Taking a Mental Health Day: Retriggering the Anxiety Cycle by Eleanor

‘Sometimes you’ve got to face the darkness to step into the Light again’– James Arthur ‘Sermon’

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(image: rockonruby.co.uk)
I just want to start this post by saying that I am doing alright- I just have moments of bad anxiety or panic when triggered by specific issues. This week, I have been feeling more anxious than normal and when this happens I often have to take a step back, take a mental health day to rest and relax and recover.

As many of you know, I have social anxiety and this manifests in various ways. At the moment, I have issues with body image as I have put on a lot of weight over the past 5 years- partly due to medication and partly to lifestyle (I love sugar and don’t move as much). However, this means that in some situations,  my anxiety gets a bit heightened.

Early mornings are also the worst time for me in terms of anxiety so I try and do things later in the day now.

So what do my mental health days look like?

Sometimes they can involve:

– Sleeping or resting if needed for a few hours
– Watching something funny- today I watched the Windsors Royal Wedding special
– Speaking to a friend
– Eat something healthy that I love (and sometimes eating chocolate.. which I am trying to stop)
– Taking space and time from work to breathe. As I am self employed, I make my own hours so I know this isn’t the same for everyone.

Listening to relaxing music, taking a bath, doing something mindful eg colouring or going for a walk if I feel able are also good.

I am looking forward to a more restful weekend and taking care of my mental health. Once I’ve had a mental health day I usually feel better, more rested, calmer and centred.

Overwhelm is hard but it doesnt have to rule everything.

I’d love to hear about what you do when overwhelm sets in, to help ease the tension?

Love,

Eleanor x 

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Guest Post: Interview with Dr Janina Scarlet, author of new book ‘Therapy Quest’

I have got to know Dr Janina Scarlet, psychologist as I have written more across the media. Janina writes about therapy and mental health in an approachable and meaningful way. She also loves superheroes and fantasy and incorporates them into her work!

This week for Mental Health Awareness Week, I spoke to her as she launches her  new book ‘Therapy Quest’.

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(image: The Book Publicist/ Dr Janina Scarlet)

 

What is your new book Therapy Quest about?

Therapy Quest is an interactive fantasy book in which YOU (the reader) are the main character. You are transported to a magical world of Here and are the Chosen One to stop an evil sorceress, Mallena, from destroying the world. Only you don’t feel like a hero. Not at all. Your anxieties and insecurities nearly lead you to abandon your quest altogether. However, if you decide to partner up with some new friends, such as a vampire with an eating disorder, and an Ogre who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you just might be able to become a hero after all.

The book is written in a game-like format, which allows you to make choices along the way. Each choice you make will change the rest of your journey and can either allow you to earn or lose points. Some choices can kill your friends or your character, so you have to be careful.

Each time you make a choice, you will also learn a mental health skill, and you will need all the skills you can learn along the way to help you in your final battle.

What was your inspiration for writing it?

I knew I wanted to write a fantasy book with self-help elements in it, in which the reader could learn these skills through the characters they were reading about. My editor, Andrew McAleer, had the brilliant idea of having a similar format to “Choose Your Own Adventure” fighting fantasy books. This sounded like a very interesting challenge to me, and I am extremely honoured to have been able to work on it.

Could you explain a bit about what Superhero Therapy is and how it works in the book?

Superhero Therapy refers to incorporating elements of popular culture, such as fantasy and science fiction books, movies, TV shows, as well as video games, comic books (Superhero or otherwise) into evidence-based (research-supported) therapy to help clients to become their own version of a superhero in real life (IRL).

In Therapy Quest, the reader is the Chosen One, the Hero of their own journey even if they question their ability to do so. Through learning skills such as mindfulness, self-compassion, acceptance, and following their own core values, the readers are invited to take their own superhero journey and develop their own superhero skills, which can be utilized in their every day life as well.

Who could you recommend the book to?

