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

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(image: Eleanor Mandelstam (Segall))

 

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

 

Hi everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Eleanor x

Looking to the Future and Life Dreams: by Eleanor

 

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(image: 123RF.com)

Hi friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love,

Eleanor x

 

 

Talking for the Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat 2020 by Eleanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas for CAMHS Campaign to brighten up Children’s Christmas in Mental health wards: Guest post

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(image: Christmas for CAMHS charity)

Christmas for CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) are a registered charity providing gifts each year for children and young people who are in mental health units in the UK over the Christmas holiday. They say,

Our aim is to make as many children and young people who are inpatients over the Christmas holidays feel thought-about, special and included.

We have been hugely supported over the past few years by generous donations from the public and have received much gratitude as a result from inpatient units. However, we are only able to provide gifts with your charitable donations. ‘

Christmas For CAMHS was originally set up because volunteers saw a huge disparity in the way CAMHS units were treated over the festive period compared to other NHS services for children and young people. They wanted to do something to change that and say,

‘Children are admitted to CAMHS units to receive support and treatment for mental health issues. There are no official figures for how many children will spend the festive season in CAMHS units across the UK. While many members of the public and corporate donors give Christmas gifts to Children’s hospitals or children’s wards in general hospitals, CAMHS units, which are usually based away from other services, are often forgotten, or not known about.’

Ro Bevan, doctor and founder says,

‘Five years ago I worked in a children’s hospital at Christmas time and there were many presents donated, mostly from corporate donors. There were so many presents that there was enough leftover for patients’ birthdays until June of the following year. A year later, I was working in child and adolescent mental health. We had no presents donated. Our patients had one present each, chosen by the therapy team, paid for out of the ward’s budget – saved from the NHS budget that is meant to cover therapeutic activities, and other expenses. I posted about the inequality on Facebook and before I knew it, my post had goneviral with 1,032 shares and so many supportive comments. It inspired me to start a group the following year and together we have raised over £1,000 to help children who would otherwise be forgotten by the generous public.

‘We don’t know whether this disparity is because people just don’t know that there
are children in mental health hospitals, or whether it’s indicative of the stigma that
society attaches to mental health issues. Regardless, we’re hoping to raise
awareness and address the balance. Although this project started with a simple
Facebook post, it has already gone further than I ever could’ve imagined possible
and reaching units across the UK which is a dream come true.’

This year, a special advent calendar has been designed by Sam Barakat, featuring  positive quotes every day, rather than chocolate. As well as this, there will be 32 windows, one for every day from December 1st to January 1st. 50 will also be donated to mental health units via Christmas for CAMHS. Sam says, ‘For many, Christmas is a joyful time that is spent with friends and family. For others, it can be the hardest time of year. This could be due to past events, trauma,  loneliness  or mental illness. ‘

I (Eleanor) feel this is such an incredible campaign that will touch the hearts of many. I was in a CAMHS unit aged 16 over Christmas and think this will help many people.  

You can donate and buy a calendar here for someone struggling : https://www.gofundme.com/f/a-mental-wellbeing-advent-calendar?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1

To donate to Christmas for CAMHS and give presents to ill children click here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/
CAMHS2019

Website and more information: www.christmasforcamhs.org.uk

 

Spring Rebirth: Waking up my Mental Health by Eleanor

 

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(image: Eleanor Segall)

Its that time of year again here in England. The candy- floss pink cherry blossom are on the trees. The sky is a cornflower blue and the sun is streaming down, just waiting for the odd April shower. And I was outside to see it and enjoy it today.

Why is this a victory? Because over the winter I was mildly depressed and hardly leaving home. The lack of light had really got to me and I just wanted to curl up inside with a blanket. Now the days are getting longer and the spring is here, I am thinking about rebirth, waking up anew and starting afresh.

I am writing my book still (cover and title to be revealed) and I will be starting a new job in PR soon. Tonight, Rob and I are going out to celebrate that over dinner. Our wedding is 3 months today 🙂 and coming round fast.

