Life is Finite: How to Deal with this and our Mental Health.


(image: thefreshexchange.com)


Humans are probably the only species on the planet that know that life is finite. Practically every other creature that ever existed did so in a state of blissful ignorance. The end of life wasn’t some dark, horrible certainty that needed pushing to the back of the mind. It just didn’t exist psychologically. 

We have no such luxury. As thinking beings, we have to confront this issue, one way or another, and somehow try to make peace with it. It’s not easy. 

Over the years, you can see some of the strategies people used to try to do this. One method was believing in the afterlife and in the soul – somewhere that you’d go once your physical body finally gave up. For many people, this is a core tenet of faith. For others, it is not. The idea that we could somehow pass away into nothingness seems like a tragedy.

Aging is currently a big issue in our society. The number of people over the age of 65 is the highest that it has ever been. And it is going to continue to grow as the population changes. Fewer people are having babies, and more people are living into their seventies, eighties, and nineties. It’s a big difference compared to just a few decades ago. 

In this context, we are all having to learn how to deal with our finite lives. But what’s the best way to do it? 

Get Comfortable With It 

Nobody likes the idea that we’re here for a small amount of time. We have these unlimited imaginations. And yet, we’re confined to these Earthly bodies.

One piece of advice is to try to find ways to become comfortable with the fact that life doesn’t go on forever. It seems taboo to even talk about it, especially when there are people around us approaching the end of their lives. But it is critical that we address the issue internally. Unless we can somehow make peace with it, we’ll never find peace in ourselves. We will always have this gnawing feeling at the back of our minds that the whole show will come to an end. That’s no way to live. 

Talk To Somebody About It

Sometimes, chatting to somebody you trust can help you come to terms with the facts of life. If you don’t have anybody in your life who fits the bill, then there are plenty of helplines available including Samaritans or you could talk to your GP or a therapist/ psychologist if it is beginning to impact on your day to day living and mental wellbeing . 

In many cases, just getting the words out can help tremendously. Speaking your mind to a sympathetic person is a great way to come to terms with reality. 

Prepare For It

The finitude of life can also be scary for another reason – the fact that we aren’t always prepared for the end of it. We can spend weekends worrying about what will happen to our loved ones when we are gone. 

We can’t go on living forever. But we can make financial arrangements to ensure that people who depend on us are taken care of in the future.

Setting up a policy to provide a lump sum to your relatives and dependents is relatively straightforward. And getting free gifts with life insurance is always a bonus. 

Complete Your Goals

Having the discipline to complete your life goals is a real skill and one that relatively few people ever manage to master. Ideally, you don’t want to get to the end of your life only to look back on it and regret that you didn’t live it the way that you wanted. You need to feel like you completed your goals – or at least took control and moved towards them. 

Sometimes taking the plunge and just getting on with things that you’ve left on the back burner is the best way to cope with the fact that life is limited. When you pursue that which is truly important to you, a lot of the worries and concerns disappear. You know that you’re making the best possible use of your time – and you’re grateful for it. 

Appreciate What You Have

Yes, the facts of life can be tough to accept. But it is also worth appreciating the fact that you’re here in the first place – a very unlikely event when you consider all the people who could have been born throughout history. That’s some consolation when you think about it. There is always goodness and hope in life- make the most of it.

This article was written by a freelance writer.

Taking Care of Your Own Mental Health When a Loved One Passes Away.

(image: Pexels)

If you have ever experienced the serious illness or passing away of somebody close to you, you will know that this is a seriously difficult time for your own mental health. When we lose a family member, friend or partner, the grief process is long and arduous. When somebody dies in our community, we sometimes focus on taking care of others, trying to help them through the tough time without thinking much about our own wellbeing. Similarly, death brings up all sorts of logistical obstacles such as funeral arrangements, will-reading and sifting through the person’s belongings. 

Even if the person who has passed was sick for a while, elderly, being given live in care or other assisted living arrangements, death still comes as a shock. If you have experienced this, you will know that this is a highly overwhelming time both practically and emotionally. So how can you take care of your own mental wellbeing when this happens?

Grieving is a time to look inward, as well as outward to the future. In this blog, you will find some common mental health troubles that are experienced during grief, and how best to work through them.

The Mind and Body Connection

Many people believe that mental health issues are completely separate to physical health problems or side effects. However, science disagrees. It is clinically proven that mental illness and trauma can manifest themselves in our physical bodies. It is important to remember that if you are experiencing grief, although this is seen as a purely emotional thing to happen, you could experience physical symptoms too. This is totally normal, and it is important to recognise when these things happen so you can best cope with these changes. 

