Recovery from Bipolar and Achieving despite the odds: Sam

Sam shares her incredible story of living with bipolar disorder and how she recovered and now helps others as a student mental health nurse. As a student, Sam has worked on a child and adolescent unit, has volunteered for Mind with a theatre project for people with mental health issues and shares her amazing story with us here.

Trigger Warning: Piece speaks about self harm and suicide, please read with care.

 

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(image: bphope.com)

I started to experience anxiety at the age of 10. I remember feeling extremely overwhelmed at the thought of moving to secondary school and although I was very bright in other areas, I struggled with maths and this often reduced me to tears. At the age of 11, I started to struggle to fit in with my peers and became increasingly socially anxious. By the age of 13, I began to experience severe emotional bullying within my school. I had many friends and I was a talented dancer but the effects of the bullying eventually led to feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth. I wish I had had the confidence to speak to my parents about the bullying at the time but I felt ashamed and ultimately believed that there was something wrong with me as a person.

Additionally, I was a high achiever in a high achieving school, in a good area, so I felt the pressure of  these expectations. I had big expectations of myself too, which added to my stress and made life difficult. As I turned 14, I had already had three episodes of what I now know to be depression. I would go for weeks without eating and felt physically unable to speak. I would spend hours in bed and did not feel able to attend school. One day, I decided that I could not cope any longer, I felt suicidal and alone, taking an overdose. My parents took me to hospital and I later saw a psychiatrist at the child and adolescent mental health outpatient’s facility.

The attempt on my life made me feel really ashamed but I did not know why I felt that way and had those thoughts. I couldn’t explain everything to the doctor. I continued to have periods of depression and at age 15, I experienced my first manic episode following a break up with my boyfriend and a significant life trauma. I also had my first episode of psychosis (when your mind loses touch with reality) following this. I was taken into hospital and then sent to a psychiatric unit. Here I received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (type 1) and was prescribed Lithium to stabilise my mood and anti-psychotics to treat the mania and psychosis. I found this diagnosis really difficult to accept but I was relieved to finally know why I had felt the way I did- and what was causing the depression and mania. It would have been very helpful to have someone tell me at this point that recovery is possible. It is possible to have a fulfilling life despite my condition, but I didn’t know it then.

I returned to school for my last year and I had to drop one of my GCSE subjects to catch up on the work that I had missed. I felt ashamed of my situation- I found school and socialising really hard and because of the greater stigma that was attached to mental health back then, many of my school peers were not very understanding or supportive. I failed most of my exams and felt like a failure. I had aspirations to go to university but due to my grades this was not possible so I had to do an NVQ instead.

I decided to study counselling as my experiences had given me an interest in this area. Unfortunately, I found life with my new diagnosis increasingly difficult and fell into the wrong crowd and turned to substances, alcohol and self-harm as a way of coping. I did not take my medication as prescribed- so consequently had another manic episode at age 17. I became so unwell that I was sent to a psychiatric hospital out of area and sectioned under the mental health act. Here I had high doses of rapid tranquilisation to treat my mania and psychosis.

I recovered from this episode and went back to work. At 18, I was working in a call centre and moved out of home into a shared house. I spent large amounts of money maxing out credit cards. I began to sleep around and had unhealthy relationships, putting myself in dangerous situations. Unfortunately, the people I moved in with were also using substances and this exacerbated my mental health symptoms further. I moved onto using harder drugs. I really didn’t care about myself and felt like my life was over before it had begun- I felt like I had nothing to live for. I started to harm myself again – culminating in an overdose. Then, I was admitted to an adult psychiatric unit on a section 3 (a longer hold in hospital).

By the age of 23, I had had several admissions into this hospital and had also lived in supported accommodation. I had many traumatic experiences in hospital as some of the care I received was not positive. Each episode of mania followed an episode of depression.

At 24, I met a boyfriend who did not use substances and he also had had his own mental health experiences, I fell pregnant and we decided to keep the baby. I then stopped taking substances and began to take care of myself for the first time as I realised my actions would now not only affect my life but another’s too. This was a big turning point in my life. I had a baby girl and came off all my medication. I had an emergency caesarean which was traumatic and I tried to breast feed which was unsuccessful.

However, being a mother with bipolar has its own challenges. I became very low after the birth and had an episode of postpartum psychosis, where you can suffer from delusions and/ or hallucinations. I had to spend time in a psychiatric unit for three months to be cared for and to get well again. Fortunately, my family took care of my daughter during this time. I recovered from this episode and my daughter, my boyfriend and I moved into a two bedroomed flat to make a fresh start.

I had some difficult news that year that spurred me in in my recovery and to make positive change for those of us with bipolar and mental health issues. My close friend that I met whilst living in supportive housing, who also had bipolar disorder, passed away from suicide. This inspired me to then start volunteer work within the mental health services and try to use my own experiences to help other people. My support worker at the time put me in contact with MIND and a local theatre group.

