The Road to Recovery: On PTSD, Trauma and the Future… by Eleanor for Mental Health Awareness Week

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(image: Eleanor Mandelstam (Segall))

 

Trigger Warning: sexual assault, details of assault and severe mental illness

 

Hi everyone,

Its been a while but I thought I would put type to keyboard and write a blog for more mental health awareness.

Since my book was published, I haven’t written many follow up personal blogs, purely because the launch of my life story into the public domain felt overwhelming and scary. 6 months on, I am used to it being out there but I have been working hard in EMDR trauma therapy to help myself.

See, the truth is that right now the Bipolar Disorder for me is stable and under control on my medicines. I still get side effects- weight gain, dry mouth and thirst, but my mind is generally healthy in terms of the Bipolar- no mania or depression. Anxiety and panic yes but Bipolar, not really at the moment.

Yet, almost lurking unseen after I left hospital in 2014 and began my recovery was the fact I was traumatised by my experiences of going into psychosis (losing touch with reality via delusions, false beliefs) and my experiences when being sectioned. I will just give an overview as the rest is in my book- but this included- being restrained, being attacked by other patients and seeing them self harm, being injected with Haloperidol (an anti psychotic) in front of both male and female nurses in a part of the body I didn’t want, being chased round A and E by security men in genuine fear of my life, dealing with lawyers and going to tribunals while ill, thinking I had been abused by family and was locked up by a criminal gang and fearing my family were against me. My bipolar mind could not cope.

Just before this all happened, I was very vulnerable and was sexually assaulted by a man I knew through friends and all of this trauma stayed with me.

I did what most of us with severe mental illness and assault survivors do- I tried to rebuild my life. I tried to work in schools helping children with special educational needs. I tried to work for a mental health charity as a peer support worker for people like me. I began to blog and write and share as therapy- from charities to national newspapers. Bit by bit, as I wrote out what I has been through, I started to slowly heal. But, the symptoms of the extreme panic remained. I lost jobs because of it. I became depressed. I started dating but I often had to cancel dates- (before I met Rob, my husband who listened to me talk about it all and didn’t bat too much of an eyelid.)

I was in a state of flux, a state of transition. I knew I had trauma still living in my brain and body. I had been physically and sexually assaulted, I had been mentally violated- I had been sectioned twice in a few months and now I was sent home to try and rebuild my life as a 25 year old single woman.

I share this important blog, not to share that I am a victim- because I am not. I want to share that I believe for about 5 years, I have been suffering with some of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My therapist believes the same.

The panic attacks that grip me with fear before work or the day ahead when I have to leave the house. The fear of going out or travelling at night alone. The fear of being taken advantage of and having to trust men again (thank you to my husband for helping ease this pain). The fear of exploitation, of losing my mind, of not trusting mental health professionals any more.

My panic attacks get triggered by certain events- it could be having to speak about my life or book, or seeing people I don’t feel comfortable with, of feeling exposed, of worrying about others judgement. I am still healing from all I have been through and experienced. The PTSD means that I have to take medication (Propranolol) to function sometimes. It means that I experience flashbacks in my body- I feel gripped with fear, I get chest pain and shallow breathing and I start to cry. I had one the other day at 4am….. thank the lord for meds so I could calm down and sleep.

My therapist is incredible and we have been working since October to process the roots of my trauma and panic disorder. We use a combination of rapid eye processing with talking therapy which helps to tackle each and every trauma- and we are still at the tip of the iceberg. It takes time to process the deep rooted experiences in my brain- we are getting there slowly.

For me, in many ways my future is uncertain. My medicines have long term physical side effects. Motherhood will be more of a challenge due to medication and my mental health- I am still processing the choices I will have to make, which I will write in another blog.

I want to end this blog by saying- if you know someone with anxiety, PTSD, another anxiety disorder or something like bipolar or schizophrenia- Be Kind. You never know what someone has gone through.