I would recommend this book to anyone age 12 and up who might enjoy fantasy books and would like to learn skills to manage depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental health struggles.

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Dr Janina Scarlet is a clinical psychologist and the author of Therapy Quest, a revolutionary self-help book which combines therapy with an interactive fantasy quest.

Extract from my Metro article on Homelessness and Mental health issues

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(image: concordhomeless.org)

This is an extract from a Metro.co.uk article that our founder Eleanor wrote and researched on rough sleeping, homelessness and mental health issues. To read the full article click here: http://metro.co.uk/2018/04/10/homelessness-and-mental-health-whats-being-done-to-help-7421391/

The ‘Beast from the East’ put homelessness under the spotlight in February and March as rough sleepers faced freezing conditions. But a more persistent problem among homeless people, which is little talked about, is the prevalence of mental health issues. As someone with bipolar disorder, who has never been homeless, I wanted to investigate what support there is out there for homeless people with mental health conditions.

Anyone can be affected by homelessness, regardless of age, race or sex. Among homeless people, 44% have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, according to Homeless Link. Homeless link points out that homelessness is a stressful, lonely, traumatic experience, which has a major impact on mental health.

In summarising some of its research into homelessness and mental health, Crisis says: ‘Serious mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, bipolar and post traumatic stress disorder are more common among homeless people. ‘Suicide rates are nine times higher, demonstrating the very real need of effective support’

Homeless people with mental health issues, particularly rough sleepers, often have less access to mental health professionals due to their lack of address or their complex needs. Being homeless is extremely overwhelming. Treatment may be the last thing on the mind of a homeless person with a mental health condition when they are focused on finding a way to get food and a place to sleep. The prevalence of drug and alcohol addictions is an added problem.

According to Crisis: ‘Homeless people are more vulnerable to alcohol and drug use. ‘Multiple diagnosis of substance and mental health issues can be a barrier. Rates of alcohol and drug use are four times higher than in the general population.’

Understandably, addiction can get worse when someone is homeless, due to the stress. St Mungo’s is charity that has conducted research into this area and affected change in legislation. Its investigation ‘Stop the Scandal’, looks at mental health and rough sleeping. The charity called for a national strategy to end rough sleeping and changes to the law.

Following St Mungo’s campaign, in 2017 the government backed the Homelessness Reduction Act. This legislation, which came into force on 3 April, is designed to prevent people becoming homeless and to give councils more power to tackle the issue. The government also committed to halve rough sleeping by 2022.

St Mungo’s is leading the way on this. It said: ‘Our experience is that homeless people are treated poorly and often labelled and judged. ‘People see drink or drugs behind rough sleeping, but rarely think about mental health. ‘Mental ill-health can affect anyone, but people sleeping rough face adverse weather conditions, fear and isolation’.

 

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2018/04/10/homelessness-and-mental-health-whats-being-done-to-help-7421391/?ito=cbshare

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

What happens during a Manic episode: Bipolar One Disorder Tales by founder Eleanor

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When most people think of bipolar disorder, they may think of the two opposing poles that make up the illness. High and low. Manic and depressed. Many also believe that all people with bipolar flit between these moods constantly and that the illness is severe or alike in everyone who has it. This is not the case.

There are two types of bipolar disorder. I have the first one – Bipolar affective One disorder, which means that I have serious manic episodes which include psychosis (loss of touch with reality). This has happened to me twice in my life and both times I have needed hospitalisation. Bipolar two is characterised by lesser manic episodes (hypomania) and more mixed states.

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(image: https://www.34-menopause-symptoms.com/mood-swings.htm)

Being Bipolar One is very challenging. When I get ill, I get really really sick. Loss of insight, loss of reality, needing anti psychotic medicines now- ill. Ill to the point of being sectioned under the mental health act due to lack judgement and insight. Believing that my family are out to get me and people are going to harm me – ill.  Really unwell.