At the theatre group, I met many people who became a positive influence on my life. I started a course in mental health at college in the evenings and helped run the hearing voices group at MIND. I also volunteered in secondary schools educating young people about mental health, the effects of bullying and substance misuse. I also took A level psychology at evening school and completed a year’s social science course at university. My mental health improved and so had my self-esteem and confidence. I finally had purpose in my life as a mum and volunteer with positive friends and family around me. I also had a stable prescribing routine of medicaion- Sodium Valproate,  to help keep my moods stable and no longer going between depression and mania.

This spurred me on to apply for a job on the National Health Service (UK) Nursing bank as a Nursing assistant. I worked in different mental health settings including the hospital that I spent time in as a patient. This felt awkward at first but a Nursing assistant who had cared for me in the past took me under her wing. I really enjoyed the work and realised that this was the career for me as I loved working with people and helping them through their distress. When my daughter started pre-school I applied for a permanent job in one of the hospitals that I did agency shifts in.

That year, my boyfriend and I got married. After working in low secure unit, I moved on to working in a recovery unit and eventually applied for a job in a child and adolescent unit. I continued to have an interest in performance arts and my friend told me about a local theatre project which aimed to challenge stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health. This seemed to be right up my street so I volunteered! We devised two plays during the time that I worked with them. I enjoyed acting and spending time with others that had experience of mental health. We also wrote a book with stories and poems related to mental health which was later published. It felt great to be back challenging stigma and using the arts as a way of doing this.

I spent five years working at the child and adolescent unit and really enjoyed working in early intervention with young people. I had my son during this time and although I had another caesarean and a low period post natal, the overall experience was much more positive as I had stability and a good insight into my mental health.

As my son grew up, I decided to start my access to nursing and maths GCSE at evening school. It was hard to look after two children, work and attend college but I passed and gained a place on the mental health nursing degree at University. My manager also advised me to apply for the nursing scholarship and I was successful. My trust is paying for my training and I will have a job as a mental health nurse on qualifying.

15 years ago,  I really didn’t think I would be where I am in my life today. It really does show that with the right support, lifestyle and for some, medication that recovery is possible. Remember your diagnosis is just one small part of you it doesn’t define you and unlike some people in society mental illness does not discriminate – it could happen to anyone of us.

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7 Reasons for Alcohol and Drug Addiction Stigma: By Ryan Jackson

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(image: Pinterest)

Stigma is a set of pre-conceived false beliefs that people have against a particular group of people. According to the World Health Organization’s website, stigma is a major cause leading to discrimination and exclusion. Not only does it disturb the personal life of a person, stigma can also limit their chances of obtaining proper jobs and housing. The unfortunate thing about stigma is that it’s not based on facts, but rather on assumptions and generalizations that have been embedded into society.

7 reasons addiction carries a stigma

The American Society of Addiction Medicine characterises addiction as a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a ‘chronic, relapsing brain disease” that changes the structure and functionality of the brain.

So, why do so many people still think of addiction as a moral failing? Why do they still refer to victims of substance misuse disorders as meth freaks, alcoholics, junkies, crackheads and garden-variety drunks?

The answer is simple as it is depressing: because that’s the way it’s always been.

Addicts are scorned by communities, and celebrities with addictions are exploited or hounded by paparazzi. And, while the government purports to view addiction as a disease, it often works in opposition to that position through the “War on Drugs,” which counts most drug users as criminals. Even those of us in the treatment community still—consciously or unconsciously—employ stigmatising programming and language—such as when we focus on “dirty” urine.

So despite widespread agreement that addiction is best understood as a complicated behavioural-biological scenario that requires treatment, the system is hard-wired to prolong stigmatisation, and stigma contributes to addiction’s lethality.

Of course, there is a long history of mental illness being misunderstood and stigmatised,  in state hospitals or prisons, which was beautifully captured by the director Lucy Winer in her recent highly-acclaimed documentary, Kings Park. Addiction and mental health problems are still spoken of in hushed tones, and patients and their families are still blamed. This is changing, but there is still stigma. 

The idea that those with addictive disorders are weak, deserving of their fate and less worthy of care is so inextricably tied to our zeitgeist that it’s impossible to separate addiction from shame and guilt. Addiction comes with a second punch in the gut: the burden of being treated like a second-class citizen and expected to act accordingly. Stigma impacts us all, both consciously and unconsciously, and is perhaps the single largest contributor to the mortality rate. Consider these eight points:

  1. People fail to seek treatment.

Most people who struggle with an addictive disorder fail to seek treatment, in part because of their concern that they will be labeled an “addict” and that the stigma will stick. 

Often, a crisis precipitates treatment, so the problem is already well-advanced. If we removed the stigma, guilt and shame from the equation, people would find it easier to make a realistic, objective assessment of their substance misuse and discuss it openly with a health care provider.

  1. The medical profession fails to treat addicts properly.

Can you think of other situations in which the health care system abdicated responsibility for dealing with a health care issue that afflicts such a huge segment of the population? For far too long, those people who did seek treatment, often following a crisis, found no appropriate reception from the medical community. Doctors were slow to recognize addiction as treatable, and so patients were encouraged to find help outside of the medical community, in 12-step programs that based on non-scientific practices, normally anathema to physicians.

