Beginning the Conversation: On my Mums Depression- Guest post by Sarah for Time to Talk Day

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Note : Please read with care- Trigger warning (suicidal thoughts)

When a topic of conversation hits the mainstream, it becomes easier to understand and it spawns more conversations. It snowballs.

Right now, we’re living in a time when society is more open than ever about mental health. Issues are not swept under the rug (as much as they used to be, at least), and life-changing conversations are being had. For me, these conversations on Time To Talk day tend to be amongst friends. It feels…easier, to be open with them.

But what about having a discussion with your parents? What is it like to talk about mental health with a mother or father who has struggled, or currently is struggling with their mental health?

It’s tough. I will tell you that now. But it is important.

I know this because my mum has had depression for 12 years. The best way that I can describe her depression, whilst remembering that every experience is unique, is that it is like a cloud. Some days it can be lighter, and almost brighter, though still casting some shade.

Other days it can be dark, foreboding, and cast its shadow over any and all. The darkest time for her, and for our family, was at the beginning of her depression. It was during that time that I nearly lost my mum at 14.

I could almost say that she actually was lost to our family, if only for a while. I lived with a woman who looked like her, and sounded like her. But her words and actions were foreign and strange to me. Her drive and her energy seemed to vanish overnight, and a woman sitting in the dark, who felt like she had nothing to give, took her place.

I remember going to school, walking past her open bedroom door and saying goodbye to her as she lay in bed. At that time, when I asked her if she would be getting up that day, the only response I heard was:

 

“No.”

 

Those conversations were short. They definitely weren’t sweet.

She struggled. I struggled. My brother struggled. My dad struggled. We were desperate for her to get better, and feared that she’d never make it out of the dark. Eventually, with help though, she did. But, while she is now in a better place, there are still highs and lows.

Because I was so young at the time, I never really spoke to my mum about her illness. Life carried on for me, and a new status quo emerged. But over time, we began to talk.

They still weren’t nice conversations, but they were a start. My mum told me how she felt suicidal, as she lay there in bed. At the time, she said it so matter-of-factly that it sounded blasé to my teenage ears. This revelation stung, and I couldn’t understand a simple question. Why?

Why would she want to do this to me? Why would she want to leave her two children without a mother? Why would she want to leave behind a husband who loved, cared for and adored her? These questions swam in my head for years, and I was incredibly angry with her as I saw it as some form of maternal betrayal. I thought she was selfish.

As I’ve gotten older and talked to her even more about this, my views have changed. I realised that my response was selfish. She explained to me that her depression made her feel so worthless, and so useless, that she would in fact be doing us all a favour by leaving our lives.

I’ve also realised that I’m incredibly lucky, because a lot of parents sadly succumb to this insidious disease. This needs to change.

That’s why I’m writing about this today.

That’s why I still talk to my mum about how she’s feeling. That’s why my brother calls me and lets me know when she’s feeling low, which is a common occurrence in winter for a lot of people with depression. As I live far from home, he reminds me that a quick conversation to ask about her day, tell her about mine, and maybe even make her laugh makes all the difference.

If you are, or have been in my situation, I urge you to talk to your mum or dad. I urge you to talk to your friends and family, because it can be a huge burden to carry alone. It’s like I said, when more people talk about something, it becomes easier to understand. When we understand the problem, we can start to treat it.

If you’d like to find out more about having these conversations, you can do so by visiting the Time To Talk website. They have a range of materials that can help you take that first step, and start talking.

This article was written by Sarah, a mental health writer for Time to Talk Day 2019. You can find her at : 

http://pandorashealth.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/PandoraHealth

www.instagram.com/pandorashealth/

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Song of the Day: How I learnt to manage my Depression: Guest post by Mallory Gothelf for Time to Talk Day

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(image: BrainyQuote)

Hi, I’m Mallory and today I am sharing my story for Time to Talk Day .

From the ages of 15 to 17 I didn’t speak very often, and when I did, my voice came out stifled. With the onset of a depressive episode, one of the first things to go is my ability to speak. I find it difficult to form sentences, and utterly draining to have to speak out loud. Even writing becomes increasingly more difficult. My illness robs me of words, the tool I most often turn to when attempting to write and claim my story. I’m quick to shut down when I feel the rumbling of inner turmoil.

It makes it awfully difficult to communicate with me; friends and family often feel left on the outskirts, unsure of what to say or do. And even with improved coping mechanisms, and countless therapy sessions under my belt, I find that even a whiff of depression causes a knee-jerk reaction to shut the blinds, so nobody can see through me.

When I was in my first diagnosed year of depression, my brother started sending me a “song of the day”. He would email me a link to a YouTube video, with a song he hoped would tap into my inner workings. He believed that even muted by hopelessness and despair, there was one language that would break down my emotional barriers: music.