Theres a lot to do, plan for and a lot of change (mostly positive but still a shift). I know that this is not a bad thing however this week I did start feeling overwhelmed. That was because my step grandpa passed away and we had to go to Wales for the funeral, followed by a week of mourning in our home. It was a challenging week, he will be so missed.

Yet what I have learnt from life is that there may be constant intensity or ups and downs, with everything happening at once but we have to learn to try and go with it.

Going with the flow is not something I do well. I get anxious, overwhelmed, tired, stressed, sad like any other human. I hope and I pray and I try to see signs from God and the Universe. Getting fresh air and sun is good for me and you too .

Ultimately I am learning life is a blessing but I need to guard my mental health carefully (and thank goodness for medication and a strong support network)

How are you this Spring?

Eleanor x

What is Stigma? Guest post by Brandon Christensen

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What is Stigma?

Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart from others. When a person is labelled by their mental illness they are often no longer seen as an individual, but as part of a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes and beliefs toward this group create prejudice, which can lead to negative actions and discrimination.

The sad truth is that mental illness is widely misunderstood. Those who suffer have been called names, been blamed for their condition, and isolated. Stigma, and the feeling of shame that it brings, often prevents people from seeking help and treatment for their disorder, even when it is desperately needed. It is crucial that all of us in the mental health community raise our voices and fight to eliminate stigma. If you are not sure where to get started, here are some of the best ways you can work towards reducing stigma in your community.

Ways to Reduce Stigma

1. Become educated and teach others about mental health

Educate yourself about mental health needs so that you are best equipped to discuss them openly! By learning the facts instead of the myths, you will be able to educate others. As you learn more, keep an eye out for opportunities to pass on the facts with friends, family members, or coworkers. If you see someone struggling, encourage them to seek the help of a professional therapist.

2. Encourage equality between physical and mental illness

Unfortunately, not everyone sees mental illness as important as it is, which is why it is so widely misunderstood. People would never shame someone who has the flu, so why does this happen with mental illness? Reminding people of the equality between physical and mental illness is a great way to reduce the stigma and find parity of esteem!

3. Show compassion and get involved

Always remember to treat people who have mental health problems with dignity and respect. Think about how you’d like others to act towards you if you were in the same situation. A simple act of asking a friend or family member how they are doing can make their day and remind them that you care. One of the best ways to show compassion within your community is to get involved with a local non-profit organization that’s working on Stigma Free initiatives!

4. Fight stigma when you see it

You probably see and hear stigma in the public more than you realize. Start paying attention to situations that might be perpetuating this. For example, if you see something online or out in your community that sheds negative light on mental illness, take action and say something rather than turning the other way. Make sure your words and language come from a place or caring and concern, rather than confrontation.

It is so important to the mental health community that progress is made in eliminating the stigma that still surrounds something everyone deals with in one way or another – mental health.

By coming together to fight this common cause, we can make a global impact on how disorders are perceived in society. No matter how you contribute to the movement, you can make a difference by following just one of the tips above and committing to live stigma free!

Author Bio

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(image: Brandon Christensen)

Brandon Christensen is a passionate business leader and mental health advocate who is on a mission to leave the world a better place than he found it. Brandon is the co-founder of Modern Therapy, a tele-mental health company. Brandon has been featured as a keynote speaker onmental health topics at colleges like NYU, Skidmore College, and Columbia University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Website: www.moderntherapy.online

Instagram: @moderntherapyonline Facebook: moderntherapyonline Twitter: @_moderntherapy

Mental health, work and the realities of freelancing: by Eleanor

 

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This article was voted for on my Facebook group last month but as always, there has been a lot going on and I wanted to give this one the time it deserved.

Mental health and work is a huge topic. Mental ill health affects peoples ability to work at times- depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other symptoms can stop us from working and disrupt careers. It is one of the biggest causes of sickness, with people being signed off work by their doctors- from stress or other mental health issues. However, some  people are able to manage their health symptoms and work through it. For me, and many others, I had to switch to self employment, in order to work more effectively.

I started off at uni studying English Literature and Drama at Goldsmiths here in London, got a 2:1 degree and then worked for a year as a teaching assistant in a primary school. I decided then that it may not be for me and I applied to study a masters degree in Applied Theatre at the Royal Central drama school. This was amazing and eye opening- but I was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks (possibly part of my bipolar disorder or just general..).

