My article for Metro.co.uk: ‘What I wish people knew about Mental health medication and Weight gain’

Today I was published for the first time on the Metro.co.uk website, with quotes from my friend Jonny Benjamin MBE, Dr Amy Jebreel- psychiatrist and Dr Clare Morrison, GP at Med Express UK. I enclose a snippet here and link to the full article. This is an intensely personal article for me, about weight gain on mental health medication and I know so many of you can relate to this. I would love to hear your feedback!

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(image: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

‘At age 15, I was referred to a psychiatrist for a serious episode of depression and anxiety (later known to be bipolar disorder). With parental permission, I was put on an anti-psychotic medication olanzapine, to calm my mind. 

What I didn’t know then, was that olanzapine is one of the worst drugs for weight gain, and although the drug calmed my mind, I put on several stone in weight. As a vulnerable teenager, being overweight was upsetting for my body image and self-esteem.’

Read full article: http://metro.co.uk/2018/01/16/what-people-dont-understand-about-mental-health-medication-and-weight-gain-7231252/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

 

 

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Blue Monday- a Message: Day of Mental Health Self Care

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(image: Excellence Assured)

So today is apparently Blue Monday- the most miserable day of the year, according to the media. Its January, Christmas has ended, the days are still short and dark. But, today doesn’t have to be blue in the sad sense of the word. We don’t have to be down today- even if we don’t feel great or strong.

Today can be about a day of self care, recovering, healing, hoping, dreaming and positive actions that can make your day better. Feeling like you can’t get out of bed today. Try just an hour earlier. Feeling anxious, depressed, low, or wanting to harm yourself? Seek support. Seek help. Don’t feel like you have to hide this or go through it alone.

Self care is so important- whether setting small goals to do, or phoning/ texting someone you love, to doing something, eg reading books, making art or listening to music, for the pure joy of it. Maybe you like running or dancing, maybe you like bubble baths and candles? Whatever is your thing- that thing you love, that heals your mind and body? Do it.

If you like meditation, meditate. If you need to talk to someone you trust, open up. If you need to be quiet and watch a movie, do that. If you want to see a therapist or doctor- go. You may not want to talk but you will feel better to get that weight off your shoulders.

Everyone is an individual. If you are struggling on todays Blue Monday (or Blue Self Care Monday)- please seek that help. You are not strange or weird for feeling how you feel. Mental health touches everyone regardless of age, sex, race or religion.

Remember to keep shining your light… even if its a tiny candle to fight the dark. You have this today. We are all here for you.       

‘A Unpredictable manic episode meant I was hospitalised for my bipolar disorder’: for Happiful Magazine February 2018 Issue

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(image: E Segall and Happiful Magazine)

Hi everyone,

I am thrilled to be able to share my story of recovery from bipolar disorder for the first time in print (!) at Happiful magazine, a UK magazine solely dedicated to mental health.

You can read it online here:  https://subscribe.happiful.com/ click read e-magazine and turn to pages 50-51. If you live in the UK, you can also order the magazine there by post or buy a copy in most major UK supermarkets!

As I say in my article,

Having bipolar is not a curse, I look on it as a life lesson and something I will always live with. My dream would be to publish my life story as a book and share it with others across the world… The girl who lay on that ward so frightened and scared is only a small part of me. Now, I want to raise my voice even more to help others, so stigma falls’   

I hope you enjoy reading it and leave a message for me in the comments if you do.

Recovery from Bipolar and Achieving despite the odds: Sam

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

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

 

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(image: bphope.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Working as a Mental health Writer and sharing my story with Bipolar.

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(image: Pinterest)

A few weeks ago, I took the leap in working as a freelance writer specialising in mental health and lifestyle. I have been writing for several years now on the blog, for charities and Huffington Post, but now I am aiming to reach wider media and hopefully get paid too. I began with a dream. My dream was and is to write for the big womens magazines in this country, about my story with bipolar but also to write about mental health, spread awareness and battle stigma. As well as this, to help other women (and men who read my work and life story) feel less alone. I began to take the steps to do this.

First, I had to learn how to pitch and write a good pitch email. I had and am continuing to research the Features Director/Editor of each magazine and then pitch some original writing ideas to a small amount of them at one time. I have pitched my story of recovery to a few and this week I am being published by Happiful Magazine (www.happiful.com), which I am so excited about. I am also writing an article for a major UK publication and will reveal all soon. Another great magazine is discussing my ideas at their Features meeting so fingers crossed- you never know! This week, too, I was featured in Metro in a blog by Cat Phillips on January blues. So lots of amazing things happening thank God.

