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.

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What’s Family therapy really like? Guest post by Christine H

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(image: Christine H)

Therapy is growing more and more accepted as a mainstream practice, rather than a scary, stigmatised ordeal. After all, it’s important to take care of mental health, and sometimes, we could all use a little extra help.

However, when it comes to any kind of therapy, it can still be scary. We don’t know what to expect, and we worry that we’ll be forced into something that makes us too uncomfortable. This can especially true in the case of family therapy. Often, family therapy is utilised when one or more family member confronts a serious mental health challenge (such as, for example, bipolar disorder, addiction, or major behavioural issues) that affects the rest of the family.

So, in order to dispel some of the misunderstandings surrounding family therapy, and to perhaps help people become more comfortable with it, here are some important things to know:

 

There May Be a Mix of Alone and Together Time

Contrary to popular belief, family therapy isn’t just going to be your family talking in a circle with a therapist the whole session. Well, maybe sometimes it will be. But other times, “family therapy” refers to a lot of different compilations of relationships within your family. Parents may talk with the counsellor separately, and then a child who has been the primary subject of therapy will talk with the therapist, and then perhaps the counselor will enable a conversation between the child and parents in order to share information that needs to be shared.

Additionally, family therapy is most effective when all family members are utilising therapeutic tools to get what they can out of the experience. For example, often in the case of addiction, support groups are available for both the person struggling with addiction, and for the family members who are affected by it. In these separate group therapies (which you can learn more about here) family members can gain new perspectives which will empower them to return to family therapy with the information they need to make it a productive venture.

 

Information that You Want Confidential Can Be Confidential

During all the mix-match of family therapy modules, many individuals are wary about sharing information with the counselor if they don’t want it to be shared with the whole group. And although this might sound kind of shady, it’s not just about keeping major secrets. Often, it’s about protecting family members’ feelings, or being embarrassed or worried about our own feelings.

Since family systems therapy is ultimately about repairing relationships and empowering healthy communication and cooperation, a counsellor can help individuals identify what information is important to share, and how to go about it in the best way. However, there are some challenges that are best talked out one on one with the therapist, and not in the group as a whole. It’s important for all parties involved to understand that they can still control the information that’s shared, and the way they choose to do it… or not.

 

It’s Not All Talk Therapy

Although sometimes all that’s needed in order to strengthen a family’s power to communicate and cooperate is an outsider guiding the conversation, other times talk therapy can be frustrating for families, as they’ll find themselves going around in the same old circles and arguments that they would on their own. That’s why most counsellors will utilise other techniques and approaches to achieve family goals.

For example, sometimes it’s useful to utilize experiential therapy, which could include anything from a cooperative ropes course, to role playing exercises. You can learn more about those options here.

 

Practicing Outside of Therapy Sessions Is Vital

One common assumption of family therapy is that the work will get done in therapy sessions, and it doesn’t have to change the way things are outside of therapy. Family therapy can only be successful when it creates changes to habits and systems within the family dynamic that aren’t serving individuals as well as they should.

Most of the time, a therapist will give family members assignments and goals that they can do–both by themselves, and as they interact with the rest of the family–in order to improve family relationships. Often, these are small habits in the way that we talk and the way we share duties in and out of the house.

 

This article was written by expert on family therapy Christine H:

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Christine is a professional writer and an avid reader who’s passionate about storytelling in any form. At any given moment, she’s in the middle of at least three books on anything from psychology to ninjas. Although she’s a marathon swimmer and enjoys camping in the mountains, she believes there’s nothing better than a carton of ice cream and a Dawson’s Creek marathon. She blogs about marketing here. Follow more of her writing on Twitter @readwritechill.

 

Mental health stigma and drug addiction Guest post by Bill Weiss

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(image: https://understandinginternationalmentalhealth.wordpress.com)

The stigma that some people see looming over drug addiction and drug abuse disorder will prevent thousands of people from getting the help they so desperately need and deserve. Viewing drug abuse as a disfigurement of one’s will and self-worth is very harmful and can leave people in active addiction.

The fear of admitting that they are struggling and the judgment that will face afterward can be catastrophic. It has been scientifically proven that drug abuse disorder and addiction is a disease of the mind and body. There should not be any negative views toward someone when they decide it is time to get help for this issue.

