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

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We are a Vuelio Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog! 2018 Award

Today I got an email from the lovely people at Vuelio to say they have listed us as Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog.

We are number 8, alongside some incredible blogs and organisations such as the Mental Elf and Mental Health Foundation as well as blogger friends of mine- check them all out .

Thanks so much Vuelio! This award is important as it is about being influential in our industry so am so happy to recieve it.

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See the list here: https://www.vuelio.com/uk/social-media-index/mental-health-blogs-uk-top-10/

Womens Health Awareness and Taking Action: Guest post by Sarah Cardwell

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(image: Sarah Cardwell)

I remember wanting to start my periods when I began secondary school. I had no idea what to expect, but it just felt like it would be the first step in growing older, becoming an adult. Within 6 months of starting I hated it. I had horrifically heavy & painful periods since the age of 13 and my mum always suspected I had endometriosis, the same condition she had been diagnosed with.

I never struggled to get pregnant with either of my two children, but with a heavy first natural baby of 10lb 7oz, it was decided after many scans that I would have a planned caesarean with my second daughter. She was only 7lb 11oz. When my periods returned after my second baby, I knew I had to do something.

After months of pursuing issues, and aged just 30, I eventually took my mum along to my appointment  and was referred for a laparoscopy. It was then that my mums suspicions were confirmed & they found signs of endometriosis.

On average it takes 7.5 years from onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis, according to Endometriosis UK (https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/endometriosis-facts-and-figures). It has taken almost 17 years for my diagnosis. The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.

It was then I asked for a hysterectomy (removal of the womb) & was rejected.

Hysterectomies are known to treat endometriosis well:

• With mild endometriosis, the chance of needing further treatment is 4 out of 100 women

• For severe endometriosis, the chance of needing further treatment is 13 out of 100 women within three years and 40 out of 100 women within five years.

https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/sites/default/files/files/Information/

And I’m in good company, with many celebrities having hysterectomies for many reasons, Angelina Jolie and Michelle Heaton to be two of them. Lena Dunham too had her hysterectomy due to endometriosis. 

I was told I was too young and was offered a range of treatments from the coil to the pill, I even was treated with hormones to replicate the feelings of the menopause to see how my body would react, gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues.

After six months it reacted brilliantly, no periods, no pain. I thought I was cured, but they said I couldn’t continue on the treatment due to risks of osteoporosis . I was in pieces and soon back to having periods spending days of my month in bed unable to move.

It was another 2 years of trialling medications & eventually changing my gynaecologist, before I was finally booked to have a hysterectomy operation. I was ecstatic. It was booked in February for the June of 2015 following my family holiday, I couldn’t wait.

However, things were about to take a turn for the worse. In March (the following month), my mum was informed that they had found a tumour where her ovaries had previously been, and within six short weeks she had passed away. It was the most awful time of all our lives, although thankfully she was surrounded by her family as she passed away. She had made me promise to go through with the hysterectomy, but to request and ensure they removed both my ovaries, even though they were healthy. So I did. In June 2015 I had a Bilateral total hysterectomy.

I knew I was very young at 32 to lose everything that made me a woman, but this was more than pain relief now, it was about survival and securing my future with my children.

The procedure went well and I recovered quickly, I was back at work part-time within 2 weeks, probably due to being a younger patient, but it didn’t have the same impact on my menopause symptoms. I suffered and still do, with every possible symptom, night sweats, hot flushes, weight gain, moodiness, although I think those closest to me would say that had always been there it just worsened.

Whether it was connected, it was then that the rest of my health deteriorated. I was never super fit or thin since my teens, but over the next year I gained almost 3 stone, started with severe anxiety and following an asthma attack after a serious lower chest infection, I was finally diagnosed with adult onset asthma. These of all could also have contributed to my recent spiral in mental health illnesses, but I still believe it was the right decision.

At 35 years old, I am on HRT and more medication than most pensioners, but I’m still here. I’ll be on most of my medication for life, but my HRT for a minimum of 20 years until I’m the average age for a natural menopause.

I wish my mum was here, as she too went through early menopause after her hysterectomy and I’m sure she’d have some tips that beat ice cubes down my top and lining my bed with ice packs to keep me cool in the night.

She’d hopefully have some advice on last summers rare heatwave in the UK, but sadly she was only 54 when she passed away and she inevitably saved my life and helped preserve my life so I can live beyond that she and be there for my children. And this hysterectomy added another layer of protection!

For more information please check out the resources above.