Each day I looked forward to the songs he would send, always carefully selected to reflect my struggle. We had created an emotional connection through lyrics and the kick of a bass.

Music has always been something that speaks to me on a level that feels deeper than some of my peers. I’m one of those people who wants you to be quiet when I’m showing you a new song, so as to fully appreciate its beauty. I’m one of those people who can feel goosebumps prick the surface of their skin, when the perfect note is sung. And I’m most certainly one of those people who can be propelled out of bed with a beat that you can actually feel in your veins. Music has always made sense to me, and I loved how my brother was able to tap into that piece of my identity, and speak to me when I didn’t have any words of my own to offer.

Fast forward to the present day, and I still find myself trapped in the thick brick walls that I have painstakingly built around myself. Knocking down walls that thick requires effort, and even if I want to let a person in, I can barely push the walls open wide enough for them to slip in. It has put a strain on many friendships, but one in particular really struggled from a lack of open communication. We came to what felt like a dead end in our discussion to improve communication. And that’s when I looked back and found a detour that would lead straight into my heart and mind. Music.

Most people have songs that spark an emotional reaction within. For me, music is strongly intertwined with memory and emotional energy. If I could pick one song each day to send to my friend, perhaps it would shed some light on my state of being. If she sent one back, maybe I would better understand where her mind was in that moment. It was a way to have intimate communication when words were difficult to find. I texted her my idea, hoping this would be enough to show her I was committed to growing, without having to emerge from my fortress too quickly.

We have sent each other songs back and forth, learning about one another from every track selected and played. We ask each other questions about what the song means to us in general, or at that specific point in time. We talk about how it may be the beat or the lyrics that drive that particular song home for us. We discuss topics we wouldn’t breath otherwise. It’s an invitation that says, “Hey, I want you to come closer. I want you to hear me and know me”. And there aren’t any rules. You can send multiple songs if that better captures your day. It’s an open process that lacks structure, empowering us to communicate freely, with love and understanding.

My walls still remain intact, but their structure is starting to weaken a bit. Some days I’ll still add more bricks, and others days I’ll knock a whole bunch loose. When robbed of my ability to use words, I lose all sense of connection to the world around me. Music throws a line of connection my way, and it’s helping me find healthy communication in my every day. If you ever meet me someday, I’d love to exchange songs, so we can really get to know one another.

Mallory told us: ‘I have had a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder for 9 years. I was given both diagnoses at the age of 15. I have also more recently been given tentative diagnoses of disordered eating and OCD tendencies. I currently take medication for my anxiety, but no longer take antidepressants after years of painful side effects. I currently engage in therapy once a week, and follow a treatment plan that focuses on nutrition, exercise, meditation, DBT skills, and creative coping. I also want to acknowledge that I do not see anything wrong with medication, and it absolutely has a wonderful place in treating mental illness.’

Mallory Gothelf is a mental health advocate in recovery, a blogger at  https://www.theinfiniteproject-mallorysfight.com/ . 

She can be found online @mallorysfight

 

4 Helpful Treatment Options for those who suffer from PTSD- Guest post by Rachelle Wilber

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that affects people who’ve experienced major trauma events. Common among military service members who’ve fought in combat zones, PTSD can also affect people who’ve lived through other terrifying episodes that have resulted in physical and/or mental harm. If you believe that you suffer from PTSD, you can work with a therapist and try any of these four different treatment methods to overcome the condition.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

This type of therapy works to alter thought patterns that often cause people to relive the traumatic events in their minds. As Mayo Clinic states, the goal of cognitive behavioural therapy is to make you more aware of negative or inaccurate thoughts so that you can adopt a healthier perspective of challenging situations and respond in a better way. Undergoing this therapy may also help prevent relapses that could jeopardise your mental health.

Exposure Therapy

Your therapist may also try exposing you to things that trigger traumatic thoughts as a way to alleviate them. This is done in a safe way, and your mental health care provider will be there to help you process your thoughts and feelings and give you tools to overcome your anguish. You may be shown pictures, see writings or even revisit a place where the traumatic episode occurred. Gradually, these negative thoughts should lose their power and cause you less mental grief the more that you’re exposed to them.

Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Also known as EMDR therapy, this treatment method involves recalling distressing thoughts while a therapist’s fingers move in front of your face. You’ll be asked to follow these finger movements with your eyes while discussing your feelings, however, you generally won’t be required to talk about your thoughts in great detail.

Some therapists use foot or hand tapping or musical notes instead of finger movements in front of the face. This more active approach to therapy is intended to minimise the effects of bad thoughts.

