Why Writing therapy helps : Guest Post by Amy Hutson, Counsellor

writing therapy
(image: Amy Hutson)

I first started using writing therapy without really knowing what it was when I was having a tough time at school. There was something valuable about getting my thoughts down on to a page, instead of spinning around my head that helped to make sense of everything.

Since training as a counsellor many years later, I came across writing therapy and took some training in how to use it with clients. I’ve found it can be very powerful, alongside therapy or even on its own.

But what is writing therapy?

Writing therapy or expressive writing is basically writing as fast as you can without worrying about grammar or whether it makes sense. It might sound a bit odd, but it taps into your unconscious thoughts and can be cathartic writing things down, as well as helping to come up with answers to something you’ve been struggling with.

In the 1980s James W. Pennebaker was the first person to research how writing therapy helps and he set the challenge of asking people to write about their most traumatic experiences over four consecutive days. The results of the study were staggering, people felt much better both mentally and physically. So much so that people made less visits to the doctor at about half their usual rate, after the experiment.

So how can you use writing therapy?

There are lots of different techniques I use with clients, depending on what issue it is we’re discussing or what I think might be helpful to them. But here are a few things you could try at home and if it ever feels a bit too painful what you’re writing, you can stop at any time or write about something that feels safer.

Journalling

If you’ve never tried writing in a stream-of-conscious style of writing in a journal, I’d recommend starting here. Some people like to buy a lovely notebook and find a quiet space to write, sometimes at the beginning or at the end of the day. Then the idea is to write about whatever comes to mind. Even if you start by just writing ‘blah blah blah’, you will probably find something insightful will come up if you just keep writing and don’t stop to think. If writing every day feels too much, you could try writing whenever you feel you need to – it could be you’ve had a really rough day and want somewhere to vent or maybe something incredible happened and you want to record and remember it.

The unsent letter

The unsent letter can be powerful when you want to say something to someone but feel you can’t. It might be you’re angry or upset with someone and you’re holding on to those strong emotions, because you feel unable to share them. So, you simply write everything you want to say to this person in a letter without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings, because it’s not going to be sent. Writing it alone can really help, but it can also be used as a way of getting your thoughts together before confronting someone in a less emotional state.

If you want to take this one step further, you could write a letter back to yourself from the other person. The results can be surprising, as they can offer another perspective to the situation you might not have thought of.

Quick lists

Writing lists quickly and without editing them can be helpful and used in lots of different ways. Say you’re feeling anxious, you could start a list like:

I’m really anxious about:

  • My new job
  • Lack of sleep
  • Bad diet

Rather than just focusing on the anxiety, writing a list can sometimes help uncover what might be causing it, which you could then explore further in a journal, with a friend or a counsellor.

Another example of a quick list which can help if you’re feeling low is:

Three good things that happened today:

  • I got through the day at work despite little sleep
  • I met a friend for coffee
  • I went to the gym

Writing therapy really helps my clients and it could help you too!

 

Amy Hutson is a counsellor and writing therapist, who offers therapy in Hove and worldwide on Skype. For more details visit www.amyhutsoncounselling.co.uk

 

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Dating with a Mental Illness: for Glamourmagazine.co.uk by our founder Eleanor

Here is an extract from an article I wrote for Glamour UK Magazine (online) which was a dream come true. It is my true story about what dating with bipolar and social anxiety is like. I hope it helps you. For full article see link at the end:

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(image: from stock and Glamour)

According to the mental health charity, Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England alone, 1 in 6 people report experiencing depression or anxiety every single week. Eleanor Segall is one of those six, having lived with bipolar disorder for 13 years. Here, she shares her candid account of what so many millennials struggle with every single day: finding love while secretly battling a mental health disorder. Eleanor reveals in honest detail the judgement she faced in her quest for “The One” and how she finally learnt to open up about the taboo illness and let herself fall in love.

“I sat on my bed with tears running down my face. ‘I have something to tell you’, I said to my boyfriend, two months into dating.

“It isn’t easy and I wanted to tell you sooner but I didn’t want to share it too soon. Three years ago, I was hospitalised for my bipolar disorder. I didn’t want to tell you, in case you saw me differently or thought I was ‘crazy’. I wanted you to get to know me for me and see my personality and who I really am without it.”

He looked at me with genuine care and said, “Eleanor it doesn’t matter. I want to be with you for you, the fact you have an illness doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I want to be educated on it. Tell me more.”

So, for two hours, I told him everything. I told him how I had been diagnosed at 16 with bipolar affective disorder and how it may run in my family. I told him there could be times when I would be unwell with severe depression or mania and would have to stop working, that I had had psychosis in the past – but that I was medicated with Lithium and anti depressants to hold my moods.

I told him I had been hospitalised as a teenager and, at aged 25, my life had been far from easy, but that the love of my family and support from my medical team, had saved my life. He listened, supported and held no stigma towards me or my illness. It was a revelation after many years of dating men that may not have always understood how best to support me or for whom I was not ‘the one’.

