Coming Home For The Mental Health Awareness Shabbat And Self Care by Eleanor

Happy new year everyone! Gosh its nearly the end of January and I havn’t written a blog for a while so thought I would share some things that have been happening here and talk a bit about mental health stuff too.

Firstly, my mental health is fairly stable at the moment, as has been the case for a number of years. I don’t get typical bipolar depressive or manic episodes on my medications and this year is my 9th year out of hospital , which is always a positive. However, I still suffer with anxiety and stress and get overwhelmed so have to pace myself! I have bad days too where things feel too much but thankfully they don’t escalate into a depression.

So for the positives- I have achieved some huge anxiety wins for me. Since November, I have been on the tube (first time in 3 years), I have gone up to the West End with Rob to the theatre using public transport, my panic attacks have been lessening, I have been able to see more people in person and I also passed my probation at work and have been made permanent (huge win!). I am someone who struggles with agarophobia when I feel more anxious and stressed and going out alone can still be a challenge.

I have been allowing myself to venture into previously anxiety provoking situations- for example, I get cabs alone home from work. I had to start doing this last year and it helped me get back into the world again. It wasn’t easy due to many fears I had but I have been able to do it, slowly. My job is also hybrid so I can work from home too- but getting back out into the world and having kind work colleagues at an office has been such a vital part of my recovery too. My therapist has been so helpful in dealing with the panic attacks and anxiety and I do still get triggered but at the moment on a lesser scale. I still find blood tests, hospitals and general health stuff scary because of what I have been through. I really recommend therapy.

I sometimes do have to cancel arrangements when things feel too much so am sorry to anyone I have had to postpone… its not easy and I hate doing it as I feel bad… but I am learning the balance of looking after me and socialising too. I don’t always get it right but I am trying.

Then, my friend in Bushey, Lee, texted me a few weeks back and asked if I would like to speak in my childhood community for the Jami (Jewish charity) Mental Health Awareness Shabbat. I hadn’t done public speaking about my story since before Covid in 2019, when I spoke with my Dad Mike at Limmud and at Chigwell shul (synagogue, my husbands community). I have had drama training so for me speaking publicly as someone else is OK, but when I have to stand up and share my own story, I get nervous as its so personal. The first time I was asked to speak in a shul at Belsize Square, I made it to the community but my Dad had to give the talk by himself as i was too panicked to attend the service. I managed in time to dip my toe in slowly, always with the support of my Dad and my therapist.

This talk in Bushey felt significant. It’s the Jewish community I grew up in and was a part of until I was 23. I felt like I was going home. The Bushey team told me they had two other speakers, but would I like to speak and share my story with bipolar disorder?

I thought to myself… I am ready, my panic attacks and social anxiety are more under control. To me being asked to come home to Bushey shul was a sign. My Grandpa Harry passed away in 2021 from Covid- and he and Grandma had lived in Bushey since the 1990s, when we were little. Our family lived in both Bushey and Bushey Heath and I studied at Immanuel College, across the road from our home and my grandparents. The area contains so many happy memories for me. I knew the new senior Rabbi and Rebbetzen, as he had officiated at my grandparents funerals and was so kind to our family. My Dad is also still a member of the shul and I still know a lot of people who live in the community too. Its a very special community and one I am proud to be from (and still feel.a small part of despite not being a local anymore).

So, I decided, with my Dad and Rob’s support on the day (and anxiety meds), that I could stand up in shul and speak with the other two speakers on the Shabbat (sabbath) morning. My Mum and step dad were supporting from afar and looking after our guineapigs.

The senior Rabbi and Rebbetzen hosted us for the Friday night which was wonderful as we got to meet lots of new couples and see the Ketts, the other Rabbi and Rebbetzen! For lunch after the service, we went to Lee’s house, which was very special as she was my batmitzvah teacher and is a good family friend.

I was initially told the talk was going to be in a break out room- but on the day it was decided that it would be from the pulpit. Last time I ventured to that pulpit and stood up there was when I was 12 years old, sharing my batmitzva portion of the Torah. The year my Dad was very ill and diagnosed with bipolar. I became ill just 3 years later.