Medication

Medication is sometimes prescribed by mental health professionals to work in conjunction with other types of therapy. Prozac, Zoloft and similar antidepressant medications are formulated to boost serotonin levels in the brain to alleviate negative thoughts and emotions. Your doctor may also prescribe Depakote to stabilize your moods. Prazosin often works well in stopping nightmares.

You don’t have to continue letting PTSD dominate a large part of your life. Seeking professional help and undergoing any of these therapies will likely give you positive results.

 

This article was written by freelance writer Rachelle Wilber from San Diego, California

5 Years, Anxiety and Keeping Well (by Eleanor)

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(image https://mandibelle16.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/poem-free-verse-hope-scarred-amwriting-poetry/:)

Thanks to all who voted for this article on Facebook and who have supported me these past 5 years and beyond. I love you all.

I cannot believe that this year (in March) is 5 years since I was hospitalised as a 25 year old for my bipolar disorder. For those of you who know my story, I became unwell with an episode of severe mania within a number of days, which featured psychosis-losing touch with reality and agitation. Its likely that my old medicines stopped working and I started believing delusions that werent real.

When I was hospitalised, I eventually went to the QE2 hospital in Welwyn, Hertfordshire (which has now been knocked down and now based in Radlett!). The support I had from the psychiatrist, nursing team, OTs, ward manager and all the staff was incredible and they   really believed that I would get well again. I cannot have been easy to deal with, due to the mania and the fact I was pacing around all the time, singing and in my own little world. Their kindness and help really helped me recover properly- as did the visits and love from family and friends.

I spent 4 months as an inpatient at Welwyn and then a further 4 months in outpatient treatment at a Day Hospital unit in Watford. The day hospital was very beneficial to me and helped me to start on my new medication and process all that had happened. I had help from a very special care coordinator and support worker once I had been discharged from day hospital. My care coordinator helped me so much and was so kind and caring.

Recovery is never linear and its something I have to work at every single day. There will always be life stresses that can trigger my anxiety and depression (and potentially a lesser manic episode, although the mania hasn’t happened yet thank g-d). I still struggle with my anxiety disorder and panic attacks in the mornings sometimes. I believe this is as a result of all the trauma that is involved with being sectioned, being an inpatient and having to rebuild my life after. I had social anxiety anyway, as part of the depressive part of the bipolar, but I still believe that even though I have had talking therapy, that my brain is still processing the trauma. Mental health wards are not fun places to live, as you can imagine and despite the staff trying to make it as calm as possible.

I will get triggered with my panic by certain things- like social events or job interviews and I may not always know fully why- it could be subconscious, or I realise it after. I am still rebuilding my self esteem and the love for myself. Anyone who goes through a severe episode of mental illness will tell you that its hard to separate the illness from yourself. Bipolar from Eleanor.

I have incredible friends, my fiance and family who can separate it. Yet, there are times where we all don’t feel good enough. Where  we want to hide even though we are capable of more than we know.

So in these 5 years I have been learning to love me, to think and act on hope, recovery and the future. I have learnt to build self care tools and relaxation into my days if I feel overwhelmed or to stop me from getting too stressed. I have been blessed to have found my life partner and developed my career- although my illness has put my career on hold many times and I have had to reinvent myself. However, I am starting slowly to find the light in the dark.

This is where the phrase ‘Be Ur Own Light’ comes from- to find the inner strength to carry on.

There have been many times when I have wanted to give up. Where I have been hurting and have felt inadequate. When I felt no one would want to date me  or that I wasn’t good enough for a career. Because how could I tell people what had happened to me without them thinking I was a ‘fruitloop’? That was my logic.

Thats why I started to write. I write to heal. I write to explain, educate and battle stigma. I write to make sense of my own mind. I write as a job but also to make a difference in the world and I hope I will do that through my book and blogs/ articles.

In the past 5 years, aside from work and my mental health advocacy, I have been travelling again which always brings me joy. I have been to Rome (Italy) , Prague (Czech Republic), Madeira (with Charlotte), Israel (with Rob), Portugal and Romania. I have stayed at my Dads and explored the Cotswolds and gone on holiday to the beach at Broadstairs with Anna and family. I have seen theatre shows, amazing movies and read some fantastic books. I have found a life partner. I have secured a book deal, volunteered for Jami to launch their mental health shabbat, worked with the Judith Trust and my blog is growing. Being published in Glamour, Metro, Happiful, the Telegraph and the Jewish News were major highlights and finding an incredibly supportive community on Twitter too.

Life is not all hard and sad. Yes, there are times when I have found it a nightmare with my anxiety disorder. I am 100% still a work in progress- recovery isnt easy.

I have had to work on my self esteem in therapy. I have had 6 months of psychodynamic therapy. I read self help books. I should exercise and go out more (working on this).