This article was written by writer Sarah Cardwell- who also experiences anxiety alongside her other health conditions. Check out her blog here: www.sarahsthinkingagain.blog

Lifestyle Changes: How to Combat your Eating Disorder: Guest Post by Lizzie Weakley

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Recognising you have an eating disorder is one of the biggest (and hardest) steps you can take to combat your disorder. It’s important to make sure you know how to combat the disorder so you don’t find yourself fighting a losing battle.

Don’t Expect Huge Changes

Just the idea of helping yourself get better from an eating disorder is important, but it won’t bring about the change you really need. You won’t get to see the results of the change until you start making changes. Be prepared for things to stay the same for a long time after you start trying to fight this battle.

Seek Professional Help

It’s almost always necessary to get professional help with eating disorders. There are many eating disorder center options you can choose from that have intensive processes. These centers can make things easier for you and can give you the specific tools you need to start getting better.

Try Something New

Not all eating disorders are the same. There may be differences from person to person so it’s important to keep that in mind when you start this battle. Your eating disorder probably won’t be like anyone else’s battle. Just like you are a unique person, the way you handle your eating disorder will be unique. You can try different things and new techniques to try and help yourself through the eating disorder. Things may change, but it’s important to keep trying new things that might help you.

Recognize Your Struggle

The struggle to combat an eating disorder can be one of the hardest things you do. You should recognize that struggle and work with it to help yourself. If you know it will be difficult to overcome the eating disorder, you’ll be better prepared to fight it when you’re dealing with issues that come from eating disorders.

Continue Fighting

Fighting an eating disorder is a battle you’ll have to deal with for the rest of your life. Even when things do get easier for you, you might still struggle with the issues that come from the eating disorder. Keep that in mind before you start the process. It’s a good idea to know that you’ll be in this fight for the rest of your life, but it does get easier.

Eating disorders are hard. Trying to figure out how to combat one on your own can be even harder. It’s important to know what to expect and take the steps necessary to help yourself get better.

Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her Husky, Snowball, camping, and binging on Netflix.

Twitter: @LizzieWeakley

Facebook: facebook.com/lizzie.weakley

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your experience?

Eleanor x

The Social Anxiety Diaries by Eleanor

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This blog started as a way for me to express my innermost thoughts and feelings, the state of my mental health and write it all out on the page. I would like to continue this and so asked people on my Facebook group what they would like to hear about.

This blog on my social anxiety was voted for and here it is.

I must start by saying that I am quite a social person and love my friends. A lot of us with social anxiety are. I have lived with this form of anxiety since I was about 18 years old. It essentially is an anxiety disorder that is hard to control- and where you begin to fear being around people, crowds, small talk and socialising for fear of being exposed or judged negatively. This has impacted how I work too and sometimes how often I leave the house.

My anxiety disorder started in my teen years because my unmedicated bipolar disorder led me to act in ways I didn’t recognise. I became hyper, everything was heightened and I wasn’t my usual self. And so the fear of acting like this again or being judged for it, was what triggered my social anxiety.

11 years later, a lot has changed for me for the better. I am finally on the right medication. I have a loving partner, family and friends. However, yes I do still have social anxiety. It does cause panic attacks, especially in the mornings and it can stop me from attending work or social events. .

It is frustrating to admit this. As I have been in a lot of very helpful therapy and I have learnt what coping mechanisms can help me- but they are often hard to implement mid panic. However, I do think I will always have a certain level of panic which will restrict certain parts of my life. This is why I work freelance and from home. Writing has helped me heal.

What I do know is on the good days, I make sure to keep busy and see people/ go out as the more I do this, the fear lessens. If I am feeling low, the anxiety rears its head too. When I am depressed, I can become slightly agoraphobic and won’t want to leave the house. Its something I have to monitor and work on. Set myself achievable goals eg walk down the road, see a friend, call someone etc.

Some of my friends have been so kind and understanding about living with this and having to cancel certain arrangements. There are times I  have to force myself into doing things although it takes so much energy and can also make me have more panic attacks so its a fine line. I have to do whats best for me and my mind. If it is spiralling into panic, the rational self finds it hard to drown it out.

In general, I am doing OK but I have to do what is best for me in order to manage my anxiety disorder. If that means a night in or less time seeing people then sometimes this is what is needed.

However, I will continue to be an anxiety warrior and do all I can to expose myself to any feared situations when possible. It takes lots of energy!

What have I tried to manage this?

– Group sessions on managing anxiety, meditation and journalling
– Talking therapy for 6 months (which worked) and CBT three times (which didn’t stop the panic attacks)
– Exposure therapies with those I love helping me

Do you have this and how do you cope?