Now, here I was back as a married woman of 34, revealing about the mental illness that had found its way into my family and caused a lot of devastation. However, the main reasons I wanted to stand up and talk about bipolar disorder are because I know that this illness runs in families, many Jewish families struggle with it. I wanted to give the message that you can live with this illness but you can have periods of remission, recovery, you can find hope.

And as I spoke to the audience of people – many of whom I had known since my childhood, who saw me grow up and saw my family eventually leave Bushey for Edgware, I felt humbled. I felt honoured to be asked to speak and I hoped that by sharing my own journey with bipolar (being diagnosed at 16, in hospital twice, the last time in 2014 for a very serious manic episode), that I could touch someone who needed to hear it. My Dad gave me permission to tell his story too.

When I grew up in. the early 2000s, talking about mental illness and particularly in Jewish spaces, was not the norm. I hope that through sharing my own journey and my Dads (he was undiagnosed for 9 years until he was 44), that I will have helped someone.

Most importantly, I felt I had come home. The kindness and warmth shown to me by the members of the Bushey community who I have known since I was a little girl was something so incredibly special and touching. People confided in me after the service about their own struggles. Others thanked me for sharing my story. I was hugely touched by the other two speakers who spoke after me about their own journeys with mental health and their children’s. I won’t name them here in case they want to be anonymous but I learnt so much from them and their experiences.

So I want to say a huge thank you to Lee, to the Rabbis and Rebbetzens and to everyone in Bushey who I have known for years and have loved- for hosting us, for inviting me to talk about something so personal in such a special community. It touched my heart. I really hope it helps.

I genuinely did not know how I stood up there to speak to 90 odd people- what kept me going is knowing I was doing this to help eradicate the stigma of mental illness but also I hope that the words I spoke gave comfort to anyone going through mental illness, that it does get better. It can improve. You won’t be ill forever.

When I was unwell in 2014, Jonny Benjamin MBE was speaking and sharing about mental illness. He taught me that sharing your story to help others is vital. So thanks Jonny for all your support too (whether you knew you gave me the courage or not :).

I also want to thank Jami charity, Laura Bahar and Rabbi Daniel Epstein. I was part of the volunteering team that helped set up the first mental health awareness shabbat. The project has blossomed and is now annual and it is truly wonderful to see.

What I want to clarify is that although I am currently a lot better with my anxiety, it is very much a grey area, day by day thing. That can be hard for people to understand- how one day you can be great with loads of energy and the next you have to stay home and recuperate- self care. But I think knowledge of mental health is increasing now, so do check in with your friends and family and offer a safe space without judgement- its so helpful.

Thank you again for reading this if you got this far. You can do whatever you put your mind too- reach for help from medical teams, medication, therapists and never give up.

With gratitude and love,

Eleanor

x

How To Tell If You Or A Loved One Needs Psychiatric Help by Brooke Chaplan.

(image: free image)

Mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. It is important to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental illness in order to get help as soon as possible. Knowing what to look for can be tricky, so here are some common warning signs that you or a loved one may need psychiatric help.  

Unexplained Changes in Mood and Behaviour  

One of the most common signs of mental illness is a sudden and unexplained change in mood or behaviour. This could include changes in sleep patterns, eating habits, energy levels, attitude towards others, or motivation levels. If you notice any sudden shifts in these areas that last more than two weeks and cannot be attributed to a specific event or life change, it may indicate an underlying mental health issue.  

Negative Self-Talk or Rumination  

Another sign that someone needs professional help is if they frequently engage in negative self-talk or ruminate on the same thoughts over and over again. For example, if they often say things like “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t do anything right” without any basis for those statements, this could be a sign that something more serious is going on beneath the surface. Additionally, if someone spends hours every day thinking about their mistakes from the past without being able to move forward—this could also be an indication that professional help is necessary.  

Isolation from Friends and Family  

Finally, if someone begins isolating themselves from friends and family members more often than usual—or does not seem interested in having conversations with them—this could be another indicator that something more serious is happening mentally. It’s normal for people to want some alone time once in a while—but if you notice your loved one consistently avoiding social activities and interactions with others over long periods of time—it may mean they need extra emotional support from a professional psychiatrist before they can get back on track.   

Other Behaviours

Other behaviours you should watch out for is frequent tearfulness, self harm thoughts or ideas, suicidal thoughts and ideation- as this indicates someone is reaching a crisis point with their mental health. In some there may be an increase in activity or mania. This can lead to psychosis- where your mind loses touch with reality, common in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (but can also happen outside these conditions).

