Category Archives: Loneliness

Guest post: Bipolar 2- Wading through depression and loss of motivation by Jessica Flores

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This article is about Bipolar 2 disorder, a mood disorder where sufferers can cycle between high and low moods. Jessica writes about her experiences: 

If you have been diagnosed with Bipolar II, you know that it differs from Bipolar I disorder in that you still cycle between high and low, but you never experience complete mania (high mood), which is good. Instead, you get hypomania (a lesser form). Yet, more often than not, you are trying to cope with long periods of substantial depression; which can be more severe and long lasting . Roughly six million people in the United States  and millions around the world, suffer from some form of bipolar disorder, so you aren’t alone.

When I am hypomanic, I find myself excited to go out and have conversations and stay up all night. I want to make friends and craft furniture and redecorate. I end up buying things online for some new life I plan to begin living. It’s why half of my living room has been filled with boxes of mid-century housewares for the last two years. However, I spend most of my time being depressed.

My life often feels like it is happening underwater. Every action I attempt to take exhausts me. Showering daily is impossible. I sleep for half the day and sit in front of the computer to do my job without the energy to move forward or the cognitive wherewithal to make sentences. I don’t have urges to harm myself, but I wonder why I need to keep feeling this way every day. I lose hope for the future- it can be very difficult.

Lately, I have begun to wonder if I am depressed or if I am simply losing motivation.  I feel sluggish. I don’t feel motivated. My house is a wreck. I can’t remember the last time I cleaned the kitchen floor. I thought about getting a maid service last week, but I didn’t want anyone to see my apartment.  Sometimes I have negative self talk and think I am lazy, not depressed.

As it turns out, I am not alone in my thoughts about this. Many people with clinical depression reach a point where they attach negative descriptors to themselves. If people hear they are lazy often enough during depressive episodes, it’s not unusual for them to question whether or not it’s true.

Mute Everyone Out

A depressed person isn’t simply dealing with a lack of motivation, they deal with changes in their sleep patterns, hopelessness, loss of pleasure in things they used to enjoy, changes in weight and/or appetite, and so much more. All of these are potential symptoms of bipolar depression and they can be treated. There are a number of medications that have proven effective in treating Bipolar II and many forms of therapy that are a critical element of a complete treatment plan.

Regardless, that’s a lot to handle all on your own. And what makes it especially difficult is the fact that it’s all being caused in your own mind.

Which is why it’s time to stop thinking of yourself as unmotivated or lazy, and it’s time to stop listening to anyone around you who does. You have a diagnosed medical condition. You are managing as well as you can in the given circumstances. I know it’s hard, but you’re going to need to learn to tell yourself that that’s all there is and you shouldn’t put yourself down for the resulting actions that you choose to take because of your condition. Instead of feeling ashamed, you need to make sure you are getting all of the treatment that you can and learning skills to help you control what you are able to.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. This is your battle. To make sure that you yourself don’t make yourself feel bad for how you spend most of your days. By being proud of who you are and accepting your condition, you close yourself off from any hurtful comments any uninformed person could ever tell you. And it’s important for you to be able to do that. Because you’re not any of the negative things you just said. You’re amazing, capable, and strong. Remember that.

 

Jessica Flores is a wife, mother, writer, and woman diagnosed with bipolar II. She knows that her disorder affects her entire family and she works to lessen the impact as best she can. However, she also gives herself permission to experience changes in mood. Her drastic experience motivates her to blog about it and help others who are experiencing trying times.

Mental Health, Social Media and Relationships: Reality vs the Edit

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This post has been inspired by a few experiences that have happened to me in my life- regarding relationships with others- be they a friend or otherwise and social media.

I am a self confessed social media lover and addict. I love its ease, I use it as a way to store memories to look back on- photos, places I have been. A kind of virtual diary. I use it to keep in touch with friends, acquaintances who I would never normally see as they are in different countries or regions- and to keep in touch with friends I see regularly. I am always on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (though not Snapchat- showing my age) and I truly love being online. Most of the time.

The difficult part about having bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder/ social anxiety is that it is not easily visible. Equally, on social media we always tend to present an edited version of ourselves- the good side. The positive side. The places we’ve been and the friends we’ve seen, those close to us. My Facebook profile, when I can achieve things, shows me smiling and being out and about. However, this has the potential to upset people if I have had to cancel arrangements due to anxiety.

The main refrain is often ‘But you were able to do it then- so why can’t you do it now?’.   How come the next day you could go out for dinner (I saw it on your Facebook)?