With disclosure of a mental health condition and because I was diagnosed so young, there were many years of dating fear for me. I feared others judgement of the fact I had bipolar and at times this turned into anxiety prior to going on dates.

I was worried that people would think I was different or not worthy enough and when I look back, that is because I was struggling to deal with how I saw myself. As a teenager, you don’t want to be different, you want to fit in and as I reached my early 20’s, I began to be very anxious about dating. My self esteem had taken a battering as well as I had had my heart broken in a past relationship, which led to depression and anxiety.

I survived the heartbreak, however, I knew that I wanted to settle down with someone and have a family, but I didn’t know if it would ever be possible. Particularly after I was in hospital, I had no idea whether there would be a man who could deal with my illness and all it can entail.

There were so many times when I cancelled dates (often blind ones set up through well meaning friends or family) because I would get so nervous, my heart would race and I would be terrified that they would see through the well cultivated veneer. On first and second dates particularly I always felt I was hiding something: my mental health past.

But I wasn’t alone. According to the mental health charity, Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England alone, 1 in 6 people report experiencing depression or anxiety each week.

Celebrities including Stephen Fry, Britney Spears, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Demi Lovato have all talked about their struggles with bipolar disorder.

A year and a half after I left hospital and had recovered, I began to date again and signed up to an online dating website to meet new people, set up through acquaintances. The social anxiety was at its height and I often had to cancel dates two or three times before meeting. Some men gave up on me due to this, but some understood.

A year and a half after being fully back on the dating scene, I met my current boyfriend. We clicked from our first date in a coffee shop and our second date (drinks at a lovely local pub).

Read more and full article here: http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/dating-with-a-mental-illness

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

Cupcake mit Kerze und die Zahl 2
(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

Life Whirlwind: Mental Health Writing, Blogging and Speaking, Bipolar Disorder and a trip to Romania.

michelle1

(image: Pinterest)

The past few weeks have been incredibly busy- but exciting. This month has been a bit of a rebirth in many ways. My writing and blogging have truly taken off and been published in various different places- this month my story is in Happiful Magazine, two articles for Metro on mental health (www.metro.co.uk), I shared my story in the Jewish News here in the UK and online at STOP Suicide. It has been Time to Talk Day (about mental health), Childrens Mental Health Awareness Week and I have also volunteered this month with Jami (Jewish Association of Mental Illness) Mental Health Awareness Shabbat, which this year came to around 97 Jewish communities in the UK. I attended the panel event at a local community centre and discussion was had on mental health here in the UK, by experts including my friend Jonny Benjamin.

This month, I have also been asked by a friend to come in and talk to his work place about living with anxiety and what it means. So that is hugely exciting for me! I am also writing a mental health article for a top womens magazine- which is a dream of mine. I hope to share that with you when its published.  I have been writing sample chapters for a book too and am in the limbo phase of waiting to hear what editors think.

So, its been a total whirlwind really as I have also been running my blog here and sharing peoples stories (and last month this blog was nominated as a finalist for a UK Blog Award). I was also asked last week if a social media editor could turn my story into a video for her 200 thousand followers so that is in process too. I had not ascertained how much interest there would be in my story.

Professionally, a lot is changing and I have to be very much aware to look after my mental health, to get enough sleep and rest, to make sure I take my tablets on time, to eat well and do some gentle exercise and to see and speak to my friends (and boyfriend of course). I have to keep grounded and rested in order to function effectively. Last week, the Jewish News article came out and I know it has had a positive ripple effect in my community- as my Mum was stopped in the pharmacy for people to talk to her about it. So thats exciting.

I am a shy person at heart and I have written extensively on having social anxiety. When my JN article came out, i actually felt very anxious at first and wanted to hide away. Mental health stigma is still present in my community and I felt scared. But I needn’t have worried as the reaction has been very positive!

michelle2

I am still processing all thats going on and I am lucky to have a really good therapist and family/ boyfriend support network to help me deal with the changes going on. I am still adjusting to the financial side of being a freelance writer and pitching to editors at different places. My latest Metro article on child grief came out on Friday and you can read it here: http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/02/children-often-get-sidelined-when-a-family-experiences-loss-why-its-important-we-talk-to-pupils-in-schools-about-grief-7270002/

Over the weekend, I went with my Dad to Iasi, Romania (on the border with Moldova) which is where my great Grandpa and his family were from. It was an eye opening trip- the city is grand and full of culture. However, as Jews we had relatives who died in the Holocaust and found this out using the Yad Vashem Holocaust database when we came back. It was great seeing Iasi but also sad as some of our relatives were taken from there to be killed – but an eye opening trip.

Today, I am feeling thankful and grateful for all thats going on and thankful for you who are reading and following and commenting- and enjoying my work.

With love, Eleanor x

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

happifulmag
(image: E Segall and Happiful Magazine)

Hi everyone,

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

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

As I say in my article,

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

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

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

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(image: Pinterest)

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

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

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

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

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