Mental health issues are complex and often difficult to recognise at first glance. However, it’s important to understand that early intervention can make all the difference when it comes to managing mental illness effectively. If you notice any of these warning signs in yourself or a loved one—don’t hesitate to reach out for help!

Professional psychiatric services should always be sought out when necessary as this will create better outcomes for everyone involved in the long run. In the UK, that may be via the NHS but due to overwhelmed services, if you can afford private treatment, go down this route as it will be quicker!

This article was. written by Brooke Chaplan, freelance writer.

Anxiety And Climbing, Not Carrying Mountains. by Eleanor.

(image: Quote CC)

This week was a good week. Generally, my bipolar has been stable for a while. I am able to go to work and hold down two jobs somehow and I also passed my probation (in the words of Borat, Great Success!). But there are times when things are overwhelming and I feel like a wobbly mess. Like today.

I achieved my goals that I came up with when I was in the middle of agoraphobia a few months ago. My panic disorder reset itself to a healthy level thanks to therapy and things improving at work. As such, I have been able to see more people face to face and this week I was able to go to Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club with my Dad to see Natalie Williams and Soul family Motown show (my Chanukah present). We have been before over the years and love going to see them and going with my Dad makes me feel safe as he drives us.

However, I often find that something like that is followed by a day of needing to slow down and look after me as I can feel a little depleted and more anxious. Its just a bit of a pattern my mind goes too. The cold and dark weather also do not help with this and I start just wanting to stay at home. I have also been putting myself under too much pressure and end up exhausted.. any other perfectionists/achievers do the same?

So, I couldn’t go to see friends and some family this weekend and had to cancel arrangements which wasn’t great. However, my baby nephew was born last week and had his Jewish naming ceremony yesterday which was special as Rob and I carried him in on a special pillow. We then hosted my mum and step dad for shabbat (Jewish sabbath) lunch- so I am seeing that as a big achievement despite everything. In the past, I wouldn’t have even been able to attend it- so I know I am in a better place. However, I also had to cancel other family plans which I don’t feel good about.

I think I have just been trying to do way too much as I always do when I feel a bit better and I am sorry to those I have had to let down due to increased anxiety. I know its not my fault, its an illness, but I still feel bad.

One positive, at the ceremony I was able to see my two aunties who I hadn’t seen for a while (which was one of my goals too) so that made me so happy.

Overall, I am doing well but I am still dealing with the panic and anxious thought patterns at times… and its learning a) what the triggers are b) what I can do to help myself when it happens. I have had about a month off from seeing my therapist so probably need another session soon. I think I just need a quiet day watching Netflix.

(image: Grow Together Now)

Rob and I are getting away over Christmas so hopefully that will be a good time to recharge and reset my batteries after a very busy year for both of us.

My sister said to me today to remember to be kind to myself, so that is what I am going to do. Though I do feel a little bit sad at having to cancel plans. Though I look back at the past few weeks and realise that I have done a lot in terms of seeing people- so maybe its all just too much and I need to plan less.

I am mostly healthy and life is generally good. Heres to climbing mountains, not carrying them all the time- and not feeling guilty if I can’t achieve something.

Love,

Eleanor x

Mental Health Medication And Dangerous Side Effects In The Heatwave by Eleanor

(image: Roman Odintsov)

In the words of Motown singers Martha Reeves and the Vandellas,

‘Just like a heatwave
Burning in my heart
Can’t keep from cryin’
It’s tearing me apart’

Temperatures yesterday here in the UK reached 40 degrees celsius, the hottest day here on record ever! Some people love the heat- ‘Oh it reminds me of being on the beach on holiday’, ‘It’s not that hot- just put a cold flannel on your face’ and ‘Why are people moaning, we go abroad to get this weather?’ are things i have heard this week. However, for people like myself who take strong mental health medication, in a country not used to these temperatures, this weather is quite literally no picnic.

Firstly, my parents and sister are redheads with pale skin. I am the same and am not built for the heat or humidity. Then, we can add in the fact that I have bipolar disorder and take daily medication- which if not managed correctly can send my blood and body toxic. This has never happened as I stay indoors, don’t do strenuous exercise and drink constantly (and eat enough) in the heat. Yesterday though was a big risk as it became SO hot.