The anxiety attacks were debilitating for me at times- but I managed to get my Masters. However, I have often found that certain work places are far less forgiving of people with mental health issues- if they are still symptomatic.

I always thought that I would work as a teaching assistant and become a Reception teacher. I worked in several schools and I loved working with the children. I also tried working for a mental health charity. However, I found that my anxiety was getting worse and worse (despite taking medication and having therapy) and that the career just wasn’t working for my health.

So,  I decided to go self employed and become a freelance writer. The perils of freelancing can include: late payment of invoices from clients, having articles pulled at the last minute because the editor changes their mind, clients wanting you to write for free, waiting months for work to be published and some clients only paying on publication- so you don’t get a regular ‘salary’. Income is less stable, its harder to trust people and that you are often sending out pitch emails for writing work- only to get ignored, as editors are often busy with their in house team and work.

The pluses of freelancing: some regular gigs (Thank you Metro!), being featured in Glamour UK is a huge honour and in Happiful and Cosmopolitan/ Elle. I have written a lot this year and I am grateful every day for the editors who have taken a chance on me and commissioned my work.

However, its a balance. Yes working from home is great. Yes setting own hours is good. But, it means that income is less stable for sure. I have far less anxiety and panic working like this. Thats a major plus.

I often feel bad for not earning enough. Or because you have to develop a thick skin to deal with rejection.

In terms of mental health at work- there is SO much that needs to be done. Sickness records mean employees are still penalised, despite their genuine need for a mental health day. Each work place should be trained in signs to spot and have a mental health first aider. Some work places are disability friendly, but many just see you as a worker and if you have a mental illness, will only tolerate so much time off.

I don’t really know what to suggest if you are also in my position. In the UK, we have the benefits system which has been very important for me due to my illness. However, I would love to get to a stage where I can earn enough not to need it.

If you are struggling with your mental health at work, speak to a trusted colleague. HR will not always be supportive – it depends on the organisation, but don’t suffer alone. Just be aware that if you are off sick a lot, some companies will see you as unreliable. This may be 2018, but outdated attitudes at work still exist unfortunately.

There are positives and its important to know  there are good, wonderful people out there. I have met many. 

What is your experience?

Eleanor x

How Meditation can improve our Mental health and wellbeing: Guest post by Jennifer Bennet

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(image: Erriko Boccia at Unsplash )

Ahead of tomorrows World Mental Health Day, we are publishing articles focusing on our mental health.

Meditation has long been a tool used in mental health counselling and it is one that has been proven to be highly effective with coping with stress and anxiety as well as depression and other mental health issues. Medication is often a vital treatment for mental health issues, but meditation is also an ideal practice to integrate into a daily routine to help as well and the benefits of meditation are outstanding.

A great deal of our lives in general are spent lost in our thoughts and dealing with our personal feelings. Why not use that time for meditation instead of dwelling on negative thoughts and behaviours?

Besides the fact that taking time for meditation opens your mind to a little peace and quiet, there are so many benefits of meditating that can help mental health issues. Here are five of the best reasons to start meditating today so you can have a happier mind to help with mental health issues.

 

  1. Meditation helps clear your mind so that you can sleep better at night. A well-rested mind is better equipped to handle the stresses of life and keep a good reign on emotions during the waking hours.
  2. Meditation helps manage unhealthy behaviors by helping a person focus on viable solutions to problems. When we focus on just one issue and take time to carefully think about it in a positive way, it is easier to find a solution than it would be to randomly try numerous things to no avail. Mindful meditation allows a person to take time to delve deeply into a situation while focusing on how to resolve an issue wisely.
  3. The production of the hormone cortisol, which is known to weaken the immune system in the body, can be slowed down through meditation. When you have a better immune system, it’s easier to feel less stressed and be able to enjoy life better.
  4. Sitting down to meditate at least once every day can lead to having a better grasp on emotions. When you focus on objective ways to solve problems and face things in life, it is easier to control anger, depression and other emotions.
  5. Meditation helps keep your mind in the present instead of revolving to the past where you may have faced a bad relationship or other hardships. When you let go of the negative things that have a grasp onto your thought process, it is easier to move forward and face life with a renewed sense of self. This can have a profound impact on every aspect of your life including work, relationships and home.