During active addiction, many users will take part in actions that the clean/sober them would never think about doing. From the outside looking in, these decisions and behaviors can seem unusual, most of the time they are.

Watching someone absolutely self-destruct is very difficult. You may just want to shake the person struggling and scream “WHY CAN’T YOU STOP?!”. If only it was that easy.

Drug abuse and addiction is a surface issue, it’s the problem the whole world can see, but over 80% of drug addicts struggle with underlying mental health issues.

 

Mental Health Issues and Drug Addiction  

Far too many of those currently in active addiction have never received proper care to help them with their mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, PTSD and bipolar are the most common underlying mental health issues that can easily influence drug abuse. When one does not receive proper therapy and/or medications to help them with these problems they may turn to drugs for relief. Self-medicating the problem provides temporary relief, but nothing is actually being done to resolve and work on the issues.

The longer someone uses the worse their mental health issues will become. Depressive episodes can turn into suicidal thoughts and ideations. Anxiety can turn into panic disorder. Drugs do not solve the problem, but for someone struggling with mental health issues will find a level of mental peace from the drugs. Even as their life spirals out of control, they may accept it and continue to get high.

This isn’t their fault. Long-term abuse of any narcotic substance will alter the way one’s brain reacts to and handles certain situations. The chemical balance has been thrown out of whack, the drugs now have near complete control.

Breaking free from the powerful grip of these drugs is not easy, especially if the person struggling believes they will be harshly judged as the stigma around addiction follows them.

 

Breaking the Drug Stigma

Accidental drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death in the USA. We are facing a drug epidemic like never before, more US citizens passed away due to a drug overdose in 2017 than in the entire Vietnam War.

As a country we must help remove this stigma, it is literally a matter of life and death. Millions of people are currently struggling with drug addiction, tens of millions of families will be affected. How can you do your part of getting rid of the addiction stigma?

Educating yourself and others about drug addiction statistics and facts will help one truly understand the impact that drugs have had and will continue to have in this country. Drug addicts are not how they are commonly depicted in movies.

Addiction can affect anyone, any sex, religion and financial background can fall victim to substances and mental health issues. It is not just something that destroys the lives of the homeless and the poor. These are mothers & fathers, brothers & sisters, friends, aunts and uncles who are being destroyed by these terrible substances.

If someone you care about is currently struggling with drug abuse/addiction the best thing you can do for them is to let them know that you are there for them whenever they are ready to get help. While you may not 100% understand what they are going through, you know that they need help and that’s all that matters.

It is strongly suggested by most medical professional that anyone struggling with drug abuse or addiction issues gets professional help from a drug treatment center.

 

5 Ways to know your loved one may be secretly abusing drugs: Guest Post by Dr Nancy Irwin

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(image: inspirationalquotesmagazine.com)

Addiction has many consequences, both on the addicted person and their loved ones. Something I see very often is that family members don’t understand how they did not recognize it sooner. They regret that their loved one got to such a dark place before they could see there was even a problem.

But the reality is that people abusing drugs learn very quickly how to lie and manipulate. Because they are regularly involved in illicit activities, they become pros at distorting reality. And it’s easiest to trick those they love, considering that they know their loved ones’ soft spots.

This is not a judgment on them. On the contrary, they are not liars by nature, and often they are trying to protect their families.

Around 10% of the US population abuses drugs, and it is therefore more important than ever to learn to spot drug abuse as early as possible. The good news is that even if the individual at risk is good at lying, there are warning signs that are fairly universal.

The following five things could be signs that a loved one is abusing drugs.

 

  1. Physical Factors

Perhaps the most obvious signs are physical. Individuals who are using increasing volumes of drugs show physical changes which may be hard to account for. Look out for the following:

  • Bloodshot eyes and/or dilated pupils
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Extreme weight loss or weight gain
  • Deteriorating physical appearance
  • Sudden decrease in hygiene
  • Unusual smells
  • Tremors or slurred speech

Of course, all of these changes can have many alternative sources. However, if an individual exhibits many of them at once, and they tie in with some of the other signs on this list, drug abuse may be the most plausible explanation.

 

  1. Problems at Work

People who have started abusing drugs tend to struggle at work or at school. Their attendance drops, they neglect responsibilities and make mistakes, and cause trouble with colleagues or peers. They may even do something so self-sabotaging that it leads to them losing their job or being expelled.