The NHS waiting lists for help are too long, services are too underfunded- all my treatment has been private provided by my family due to being stuck on a list for years. I am lucky, not everyone is. 

I hope this blog gives some information about my experiences of PTSD since leaving hospital 6 years ago. It is by far the most personal thing I have posted since publishing my book but I hope it helps you feel less alone.

Positivity and Hope are key.  Meeting my husband and my therapist changed my life for the better as I slowly rebuild and find an equilibrium again.

Love,

Eleanor x

Looking to the Future and Life Dreams: by Eleanor

 

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(image: 123RF.com)

Hi friends,

It has been a while since I have written a personal blog as there has been so much going on here that I was just focusing on getting through it all. Robs dad had surgery to remove a second brain tumour and is thankfully recovering well, the surgeon amazingly got all the cancer. Success.

Alongside this, I have been in therapy since November with a wonderful therapist and we are doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy). This therapy helps to process trauma that can get ‘stuck’ in the brain if not processed. That trauma can stem from childhood upwards- I was an anxious child from an early age even though I had a good childhood! I have also been through a lot due to my bipolar episodes and hospitalisations. So, I am working with my therapist to process memories and we are doing it slowly.

My therapist will either ‘tap’ on the side of my legs while I recall the memory to help process it or my eyes will follow a light or her finger as we process. Understandably, there has to be a lot of trust in this type of relationship as well as me being protected and not triggered by the therapy. For this, we have developed a ‘safe place’ memory that I go to when we bring up anything too distressing. We have just started to go deeper with this and I will update you with our progress. I am far less anxious than I was and it has been really helpful to build a positive, working relationship with my therapist.

The reason I started therapy was because I was having intense panic attacks and finding it difficult to manage my life due to it. I hope that by working on these triggers that I can react differently and live a healthier and better life. Stay tuned!

A month or so ago, I also went to see my psychiatrist for the first time in 2 years, mainly as I had worries about my weight and physical health. My medications means I have put on a substantial amount of weight and this is worrying me health wise more than anything. I have been advised to diet and exercise and maybe work with a nutritionist. So, this will also be a new journey and I will try my best with this, not easy as the meds may stop me losing weight due to slowing metabolism or encouraging cravings. We considered reducing my Quetaipine, a mood stabiliser and anti psychotic to help but because I have been more mentally stable, I have decided to keep it at the same dose for now.

Rob and I have also started to look at new homes, which has been good. There is a lot happening right now and important that I rest, look after myself and keep calm.

Life with bipolar disorder can be uncertain. I have some fears about the future, which I will talk about in another more detailed post. My medicines thankfully keep me mentally well, but coming off them for future life changes eg pregnancy could be a big risk for me and one I am not sure I should take due to being bipolar 1 (risk of mania and psychosis). This is not currently imminent, but is still a future fear, especially as I love children. A decision for a later date.

Overall though I am hopeful and excited about life and will keep you all updated with my therapy and health journey and news.

Thanks for reading and following Be Ur Own Light as we come up to our 4th anniversary,

With love,

Eleanor x

 

 

Talking for the Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat 2020 by Eleanor

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As some of you will be aware, back in 2017-2018, I helped as a volunteer with fellow volunteers (Lisa Coffman and others) to found the Mental Health Awareness Shabbat (Jewish sabbath) in our communities across the country here in the UK. The initiative, led by the mental health charity Jami and conceived by Rabbi Daniel Epstein, now runs in 150 Jewish communities.

This year, my dad Mike and I were delighted to be asked to share our father and daughter journey with bipolar disorder to Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue.

I have social anxiety- which includes at times a fear of public speaking. In December, I had a breakthrough, where I spoke for a short time at a conference called Limmud alongside my Dad and read from my book Bring me to Light. So, when we were asked to do this talk at Chigwell, I felt it could be possible.

I armed myself with the fact that I knew kind people in the community including the Rabbi and his wife and friends of my husband Rob (its the community he grew up in). I also wanted to share my story to help other people.