12-step programs helped many, but those that did not succeed there found themselves in the unenviable position of having been directed to a place by their doctor, having the recommended solution ineffective and being reluctant to return to their physician for further help. A better paradigm? The medical community should recognize addictive behavior as part of its purview and would apply evidence-based approaches in their practices.

 

  1. The mental health profession ostracizes people with addictive disorders.

It is routine in some mental health settings for persons with substance misuse problems to be discharged from treatment when substance misuse is revealed. They’re told that the drinking or drug use renders them “unavailable” for the work of psychotherapy and that they need to “get clean” first by going to a chemical dependency or substance abuse treatment program. They are told that whatever issues seem pressing and paramount to them are “just the drugs talking’

It’s common for clinicians to believe that before they can help a patient with the various traumas, interpersonal conflicts, intrapsychic issues and other problems that other people are  helped with in psychotherapy (and which are, of course, related to their use of substances) the patient needs to first become abstinent from substances. Many patients who are sent to traditional drug treatment programs that are abstinence-focused end up neither “clean and sober” nor receiving good psychotherapy.

  1. Funding for addiction treatment is discriminatory.

In spite of the huge impact and cost of addictive disorders on society, the way that addiction treatment is funded (in America) is disproportionately low. Despite passage of Federal Mental Health Parity legislation, mental health and substance use disorders continue to be treated differently—and often poorly—compared to “medical” illnesses.

What if there was no stigma in addiction? Given its huge cost to society, addiction should be funded and paid for on a level playing field with medical problems.

 

  1. Addicts get sent to jail.

Where substances are concerned, people go to jail for the possession of something that is part and parcel of their addiction. Most of the money that governments spend on “drug control” is spent on criminal justice interdiction rather than treatment and prevention.

Here again, clearly, is a system with stigmatisation at its roots: blaming, punishing and making moral judgements instead of providing treatment and other help that would change behavior. The more of a stigmatising stance one takes towards substance misuse the more likely one is to support criminalisation of drug offenses and the less likely is to support insurance coverage and treatment for drug addiction. Taking the stigma out of addiction argues for prevention and treatment as opposed to prosecution and incarceration.

 

  1. Even when people do get to treatment, stigmatization can continue and contribute to poor treatment outcomes.

It is critical to recovery that treatment programs not send messages to patients that are blaming (for relapse) and shaming (for being weak). People enter treatment at a vulnerable moment, psychologically and in terms of their brain chemistry. Addiction comes with a hard-to-escape sense of failure that recapitulates prior disappointments and works in opposition to growth.

Patients have spent a lifetime trying to silence the “inner critic” that repeats “I’m-not-good-enough” messages, so it’s critical that the culture and language of treatment provide a healthy soil in which patients can grow seeds of hope that are vital to recovery. In an optimal treatment setting, patients aren’t expected to play the role of one-who-should-be-ashamed. Instead, they are intrinsically involved in planning their own treatment, helping to choose the goals and techniques of treatment.

  1. They confront stigma-based roadblocks constantly.

Those in recovery from addiction face ongoing stigma and discrimination. People in recovery are faced with obstacles, especially those who have been in treatment or in the criminal justice system for chemical dependency. Employment, education, insurance and the ability to vote are all fraught with uncertainty and discrimination for those in recovery.

People in recovery have a harder time finding and keeping jobs, getting licenses, food stamps, benefits that help their children.  In other words, important aspects of living that are so critical to a stable recovery for persons who have been treated for addiction, such as employment, housing and providing for one’s family are that much harder to get. Things need to change. Having struggled with addiction in the past should not make life that much more difficult now. End the stigma.

 

Guest Post by Arslan Butt: The Invisible Crisis: College/ University students coping with Mental Illness

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(image: EFTO)

“College/ university life,” young, enthusiastic individuals freshly out of school are either excited for this new phase of their lives or tend to think of it as another societal hurdle they need to overcome.

There’s a lot of stress that new students end up experiencing because they’re going into a different educational setting and they want to prove themselves.

Whether it’s worrying about academics or their college-related social life, college/university affects everyone in different ways and thus, comes with its own set of pros and cons. Students are subject to varying levels of stress and other mental illnesses that need to be addressed.

There’s just so much pressure when you’re a first year student. You have this drive to prove yourself but at the same time you don’t want to stand out the wrong way. There’s nothing more stressful than being the student everyone jokes about,” said Stacey Wilson (Film and Digital Media student at Santa Cruz, California).

“Dealing with college/university life is tough enough. Add in the drama that goes on at home and everything just gets tougher for any student,” said Janene Secor (English Major from The Ohio State University)

Youth Are Vulnerable to Mental Health Issues

Parents and students might not have mental illness on their mind when they start college; however, such a period of young adulthood is a crucial one for mental health. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 75% mental illnesses are triggered by the age of 24. Some are triggered in adolescence and some start in college/university.

