The Book of Hope is Out Now!

I have written here before but I am so excited to say that the Book of Hope, which features my essay ‘Of Hope and Sunflowers’ and put together by my friends Jonny Benjamin MBE and Britt Pfluger is out now!

Happy Publication Day!


It is such an honour to be in a book with so many incredible people in their own fields talking about overcoming their own adversity and mental health issues.

As I write, the book is currently 16th in the bestsellers chart for all books on Amazon.

Hugely thankful to Jonny and Britt for including me in such a great project.

You can get your copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1509846379/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_3VAKJ0JC6HV05ZYMNHW2

Being Kind to Myself: Social Anxiety, Mental Health and Life in Recovery.

(image: quotebold.com)

I really wanted to write today because the sun is shining, apple blossom is on the trees and Spring is finally here! I always feel more hopeful and happy once Spring is here but living with bipolar disorder and an anxiety disorder can mean that some days are harder than others.

This week, I have really struggled with low mood and social anxiety. I’m an optimistic person and sometimes I pack too much into my days and end up having a panic attack because I can’t cope. This is what happened to me yesterday when I decided it would be a great idea to pack in too much, including going across London and delivering many Body Shop orders to my customers and friends. My social anxiety was so high (I think largely due to being in lockdown) , I just wanted to hide and I ended up sleeping to escape my feelings and feeling super low. I am lucky that I understand what to do when this happens and I have a husband and family who support me too. I am still in therapy for my panic disorder and it has improved a lot but there are times when it gets triggered like this week.

I have also found that I am worrying more about what people think of me- if I have said the right or wrong thing or upset anyone. Its so silly but due to past rejection I get scared and those fears bubble to the surface.

On Friday, I had a really productive therapy session. There are a lot of worries about the future that I still hold and being able to unpack them in therapy is really useful for me. I am doing EMDR trauma therapy but a lot of it is talking out and facing those triggers one by one. I have a very good relationship with my therapist and having a session often calms my mind.

In positive news, last week I became an aunt to a beautiful baby girl, Cara Harriet who is the sweetest little baby. She is a joy and light in all our lives and I feel so lucky to have a little niece! My sister and brother in law are amazing 🙂

And in other good news, in April, my essay in the Book of Hope by Jonny Benjamin MBE and Britt Pfluger will be published alongside many others I look up to (Dame Kelly Holmes and my friend Hope Virgo). So there are good things as well as bad!

I am doing a lot better- I dont rapid cycle, I havn’t had an episode of mania or hypomania since 2014. My brain seems to like Lithium and Quetaipine (a mood stabiliser and anti psychotic). I have to learn to be kind to myself and practise self care, because my social anxiety is a fear response from the past.

Being kind to myself is of utmost importance. Heres a list of what I do when I am having a bad day: take a nap, have a bubble bath, read a book, hug the guineapigs and Rob, talk to Rob, a friend or family member, put on a face mask, cry, breathe and listen to calming music, watch a good TV show (I have been watching First Dates Teens), book in a therapy session, eat something nice, put some make up on, wash my hair, wear an uplifting perfume.

How are you kind to yourself on your bad days?

Love,

Eleanor x

Be Ur Own Light Blog turns 5!

(image: Peach Blossom)

Be Ur Own Light is 5! I cant believe its been 5 years since I began this as a therapy blog as I was suffering from severe panic from trauma and lost my job. I love this blog and will continue to write to break the stigma around mental illness.

This year, Vuelio awarded us as a Top UK mental health blog again which is just incredible. We were also nominated in the Mental Health Blog Awards 2020.

This year we have worked with some amazing writers and organisations on mental health. Thank you:

OCD and Break Ups- Brooke Chaplan

Pocket book of love and Happiness- Trigger Publishing review

5 Ways Therapy can heal your family- Samantha Higgins

Why people are using weighted blankets- Calming Blanket

How to make your surroundings more calming if you have anxiety- Daniel Tannenbaum

Mental health tips to get you through lockdown- Chantal Shaw

How debt impacts your mental health- Ian Sims

Life under lockdown: by Chloe Walker

Lockdown and mental health by Graham Morgan MBE

Best employee benefits for mental health: Daniel Tannenbaum

We will beat this, it will get better: Jenny Nguyen

Covid 19, mental health and work: Danielle Strouther

5 ways to evaluate body mind and soul: Daniel Torres

5 ways you can reduce anxiety- Samantha Higgins

How to help teens with mental illness succeed at school- Brooke Chaplan

Stuck in self isolation? Useful DIY projects- Brandon Smith

My crippling anxiety floored me, now I wouldnt be without it: Emma Johnson, Worry Knot Jewellery