I understand this reaction. I do post a lot to celebrate achievements to myself and keep memories- happy memories for when I do become unwell again (which I hope won’t be for a long time). Social anxiety means that I want to look back on and remember the good times, the happy times.

The tough part is that relationships can become strained if one overly posts on social media. So its a complete dichotomy.

Do I post my life and enjoy the times I am able to socialise and go out without anxiety? Or do I edit what I upload so as not to hurt feelings of people I have had to cancel due to anxiety attacks? Ultimately- do I take my memories offline and into a private journal or on Instagram rather than Facebook?

All of this has been going through my head. Mental illness is not as straight forward to others as a broken leg. I don’t wear a sign saying I am bipolar or a bandage round my head.

I may look like I am having the time of my life…. but one may not see that:

Yesterday I could have had a panic attack which meant I couldn’t leave the house as I felt overwhelmed and embarrassed, and totally drained from the adrenaline. I got out to socialise now because a family member drove me somewhere as a form of exposure therapy to lessen my anxiety.

OR this scenario…..

My anxiety took over and I felt so frightened I was hyperventilating, crying and beating myself up emotionally, for not being able to see a friend. Because yes, we don’t want to have this and we care deeply about our friends feelings.

OR this scenario….

I have heard you talking negatively about me to someone else because I had to cancel an arrangement. Yet, I have anxiety about travel and socialising and sometimes feel overwhelmed. You know this, yet will still be upset- which I have to take into account.

So no, I am not really having the time of my life all the time. Friends are my priority but equally optimum health and managing day by day is to me hugely important.

I will try my very best not to let you down. If I hurt you through my social anxiety, it is never intentional.

I have learnt the hard way the pitfalls of social media with mental health issues. The large part is that we don’t want to talk about how depressed or anxious or panicked we are on Facebook. So it gets hidden and misunderstandings happen.

I hope one day it comes into the light, through my blog and when I can be more open.

The Serenity Prayer, Hope and Manifestation

Whenever I have felt unwell, low, hopeless and like nothing would ever change (often after experiencing a low or high bipolar episode and being unemployed/ feeling very alone), I have found that certain prayers and ideas have comforted me and helped me grow and have hope.

One of these (as well as many Jewish prayers) is the Serenity prayer. Its words give me comfort. They have even been put to a song by India Arie, whose music aims to heal others struggling with difficulties, broken hearts, stress, sadness.

So today I thought I would share it with you. I would say I am quite a spiritual person and I believe that prayers really do manifest if they are meant for you- your heart is listened too. At times when I have felt hopeless, I turned to God (if you don’t believe in God replace with the universe). And even if my prayers didn’t manifest directly at that exact moment- they often do manifest – even if it takes a year or two.

I hope this will help you feel a little comforted or healed, like it always does for me. Serenity is so important, even if it takes a long time to reach

Have hope :

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Guest Post by Juno Medical: 9 Things People with Anxiety Disorders Would Rather not Hear You Say

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Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and social anxiety disorders. 1 in 12 people suffers from anxiety globally, and women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety.

If you feel overwhelmed by the behaviour of a person with anxiety, try to put yourself in their shoes, and show understanding, not stigma.

For more see www.junomedical.com

 

Guest post: Loneliness at Valentines (by Eugene Farrell, AXA PPP)

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Valentine’s Day. For some, it’s a day full of romance and spending time with loved ones, yet for others, this focus can make them feel more isolated and alone.

According to the Office for National Statistics, Britain is the loneliness capital of Europe, with many Brits unlikely to know their neighbours or feel they have friendships that they believe they can rely on in a crisis.

Research by the charity, Relate, found that 9% of Brits of all ages don’t have a single close friend, while separately, a study by AXA PPP healthcare that British adults aged 18 to 24 are four times as likely to feel consistently lonely than those over 70.

 “The build-up to Valentine’s Day and the day itself can be quite intense, which is difficult for those who are already feeling isolated or lonely,” explains Eugene Farrell, Head of Trauma Support Services at AXA PPP healthcare.

Although loneliness is often associated with the elderly, it’s actually an issue which can affect the physical and mental wellbeing of people of all ages.

In fact, studies have found that loneliness can increase the risk of high blood pressure, and have an impact on cognitive decline, dementia and depression. While addressing your experience of loneliness may take time, taking steps to build new and improve existing connections will help to improve your overall wellbeing.”

Here, Eugene gives his top tips on how to overcome feelings of loneliness:

1.     Making new connections can be an obvious way to combat loneliness and yield positive results, for example joining a group or class you are interested in will increase your chances of meeting like-minded people to connect with. Increasingly too we are turning to the internet for companionship, with community groups existing in almost every niche interest group you could imagine.