But:

I am not severely depressed or manic. I can hold down part time work, often from home. These 5 years have taught me that I may always have some degree of anxiety- particularly about past events which effect how I react currently. I need to learn how to heal from this and I hope in time I will.

If you had told me 5 years ago I would be writing a book of my life story and been published in national newspapers I would have laughed at you. I am getting married in July and I can’t wait (and also would have probably laughed at you too).

Anxiety is horrible by the way. Your heart races, you get flooded with adrenaline, you fixate on the fear and want it to go away. You feel sweaty and clammy and you may shake. You need to rush to the toilet. It stops you from sleeping. It stops you from living your best life. So I don’t want to trivialise it here. Its a struggle at times and its disruptive to life.

The pain of anxiety, depression and bipolar is matched by my hope and my belief that I will still achieve despite it. Yes there will be difficulties and bumps along the way, but today I am choosing to look towards the sun. 

          

How to Manage Bipolar Disorder in the Workplace: Guest blog by Ralph Macey

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(image: bphope.com)

People with bipolar disorder face a major problem in maintaining a good job performance at work due to frequent mood shifts (from high moods to extremely low moods). High moods are characterised by mania and hypomania. On the other hand, low moods are characterised by depression. These mood shifts create several types of challenges in the social, professional, and personal life of the people.

Bipolar disorder can make it very difficult for a person to get or keep a job especially if the symptoms are hampering day-to-day functioning, and if they also have anxiety.

In a recent survey, it has been found that 88% of the individuals with bipolar disorder face problems in maintaining a decent work performance. Around 58% of the people have stopped working altogether.

It’s a fact that bipolar disorder brings many challenges that can hamper work productivity. However, qualified psychiatrists specialising in bipolar disorder say that it’s possible to get and maintain a job while having a bipolar disorder by following a few tips. Let’s talk about them today.

 

How to get and maintain a job with bipolar disorder

1. Don’t volunteer to disclose your medical information to the employer during the interview. Employers have full right to decide if you can do the job properly. But they can’t ask confidential questions to you.

2. As per the Americans with Disabilities Act, (and other disability legislation around the world like her in the UK), employers can’t force you to give a medical exam or check your medical records. They also can’t ask you questions regarding your medical history. Moreover, this Act forbids any kind of discrimination on the basis of perceived or actual disability. So it’s better you read the rules and regulations of this Act before going for a job interview.

3. Try to avoid talking about your past. Instead, talk about your current capability of doing a job properly.

4. Ask about health insurance after getting a job. Just review the benefits information before accepting the job officially.

5. If your mental illness becomes an issue for the employer once in the job, then bring a letter from your psychiatrist that gives a general outline of the treatment you’re undergoing. Request that the psychiatrist issues a letter where it’s clearly written how much you can cope with at work. You can read the letter before giving it to the employer. 

How to keep a job with bipolar disorder

It’s a myth that you can’t be successful at work with a bipolar disorder. There are several things you can do to control your mood swings and manage your work. Let’s talk about them in detail now.

1. Take medicines as instructed: Even if you’re extremely productive during a manic high, don’t skip your medicines. That is not advisable as you can become unwell too with your mania.  Don’t stop taking medicines even when you feel well for several months. Remember, medicines keep all your symptoms under control. When you stop taking medicines, your symptoms can reappear and aggravate your mental illness.

Bipolar disorder medications have some side effects. Some medications cause drowsiness. This makes it quite difficult to focus on work. Speak to a psychiatrist specialising in bipolar disorder about this issue if you feel too sleepy at work. Ask if you can change the time you take the medication. Learn about the various strategies to combat drowsiness so that you can give your 100% at work.

2. Relax a little bit: Take short breaks between work regularly. Take a short walk during the lunch break. Listen to music that uplifts your mood. Take deep breathing. All these things help you to relax, especially if you are low or have anxiety .

3. Lead a healthy lifestyle: Exercise regularly to keep your mind and body fit. Eat healthy and nutritious food. Have adequate sleep at night. If possible, try to sleep for 8-12 hours at home. Try to avoid eating unhealthy food. A healthy lifestyle can help you manage bipolar disorder both at home and work, by making you feel at your best.

4. Organise your tasks:   Bipolar can at times interfere with work functioning.This means your mind may not cooperate with you on a regular basis. Try to organise your tasks. I

Create a ‘to-do’ list on the Google calendar and check if each task has been completed. Whenever you fail to finish a particular task on a specific date, move it to the next date on the calendar. This way you’ll remember about the unfinished task. Divide big projects into small tasks. It will be easier for you to manage them.

If you are struggling, you can speak to your work HR if they are understanding.

 

Should you inform your employer? The eternal dilemma

Let’s accept it. There is a social stigma attached to mental health, however many employers are becoming more understanding and the stigma is lessening. Your medical information is something confidential and private. Obviously, you may not want to share it with everyone. You don’t need to talk about your mental health openly at work if you don’t want.