(image: Karolina Grabowska: Pexels)

The risks of Lithium, a mood stabilising medicine, in the heat are fairly well known. It is a natural salt, dehydrating the body so if you don’t drink enough water or eat enough salt, the level of Lithium in the blood saturates and becomes too high- toxic.

Signs of lithium toxicity include: nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea, confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech, increased thirst and lack of coordination of muscles. Severe toxicity signs are: blurred vision, severe muscle spasms, seizures and coma. It is no joke. So trying to cope with Lithium in 40 degree weather and in most places, lack of air con, meant I was confined to my home as I didn’t want to feel like I was melting or run out of water. Thankfully, I didn’t go toxic!

Additionally, I take the anti psychotic Quetaipine which stops me developing mania and psychosis. This and another such medications can impair the body’s ability to regulate it’s own temperature. I am therefore at risk of developing hyperthermia- excessive body temperature- which can be fatal. (scary right??)

So you can imagine that when I hear we are having a heatwave, I instantly think ‘stay indoors, cool showers, ice lollies, sit by air con unit, drink lots and lots’ . I worry about commuting or travelling in the heat. I still can be out in some heat- but 40 degrees was too much!

Something that has troubled me as i wrote this blog is this. My employers have been amazing and let me work from home yesterday. I am able to hydrate myself and eat and keep myself cool. But for those who are ill and unable to, I imagine many were rushed to A and E with the above symptoms yesterday. As a vulnerable adult, my GP didn’t even call to check on me or highlight the side effects of my meds… I only know all this from Dr Google!

There is still a long way to go with proper care for those of us living with (as termed by my doctor) ‘severe mental illness’ whether we live in remission/recovery or whether we have a support network…..I may be 34, not 94- but I could be at risk and they wouldn’t know.

I hope by writing this blog and highlighting these side effects that more people will be aware of this too- which affects people with bipolar, schizophrenia/ schizoaffective disorder, psychosis, depression and other illnesses where anti psychotic meds are used.

One positive- when the heat broke last night and the summer rain fell as Rob and I watched on our balcony.. it reminded me of being in India during monsoon season and in Ghana having a shower in the rain so I suppose not all bad! I admitted I cheered when I saw the rain.

Lastly, I can’t finish this blog without highlighting we had a family bereavement yesterday- a cousin (but more like an uncle) passed away after illness. I will miss him terribly but learnt so much from him- kindness, humility and faith.

Stay safe in this heat! Do your meds affect you?

Love,

Eleanor

xx

Learning to Accept and Embrace Having Schizoaffective Disorder This Mental Health Awareness Week by James Lindsay

(image: Mental Health Foundation)

I do often wonder how long I had schizoaffective disorder before my diagnosis, but I guess I will never know. Back in 2016, I had my first experience of displaying symptoms of Schizophrenia (such as delusions), when I suffered from my first psychotic episode.

Before that, I had not really heard of any of these medical terms. I used to wrongly associate schizophrenic people with characters from the film ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. I thought they were lost causes who needed constant care, I didn’t think they could be functioning members of society like everyone else, and I feel bad that I used to think that. But I had a lack of education and personal experience.

In late 2019, I suffered from a relapse and had another experience with psychosis (which can be defined as losing touch with reality with delusions and/or hallucinations).. In early 2020 I was finally diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder. For those who are unsure, this condition is where symptoms of both psychotic and mood disorders are present together during one episode. ‘Schizo‘ refers to psychotic symptoms and ‘affective’ refers to mood symptoms. It is often described as a cross between Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia, as it includes symptoms from both of those conditions.

For me, it is currently something I am able to keep at bay, mainly thanks to my medication but also through being self-aware and looking after my mental wellbeing. I take Quetiapine (200mg slow release) every single day and I am more than happy with that. I have my tablet in the evening, which then helps me fall asleep without much struggle.

Without my meds, I can tell you now that I would be in all sorts of trouble. Every now and then I might forget to take it until just before bed, which means I need much longer to fall asleep because it takes a couple of hours to kick in.