When one of these serious manic episodes strikes for me, my thoughts begin racing and I can’t concentrate. I don’t sleep, I am more creative in the short term but a gibbering wreck in the long term. I start believing I can do things that I can’t rationally. I am super vulnerable and I speak much faster. I may not make much sense and when the delusions begin, I start believing I am going to be harmed.

Luckily, these episodes are kept at bay by a host of excellent medications including Lithium and Quetaipine. I also take anti depressants to keep the low periods at bay in my life.

Full blown psychosis and mania for me are very rare but they do happen. In 10 years, from 2004-2014 I did not have a hospitalisation. I was depressed and anxious but I was able to recover at home.

I had no hypomanic or manic episodes for a decade! No psychosis. One therapist even questioned my diagnosis, before my 2014 hospitalisation.

Mania for me means danger. That danger means I am more vulnerable. I have to be very careful who I surround myself with during those times. I don’t drink alcohol to excess or take drugs, but some with this kind of mania do. Or they spend lots of money or engage in risk taking behaviours such as sexual activity.

I have learnt that as long as I take my medication regularly, get enough sleep, eat well (and don’t engage in long haul travel) that I can keep my symptoms at bay. If my medicines work! (this is always a fear.. that they could stop working).

Mania for me strikes out of the blue sometimes. I also have to be careful that my mood stabiliser medicine is holding me- as with high doses of anti depressants, mania can be triggered without it.

When in psychosis in hospital I have thought the following untrue delusions

– I am being harmed by my family
– There are CCTV cameras watching and filming me in my bedroom/ hospital room
– I have been abused in some way (my mind convinces itself)
– I am being held by a criminal gang (in hospital)

These delusions have always disappeared over time, with excellent care from psychiatrists and psychologists, anti psychotic medicine and good support from family.

I don’t get these when well, and rarely have to go through them. I am learning to accept that my brain chemistry is not the same as other people and having bipolar, a chronic illness, is not my fault. I just do the best I can to manage symptoms and keep myself as well as possible.
If you want to share your story of mania and bipolar, please do write below.

There is hope and recovery after mania. Thank you to all on the Facebook group who voted for this one.  

Love, Eleanor x

 

A Life Update: How Stress and Anxiety can turn into Panic Attacks.

 

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(image: healthyplace.com)

I havnt written a blog update on life for a while. I think this is because so many amazing and exciting things have been happening that the anxiety and panic attacks have had less air time.

Many of you know that since January, I have been published widely across the media and am now writing as a career. Ive been nominated for a blog award, given my first radio interview, am writing chapters for a potential book and achieved my dream of being featured in Glamour Magazine, Cosmopolitan and Elle as well as being a writer for Metro, Happiful Magazine  and the Jewish News where my life story was published. And working with charities such as Mind, No Panic, SANE and STOP Suicide and the amazing team at AND Digital.

And breathe.

This is all exciting and wonderful and I feel very blessed that people are accepting of me and my story. I feel lucky to have a new career and to be achieving my dreams.

But what most of you may not see or know is I still suffer with social anxiety.

I was invited to record a mental health podcast but couldnt travel there because it felt too overwhelming to step into this new big media environment. I was due to give a talk but couldnt attend due to anxiety about standing up there on my own being vulnerable. Luckily we had planned for this scenario and they were so kind and used my blog testimony anyway.

However I hate letting anyone down. For me panic attacks happen as a response to stress. I get triggered in new work situations and when I havnt met the person before. Everything feels overwhelming and all I want to do is hide from the fear.

Ive been in therapy for 6 months…psychodynamic …talking therapy and its been helpful. Im still learning to find coping mechanisms as my response to the feared situation is often to cancel or postpone it and shut down.

Im learning how to navigate my new world whilst having a panic disorder. I will get negative thoughts and fears, tight chest, racing heart. And then have to stop the feared trigger.

I know I am not the only one feeling like this and many of you also have anxiety disorders. Please know that you aren’t alone.