My dream has also been to share my story in book form and become a published author. So, I am currently learning how to write my life story as a book and talking to a publisher- who may or may not publish my work. However, its great for me to formulate my story about living with bipolar and how I have reached a form of recovery. I am in process of writing sample chapters to be considered at present. Its a bit nerve wracking because you don’t know what will happen but also exciting. I love to write. Knowing I am forming a book manuscript makes me happy.

And lastly- I have been working on this here blog. Which I absolutely love doing. I am so thrilled to have that work recognised as a Finalist in the UK Blog Awards. Looking forward to meeting the other bloggers in my category. I love that here on the blog we are continuing to grow followers and thank you all for reading. Its wonderful to share other peoples stories too.

Thank you to all of you for your support and love and comments/shares. It means the world. Remember- you can do what you put your mind too. I have off days too. Just do what you can on the good days. Much love xo

Book Review: Searching for Brighter Days Learning to Manage my Bipolar Brain- Karen Manton (Trigger Press)

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I bought this amazing book, because I very much wanted to read about another womans experience of bipolar disorder, living in the UK like me. It is also published by the great mental health publisher Trigger Press as part of their Inspirational Series. Their aim is to educate and battle stigma. I had previously read Hope Virgos book about anorexia published by them and I felt that this would be a challenging but good read.

Karen writes very eloquently about her life living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. For many years she was in and out of hospital, with no proper diagnosis or understanding from the medical profession of her illness. She was sectioned multiple times due to mania and depression and although she healed from her episodes, they kept coming back with a vengeance. This was largely because she did not have a name for what she was experiencing and many times was discharged from hospital without proper support.

Growing up in the North East of England, Karen went on to work, marry and have children but had to balance this with the ever increasing and erratic episodes of her bipolar. This included psychosis, hallucinations and delusions as well as deep depression. However, during one hospitalisation, Karen met a new psychiatrist who finally diagnosed her and set her on the bright path that she is on. She began taking medication and engaging with therapy and support. She had a name for the illness and what she was going through. As she writes, she was searching for brighter days and eventually found them, despite many losses in her life.

For me, this book is a must read. You can buy it on Amazon and other book stores online as well as on the Trigger Press website. It is a really important work about succeeding against the odds and gives a comprehensive glimpse into life with bipolar disorder.

Thank you Karen for your bravery in writing this and sharing your story with the world!

 

UK Blog Awards 2018: We are a shortlisted Finalist!

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Some incredibly exciting news– Thanks to all your votes and support, we have been shortlisted as a Finalist in the Health and Social care category of the UK Blog Awards 2018! This means out of 4,000 entries, we are a top 6 blog in our category.

This is such wonderful recognition of our work here at Be Ur Own Light and thank you again to all who have contributed, shared, voted and commented! It means the world.

The awards ceremony is in April in London and winners are announced end of February.
We are so excited to be shortlisted and look forward to meeting the other bloggers in the different categories. Well done to everyone else who was shortlisted.

Have a look at all the shortlisted Individuals here: https://blogawardsuk.co.uk/shortlisted-bloggers-individuals/

Much love and Happy New Year ,

Eleanor   x

Holiday Break Update: Fairy Lights, Writing and Self Care Rest.

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(image: flickr.com  at Kew Gardens, London)

I have had a really relaxing and at times, busy, break. I always try to pace myself because sometimes when I do too much, I get overly tired or anxious, which has a knock on effect for the rest of the week. Its important that I don’t do too much at once.

Although we don’t celebrate Christmas, my boyfriend and I went to the Christmas at Kew Light installations. They were so beautiful with a tunnel of fairy lights, oversized baubles, stars and snowflakes hanging from trees, coloured fairy light displays on the lake, different coloured trees and singing trees, burning fire and glittery fake trees, coloured pods changing colour to music and the Palm House light show with a Winter theme. The trail was just incredible, I really recommend it! There are also rides, a kids show and little kiosks selling mulled drinks and hot chocolate.

Then, I have been spending the past few days with family and been working a lot on my writing- on my book manuscript and also on another project for a magazine. It can get tiring and I invest a lot emotionally but I am so grateful to be able to write, and hope only positive things come out of it .

I have taken time as well for self care- to read, rest, relax so I don’t get overly anxious or exhausted. Yesterday I watched the Sex and the City Movie. I love Sex and the City, its brilliant. It makes me happy.

Hope you have all had a good break? Let me know what you have been up to. Remember self care is so important. Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year 2018!

Reflections on 2017 and Festive Greetings from Be Ur Own Light!

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(image: Harrison Greetings)

Here at Be Ur Own Light, it has been a brilliant year in terms of writing, getting the message out there, engagement and gaining a new following. As well as regular blog posts on her life with bipolar and anxiety, I (founder, Eleanor) have written this year for other charities and media outlets. These include : Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change,  Self Harm UK/ Youthscape, Brighton Wellness Centre, The Counselling Directory, Counsellors Cafe, ISMA, World Union of Jewish Students, Equilibrium Magazine and Happiful Magazine. There are upcoming collaborations to be published soon so stay tuned! I also hope to publish more for the Huffington Post in the new year.