However, if your boss or line manager is cooperative and a good human being, then you can have a conversation with him or her. When you need to take leave for doctor appointments, your boss will understand and give you a day off without issue.

 

Conclusion

Don’t panic. Don’t feel that you’re less than anyone because of your bipolar. Your mental disorder doesn’t define you. Your work is not the only thing you have in your life. Spend quality time with your friends and family and volunteer to help others.

If you have a good conversation with your employers and/or your doctor/ occupational health, you may be able to manage at work.

#MyDepressionMeans: How my hashtag inspired others fighting depression : Jewish News Article extract by our founder Eleanor Segall

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On 17 December, I was sitting at home thinking about my depression. I have bipolar disorder, which is well controlled on medication; however, often in the winter I am prone to depression, partly owing to the lack of light. This means things start to feel hopeless and I have less energy. Symptoms of depression affect everyone differently. I had started feeling low and my job is not the most social, so I felt a little isolated.

I’ve been active on Twitter for a while, posting about mental health, bipolar, anxiety and sharing my story with the world via Metro and other newspapers, to battle the stigma. I had a brainwave – why not start a hashtag that can help others share their own experiences of depression? There had to be lots of us out there, feeling the same way and feeling like they needed to talk.

Seeing as waiting list times for therapy are growing longer and longer, I decided to see if others wanted to share what their depression means to them. So, the hashtag #MyDepressionMeans was born.

I shared this message:

‘I’ve been struggling with depression lately but I know how supportive the twitter community is. Thought we could use the hashtag #MyDepressionMeans and share experiences to help everyone feel less alone. #MyDepressionMeans I get up later than normal and feel hopeless. Please Retweet’

To drum up support for the hashtag, I messaged my fellow mental health campaigners and charities to see if they would get behind it.

Amazingly, charities Rethink Mental Illness, the Mental Health Foundation, the Shaw Mind Foundation and mental health publisher Trigger Publishing all got behind it and retweeted to their thousands of followers asking people to share their own experiences.

People from all over the world began sharing their symptoms of depression and what it meant for them. I am amazed that my tweet has been liked nearly 400 times and retweeted over 150 times, with around 450 responses of people sharing about their mental health.

It was important to me that when sharing this, it was done in a safe space. You can never predict if Twitter trolls will hijack the thread, but amazingly there was so much love, support and understanding.

There was an outpouring of hundreds of people, most whom I had never met, sharing about their illness, some of whom had never done so before.

What touched me the most was a video recorded by a woman who was sharing about her depression for the first time – and who was empowered to keep on sharing, owing to the phenomenal response.

By creating the hashtag, I had something people could share. This is down to the incredible mental health community and unique online support network.

 

Read the rest at: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/mydepressionmeans-how-my-hashtag-inspired-others-fighting-depression/

2018 Round up: The year that has been: New Year by Eleanor

 

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When I look back at this year, 2018, I don’t fully know where to start. It has been one of the most meaningful, eventful, and wonderful years of my life so far, but there have also been sad times.

Outside of work, this year was a very special one as back in April, my fiance Robert proposed to me at the Shard, overlooking London. I said yes and 8 months later we are in the middle of wedding planning and planning for our future (and I found my wedding dress!). The proposal was the most amazing thing to happen this year. Also, two of my best friends got engaged and for one we were involved in the proposal and got to see him propose so that was fantastic!  I am looking forward to the weddings 🙂 We also celebrated other friends 30th birthdays, engagements and weddings this year as well as many births of their children which was so wonderful.

Sadly this year, we lost my beloved Grandma in June to Parkinsons disease and I miss her every single day- we were very close.  A month ago, my Grandpa (on the other side of family) passed away after a short battle with cancer, but I was able to fly to Portugal where he lived and see him before he passed and give him a hug, so that was very important. There is also family illness occurring, my father in law to be is very unwell with cancer and mid treatment- and this is very hard for us all but trying to be a positive as possible!

Back in February, My Dad and I went to Romania to the town of Iasi, to explore where our ancestors lived. There was a lot of snow and walking around palaces and churches and finding the synagogues. When we came back, we discovered that my Great grandpas sister and family died in Moldova across the border, at the hands of the Nazis (via the Yad Vashem online database) A very bittersweet trip but we were pleased to see Iasi.

In happier news, after celebrating our engagement with those we love, in July, my fiance Rob and I went on holiday to Israel which was really wonderful. We stayed with close friends and family and also in hotels and had a really special, meaningful, fun and sunshine filled trip! A personal highlight – the swimming pool at the InterContinental hotel in Tel Aviv and of course, walking through the Old City while sipping iced coffee (it was so hot) and visiting the Kotel. When we came back, we spent a weekend in the Cotswolds at my dad with family- a lovely escape. This year too, I also read some great books (like Michelle Obamas autobiography) and watched some fab films/ theatre shows.