Seek support from your doctor and try different methods. I find meditation to be helpful to me alongside exposure therapy and talking therapy. It will be trial and error for you as it is for me.

Im not sure if i should have anxiety medication for emergencies as I already take so much medication. But it could be that I need them in order to function and progress further. Im on anti depressants and mood stabilisers already which help me.

I feel lucky to be able to work and write and blog. I just hope that I can learn to cope better in face to face work situations too. Thanks to all who voted for this blog on Facebook and I hope it will give you an insight.

Eleanor x

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: How and Why Sport Can Help Your Mental Health- Sara Whitehouse at Stadia Sports

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Mental health has become a strongly discussed topic in today’s world and rightly so. With more and more people vocalising their struggles with mental health, it’s the perfect time to make sure you’re looking after yours.

 

The How and Why of Mental Health

You’ll be pleased to know, that when indulging in physical activity, you’re bringing a whole array of benefits to your body – many of which you may not have realised.

1. Reduces Depression, Anxiety and Stress

Although there’s growing awareness that exercise helps to improve depression, anxiety and stress, it’s still not a dominant reason why people choose to be active. In many cases, people tend to turn to medication and other remedies to treat their stresses, not realising how great a gentle run or yoga session can be too.

Depression

Studies show that exercise can be used to treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. It is important though to speak with a Doctor and find out the best plan for you.

Reasons why exercise helps fight depression:

  • Promotes changes in the brain including neural growth, reduced inflammation and promotes feelings of calm and well-being.
  • Releases endorphins that energise you, making you feel happy and positive.
  • It acts as a distraction from depressed thoughts and gives you opportunities to socialise and meet new people, all of which help to boost spirits.

Anxiety

Exercise is known to help with anxiety. Through fully-focusing on your fitness sessions you can tune your body to be mindful about your exercise, receiving more health benefits.

Reasons why exercise helps fight anxiety:

  • By concentrating on the sensations that happen during exercise, you can interrupt the flow of worries in your mind and improve physical condition quicker. For example, you can workout to the beat or rhythm of the music or focus on the sensation of your feet hitting the ground.
  • Relieves tension and stress through performing stretches that loosen tight muscles.
  • Boosts physical and mental energy through the release of endorphins.

 

Stress

When you are stressed more often than not, your body tenses up. Your muscles begin to tighten particularly in your face, neck and chest area, which can lead to headaches, chest pains, a pounding pulse and muscle cramps. Experiencing these stress-related symptoms can lead to you worrying more which brings on a whole array of other symptoms. These include heartburn, insomnia, and stomachache. The more pains you get, the more stressed you become and sadly, you’re found battling a vicious cycle between your mind and body.

 

Reasons why exercise helps fight stress:

  • Exercise helps to break the cycle of worrying by mixing up your routine.
  • Releases endorphins in the brain that help the muscles to relax and relieve the built up tension in your body.
  • Makes sleeping easier which reduces any sleep-related stress from your mind.

Remember: When your body feels better, so will your mind.

 

2. Helps Sharpen Memory and Thinking

The same endorphins that work to boost your mood also improve your concentration. This makes you mentally ‘sharp’ when completing tasks. Physical activities that require hand-eye coordination such as tennis, badminton or squash, are particularly beneficial for brain building.

 

Reasons exercise helps the brain stay sharp:

  • Increases the level of oxygen to your brain improving circulation.
  • Breaks the mental fatigue and slumps often experienced during a day’s work. Short walks at lunch time or even a few jumping jacks can help reboot your brain for an afternoon of learning.
  • Stimulates the growth of new brain cells, reducing the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss and enhancing the effects of helpful brain chemicals.

Whatsmore, the birth of new brain cells also fight against age-related decline. That means by doing daily fitness activities, you can keep your body looking and feeling like your younger, healthier self. Perfect!