So, we stayed with a lovely lady in the community and had friday night dinner with the Rabbi and his family. On Saturday morning, I woke up feeling a little nervous but took my trusted anxiety medication for when I need it- Propranolol, and walked to the synagogue with Dad.

I managed not to have a panic attack and the thought of speaking to help others got me through (as did distraction, deep breathing and drinking a glass of water).

So, at the end of the service, we were called up to speak. Dad went first and talked about his journey with bipolar disorder from when it started for him in 1991 to finding recovery. Then, it was my turn.

I stood up there in the pulpit speaking to a packed audience with a prepared speech. I felt scared but also empowered and began to relax into the talk. I knew that by sharing what happened to me, being sectioned and so ill and talking openly, that I could break stigma and touch others. I was also so proud of my Dad for speaking so openly.

It was only after, when talking to people after the service, that we realised that about 150 people came to listen to our talk! We had some important conversations with people after our talk including someone very newly diagnosed and someone else whose niece had bipolar and is currently very ill.

I couldn’t and still can’t believe I was able to do that. However, since I have been very tired so trying to de-stress and rest as much as I can!

We just want to thank everyone who came to hear our talk and supported us, to every person who thanked us for coming and shared their stories with us. We are so grateful for such a positive reception and thank Rabbi Davis and the Chigwell community for having us.

The Mental Health Awareness Shabbat has had events in communities all across the country. It runs yearly and you can find out more here 

World Bipolar Day is Tomorrow!

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Tomorrow, join in and learn what you can about bipolar disorder.

As many of you know, I have bipolar 1 disorder and when not on medication, have episodes of high mood- mania/ psychosis and low mood- severe depression. Thankfully I am in recovery but it affects so many people and is thought to run in families.

Remember you are not alone.

Bipolar UK-  https://www.bipolaruk.org/

Bipolar in USA: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/bipolar-disorder

5 Tips for a Mental Health Emergency Plan: Guest blog by Emily Bartels

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(image: http://crmhfoundation.org/self-care/)

 

When it comes to emergency plans, usually we think in a more physical sense, but did you know that mental health emergency plans are important?

Mental health emergencies can be quite stressful, and if you’re in a mental health industry or have any personal concerns about your own health, providing the right help is important.  Here, we will outline important tips to help you create a mental health emergency plan that will suffice.

 

Have a Support system

If you tend to get overwhelmed when an emergency happens, a big way to help reduce the trauma from it is to have a support system. Whoever you are and whereever you work, your own personal triggers and issues are still there. If you’re having issues coping, find a support system- a friend, family member or therapist that can help.

You may want to come up with a plan to help your  responses to situations, especially when disaster strikes. If you do have anxiety and depression, do make sure that you have people that can help around you or reach out for help from a doctor or therapist.

 

Prepare For Emotional Reactions

Another big thing that emergency evacuation plan Melbourne  (in Australia) does point out, is you need to make sure that you have the right idea of what might happen.  You should know when you have chaotic reactions, and what you struggle with when disaster strikes.

Focus on what will help, what might happen when you do suffer from an incident, and make sure to communicate it to others.

Processing information is quite hard in a stressful situation, such as fear, anxiety, depression, or even a panic attack, and you should make sure that, with the group of people you trust or the medical profession, you do speak about what happens. It’s also important to make sure that you properly communicate to others.  While panic attacks and sad emotions do happen, you should know that you probably will be upset about whatever will transpire. But that its OK to feel this way.

 

Be Prepared to communicate

A large part of a mental health plan is to make sure that you communicate your needs. If you need to, make sure that you explain any mental health needs, such as medication you might need, in an emergency, with loved ones.  Its vital to your wellbeing  even when stressful to communicate. Letting others know can help them and you prepare for the worst and take action if needed. You aren’t alone.