The Shock of Absence

One of the things that makes us feel the rawest and most difficult emotions is the sheer shock of losing a loved one. One minute they are alive in the world, the next they have moved on. The shock of the absence of this person can have seriously detrimental effects on your mental health, which can also bleed out into physical symptoms. Some of these effects might be:

  • Loss of sleep. Sometimes when we are in emotional shock, despite wanting to sleep, we can’t seem to let our mind relax enough to fall into slumber. 
  • Excessive sleep. On the other hand, some people’s bodies react in the opposite way, by sleeping through the day as a way of escaping reality. 
  • Wildly varying emotions. You may experience a feeling like you can’t control your emotions or find stability within them. This is normal. Your body can’t feel full-strength emotions constantly, so it’s totally normal to have varied emotions at this time. 
  • Picking up the phone to contact the person, or referring to them as if they are still alive by accident. This is very common, and can make you very upset when reality hits. When you are so used to a person being in your life, your brain is wired to consider them alive and well, and so it will take a long time to readjust to the new reality. When these moments occur, try not to get angry with yourself, but instead try your best to accept it as a process of adjustment. 
  • Not eating or overeating. If you have an emotional connection to food, you may find that you lean on your eating habits as a coping mechanism. This could be eating less than usual, or relying on food for comfort. People will tell you that this is unhealthy, you can’t expect to be perfect when you are dealing with trauma like this. As long as you don’t take these comfort habits to a dangerous extreme, these can be relied upon through the grief process. If you feel this getting out of hand, you can use eating disorder helplines and therapy programs. 
  • Feeling joyless. When something bad happens, we usually defer back to the things that make us happiest. Our kids, our best friends, favourite movies, pets, yummy snacks… You name it, we seek it out when we feel blue. But losing a loved one can cause us to lose joy, even for the things that make our hearts happy most of the time. This can last a while. 
  • Having intense, vivid dreams. When somebody we love dies, it makes sense that they are on our mind most of the time in the beginning stages of coping without them. When we dream, it is our brain’s way of leaking all the information and emotions that it has processed during the day; when we experience something traumatic or particularly intense, our brains sometimes can’t fully process it all at once. Hence, you are likely to have some intense dreams about the person – or even lots of crazy dreams about other things!
(image: Pexels)

Coping With These Effects

The above are only a small number of the wide range of emotions and physical sensations that can come with grief. So what can you do about it? Here are some solutions to the feelings you are experiencing, to try to make the transitional stages of grief easier. Although this time will always be hard, there are ways to alleviate some of the stress you are feeling. 

  1. Seek Grief Counselling 

If you have never been to see a therapist before or find the prospect daunting, this is to be expected. After all, counselling or talking therapy requires you to be vulnerable in front of someone who will be, at first, a total stranger. However, grief counselling will allow you to express your emotions without judgement – but even more than that, the therapist will give you tools with which to manage your stress and sadness. These can be breathing exercises, ways of staying connected to the person, techniques to help you sleep better and routine-based activities to keep you ticking over. You can get one-on-one counselling or group therapy sessions with others experiencing similar loss. 

  1. Hold your loved ones close. 

Grief sometimes propels people into a state of isolation. After all, it feels like nobody can be feeling what you feel, so some people react to this by shutting others out. If this is a tendency you are familiar with, make sure you work actively to combat it. Your desire to lock others away from your emotions is stopping you from getting the support you need. Start by reaching out to one – just one – person in your life who you trust. From there, you can gradually build a support network. 

  1. Try to spark joy, even if it doesn’t work. 

Even if you feel joyless, the search for joy should be constant. Try new ways of sparking tiny moments of happiness, even if it fades away in a split second. This could be through sex, food, seeing friends, playing video games, going for walks alone, or watching your favourite films. You can’t expect all the bad feelings to disappear, but you could be distracted from them just for a moment, giving your brain and body some much-needed relief.

4. Try talking to the person, if you want to. 

Many people shy away from this for fear that they might look “crazy”. But there’s nothing “crazy” about wanting to feel connected to a person you have lost. If speaking to them helps, then try doing it. There is no shame in maintaining a spiritual connection. 

Grief is a horrible thing to feel, and no amount of fun activities or therapy will totally eradicate those feelings. However, with time, persistence and kindness to yourself, you can learn to cope better with the aftermath of losing someone close to you. 


This article was written by a freelance writer

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

How to keep your loved one’s memory alive after their passing: Guest blog by Nat Juchems

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The passing of a loved one is one of the hardest things most of us will have to go through. A huge element of the grief you feel is attributed to the worry that your late friend or family member will no longer exist in your life. 

The fear of losing the connection you once shared is a devastating prospect. But in reality, you simply need to realize that the power to keep your loved one’s memory alive is in your hands.

Although they may no longer be here physically, their legacy and your connection with them can live on. To a certain extent, letting your loved one go and acknowledging their passing is healthy but so is allowing yourself to remember and maintain a connection with them.