UK went into lockdown, I went into meltdown- Nicole

How to help loved ones with alzheimers- Hannah Boothe

How to avoid burnout during a pandemic- Jade Mansfield at Worsley centre

Maintaining a healthy work life balanace- Love It Cover It


On DBT, art and healing- Violette Kay

How to protect your mental health during the pandemic- Mary Davis

How managing my space helps my mental health- Poppy Duffree- Organise with Poppy

Relaxing places to visit to calm coronavirus anxiety

Bamboo sheets for less anxiety at night

Self care tips for 2020- Anthony L

Redecorating your bedroom for improved mental health- Rosette

 5 things that could be triggering your depression- Samantha Higgins

Escaping outdoors is beneficial to mental health- Amy Sloane

How to work and be a mother during the pandemic- Miranda Davis 

Overcoming the impact of substance abuse on mental health- Anita Ginsburg

How to minimise stress for the elderly in senior living- Johnny Kershaws

15 Ways to turn your home into a self care sanctuary- ImproveNet

Living with OCD during a global pandemic- Impulse Therapy

Managing emotions for better mental health

Taking care of your mental health when a loved one passes away

Checking in on your elderly loved ones mental health during the pandemic

Identifying the source of your eating disorder and finding recovery- Anita Ginsburg

Self care activities to do for those who love to be alone- Regina Thomas

Out of Office by Fiona Thomas- book review by Eleanor   

Using yoga to improve productivity at home: Daisy Moss

The difference between a psychiatrist and psychologist- Anita Ginsburg 

Moving to another country- are you escaping your baggage?

10 tips to avoid covid burn out at home and help your mental health

How to help others when you have lived experience of mental health

Coping with menopausal anxiety and panic attacks by LadyCare menopause

Home improvements to help mental health

5 ways a relationship can hurt your mental health- Miranda Davis

Life is Finite

The secret signs of anxiety

Digital detox ideas for mental wellbeing

How can you better your mental health?

Developing a new found confidence in yourself for the festive season

How to plan for your future in difficult times

Depression and what you should know

Planning for the future to ease your mind

and I wrote some personal articles too!



Thank you for continuing to read and for the support for so long, it means everything to me.

Lets keep breaking the stigma!

Love, Eleanor xx

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.



My Book Bring me to Light turned 1!



Yesterday, on 5th November, my book Bring me to Light: Embracing my Bipolar and Social Anxiety (with Trigger Publishing) turned one!

Today, I got this lovely review from a Twitter follower Robin so I thought I would share it here:

It is an amazing book, really enjoyed reading it. An honest and open account of life with bipolar, your strength of character shone through. Thank you for being so open and writing it. – Robin Josephs

I wrote my book to help others and dispell the stigma about severe mental illness. Everyone is human and everyone has mental health. Whether you have never suffered or whether you have depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar, OCD, BPD or EUPD, self harm, addictions, PTSD etc- I would love everyone to be more open if they feel able.

I hope my book explains what being in hospital can be like but that you can recover.

You can get your copy on Amazon and in all good book shops now 🙂

Happy bookversary to me! Thank you to YOU for supporting my blog, reading this and helping get my book deal. To everyone who has bought a copy and to my fab editors Stephanie and Katie.


We are a Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog 2020- Thanks Vuelio!

Today I received the most amazing news that top PR and communications company Vuelio have listed us as a Top 10 UK Mental Health blog for the second year in a row!

It is such an honour to make this list with other amazing blogs- everyone who runs them works so hard to provide content and keep updating them. Congratulations to everyone else on this list 🙂

We are at number 6 and you can check out the list here!

Thanks Vuelio!

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

On DBT, Art and Healing: A Joy That’s Mine Alone: Guest post by Violette Kay

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When I was little I wanted to become a violinist when I grew up. And I could have done it, I was actually really good, but unfortunately mental illness robbed me of that dream. I had my first bipolar episodes right when I started studying music in college, failed a bunch of classes, wronged a bunch of people, and watched my music career crash and burn before it had even begun.
It’s been almost a decade now, and I have a whole new life in which I’m stable and happy, yet I still can’t help but wonder if I could have done it. If I wasn’t bipolar, would I be a professional musician? This question haunts me, it follows me wherever I go, and no matter how far I run it always brings me back. A few years ago I bought a music school in a hypomania-fueled delusion that it would bring me closer to my childhood dream. It did not.
I’ve also written a play about violin teachers and nostalgia/regret, it was very therapeutic, but it didn’t fully heal the wound of my failed music career. Perhaps nothing ever will.
The first thing they teach you in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is called the “Wise Mind”. It’s supposed to be this balance between your reasonable mind and your emotional mind, and that’s the place you want to be making decisions from. You want to consider both the facts and your emotions, and not ignore one or the other. For example, let’s say you have coworker who is making you angry, and you want to yell at them, throw things and storm out, that’s just what your emotional mind wants. So if you bring in a bit of reason and use your wise mind, you can probably come up with a better solution.
When I was learning this in DBT group I noticed that all the examples we were given involved using the Wise Mind to avoid acting on our emotional mind, so I asked the instructors if they could give me a situation where it’s the other way around, an example where your reasonable mind is what’s leading you astray. They gave some roundabout unclear speech about… something, I don’t remember. Basically they didn’t have an answer for me.
Well, it’s been over a year now and I think I finally found one: I should quit music. I should completely cut it out of my life, sell my violin, recycle all my sheet music, unfollow/unfriend everyone I met through music, and stop self-identifying as a musician. Music has caused me so much pain, and landed me in some impossible situations. So logically, if I want to stop feeling that pain I should just quit, right?
That’s my reasonable mind talking. But if I did quit music I would be ignoring my emotional mind, who likes music and has a lot of very meaningful music-related memories both good and bad, memories I wouldn’t want to lose.
So what’s the middle ground? I still play sometimes. I’ve gone busking during periods of unemployment. I record backing tracks for my singer friends. I take on background music gigs sometimes. And I bring music into my theatre and writing practice all the time.
I’m still shocked every time I get paid to play music, and though I do on occasion mourn the violinist I could have been, I’m also incredibly grateful that I still get to live out my childhood dream in small ways. It’s not what I wanted, but it’s still a good life.
My latest project is a film inspired by my experience of having bipolar disorder and buying a music school, and a first for me: a project born entirely out of self-love, rather than pain. I am so grateful I got the opportunity to make it and to share it with others.
I’ll always have bipolar disorder, it will always be a part of me, but it’s just one part. And I’ll always be a musician. That’s also just one part of me. Maybe they’re the same part.