 

Keep Contact information on hand

Pharmacies can help you get emergency medication, but making sure that you have the contact information for your provider, any diagnoses, and dosages of medication are important.  Make sure to let some people in your support system know, and also keep those phone numbers on hand in case if the emergency lines are overloaded.

 

Create a Recovery Bag

If you have extra medications, a comfort item, and anything that you can use to help in the case of an emergency or crisis, put it in a small emergency kit, which you can use if you need to attend hospital or appointments.  Remember, emergency kits aren’t just for physical health aspects, but also for mental health.  You need to make sure you’re prepared both physically and mentally for any issues that might transpire so that you’re not suffering.

Mental health during an emergency often isn’t focused on as much as say other aspects of your health. Depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts don’t always go away, and you need to be prepared for that, and reach out for help so you can recover well.

Creating a plan to try and prevent or reduce this from happening with your medical team will help if a mental health emergency comes about. From there, you can get the help that you need in order to stabilise yourself, look after yourself and recover again.

 

This blog was written by Emily Bartels, freelance writer with an interest in mental health and wellbeing.

Happy Third Blog Anniversary! : On Our Third Birthday by Eleanor

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(image : etsy)

Earlier this week, on the 1st March, Be Ur Own Light turned 3 years old! I still remember starting this blog as an outlet for my fears, thoughts and emotions after leaving a job in 2016 due to acute anxiety and panic ( part of my bipolar) . Writing the blog and sharing thoughts has been so therapeutic and it has taken me on  a journey that I could not have imagined when I started writing. As many of you know, this blog led to me writing for big media outlets and to my book deal (book hopefully will be out in November) and I am so grateful for the confidence it has given me too- and the chance to connect with people all over the world.

However, this year (as with the past 2), the blog has attracted a horde of talented writers wanting to spread their messages about mental health and wellness. Some have shared their personal stories of hope and recovery, others have given useful tips on health and wellness  and we have covered topics as wide ranging as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and addictions to drugs and alcohol. We have talked about pet therapy, writing therapy, mindfulness and yoga, amongst other therapies.

My guest bloggers have written about their recovery from mental illnesses like anorexia and bipolar disorder. National campaigns like the Diana Award also got in touch with us to discuss bullying and LGBT issues too and Jami charity asked us to cover their mental health awareness campaign (which I helped set up). Furthermore, Be Ur Own Light has also covered World Mental Health Day and Time to Talk Day this year, featuring personal mental health stories as a way to raise awareness and fight misconceptions.

Thank you to my amazing guest bloggers March 2018-2019 for your fantastic content:   

Donna at Wildwoman Book Club for Self care

Lynn Crilly- Hope with eating disorders (book)

Cordelia Moor- Living with Quiet BPD for Time to Talk Day

Sarah- On Depression for Time to Talk Day

Peter McDonnell-  Managing anxiety and psychosis for TTD

Cara Lisette- Recovery from anorexia and bipolar disorder for TTD

David Welham- Depression and Recovery/  Being a parent of children taking exams

Rachelle Wilber- Treatment for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)

Brandon Christensen- What is mental health stigma?

Charlotte Underwood- Overcoming Adversity/ The Saviour Complex

Ralph Macey- Managing Bipolar in the workplace

Manmohan Singh- Benefits of Yoga

Alex Sabin- Enjoying the Holidays after Addiction

Spela Kranjec- How to Accept Yourself/ My Journey in surviving Anorexia

Jami charity- Mental Health Awareness Shabbat campaign

Brookman- Avoiding a relationship crisis at Christmas

Sarah Cardwell-  Womens health awareness

Anti Bullying Week, the Diana Award and Everyones Talking about Jamie

Allen- Recovery from alcoholism and mental illness

Lizzie Weakley- How to combat your eating disorder

Posy and Posy- Flowers for wellness

N- Poem on depression- Copy of my Mask

Dan Brown at My Therapy- Suicide prevention on social media- World MH Day

Lydia- On complex PTSD and recovery

Ashley Smith- how Physiotherapy helps with stress and anxiety

Amy Hutson- How Writing Therapy helps

Christine H- What family therapy is really like

Meera Watts- How Yoga enhances your lifestyle

Dawn Prime- How can Animal and Pet therapy help

Bill Weiss- Mental Health Stigma and Drug addiction

Dr Nancy Irwin- Signs your loved one is abusing drugs

Eve Crabtree- The MIND diet for Dementia

James Kenneth- Overcoming mental health challenges

Ellie Willis- A guide to mood disorders

AXA PPP- is social media bad for our health?