Furthermore, in 2012, one in five people from 43.8 million adults experienced some type of mental illness. That’s why knowing about mental illness and how it is triggered is important especially when it comes to students.

Around 95% of the directors of the college counselling centre have stated that the number of students with psychological problems in an increasing concern on campus. About 70% of the directors also believe that the number of students who are a victim of major psychological problems has increased in recent times.

Similarly, the rates of depression and anxiety have also increased compared to the previous decade. According to a survey involving college students, being conducted in 2013, found that 40% of men and 57% of women experienced overwhelming anxiety while 27% of men and 33% of women experienced episodes of severe depression that made functioning difficult for them.

Studies also suggest that almost one-third of students fulfill the criteria for depression or anxiety while they are in college.

The Importance of Mental Health Awareness

Depression is stated as the biggest reason of disability across the world which affects around 300 million people globally. Yet, mental health is still stigmatised greatly in our society.

When people talk about their mental illness in society, they can face stigmas although these are starting to fall.

Many studies also agree that to end the discrimination against those with mental ill health, it is important that people are provided with the right education about mental health conditions. 

Furthermore, increasing the accessibility of treatment and screening of psychological problems is crucial for college going students.

In some cases, children that are diagnosed with mental health disorders end up with poor educational outcomes and thus, poor economic outcomes as well. This varies from person to person. 

Offering Students the Support They Need

Research quite clearly states how strong behavioural and mental health supports can improve the life of a student.

When the students get help for psychological problems, then counselling can have a big impact on personal well-being, retention, and academic success.

 

Offering Mental Health Facilities in Colleges

It is being observed that students have started to utilize the counselling services provided by colleges/universities in a much more positive manner and more frequently. However, there has been a stigma-based backlash from a few college administrators and professors that call their students less resilient and needy because the students use these services.

This attitude is the reason why a majority of students refrain from asking for help, and this is what colleges exactly need to eradicate.

Many colleges/universities have started introducing programmes that directly challenge the prejudice and ableism by not discriminating against students that are struggling with mental illness. Colleges should aim to make mental health care accessible to everyone just like UCLA in America has.

Colleges should aim to provide free mental health treatment and screenings for all of their students. UCLA has started off their efforts of educating their faculty and students about mental illness by holding a voluntary sessions for students to determine if they need help with their mental health.

If a student shows signs of depression, UCLA will provide them with therapeutic services for free, according to the chancellor Gene Block. UCLA has also decided to provide their students with an eight-week programme on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is  a goal-oriented, focused, and short-term therapeutic treatment that asks for collaboration between the therapist and patient. This doesn’t work for everyone, but is a good start. 

Due to the kind of burden a lot of students feel by starting college, it is important that those vulnerable students with mental health issues have the tools and resources they need to cope with stress, anxiety, depression or other psychological issues.

The treatment program, as well as the online screening, is considered as the first campus-wide screening program for mental health conducted at any university. By catching depression in the early ages, officials of UCLA hope to significantly reduce the damage that the illness does in the early-adult years.

Garen Staglin, the co-chair of the leadership council of the Depression Grand Challenge, hopes that the efforts made by UCLA encourage other institutions and businesses to also focus on mental health issues.

The efforts made by UCLA in Los Angeles, USA have not been futile; Larry Moneta, the vice president of the student affairs at Duke University is quite interested in how UCLA will help its students.

I’m incredibly glad about UCLA’s mental health screening initiative. Mental health issues need to be destigmatized, especially in academic settings so students can comfortably seek the help they’re in need of. I hope other’s implement such programs too,” said Katherine Bracken (English and Theatre student at The Ohio State University)

 

Sources:

http://time.com/4473575/college-mental-health-guidebook/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201402/the-college-student-mental-health-crisis

https://hpi.georgetown.edu/agingsociety/pubhtml/mentalhealth/mentalhealth.html

http://www.apa.org/about/gr/education/news/2011/college-campuses.aspx

https://www.bustle.com/p/ucla-will-offer-free-mental-health-checks-to-students-heres-why-its-so-necessary-2360904

https://www.thefix.com/all-incoming-ucla-students-receive-vital-mental-health-assist

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-to-offer-free-mental-health-screening-treatment-to-all-incoming-students

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Arslan Butt currently works for https://www.CanadianPharmacyWorld.com, has a passion for keeping up-to-date regarding the latest health and lifestyle trends. He likes going on long walks, trying out new healthy eating regimes, and working out.

Experts share strategies to stop Binge Eating. Guest post by Jasmine Burns

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Binge eating is a very serious disorder. Someone who has binge eating disorder will most likely be of normal weight, therefore making it hard to recognize if they have it by just looking at them. Signs and symptoms that you or someone you love have this disorder can include of the following:

  • Eating a lot of food in one sitting
  • Keep eating even when you are physically full
  • Dieting often without losing weight
  • Keeping food around you at all times

Binge eating can have vastly negative effects on your health and life. The impacts are not just physical but also emotional. Binge eating generates shame, guilt, anxiety and depression. These are emotional stressors that can cause your blood sugar levels to go awry.