2.     Be more open. If you feel that you have plenty of connections but don’t feel close to any of them, the underlying issue may be that you need to open up to them more to deepen your connection, as an example letting the friend or acquaintance in on a vulnerability felt or your honest opinion about an issue.

3.     Stop comparing yourself to others. The desire to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ is not a new one, however the rise of social media has only exacerbated the problem by giving individuals the chance to constantly compare themselves to others. If you’re already feeling lonely, the idea that everyone else’s life is more idyllic than yours can make you feel even more isolated and alone. This can lead us to ‘compare and despair’ – which further exacerbates our negative experiences. Remind yourself that people only share what they want others to see about their lives. Don’t form unrealistic expectations about life and friendship based on what you see online.

4.     Keep all lines of communication open. Having a chat with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them. Or you can stay connected with loved ones online. Video chat, exchange photos and keep up to date with the latest news from friends and family with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or simply keep in contact by email.

5.     Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people and feel good about helping others. It will not only allow you to give something back to your community but will also help you to feel more connected, involved and needed. There are lots of volunteering roles that need your skills and experience. It can also have a positive effect upon your mental health through helping others.

6.     Pride comes before a fall. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask for help, companionship or just a chat. They may be feeling lonely too!

7.     Take it slow. If you’ve felt lonely for a while, or experience anxiety around new social situations, throwing yourself in at the deep end could only act to exacerbate the problem. Instead, dip your toes into the water first by going to a local café or sports event where you are surrounded by people, and just enjoy sharing their company. Or try a class where you can dive into the activity itself to distract you from the pressure of introducing yourself to people straight away. With loneliness, slow and steady often wins the race.

If you think you might be struggling with symptoms of loneliness, find more tips and advice at AXA PPP healthcare’s Mental Health Centre.

Guest Post by Adar: Relationship Abuse and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

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Adar talks about the relationship abuse and PTSD they have suffered and how they are near recovery, with a combination of therapies including EMDR treatment. 

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and I have been in each other’s lives for past 10 years. Yet, up until 3 years ago, it was my secret…that I had no name for.

I am very close to my recovery (yes, recovery), which is why I feel I can write this blog now, to highlight the following:

A. I was 18 when my abusive relationship started, he was also 18, and yes…he was Jewish, and known within a circle of Jewish people (I am Jewish). Abuse can happen to anyone, at any age, of any race.

B. PTSD: Because I have it now, doesn’t mean I will have it forever. I am getting the help I need to treat it, and my PTSD isn’t triggered 99.9 percent of the time. Be kind to everyone you meet, as that person may be going through a secret struggle.

C. There are varying degrees of PTSD, yes some people are affected enough to not leave the house. I am fortunate enough this isn’t my case, but a lot of people can get out, everyone’s triggers are different, and everyone reacts differently when triggered.

D. My message to anyone with PTSD: please please please get help, or please put a close one in touch with help. The treatments work, you can get the treatments on the NHS (and maybe even through your work), and via Private facilities. I have put two links below to two very helpful websites:

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Post-traumatic-stress-disorder/Pages/Treatment.aspx

http://www.ptsduk.org/

So, here is my story:

I was in an abusive relationship from the age of 18 for 3 years. If you google abuse, you will find five types; I experienced four- emotional, physical, religious, sexual…and I assume if my relationship had entered into marriage…financial.

When it comes to expressing my feelings about what happened to me, I became the master at making people think that everything was ok. But behind closed doors, I was in shock, mentally and physically… for years.

Friends that were around at time, had no idea what was happening to me, and neither did my own parents. In the aftermath, I buried everything, out of protection for the people around me, and because I was still trying process what had happened me. Physically, I was already showing signs of my mental state; being diagnosed with a lung condition because acid had mysteriously tipped into my lungs (looking back, potentially caused by the fight or flight, cortisol/stress, or something similar).

During all of this, I somehow managed to completed 2 degree’s (to a high standard), completed a summer on Camp as a leader in America, and Produced a year-long theatre production ….however, I was secretly drowning, and I couldn’t find a way to swim back to shore.

Fast forward, and 3 years ago, I started having panic attacks (4 years after I was well clear of the danger). At first these happened during the day, then started happening during my sleep. At times, this also came with an inability to speak, which there no physical explanation was for. It culminated in a trip to A & E, as my brain basically broke down. Before all of this, I had never had a panic attack, and I was not an anxious person.

A few months later, I was formally diagnosed with PTSD by my consultant, and after a wait, because of a bipolar 2 disorder diagnosis at the same time, I started EMDR treatment.