Love, Eleanor x 

‘What its like wedding dress shopping as a curvy bride to be’ (focusing on mental health and body image) for Glamour UK by Eleanor


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(image: Glamour UK)

Here it is, my GLAMOUR UK article on being a curvy or plus size bride.

 
This one is understandably a very personal one but I wanted to investigate about body image, self esteem and how it affects mental health. As women we get taught what is ‘correct’ in terms of body shape and what isn’t- especially with the rise of social media.
 
I have put on weight over the years due to medication for my bipolar and its not easy. I am yet to go wedding dress shopping (going soon) but the brides I spoke to often had.
 
Thank you to the brides Rachel, Emma, Lauren and Reva for telling me their own courageous stories.
Thanks to the expert psychologists Nicola Walker and Jessica Valentine and Karen at Smashing the Glass wedding blog. And to my editor Bianca London at Glamour.
 
Happy reading, click here: 
 

Autumn leaves and Mental Health tales. (by founder Eleanor)

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(image: http://www.thechakrahouse.co.uk/chakra-hygge-fairy-lights/)

I wanted to write this blog today because I have been reflecting. Over the years, I have come to really love the Autumn (Fall) season, despite being born in summer. Its cosy and calming at times, however these months can bring on some anxiety again for me.

I think that we are all human and are affected by the changing seasons. I know that my bipolar goes in phases, but is largely controlled and stabilised by medicines. However, sometimes hormones can make me feel lower at times of the month or life events can make you feel a bit sadder than normal, and in some cases, provoke depression.

My anxiety arrives in the form of morning panic and I can find it harder to do certain tasks. However, I am lucky that I am not depressed currently but the anxious thoughts are getting worse again.

I will worry about being around crowds, travelling far or socialising en masse with people I havn’t seen for a while. I live within a community where we all gather together for religious festivals and it can be harder to do this when I am more anxious. I particularly find early mornings hard- and don’t want to leave the house before 10am usually!

Working from home is both a blessing as I can work my own hours but I go out less. I am really trying to work on going out more- even down the road, especially before it gets too cold and dark.

Despite the increase in anxiety in the past few days, I am feeling thankful. There are so many good things to look forward to. There are so many exciting projects I can be a part of. When one door closes, I know that another will open.

I am still writing my book, still running my blog and have some articles being published soon. I also do social media management. I hope that my career will continue to diversify and bring joy.  I also need stability and the life of a freelancer, though fulfilling at times, is never easy.

There is a lot to be grateful for- family and friends, my fiance and life- despite the fears, anxiety and catastrophising that I do at times and am trying to limit. Positive mindset is so important- I am working on it!

Autumn can make us feel sadder or more anxious, or cause other mental health symptoms.  However, like now, it can also feel comforting- as I write on my computer, sipping a cup of tea as the darkness is falling. (Is it too new age of me to use the word ‘hygge’)?

As the leaves begin to fall and the frosts come its so important we find our lights in the darkness.

How are you doing? Let me know below!

Love,

Eleanor

Love and Remission by Annie Belasco: Book review

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(image: Trigger Publishing and Annie Belasco)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The secret is out: I’m writing a book and am going to be an Author!

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I can’t fully believe that I am typing this as its a dream I have had for my entire life. I had been asking God for this to happen when I was ready and for me to be able to write to share and help others.

At my lowest ebb, I dreamt that if I survived the depression and mania that I would like to help others in similar places. Writing has become my therapy and I hope it helps others too.

So… the secret is out…

I am going to be an author and my life story with bipolar disorder and anxiety and how I have overcome adversity will be told in a book written by me for Trigger Publishing.

Trigger ‘the voice of mental health’ are an independent publisher whose work I have followed for some time now,. They are the publishing arm of mental health charity The Shaw Mind Foundation.

In 2016, The Shaw Mind Foundation set up Trigger, a global trade publishing house devoted to opening conversations about mental health. They say ‘We tell the stories of people who have suffered from mental illnesses and recovered, so that others may learn from them.’

In order to get my book published, I had to write three chapters and work with an editorial team. I had admired many of their books, especially those by Hope Virgo, Karen Manton and Terri Cox about their lives with mental illnesses and how they overcame them. I knew Trigger was the right place to share my story of recovery.

My book may not be out til late 2019/ early 2020 but I will keep you all updated. The title will also be revealed at a later stage.

With thanks to the incredible people at Trigger: Stephanie, Katie and James for believing in me and for Hannah for all your help!

Now I just have to get writing! I will write further blogs (or share vlogs) to update on how writing is going.

Love,
Eleanor x