 

How to Meditate

Some people believe that you must have scented candles, incense and soft music to meditate and while those things can certainly help ease your mind to help you find a peaceful calm, they are not at all required to find your way to inner peace and meditation. Here are some simple steps provided by the Taylor Benefits Insurance blog that you can follow to begin your journey into meditation and a firmer grasp on your own mental health and well-being.

 

Set a time

Let’s face it, when we don’t set an alarm to wake up in the morning it’s easy to oversleep and miss out on work and other important things in life. The same goes for meditation. This is an important step to take and once you decide to start meditating, it’s a good idea to try to set a time to do so each day. If you need to set a physical alarm, then get that alarm set and plan to sit down to meditate for at least 10 minutes each day. Consistency is key when you are meditating and it’s a good idea to make time for it every day. This will help keep your mind focused, so you can find your inner peace and start focusing on your problem-solving skills to lower your stress and find a little happiness that you may have forgotten about.

 

Breathe

When you meditate, take time to breathe deeply. From a siting position, sit straight and tall and breathe slowly but deeply. Be sure to wear clothing that won’t restrict breathing, so you can breathe freely during your meditation time.

 

Comfort is Key

No matter where you choose to meditate, try to make it as comfortable as possible. Whether you have a little space in your bedroom or even in the kitchen, pile up some comfy pillows or sit in your favorite chair and let yourself relax completely.

 

Choose Your Thoughts Wisely

Before you sit down to meditate, take time to choose one thing and only one thing to focus on during your meditation time. Meditation is not the time to let your mind wander in circles. When we can face one issue at a time and clear them from our mind, its easier to take steps to move forward with life with a sense of peace.

 

Pick Your Mantra and Focus

Now this is where you are going to take a slight step back and say, “What?” Something common to chant as a mantra is simply, “Om” which sounds like you are saying “Oooooooommmmmm” repeatedly. If that one does not work for you, then find a different mantra to chant during your meditation time. What you choose should help you feel relaxed.

While chanting your mantra, find a spot to fixate your eyes upon so you can focus clearly. This can be a candle if you have one, a spot on a wall or even a tiny flower placed across from you. The key is to stay focused throughout the meditation time.

While chanting your mantra, think positive thoughts such as visualising yourself winning a marathon (if you run), earning a promotion at work, completing a major assignment or whatever you feel you need to accomplish in your personal life.

Some people choose CD’s that have been prerecorded with slow, relaxing music on them. A great choice if you want to hear soft sounds would be a nature CD playing sounds of the forest or the ocean. Others prefer silence during meditation. Make some positive affirmation cards to place in your meditation area to help motivate you. These can include simple poetic phrases or even small sentences to help bring your inner peace. You could even listen to a prerecorded meditation CD or a YouTube video to help guide you throughout your meditation.

There is no set way to meditate and what works for one may not work for another. The most important thing is that you take time to meditate, get to know your true inner self and as you move forward you will soon find your way onto the healing path of inner peace and renewal as you learn more about yourself, your feelings and the strength of your own mind.  

 

Jennifer Bennet is a writer on wellbeing and an expert on meditation.

Love and Remission by Annie Belasco: Book review

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(image: Trigger Publishing and Annie Belasco)

I only tend to review books that make an impact on me and that really touch my heart.

I ordered Annie’s book ‘Love and Remission’ , about her life recovering from breast cancer in her twenties and finding the love of her life. Annie and I have been connected on Twitter and she is signed to the same publisher as me so I was super excited to read her inspirational story.

When reading, I found a person of immense strength and an amazing sense of humour. Annie was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer aged just 25 years old. Her entire life was falling apart but she found a way through treatment, through the chemotherapy and radiotherapy-to put it back together. She describes what it was like for her to lose her hair and buy wigs, and to go through a masectomy and trying to feel womanly again- which she succeeded in doing. She was scared that the treatment wouldn’t work but she is now incredibly,  in remission.