We have sought out the expertise of professionals who share ways you can have control over this disorder. Please read through them to learn coping mechanisms.

https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/53-experts-share-life-changing-tips-strategies-stop-binge-eating/

Guest post: 5 Tips to Survive Opiate Withdrawal by Bill Weiss

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Bill Weiss shares his knowledge about drug and opiate addiction and how to recover, talking us through the withdrawal process in a safe way. It must be done under medical supervision.

An addiction to heroin or one of the many prescription opiates, such as Vicodin or Percocet, comes with intense withdrawal symptoms. For many, the withdrawal symptoms are what drive them into an early relapse, in hopes of ending the symptoms rather than enduring them.

 The withdrawal process can be unbearable, but there are ways to make it easier. In order to prevent early relapse, let’s break down the opiate withdrawal timeline and how a person can alleviate some of those symptoms.

The Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that each person’s withdrawal process will be a bit different from the other. Withdrawal symptoms fully depend on the individual, his or her habits while using, and the addict’s brain chemistry. Opiate withdrawal symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to severe and debilitating.

 The reason opiates cause such intense withdrawal symptoms is because of the effect they have on the user’s brain. Opiates impact the opioid receptors, which are found in the central nervous system. By targeting the opioid receptors, they adjust the brain’s response to pain while the drug is in the user’s system. This causes both physical and emotional effects, numbing the pain both physically and emotionally. Medically, this is why many doctors prescribe opiates as a pain killer.

 Unfortunately, if a person uses opiates long enough, it alters the chemistry of the brain. Eventually, the brain relies on the drug to control any amount of pain, big and small. When a person abruptly stops providing this supply of opiates to the brain, everything suddenly becomes unbearably painful as the body is no longer able to regulate pain. This sudden onset of pain signals flooding the brain is withdrawal.

 The early stage of withdrawal typically lasts for 24 to 48 hours, and it can start anywhere from a few hours to 30 hours after the last use of the drug. This can include muscle soreness, irritability, trouble sleeping, sweating, a rapid heartbeat and a lack of appetite.

 Fortunately, that earliest stages are the toughest. Later withdrawal symptoms can also be difficult, though, as cramping, shaking, nausea and vomiting may continue. The worst of these later withdrawals usually ends within a few days of sobriety, though for some may continue on for several weeks.

 Most people find that the majority of their withdrawal symptoms are gone after about a week. There may be some lingering anxiety and nausea afterwards, which can lead to a lack of appetite. Cravings for opiates, however, often last much longer.

Getting Through the Withdrawal Process

Opiate withdrawal is no picnic, but finding the right strategy to get through it can help. These are five of the best ways to get past those withdrawals for a successful detox and recovery.

1. Try Tapering

A popular method for people to stop using opiates is the taper technique. As the name suggests, it involves the person slowly tapering down the amount of opiates he uses. The benefit of this technique is that it causes less severe withdrawal symptoms than if the person simply decided to quit abruptly. However, it requires the mental discipline to keep reducing the amount of opiates used and eventually stopping use entirely.

 Just like a user will develop a tolerance for opiates and keep needing larger doses to get high, that process also works in reverse. If he can cut those doses down gradually, he’ll need less of the drug and his brain chemistry will start getting back to normal. For many, another option is to supplement the detox with Vivitrol. Vivitrol breaks the cycle of opioid addiction by lessening the symptoms of withdrawal.

2. Join a Support Group

One of the hardest parts of withdrawal is going through it alone. They can break a person down mentally and physically. A great way for the person to get support and stay on the right track is finding an addiction support group in his area.

 There are many ways that a support group can help with opiate withdrawal. Other members of the group can provide suggestions on what helped them get through the withdrawal process. Support groups also offer constructive activities, such as boosting self esteem during addiction recovery. These activities are crucial to surviving the withdrawal process and preventing relapse.

 Most importantly, being part of a group lets the person know that he is not alone in his struggle. If he has felt down on himself, a group of people who understand what he’s going through can help him maintain high self esteem.

3. Try Over-the-Counter Medications

Many of the most common symptoms of opiate withdrawal can be reduced by using popular over-the-counter medications. Tylenol and ibuprofen are two options that can help a person deal with the fevers, muscle aches, chills and sweating that come with withdrawal. Keep these medications on hand so that you can take them as needed.

4. Keep Getting Nutrients

Because of the nausea caused by opiate withdrawal, it’s often hard to eat or drink. This can make withdrawal even more difficult due to the lack of nutrients being consumed.

 Stocking up on foods that are easy to eat is a smart move before detoxing. Bananas are one option that tend to go down easy, or the person can purchase meal-replacement shakes. Multivitamins are a great choice for ensuring the person gets all the nutrients he needs even during withdrawals.

5. Set Up a Schedule in Advance

As the withdrawal process is an intense one, it is best to clear your schedule in advance. There are two key points to clearing your schedule during withdrawal.