The blog has grown into a strong following and particularly we have seen the growth from fellow bloggers on WordPress and Twitter which has been brilliant! Not to mention my loyal following on Facebook and other social media (and email). I have loved doing some Facebook Live videos and discussions too. Thank you everyone who regularly reads, comments, shares and for the awards given this year from fellow bloggers (Liebster, Sunshine, Mystery and of course being a Top 30 Social Anxiety blog and Top 100 Bipolar blog by Feedspot.com). I have also entered the blog into the UK Blog Awards and thank you to everyone who has voted so far.

I have hosted many incredible guest bloggers this year and thank you to all who have submitted high quality and excellent articles (in brackets is what they wrote about:

Lucy Boyle (Burnout Syndrome)
Quite Great and Helen Brice (Music Psychotherapy)
Bailey Chauner at Redfin (Seasonal affective disorder)
UnitedMind Laughter Yoga (Jobs and wellbeing)
Christina Hendricks at mentalhealthzen.com (PTSD and veterans)
Reviews Bee (Child Mental Health)
Mental Health and Money Worries  (Mental health and money)
Stephen Smith nOCD App (OCD)
Arslan Butt (Mental health)
Tony Weekes Unity MHS (his story)
Ellie Miles (Health anxiety)
Hope Virgo (Anorexia recovery/ book by Trigger Press)
Ann Heathcote Worsley Centre of Psychotherapy
Adar (PTSD and relationship abuse)
Marcus (Bipolar disorder)
Diamond E Health Informer (Mental Health and Technology)   
Lystia Putranto and Karina Ramos (Anxiety)
Paradigm San Francisco (Internet and teen mental health)
Juno Medical (Anxiety infographic)
Jasmine Burns (Binge eating disorder)
Bill Weiss (Opiate withdrawal)
Jessica Flores (Bipolar 2)
Jimmy Vick (Meditation)
Jay Pignatiello (Mindfulness and Meditation)
David Baum (365 Challenge for PTSD and Mind)
Karen (Anxiety as a mental health professional)
Dr Stacey Leibowitz-Levy (Online CBT) 

I have also written a lot about my journey with bipolar disorder and anxiety and hope to continue to do so in the new year!

Be Ur Own Light will be celebrating its second birthday in March 2018 and we can’t wait to see what next year holds.

We wish you all a very happy Christmas and New Year period- Festive Greetings to all!

Mystery Blogger Award- Thank you and Nominations.

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Thank you so much to Ashley Leia at Mental Health at Home who writes amazing articles about her experience of mental health and beyond, for nominating me for the Mystery Blogger Award.  I love reading your blog Ashley!

The Rules of the award:

1. Put the award logo/image on your blog

2. List the rules.

3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

4. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself

5. Answer the questions you were asked

6. Nominate 10 – 20 people & notify

7. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)

8. Share a link to your best post(s)

My Nominations:  All of these blogs have amazing stories about mental health and I’ve learned a lot from them, many I interact with on an almost daily basis. I love being a part of our mental health blogging community.

  1. Beckie’s Mental Mess
  2. Casey Elizabeth at This Bipolar Brat  
    Kimberly at This Girls Got Curves 
  3. Kathi at Its OK not to be OK
  4. Alexis Rose at Untangled
    5.Tina at A Journey of a Lifetime   

6.The Catalysts for Change
7. It’s Good to be Crazy Sometimes
8. Mental Health Guru
9. Social Worker Angela at I am my Own Island

 

3 Things about me:

I went to drama school for my Masters degree (grad school)
I have travelled to India and volunteered in Ghana in a school and NGO.
I love writing and blogging… my first blog was on Blogger!

 

My answers to Ashley’s 5 questions:

  1. As a one line euology- ‘ she gave to others with kindness’
  2.  My most funny toilet experience was in Ghana… with a wooden shed, no plumbing and no toilet roll or flush….
    3. My favourite farm animal are baby lambs or piglets
    4. I would really like to visit America, particularly New York
    5. Strangest food item would be an African dish called teazet… which is savoury  porridge and meat.

5 questions for my nominees:

  1. What motivated you to blog about mental health?
    2. If you could be one book character who would you be?
    3.What makes you laugh uncontrollably?
    4. If you could ask someone to act as you in the film of your life- who would you choose?
    5. Whats at the top of your bucket list?

    My Favourite Post Link:

    https://beurownlight.com/2017/10/27/starting-therapy-and-nhs-mental-health-under-funding/