That is ok though, as long as it’s not every night. But I know for a fact that without the medication, I am much more likely to start having delusions (irrational thoughts) and have an episode. Both my 2016 and 2019 episodes happened because my sleep was terrible and at times non-existent. I used to take sleep for granted, which is easy for anyone to do, but if you don’t let the brain repair itself it can lead to all sorts of problems. Just remember that psychosis can happen to absolutely anyone, I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

I am learning new things about my Schizoaffective Disorder all the time. I have joined a few Facebook groups which are supportive communities full of people with (or supporting those with) the same condition, such as this one which has nearly 18k members. For example I discovered through this group that some people who take meds before dinner (e.g. 4/5pm), find themselves waking up around 3am when they’ve worn off. They realised taking them an hour or so after dinner can give them a better sleep.

I have read books by authors with mental illness and they really help normalise it and give me peace of mind. I recently read ‘The Stranger on the Bridge’ by Jonny Benjamin (who is also Schizoaffective) and this gave me so much comfort. When you read a story that has parallels to yours, it gives you so much more hope and confidence that you can overcome your own adversities. Podcasts are a great source of help too and there are plenty out there that cover all kinds of mental illnesses.

I am also fortunate that my job gives me more opportunities to enhance my understanding of the disorder. I am proud to work for Hertfordshire Mind Network (my local mental health charity) as Fundraising & Marketing Officer, who are really supportive and always ask if there is anything they can do to help with my condition. I would advise anyone with mental illness to make your employer aware, because that’s the first step to them being able to support you and make any adjustments you might need.

I think ever since I changed my attitude to being schizoaffective, I have been able to befriend it and realise it’s not my enemy, but part of who I am. I used to feel embarrassed and was maybe even in denial at first. When I had the shame, I was never in the right mindset to go out and learn what this illness actually is, what is it doing to me, what should I look out for, what are my triggers/warning signs, what help can I get from other people.

The reality is – millions of people are schizoaffective and they are some of the best people you can encounter. They are incredible for living through it every day and I am proud to be one of them.

I hope you found my post useful and big thank you to the wonderful Eleanor Segall for the opportunity to contribute to her fantastic blog! If you’d like to connect over mental health you can find me here –

(image: James Lindsay)

@JamesLindsay23– Twitter

What It’s Like To Go Through Severe Depression as a Bipolar Episode: Looking Back by Eleanor

(image of Eleanors book Bring me to Light: Eleanor Segall/ Trigger and Welbeck publishing)

TRIGGER WARNING- DISCUSSES SUICIDAL IDEATION, SELF HARM AND BIPOLAR DISORDER. PLEASE READ WITH CARE

This weekend, I went home to my mums to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover) and have some quiet, family time. It was wonderful and because our religious laws mean we don’t use the internet, our phone on our festivals, it meant I had time for digital detoxing and switching off. But with that silence, came space. To think and reflect.

Something you may not know about me is that as well as being a writer, throughout the years I have been a prolific diary (journal) writer. The act of putting pen to paper and type to keyboard has always been therapeutic for me in my darkest moments. I found a diary I had written in 2013, when I was living with depression, suicidal ideation and self harm thoughts and actions.

The journal was covered in butterflies- always my symbol of hope. I don’t want to trigger anyone so I will say this carefully- essentially, I was so unwell that for me, my symptoms were: sleeping until the afternoon with a slight break for a meal or tablets, not socialising, finding it hard to wash due to increased anxiety and lethargy, feeling like I didn’t want to wake up the next day and wanting to harm myself in various ways- but being so frightened by these thoughts (because i knew they weren’t really Eleanor) that i had to vocalise them to my family and psychiatrist to keep myself safe. Thats what I did and its why I am still here today, in recovery.

I lived with this depression for about 6 months- my psychiatrist was encouraging me to try Lithium to stablise the bipolar but I wasn’t ready and wanted to see if Quetaipine could halt that. As we know, I became hospitalised for mania soon after in 2014 which led me to recovery and writing my book Bring me to Light.

When you live with an illness like bipolar disorder, you can sometimes forget the nuances of all the details of how you were when you were unwell. For me, I always felt that I handled the depressive episodes ‘better’ than the mania- just because I was able to keep myself as safe as possible by telling my family and doctor and changing medication. My psychiatrist had to come out to see me at home with a nurse as I was so unwell and I wrote out how I felt for him to know.