 First, clear your schedule of any important responsibilities. Besides the fact that the symptoms will prevent you from doing anything at all, anything that you do during withdrawal will likely be of very low quality. If you are working then take time off of work, if possible. Find a safe, quiet, and secluded place in which you can focus on getting through the detox without any added stress.

 Second, is to set up a different daily routine. Routine is a problem when it comes to drug use because people often get used to their drug habits based on their daily routines. Many grow accustomed to using at a specific time of day, such as before bed or after getting home from work. Adjusting that daily routine can help the person avoid specific triggers that make him crave opiates.

 It may not be possible to avoid withdrawal symptoms entirely, but you can at least make them more bearable. With the right approach, you will be able to get and stay clean of opiates, rebuild your life and develop better coping habits to deal with life.

 Bill Weiss is an advocate of long-term sobriety. As a member of the recovery community, he feels it is important to spread awareness of alcohol and drug misuse in America and beyond. Being personally affected and having family members struggling, it is a personal quest of his to get the facts about substance misuse to light, ultimately enlightening people about this epidemic.

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Guest Post: The Efficacy of Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy- CBT by Dr Stacey Leibowitz- Levy

We are delighted to have Dr Stacey Leibowitz-Levy, psychologist writing about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for us. As with any therapeutic practice, it is very much individual as to whether it will work for you and CBT will not work for everyone- but has been proven to work for many. Here Dr Leibowitz-Levy explains how it can work online.                        

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Online counselling is a growing field with more and more people turning to the internet to seek out counselling help. Counselling services offered online incorporate the range of therapeutic approaches that have been developed within the field of psychology. Approaches to understanding mental ill health and treatment include therapeutic approaches such as logo therapy, psychodynamic therapy, systemic therapy, psychodynamic therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). How do these therapeutic modalities translate to the online environment? This article will address the compatibility of CBT in particular as an online counselling approach.

CBT is a widely-utilised mode of therapy that focuses on an awareness of the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviour. The aim of CBT is to address difficulties through modifying distorted thoughts, unhelpful behaviour and unpleasant emotions. In order to achieve this end, the client works collaboratively with the therapist in building awareness and understanding of his/her condition, and an accompanying skill set for evaluating and changing distorted beliefs (as well as modifying dysfunctional behavior). The therapist develops clear objectives and a treatment plan that requires active participation from the client during sessions, and follows through on homework assignments between sessions.

This form of therapy is characterized by a structured, time limited and outcome focused approach to managing mental health challenges. Often CBT is focused on a specific issue such as anxiety or managing depressive thoughts and, as such, many CBT interventions are available in a protocol format. CBT offers a delineated and clearly defined intervention that is largely directed by a clearly defined process and structure. This is in contrast to many other therapeutic approaches that have less defined parameters and take their cue on a session to session basis from the client.

The format and approach of CBT lends itself to an online format in that the structure and process are not only defined and constrained by the relationship between therapist and client but are also defined by a clearly delineated therapeutic procedure. This procedure offers a framework within which to deliver support which can easily be translated to an online process. CBT follows a set format. It is driven by the imperative of building an understanding of the issues the client is experiencing and imparting a certain skill set to assist the client in managing his/her mental health issues. CBT is thus based on specific content and has a strong psychoeducational aspect, which means that delivery online can be located in tangible and clear cut content and outcomes for the client.

This also allows for versatility in the delivery of CBT online. While face to face time with a therapist may be desirable for some clients, the option of online delivery of psychoeducational as well as skills based elements in other formats also works well. For instance, the psychoeducational aspect could be communicated very effectively through a video delivery. CBT lends itself to the format of online courses where clients are guided through a process of identifying and understanding their particular issues and developing the skills to manage them. Interspersing this with face to face time or the opportunity to clarify or ask questions in a chat or e-mail format makes for a very effective online intervention.

While many of the issues addressed in CBT are personal to the client, the possibility of locating these issues within a more general format is very much part of the CBT approach. There is a set way of getting information from, and accessing and understanding the client’s experience, with the client having to act on this information between sessions. This more “scientific” process also makes for an approach that lends itself to an online format.

The efficacy of CBT as an online intervention is borne out by the number of sites specifically offering online CBT in a variety of formats (for some examples, see here and here). The online availability of this well researched and well-verified approach to managing mental health problems offers increased affordability, accessibility and greater choice for mental health consumers.

Dr. Stacey Leibowitz-Levy is a highly-experienced psychologist with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and a PhD in the area of stress and its relation to goals and emotion. Dr. Stacey has wide ranging skills and expertise in the areas of trauma, complex trauma, anxiety, stress and adjustment issues. Stacey enjoys spending time with her husband and children, being outdoors and doing yoga.

We are a Top 30 Social Anxiety Blog- Our first Award!

Today we at Be Ur Own Light woke up to the fantastic news that http://www.feedspot.com have listed us as one of the Top 30 Blogs for Social Anxiety information on the internet!

This is hugely exciting to be considered No 14 on the list, after Google and other important websites.