In July, I celebrated my 30th birthday with friends and family (thanks Katie for my delicious birthday cake) and then this December, we celebrated Robs 30th birthday at London Zoo light trail.

This year work wise, has been a blessing- I managed (somehow) to secure a book deal which has been a lifelong dream and am working with the fab team at Trigger Publishing and my patient editor Stephanie- thanks to her, Katie and James for their support as I continue to tap away at my keyboard.

Before 2018 began I was in touch with Naomi Greenaway at the Telegraph (Stella Magazine). Thank you Naomi for helping me to tell and share my story in a sensitive way. It was an honour for me to be featured online at the Telegraph and for my story to reach new readers.

Back in January, I met a wonderful editor on Twitter, Yvette Caster, who was looking for new writers for Metro Blogs (as it was then). She looked at this here blog after I sent her a pitch email and commissioned me to write my first ever article for Metro.co.uk on mental health, weight gain and medication. From there, she and her colleagues continued to commission me to write and when she and they left in the summer, I have continued to pitch articles and be published. Thank you to Ellen Scott, Aimee Meade and the current team at Metro too. Being published online by Metro has been an amazing journey and I am proud to write for them on lifestyle topics and mental health, my favourites this year being about the Royal wedding, homelessness and mental health and sharing my Grandpas story.

Thanks also to Bianca London for commissioning my two Glamour articles, this was another amazing bucket list dream ticked. The one on dating and mental illness, bipolar and how I met my fiance (when I wrote the article, he was my boyfriend) was something very close to my heart and it was a genuine honour to be featured in a magazine I had a read as a teenager and one of the biggest womens magazines in the UK. Still can’t believe it.

Thanks to Rebecca Thair, editor of first ever mental health magazine, Happiful magazine for not only being first to publish my story with bipolar back in January (which was so important to me) but also publishing my later articles on social anxiety and a guide to bipolar. I love working with you and the Happiful team and hope to write more for you.  Thanks also to Sonja at UIO Podcast and Sarah Cardwell for interviewing me.

Thanks to Francine Wolficz, Richard Ferrer and Jack Mendel at the Jewish News for all the articles and positive support of my mental health work in and outside of the Jewish community this year.  And to Rabbi Ari Kayser at Aish for including my story in Perspectives Magazine with the Jewish Weekly newspaper.

Thanks to writer Olivia Blair at Cosmopolitan/ Hearst for featuring my thoughts on bipolar in several articles which were also published across Hearst publications like Elle Magazine, Prima Magazine and Netdoctor.co.uk . Thanks also to the team at Refinery 29 for featuring me in an article on Seasonal affective disorder and to the fantastic charity No Panic for publishing my personal story with bipolar disorder.

This year I was also a shortlisted finalist for a UK Blog Award for the Health and Social Care Category  in March (thank you Lauren and team)  and invited to come to the Mind Media Awards as a highly commended journalist in my category. (This was incredibly magical).

Going to the Mind Media Awards in November with my Dad at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and hearing peoples stories of mental health across the UK media was just incredible. It was also a fun night of celebrity spotting- Fearne Cotton, Bryony Gordon, Dame Kelly Holmes, Kim-Joy from Bake Off, Stacey Solomon and Loose Women team, Frankie Bridge and many more. Stephen Fry presented the awards and was just remarkable, humble and funny as always. I was so pleased I managed to attend, it was a privilege to meet people. I met Yvette, Ellen and their producer at Mentally Yours podcast and fellow blogger Katie Conibear. My Dad and I were honoured to attend.

This blog has been a joy at times alongside the hard work. Thank you to all my guest bloggers and all sending submissions- you’ll get a proper individual thank you at our 3rd anniversary in March, but I couldn’t run the blog without your articles and careful attention. Thanks To Vuelio and Feedspot for awards too. Heres to a 2019, our third year of Be Ur Own Light! Thanks also to my Twitter followers who make it so easy for me to share thoughts and ideas with them- and for all the online friendships I have made- you know who you are!

This year has been hard at times but there has been SO much beauty and I feel so grateful and thankful for it all. My mental health has taken a hit at times, but I have found a really good therapist for talking therapy- who has helped me so much and I have also spoken to my GP. Its OK to reach out for support. Thankfully I have a good support network.  I have been a little more anxious and battling mild depression but I am slowly getting better again and starting to see the light :).

I just want to wish you all a happy and healthy new year 2019- this will be the year that I please God get married and my best friend Katie (as well as my fiances cousin too!). May it be a year of better health, wellness and joy for us all. And heres to keep fighting stigma!