Once again, drug abuse need not be the first conclusion you jump to. There could be many reasons why an individual starts struggling with work or school, including mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

This is especially true with adolescents. Assuming they are using drug abuse without further evidence can decay trust between you, when they might be acting out because they are not coping for whatever reason.

When alternative possibilities are exhausted, or they exhibit other signs on this list, drug abuse may become the most reasonable conclusion.

 

  1. Sudden Financial Problems

Drug abuse becomes increasingly expensive as the person addicted becomes more and more dependent. Their tolerance grows and they start needing higher quantities of the substance on a more frequent basis. They end up spending more and more of their money on drugs, leaving them unable to finance other responsibilities.

These financial issues can be easier to spot with adolescents who are not earning money. They may start stealing money from you or get caught stealing from peers or from their school. In this case, it may be possible to track their theft directly to their drug abuse.

But you don’t always need as clear a sign as theft. If a loved one who is financially independent suddenly stops paying their debit orders, gets behind on loan payments, or starts asking you and other friends and family for loans, this is a sign that something is wrong. Look into why they suddenly cannot afford their way of life. If there is no legitimate explanation, and they are exhibiting one or more of the other signs, drug abuse may be the most logical conclusion.

 

  1. Behavioral Changes

Gradual behavioral changes are a sure sign that something is wrong. Of course, they do not necessarily point to drug abuse.

Sometimes, mental illness can be the source of the problem. Alternatively, they may have gone through a trauma or be in some sort of trouble.

However, if a loved one shows changes in personality, starts getting into fights, becomes secretive, and has extreme mood swings, drug abuse may well be the cause. Other behavioral warning signs include a loss of motivation, paranoia, as well as unexplained hours of euphoria followed immediately by a drop in mood.

They may begin to fracture relationships that have, until now, been strong.

 

  1. Lifestyle Changes

Drug abuse often becomes the centrepoint of the individual’s life. They need to spend time, money, and effort sourcing and taking their drug of choice. They therefore start spending time with friends who are also abusing drugs, hang out at places where illicit drug use is possible, and lose interest in hobbies and activities that were once important to them.

If a loved one starts displaying any of these warning signs, do not panic. Look at the possible reasons for these changes. In isolation, some of these changes are easily explained. Depending on your relationship with the individual, you may be able to discuss the causes with them.

Once you’ve started noticing any one of these signs, it becomes easier to spot the others. If you feel that drug abuse is a likely cause, speak to a professional immediately for advice on how to investigate further and help the person at risk.

 

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Dr. Nancy Irwin is co-author of “Breaking Through, Stories of Hope and Recovery” and a Primary Therapist at Seasons in Malibu World Class Addiction and Mental Health Treatment Center.

Guest Post: Interview with Dr Janina Scarlet, author of new book ‘Therapy Quest’

I have got to know Dr Janina Scarlet, psychologist as I have written more across the media. Janina writes about therapy and mental health in an approachable and meaningful way. She also loves superheroes and fantasy and incorporates them into her work!

This week for Mental Health Awareness Week, I spoke to her as she launches her  new book ‘Therapy Quest’.

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(image: The Book Publicist/ Dr Janina Scarlet)

 

What is your new book Therapy Quest about?

Therapy Quest is an interactive fantasy book in which YOU (the reader) are the main character. You are transported to a magical world of Here and are the Chosen One to stop an evil sorceress, Mallena, from destroying the world. Only you don’t feel like a hero. Not at all. Your anxieties and insecurities nearly lead you to abandon your quest altogether. However, if you decide to partner up with some new friends, such as a vampire with an eating disorder, and an Ogre who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you just might be able to become a hero after all.

The book is written in a game-like format, which allows you to make choices along the way. Each choice you make will change the rest of your journey and can either allow you to earn or lose points. Some choices can kill your friends or your character, so you have to be careful.

Each time you make a choice, you will also learn a mental health skill, and you will need all the skills you can learn along the way to help you in your final battle.

What was your inspiration for writing it?