So many people live with terrible episodes of depression so this blog is just looking back and giving you some knowledge of how it manifested for me. Essentially, depression is a slowing down of the mind towards inactivity, darkness, misery, anxiety, agitation and it is often triggered due to changes in hormones and brain chemistry (if you have a family history its more likely to happen). Depression is not just low mood. Its paralysing. Its not wanting to be in the world and being in so much emotional pain. You may think of ways to harm yourself and you may dream of not being in the world. Or you may be ‘high functioning’. I somehow managed to go to friends weddings during this time despite spending the other days in bed til 5pm- I have no idea how- anti depressants and support helped greatly. However, my depression was dark and invasive.


Now, I had forgotten a lot of these finer details. For me, I never truly wanted to die- I wanted the uncontrollable bipolar to go! The suicidal ideation was my bipolar brain chemistry but also an expression of not coping with life and the bipolar moods I had been given- I was 24 and I couldn’t enjoy life- i was wracked with anxiety too. My mental health was fragile and unstable and it is no way to live- but what saved me, was being hospitalised and finding medication and therapy that has helped me to live in remission (thank God) for 7 years now.

I can say now that my brain chemistry is balanced and even if i ever get sad or frustrated, I don’t have those awful thoughts and if they ever come up, I can deal with them. I have such a supportive partner and family- my family and psychiatrist saved me as well as me trying to save myself- I frightened myself with my thoughts and I had some semblance of being able to keep myself going, which is not possible for everyone. It helped that my Dad has bipolar and could really understand what was going on for me too- he understood exactly how I was feeling but he knew it was the illness and not Ellie. I feel so lucky for that because not everyone has this. My mum, step dad and sister and wider family also were so supportive and never blamed me for being unwell. That helped too. My faith also has helped me dearly,

(Me at 25 when I was going through depression. This photo was a selfie taken when I was dressed up to go to a friends wedding and my sister had done my make up. There were no photos with messy hair or red eyes and tears. I never looked this good when I was in bed til 5pm most days in my PJs).

If youve got this far thank you for reading. My mission is to help others with these conditions feel less alone, through sharing my own experiences. I have been careful not to reveal what certain thoughts were here so I don’t trigger anyone.

If you live with depression and a host of other issues, you can recover again. Hold on. You will not feel like this forever and you can find a level of happiness and stability again. Reach for help, someone you trust, a help line, a psychiatrist and don’t give up.

Taking Mental Health Medication Doesn’t Make You ‘Weak’: Fighting the Stigma by Eleanor

(image: Matthew Ball for Unsplash)

Disclaimer: All medication must only be prescribed by a psychiatrist or GP dealing with you individually. Advice from medical professionals must be sought before taking any medication., Never take someone elses medication or try to cure yourself!

This week, I had a conversation with someone about being on mental health medication, in this case, anti depressants for clinical depression. We reminisced that as teenagers, we just weren’t taught properly by school or in society about mental illness. It wasn’t talked about here in the UK back in the 2000s and everything was really hushed up, cloak and dagger, as if you had to be ashamed of it. As if anything to do with our mind was shameful- no one really had much education, unless it happened in your family.

I know that for many people, even in 2022, taking medication for their mental health carries this sense of shame.

For me personally, I was so ill that there really was no choice for me as a 15 year old, but to be started on medication. My symptoms of bipolar disorder first appeared at the age of 15 with depression and anxiety episodes, followed by mania and psychosis. So, I was on anti psychotic medications as well as what is known as a mood stabiliser, a medicine for mood disorders that stabilises moods (in this case, the bipolar poles). I also took regular anti depressants and anti anxiety medications and still do daily. My medicine regime is pretty intense but it means that my bipolar is well controlled and in remission- and that I am stable. My family has a hereditary illness that can be severe- so medication was the right choice for me.

However, for those without a severe mental illness like bipolar or schizophrenia, you may be recommended to try anti depressants first. There are varying different types which work on seretonin reuptake in the brain and help to balance brain chemistry.(although scientists cannot pinpoint the cause for depression fully yet). These can be used in combination with therapy and exercise to help treat depression and anxiety.

Some families and cultures hold great shame to be seen taking mental health medication and so hide it from loved ones. Others stop taking it, believing they are stable and well because the medication has balanced them out- and then crash into depression. For some though, anti depressants are a shorter term thing. The point is, its all so individual and there is no one size fits all medicine- you must do what is right for your recovery but definitely do not suddenly stop them.