 

3. Gives Your Immune System A Boost

Catching a cold can leave you feeling blue mentally as well as physically. As you feel groggy from a blocked nose and sore head, you tend to act groggy too. Though we’re not suggesting exercising whilst you’re ill is a good idea, frequently exercising when healthy can help to combat illness, boost your immune system and make you feel happier.

 

Reasons why exercise improves your immune system:

  • Getting active helps to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, reducing your chances of developing a cold, flu or other illness.
  • Exercise causes your white blood cells (WBC) to circulate quicker helping you to detect illnesses earlier than before. White blood cells are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease.
  • Slows down the release of stress hormones making your mind a more peaceful place.

 

4. Improved Self-Esteem And Energy

Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body and soul. 

Along with the feelings of conquering your fitness goals, finding a healthy, balanced routine will also work to give you an energy boost. 

Getting Into A Routine

  1. Start easing yourself into exercise with a 10 minute home workout, walking the dog or quite simply having a dance around your room.
  2. Increase your workout by extending the time you are active for or start going to more fitness classes.
  3. Establish a routine of which days you will exercise.
  4. Even on your days off, making simple changes to your fitness routine like taking the stairs instead of a lift or going for a short walk instead of sitting on the sofa can keep your brain active and stresses at bay.

 

Remember: The key to unlocking improved mental health through exercise is to do it regularly. The more you workout and get active, generally, the healthier and happier you will feel.

 
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Family-Friendly, Mixed Gender Sport Ideas

Having looked at six reasons why and how sport helps mental health, let’s take a look at some ways you can adapt sports into your daily routine.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring, gender-specific or child-unfriendly. Here are some great ideas to incorporate some moderate exercise into your daily routine:

 

  • Taking daily 20 to 30 minute walks during work breaks, after dinner to walk the dog and so on. Develop this by joining hiking clubs and take to trekking through the wilderness. You’ll soon be saying ‘the bigger the hills the better!’
  • Go cycling with your children a few times a week. Particularly if you live on a quiet road, going up and down the street and having races, can be super fun as well as tiring! Or, make the most of cycling clubs and enjoy a group venture to the hundreds of mountain bike trails out there.
  • There’s plenty of male and female football clubs knocking about. Join a team and enjoy the competitive side to sports whilst making new friends. Some clubs also offer family-friendly football games for parents and children to play together, so ask if your club does or organise it yourself!
  • Family swimming sessions every other weekend. Take advantage of your local leisure centre or make it a fun, family-bonding activity, venturing to the swimming baths every so often.
  • Play social, leisurely sports like golf. Done regularly can help you build friendships with other players, which contributes to boosting your mood and confidence, improving your mental health.
  • Fit some physical activity in your evenings by joining the local gym and taking part in fitness or yoga classes. See some awesome yoga tutorials here for use at home.

 

Ultimately, if there’s one thing you should’ve learnt from this article, it’s any exercise is better than none when taking care of your mental health.

By improving circulation of important cells in the body, loosening tight muscles from built up stress and distracting yourself from worrying thoughts, you can make yourself into a happier, healthier you. So, go forth and fitness!
Sara Whitehouse, SEO and Content Editor at Stadia Sports

Stadia Sports are a leading UK manufacturer and supplier of sports equipment, offering a wide range of products including football goals, football nets and accessories.

We are 2 Years Old! Blog Anniversary of Be Ur Own Light!

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(image: Michelle Leigh writes)

Wow! I can’t believe that Be Ur Own Light has turned 2 years old! We celebrated our second blogiversary on 1st March so I am a few days late but it doesn’t matter.

This blog has provided me with so many amazing opportunities so far. I have met more and more people who are like minded and want to speak about their own mental health to battle stigma. I have met some incredible people online too and such wonderful contributors. I love also finding and telling untold stories.