We are so grateful for this, our first award!

You can see us in the list here:  http://blog.feedspot.com/social_anxiety_blogs/

Thank you FeedSpot!

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Be Ur Own Light is One year old!

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I can’t believe my blog, Be Ur Own Light – started on March 1, 2016 is 1 year old today.

My journey with blogging has been so exciting, inspiring and wonderful. It has reached every part of the world and a huge number of countries in UK, Europe, USA, Canada and South America, China, India and other Asian countries, Africa, the Middle East and Australasia. It is such a blessing to be read world wide!

When I began this blog it was a diary to explain and help recover from my anxiety disorder. However, over time it has evolved into so much more!

As I grew in confidence and found other kindred spirits in my writing, I began to write for other organisations and also receive and upload guest posts on mental health topics.

This year I have written blogs for Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change, Bipolar UK, Self Harm UK, Phobia Support Forum, Counsellors Cafe, Monologues Project and the Bossing It! Academy. I have written 4 blogs for Rethink and have loved collaborating with each charity and organisation. Special mention to Louie Rodrigues at Rethink.

I have also received amazing guest posts from these wonderful charities and writers who shared their hearts in order to battle stigma. Thank you:

– Breathe Life
-Ashley Owens at Generally Anxious
– ISMA stress management
– Stephanie at Making Time for Me
– Adar (PTSD)
– Deepdene Care
– Joshua (bipolar article)
– Michael J Russ
-Richie at Live Your Now
– Megan at the Manic Years
– Quite Great Music psychotherapy
-Lystia Putranto and Karina Ramos
-Eugene Farrell at AXA PPP
-Marcus at Psychsi
– Paradigm Centre San Francisco

I can’t wait to receive more guest submissions over time!

In the past year Be Ur Own Light has grown into a #lighttribe of thousands. On Twitter we are now 2,287 , Facebook 265 of my friends and family, Instagram is 2156,  and we have 127 dedicated WordPress followers. Thank you to each and every one of you for following, commenting, sharing and reading and for helping fight stigma through talking..

This blog has also raised money for Jami mental health charity and I am excited to be starting work for Jami soon.

Its been an incredible year of sharing, writing and breaking down barriers. Its OK to talk about mental illness and mental health. Its alright to feel lost or broken or ill. Seek support for recovery and you can get better. You are not alone.

With gratitude and love on our first birthday 

Guest post by Marcus – 7 Tips to Improve the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder (formerly referred to as manic depression) is a condition characterized by mood oscillations- moving between high and low mood. A person suffering from bipolar disorder experiences mood changes and these changes are often erratic and unforeseen.

Symptoms of this disorder regularly change and that is one of the reasons why it can be such a difficult condition to treat and keep a consistent state of mood and activity for sufferers. However, it is possible!

Little things can help and here are 7 tips that might just help make symptoms slightly better:

  1. Make sure you get the Right Amount of Sleep

People who suffer from bipolar disorder often have erratic sleeping patterns. It is believed that one-quarter of these cases sleep too much at night while about a one-third experience difficulty in falling sleep, thereby suffering from insomnia.

As irregular sleeping patterns may precipitate depressive episodes, experts advise setting up an alarm to ensure one gets up at the same time each morning as well as setting fixed hours for sleep in the evening so that the body can adapt to this necessary function.

  1. Consistently take your prescribed Medication

According to Cara Hoepner, a nurse practitioner who also has this condition, discipline is the key when it comes to taking medication prescribed for bipolar disorder. However, she also agrees this can be a difficult task, seeing as some of the medications commonly prescribed (such as Lithium) require constant monitoring via blood tests to ensure they do not become harmful to the patient. Lithium can be toxic in rare cases and so its important to work with a good medical team.

Coupled with the fact that skipping medication will often trigger a relapse, she advises that all patients with this condition should exercise diligence and discipline in taking their meds. Tablet boxes can be very helpful for multiple medications.

  1. Shun Drugs and Alcohol

An expert in bipolar disorder, Bearden, claims that nearly half of patients of bipolar disorder have problems with substance abuse. He also states that this is one of the major reasons why many treatments do not succeed, due to it impeding recovery.

He therefore advises that while alcohol may appear a welcome refuge for bipolar patients in that it temporarily relieves depression, the mere fact that it triggers a depressive state in the brain as well as erratic sleeping patterns and mood oscillations, goes against the purpose. In addition, alcohol and drugs may impair cognitive functioning and hinder chances of  recovery- they exacerbate high and low episodes in the condition.

  1. Invest in Therapy

One of the best ways to improve bipolar disorder symptoms is to invest in therapy, including talking therapies, CBT, art therapy and more. While it may seem unappealing to many patients, therapy actually goes a long way in improving their chances of recovery.

Cognitive behavioural therapy helps patients understand and interpret events and thoughts, thereby enabling them to get back to their normal routine. There are other therapies which assist recovery and maintaining stable relationships .

  1. Learn the Triggers

Learning the triggers of bipolar disorder may help the patient nip the episode in the bud by actually dealing with these triggers before they develop into a full-blown episode.