I knew I wanted to write a fantasy book with self-help elements in it, in which the reader could learn these skills through the characters they were reading about. My editor, Andrew McAleer, had the brilliant idea of having a similar format to “Choose Your Own Adventure” fighting fantasy books. This sounded like a very interesting challenge to me, and I am extremely honoured to have been able to work on it.

Could you explain a bit about what Superhero Therapy is and how it works in the book?

Superhero Therapy refers to incorporating elements of popular culture, such as fantasy and science fiction books, movies, TV shows, as well as video games, comic books (Superhero or otherwise) into evidence-based (research-supported) therapy to help clients to become their own version of a superhero in real life (IRL).

In Therapy Quest, the reader is the Chosen One, the Hero of their own journey even if they question their ability to do so. Through learning skills such as mindfulness, self-compassion, acceptance, and following their own core values, the readers are invited to take their own superhero journey and develop their own superhero skills, which can be utilized in their every day life as well.

Who could you recommend the book to?

I would recommend this book to anyone age 12 and up who might enjoy fantasy books and would like to learn skills to manage depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental health struggles.

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Dr Janina Scarlet is a clinical psychologist and the author of Therapy Quest, a revolutionary self-help book which combines therapy with an interactive fantasy quest.

Guest Post: Making the Climb: 4 Tricks to begin the fight against Drug Addiction by Kara Masterson

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It all started at a party you attended a few months ago. You were feeling down after the big break up, and you just wanted to feel good again. Someone at the party offered you some pills, and they made you feel better than you had felt in a long time. Before you knew it, you were a regular user. At first the confidence and the euphoria were too irresistible to pass up.

Once hooked, you always knew how to get ahold of your drug of choice. It was always just a phone call away. Unfortunately, one thing lead to another and now the pills are not having the same effect they used to provide you with. In fact, you need more to get the same feelings, but coming down has been much more difficult on you than you ever imagined it could be. In a particular low moment, you started to think that it might be time to fight your drug addiction, but where do you begin?

Admitting Your Problem

As with most problems, fighting a drug addiction begins with admitting to yourself that you definitely have a problem with drugs. If you are not committed to this being the truth, then you will find it is difficult to see a commitment to overcome the addiction through to the end. When you are certain that you want to give up your addiction and will do anything to make that a reality, then you are ready to take the journey necessary to reclaim your life back from drug addiction.

Disassociate from Your Connection

As long as you can call someone to enable you to continue in an addiction, you will be driven by the addiction to do so. To fight and overcome a drug addiction, you must break all ties with the people who enable you. By making this commitment, you are getting rid of the source of your addictive behavior.

Build a Support Network

To give yourself the best chance at overcoming addiction, you need to identify the people you can trust that have your best interests in mind to confide in about your drug addiction. This could be friends, family members or even someone like a pastor or teacher.

The important thing is that you gather people around you who love you and are willing to help you see your recovery all the way through. Sure, some of these people may be disappointed to learn about your addiction at first, but ultimately those who have your best interests in mind will want to help you reclaim your life and will be there for you in times of weakness.

Get Professional Help

The next step in your treatment is to locate and visit a rehab facility that can help you to get clean from drugs. Detoxing from narcotic substances can sometimes be a difficult path to walk down, but it is best dealt with by working with professionals like Kick Recovery Coaching or someone similar who have helped countless people through this process. They will not only be able to help you know what to expect, but they can provide you with ways to get through the detox phase that are rooted in the latest drug addiction treatment options.

The road ahead may not be an easy one, but it is definitely better than not seeking any help at all. The simple reality is that drugs ruin lives, but you do not have to be a statistic or a willing victim. By taking up the fight to reclaim your life from a drug addiction, you will come out the other end of this journey a much stronger person for it.

Kara Masterson is a freelance writer based in the USA.

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

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(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

What to do if you think you have Depression: a Guide.

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(image: Christy Ann Martine)

This blog was voted for in my  Facebook group online poll and so I have decided to write it, with my advice from personal experience and more.

So firstly- what is Depression? Depression is more than just low mood. It can affect your entire ability to function. Depression symptoms include your mind slowing down, poor concentration, lack of sleep or too much sleep (when depressed I sleep too much), more tearful than normal/ prolonged low mood, loss of motivation and ability to go to work/ socialise, not wanting to do activities you enjoy, feeling lost and/or hopeless about life.