The blog  has really grown this year into a good mental health resource. We have had lots of contributors which has been fab. I (Eleanor, founder of blog) have also started a new career as a mental health writer and journalist. That is largely down to the success of the blog and I have truly found a niche. Be Ur Own Light is also a shortlisted finalist in the Health and Social care individual category of the UK Blog Awards 2018! Thank you for all your support of the blog and what we do.

I have written this year for Metro.co.uk, Glamour Magazine (online), No Panic, Happiful Magazine and Happiful.com, Counselling Directory, Mind, SANE, Time to Change, STOP Suicide,  Jewish News, Equilibrium Magazine, World Union of Jewish Students,
and been featured in Cosmopolitan UK, Elle UK and Prima.

Thank you to all these amazing people who have provided guest blogs this year. I have been humbled to work with experts and people with lived experience, to provide information and tell others stories to help end the stigma and provide a resource on mental health.

So thank you to these guest bloggers who gave me such wonderful content. There is more to come. This year March 2017-18 thanks to:

Hannah Brown- Recovery from Anorexia
Time With-  Therapy queries
Charlotte Underwood- Recovery from depression/ suicide
Trysh Sutton- Pure Path Essential Oils

Ariel Taylor- Trichotillomania guide
Jon Manning- Mental health in schools
Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank- Get the Inside Out campaign
Stephen Galloway- Inspirational lyrics
Eugene Farell AXA PPP- Loneliness tips
Peter Lang- PTSD and recovery
Kaitlyn W- Light beyond self harm
Jess Harris- Organ donation
Sam- Recovery from bipolar disorder
Ryan Jackson- Reasons for drug and alcohol addiction stigma
Redfin.com- Seasonal Affective disorder
United Mind Laughter Yoga- Job and wellbeing
Christina Hendricks- on PTSD
Reviews Bee- Child Mental Health
Consumer Money Worries- Mental Health and money
Stephen Smith- OCD and nOCD app
Arslan Butt- University students and mental illness
Tony Weekes- Unity MHS
Ellie Miles- Fighting Health Anxiety
Hope Virgo- Anorexia and recovery
Ann Heathcote- Government and mental health
Jasmine Burns- Strategies to help Binge eating
Bill Weiss- Surviving Opiate withdrawal
Jessica Flores- Bipolar 2 – depression
Jay Pigmintiello- Mindfulness and Meditation
David Baum- 365 Challenge for PTSD awareness
Karen- Mental health professional with anxiety
Dr Stacey Leibowitz Levy- CBT
Lucy Boyle- Burnout Syndrome
Diamond G Health Informer- Technology and mental health
Juno Medical- Anxiety Disorders

Thank you to everyone! This year we aim to cover even more mental health issues and disorders in our quest to provide information and be a home for all.

This year I have also written personal posts about my fight with my anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, mental health and dating, mental health and weight gain, NHS waiting lists and therapy,  book reviews for Trigger Press for Hope Virgo and Karen Mantons books, Workplace and mental health stigma, Reading as therapy and more! Time to Talk Day and Eating Disorder Awareness Week marked and many conversations had eg stigma about psychiatric medication.

We have won various awards from other bloggers- Liebster, Sunshine, Mystery and Top 30 social anxiety blog and Top 100 bipolar blog from Feedspot.com.

I am so excited that we have over 4,000 followers on Twitter, almost 600 on WordPress, over 2000 on Instagram and of course my loyal Facebook followers too.

Thank you friends and supporters! Heres to a great year talking about all things mental health and normalising it to all.

Eleanor x

Extract from Cosmopolitan UK Article by Olivia Blair on Anti Depressants- featuring our founder Eleanor

I was so excited to be featured in Olivia Blair’s article for Cosmopolitan UK on anti depressants- 6 women share what its really like to be on Anti depressants.

I am so thrilled to be in this article with 4 other brave women. My first time in Cosmo! Thank you Olivia.