Annie also had mental health issues due to the trauma but talks about how she slowly overcame her anxiety to live again.

The ‘love’ part in the title refers to her now husband, who she met while undergoing treatment and who stood by her against all the odds.

I don’t want to reveal any more than that- but this book was so inspiring, so moving, so well written that I read it in just two days!

I really recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about cancer and mental health whilst being a young woman. Annies story truly blew me away- with her strength, courage and unique take on life- she is so fun loving- and really loves her friends and family.

I was so touched by this book and her story. Thank you for writing it.

 

(You can buy the book now by Trigger on Amazon and in bookstores).

Dealing with my mental health on holiday abroad: Trip to Israel

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(image: GoThinkBig)

On Monday, I returned from a wonderful holiday to Israel with my fiance Rob, seeing friends and family. I hadn’t been to Israel in 9 years for various reasons and he hadn’t been for 13 years (!) so we were determined to make the most of our trip. We definitely don’t want to leave it so long next time.

We travelled around the country staying with family and in hotels too. If anything, we almost packed in too much trying to see everyone- and I still didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to as we were only there for a week. I was also very conscious of the fact that it was very hot and it became apparent that I couldn’t cope with walking  in 36 degree heat for too long!

I made sure that I had lots of water on me as my medication, Lithium,  dehydrates my body quickly so I have to intake more water than most. I found that through heat and dehydration, I would get tired quite quickly so if we had spent a morning travelling, I would need to spend a few hours either resting in air conditioning or sleeping.

In general, my anxiety is better when I am abroad, though there were a few days where morning anxiety did overwhelm  and I chose to rest and sleep and then go out later in the day. My fiance was very understanding of this and went for a wander some mornings. However, once I was rested and had eaten breakfast/ drunk lots of water, I was able to enjoy and do lots of fun things.

On our trip we went to visit my best friend/ cousin and her family in a place called Tel Mond, near Netanya and we went for a day trip to Netanya- which is a beach side resort. They also made a barbeque for us when we arrived which was lovely and we saw other friends who live there. We met their newest arrival – gorgeous baby girl- and I had lots of cuddles with my new cousin!

We then went to Jerusalem for a few days- to the Western Wall to pray, walking in the Old City, seeing my other cousins and catching up over ice cream and meeting friends for dinner in the evening. We spent time in the Jerusalem First station near our hotel, which has restaurants and stalls as well as live music- a bit like Covent Garden! Rob and I went shopping and bought things for our future home as well as for family in England.

After this, we travelled to spend Jewish sabbath- shabbat with my other cousins who moved to Israel last year- and spent time walking around where they live and meeting their friends. It was restful and lovely to catch up with them, eat delicious food and rest.

Our final day was spent in Tel Aviv, going in the swimming pool,  walking around the streets by the beach, drinking iced coffee and going out for dinner with another cousin who happened to be travelling there with her friends. Rob and I also had time to ourselves which was important and we didn’t want to leave!

I am lucky that my medication very much helps my bipolar and so I was able to do all of the above.

For me when abroad, my main concerns are taking my medication on time and each day, getting enough sleep, eat well, staying out the sun at hot times and making sure I rest and drink enough. If I follow that, I can largely function.

Sometimes my anxiety  about being in a new place can kick in upon waking- so I was thankful my fiance understood it took me a bit longer to adjust to the day, but once I was rested, I was able to really enjoy the holiday.

Its important to note that everyone is different on holiday. However, it is vital to cut yourself slack, take rest days (or rest half days) and also take medication on time. I don’t drink alcohol on my meds- but keeping hydrated if you are is so important too.

Also make sure you declare your condition on travel insurance so you are covered if you become unwell abroad! This will make it more expensive but worth it. You don’t want to get sick abroad and have no cover.

I am pleased too that I stayed well- despite being very tired on my return. I made sure I caught up on sleep and didn’t go straight in to work – although I am now back at work.

I am missing my trip already and so thankful to my fiance, friends and family for making it so special.