In my family, my Dad was already on mental health medication- Lithium for bipolar, when I became ill. So, I was lucky that I had a loving supportive and accepting family, including plenty of medical professionals who understood. It was a steep learning curve for everyone though. And yes, as a teenager, I did hold some shame for taking medicines because I just wanted to ‘fit in’ and be a ‘normal’ teen. Coupled with the fact no one openly talked about mental illness at school or in general (this was just before social media!) and I felt this overwhelming sense of shame that my brain chemicals had let me down. I never once skipped taking medication though.

The thing is with mental health is that you can’t see it. But, you can absolutely feel when something is wrong and when you feel chemically depressed or other mental illness. This is usually depression unlinked to a life event- you wake up with it and you know its back, you feel despondent and unable to cope.

Yet, because you can’t see it- shame is even greater because how do you explain it to others? And are you ‘weak’ or ‘crazy’ to need medication to function?

The answer is No. To have to take the correct prescribed medication for you daily is an effort. You have to commit to it and to seeing how some medicines go. To go through episodes of mental illness makes you stronger and more resilient, surviving each day. You are not weak, your brain just needs help (like helping diabetes or a heart problem) and the words ‘crazy’ or ‘unhinged’ just serve to reinforce stigma. There is no need to be afraid or filled with shame or self loathing- but it is valid to feel this way as you are human!

In 2017, it was estimated that 792 million people worldwide lived with a mental health disorder (one in 10 globally). 46 million of those had my disorder, bipolar. However, this is the tip of the iceberg because mental illness is often underreported due to stigma. So- you are not alone. There is treatment out there to help you.

Remember not to be ashamed of needing medication to cope with life’s challenges (alongside therapy etc). The stigma is slowly falling and I will continue to write and share to this end.

You are not weak! You are powerful beyond comprehension .

Do you take medication? Does it help you?


Love,

Eleanor x

The Book of Hope- 101 Voices in Overcoming Adversity by Jonny Benjamin MBE and Britt Pfluger. by Eleanor

To readers of my blog,

(image: Pan Macmillan/ Jonny Benjamin)

I don’t really know where to start! I have been keeping this secret for almost two years.

Nearly 2 years ago, my friends, mental health campaigner/author Jonny Benjamin MBE and author and editor Britt Pfluger, approached me to be a part of their second book entitled ‘The Book of Hope: 101 Voices on Overcoming Adversity‘ (published with Bluebird/ Pan Macmillan in April 2021!).

They asked me to write a piece on how I found hope and recovery after being unwell and my (ongoing) journey with bipolar disorder that I wrote about in my own book Bring me to Light.

I won’t give too much away about the piece I wrote, but it does include my Dad’s story too and talks about life after being sectioned for a manic episode in 2014. It talks about hope, healing, recovery and living with mental illness. It talks about being afraid of the future, but finding light in the darkness.

Heres what Macmillan say about the book which is available for pre order on Bluebird Pan Macmillan website and Amazon. It also contains anecodotes from famous faces including Lemn Sissay, Zoella (Zoe Sugg), Joe Wicks and Dame Kelly Holmes.

There is always hope, even when we cannot seem to seek it within ourselves.

The Book of Hope is an anthology of 101 key voices in the field of mental health, who share not only their experiences with anxiety, psychosis, panic attacks and more, but also what helps them when they are feeling low. Compiled by award-winning activist Jonny Benjamin and author Britt Pflüger, the inspirational contributors in this book range from the likes of Lemn Sissay, Frank Turner and Zoe Sugg, to Elizabeth Day, Hussain Manawer and Joe Wicks; from authors, poets and musicians to charity workers, activists and psychiatrists.

Jonny Benjamin is known for his book and documentary film, The Stranger on the Bridge, which fought to end stigma around talking about mental health, suicidal thoughts and schizoaffective disorder. When his campaign to find the man who prevented him from taking his own life went viral, Jonny was one of a wave of new figures lifting the lid on mental health struggles. In this book, he brings together a range of voices to speak to the spectrum of our experiences of mental health and the power of speaking up and seeking help.”