Below is my part of the article but please click here to read the others experiences too:  https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/body/health/a18720313/women-on-antidepressants-working/

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(image: Getty Images/ Cosmopolitan)

I become suicidal when depressed, it’s vital I take medication for my health”

Eleanor Segall, 29, mental health blogger

“I started taking antidepressants when I was 15 after an acute depressive episode where I had to take time off school. A year later I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was hospitalised so I was prescribed a mood stabiliser as well to keep me on an even keel.

I was concerned about some of the side effects but the positives for my mind and brain chemistry outweighed the negatives. Over the years, I have been on different antidepressants including fluoxetine, duloxetine and now sertraline. I also continue to have psychodynamic therapy and have tried CBT, art therapy and meditation.

There is a big stigma around anti depressants, particularly against bipolar and other chronic conditions. But I think this new study offers proof that, for some of us, they are vital.”

4 Things Holding You Back from Therapy and Why They’re Not True: Guest Post by Time With

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(image: Feminist Current/ Snoopy)

Taking a leap into the unknown always requires bravery. Now think of that ‘unknown’ as yourself. All those dark, niggly or somewhat strange parts of ourselves we keep buried away in the hope that they might just disappear if we keep pushing them away for long enough. Yup, therapy is totally exposing – and frankly, terrifying. So it’s little wonder we find ourselves coming up with a million and one excuses to explain why it’s not for us. Avoidance runs through our veins – it’s human nature. But it also holds us back, and at its very worst, avoidance can stall us from moving forward and reaching our potential.

 

Sometimes it’s worth digging a little deeper to properly explore our reasoning. That way we can be sure we’re not standing in the way of our own progress. Below we’ve listed some of the most common excuses we hear when it comes to therapy (and why we think they’re mostly rubbish!)

 

I don’t know where to start”

It’s true, in the past finding a therapist has been anything but easy. Sifting through directories packed full of conflicting approaches and unfamiliar terms… It’s hardly surprising we’re left scratching our head wondering what any of it means. But fortunately, those days are now firmly in the past. Searching for a therapist online is quick and easy. There’s no need to get carried away in lots of research, now you can just work your way through a few simple questions and be connected directly with the right therapists nearby. If you’re interested in finding a therapist best matched to your needs, TimeWith’s online questionnaire matches you with suitable therapists in minutes.

 

“I can’t afford it”

This is valid- there’s no two-ways about it, therapy isn’t cheap. But in reality, it’s a small price to pay when weighed up alongside its many benefits. Good therapy has the potential to completely transform your life. Whether you want to learn how to relate better in your relationships, manage stress and flourish in your career, or you simply want shed light on recurring behaviours or patterns… Therapy has the potential to do all those things (and more).

 

Also, it’s important to remember that therapy isn’t forever. It’s not about making a lifetime commitment. It’s an investment, and there’s a really wonderful feeling that comes with the decision to invest in your own mental and emotional wellbeing. If money’s an issue, never be afraid to ask your therapist about concessions. Lots of therapists offer what’s known as a sliding scale meaning they can offer a discount according to your financial situation.

 

What can a stranger offer me that my friend’s can’t”

To think of therapy as a friendly heart-to-heart is to misunderstand it completely. There’s no doubt in the value of having a good, solid support system in our friends and family. But your therapist isn’t your friend – in fact, there are very strict rules around that in therapy. Your therapist will always remain neutral allowing them to take a uniquely objective standpoint. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see the broader picture. By extension, friends and family are part of our story. They can be happy or sad for us, but they will always have something at stake in our life. It’s only inevitable that this colours their advice and approach, whether they mean to intentionally or not.

 

Habits, patterns, thoughts… Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re more alike than we think. Whilst our experiences in life will be completely different, the coping mechanisms we adopt to deal with what happens to us in life very often follow similar patterns. Therapists are trained to recognise these signals and guide us towards coming to our own realisations. The best moments in therapy are those a-ha moments – the kind that friends and family struggle to provide us with, no matter how much they love us.