EMDR is AMAZING. FULL. STOP. It works by processing traumatic images that are stuck on one side of the brain, which couldn’t process themselves. When triggered, these images are like reliving the trauma (the image pops back up in your head). My therapist grades my disturbance on a scale of 1-10, and then uses my eye movements to process the images (by waving her fingers in front of my eyes). The idea is that the disturbance level decreases each time/ over time. It seems to be working for me; my therapist went over the list of problems I came to her with 2 months ago, and we checked a lot off the list! J

My therapist has also cleared up something important for me, which I want to pass on. I walked around trying to understand why I froze…why I just froze. My therapist said:

‘When things we cannot process at the time are happening to us, there is a survival instinct that makes us freeze…. After years of trying to figure it out, why someone so strong natured…just froze… now I understand. I hope that thought helps someone else out there, still trying to understand. We were trying to survive.’

With all the help I have been given, and the support of everyone close to me, I have managed to find a way to forgive my abuser, not for his sake, but for mine. I was carrying around a lot of hate and anger, and it was taking me down, from the inside. I am not suggesting this will work for everyone, but it has for me. I can move on now knowing that karma will one day kick in…and God is watching everything.

To conclude, yes, sometimes I feel like a ticking time bomb, and yes, I have to be vigilant of potential triggers right now, (I carry a bottle of cinnamon with me, in case I feel overwhelmed: using a sense to distract the brain), and I think I will always struggle to tell my friends what really happened (but they have been amazing), but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I didn’t think I’d be able to say this 3 months ago, but bring on my knight in shining armour…ok ok…. maybe just a date, with a nice boy…in Nandos restaurant and a life full of my fulfilling dreams. Bring.it.on.

‘Back from the edge, back from the dead

Back before demons took control of my head

Back to the start, back to my heart

Back to the [girl] who would reach for the stars’

– James Arthur

My article for Self Harm UK- ‘I don’t want to hide anymore (about stigma)’

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I am delighted to announce a blog collaboration with the amazing charity Self Harm UK (a part of Youthscape).

I have written a blog for them on my experience of mental health stigma as an ill teenager and what made me speak out further. In the past, I have had self harming thoughts and I myself like reaching out to teens and young people who are suffering out there- so they know they are not alone. I am so pleased to collaborate with Self Harm UK on this and my article can be found here:

Click here to read my article:

https://www.selfharm.co.uk/articles/i-dont-want-to-hide-anymore

Who are Self Harm UK?

From their website selfharm.co.uk:

‘ SelfharmUK (formally selfharm.co.uk) started out of the work of Youthscape, a local charity based in Luton, Bedfordshire, UK. Since it’s beginnings in 1993, the charity has developed a strong and professional reputation for delivering caring, child-centred work, which focuses on the emotional and social needs of all young people. Youthscape works alongside all young people, regardless of race, background, or faith.

By 2004, Youthscapes’s work increasingly involved young people engaging in self-harm. It wasn’t long before a plan began to form to try and reach them them, starting with the provision of informal support groups in local schools. With the help of funding from BBC Children in Need and other grant-making Trusts, the project was able to appoint a specialist staff team in 2005 and develop a more coherent provision that included art projects and therapeutic group programmes. Training and advice for parents and professionals soon followed, in conjunction with the Local Authority and local schools.

In 2008, Youthscape responded to the growing number of enquiries for support and advice coming from outside Luton by beginning to plan for a national project that could support young people from all over the UK. Further planning and fund raising led to the establishment of SelfharmUK later that year and the appointment of a Project Manager

The development of a website was a key part of our initial vision… to have a safe online space available to inform and support young people who self-harm, as well as cater for the needs of their siblings, parents and friends. We also wanted to provide information and training for professionals like youth workers, teachers and social workers.

We wanted to create a safe, pro-recovery site for people to use to communicate with others and express their experiences through the use of blogs, stories, poetry and art. Our next goal was to develop an online group programme – Alumina – which has enabled young people from all over the UK to engage with our staff in real time in order to explore the deeper issues surrounding self-harm. For some it had been the catalyst needed to reduce or stop their harming behaviour, while for others it has proven empowering, enabling them to seek further support in their local area.

We already have a multimedia training programme available to professionals in the UK. Our ongoing vision is to see this rolled out more comprehensively; to serve every part of the UK in supporting and nurturing young people who may be experiencing difficulties with self-harm.

There remains much to be done but we remain committed to improving the lives of anyone impacted by self-harm. Providing effective support for parents and siblings will be a major goal in the near future.

For now, the project remains part of Youthscape as a separate element of this registered charity.’