Some people who are depressed will self medicate with alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, spending money- anything to make them feel a bit better. Some may start expressing suicidal thinking and ideation or make plans to end their own lives. For others, depression can be part of a wider mental health disorder. I have bipolar disorder for example and depressive episodes are part of my illness. So its a big topic and one which is different for each person (due to brain chemistry and environment).  Anxiety and self harm can also be part of depression.

So what to do if you think you are depressed?

1) Make an appointment to see your GP/ Doctor immediately. If you can get an urgent appointment, do. Tell them how you are feeling and they may suggest medication such as anti depressants which help lift mood and get you back to normal functioning and/or recommend you to a therapist. NHS waiting lists in the UK are ridiculously long for therapy, but just speaking to a doctor and taking medicine should help. Note that anti depressants do have a side effect- and can make you more anxious/ depressed within the first two weeks so talk about this with your doctor. If you have a psychiatrist and medical team (like I do), go and see them and discuss how they can help your care.

Getting better can take months and is a combination of factors. If your depression was triggered by an event, it may be good to go and see a counsellor to discuss any trauma.

2) If you are feeling suicidal and feel like self harming, disclose this to someone you trust. You may not need to be in hospital if you have a good support network, but if you are really really ill, you may need to be. However, do not be afraid for asking for help from medical professionals- especially your GP and/or psychiatrist. They are there to help you get well.

3) If you get a first time psychiatry referral- this is what will happen. You will get asked lots of questions so the doctor can ascertain what is going on. I found that being as honest as I could was more helpful. Take a loved one with you to the appointment. They may ask you to complete questionnaires on your health too and/or refer you to psychology.

4) Use your support network- friends, family, partner. If you have a loving person who understands depression in your life- lean on them. Support from others is very helpful. Depression can be stressful for all involved and some may not understand or may tell you to ‘pull yourself together’. This is just stigma and remember depression is an illness that needs treatment.

If you feel able, see friends you love and trust. When I am depressed, I find it hard to leave the house.. but love and support from others is vital- even if theyre just bringing you chocolate and magazines. Acts of kindness really help.

5) Other holistic methods can really help depression. Whether its:

*Gentle exercise
*Meditation
*Prayer if you want to pray
*Journalling and writing down your achievements however small (eg I washed the dishes)
*Colouring a picture and making something beautiful
* Good sleep regime (when depressed this can be harder)
*Eating healthy food/ foods you love
* Taking care of yourself
*Watching a funny film
* Texting a friend
This can be hard when you are depressed but I would recommend Yoga Nidra meditation for anxiety as well as Headspace meditations….

6) Be Kind to Yourself

Depression is not your fault. Its an illness and a natural part of life. You don’t have to deal with it alone and you don’t have to beat yourself up because you are feeling lower than normal.

Reach out for help but ultimately be kind to yourself. 

Eleanor Segall is the blogger and editor behind this blog Be Ur Own Light.

How I stopped Self Medicating my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- PTSD and found Recovery by Peter Lang


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(image: sayquotable.com)

Peter Lang shares his amazing story of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Trigger warning: please be careful when reading, talk of drug use. 
Most people think of veterans when they think of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, I know all too well that PTSD can also affect civilians. PTSD is defined as the psychiatric disorder that happens following a traumatic event. While war is a common traumatic event that causes PTSD, it’s not the only kind of trauma. Traumatic events can include abuse, life-threatening illnesses, and serious accidents.

As a homeless drug addict, I experienced my share of traumatic events. I spent most of my twenties without a home: couch surfing with acquaintances and strangers all over the country, living on the streets of Philadelphia, and living on the beach in Maui. Throughout this time, I used every substance you can think of: alcohol, heroin, cocaine, meth, prescription medication. I drank so much, I developed avascular necrosis in my hips, which later led to a bilateral hip replacement after a car accident at age 30.

After I got hit by a car when crossing a street in Philadelphia, my mom asked me to come down to Georgia to stay with her. I spent the next two years in a wheelchair. Though I tried periodically to stop drinking and using drugs—with some success—I still struggled. I know now that one of the main reasons I was struggling was that I was trying to self-medicate my PTSD.

On the street, I experienced many traumatic events. There were so many times I got beaten up or taken advantage of or almost died. Once in Hawaii, I did die, and they had to revive me in the hospital. The doctor told me with the amount of alcohol I had in my bloodstream, it was a miracle I was alive.