Some of the triggers that make people unwell include sleep deprivation, social isolation and stressors eg divorce, death, change or job or having a baby . Other major changes in your life may also trigger depressive or manic tendencies, especially if they disrupt your routine so be careful to look after yourself in times of high stress.

  1. Learn the Side Effects

The most common side effect of taking Lithium or other anti psychotic medication  is metabolic syndrome, a side effect that majorly involves the impairment in the functionality of the kidney and the pancreas. A spectrum of effects such as high cholesterol, insulin resistance and weight gain would ensue, and this is where you need to deal with the to keep optimal health. A healthy diet and exercise is always important.

  1. Connect with Friends and Family (Support Network)

If you have a good support network, its so important to share how you are feeling with    close relations or best friends. By discussing your problems with those you trust, they hopefully will provide the emotional support needed to get through difficulties and help recommend further treatment or come with you to the Doctor.

In a nut shell, do not sit back and let your mood disorder take over without help. Speak out and let your friends and family help you out. In some families, there is a stigma so please do be careful as to who you let in when you are unwell.

Living with bipolar disorder is not an easy experience. However, by understanding how to deal with the symptoms, you can certainly improve your symptoms to keep you healthy and well. Read widely and remember that however debilitating episodes can be, Bipolar can be managed on medication and with therapy and. support. You are not alone.

Marcus regularly blogs at psysci, a psychology, science blog that examines the latest research and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives

Guest Post: Teens and Internet Addiction. 4 Positive Strategies to help recovery

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This article has been written by Paradigm Treatment Centers in USA who specialise in helping vulnerable teenagers with mental health issues.  Paradigm San Francisco is a small, residential treatment programme. The adolescents who come to them for treatment  have issues they need help with including but not limited to Anxiety, Depression , ADD, Grief, Trauma,  Addiction, Substance Abuse, Eating Disorders and any number of Mental or Emotional health concerns. For more information please see: http://paradigmsanfrancisco.com

Parenting a teenager today means navigating through what feels like uncharted territory because of the influence of technology. In the past, parents had to worry about the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction, but at least those were fairly simple to keep out of their home. Now, the internet is found everywhere, from libraries to schools and your teen’s phone. With such easy access, it is easy to see why internet addiction has become a thing, and you can use these strategies to help your child learn how to manage their screen time.

Recognize the Signs

Internet addiction starts subtly with teens simply spending more time online. At first, you may just think that they have found a new group of friends or are passionately researching a recently acquired interest. Over time, however, the signs that it is interfering with their life will slowly start to appear. As your teen’s addiction to the internet begins to get serious, you may start to notice the following signs.


  • Preoccupation with the internet such as anxiously awaiting their next online chat session or constantly checking their social media accounts
    • Need to be online for increasing amounts of time to maintain the same level of satisfaction
    • Withdrawal symptoms such as moodiness and depression when they are forced to cut back on their screen time
    • Accidentally staying online longer than expected such as staying up all night or missing an important event due to their internet activities
    • Drop in academic performance
    • Decreased personal hygiene, although an increased interest in appearance also occurs if a teen is involved with video chatting
    • Lies about how much time they are on the internet

  • Seek Professional Support


As with any addiction, early recognition of the symptoms means that treatment can begin before it gets worse. Typically, teens with an internet addiction struggle with seeing how their time online is affecting their lifestyle. This is because they may feel as though they have more friends than they ever did before, or they may try to justify their actions by believing that researching online is a learning opportunity. Your teen may also claim that they could be doing worse things such as drugs. Since they are usually sitting safely within their home, teens with internet addiction often take longer than other teens to admit that there is a problem. For this reason, professional therapists often begin treatment by helping teens see the negative effects of their addiction. For example, learning that being online all night is contributing to their bad grades helps them get on board with ending their addiction.

Treat Coexisting Mental Health Conditions

Teens become addicted to the internet for a variety of reasons. For some, it offers a way to meet other people despite having social anxiety. Other teens may use the internet as a route to escape the pain of grieving or the apathy of depression. Figuring out your teen’s triggers for using the internet will often reveal other mental health conditions. Treating these conditions is critical for helping your teen successfully beat their addiction.

Encourage Healthy Recreational Opportunities

Once your teen has completed their treatment for internet addiction, they will need your help finding ways to fill their time. In their program, they learned how to utilize their interests to find recreational activities such as acting in a play or hiking in the mountains that reduce their drive to go online. Encourage your child to continue to explore their new interests, and plan special activities to keep them on track. For example, enrolling them in an art class or planning a family camping trip will help your teen remember that offline experiences can be even better than anything they can find online.

The internet brought to the world wonderful ways to connect and learn. Yet, many teens are falling prey to the vices of internet addiction. When you suspect there is a problem, it is important to go with your instincts and seek help because this type of addiction quickly spirals out of control. By recognizing that internet addiction is indeed real and seeking support, your teen can learn to manage their impulses through healthy activities that support their development.