortgage but to me no one can take that from me. This will help me get on the property ladder. I got a pet yes how very responsible of me. I spoke in front of 3000 people on stage at sleep in the park in princes street gardens on stage. oh wait….I didn’t just speak one year on stage I done it two years

Second year on stage

I have spoke at various events through social bite. I have spoken to Harry and Meghan on TV about my struggles and how I turned my life around. I learnt how to make coffee as in proper coffee. I have met some incredible celebrities who were super kind to me. I BBQ for about 50 people at the homeless village opening in Granton ( never touched a bbq previous to that, no one ended up ill #winning) I got 100% in my mystery shop result ( sorry Connor ) I made incredible friends from all over the world for life, no more than friends Family I actually feel social bite is a family.

The day I got my Own first proper flat

You take part in all these events, you come together as a community. You come together with the homeless community. You unite as one. You show no judgement. You show kindness. You spread laughter and happiness. We give up our time to volunteer when it snows, we give up our time on Christmas. We show compassion and empathy. So if you ever pass a social bite shop and wonder where the money goes then take a look at me. Donations helped supported people in employment like me. I am just a normal girl who got down on her luck at one point. At any given moment anyones luck can change and anyone might need support and help.

I am now a support worker and although I have moved on from my time working in Social Bite they will always remain a part of my life and as will I with them.

Please be kind to one another. Please be less judgemental towards one another for you do not know what others may be facing. I continued to remain employed throughout my homelessness experience but for many they do not have the support I had again that was thanks to social bite. So please be mindful.

This is not a paid post but of my own experience. If you would like to donate to help Social Bite then you can do by visiting!/

Swipe below for a look at my journey in photos of my time in Social Bite.

in Edinburgh they have two coffee Shops one on Shandwick Place and one on Rose Street

Do pets improve your mental health?

” The companionship that a pet offers is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress. A pet can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation for their owners. In many ways, pets can help us to live mentally healthier lives.”

How do pets improve our mental health?

Pets reduce stress. Patting a pet can ease stress and reduce your blood pressure.

Pets can be affectionate, accepting, loyal, and consistent. If you feel isolated a pet provides a great companionship.

Most people feel better when they have physical contact with others. Simply patting a pet can lower your heart rate.

Pets require a routine of feeding, cleaning and exercise. This can give you purpose and motivation which can help your self-esteem, wellbeing and mental health.

You can increase your social interaction and could make new friends just by taking your dog for a walk or waiting at the vet, due to the shared interest in your pets.

If you own a dog, they need regular walks, and this exercise is good for you too. Exercise, like walking, has many benefits for your mental health and wellbeing.

I love animals, if I had my way I would buy a massive piece of land and build an animal shelter. I bet I would live a happier stress free life. When my mental health wasn’t great, that is when I decided to get Rainbow. Rainbow it my cat who is full of beans which gives her the nickname Rambo if she misbehaves. Equally she is the most loving cat who loves to lay right up beside my face and cuddle in to sleep. I say everyday kisses and she comes up to my face and pouts up at me. I find personally being around animals calms me down. They bring me a lot of comfort at times I need it the most. My uncle had 5 French bulldogs, sadly one passed at Christmas last year which hit us all hard. Each of the dogs comes with a different personality. I was always drawn to the girl puppy. Yes that is her name. As much as I love them all I would be lying if I said she wasn’t my favourite. I got very attached and so did she. She could always sense when I was due in from work, and would be waiting on me at the door. She loves cuddles and belly rubs and if you stop tickling her she turns into a cat pawing you for more attention. She is yet to meet Rainbow but that will happen soon enough. Having a pet has helped me in a way I never thought possible. Rainbow makes me get out of bed every day. She is reliant on me. She needs fed, her litter needs changed and she needs playtime and affection. It is almost like she has given me a purpose. I have turned into one of those crazy cat ladies. Every time I go shopping I come home with something new for her. She has taught me things I never knew. As a first time pet owner there is so much to take in and learn. Pets have a funny way from distracting you from the overthinking. 






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