It is a real honour and privilege to be a part of this project. A dream come true and I am so thankful to be able to share my story on this platform with truly important voices! We all have mental health and our voices deserve to be amplified.

The Book of Hope is available to pre order now and published in 2021.



The Difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist. Which can best address your needs? By Anita Ginsburg


It’s always important to seek professional help if you are dealing with a mental health issue. Unfortunately, finding a professional can be harder than you might think. Even if you can find someone for you, you’ll still have to decide upon which type of professional with whom you should work. For most, the answer comes down to knowing the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.


What Is a Psychologist?

Generally speaking, a psychologist is a person with an advanced degree in psychology who works with patients on their mental health. These individuals usually use various types of talk therapy to help individuals work through a diverse number of mental health issues. When many people think of the basic idea of therapy, they’re thinking about what a psychologist does.

When to Choose a Psychologist

It makes sense to choose a psychologist when you’re looking to address your mental health issues without medication. Attempting to change behavior of the long-term is usually best done with the help of a psychologist, especially if you’re looking to get to the root causes of why you feel how you feel. It should be noted, though, that even those who do seek medication can often work with a psychologist as well as a psychiatrist.

What Is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is specifically an individual who holds a medical degree and specialises in psychiatry. While psychiatrists do conduct many of the same types of therapy as psychologists, they differ from psychologists because psychiatrists can prescribe medication to their patients when needed.

When to Choose a Psychiatrist

The most common reason to choose a psychiatrist is because you are considering the possibility of pursuing some type of medical treatment for your mental health problems. This can range from specific types of medical therapies to medication, but all of these therapies do require a psychiatrist’s oversight. While most do choose psychiatrists because of the medical angle, many psychiatrists do still use talk therapy in a manner similar to psychologists.

It’s important to know what you want from therapy before you make a choice between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. While each type of professional does deal with mental health from a specific angle, whether one is better than the other has everything to do with your personal situation. While you will ultimately need to make the choice between the two, choosing to pursue at least some kind of therapy is a good step on the path to a brighter future.

This article was written by freelance writer Anita Ginsburg

Bereavement, PIP, Promotion and Panic by Eleanor

 

 

Hi lovely readers,

So much has been going on that its been a little overwhelming so I didn’t feel able to sit here and type out my feelings. But today, I feel like I can share so here goes.

My dear father in law passed away from brain cancer at the age of just 67 last month. This was expected, after a two year battle, rounds of surgery and chemo and radiotherapy and being told they could do no more treatment as he had two aggressive tumours and they couldn’t operate further. However, it was still immensely painful when it happened (although we were all with him at a nursing home) and we had the funeral and week of mourning (shiva) as per Jewish tradition. I moved in to my in laws home that week to be there to support my husband, brother in law and mother in law.

We will all miss him terribly- a truly wonderful man and it was a privilege to know him.

Despite this sadness in our family, some positive news has followed. I had applied and been awarded a disability benefit called PIP (Personal independence payment) and been awarded it due to my bipolar disorder and panic attacks impacting on my mental health and ability to work outside the home. This greatly helps our situation and means I can work alongside it too in my role at the Body Shop from home and around my writing (my book Bring me to Light is available here) . We also found out that Rob is being taken off furlough and returning to work on the 1st September- he has been furloughed for 6 months and this was a huge relief for us, as you can imagine.

Additionally, a few weeks ago I got promoted to Area Manager of my Body Shop team, team Hope. This means I manage a team of consultants/ manager in training and help them to develop their businesses too. I feel incredibly lucky to do a job that I love from home and be so supported by my manager Sarah and all my wonderful team mates too. I truly love this job and hope to make it my full time career eventually. The products are so good for self care too.

Now on to my mental health. My anxiety has returned with a vengeance these past few weeks. One night I was up til 5am with panic and insomnia (feeling tearful, restless and pumped with adrenaline) so took some prescribed anxiety medication. I also use a lavender pillow mist which helps me to sleep better too. I have had to cancel and reschedule things. I am not good with change and my anxiety is being triggered. I have a wonderful therapist and so I will definitely book in another session with her soon because I can feel myself dipping a little.

The guineapigs are adorable and good for cuddles and I have had a lot of support from friends and family, so thank you for that, and from Rob too.

How is everyone?

Eleanor xx

 
Infographic by Mindful Urgent Care