violette1

This guest blog was written by film maker and musician Violette Kay. Her film the Joy thats Mine Alone about life with art and bipolar disorder, can be viewed at : 

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

Maintaining a Healthy Work Life Balance, Why it Matters: Guest blog for Mental Health Awareness Week by Loveitcoverit

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(image: Unsplash)

 

When establishing and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, the overarching goal is clear; an individual should not feel as though their professional life is intruding on their personal time or vice versa. However, it’s always easier to explain than it is to physically manage – which is why it’s important to fully understand the implications of a poor work-life balance and the proactive steps we can all take to minimise any negative impact – such as poor mental wellbeing.

Although this challenge is known to many, you may not be fully aware of how prevalent it is across the entire nation. In fact, the Mental Health Foundation has commented that work-related stress costs Britain 10.4 million working days per year!

Now, as you would expect, the emergence of modern technology – such as smartphones – has drastically transformed our professional lives and, as such, it can be difficult to create concrete boundaries. Many of our devices can now take on the features and responsibilities of a larger computer system and so our working lives are available at just the touch of a button. So, how do we assess whether this detracts from our free-time and if this impacts our mental health?

Well, in recent months, this very topic has been investigated by mobile phone insurers, loveitcoverit.   

Their research found that an astounding 80% of workers identify their smartphones as a tool for their professional responsibilities, clearly demonstrating that they have surpassed the singular, social use that spurred their beginnings. So, whether it’s to communicate with colleagues, access working documents remotely or utilise organisational platforms, our mobiles have become an integrated part of professionalism on a wide scale. As such, it can be difficult to imagine the two in separation – but is this a good thing?

Overusing our mobile devices can be detrimental to our work-life balance as they create an access channel that is available to us at every hour. So, whilst leading mental health organisations emphasise the need for distancing measures – such as short breaks, time off and established social environment outside of work – our smartphones may act as a reminder of our professional responsibilities. In turn, this can lead to individuals feeling pressure to work outside of their agreed working times and intrude on their personal lives. 

Due to the sheer number of smartphone users across the country, this could mean that millions are facing the challenge. In fact, less than half of workers claim to have a ‘healthy’ work-life balance! 

Of course, this isn’t to say you should never complete a professional task in your free time, it simply means that you must actively monitor and manage how often this happens. This might seem a menial task, but it’s vital.

If you often find yourself feeling stressed due to your working life, then you could be at risk of developing illnesses such as anxiety or depression.

However, luckily, there are further actions we can take to ensure our balance does not tip!

 

Setting tangible guidelines

 We’re not saying that you must ignore your phone if a professional emergency arises, but it is important to make sure your working correspondence doesn’t intrude on your personal life. So, start with something simple – like enforcing a rule of no work related phone use after six on any weekday and perhaps not at all on the weekends.

Ultimately, it’s your decision to make, so find out what works within your routines and go with it!

 

Communicate with your employer

No one wants to be seen as a ‘complainer’, but if your work responsibilities are damaging your mental health it is important to speak up. Set up a meeting or informal chat with your manager to discuss how you’re feeling and why you feel that way. From there, you can work in tandem to better the situation and make wider improvements that benefit others too!

 

 Better understand your own situation

There is normally a tangible reason for any feelings of stress or anxiety but it might not be clear at first glance. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break and try to dissect your situation.

If you can understand what is causing your stress, you’re in a wholly better position to try and improve it, whether this is in reorganising your routine and methods or in talking to someone else at work!

 

Creating a healthy and sustainable work-life balance is imperative for our mental wellbeing, so we all must take the time to figure out how to best achieve it. Remember, the working world existed before smartphones did, so it’s a durable environment, and taking the time to figure out positive and progressive ways of moving forward will never be a waste.

 

This guest blog was written by loveitcoverit, mobile phone insurers in the UK at www.loveitcoverit.com