Lori Longoria- How baths and spas help relaxation

Tomas Sanchez- can alcohol raise stress levels and affect mental health

Dr Janina Scarlet- Therapy quest book

Cloe Matheson- tips to reduce stress

Paul Matthews- fitness and how it helps depression

Katie Rose- How to help anxiety and panic attacks

Anonymous- on sexual abuse

Kayla Clough- coping with post partum depression

Kara Masterson- 4 tips to begin the fight against drug addiction

Michelle Hannan- 5 tips to boost your immune system

Kevin Morley- Satori Mind- Tips to boost mindfulness

Sara Whitehouse at Stadia Sports-How sport can help mental health

Amy Boyington- How holistic medicine helps mental health

 

Thank you so much to all of you and I am excited to see what 2019 brings for the blog!

2018 was a very special year for me and my writing- being published in Metro.co.uk, Glamour, The Telegraph, Happiful magazine, the Jewish News and several other media outlets. I was featured in articles in Cosmopolitan, Elle, Prima, Yahoo News, Prevention magazine and Refinery29 and guest blogged on other mental health blogs too.

This year on the blog I wrote about my life with social anxiety and work anxiety, winter blues and SAD/ depression, I shared my articles about being plus size and a bride and about my recovery from bipolar disorder. Furthermore, I wrote about the Twitter hashtags I started #mydepressionmeans and #myanxietymeans, to help people feel less alone and share their own experiences online.

On the blog I also reviewed the brilliant book ‘Love and Remission‘ by Annie Belasco by Trigger Publishing, about breast cancer and mental health. Triggers mental health books are great and I read so many that I was unable to review due to time constraints including Depression in a Digital Age by Fiona Thomas and books by Paul McGregor and Ruth Fox.

This year we were given the accolade of being a Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog by Vuelio and were a shortlisted finalist in the 2018 UK Blog Awards (Health and Social Care category). I was also invited to the Mind Media Awards which was an incredible experience and this year, we have been nominated for Blogger of the Year in the Mental Health Blog Awards.

Be Ur Own Light continues to be read globally and I love receiving your messages about the blogs and finding new writers too.  Blogging makes me happy and I hope it helps so many of you too and you love what we do here.

Heres to a productive, wonderful, fun and exciting year of educating and battling mental health stigma too 🙂

Happy 3rd birthday Be Ur Own Light!  ❤ May this be a special year for us

Love and gratitude,

Eleanor    

xxx

eleanortwit

 

How I manage Anxiety and Psychosis : Guest post by Peter McDonnell for Time to Talk Day

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(image: Pinterest)

For Time to Talk Day, I want to share about my experiences of mental health. Yes, I have anxiety and yes, I have psychosis.  But no, I am not unhappy. On the contrary – I had a very good 2018.  And 2017, and 2016…lucky me. You see, I have learned how to manage them.  I learned how to manage them so they don’t bother me at all any more (he wrote, hoping not to invoke some sort of ‘commentators curse’) even if they do make me think of them many times each day.   I’ve worked hard and learned so much about how to be happy and live a normal life anyway. 