In early 2016, I met a woman who changed my life. We fell in love almost immediately after meeting each other, and we got married a year later. We are about to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary.

She made me see that it was okay to ask for help with my PTSD. I didn’t have to feel like I had to take care of it all the time. She made me see that a great deal of my struggles with substances was because I was just trying to numb the pain from traumatic events I hadn’t dealt with.

At one point, I was prescribed benzodiazepines, which did help my PTSD. However, I was never able to take the medication the way I was supposed to, and they became just another substance for me to abuse as opposed to a helpful tool.

It was clear that in order to stop self-medicating, I was going to have to see a counsellor and confront my traumatic events. I started seeing a therapist regularly, and she has helped me immensely. She has helped me to open my eyes and stare the traumatic memories in the face, knowing that they don’t define me.

Another tool that was incredibly helpful for me was meditation. By meditating, I could learn how to become spiritually centered and stop identifying with the painful memories. I’ve also been greatly helped by Buddhist-based 12-step meetings, which have given me a unique perspective on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Now, I’m doing better than ever. My wife and I are ridiculously in love, we just moved into a nice house, and I’m working full-time as a freelance writer and marketer. I wouldn’t be where I was today if I was unable to deal with my PTSD. I would have never been able to stay clean and sober if I kept self-medicating.

I still struggle with my PTSD frequently. It hasn’t gone away. But now I have the tools to handle any episodes that do come up.

Many people suffering from a substance use disorder are also suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder. You can treat one without also treating the other. Luckily, you don’t have to. There are plenty of resources that will help you to seek the treatment that you need. All you have to do is ask for it and be open to it.

Peter Lang is a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia. He occasionally writes for The Recovery Village. In recovery himself, he has dedicated himself to helping others struggling with substance abuse.

 

7 Reasons for Alcohol and Drug Addiction Stigma: By Ryan Jackson

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(image: Pinterest)

Stigma is a set of pre-conceived false beliefs that people have against a particular group of people. According to the World Health Organization’s website, stigma is a major cause leading to discrimination and exclusion. Not only does it disturb the personal life of a person, stigma can also limit their chances of obtaining proper jobs and housing. The unfortunate thing about stigma is that it’s not based on facts, but rather on assumptions and generalizations that have been embedded into society.

7 reasons addiction carries a stigma

The American Society of Addiction Medicine characterises addiction as a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a ‘chronic, relapsing brain disease” that changes the structure and functionality of the brain.

So, why do so many people still think of addiction as a moral failing? Why do they still refer to victims of substance misuse disorders as meth freaks, alcoholics, junkies, crackheads and garden-variety drunks?

The answer is simple as it is depressing: because that’s the way it’s always been.

Addicts are scorned by communities, and celebrities with addictions are exploited or hounded by paparazzi. And, while the government purports to view addiction as a disease, it often works in opposition to that position through the “War on Drugs,” which counts most drug users as criminals. Even those of us in the treatment community still—consciously or unconsciously—employ stigmatising programming and language—such as when we focus on “dirty” urine.

So despite widespread agreement that addiction is best understood as a complicated behavioural-biological scenario that requires treatment, the system is hard-wired to prolong stigmatisation, and stigma contributes to addiction’s lethality.

Of course, there is a long history of mental illness being misunderstood and stigmatised,  in state hospitals or prisons, which was beautifully captured by the director Lucy Winer in her recent highly-acclaimed documentary, Kings Park. Addiction and mental health problems are still spoken of in hushed tones, and patients and their families are still blamed. This is changing, but there is still stigma. 

The idea that those with addictive disorders are weak, deserving of their fate and less worthy of care is so inextricably tied to our zeitgeist that it’s impossible to separate addiction from shame and guilt. Addiction comes with a second punch in the gut: the burden of being treated like a second-class citizen and expected to act accordingly. Stigma impacts us all, both consciously and unconsciously, and is perhaps the single largest contributor to the mortality rate. Consider these eight points:

  1. People fail to seek treatment.

Most people who struggle with an addictive disorder fail to seek treatment, in part because of their concern that they will be labeled an “addict” and that the stigma will stick. 