 

What’s going to change”

Everything, potentially. But of course, what you get out of therapy comes down to what you’re prepared to put into it – as with most things in life. Film depictions of therapy have done us a disservice for the most part. Despite appearances, therapy isn’t about rambling on Woody Allen-style about our neuroses. Don’t get us wrong, the talking part’s great! But what therapy’s really good at is finding solutions.

It’s all too easy to bulldoze our way blindly through life living out the same patterns time and time again. Good therapy is about taking accountability for the way we are. But that can only happen when we dig deeper and understand the whys. Far from self-blame, this process actually allows us to forgive ourselves for thoughts or behaviour we haven’t liked. To understand that it was the only way we knew how. But with this new awareness also comes the responsibility to change… There aren’t any excuses anymore.

This is the heart of therapy – we slowly peel back the layers to see ourselves in the clear light of day, no pretences. It might seem scary at first, but in reality, it’s liberating.

TimeWith is a service dedicated to helping people reach the right therapist. Run through a quick online questionnaire and connect with suitable therapists in your area.

Dispelling the Online stigma: Twitter, Antidepressants and #MedsWorkedforMe

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(image: amyransom.com)

I wasnt going to write a blog on this because it might feed the Twitter trolls. But I have decided that its really important that I speak out about whats been going on this week on there, in realm of mental health on social media. Theres been a lot of stigma against medication as well as much support for it.

This week, a study by Oxford University and published in the psychology medical journal the Lancet, found that anti depressants work and are effective in a large number of cases. It was hailed as the first major study to prove this. Some medications were found to be more effective than others, but it provided a fantastic proof- that anti depressant medications do help relieve depression in many cases. They are not just a placebo pill.

However, of course, there are a large number of people who have had bad experiences with anti depressants and want to make their voices heard- yet often at the expense of those of us who it works for.

On Twitter, using the trending hasthtag #antidepressants and #medsworkedforme, I shared that anti depressants coupled with my mood stabilisers, have very much helped my bipolar disorder. My brain chemistry and illness is such that unmedicated I can have episodes of suicidal depression, psychosis and mania. My medication keeps my moods balanced and well, so I can function and live a normal life. I have been on anti depressants for almost 15 years now. I have been on fluoxetine, duloxetine and now sertraline.

The only bad experience I ever had with them is when my previous mood stabiliser stopped working and due to an increased dose of duloxetine to relieve my depression (which it did), I tipped over into a fast and unpredictable manic episode. This is the risk that those of us with bipolar run.

Yet, by and large my experiences with meds have been hugely positive. They keep me stable and well.

Unfortunately, on Twitter, I got trolled for the first time by people sharing the following ‘helpful’ opinions (they were not helpful and highly stigmatised):

1) You should reduce your sugar intake as sugar causes highs and lows and is addictive as cocaine. If you reduce your sugar, your bipolar will improve.

(To this I had to reiterate that no medication and less sugar will make my illness worse… and that excess sugar does not cause bipolar 1 disorder.. i.e. it does not have that impact on my mood swings.. bipolar is a real illness in the brain. Reducing sugar may help with overall health but seriously you are going to tell me this?)

2) Others asked what alternative therapies I had tried- eg exercise instead of medication. I reiterated the above re psychosis and suicidal ideation. Which unfortunately cant be treated with exercise alone.

3) People shared their own stories eg the man who had multiple severe illnesses and takes no medication because ‘it shortens life span’ and its a medical fact apparently that these medications cause psychosis. (Some psychiatric meds cause side effects but psychosis- really? Also why would you tell me it will shorten my life?)

There was a lot of what I would call militant stigma against medication, either by people who fear it or have experienced negative effects.

While medication is not for everyone, we shouldn’t be shaming people for taking it. I shouldn’t be shamed for keeping my brain healthy and well through taking meds. And neither should any of you.

Make sure you fight this stigma (and the block button is always useful).

Love,

Eleanor