My diagnosis in 2001 was “cannabis induced psychosis with delusions of a grandiose nature” as worded by my first doctor.  It is the only diagnosis I ever had. Delusions of a grandiose nature meant, for me, that I thought I was the telepathic modern day Jesus- the only son of God, and was destined for the whole world to know it quite soon.  I picked up panic attacks in about 2004, which turned into general anxiety.  The panic attacks mostly stopped in about 2006 after giving up cannabis for good and being put on Clozapine.  Clozapine is used for people who are non – responsive to other drugs, it was described as a last resort and the phrase ‘miracle cure’ even got passed around.  Genuinely.  It worked incredibly well for me and I even think fondly of it – “my favourite drug”.

I work on a mental health ward now (four to be precise) part time, and I am always getting into chats about a multitude of experiences with the mental health system and recovery with patients and often with their parents who come to visit them.  It feels almost like a duty for me to do that.

I see patients/parents on the PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) ward that don’t know what to expect in the coming years as they are often new to being in the system and it can be scary. I remember my mum saying to me two years ago – “When you first got ill I thought you might never recover or be able to live a normal life.”  So for parents it is worrying that a future like that might be on the cards for their offspring. And not knowing makes it worse.

 So how can I not try and give some information about that sort of thing?   

In a nutshell, some people (like myself) have a tough few years then begin a steady road to recovery, for me initiated by finding a very good medication.  Others are able to spend a few weeks or months on a mental health ward and then go back to their jobs and do really rather well. We are all different. 

This is a short post with limited room, so I’ll focus on what was for me the most important thing that enabled me to get on with my psychosis and anxiety – from managing them to not even caring that I have them.  

Perseverance – but please don’t look away!  Whether it’s just me or not I don’t know, but I often find that word difficult when reading a mental health article.  Maybe it’s because it implies that hard work is coming. But it has been what works for me from 2007 – 2014 while I was learning how to manage my illness.  

I had to push myself to socialise again and again, and my mum had to do the same. She trained as a psychiatric nurse a while back and is very smart. She knew that pushing me relentlessly for a long time was the best thing.  I went to social events even though I knew I’d hate them, for about three years. The worst part of it was that I knew if I gave in to the difficulties and stayed home the anxiety of having to go out would fall away – my mum really had to drag me out of the house sometimes.

 It made it easier in the beginning going to smaller events that were closer to home – that’s what I would tell myself in the first few difficult minutes. But I did always feel a little bit proud and encouraged when I got home – a feeling that stayed with me in a tiny but growing amount.  I had learned that these things honestly do get a bit easier each time, even though my panic attacks were very unpleasant, and thinking that “everyone at the restaurant can hear my negative thoughts, won’t like me for it and I’ll stick out like a sore thumb” didn’t help either.

So honesty time – I still think I have telepathic abilities – part of my illness, a belief that I just can’t shake off.  It surfaces on occasion when I’m watching TV or even in the middle of socialising. I have learned that going back to my likely imagined telepathic ways (part of my psychosis) just opens up a can of worms.  It’s not what I want. With the TV I can always change the channel which is at worst annoying but often I find something better to watch on another channel so who cares?

I rarely get these strange ideas of telepathic communication while socialising.  It’s like thinking that someone may have just heard one of my thoughts, and then I can hear in my mind what they thought about hearing that thought.  Sometimes it happens when I’m sitting on the loo. A person doesn’t need to be the object of my visual and auditory focus, though that’s when the communication seems strongest.  If I am socialising I just take a break  and this works fine. It’s my mind now, and I tell it to work for my benefit and it usually does.

I feel so lucky to have recovered so well.  I know that some people don’t. I owe so much to the simple but also difficult element of perseverance.  

 

About the author

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Peter is a writer who writes articles on his own website and also guest posts for other websites/ blogs.  He proudly wrote a 3500 word essay recently for The Taylor and Francis Psychosis Journal which they published in their 2018 edition.  He is also working on his book, a mental health memoir. Peter has several part time jobs.

His website is  petermcdonnellwriter.com

Twitter  @PeterMcDonnell_

https://mobile.twitter.com/PeterMcDonnell_

Facebook as Peter Edward Mcdonnell 

https://m.facebook.com/peter.e.mcdonnell