Creating a special way for you and others to remember your loved one member can go a long way to helping cope with grief. While it may be too painful to think about being proactive about keeping their memory alive in the immediate days and weeks following their death, when you’re ready, these ideas will help.

 

  1.     Include them in special occasions

After the death of a loved one, special occasions sometimes just don’t feel the same. You often feel the sense that someone is missing. In reality, they are missing and you don’t need to pretend that they are not. Instead, acknowledge their absence by making an effort to include them in celebrations like Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Creating a new tradition in their honour is a great way to do this. For example, if your late loved one liked to jog, go for a family jog on Christmas morning. Alternatively, you can visit your loved ones’ memorial as part of your celebrations.

The key here is to remember that you are including them, rather than dwelling on missing them. The first time, it will likely be harder than any subsequent occasions, but in time you will be able to do this with positivity in your heart, rather than extreme sorrow.

 

  1.     Celebrate their birthday

One surefire way to help keep your loved one’s memory alive is to celebrate their birthday. Unlike certain other events, their birthday is the one day of the year that is a celebration of them, and only them. You don’t need to throw a party but doing something small, like having an intimate dinner or buying a birthday cake and singing happy birthday as a family can really create a wonderful sense of remembrance.

 

  1.     Continue doing the things you loved together

So many people simply stop doing things that they used to do with their loved one, but it’s so important that you continue. If your loved one was still here, they would likely still be doing it. By carrying on for them, you help them live on through you. Not only that, doing this acts as a way to soothe your soul and help with your own grief; many happy memories will come up, reminding you of times you did the activity together.

 

  1.     Set up a memorial

Realistically, the very foundation of keeping your loved one’s memory alive relies upon you actually remembering them. Now, that’s not to say that you would ever forget them, but as time passes, you may forget to remember them. As unlikely as that may seem now, the frequency of flashes of them in your mind decreases with the passing years. By creating a permanent memorial to them, you will always have somewhere to go, to celebrate them, to remember them.

Your memorial site doesn’t necessarily need to be in the place where they were laid to rest, you can set up a special area in your home or even plant a tree in your garden. If your loved one was cremated, you can give a cremation urn pride of place within your memorial, or you can simply include their picture and other personal items.

 

  1.     Embrace their passions

One of the best ways to immortalize your loved one is to continue their passions or projects for them. If they were a volunteer, you could start to volunteer. If they loved the theatre, you could take some theatre classes. If they wanted to visit a certain destination, you could take a family vacation to that location. These gestures don’t have to be grand, but by acknowledging their passions and taking action to continue them to some extent in their honor, you will be actively creating a powerful way to help them live on.

Losing a loved one is never easy but keeping their memory alive can give you some semblance of peace. While it may feel that simply remembering pales in comparison to actually having them with you, it is vital that you don’t remain in that negative mindset. Grief manifests in a number of different ways and the ‘stages’ vary in length and intensity for each of us. Just remember, when you’re ready, the best way to remember them is to do the things which honor their memory and keep them alive within your heart. 

 

Nat Juchems is the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials, Nat helps those grieving the loss of a loved find the right memorial to cherish.

Before becoming the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials, Nat worked for six years in the memorials ecommerce industry as a Marketing Director and Ecommerce Director, using his skill set to manage powerful paid search and organic search campaigns as well as implement merchandising strategies and manage the software development teams that made everything work.

Dealing with Loss: Losing Grandma

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(image of Lady of Shalott Roses : Pinterest)

This blog post is really hard for me to write.

Many of you know, that my beloved Grandma passed away last week after a long battle with Parkinsons disease and dementia. Both are horrible conditions and it was very difficult to see her suffering.

I am happy that she is free from the severe symptoms she experienced. Grandma was bedbound for over a year and her mind was taken over by the dementia too.

I have such wonderful memories of my Grandma- she was kind, caring, loving, beautiful, glamourous, with a huge heart. She gave so much love to her friends and family and to us grandchildren. She believed in us, motivated us and was a second mother.

I know part of her will always lie within me.

We are Jewish and have just come out of the week of mourning. This is called shiva and friends and family come to support the family.

It was very helpful but I still can’t believe shes not here any more. Grandma was a light in my world and I will always, always miss her. The only comfort is that she is at peace and has relief from suffering.

The above picture is of the Lady of Shalott rose. The poem by Tennyson-  The Lady of Shalott- was one of my Grandmas favourites that we read to her in hospital. I am named after my Grandmas Mum, Rose. Our family found these Lady of Shalott roses at Kenwood, when they got up from their week of mourning during a walk there- a special and comforting sign.

I will love my Grandma always and I know she will be there with me on my wedding day next year. I take comfort from the fact she knew I was happy and settled and my last conversation with her was about my engagement.

We are still grieving for her. It takes time. We are trying to be there for my Grandpa too- they were married for 66 years.

Grandma- I will love you always and forever. You will be in my heart and never forgotten.