Often, a crisis precipitates treatment, so the problem is already well-advanced. If we removed the stigma, guilt and shame from the equation, people would find it easier to make a realistic, objective assessment of their substance misuse and discuss it openly with a health care provider.

  1. The medical profession fails to treat addicts properly.

Can you think of other situations in which the health care system abdicated responsibility for dealing with a health care issue that afflicts such a huge segment of the population? For far too long, those people who did seek treatment, often following a crisis, found no appropriate reception from the medical community. Doctors were slow to recognize addiction as treatable, and so patients were encouraged to find help outside of the medical community, in 12-step programs that based on non-scientific practices, normally anathema to physicians.

12-step programs helped many, but those that did not succeed there found themselves in the unenviable position of having been directed to a place by their doctor, having the recommended solution ineffective and being reluctant to return to their physician for further help. A better paradigm? The medical community should recognize addictive behavior as part of its purview and would apply evidence-based approaches in their practices.

 

  1. The mental health profession ostracizes people with addictive disorders.

It is routine in some mental health settings for persons with substance misuse problems to be discharged from treatment when substance misuse is revealed. They’re told that the drinking or drug use renders them “unavailable” for the work of psychotherapy and that they need to “get clean” first by going to a chemical dependency or substance abuse treatment program. They are told that whatever issues seem pressing and paramount to them are “just the drugs talking’

It’s common for clinicians to believe that before they can help a patient with the various traumas, interpersonal conflicts, intrapsychic issues and other problems that other people are  helped with in psychotherapy (and which are, of course, related to their use of substances) the patient needs to first become abstinent from substances. Many patients who are sent to traditional drug treatment programs that are abstinence-focused end up neither “clean and sober” nor receiving good psychotherapy.

  1. Funding for addiction treatment is discriminatory.

In spite of the huge impact and cost of addictive disorders on society, the way that addiction treatment is funded (in America) is disproportionately low. Despite passage of Federal Mental Health Parity legislation, mental health and substance use disorders continue to be treated differently—and often poorly—compared to “medical” illnesses.

What if there was no stigma in addiction? Given its huge cost to society, addiction should be funded and paid for on a level playing field with medical problems.

 

  1. Addicts get sent to jail.

Where substances are concerned, people go to jail for the possession of something that is part and parcel of their addiction. Most of the money that governments spend on “drug control” is spent on criminal justice interdiction rather than treatment and prevention.

Here again, clearly, is a system with stigmatisation at its roots: blaming, punishing and making moral judgements instead of providing treatment and other help that would change behavior. The more of a stigmatising stance one takes towards substance misuse the more likely one is to support criminalisation of drug offenses and the less likely is to support insurance coverage and treatment for drug addiction. Taking the stigma out of addiction argues for prevention and treatment as opposed to prosecution and incarceration.

 

  1. Even when people do get to treatment, stigmatization can continue and contribute to poor treatment outcomes.

It is critical to recovery that treatment programs not send messages to patients that are blaming (for relapse) and shaming (for being weak). People enter treatment at a vulnerable moment, psychologically and in terms of their brain chemistry. Addiction comes with a hard-to-escape sense of failure that recapitulates prior disappointments and works in opposition to growth.

Patients have spent a lifetime trying to silence the “inner critic” that repeats “I’m-not-good-enough” messages, so it’s critical that the culture and language of treatment provide a healthy soil in which patients can grow seeds of hope that are vital to recovery. In an optimal treatment setting, patients aren’t expected to play the role of one-who-should-be-ashamed. Instead, they are intrinsically involved in planning their own treatment, helping to choose the goals and techniques of treatment.

  1. They confront stigma-based roadblocks constantly.

Those in recovery from addiction face ongoing stigma and discrimination. People in recovery are faced with obstacles, especially those who have been in treatment or in the criminal justice system for chemical dependency. Employment, education, insurance and the ability to vote are all fraught with uncertainty and discrimination for those in recovery.

People in recovery have a harder time finding and keeping jobs, getting licenses, food stamps, benefits that help their children.  In other words, important aspects of living that are so critical to a stable recovery for persons who have been treated for addiction, such as employment, housing and providing for one’s family are that much harder to get. Things need to change. Having struggled with addiction in the past should not make life that much more difficult now. End the stigma.