May the new year be one of dreams coming to fruition and love and laughter.

Love always and thank you for reading,

Eleanor x 

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How to Enjoy the Holidays after Addiction: Guest blog by Alek Sabin

 

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Socialising during your recovery always requires some effort, and life after rehab always takes some serious adjusting, but it can be especially difficult during the holiday season. The holidays are a time when you reunite with family and friends and spend time at seasonal social gatherings. You may encounter friends from your past times of using, people with whom you have impaired relationships, and social situations that tempt you to compromise your sobriety. In short, despite being one of the happiest times of the year, the holidays can also be stressful and dangerous for sobriety.

While the holiday season is a season of joy and giving that ought to be celebrated, it is important to be on your guard in order to protect your newfound sobriety. In case you find yourself or a loved one struggling to navigate recovery from addiction this season, here are some tips for protecting the sobriety you’ve worked so hard for during the holidays…

 

Know Your Triggers

Take an inventory of what your triggers for substance use are. In the past, did you use when you were hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Was substance use an outlet for stress? Do you experience cravings most when you are bored or sad?

Whatever your triggers, be sure to take the necessary steps to keep those triggers at bay. If stress is a trigger for you, for example, practice regular stress relief techniques like meditation, even when you don’t feel particularly stressed. If you are tempted to relapse when you are bored, on the other hand, make it a point to plan out your days with wholesome activities and to have a go-to activity for those times when you truly do have nothing to do.

 

Use Your Support System

It is so crucial to set up a support system within your social circle during recovery, and the holidays are a perfect time to take advantage of that support system. Talk to members of your support system, especially family members and friends with whom you may be attending holiday gatherings. Tell them about what struggles you are facing and what you are worried about this season. This will help them remain mindful of you and allow them to help you at those times this season when you need it most.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Call for Help

Your support system can carry you through the most difficult times of the holiday season. If you are worried about temptations to pick up alcohol during a particular holiday gathering, for example, a friend or family member can refrain from drinking with you or stay by your side throughout the evening to help hold you accountable. If you are worried that spending time with a particular group of people might tempt you to use again, make alternate plans with a friend or family member who understands your recovery.

 

Consider Whether an Event is Worth It

Holiday gatherings can be stressful for a variety of reasons. You have to answer questions about what you have been up to and what’s new in your life. You may encounter people with whom you used to use during times of addiction. You may find yourself around loved ones with whom you are still trying to repair harmed relationships. There are all kinds of reasons to be stress about attending a holiday season event, and for those occasions when you think the stress may be too much, it’s important to recognize when it may be better to miss an event.

 

Make a Plan for Parties

If you do feel that a holiday party will be low-risk enough for you to attend, be sure that you still come with a plan. Bring your own non-alcoholic party drink to sip on if you know alcoholic drinks will be present. Drive yourself so that you can duck out a bit early and have more control over when you leave. Plan out what you will say any time someone offers you a drink at parties. Try to envision which scenarios may arise so that you can be prepared for them.

 

Wear Your Sobriety on Your Sleeve

Finally, make the decision to own your sobriety this season. When someone asks you what is new in your life, go ahead and tell them about your sobriety (only if you feel comfortable doing so, of course.) Talk to them about your journey thus far, in as little or as much detail as you desire. Share what you are looking forward to as you continue your journey. When others see you talk enthusiastically about your recovery, they are sure to respond with similar enthusiasm, offering a shoulder of support and becoming advocates of your recovery.

12 Tips on how to Accept Yourself: Guest post by Spela Kranjec

I know that everyone suffering from an eating disorder wants some magical cure. But there is no such cure. And I can’t give you one, even though I had anorexia and searched for such a cure for whole nine years. But I can give you some useful tips that helped me – and they might also help you.

I also described my entire experience in a book for which I just launched a Kickstarter campaign which you can visit here :https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spelakranjec/notice-me-my-9-year-struggle-against-anorexia.

I’m sure you’ll find something that will help you find your own happiness.

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Here are my 12 tips:

  1. Find your motivation

After I overcome anorexia the first time, I relapsed a few years later – and it was even worse. Thinking about it today, why it happened, I’m convinced that it’s because I didn’t want to get better the first time. I got better because my parents made me. I needed to find my purpose to reach recovery.

Today I am aware of how important it is that you do something because you want to do it and are motivated to do it. I discovered myself that finding motivation when you’re at the lowest point in your life is far from simple. But I’ve also proven that it is possible.

  1. Don’t give up 

Know that you will have moments where life is really difficult, so get ready for them. These are turning points in your life, so you can’t give up.

  1. Read a motivational book and attend a workshop on personal growth

There are many books and workshops on the subject of personal growth – some are more technical, while others include personal experiences of people who faced a similar situation to the one you face.

These books are filled with advice that could be helpful. Furthermore, reading these books will help you realize that you’re not alone.

  1. Go shopping

You don’t actually have to buy anything – you can just go window shopping. Try on a gown, browse free samples in a cosmetics shop, go to a furniture store and find the most comfortable sofa – anything to distract you and make you happy.

  1. Spend time in nature

If you don’t like big shopping centres and prefer to spend time in nature, take every opportunity to do so. I’m one of such people. I love to climb mountains, spending hours sweating to reach the top, where I can enjoy a wonderful view and a delicious sandwich. This makes me forget all my worries, and I come home a new person. And afterwards, I can look in the mirror at home and tell myself, “Damn, you’re not too bad!” 😉

  1. Socialize

Human beings are social creatures, and solitude has a negative effect on us. We need love, we need laughter, and we need to feel accepted. Without this, it’s inevitable that your thoughts, stuck as you are between four walls, will become occupied by the negative. And suddenly everything will become negative – even you. So don’t let that happen.

  1. Write a diary

If you have problems sharing your problems with others, find a new way to express yourself – maybe start writing a diary. You can also write down a list of positive characteristics that you like about yourself.

  1. Listed to music / sing / draw / be creative

Find your creativity and keep your mind active. Boredom has a similar effect on us as loneliness – an opportunity for pessimism to creep in.

  1. Do something nice for others

I spend my time with my grandmother. I knew she was lonely and that a cup of coffee shared with her granddaughter meant a lot to her. It was heartwarming spending time with her in a cafe, listening to her talk, because I could see how important that moment was for her.

  1. Find something that will make you feel useful

You’ve certainly done something for which you received praise. The feeling was phenomenal, right? Remember what you felt at that time – a feeling of pride, success, joy. So make sure there are more moments like that.

  1. Visit a counsellor

If you’re feeling completely down and think you can’t do it on your own, seek help. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I sought help from a psychiatrist. Even though I was ashamed at the time, I am so happy I did it. Ultimately, it helped me become happy and well again by working with a professional.

  1. Talk about your problems

Never shut yourself off from others and isolate. That’s the worst that can happen! If you isolate yourself and don’t talk about your problems, negative thoughts may get worse. So find someone you trust and share your feelings – you will feel much better!

Most importantly, never give up! I’ve proved that it’s possible – and so can you! To find out how I did it, visit https://www.notice-me.net/free-chapter/.

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Winter blues, Depression and Social anxiety by Eleanor

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(image : http://www.caring-crate.com)

In the past few weeks, I have found that all I want to do is stay inside, under a cosy blanket in my little nook on the couch, reading lots of good books or watching something good on TV (by good I mean my favourite reality shows at this time of year!). I have been practising a lot of self care activities as I havn’t been feeling at my strongest or happiest this week. I think I may have seasonal depression but I am not sure if its the winter blues – probably the winter lack of light combined with my bipolar brain chemistry.

Sometimes I  will phone or whatsapp my friends, I will take long bubble baths and sing in the tub (feeling like some kind of surreal movie like Amelie) , I have discovered a new love for the Body Shop seaweed clay facial mask (it leaves my skin so soft and moisturised and helps my spots). I have wrapped myself in my pink, Beauty and the Beast blanket (without make up on) and just enjoyed the freedom of being. Of resting and being in the moment. Of being more mindful.

There have been times when this has become a bad thing. I’ve spent several nights this week on my own and there have been days where my anxiety has increased and I havn’t wanted to go outside. This is because its cold and dark (winter here in England), I don’t want to interact with random people or I just don’t want to be out in this weather when I could be warm and cosy at home.  I am an introvert (who also loves people). My introvert side craves time on my own but this is also part of my social anxiety.

However, every anxiety win.. like going to a gig in Holborn with my Dad and using the Tube (I forgot about the lack of personal space) or hanging out with my fiance or friends without cancelling on them, has been good. In truth though, I have had to cancel a lot of plans this week and luckily have very understanding people in my life. I hate letting people down but sometimes I can’t cope- the adrenaline pumps and things feel too much for me, too overwhelming.

I have felt overwhelmed and mildly depressed this week. However, I am coming to the slow realisation that this is OK. Its alright to struggle and to want human contact but also to find it overwhelming too.

I do need to get more fresh air though, exercise more and be healthier. Part of the lure of being inside is that its relaxing and ‘safer’ but the outside world is not as scary as my head decides it is when its cold and dark in winter.

I think I have mild seasonal depression- so its really important I do all I can to work with that and go outside my comfort zone- when all I really want is to be a doormouse surrounded by those I love and sometimes curled up on my own!

I am going to start talking therapy again soon as theres been a lot of stressful things going on, so hopefully that will help too.

How do you help your seasonal depression?

  Eleanor x